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The Front Line


The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair

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SWOG Shares Results in San Antonio

December 16, 2016 - SWOG’s breast cancer committee is one of our strongest and most productive. Its research was on full display in Texas last week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), where we contributed to expert discussion.

The SABCS is a premier breast cancer research meeting, and in 2016, conference planners expected 7,500 attendees from more than 90 countries. Dr. Lynn Henry was the SWOG star of this year’s session, presenting potentially practice-changing results at one of six oral presentations highlighting key research findings.

Dr. Henry is co-chair of our symptom control and quality of life committee and director of breast medical oncology at Huntsman Cancer Institute at University of Utah. She shared results of S1202, reporting that a drug typically used to treat depression and anxiety can significantly reduce joint pain in postmenopausal women being treated for early stage breast cancer.

We are always looking to benefit our patients, and this trial truly has potential impact. Tens of thousands of women each year are treated with aromatase inhibitors (AIs). Many of those women – as many as 50 percent – experience joint pain and stiffness as a toxicity of AI therapy. About 20 percent experience significant pain, to the extent they have trouble walking, climbing stairs, performing simple tasks like typing, or just sitting for an extended period of time. This pain is so common, it’s known as AI-Associated Musculoskeletal Syndrome, or AIMSS.

Identifying new ways to effectively treat AIMSS – exercise and acupuncture may help modestly – could do more than improve the quality of life for our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and friends. It could also improve the likelihood of continuing with their cancer treatment. Some women stop AI therapy to get relief from AIMSS.

For S1202, Dr. Henry and her team tested duloxetine, a drug primarily used to treat depression and anxiety. They enrolled 299 patients at 43 institutions throughout the NCI’s National Cancer Trials Network (NCTN) and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Patients were randomly assigned to either receive duloxetine or a placebo for 12 weeks. They filled out a questionnaire upon enrolling, and again at two, six, 12, and 24 weeks into the study. Questions focused on pain, rated on a 0-10 scale, and also on depression and quality of life.

Results showed that patients taking duloxetine saw their average pain drop on the scale from 5.5 to about 3. Improvement was rapid, and relief persisted through the end of the 12-week trial. Please see our press release for the full team and story.

Congratulations to Dr. Henry, and all our SABCS presenters and discussants.

Note: It’s that time of year folks. The ASCO Annual Meeting will be held June 2-6, 2017 in Chicago. If you’re submitting a SWOG study abstract, please submit it to publications manager Pat Arlauskas at arlauskp@ohsu.edu no later than Jan. 25 for internal processing. Abstracts are due to ASCO by Feb. 7.

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