A quantum leap forward in breast cancer research provides new hope for sufferers.

A landmark study from an international group including Griffith University, the Specialised Breast Unit in Cremona, Italy and the Peter McCallum Institute in Melbourne has been published in the prestigious Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI).

The ‘International Expert Consensus on primary systemic therapy in the management of early breast cancer’ proposes that the disease should be managed by pre-surgical therapies combined with keyhole surgery as an alternative

to surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Already setting the standard for treatment in Italy, with the rest of Europe currently

gathering pace, the scientific paper marks the start of these processes being combined in a bid to improve the quality of life and disease-free period for patients.

Dr Derek Kennedy, research leader for cancer biology from Griffith’s Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies is a member of the study’s consensus committee.

“Up until now we have had a situation whereby patients could potentially have a delay of up to eight weeks between presentation of a suspicious lump in the breast and subsequent treatment. This can often result in mastectomy, aggressive chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy,” he said.

“From this research, we now know that if the patient can be convinced to leave the

tumour in situ during primary systemic (pre-surgical) therapy, the outcomes can be


“Our consensus is that an immediate biopsy on the day of presentation, combined with targeted cancer therapies and follow up with further regular biopsies, can provide improved chances for a complete pathological clearance of the tumour.”

Dr Kennedy said this exploited a window of opportunity to act quickly.

“The new strategy allows us to administer an approved targeted therapeutic on day one, then in four weeks assess the treatment regime with a second biopsy with a view to assessing the progress of the therapy at that stage – not months or years later.

“This way, we can rapidly review treatment, improve clinical outcomes and patient confidence and simultaneously supply a new battery of data that will inform the next

generation of therapies.

Dr Kennedy said until now, patients had often been waiting for appointments with a range of health professionals.

“An advantage of addressing breast cancer like this is that it provides a coordinated

approach in which health professionals are all aligned in their treatment and the improvement of breast cancer therapeutics.

The research also paves the way for improved anti-breast cancer therapy development.

“Previous to this, we have had no markers in place that can distinguish between different types of tumours and their level of aggression.

“This strategy is the only way we can reveal the markers that can diagnose the exact type of tumour. We ultimately hope therefore, to be able to generate personalised tumour therapies that can provide us with a far more targeted

approach to treatment development.

“This paper represents a benchmark for the rest of Europe and also here in Australia.”