Center News Magazine: Public CancerSmart Lecture Highlights the Science of Breast Cancer Treatment

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More than 300 members of the public gathered in Memorial Sloan Kettering's Rockefeller Research Laboratories Auditorium on March 18 to hear medical oncologist Clifford A. Hudis speak on “New Concepts, New Targets, New Directions, New Hope” in treating breast cancer. Dr. Hudis is Chief of the Breast Cancer Medicine Service in Memorial Hospital.

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Clifford Hudis, Chief of the Breast Cancer Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering, provides an overview of breast cancer epidemiology, risk factors, treatment, as well as an update on promising breast cancer research studies.

During the lecture, part of the Center's CancerSmart series, Dr. Hudis told attendees about the science of breast cancer. For example, he explained the meaning of relative risk and discussed some of the details about how breast cancer develops and how it metastasizes, or spreads, to other parts of the body. He also discussed some of the risk factors for breast cancer, including gender, age, diet, and the use of hormone replacement therapy.

Much of Dr. Hudis' talk focused on the genetic causes of breast cancer, and how those genetics are related to the development of targeted therapies. “What I'm sharing with you is a way in which our understanding of the science — specifically the genetics — can begin to inform our treatment of patients both at the global level and individually,” he said. He explained the science behind the development and use of several targeted therapies for breast cancer, including trastuzumab, tamoxifen, and aromatase inhibitors, which are currently part of standard treatment for many breast cancers, as well as PARP inhibitors, a new class of drug currently under investigation. Following his talk, he took questions from the audience on a range of topics related to breast cancer.

Memorial Sloan Kettering has held free educational lectures on topics of interest to the public since 1995. Previous topics in the CancerSmart series have included end-of-life issues and the role of palliative care, cancer survivorship, complementary therapies including herbs and botanicals, and screening and treatment issues surrounding cancers such as prostate, colorectal, and lung. Dr. Hudis' CancerSmart lecture was the first of five planned for 2010.