What if more women could be spared from ever having to face a daunting breast cancer diagnosis?This is a key question cancer researchers and clinicians are asking. Thanks to your support, CancerCare Manitoba is helping lead research which seeks to find an answer. Research which will hopefully prevent women like Valerie Williamson from hearing the words “you have breast cancer.”
Your investment helped enable a talented team here in Manitoba to partner with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to undertake the GENRE study. Short for GENetic Risk Estimation of breast cancer, this study is the first clinical trial of its kind. It used a genetic test to predict a woman’s breast cancer risk and assessed if the test results helped her decision to take prevention medication.“The traditional way to evaluate breast cancer risk is to assess clinical risk factors such as age, family history, age at first pregnancy and menopause,” said Dr Julian Kim, CancerCare Manitoba Radiation Oncologist and co-principal investigator of the GENRE study. “Through a genetic test using a woman’s blood, we can now more accurately predict breast cancer risk and empower women to make choices to reduce their risk.” Valerie, 77, qualified for the study because of her family history of breast cancer. One of her daughters had cancer over a decade ago and all of Valerie’s aunts also had breast cancer.
“I was relieved and eager to be a part of the study,” said Valerie. “I saw what my daughter went through and it was so hard. When offered the chance to participate, I thought ‘If there is anything I can do to help researchers learn and benefit other women, I’m all for it’.”Prior to this trial, the limitations of older breast cancer risk calculators left many women uncertain if they would benefit from taking breast cancer prevention medicines. The blood test in the GENRE study provided individualized, gene-based risk estimates and researchers explored the impact this information had on decision making for breast cancer prevention. Would women who had genetic testing done have more or less interest in taking a breast cancer prevention drug? The answer to this question is key because prevention medication, which is both available and inexpensive, is known to reduce breast cancer risk by 50 to 65 per cent for women. Your continued commitment to research and clinical trials laid the foundation for this groundbreaking initiative. “The study would not have been possible without donor support of CancerCare’s clinical trials unit,” Dr Kim said. “The GENRE study is a real benefit to Manitobans and it will open the door to future studies.” Valerie is on the trial for five years and thankful your support helped make it possible. Like you, she is committed to doing her part to reduce the burden of cancer for the people we all know and care about.
Cancer has really affected my family so I donate to the Foundation annually. I am grateful for donors’ generosity and share their belief that supporting studies like this will lead to discoveries which help more people.” – Valerie