WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - New research in breast cancer is ongoing all around the world and Purdue University is playing a major role.
In early October of this year, Purdue hosted the Third International Breast Cancer Prevention Symposium. People from all over the world, including researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), attended seminars on campus.
They all came together to talk prevention in West Lafayette. It's an area where research has been lacking, according to researcher Sophie Lelievre, Ph.D.
Lelievre and her team are working in prevention, hoping to figure out a way to one day prevent breast cancer from developing.
"I don't think people realize it's not just one breast cancer, it's several types of breast cancer," explained Lelievre.
One woman diagnosed with breast cancer may not have the same type of breast cancer as another patient. Basically, that means it will be very difficult to find a one-size-fits-all cure and why Lelievre believes prevention is the what we need to focus on.
"There are a lot of exciting things happening in terms of, people thinking in terms of prevention," she said.
Unity Healthcare oncologist Glen Papioannou, MD, doesn't believe we'll find a cure in our lifetime.
"It's possible but I think it is unlikely," said Dr. Papioannou.
Dr. Papioannou does believe, however, we could be just decades away from treating breast cancer as a chronic condition.
"Even if we cannot cure the cancer, we can control it to where the patient does not die of it but they keep kind of going on and on and on," he explained.
How they'll be able to keep going on and on will be through the development of new treatments. Research put into action leads to more options for patients.
For example, it took lots of research to develop MammoSite Targeted Radiation. This treatment is available to certain breast cancer patients at IU Health Arnett Cancer Services.
Medical Physicist Douglas Fry, MD, explains how radiation is delivered to patients who've undergone a lumpectomy.
"The applicator resides within the woman's breast," he demonstrated. "It's very flexible, very soft and very tolerated by patients."
Fry said this localized radiation can increase disease-free survival and a better quality of life for the patient. Treatments are twice daily for five days and from walking in the door to walking out, it takes about 20 minutes, that's it.
"A woman over 50 with unifocal disease who is a candidate for a lumpectomy, is probably a candidate for partial breast radiation as well," said Dr. Fry.
The bottom line: Even if we don't see a cure the way most of us envision, one day soon it may be possible for breast cancer to no longer be a "terminal" disease.
That's great news for those battling the disease and those at risk. Making it a reality could be thanks to the work being done right now at Purdue University by scientists like Lelievre and her colleagues.
Learn more about the work at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research via its website , along with information about the Third Annual International Symposium on Breast Cancer which was hosted by Purdue Oct. 10 - 12, 2012.
Information on cancer treatment options from Unity Healthcare at Lafayette Cancer Care is posted on its website .
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