Medical Oncologist and Chair - Provincial Breast Tumour Group, BC Cancer Agency

Hello, my name is Dr. Stephen Chia and I am a medical oncologist here at BC Cancer, as well as the chair of the Provincial Breast Tumour Group. I’m excited to return to the blog this month for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s an important time of year to not only bring attention to the prevalence of breast cancer, but also to recognize the number of advancements that have been made to treat this disease across our province.

Since I last blogged four years ago, significant strides have been made to improve breast cancer treatment and detection here at BC Cancer. We have been able to lead a number of internationally-led initiatives, most notably a trial referred to as EXTENET, which led to the FDA approval of a new drug called Neratinib. The results of the trial showed a significant improvement to survival rates when Neratinib was given to women with certain breast cancers after chemotherapy and adjuvant therapy.

Another area where a significant amount of time and effort and resources has been invested is a study called the Biology of Breast Cancer. It started at our Vancouver Centre six years ago and has since spread to our other five regional cancer centres in B.C. It involves conducting research on the leftover tumour tissue of consenting breast cancer patients. This has allowed us to study the complexities of different types of breast cancers in a way we have never been able to do before, enabling us to develop more advanced targeted treatments for them down the road.

We’ve also spearheaded a clinical utility study, from a provincial scope, on a revolutionary testing tool called the Oncotype DX. This test has enabled us to better individualize treatment recommendations and address issues of overtreatment of chemotherapy. Particularly, it allows us to identify specific groups that would derive greater benefit from chemotherapy while sparing other groups that would not see as much benefit. The results have changed our decision making when it comes to treatment, opting to not prescribe chemotherapy anywhere from 20 to 30 per cent of the time. 

These are just a few of the advancements that we have been able to achieve over the past few years thanks to our talented team of researchers here at BC Cancer. Next week, I’ll share with you a few additional projects that are truly revolutionizing how we approach treatment for this disease.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Chia