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Pinktober 2021: A History of Innovation in Treating Breast Cancer

Mission Search - Pinktober 2021 Blog

Fact or fiction? 1 out of 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer at one point in her lifetime.

The statement above, according to BreastCancer.org, is true. With nearly 44,000 women expected to die from breast cancer this year, the importance of early detection and regular screenings is one of the central themes for Pinktober – the month dedicated to raising awareness on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer in the US.

At Mission Search, we stand as a proud ally in the fight against eradicating breast cancer for good. We analyzed the historical trends in breast cancer treatment as well as patient outcomes to determine some of the most innovative programs in the country, backed by world-class research and patient care in our nation’s leading treatment centers.

250 Years of Breast Cancer Innovation – a Timeline

While breast cancer treatments continue to innovate, here are some of the most significant milestones in research and patient treatment methods from the last two and a half centuries.

1882: The First Mastectomy

William Halsted performs the first-ever mastectomy to treat breast cancer by removing the tumor completely. This procedure would become the standard treatment for breast cancer until the end of the 20th century.

1898: Discovering Radium and Polonium

Marie and Pierre Curie discover two critical radioactive elements – radium and polonium – that would forge the path for radiation therapy. After a few short years, the use of radium would begin for breast cancer treatment.

1903: Radiation Therapy Used to Cure Cancer

While S.W. Goldberg and Efim London use radiation therapy to cure two patients with skin cancer, it was the first occasion to discover that radiation therapy was a viable treatment for multiple types of cancer.

1932: The Modified Mastectomy for Breast Cancer

David H. Patey develops the “modified radical mastectomy” – a surgical procedure that was less disfiguring to the breast cancer patient. It would become the replacement for the radical mastectomy and the standard for breast cancer treatment.

1937: Breast Surgery Combined with Radiation

This landmark year would be the first time that breast surgery would be followed by radiation therapy. Long needles would be used to insert radium into the adjacent lymph nodes after the tumor was surgically removed.

1949: Nitrogen Mustard

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of nitrogen mustard as a cancer treatment method. Nitrogen mustard is a class of drugs that kills cells by modifying their DNA.

1971: The Creation of the National Cancer Act

President Richard M. Nixon signs the National Cancer Act. This monumental event forged the coordination of all other cancer-research entities and would establish national cancer control programs and national cancer research centers.

1984: The Discovery of the HER2 Gene

Researchers discover a new gene in rat cancer cells that they call “neu.” The human counterpart of this gene, called HER2 (and ErbB2), is discovered to be overexpressed in 20% – 25% of breast cancers and is associated with more aggressive and less curable cases of breast cancer. It is now known as HER2-positive breast cancers. Over the next few years, scientists would begin to clone these cancer cells to better understand and research the disease.

1994: Tumor Suppressor Research Begins

By cloning a tumor suppressor gene (known as BRCA1), medical scientists discover that specific inherited mutations in this gene significantly increase the risk of breast cancer in women, as well as several other cancers in both women and men. It would be one of the most important discoveries that would help identify patients who were genetically more susceptible to developing cancer, an important step in early detection.

1996: The First Use of Anastrozole

The FDA approves anastrozole – a drug that blocks estrogen production – for the treatment of advanced breast cancers in post-menopausal women.

1998: The Approval of Tamoxifen

The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Breast Cancer Prevention Trials reveal that tamoxifen can help reduce the incidence of breast cancer by nearly 50%. The FDA would then approve the use of tamoxifen for women with increased risks of developing breast cancer.

2006: Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR)

This clinical study conducted by the NCI revealed that the use of tamoxifen and raloxifene (aka STAR) can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The risk of serious side effects is lower with raloxifene compared to tamoxifen, both estrogen-suppressing drugs.

2016: Congress Passes Cancer Moonshot

The 21st Century Cures Act provides funding for the Cancer Moonshot initiative, a wide research program dedicated to accelerating cancer research with the goal of transforming cancer care, prevention, and early detection.

2018: The TAILORx Clinical Trial

This landmark trial, sponsored by the NCI, determined that most women with early stage breast cancer did not benefit from receiving chemotherapy after surgery. By using a molecular test to analyze the expression of 21 genes associated with breast cancer, it was one of the first trials that led the way to personalized cancer treatment.

The Future of Breast Cancer Treatment: How You Can Help

The fight against cancer isn’t easy, and we have a long road ahead of us. Fortunately, there are organizations dedicated to helping improve patient treatment programs as well as providing ongoing support for breast cancer patients.

Susan G. Komen is an organization dedicated to fundraising and advocating for breast cancer patients. They have invested more than $1.1 Billion since its inception in 1982 to directly fund medical research and innovation. The organization is actively fundraising and has a generous triple match currently underway! Make a donation today and have your impact tripled from now until October 31st, 2021.

Mission Search is proud to help staff some of the nation’s leading breast cancer care providers in the highest-rated medical institutions across the nation. To learn more, contact us today.

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