First International Conference on Inflammatory Breast Cancer in Houston
New years begin in January, but for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) patients and survivors a new era began in December. The First International Conference on Inflammatory Breast Cancer in Houston gathered experts from ten different countries Dec. 5-7 to learn more about the disease and plan for ways to fight it.
"We are assembling researchers from around the world who are passionate about advancing progress against this disease," says Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., Director of the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic at MD Anderson. "This is the first conference dedicated exclusively to exchanging knowledge and discussing the complexities of IBC. Our goal is to step up the pace of research and education — ultimately saving women's lives."
The motto for the conference, “Teach it. Treat it. Beat it,” speaks to the special needs of IBC patients. IBC is often misdiagnosed because it often does not present with a lump and because so few primary care doctors have ever seen a case.
Compared to other breast cancers, little is known about it, not even how many cancer there actually are. Estimates range from one to six percent of all breast cancer cases are IBC. So teaching medical professionals and lay people about IBC symptoms is crucial. One of the first projects of the new international consortium that has been formed to tackle IBC is to form a data base to find out how many cases there actually are.
Part of the teaching aspect of the conference was having IBC patients and caregivers tell about their personal struggles with the disease between academic papers. Jenee Bobbora, diagnosed with IBC in 2003 at age 32, reported in a letter to my IBC online support group, “Each of the highly scientific sessions began with an IBC Perspective. We were given some time to talk to the doctors, and they all appreciated it very much. They liked hearing our stories. Many pathologists from around the world told me they loved hearing a patient story because they never see patients in their daily work. It was magical, and I think some real progress was made. I told the crowd when I spoke that there were hundreds of you on the list who are all dedicated to doing everything we can to help.”
The “treat it” part of the conference looked at several new promising therapies for IBC. In general IBC patients get the same treatments as other breast cancer patients, but usually more of them because IBC is often more aggressive and resistant to treatment than other forms of breast cancers.
The “beat it” aspect of the conference is a work in progress. Tremendous strides have been made, but “beating it” is still happening one patient at a time. Patti Bradfield, IBC advocate, says, “I came away with much hope for the future.” She was impressed “that this many people, doctors, scientists and researchers had taken the time to devote 3 days to clinical, scientific and ‘humanity’ issues surrounding IBC.”
Each day brings new hope for better diagnosis and treatment for IBC patients. Knowing that researchers have united to focus on the most deadly form of breast cancer offers promises better days ahead.