Jun 19, 2022 The future of breast cancer treatment?

An innovative clinical trial gives patients new options.

With the groundbreaking I-SPY2 clinical trial, Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC) is offering eligible patients a novel approach to treating advanced breast cancer.

Michele Blackwood, MD
Michele Blackwood, MD
“By opening this trial, we’ve opened the pathway to personalized treatments for advanced cancer,” says Michele Blackwood, MD, Northern Regional Director of Breast Services for RWJBarnabas Health, Chief of Breast Surgery, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group. “It’s really going to be a template for how we treat breast cancer now and in the future.”

The I-SPY2 trial is one of numerous clinical trials at CBMC, which give patients expanded options for treatment.

A New Approach

The I-SPY2 clinical trial is adaptive, meaning that if the desired clinical response isn’t evident during the trial, the oncologist can pivot to a different medicine.

Prior to any breast cancer surgery, eligible patients with locally advanced (stage 2 or 3) breast cancer will have their cancer analyzed genomically and radiographically to assess the type and volume of breast disease. Treatments are tailored to a patient’s particular cancer and provide some of the latest anti- cancer therapies available.

“In this trial, we are able to provide patients with novel agents to see if the cancer shrinks better with these treatments than with standard chemotherapy,” says Dr. Blackwood. Patients are monitored regularly throughout the trial.

“That’s a very unusual thing in any treatment for breast cancer, or any other cancer,” says Dr. Blackwood. “We really want to make sure that the treatment the patient is receiving is appropriate to her specific tumor. We want to make sure that we’re giving her the right medicines to shrink and perhaps eliminate that breast cancer prior to surgery.”

Collaborative Care

Innovative clinical trials and advanced treatment options are part of the cancer team’s plan to meet ambitious goals. “In the future, we want breast cancer not to be ‘hopefully cured’; we want it to be definitely cured,” says Dr. Blackwood, who is also Medical Director at the Center for Breast Health and Disease Management at CBMC.

Breast cancer patients at CBMC benefit from a team approach that includes up to 20 health care providers, including surgeons, oncologists, geneticists, plastic surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, social services workers and more.

Each patient’s case is presented anonymously to a multidisciplinary panel of breast cancer experts, and cases are often discussed with colleagues at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. “We have a vigorous discussion about the best treatment strategy,” says Dr. Blackwood. “This helps ensure that each patient gets the best care that’s currently available.”

Patient-centered care means that an oncology navigator manages each patient’s case to make sure all treatments and appointments are seamlessly coordinated. Equally important, treatment options are clearly explained, so patients fully understand their choices and all the options available. “Our work is not just about curing breast cancer,” Dr. Blackwood says. “It’s about helping each patient feel as whole as they can and have a full life afterward.”

RWJBarnabas Health and the Cancer Center at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, together with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey—the state’s only NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center—provide close-to-home access to the latest treatment options. To learn more, call 844.CANCERNJ or visit http://www.rwjbh.org/beatcancer.

Learn more about clinical trials at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.

To schedule an appointment at the Center for Breast Health and Disease Management, call 973-322-7020.