May 25, 2017
Jen Marie Robustelli

BRCA Gene Confers High Cancer Risk in Men | Oncology Download May 25, 2017

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Every Tuesday morning, we send the Oncology Download out to thousands of oncology professionals. The newsletter is designed to be skimmable for the busy professional—our team curates 3-5 top stories from policy, research, industry, and mainstream media sources, and summarize these stories with takeaways geared toward cancer professionals dedicated to using data and technology to improve the lives of cancer patients. 

Sign up for the Oncology Download to get these stories delivered to your inbox every week!

One in five cancers diagnosed in U.S. is rare

A new study digs into the limited data available surrounding rare cancers. Overall, 20% of all patients diagnosed with cancer fall into the "rare cancer" classification, which affects Hispanic and Asian populations more others.

Axios has the scoop on this new research on rare cancers—in this case, "rare" is defined as fewer than six cases per 100,000 individuals per year. Some stats:

  • For people 20 years or younger, two out of three cancers diagnosed are rare.
  • More Hispanic (24%) and Asian/Pacific Islander (22%) patients are diagnosed with rare cancers compared with non-Hispanic blacks (20%) and non-Hispanic whites (19%).
  • The five-year survival rate for rare cancers is poorer than that for common cancers in both males (55% vs. 75%) and females (60% vs. 74%) due to delays in diagnosis and fewer treatment options.

Compounding the data for what defines "rare" cancers is the fact molecular testing and a generally more complete understanding of different types of cancer is expanding the definition of cancer categories. The good news—understanding more specific cancer types can lead to more precise treatments and better outcomes.

Researcher with stage 4 cancer launches site to help others navigate clinical trials

The sheer amount of data and information provided by can be more of a burden instead of a benefit to patients looking for information applicable to their disease. 

A partnership between cancer researcher—and stage 4 cancer patient—Dr. Tom Marsilje, a patient advocacy organization, and a technology company have helped other patients navigate clinical trial options more effectively. Utilizing only six fields, the site filters clinicaltrials(.gov) information by relevance to patients seeking trial information. The project highlights the advantages of combining skills and information between organizations in the cancer space to directly benefit patients.

BRCA gene confers high cancer risk in men

"It's highly relevant because it will help us determine not only which men should be screened and how frequently, but also in the men who do develop tumors, it may give us information about novel treatment pathways that we may not have known or thought about in the past."

In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers are beginning to scratch the surface of understanding prostate cancer genetics. In the study, men with BRCA mutations developed eight times as many cancers as compared to the general population.As we've covered in a previous Download, excessive testing has faced a backlash, often leading to unnecessarily painful, costly, and potentially harmful treatment for patients. However, this study out of the recent American Urological Association meeting supports the screening for male BRCA carriers to help provide more precise diagnosis and potential treatments.

Women with advanced breast cancer are surviving longer

The study, appearing online in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, was the first to estimate how many women are living with advanced disease in the US.

Because of data gaps in cancer registries, it is difficult to know how many women are actually living with metastatic breast cancer in the US. A recent study concludes:

  • 154,794 women are living with metastatic breast cancer (as of January 1, 2017).
  • Median survival and 5-year relative survival of these patients has increased over the years, especially in younger women.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate improved from 18% to 36%, for women diagnosed at age 15–49 between 1992–1994 and 2005–2012, respectively.
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