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CU Cancer Center News and Stories

Breast Cancer

Community    Breast Cancer

Olivia Newton-John Dies After 30-Year Breast Cancer Battle 

After a 30-year, off-and-on battle with metastatic breast cancer, Australian-born actress and singer Olivia Newton-John died on August 8 at age 73. Best known for her role as Sandy in the 1978 movie musical “Grease,” Newton-John also hit the music charts with singles like “Physical” and “Magic.” 


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date August 09, 2022
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Research    Breast Cancer

Research Shows Low Patient Comprehension of Terms Commonly Found in Electronic Health Information

When the 21st Century Cures Act went into effect in April 2021, health care organizations began releasing electronic health information (EHI) to patients immediately.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date August 04, 2022
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Research    Breast Cancer   

Study Could Lead to Better Education and Treatment of Sexual Health for Breast Cancer Patients

A new study released by the University of Colorado Cancer Center shows that more than 70 percent of breast cancer patients have reported changes that affect their sexual health during and beyond treatment.


Author Laura Kelley | Publish Date August 02, 2022
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Research    Breast Cancer

Using Big Data to Better Understand Cancerous Mutations

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are among the latest tools being used by cancer researchers to aid in detection and treatment of the disease.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date June 29, 2022
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Research    Breast Cancer    Genetics

Commonly Mutated Gene Shown to Drive Therapeutic Resistance in HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

PIK3CA is a gene that makes an enzyme called PI3K, which is involved in many important cell functions. When PIK3CA mutates, however, it can make the PI3K enzyme become overactive and cause cancer cells to grow.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date June 22, 2022
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Community    Breast Cancer    Colorectal Cancer

Investigating the Connections Between Medicaid and Cancer Survival

At first blush, the numbers aren’t great: Cancer patients who are covered by Medicaid tend to have later-stage disease and higher rates of mortality.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date April 13, 2022
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Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer   

Dianne Primavera’s Journey From Cancer Patient to Cancer Advocate 

Dianne Primavera wouldn’t take no for an answer.  


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date March 07, 2022
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Research    Breast Cancer    Pediatric Cancer    Melanoma    Funding

CU Cancer Center Members Receive Grants to Conduct High-Tech Research 

The Tumor-Host Interactions Program (THI) at the University of Colorado Cancer Center has awarded four CU Cancer Center researchers $30,000 each to gain preliminary data using the Multiplex Ion Beam Imager (MIBI) housed in the cancer center’s Human Immune Monitoring Shared Resource (HIMSR) to support a competitive national grant proposal. The selected researchers are expected to submit a national competitive grant proposal within six months of completing their THI-MIBI pilot studies.  


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date February 10, 2022
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Research    Breast Cancer

Dietary Strategies for Preventing Breast Cancer Recurrence

Can dietary strategies like intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating help breast cancer survivors prevent their tumors from recurring? It’s a question researchers at the University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center are looking to answer with a new study funded by a $3 million R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date February 09, 2022
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Breast Cancer    Lung Cancer    Colorectal Cancer

American Cancer Society Reports 32% Drop in Cancer Deaths Since 1991

The American Cancer Society (ACS) released its annual cancer statistics last week, reporting that the risk of dying from cancer in the U.S. has fallen 32% over the past 28 years. Cancer deaths in the U.S. reached their peak in 1991, with 215 out of every 100,000 people dying from cancer, and have been falling ever since, largely due to a decline in the amount of people who smoke.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date January 18, 2022
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Research    Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer    Magazine    Surgical Oncology

Breast Cancer Research Gathers Data to Help Women Understand Well-Being Outcomes After Surgery

When a woman receives a breast cancer diagnosis, she may have many questions about her immediate future – the stage of the disease, what treatment she’ll receive, where it will happen.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date October 22, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer    Advocacy

Genetic Counseling Helps Young Woman Take Control After Testing Positive for BRCA2

The first time Caley Kurchinski had to think about a double mastectomy, she was only 16. Her mother had died at age 36 from breast cancer, when Caley was 6. When she became a teenager, Caley’s family physician began telling her she needed to get genetic testing.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date October 15, 2021
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Patient Care    Awareness    Breast Cancer    Surgical Oncology    Plastic Surgery

Young Mom’s Breast Cancer Journey Highlights Importance of Breast Cancer Screening in Younger Women

Kirsten Stewart was just putting on lotion, like she does every morning after her shower. That particular morning, though, she noticed something different: a lump that hadn’t been there before and that definitely wasn’t normal. She was only 30 years old.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date October 07, 2021
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Research    Breast Cancer

Putting a Target on Breast Cancer That Spreads to the Brain

Breast cancer patients whose cancer spreads to the brain may soon have new treatment options, thanks to research led by CU Cancer Center member Diana Cittelly, PhD.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date September 20, 2021
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Research    Breast Cancer

Seeking a Unique Treatment for Lobular Breast Cancer

Though the two main histological types of breast cancer — lobular and ductal — are treated with the same hormonal therapies, women with lobular breast cancer often have recurrence or metastasis of the disease several years after their initial treatment.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date July 28, 2021
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Research    Breast Cancer

