Video: New Perspectives on Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. Most women with breast cancer do not have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations or other genetic risk factors for the disease.

Larry Norton, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Breast Cancer Programs at Memorial Sloan Kettering, says it’s not cancer cells that kill people. The real danger is when cancer cells form tumors with the potential to spread (metastasize).

Researchers are focusing on the tumor microenvironment — the local biological conditions in which a tumor forms — in an effort to identify new treatments for breast cancer. For example, says medical oncologist Clifford Hudis, researchers are exploring the link between obesity and chronic inflammation, which unleashes a cascade of cellular processes that can trigger the development of breast cancer.

There are about a dozen different types of cancer that can arise in the breast. Some breast cancers depend on the hormones estrogen or progesterone to drive their growth, others on an excess of a receptor called HER2; triple-negative cancers are not dependent on any of these. Researchers and clinicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering are working to translate new discoveries about biological and genetic markers for breast cancer into new and better treatments, says medical oncologist Elizabeth Comen. Our multidisciplinary approach to research and treatment offers unique benefits for women with breast cancer.