Breast cancer continues to be one of the most common causes of death for women in the United States. We interviewed Kristie Bobolis, M.D., a clinical investigator, medical oncologist and hematology specialist at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, for her perspectives on the importance of breast cancer screening as well as new research underway.
Breast cancer research has the potential to improve cancer care for the 3.8 million American women living with the illness. Not counting some types of skin cancer, breast cancer in the United States is the most common cancer in women, regardless of race or ethnicity; the most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women; and the second-most common cause of death from cancer among white, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
Vitals: What are the most pressing challenges in diagnosing and treating breast cancer today?
Dr. Bobolis: Despite significant and exciting advances in this field, including cancer genetics and development of more effective therapies, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and remains the leading cause of cancer related death in women.
I believe regular screening for early detection is an under-utilized approach to help prevent the onset of breast cancer, find breast cancers in women with increased risk, and improve outcomes in individuals diagnosed with this illness. Women who attend regular screening appointments are less likely to be diagnosed with an advanced cancer. The best long-term outcomes are seen when cancer is detected in early stages. Mammography, ultrasound and MRI in high-risk women are among the tools we have to identify breast cancer early and help reduce the need for more extensive surgery, radiation and systemic therapy.
According to evidence-based clinical guidelines from national associations, women should ideally be assessed for cancer risk at age 30 and screened for breast cancer starting at age 40 in consultation with their primary care provider.
Vitals: What clinical trials and research studies are you most excited about or intrigued by, and why?
Dr. Bobolis: There are several compelling clinical trials and research studies I’m leading at Sutter Roseville Medical Center and Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. Some of these are also being offered at other research sites across Sutter’s Northern California footprint:
ECOG-ACRIN EA1181 Compass HER2 pCR: This clinical trial was designed to assess how well certain targeted therapies work in reducing the need for further chemotherapy after surgery in patients with specific breast cancers.
Alliance A011801 Compass Phase 3: For women who receive systemic therapy prior to undergoing surgery and are found to have residual cancer at the time of surgery, the Alliance clinical trial is studying how well a combination drug therapy works in preventing breast cancer from coming back.
Registry Trials: Beyond breast cancer clinical trials at Sutter, I’m excited about several registry studies, too. Through the use of registries, we can study breast cancer patients over time and assess their response to various treatments. We can also see which genetic subtypes of the disease are more or less responsive to different treatments. For example, Sutter is participating in the City of Hope 96144 molecular genetics study of cancer patients and their relatives. This trial studies the genetic and behavioral factors that may contribute to the development of specific cancers and how these factors may affect the outcome of the disease in patients with a history of cancer and their relatives.
DCIS Study: I am proud that Sutter is collaborating with researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute on a new study for women with the earliest form of breast cancer. Nearly 60,000 women in the United States this year will be diagnosed with Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of breast cancer in which cancerous cells grow but are confined within the milk duct of the breast. Most individuals with DCIS experience no outward symptoms, and about 80% of DCIS cases are diagnosed by regular screening mammography. DCIS is a distinctly different diagnosis than invasive breast cancer. The positive news is that we have highly effective and curative treatment options to offer patients with this disease. In this study, we will assess biospecimens (tissue samples) of women with DCIS who have joined the study, as well as the tissues and non-cancerous cells surrounding the tumor cells. I am hopeful that Information from this study will significantly broaden our understanding of how DCIS develops and how we can best treat it.
Curious to learn more? Discover Sutter research and clinical trials.