Promising New Research for Metastatic Breast Cancer

A discovery by CU Cancer Center member Traci Lyons, PhD, is providing new hope for women with metastatic breast cancer.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date June 25, 2021
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Breast Cancer

COVID-19 Vaccines Can Cause Lumps That Mimic Breast Cancer

The COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to significantly slow the spread of the virus, but the Pfizer and Moderna and vaccines are having an unforeseen consequence for breast cancer doctors. The vaccines often cause swelling in the armpit or underarm that can mimic the lumps associated with breast cancer, causing some women undue concern.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date June 03, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Patient’s Advice: Take It One Treatment at a Time

It feels odd to use the phrase “perfect timing” when talking about a cancer diagnosis, but that’s exactly how Tonya Quinn describes her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.  


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date May 12, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Breast Cancer    Surgical Oncology

Improving Quality of Life for Breast Cancer Patients

Though breast cancer patients are now living longer than ever before, treatments for the disease can have wide-ranging effects on their long-term quality of life. Physical, social, and sexual wellbeing all can be impacted by radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, antiendocrine therapy and other challenges that go along with a breast cancer battle.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date March 23, 2021
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Research    Breast Cancer

The Role of T Cells in Fighting Cancer

New research from CU Cancer Center member Jing Hong Wang, MD, PhD, and recent University of Colorado Immunology program graduate Rachel Woolaver, PhD, may help researchers develop more effective personalized immunotherapy for cancer patients.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date January 14, 2021
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Patient Care    Breast Cancer

BFitBWell Strengthens Cancer Survivors

In late 2019, two remarkable women were brought together by a shared experience that could only happen at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health & Wellness Center. Through their participation in the BFitBWell Program for cancer survivors, they found renewed strength and friendship.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 30, 2020
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Research    Breast Cancer

Colorado study points immune system at triple-negative breast cancer

The lab of CU Cancer Center investigator, Jennifer Richer, PhD, has been hot on the trail of new treatments against triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an especially dangerous form of the disease. Recently, the lab has been exploring changes that allow these breast cancer cells to hide from the immune system while traveling through the body to seed new sites of metastasis. This line of research is paying off, showing chains of events that make TNBC especially aggressive. The question has been where these chains can be broken – where are the weak links?


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date February 12, 2020
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Research    Breast Cancer

Tucatinib “game changing” against stage IV HER2+ breast cancer, especially with brain metastases

Phase III clinical trial results reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented concurrently at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) 2019 show the combination of the investigational drug tucatinib with standard of care treatment including the drugs trastuzumab and capecitabine nearly tripled one-year progression-free survival (33 percent vs. 12 percent), and nearly doubled the two-year overall survivor (45 percent vs. 27 percent) in women with HER2+ metastatic breast cancer. The international, multi-center trial, named HER2CLIMB (NCT02614794), builds on early development and clinical trials involving the  University of Colorado Cancer Center.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date December 11, 2019
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Research    Breast Cancer

Combined breast and gynecologic surgery: Study says not so fast

Breast cancer patients and women undergoing cancer-preventive breast surgeries may consider combining these procedures with hysterectomy and/or ovarian removal. However, a University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in Breast Journal argues against this combined approach: Patients undergoing coordinated breast and gynecologic procedures had a significantly longer length of hospital stay, and higher complication, readmission, and reoperation rates compared with patients who underwent single site surgery.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 15, 2019
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Research    Breast Cancer

Knowing BRCA status associated with better breast cancer outcomes for women who decide against preventive surgery

Ashkenazi Jewish women have a 1-in-40 chance of carrying the BRCA mutation and these BRCA-positive women have an 80 percent lifetime risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. A study by University of Colorado Cancer Center and  Shaarei Zedek Medical Center, Israel presented at the European Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting 2019 shows the importance of healthy women knowing their BRCA status, even when these women choose not to undergo prophylactic mastectomy: Of 63 Ashkenazi Jewish women unaware of their BRCA+ status at the time of breast cancer diagnosis, and 42 women who were aware they were BRCA+ prior to their breast cancer diagnosis (but had decided against surgical prevention), the women who knew their BRCA+ status were diagnosed with earlier stage breast cancer, needed less chemotherapy,  less extensive surgery, and had greater overall 5-year survival (98 percent vs. 74 percent).


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 09, 2019
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Research    Breast Cancer

Three-drug cocktail of targeted therapies promising against hormone receptor and HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer

The growth of some breast cancers is driven by hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Other breast cancers are driven by changes in the gene HER2. Still some cancers are driven by both – and breast cancers whose growth can be controlled by hormonal receptors and HER2 can be especially tricky to treat. A University of Colorado Cancer Center phase 1b study presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting 2019 offers an attractive alternative to the chemotherapy that is often used with these patients: the three-drug cocktail of targeted treatments – tucatinib, palbociclib and letrozole – was overall well-tolerated and showed preliminary evidence of promising anti-cancer activity. Results support the continued development of the combination in an ongoing phase 2 clinical trial.

