Chair of the EBCC calls for men to be included in trials

Intro text: 

- 23 March 2018 -

Barcelona, Spain: In a press release issued this morning, Professor Robert Mansel, Chair of the 11th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-11), calls for men to be included in clinical trials to improve treatments for breast cancer.

His appeal follows new results presented at the conference by Professor Isabel Rubio [1] and showing that radical surgery could be avoided for some women with HER2-positive breast cancer, if they are treated with targeted drugs to shrink the tumour before surgery. “These findings could apply to men also, but we just don’t know because men with breast cancer are almost never included in clinical trials’, says Prof Mansel.

Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women. Because of the rarity of the disease, men are usually excluded from clinical trials, and doctors often extrapolate treatment from studies applied to women. In most cases, men with breast cancer undergo radical surgery to remove all cancer cells. But, as stressed by Prof Mansel, they also suffer from the related physical sequela and could benefit from more conservative procedures that preserve the nipple and areola.

“We need trials to start including men, so that we can discover whether or not they respond in the same way to targeted treatments as women."

They may not, because the hormones involved in the cancer are different, but until this is investigated in trials, we do not know what is the best treatment for them”, he said.

A collaborative effort dedicated to male breast cancer

In the press release, Prof Mansel also highlights the International Male Breast Cancer Programme, a collaborative study coordinated by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and run under the umbrella of the Breast International Group (BIG) and its US counterpart the North American Breast Cancer Group (NABCG), joining efforts to better understand the biology and evolution of male breast cancer with the hope to improve treatments of patients affected by this rare disease in the future.

Researchers of the programme built a prospective registry of newly diagnosed male breast cancer patients for a period of 30 months, concluded in February 2017, collecting both clinical data and tumour samples. One of their main goals was to prove the feasibility of a therapeutic clinical trial that could generate meaningful results in a rare disease setting, which is a challenge due to the small number of available patients. With over 550 male breast cancer patients recruited in only 30 months, including 75% in Europe, 20% in the US and 5% in other countries, the investigators showed that, through international collaboration, they were able to set up a well-structured and functional research network ready to run a clinical trial in this rare population.[2]

Today, they are struggling to find a pharmaceutical partner willing to conduct a study and test different treatment approaches for men affected by the disease.

Read more about the International Male Breast Cancer Programme.


[1] Professor Isabel Rubio’s presentation is Abstract no: 19, “Breast and axillary conservative surgery after neoadjuvant treatment in HER 2 positive breast cancer patients: The time is now” Friday 23 March, “Clinical Science Symposium: Local Treatment of the Breast After Excellent Response to Preoperative Systemic Therapy”, 11:05 hrs, Picasso room.

[2] Clinical and biological characterization of male breast cancer (BC) EORTC 10085/TBCRC 029/BOOG 2013-02/BIG 2-07: Baseline results from the prospective registry. Giordano SH, et al. Poster Session, SABCS 2017.