Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Correcting Information About TNBC

I have seen two news stories in the past three days that misrepresent triple-negative breast cancer. One said TNBC does not respond to chemotherapy; the other said that most women die of TNBC within two years. Both are wrong.

Here's what research tells us:

1. The majority of women with triple-negative survive.

2. Risk of death significantly drops three years after diagnosis.

3. Chemotherapy is successful in reducing TNBC tumors and their risk of recurrence.

According to research at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto on 1,601 patients with breast cancer diagnosed between 1987 and 1997, published in 2007:

• The majority of the TNBC women­—57.8 percent—were alive after ten years

• The risk of recurrence significantly dropped after three years

• No recurrences occurred after eight years.

Eric Weiner, M.D., and Erica Mayers, M.D., M.P.H., of Dana Farber say this about chemotherapy and TNBC:

Triple-negative tumors do not respond to endocrine agents or trastuzumab and can only be treated with chemotherapy. Fortunately, increasing evidence suggests that the triple-negative subgroup derives substantial and preferential benefit from chemotherapy. Read more here.


kim said...

Pat--Thanks so much for this post and clarification of recent news post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pat. That has bothered me a lot recently. It seems every new article I am reading states that triple negative is no responsive to chemo and that triple negative patients have a far worse prognosis for survival. Why do you think they are saying that? Is it just bad information or is that still the thinking of the medical community. As for my research, I have found far more survivors, even in cases where it has spread to lymph nodes, than I have women that have not survived. I just feel so much of this data is so old and does not take into account of newer treatments. What is your take on this?

Patricia Prijatel said...

I think some of the initial mistakes might have gone viral, which is one problem with today's journalism. Bloggers can find information and repeat it without factchecking. Even established media are shorthanded and don't have the staff to do the research they one did. So these are simple misstatements that nobody caught. Sigh. The second statement, about most women dying within two years, was a quote from a seven-year survivor. I think she meant to say that most women who die from the disease do so within the first two years--although it is actually three, but the first two years are the most dangerous. So I do not think the facts have changed, I just think people don't understand them and present erroneous information. (Before I was diagnosed, my understanding of breast cancer was huge, and I had to even wrap my head around the different between chemo and radiation, so there is a learning curve here.) Many established reporters and copy editors on newspapers across the nation have been laid off in recent years, so the reduced staffs are trying to do yeoman's work. Sadly, it results in these kinds of mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I bet the ten year survival rates are even better than those quoted in your post. When I first was diagnosed, I saw figures in the 60th percentile, but then later discovered that many of these early stage women did not have chemotherapy (somewhere in the 30% range). I know it is important that more targeted therapies are developed for all breast cancers, but it is important as well to make sure women now that most people survive tnbc.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Pat, for clarifying this misinformation. I will admit that since my mother's diagnosis in September, most of the articles I have seen online have terrified and disheartened me. Your blog was a Godsend. As I said, my mom is in chemo neoadjuvant now for a 3cm x 2cm mass with lymph node involvement, so we are pretty scared. But because of the information you have provided, I also have some hope.