Primary breast neuroendocrine tumors (BNETs) are rare, representing less than 1% of all breast cancers, and diagnosing these tumors is challenging due to a lack of available data. Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center researchers recently analyzed data from the American College of Surgeons’ National Cancer Database (NCDB), uncovering significant differences between BNETs and invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), the most common type of breast cancer.

The NCDB collects cancer patient data from more than 1,500 Commission on Cancer accredited cancer programs like ours, which focus on improving patient survival and quality of life. NCDB data represents 70% of U.S. cancer diagnoses and allows researchers to analyze data from large patient populations, including data on rare tumors. Without the NCDB, this type of research would not be possible. Study results confirmed that BNETs grow and spread aggressively with lower patient survival rates compared to IDC — matched by disease stage, race and age. BNETs were also diagnosed more often in uninsured patients. Lack of health insurance may correlate with lower rates of breast cancer screening, which can mean diagnosis at a more advanced stage and delay treatment.

“Our study reinforces that disparities in social factors related to health can influence cancer outcomes, and that there is much to be accomplished to address these inequities in cancer care,” said Amanda Kong, MD, MS, surgical oncologist and MCW faculty member.

The team’s findings support the need for a multidisciplinary treatment approach for BNETs. Additionally, the team recommended that centralized tissue banks be considered for analyzing BNET-specific tissue to provide further insight into the histological, molecular and genetic characteristics of these rare tumors, as well as the potential to diagnose cancer earlier and provide patients with precision treatment options.

“Our team hopes the data allows doctors to be more aware of BNETs, which are likely underdiagnosed given diagnostic challenges,” said Chandler Cortina, MD, MS, surgical oncologist and MCW faculty member. “Future study into the role of tumor genomic pro ling in BNETs is needed to determine how genomic characteristics may differ from invasive ductal and lobular carcinoma and influence the decision for systemic therapy.”

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