June 22-23, 2018
Researchers of the Metastasis Research Society in collaboration with patients of METAvivor Research and Support Inc. and clinicians of the Sentinel Node Oncology Foundation attended the first Metastatic Breast Cancer Engagement Conference on June 22-23, 2018 at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
The first-of-its-kind conference brought together metastatic researchers and metastatic patients with the goal to improve stage IV metastatic cancer patient outcomes and identify top research priorities. The conference was preceded by three webinars that featured panel discussions offering the perspective of metastatic breast cancer patients, researchers, and oncologists respectively. Year 1 of this project focused on metastatic breast cancer (October 2017-August, 2018) and year 2 will be expanded to include all metastatic cancer types (August 2018-August 2019).
Day 1 of the conference commenced with excellent presentations by metastatic breast cancer patients and advocates that highlighted the specific needs of this community and top patient-desired outcomes. Examples included expanding treatment options for triple negative breast cancer patients, recognizing and including male breast cancer patients in clinical trials, and minimizing the negative side effects of treatment while improving quality of life for all patients.
Dr. Danny Welch of the University of Kansas Medical Center has been studying metastasis for decades and gave an eye-opening lecture about the biology of breast cancer metastasis (i.e. the different mechanisms by which cancer spreads), as well as the current translational research. His presentation prepared participants for the roundtable working groups that literally brought researchers and patients to the same table to rank the top MBC research priorities. While patients have been collaborating with researchers for years on peer-review panels for cancer research grants, what makes these discussions unique is that the patients are guiding the research priorities beforethe research has even begun. Our group ranked “researching the biology behind the hallmarks of metastasis to identify new ways to target breast cancer metastasis” as a top research priority with colonization and dissemination as the two most important characteristics to study.
Day 2 focused on the clinical advances for metastatic breast cancer with presentations from Dr. Senthil Damodaran from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Pablo Leone from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Dr. Anna Babayan from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. Dr Babayan discussed the advancement of liquid biopsies which are blood samples that look for cancer cells or pieces of DNA circulating in the blood from a tumor. Though much more research needs to be done to refine this technique, liquid biopsies may become powerful prognostic tools for guiding treatment decisions once a patient develops resistance.
To prepare for the second roundtable working discussion, Dr. Timothy Pluard of St. Luke’s Hospital, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine gave a presentation about comparative effectiveness research (CER) trial priorities for MBC. Comparative effectiveness research compares the benefits and harms of existing approved therapies. Because of the lack of available treatment options for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients, our group ranked the topic “what is the appropriate chemotherapy agent to combine with PD-1 immunotherapy in TNBC” as a top research priority, followed by “should Fulvestrant or an aromatase inhibitor be used first line with a CDK4/6 inhibitor in recurrent de novo stage IV ER+ disease.” We had the option of writing in a research priority that had not been listed and we therefore developed a third priority which would focus on research into how and why some patients develop a resistance to various treatment regimens. Click HERE to see the compilation of results from all the roundtable discussion groups that ranked MBC research priorities.
The conference ended with an empowering talk given by an MBC patient and one of METAvivor’s co-founders, CJ “Dian” Corneliussen-James. In her energetic presentation, she talked about unintended consequences of patient shaming, debunked many of the common myths of MBC, and provided insight into the lives of MBC patients. Without her, this conference would not have happened and MBC patients are grateful to her for her tireless efforts to promote awareness of, and research equity for, metastatic breast cancer.
Click HERE to view recordings of the webinars and the conference, and HERE for information on the next 2019 engagement conference. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Engagement Conference has been funded in part through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Award.