The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) is one of the world’s premier forums on breast cancer prevention, screening and treatments. Leading experts on breast cancer from various backgrounds gather every year at the SABCS in an effort to promote discussion and education around current trends in breast cancer research.

Now in its 37th year, one of the major focuses of the 2014 SABCS will be on estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. For those interested in developments in this area and others, here is what to watch for.

San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2014

Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancers

In year’s past, HER2-positive breast cancers have been the hot topic at SABCS. This year, the focus will be on estrogen receptor positive breast cancers, which account for around 75 percent of all breast cancers.

A new class of drugs called PI3K inhibitors could benefit patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer who have developed resistance to tamoxifen or other antiestrogen treatments. One presentation at this year’s meeting will look into a clinical study evaluating the PI3K inhibitor pictilisib. Researchers are currently using pictilisib with and without fulvestrant in patients with breast cancer that has progressed following treatment with an aromatase inhibitor.

If results are positive, this treatment could be used to delay chemotherapy in advanced cancer patients. The search for less toxic, hormonal-based alternatives to chemotherapy should be a priority for breast cancer researchers.

The Suppression of Ovarian Function Trial

Final results from the Suppression of Ovarian Function Trial (SOFT) will be presented at SABCS 2014. These results should indicate whether tamoxifen with ovarian suppression is a superior treatment to tamoxifen alone following curative surgeries for breast cancer.

This has great practice-changing implications for breast oncologists. At this point, tamoxifen alone is relied upon as the standard of care in premenopausal patients. SOFT results could indicate a new way forward.

Developments in Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Treatments

One interesting early phase trial is currently investigating the programmed death pathway (PD) inhibitor pembrolizumab used in patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Encouraging results have been seen using this strategy against melanoma and other solid tumors. At this year’s SABCS, researchers will reveal early results using this strategy in the management of breast cancer.

At Breastlink, we have taken an active interest in this area of immunotherapy. According to one hypothesis, triple-negative breast cancers are difficult to treat in part because they are highly effective at fending off the body’s immune system response. By inhibiting this cancer’s ability to fight the immune system, we could see much greater treatment responses than with existing therapies.

In my third year of attendance, I am excited by the promise of ongoing research that is presented and shared at the SABCS. This is an excellent opportunity for physicians and allied health care professionals dedicated to breast cancer prevention and treatment to engage with one another in an attempt to advance our knowledge of this disease. At Breastlink, we are committed to maintaining current knowledge of trends in breast cancer treatments and SABCS offers plenty of chances to learn how we might improve care for our patients.