The phrase, or variations of it, ‘breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease’, is recited in discussions of breast cancer research. Indeed, the profound genetic and phenotypic tumour heterogeneity is one factor that makes understanding breast cancer so challenging yet critical as it correlates with clinical outcome.
The 14th St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference 2015, held in March 2015, was a gathering of some 3000 participants from 100 countries. To forward the basic tenet of making breast cancer treatment more effective, the conference uniquely concluded with a consensus on internationally endorsed treatment recommendations.
Clinically meaningful markers have markedly improved breast cancer management. However, drug resistance, disease recurrence and continued poor survival rates in some populations compel movement beyond targeting the ‘established’ receptor profile. At this year’s St. Gallen conference, the implications of tumour heterogeneity reached the themes of breast cancer classification, prognostication and prediction.
Undoubtedly there is still much we do not know about breast cancer. With rapid advances in genomic technologies and greater availability of biomedical information, meetings such as St. Gallen are becoming conceivably more important to further the effort needed to address important questions that we will have to solve.
The Brandcast team was at this year’s St. Gallen conference interviewing experts on recent advances in breast cancer treatment. We will also be interviewing at the ASCO Annual Meeting at the end of next month.
Dr Giuseppe Viale – Personalised genomics in breast cancer treatment