Drugs to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) on Sept. 3 both released new guidelines on use of medication to reduce breast cancer risk. The recommendations focus on women who are at increased risk of breast cancer, as determined by looking at risk factors such as family history, reproductive history and history of benign breast lesions. They do not apply to women who have been previously diagnosed with breast cancer. The new USPSTF guidelines differ from their past recommendations in including aromatase inhibitors on the list of risk-reducing medications alongside tamoxifen and raloxifene. Previous ASCO recommendations had already included one aromatase inhibitor along with the other drugs, but the new ASCO recommendations add a second aromatase inhibitor to the list. Breast surgeon Deanna Attai provides more information on the guidelines on her blog.

Getting Patients Involved in Brain Cancer Research

The nonprofit organization Count Me In​ on Sept. 4 launched the Brain Cancer Project, an initiative to collect genomic and other data from patients with brain cancer for use in research. Adults in the U.S. or Canada who have primary brain cancer will be able to share their cancer history, along with samples of their saliva or blood for sequencing, so that researchers can learn more about the disease. Patients can also give permission to the Brain Cancer Project to ask for stored samples of their tumors and for medical records. The project will later include pediatric patients. Count Me In has previously launched projects to study metastatic breast cancer, angiosarcoma, metastatic prostate cancer, and esophageal and stomach cancer.

A Palliative Care Doctor Writes About Choosing Where to Die

When asked where they want to die, patients nearing the ends of their lives often say they want to die at home. But has our society put too much emphasis on this as the “correct” choice? In a Sept. 3 New York Times​ article, Richard Leiter, a palliative care physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, writes about his recent struggles with “the complex realities of dying at home, and the unintended consequences of our making it a societal priority.” Of course, dying in a hospital can come with downsides, Leiter writes. Patients run the risk of undergoing unnecessary medical interventions, and the hospital may not be the most private and peaceful place to be. However, dying at home requires family and friends to engage in intensive caregiving activities for which they may not be able to access sufficient support. And some caregivers and patients find it emotionally difficult to have their home be the place of death.