Significant advances in breast cancer treatment

Due to Breast Cancer Awareness Month breast cancer Diyar Akkaynak, Novartis Oncology Medical Director, gave information about the current developments in the treatment and new generation drugs that are in use, and answered our questions:

  • What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is tumorous formations that multiply uncontrollably between the cells forming the milk glands and milk ducts of the breast.

  • What is the situation in the world regarding breast cancer?

Breast cancer continues to be a very serious threat to women all over the world. According to the Cancer Atlas published by the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Cancer Research and the International Cancer Control Association, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in 140 countries around the world, and the most common cause of cancer death among all cancers.

In 2013, 1 out of every 4 women diagnosed with cancer had breast cancer, 45% of women diagnosed with breast cancer were between the ages of 50-69 and 40% were between the ages of 25-49, and only 7% to 9% of breast cancers were diagnosed. It is seen that part of ‘ is familial inherited.

Currently, one out of every 8 women worldwide is diagnosed with breast cancer, and 30% of those diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will face metastatic, that is, advanced-stage breast cancer in the future. By looking at all these data; We can say that breast cancer is quite common in the society.

  • How common is breast cancer in Turkey? Is there a situation different from the world?

According to the Turkish Public Health Agency Turkey Cancer Statistics study published in 2016, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in Turkey. Therefore, we can say that the situation in Turkey is similar to the situation in the world.

  • What developments have occurred in the medical world regarding this breast cancer treatment? What kind of studies does Novartis conduct against breast cancer and especially metastatic breast cancer?

I can say that we have come a long way in the treatment of breast cancer with the latest developments in the medical world. For example, 30 years ago the treatment options for breast cancer were very limited. Today, we know that there are many different subtypes of breast cancer. At this point, we have many different treatment options such as personalized and targeted therapies according to certain subtypes and disease characteristics. We expect the number of these treatment options to increase day by day.

From the perspective of Novartis Oncology; We have always been at the forefront of developing innovative clinical practices against breast cancer. At this point, I am happy to state that our innovative product for breast cancer that we have developed has been named “breakthrough therapy” by the FDA.

With this product, which received FDA approval in March and European Commission approval in September, we made a brand new start, powered by our deep-rooted experience in targeted therapy and advanced breast cancer. This drug stands out as the symbol of innovations developed by Novartis for HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer patients. Our drug in question was an FDA-approved CDK4/6 inhibitor, providing a statistically significant advantage over letrozole alone in progression-free survival, and was reviewed and approved under the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy and Priority Review programs.

  • What are the differences between treatments for advanced (metastatic) and early-stage breast cancer?

In terms of treatment, various methods can be followed according to the stage of the cancer. While there have been significant developments in the treatment of breast cancer in the medical world in recent years, treatment options are increasing day by day, but these possibilities change according to the stage of the disease. For example, we see that the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment increases significantly in cases that can be detected early. However, we can say that the unmet treatment needs of patients with advanced metastatic breast cancer are still very high.

  • How many advanced breast cancer cases (metastatic) phase? What exactly changes occur in the metastatic stage?

About one-third of patients with early-stage breast cancer suffer the development of metastatic disease later on. Metastatic breast cancer is defined as the most serious form of the disease and at this stage, cancer; spreading to different organs such as the brain, bone or liver. advanced breast cancer; refers to metastatic breast cancer (stage four) and locally advanced breast cancer (stage three).

  • Do treatments for advanced breast cancer have a chance of success?

Survival rates of women with advanced breast cancer are lower compared to women in the early stages of the disease. The five-year relative survival rate for stage three breast cancer is 72%, while the rate for metastatic (stage four) breast cancer is around 22%.

What are the unmet treatment needs of patients with metastatic breast cancer?

Although 90% of deaths in breast cancer are due to metastases, 45% of patients still have difficulty in accessing sufficient information, and 40% feel lonely. The experiences and needs of women who have to live with advanced or metastatic breast cancer are much different than those of early-stage breast cancer patients.

New drug options are increasing in the treatment of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

These patients need more psychological support, more attention. At this point, I think that our new drug that we developed as Novartis Oncology and our project “We are 1 against Cancer” stand at an important point.

  • How does your new drug make a difference in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer?

The CDK4/6 inhibitor manufactured by Novartis and the use of an aromatase inhibitor as first-line therapy for HR+/HER- advanced breast cancer received the FDA Breakthrough Therapy designation in 2016. Not long after that, our drug in question was approved by the FDA for use as a first-line therapy in HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer with any aromatase inhibitor. This FDA approval represents new hope for thousands of women in the US with post-menopausal metastatic breast cancer.

As Novartis Oncology Turkey, we aim to complete the registration application in Turkey as soon as possible and to make this innovative product accessible to breast cancer patients.

  • Could you give some information about your 1 Trace Against Cancer project?

We have developed a social responsibility project for patients who are treated for metastatic breast cancer in different provinces of Turkey and who need psychological support but cannot access psychological support due to different impossibilities. Within the scope of the “We Are One Against Cancer” project, patients with metastatic breast cancer will be able to access Novartis’ Youtube channel and listen to the answers to the questions they are curious about during their treatment from the mouth of an expert onco psychologist, free of charge and easily. For example; “How should one approach a patient whose breast cancer has recurred and does not want to receive treatment? How can metastatic breast cancer be explained to children, for example, how can a child who does not know that his mother has breast cancer can be told that the disease has progressed? They can get support for their own processes by listening to the answers to many questions such as:

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