Metastatic breast cancer is incurable, and unfortunately, about a third of breast cancer cases will eventually become metastatic. However, advances in treatment have helped extend survival times for patients. Information shared at a recent conference shows that patients with two forms of the disease in particular are seeing encouraging numbers.

At the Advanced Breast Cancer Sixth International Consensus Conference (ABC 6), a panel of experts shared that those living with estrogen-receptor-positive and HER2-positive metastatic breast cancers now have a median survival time of five years. That means that half of patients may live for more than five years. This is particularly good news, as these two subtypes make up 85% of metastatic breast cancer cases.


Professor Fatima Cardoso is chair of the ABC 6 Conference and Director of the Breast Unit of the Champalimaud Cancer Centre in Lisbon, Portugal. She explains that these numbers show that women are living about twice as long with these forms of the disease.

She says, “We have made a major step towards our goal of doubling average survival times for patients because we have now achieved this in two out of three subtypes of advanced breast cancer. This disease is still incurable, but we have come a long way and this progress makes me feel hopeful. It means that for the majority of patients, they have two or three extra years of life, with good quality of life as well.”


She adds, however, that while women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) are also living longer, the improvements aren’t as strong. She says more needs to be done for these patients. The panel notes that two new treatments, sacituzumab govitecan and anti-PD-L1 agents like pembrolizumab, have been effective for those living with this subtype. Among the 2022 guidelines written by experts at the conference is that these drugs should be available to those living with metastatic TNBC.

While progress in research and treatment has already helped give patients more time, there is hope that survival times will continue to increase. Those involved with the conference say they will keep moving forward.

Breast cancer survivor Renata Haidinger, who is also co-chair of ABC 6 and President of the German Breast Cancer Association, says, “Thanks to the leadership and determination of Professor Cardoso, the ABC Conferences and the ABC Global Alliance have made a huge contribution to improvements in the understanding, treatment and survival of advanced breast cancer. Over the last ten years, this has had a tremendous impact on patients’ lives and I have no doubt that with continued work, we will make further improvements to help more patients with metastatic disease survive for five years and beyond.”


Other findings announced at this year’s conference included a large study on how likely breast cancer is to spread.

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