Breast cancer researchers make progress on several fronts

2011 Annual Report

Breast cancer researchers make progress on several fronts

Dr. Kathi Malone

Dr. Kathi Malone

The Hutchinson Center’s unique approach to breast cancer research unites scientists from a spectrum of disciplines: basic science, genetics, clinical medicine, cancer prevention and epidemiology. This year, our researchers made several discoveries to further our mission of reducing breast cancer incidence and deaths.

  • The osteoporosis drug lasofoxifene reduced breast cancer risk by 79 percent in postmenopausal women with low bone density, according to a study by Dr. Andrea LaCroix. The drug also substantially reduced risk of stroke, heart events and fractures. Lasofoxifene poses fewer safety concerns and provides more benefits than similar drugs, making it an “attractive option” for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, LaCroix said.
  • Young women with breast cancer who carry an inherited mutation in the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 are four times more likely to develop cancer in the other breast than those without a mutation, according to a study by Dr. Kathi Malone and colleagues. These findings “underscore the need for women diagnosed with a first breast cancer at a young age—regardless of family history—to consider genetic testing and to discuss it with their health care providers,” Malone said.
  • Full-term pregnancy has long been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, but a study led by Dr. Amanda Phipps found that the more times a woman gives birth, the higher her risk of “triple-negative” breast cancer, a relatively uncommon but particularly aggressive form of the disease. Conversely, women who never give birth have a 40 percent lower risk of such breast cancer, which has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer.
  “We were surprised by these findings because researchers have known for quite some time that women who have children, especially those who have them at an early age and have multiple full-term pregnancies, have a lower risk of breast cancer overall,” Phipps said.