1% of patients with breast cancer are male

Male chest representing male breast cancer

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For the 1% of patients with breast cancer who are male, the International Male Breast Cancer Programme (IMBCP) is a key initiative to gain a better understanding of their disease. Conceived within the BIG-NABCG collaboration, it is led and sponsored by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC).

“Male breast cancer is an excellent example of what a major international research collaboration can achieve. It is such a rare disease that it would take a very long time for smaller organisations to collect enough data to gain the knowledge we need,”

Martine Piccart, Co-Founder and immediate Past Chair of BIG

By characterising the biology of male breast cancer, the hope is to develop novel approaches to treatment. Following initial centralised analysis of data and tumour samples from 1,800 patients [1], and clinical and pathological disease characterisation, further research is using RNA sequencing and genomic profiling. The second part of the IMBCP consists of a prospective registry for male breast cancer through an international network of centres. In just 30 months, 570 patients were recruited through the network, indicating the potential for clinical trials carried out through the centres.

Previous IMBCP research has consistently shown that fewer men receive hormone therapy than would be expected, or radiotherapy for node positive disease. In absolute terms, breast cancer survival in men is worse than for women but, when data are adjusted for age and comorbidities, survival is similar. A major goal of the programme is therefore to establish a clinical trial in the male breast cancer setting, possibly of neoadjuvant therapy. In the meantime, considerable effort is going into raising awareness of the unmet needs of men with breast cancer and to improve recruitment of male patients in large breast cancer trials that are often limited to female patients.

1. Cardoso F, Bartlett JMS, Slaets L et al. Characterization of male breast cancer: results of the EORTC 10085/TBCRC/BIG/NABCG International Male Breast Cancer Program. Ann Oncol. 2018 Feb 1;29(2):405-417.

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