“I see this as a promising chemotherapy-free combination for patients who have been without good options, especially for those whose disease has spread to the brain,” says Elena Shagisultanova, MD, PhD, investigator at CU Cancer Center and the trial’s principal investigator.

Tucatinib is a targeted HER2 inhibitor; palbociclib stops cancer cells from rushing through the cell cycle required for fast proliferation; and the anti-hormonal drug letrozole restricts the ability of cancers to drive growth using estrogens. Previous work has shown that palbociclib and letrozole combine to kill more cancer cells than letrozole alone. And lab work by Shagisultanova and her mentor Virginia Borges, MD, at CU Cancer Center led them to believe that tucatinib should be a potent addition to this combination.

Results of the current trial show that the theory holds up in humans: of 20 patients enrolled on the study since November 2018, 14 remained on study as of 1/4/2019, five of which had been on the study more than 6 months. The goal of the phase 1b study was to explore the safety of this combination, with no patients experiencing side effects that required study withdrawal.

“All these patients have metastatic breast cancer and up to five different treatments before trying this trial. Also, 45 percent have brain metastases. In this population, our results look promising,” Shagisultanova says.

A phase 2 trial further exploring the combination is offered at CU Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Northwestern University, New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, Stony Brook University, and University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 17, 2019
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Patient Care    Faculty    Breast Cancer

Treatment Guidelines for Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

The use of textured breast implants during augmentation or reconstructive surgery can slightly increase a patient’s risk of developing Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a form of cancer that is distinct from other breast cancers. Now an article recently published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal formalizes the treatment strategy for this diagnosis, offering clear guidelines for plastic and oncologic surgeons. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all recommend the surgical technique known as stepwise en bloc resection, which includes total capsulectomy (removing scar tissue  around the implant),  explantation (removal) of the implant, complete removal of any associated masses, and removal of any involved (proven by biopsy) or suspicious lymph nodes.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date March 12, 2019
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Research    Breast Cancer

The Sneaky Way Estrogen Drives Brain Metastasis in Non-Estrogen-Dependent Breast Cancers

Triple-negative breast cancers are more likely than other breast cancer types to metastasize and are especially likely to go the brain in younger women. Researchers have tested various hypotheses to explain this danger. One idea that has gotten little attention is the thought that estrogen might be to blame. After all, triple negative breast cancers lack estrogen receptors (along with progesterone receptors and HER2, thus the name triple negative), and so these cancers can’t possibly be influenced by estrogen. Right?


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date March 01, 2019
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Research    Patient Care    Breast Cancer

For Breast Cancer Survivors, Group Exercise Beats Personal Training for Quality of Life

Study after study has shown that for cancer survivors, exercise is good. But what kind of exercise is best? A pilot study by Colorado researchers hints that group exercise and personal training may lead to similar physical gains, but that a specially designed class for cancer survivors incorporating group dynamics-strategies may increase quality of life beyond that of survivors using personal training. The study now results in a $718,000 grant from the American Cancer Society that will dramatically expand the program, including new offerings through University of Colorado Cancer Center at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. 


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date February 27, 2019
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Research    Faculty    Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Up to 5 Times More Likely to Metastasize Even 10 Years After Childbirth

study by researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and Oregon Health & Science University published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network shows that breast cancers diagnosed in young women within 10 years of giving birth are more likely to metastasize, and thus more likely to cause death, than breast cancers in young women who gave birth less recently or not at all.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date January 15, 2019
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Patient Care    Breast Cancer    Cancer    Surgical Oncology

In Breast Surgery, Sometimes Less is More

Last year when surgeon Gretchen Ahrendt, MD, was considering a move from the University of Pittsburgh to accept the position of Director of the Diane O’Connor Thompson Breast Center on the Anschutz Campus, she and her husband, Steven – also a surgical oncologist – agreed their three daughters would have to support the move.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date December 07, 2017
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CU Cancer Center In the News

US News

Breast Cancer Treatment Effects on Sex Life a Hidden Burden

news outletUS News
Publish DateAugust 08, 2022

Women with breast cancer commonly see their sexual health decline, yet their doctors aren't telling them what to expect -- or what to do about it.

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5280

Inside Colorado’s Battle Against Rare Diseases

news outlet5280
Publish DateAugust 04, 2022

Rare diseases, often called orphan diseases, are conditions that each affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. Living with one can be a nightmare. Symptoms can be life-altering and life-threatening.

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News Medical

Study: Many Breast Cancer Patients Report Changes that Affect Sexual Health During and Beyond Treatment

news outletNews Medical
Publish DateAugust 04, 2022

A new study released by the University of Colorado Cancer Center shows that more than 70 percent of breast cancer patients have reported changes that affect their sexual health during and beyond treatment.

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The Conversation

Many Medications Affect More Than One Target in the Body – Some Drug Designers Are Embracing the ‘Side Effects’ That Had Been Seen as a Drawback

news outletThe Conversation
Publish DateJuly 28, 2022

The concept of drugs having multiple functions may lead to unintended consequences. This is a common occurrence for cancer drugs in clinical trials.

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