Last week I had the unique opportunity of being in the same room with a number of multidisciplinary leaders from the breast cancer community, who were in Toronto for the Canadian Breast Cancer Symposium. The Symposium’s goal was “developing a personalized approach in the management of breast cancer.”

The day kicked off with a keynote address by Dr. Dennis Slamon, Director of Clinical/Translational Research Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centre or better known as the developer of the ground-breaking breast cancer drug Herceptin. Dr. Slamon complemented Canadian investigators for thinking outside the box and getting behind high risk-high gain research. He said, “Categorizing cancers by organ of origin, such as breast, doesn’t begin to define the complexity of cancer.”

We heard from a number of guest speakers talking about genetics/screening, radiation oncology, systemic therapy and surgery.

Here are my key takeaways from the Symposium:

*New mutations are being discovered beyond BRCA which will help us further understand hereditary breast cancer.

*30% of patients referred to the Ontario Breast Screening Program are genetic carriers of BRCA.

*MRI is vital as part of screening for high risk. Over 90% of breast cancers detected in OBSP involve MRI.

*Patient stratification is key to efficiency of breast cancer screening programs.

*Through more research into genomic assays we will be able to personalize adjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer.

*New data is emerging on anti-estrogen treatment for young women.

*There are many complexities of triple negative breast cancer. We are moving forward from biology to treatment.

*The future of hormonal therapy in ER+ metastatic breast cancer will be combined with targeted agents.

This is a really exciting time for breast cancer research and delivery of care. I see a shift from a blanket approach to a more personalized approach to the treatment of breast cancer. In my work as Manager of Rethink’s Advocacy Program I will continue to stay informed and ensure that young women receive equal access to much needed treatments.

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