Biology of Male Breast Cancer tackled at SABCS 2022

Male chest representing male breast cancer

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On 7 December, a spotlight poster discussion on male breast cancer, including the work of Danielle Zakon and colleagues, was held at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

This poster reported on the “Evaluation of the Sensitivity to Endocrine Therapy Index (SET2,3) in Early Male Breast Cancer: Results from an analysis in the EORTC 10085/TBCRC/BIG/NABCG International Male Breast Cancer Programme”.

The International Male Breast Cancer Programme is a collaborative initiative of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) in collaboration with the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the Breast International Group (BIG). The programme was launched in 2006 and is a global effort aiming to better understand the clinical characteristics, tumour biology, and treatment outcomes of male patients with breast cancer- a rare population, representing around 1% of all breast cancer cases globally.

The International Male Breast Cancer Programme consists of three parts:

  1. A retrospective collection of data and samples from 1822 male patients with breast cancer treated in 23 participating centres across 9 countries.
  2. A prospective registry of 557 newly diagnosed cases during a period of approximately 30 months, with central collection of clinical data and tumour samples and follow up period of 10 years.
  3. Prospective clinical studies to optimize the management of these patients.

Parts 1 and 2 have already been completed thanks to the tireless efforts of several research partners, many funding organisations, and individual donors.

In the work by Dr Zakon and colleagues, they used the “SET 2,3 index” which is a hormone receptor (HR)-related gene expression biomarker to analyse the outcomes of 321 male patients with breast cancer. They showed that the SET 2,3 index is prognostic in this group, similar to prior findings among female patients. Of the male patients analysed, 65.7% had a high SET 2,3 index, indicating high endocrine activity and a lower risk of recurrence, while 34.3% patients had a low index, indicating low endocrine activity and a higher risk of recurrence. This might imply that among male patients with breast cancer, selected patients might benefit from additional chemotherapy in addition to endocrine therapy. However, these findings need further validation.

Since the inception of the International Male Breast Cancer Programme, collaborative research has generated much hope for this group of patients, although much work still needs to be done. Today, we have deeper knowledge of the clinical and biological characteristics of male patients with breast cancer. There is also greater awareness and support for understanding their treatment preferences. Finally, there are now more opportunities for male patients to participate in breast cancer trials, opening avenues for gaining a greater understanding of breast cancer in this rare, yet important patient group.


More information on the following links: – Annals of Oncology 2018 – NPJ Breast 2021




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