Expanded research, support for deadly breast cancer

October 31, 2023

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is a rare and lethal form of breast cancer that accounts for only 2–5% of all breast cancer cases, but makes up to 10% of breast cancer-related deaths, surpassing all other types.

Researchers will bolster the level of care for the entire state of Hawaiʻi
and allow patients access to the highest level of care locally.

The prevalence of IBC in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders is more concerning, with a study using data from the Queen’s Medical Center Tumor Registry showing an overall rate of 2.6%. In addition, when compared to non-IBC cases, IBC represented a significant 9% among Pacific Islanders and 4.7% among Native Hawaiians.

Dr. Ueno with a patient

Because of this, the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center is joining forces with Morgan Welch IBC Research Program and Clinic at MD Anderson’s IBC Connect. UH Cancer Center researchers Ashley Marumoto, MD, practicing at The Queen’s Medical Center, Jami Fukui, MD, practicing at Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, and Naoto Ueno, MD, PhD, who practices at Hawaiʻi Pacific Health and Queen’s Medical Center, will lead efforts to expand the international network of 16 organizations to Hawaiʻi.

“The collaboration between UH Cancer Center, The Queen's Medical Center and Hawaiʻi Pacific Health to carry out this endeavor will bolster the level of care for the entire state of Hawaiʻi and allow patients access to the highest level of care locally,” said Marumoto.

Accessing high-quality, reliable care

This network strives to promote standardized patient care, facilitate extensive research and encourage effective collaboration. These efforts are intended to ensure that people struggling with IBC can access reliable, high-quality care regardless of where they live.

“IBC Connect will provide an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of inflammatory breast cancer and how we can continue to tailor both medical and surgical therapies to this uniquely aggressive subtype of breast cancer,” said Marumoto. “In participating, we will also build an expert team here in Hawaiʻi to care for our patients locally and to create a network nationally as well.”

IBC gets its name from symptoms appearing swollen and red, or inflamed, and is commonly diagnosed at younger ages, frequently occurring in women under 40. IBC can present different symptoms than other types of breast cancer, such as rapid change in breast size or shape, redness or rash on the breast or nipple, pain or tenderness in the breast, nipple retraction or discharge, and enlarged lymph nodes under the arm or collarbone.

Recent studies have demonstrated that with proper and timely treatment, the five-year survival rate for stage III patients nears 70% and from 50% to 55% for stage IV patients. These highlight the critical importance of standardized care and concerted research efforts in the battle against IBC.

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