What Can We Learn From "Extreme Survivors" of Breast Cancer?

Mark Burkard, MD, PhD
Published: Sunday, Apr 29, 2018
CarboneMark Burkard, MD, PhD
Mark Burkard, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Medicine
Mark Burkard, MD, PhD
UW Carbone Cancer Center
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Madison, WIStrategic Partnership
Two years ago, I met a woman who had been living with breast cancer for nearly 4 decades. I saw her for a colleague, who had taken on her case from 2 previous oncologists over the years. I reviewed the most recent imaging, which showed a slight progression in a metastatic mass, indicating the current therapy was no longer working.

Although the most common—and longest—extreme survivors had hormone-sensitive cancers, we also identified extreme survivors with HER2-positive cancer metastatic for more than a decade, as well as several with indolent triple-negative breast cancer with survival over 5 years. Still, these cases were usually less extreme than the decade-long histories identified with hormone-positive breast cancers.

Defining Terms

As I spoke with colleagues, I found it important to be clear what I meant by “extreme survivors.” Many colleagues were familiar with the National Cancer Institute project looking for “extraordinary responders” and expected that I was looking for the same. However, few of my extreme survivors had ever had an extraordinary response to therapy. They had received many therapies with evidence of slow progression. Thus, there was little overlap between extraordinary responders and extreme survivors.
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Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Advances In™ Tumor Testing: Interpreting Genomic Profiles to Optimize Breast Cancer TreatmentJun 29, 20191.5
Oncology Briefings™: Current Perspectives on Preventing and Managing Tumor Lysis SyndromeJun 30, 20191.0
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