Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer which accounts for only 2% to 6% of all cases of breast cancers, but it is a highly aggressive disease with a poor prognosis (5 year survival rate of 40%). Inflammatory breast cancer is characterized by rapid disease progression and early distant metastatic disease progression. Patients are frequently misdiagnosed and life saving treatment is delayed. The delay in diagnosis and treatment can directly relate to significant progression of disease and decreased survival.

All aspects of treating inflammatory breast cancer – including staging, diagnosis, and therapy – are vastly different than other breast cancers. For women with inflammatory breast cancer, finding a medical team experienced in treating the rare disease is paramount. In 2006, MD Anderson Cancer Center unveiled the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic. Just one year later, the clinic and research program were renamed for Morgan Welch, a young woman who died from IBC at the age of 24. Read more about the history of the program.

Although inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer and has distinctive biological features, current treatment is still based on conventional regimens of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy developed for other types of breast cancer. There has been little change in overall survival rates in the last 30 years and there are not therapeutic regimens developed specifically for inflammatory breast cancer.

Our comprehensive multi-disciplinary team is collectively focused on developing methods for identification of specific genomic and proteomic signatures of inflammatory breast cancer. These signatures will guide us in developing tools for diagnosis, identifying therapeutic approaches specifically for treatment of inflammatory breast cancer, and enhancing imaging approaches to assist in detecting the disease and evaluating the effectiveness of treatment for inflammatory breast cancer patients. The ultimate goal is to improve survival of inflammatory breast cancer patients.