Recent advances in molecular biology and immunology have provided cancer drugs that directly intervene in the molecular processes in a tumour, thus slowing or even entirely stopping disease progress. The first of this new generation of pharmaceuticals, Herceptin, is an antibody that docks on to the HER2neu receptor and blocks it. Consequently, certain factors required for the tumour to grow can no longer dock on to the receptor.
Herceptin is only the harbinger of a new generation of highly targeted and highly efficient drugs, said Professor Diethelm Wallwiener, Chairman of the German Senology Society. ‘Many similar products, in different stages of clinical development, are in the pipeline awaiting clinical application.’
During the last decade, experts said, the most important advance is a diagnostic procedure: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SNB), which allows the examination of individual lymph nodes in the tumour area. If no evidence of cancer is found in the sentinel node, complete removal of the axillary nodes usually is not indicated. Therefore, precise localisation of cancer cells and more selective surgical interventions clearly reduce morbidity in the shoulder/arm area.
Women suffering breast cancer understandably want to receive the appropriate therapy for their individual condition; however, they are also often concerned about aesthetic aspects of surgery or other treatments. New oncoplastic techniques in conservative surgical treatment of breast cancer, and during ablative therapy, offer considerably improved results. ‘I’d like to particularly stress thermo-adapted reduction surgery, which has been confirmed by relevant research data. It provides both oncological and long-term cosmetic results for the patient,’ Professor Wallwiener explained.
The experts agree that these encouraging developments will continue and that breast cancer treatment will see further and significant progress over the next few years.