Nav: Home

Elderly survivors of three common cancers face persistent risk of brain metastasis

May 03, 2019

Bottom Line: Elderly survivors of breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma face risk of brain metastasis later in life, and may require extra surveillance in the years following initial cancer treatment.

Journal in Which the Study was Published: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Authors: Jill S. Barnholtz-Sloan, PhD, Sally S. Morley Designated Professor in Brain Tumor Research, Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology and Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, and Mustafa S. Ascha, MS, a PhD candidate in the Center for Clinical Investigation, Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at Case Western.

Background: "As cancer treatments have gotten better and more people are surviving a primary cancer diagnosis, it's important to study secondary cancers, including metastasis to the brain," Barnholtz-Sloan said. "With an aging U.S. population, the number of people with brain metastasis is increasing, although sometimes that metastasis does not occur until many years after the initial cancer diagnosis."

"As people are living longer after an initial cancer diagnosis, their 'time at risk' for metastasis is going up. In addition, the majority of primary cancer diagnoses have no standard of care for brain metastasis screening," Ascha added.

How the Study Was Conducted: In this study, researchers analyzed rates of synchronous brain metastases (SBM), those diagnosed during the staging workup for the primary cancer, and lifetime brain metastases (LBM), those diagnosed later in life. Primary cancers in this study were lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma, which are more likely to metastasize to the brain than many other cancer types.

The researchers linked data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to Medicare claims data on brain metastases to investigate rates of brain metastasis in elderly patients. Because Medicare is the primary insurer for most patients age 65 or older, the results of SEER-Medicare studies are generalizable to the elderly population, Barnholtz-Sloan explained. Final data included patients diagnosed in 2010 through 2012, with 70,974 lung cancer cases, 67,362 breast cancer cases, and 21,860 melanoma cases.

The researchers calculated incidence proportion, the ratio of brain metastases counts to the total number of cases, for each primary cancer.

Results: For primary lung cancer, the incidence proportion of SBM was 9.6 percent and for LBM, 13.5 percent. The highest rates of metastasis were in small-cell and non-small-cell lung carcinoma, compared with adenocarcinoma, a more common type of lung cancer.

For primary breast cancer, the incidence proportion of SBM was 0.3 percent and for LBM, 1.8 percent. The rates of brain metastasis were lowest among patients who had localized breast tumors and highest among those whose cancer had already spread to another part of the body. The rates also varied by molecular subtype, with the highest rates for triple-negative breast cancer.

For melanoma, the incidence proportion of SBM was 1.1 percent and for LBM, 3.6 percent. Rates rose dramatically for patients whose melanoma had already spread at the time of diagnosis; 30.4 percent of those who had distant disease at diagnosis would later develop brain metastasis, compared with 15.2 percent of those who had regional and lymph node involvement, 13.2 percent who had lymph node involvement only, 7.8 percent who had regional tissue involvement, and 2.5 percent among those who had localized disease.

Author's Comments: Barnholtz-Sloan and Ascha said that the results of the study could help clinicians better understand patients' risk for brain metastasis and could potentially influence screening and surveillance practices.

"Brain metastases are detected with MRI, which is very expensive," Barnholtz-Sloan said. "An improved understanding of who is likely to develop a brain metastasis could help determine who should get an MRI."

Ascha added that more targeted surveillance could potentially help physicians detect metastases at early stages. "If we can identify brain metastases earlier in their progression, that could allow for earlier treatment and improved outcomes for these patients," he said.

Study Limitations: The authors said the study's primary limitation is that Medicare data, while providing a comprehensive view of the elderly population, cannot always be generalized to younger patients. Also, the study encompassed four to five years of follow-up, whereas in some cancers, such as breast cancer, brain metastasis can occur decades after the initial cancer, Barnholtz-Sloan said.

Funding & Disclosures: This study was supported in part through support to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, which receives funding from the American Brain Tumor Association, The Sontag Foundation, Novocure, AbbVie, the Musella Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
-end-


American Association for Cancer Research

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.
Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.
Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.
More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.
Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.
Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.
Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.
Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.
Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.
Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
More Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.