The research into breast cancer treatment is an ongoing process. There are currently a few studies that are being investigated:
Newer Types of Mastectomy
This involves studies related to mastectomy that attempt to give better post-surgery cosmetic results.
Some studies suggest that a new procedure known as skin-sparing mastectomy may be as effective as the usual type of modified radical mastectomy for many women. The same amount of tissue is removed as with a modified radical mastectomy, but the majority of the skin over the breast is left intact, with the exception of the nipple and areola.
This is used when immediate breast reconstruction is planned, but is not always suitable for larger tumors, or tumors close to the skin. This form of reconstruction uses tissue from other parts of the body to reconstruct the breasts. While this approach is not as well-proven as the more standard type of mastectomy, many women prefer it because it leaves less scar tissue, and a breast that seems more natural.
Subcutaneous mastectomy is a newer approach, sometimes considered for preventive mastectomy. During this procedure the incision is made below the breast, where upon the breast tissue is removed, but the breast skin and nipple are left in place. The advantage of this procedure is that it leaves less visible scars, while at the same time leaving behind more breast tissue than other forms of mastectomy. Due to the fact that more breast tissue is left behind, the chances of cancer recurring is higher.
An even newer approach is the nipple-sparing mastectomy. This is similar to the skin-sparing mastectomy in that the nipple and the areola are cut away when the breast tissue is removed, but in this approach the nipple and areola are scraped clean of breast tissue and examined by a pathologist. As long as there are no breast cancer cells found close to the nipple and areola they are reattached.
Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI): For women who need radiation after lumpectomy, APBI may offer a more convenient way to receive it (as opposed to the standard daily radiation treatments that take several weeks to complete). There are several types of APBI now being studied, including accelerated external radiation schedules, intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), and intracavitary branchytherapy. Large studies are under way to determine if these techniques are as effective as standard radiation in helping to prevent cancer recurrences.
Dose dense chemotherapy: It has been suggested, through recent research, that a higher frequency of chemotherapy (every two weeks) at the usual dose may work better at preventing recurrence than the usual schedule (every 3 weeks). This aggressive schedule does mean that the patients must take growth factors to prevent low blood counts, a common, serious, side effect of chemotherapy. This form of chemotherapy is in the clinical trial 'stage' with the goal to define the role of dose density in adjuvant therapy.
New chemotherapy drugs: Advanced breast cancer is often hard to treat, therefore researchers are continuously looking for new drugs which are more effective than the older ones. An example of such a (experimental) drug is ixabepilone. In previous studies, the drug has been found to cause a significant percentage of breast tumors to shrink, or stop growing completely, even in women who have already had several types of chemotherapy.