MedUni Vienna: Massive drop in mortality from breast cancer

International Breast Cancer Conference in the Austria Center Vienna

The rate of mortality from breast cancer has fallen by one third over the last 30 years. This is due to improvements in early detection, the refinement of treatment concepts and the development of new ones. Nowadays, an important issue for breast cancer experts is also how they can improve the quality of life of their patients. This is one of the main focuses of the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital – as is the issue of "overtreatment". Together with the development of new treatment guidelines, these two topics are central themes at the 15th St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference and the 3rd Vienna Breast Surgery Day, which will take place in Vienna from 14 to 18 March 2017.

In Austria, there are around 5,200 new cases of breast cancer every year. As a result of the developments in breast cancer treatment, more and more patients are now surviving the disease. Interdisciplinary treatment concepts and molecular-biological approaches have played an important part in this.

Michael Gnant, Head of the Department of Surgery at MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, President of the Austrian Breast & Colorectal Cancer Study Group (ABCSG) and Deputy Head of the CCC comments: “Nowadays, we believe that successful treatment is only possible by taking a more interdisciplinary approach. We are able to provide this at the CCC of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, because we have combined all the disciplines under one roof. These include fundamental cancer research, the specialist areas involved and clinical research and this enables us to keep our finger on the pulse of medical progress." Florian Fitzal, Department of Surgery and Head of the MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital surgical Breast Health Center (CCC BGZ) since April 2016 says: "The collaboration that Prof. Gnant referred to between basic research and clinical practice is of major importance for us."

Around 5,000 leading breast cancer experts are attending the conference in the Austria Center Vienna
The interdisciplinary treatment approach is also the central topic of the 15th St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference, which is being held in the Austria Center Vienna from 15 to 18 March 2017 and is one of the largest breast cancer conferences in the world. "We are very proud to have been able to bring the conference to Vienna two years ago. The fact that we were able to do so shows that our expertise is also recognised on an international level," says Michael Gnant, who is also one of the conference chairmen. The St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference is known as the venue where top international experts agree on treatment recommendations, which are then applied as guidelines for breast cancer treatment in everyday clinical practice throughout the world. Says Gnant: "During the time of the conference, Vienna is truly "the centre of the world" in terms of breast cancer treatment."

Quality of life is an important aim
Despite the interdisciplinary treatment approach, surgery continues to play a central role in the treatment of breast cancer: in 96% of cases, surgery forms part of the overall interdisciplinary treatment plan. However, the quality of life of our patients is likewise an important consideration. Hence, the breast cancer experts at CCC are also addressing the question of overtreatment. The term "overtreatment" refers to a treatment that does not benefit the individual patient but could adversely affect their quality of life due to the related side-effects.

3rd Vienna Breast Surgery Day on 14 March 2017
The 3rd Vienna Breast Surgery Day, will also be addressing this issue, amongst others. The top-level conference will take place on 14 March 2017, the day before the 15th St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference, in MedUni Vienna's Van Swieten Hall and is aimed at specialists in the fields of breast cancer treatment.

Potential overtreatment is the main theme of the 3rd Vienna Breast Surgery Day
In 30% of all breast cancer patients, a so-called "Ductal carcinoma in situ" (DCIS) is diagnosed. This is where the tumour has not yet spread outside the milk ducts so that it is easy to remove surgically. The probability of the tumour recurring is approximately 10 – 30%. Nevertheless, all patients are given further treatment after the operation (radiotherapy and/or anti-hormone therapy), which is probably not beneficial to all of them.

Says Florian Fitzal, with Michael Gnant and Farid Moinfar, one of the conference chairmen: "Overtreatment often has huge side-effects for patients without providing any therapeutic benefit. At the conference, we are therefore going to discuss the question with international experts and thrash out the optimum strategy for treating DCIS. The long-term aim is to make a more accurate distinction between DCIS cases and divide them into biological subtypes, so that we are able to filter out those that do not require any further treatment following surgery."

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