Best of Breast: news for week ending 6 Sept 2013

A summary of the developments in breast cancer research from Google Alerts for the week ending 6 September 2013.

1.  Skipping breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen costs lives

Tamoxifen is prescribed to women with oestrogen-positive breast cancer, often after surgery or other treatment, as it can reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

A five-year course of tamoxifen is lifesaving, but the drug has considerable side effects, including nausea, headaches and exhaustion.

Breast Cancer Campaign estimated that 500 died as the side effects meant they could not finish their prescription.

— is there no alternative to Tamoxifen?  Have scientists investigated the effectiveness of natural substances, Indole 3-Carbinole and DIM (Diindolymethane) found in cruciferous vegetables, vs Tamoxifen?  Why are women not being offered such alternatives?  I asked an integrated doctor this question, and she said that the problem with Indole-3 and DIM is that there are not enough studies done to prove their efficacy.  Whether she was just toeing the official line, I don’t know.  For women who suffer from its side-effects, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  And that’s not acceptable.

Article on Indole 3-Carbinole and DIM:

2.  Study shows:  online tools may boost breast cancer patients’ mood, study shows

Participants in the group that created websites during the study began by attending a single three-hour workshop to build their sites. They also completed standard mood assessment questionnaires three times: at the start of the study, and again at one month and six months after creating their sites.

At one and six months, the women who built websites reported feeling less depressed and more positive, compared to the group on the waiting list. But there was no link between having a personal website and the strength of relationships with family and friends, nor did the activity seem to ward off intrusive cancer-related thoughts.

— Absolutely.  You don’t need a study to prove this, surely?  But if it helps to get funding for similar projects, than that’s good.  My blog has been a godsend in the past months.  And knowing that people are reading my blog, well, that’s given me a warm glow whenever I look at my stats – so thank you for reading!

Here’s a list of some of the best breast cancer blogs:

3.  How breast cancer cells swiftly spread to the bones

A team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists has discovered that some loose breast cancer cells, have a leg up on survival—the genes they express make them more likely to prosper in bone tissue.

A set of genes dubbed the Src response signature (SRS) was more often turned on in the cells that metastasized to the bone.

The team also found that whether or not cancer cells turn on those genes depends on what their surroundings were like in the primary breast tumor. If the breast tumor had molecular patterns similar to those found in bone, the tumor is more likely to spread to bone later.

The new findings, published August 29, 2013 in the journal Cell, could eventually lead to new drugs that block cancers from spreading to bone or other organs, he says.

— This is good news.  People think that chemo zaps all cancer cells and prevents recurrence, but there are no guarantees that is the case.  Chemo leads to tumour cell resistance, and chemo does not touch cancer stem cells which are the precursors of future recurrences.  Ever breast cancer patient has to live with the uncertainty of recurrence, and research like this, which can predict what might happen is valuable because hopefully there is a preventative.  I believe that the future of prevention lies in immunotherapy and gene therapies.  I just wish that scientists would put their research into practice, instead of dangling carrots in front of cancer patients.

4.  Study Uncovers Protein That Predicts Breast Cancer Prognosis

EZH2 is an enzyme that controls some 1200 genes and the levels of the expressions of these genes determines the aggressiveness of the cancer, according to the researchers.

“The level of expression of a subgroup of EZH2-bound genes could have further predictive value, indicating, for example, that a specific treatment regime is needed.”

Apart from this, say researchers, small molecules inhibitors of EZH2 could be developed to produce therapeutic drugs to treat breast cancer.