Progressing our breast cancer research

October 11, 2021     

Acancer diagnosis carries a heavy burden, both physically and emotionally, no matter who is on the receiving end. For some people with cancer, a diagnosis can carry additional and unique challenges, such as self-image issues, an increased feeling of stigma or questions around the feasibility and safety of fertility. These uniquely arduous factors can be true of any cancer diagnosed as they are of breast cancer, and are one of the many reasons we are motivated to immerse ourselves into this research space.

woman with daughter

An estimated 2.2 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed globally each year, making it the most common cancer among women and the second most common cancer in the world. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop some type of breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer also affects men, though it is much less common. Globally, less than 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men. However, some breast cancers are caused by inherited genetic mutations, which can be passed down from male and female carriers. 

Breast cancer can be almost as diverse as it is prevalent, which means prognoses and survival expectations can vary widely based on type, stage and tumor characteristics, such as hormone receptor (HR) status and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status.

Learn more about HR status, HER2 status and how they are used to classify different types of breast cancer here.

The sheer prevalence of breast cancer can - and should - feel staggering, but the treatment paradigm has come a long way in the past thirty years, and so has our ability to detect breast cancer earlier, when it can be more manageable to treat, or prevent it altogether.

Much of this progress can be attributed to the fact that breast cancer treatment is becoming more personalized as we learn more about the disease. For example, detection of mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, the most common genetic mutations attributed to breast cancer risk, can indicate a woman’s likelihood to develop breast cancer later in life, flagging the need for early and regular cancer screenings.

These improvements in the ability to detect, prevent and classify breast cancer for a more targeted treatment approach have made an impact on the landscape. In fact, breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing around the year 2000 after increasing for the previous two decades.

Abderrahim Oukessou, M.D., vice president, Development Program Lead, Oncology

Abderrahim Oukessou, M.D., vice president, Development Program Lead, Oncology

While all advances, big and small, should be celebrated when it comes to a disease as pervasive as breast cancer, there is always more progress to be made. Thankfully, there is a seemingly great amount within reach as the field evaluates more personalized approaches to care, continues efforts to reach patients at earlier stages of disease, and incorporates patient perspectives into the scientific process.

“In recent years, there has been a great deal of progress in treating patients with breast cancer, but too many people are still dying, and too many have unmet needs. Through our development program, Bristol Myers Squibb will continue to explore new options for patients with breast cancer and other cancers. We are also working to improve clinical outcomes in earlier stages of disease so that we can help patients live longer and with a better quality of life,” said Abderrahim Oukessou, M.D., vice president, Development Program Lead, Oncology. 

“As part of our unwavering commitment to patients facing this challenging disease, we are closely partnering with advocacy groups to incorporate their perspectives into scientific development. Our goal is to continue contributing to a world where new and innovative treatment options can potentially have a positive impact on a large and diverse population of people in need.”

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