Following the posting of my blog on the conference held by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, I received the following note from its president.
I read on your blog that you were surprised to find that few of the patient attendees looked ill. Unfortunately, at least 10 percent of registered patients had to cancel at the last minute because they were too ill to attend.
While the metastatic breast cancer community wishes we could be “living with chronic cancer,” the median survival rate for those with metastatic breast cancer is 1-2 years and the 5-year survival rate is only 15 percent.
The number of women and men who die each year of breast cancer is still approximately 40,000, a number that has not changed much in the last 20 years. As you state in your blog, there is a great need for funding specifically for metastatic disease. Currently, only 5 percent of all breast cancer funding goes to study metastasis which kills 95 percent of breast cancer patients.
Finally, while you mentioned that those with metastatic breast cancer can live for a number of years, please let your readers know that metastatic breast cancer is not one disease. There are at least three known subtypes, each with different signaling pathways and growth factors. Thus, survival rates vary significantly among patients.
For one of the subtypes, triple-negative metastatic breast cancer, there is no identified targeted therapy that attacks only the cancer cells. For patients with this type of breast cancer, chemotherapy helps the disease, but patients must live with cytotoxic side effects that impact quality of life. And, for metastatic breast cancer patients, treatment never ends.
Shirley Mertz, President
Metastatic Breast Cancer Network