October 2018 is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which recognizes and supports individuals fighting breast cancer as well as the scientific institutions working to find a cure. This month, we reviewed all the discoveries, breakthroughs and findings so far this year from scientists studying breast cancer and its treatment. Some of these updates from 2018 are giving hope to breast cancer patients and their loved ones. Here are just six discoveries and advances from the fight against breast cancer that caregivers, home care aides and loved ones may find encouraging and hopeful.

The national statistics on breast cancer in the United States, as reported by the website BreastCancer.org, are shocking. Nearly 30% of all cancers diagnosed in women are some form of breast cancer, and in 2018 that represents more than 320,000 cases of invasive and non-invasive breast cancer all told. The rate of breast cancer incidence has been dropping since 2000, thanks to awareness and early screening campaigns, new treatments, and the discovery in 2002 that hormone replacement therapy was linked to breast cancer. While the death rate for women under 50 has dropped considerably, and more women are surviving breast cancer since 1989 than ever before, only lung cancer kills more women in the U.S. than breast cancer today. Many of the scientific developments leading to the improved survival rates have come from exploring the inherited, gene mutation, and lifestyle links to breast cancer. Today, the biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer are age and gender. Happily, here’s six pieces of good scientific news about breast cancer research from the website ScienceDaily.com for women who plan to grow older despite the risks:

  • February 8, 2018: Molecular ‘magnets’ could improve cancer immunotherapy
    • At the Francis Crick Institute: “Chemicals that attract specialized immune cells toward tumors could be used to develop better immunotherapies for cancer patients, according to new research. Scientists have discovered that immune cells called Natural Killer cells accumulate in tumors and release chemicals that attract specialized dendritic cells (cDC1) — white blood cells known for triggering anti-cancer immune responses — to the tumor.”
  • February 28, 2018: Familial breast cancer not only inherited genetically, finds new study
    • At the University of Melbourne: “Doctors will be better able to predict breast cancer risk thanks to pioneering work by researchers, who have identified heritable but non-genetic markers for breast cancer susceptibility.”
  • March 12, 2018: Scientists find treasure trove of 110 genes linked to breast cancer
    • At the Institute of Cancer Research: “Scientists have linked 110 genes to an increased risk of breast cancer in the most comprehensive study ever to unpick the genetics of the disease. Their study used a pioneering genetic technique to analyze maps of DNA regions linked to an inherited risk of breast cancer and identify the actual genes involved in raising a woman’s risk. Researchers also linked 32 of the new genes to the length of time women survived breast cancer.”
  • July 18, 2018: New breast cancer therapeutic target
    • At Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center: “Research has shown for the first time that a tiny piece of RNA deregulates energy metabolism, an emerging hallmark of cancer. The finding identifies a new target for therapeutic intervention in breast cancer.”
  • August 15, 2018: PARP inhibitor improves progression-free survival in patients with advanced breast cancers: Phase III trial meets primary endpoint with talazoparib over chemotherapy
    • At the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center: “In a randomized, Phase III trial, the PARP inhibitor talazoparib extended progression-free survival (PFS) and improved quality-of-life measures over available chemotherapies for patients with metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer and mutations in the BRCA1/2 genes.”
  • September 4, 2018: New clues found to understanding relapse in breast cancer: Tumor mutations found in patients point to progressive disease
    • At the Washington University School of Medicine: “A large genomic analysis has linked certain DNA mutations to a high risk of relapse in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, while other mutations were associated with better outcomes, according to researchers.”

If you’d like to read about all the scientific discoveries and studies released so far in 2018, about breast cancer or one of many other diseases scientists are studying, the ScienceDaily.com website is a valuable resource. There are many walks, awareness campaigns and donation drives that caregivers, homecare aides and loved ones can participate in during the month of October. BreastCancer.org, WearItPink.org and Susan G. Komen For The Cure are just three of the many resources you can consult. If you’d like more information on the signs, symptoms and early detection of breast cancer, the National Breast Cancer Foundation offers several guides you can download from their site.