Best of Breast: news for week ending 27 Sept 2013

A compilation of the research developments in breast cancer research from Google Alerts for the week ending 27 September 2013.

[Google Alerts doesn’t always have the most up-to-date research developments, and is heavy on the first-person stories, fund-raising and charity events, so if I’ve missed something out, my apologies.  You are always welcome to post any new developments that I’ve missed out in the comments box and I’ll include them in the compilation, with grateful thanks and an acknowledgement.]

This week seems to be radiotherapy week.  But it’s also shark week:


Photo credit: National Geographic wallpaper

1.  Breast Cancer: Sharks’ Antibodies Could Hold Key

First it was shark’s fin soup, then shark cartilage, now it’s shark antibodies as a cure-all.  Not a good time to be a shark.

Scientists at Aberdeen University believe that antibodies which help sharks fight off cancerous cells could do the same job in the human body.

They are beginning a three-year study to monitor how the antibody, called IgNAR, might be used to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

The researchers believe it could be useful in targeting HER-2 positive breast cancer, a common form of the disease suffered by one in four breast cancer sufferers.

2.  The test that could spare HALF of breast cancer patients from chemotherapy – by judging how far the tumour may spread–judging-far-tumour-spread.html#ixzz2gDCcA4xg

  • Nice has approved the Oncotype DX test for use on the NHS
  • It examines genes taken from the tumour to establish if it will spread
  • It could prevent thousands of women being over treated
  • Doctors will use the test with other information, such as the size and grade of the tumour, to work out if chemotherapy could be beneficial

– this is not a new test.  OncoType DX has been around for a number of years, but not approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.  It’s good news that the test has now been given the green light by NICE.  Anything that spares women from unnecessary chemotherapy is good.

3.  New breast cancer jab could slash hours spent in hospital and help save the NHS millions

– contrary to what the headlines say, this is not a new jab in that the treatment, Herceptin, has been around for a number of years, for Her2+ tumours.

  • Current treatment, injecting Herceptin via a drip, takes up to 90 minutes per session for about a year
  • The new jab is effective within five minutes
  • Experts have branded the method a revolution for the 44,000 British women diagnosed with breast cancer each year

4.  Immune cell changes during menstrual cycle and breast cancer link identified

“Scientists have found that specific immune cells can actually make women more susceptible to cancer at certain stages in their menstrual cycle.

Researchers from University of Adelaide focused their efforts on immune cells known as macrophages in the breast, and how the role of these cells changes because of fluctuations in hormones during different times of the month.

The results of laboratory studies showed that while the immune cells have a role to play in the normal function of the breast, at certain stages in the menstrual cycle they may help to make the breast more susceptible to cancer. “

Study:  Hodson et al. (2013) Macrophage Phenotype In The Mammary Gland Fluctuates Over The Course Of The Estrous Cycle And Is Regulated By Ovarian Steroid Hormones

5.  Early-stage breast cancer patients need not turn to double mastectomies, physicians say

“A growing number of young breast cancer patients are choosing to have major preventive surgery on the chance it will ward off future cancers and extend their lives.

But experts say there’s no strong evidence it works.

“Women want to do everything they can, but taking off the other breast probably is not going to make a difference, and it’s a pretty drastic procedure for a person who is young, healthy and has a long time to live,” said Dr. Ann Partridge of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.”

6.  Research into the spread of breast cancer genes into the brain

“A team of researchers released a study that was presented in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Pathology in which they are trying to discover if breast cancer spreads to the brain which could lead to earlier diagnose and more efficient treatment.”

Study:  “Molecular MiRNAs for Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer Metastasis to Brain,” Seema Sethi, M.D., Department of Pathology, Detroit Medical Center

7.  Breast cancer receptor change may predict outcomes

A change in the status of any breast cancer tumor biomarker after neoadjuvant therapy was independently associated with a 37% decreased likelihood of recurrence in 5 years, a multivariate analysis showed.

The subtyping of breast cancer by receptor status changed in 41% of 398 samples between the initial tumor and residual disease after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

In patients with any change in the status of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), after neoadjuvant chemotherapy, 63% were relapse free 5 years later as compared with 48% of patients with no receptor change, a significant difference.

8.  Advanced Breast Cancer First Diagnosed on Bone Marrow Biopsy

“Bone marrow biopsy specimens can identify previously undiagnosed metastatic breast cancer, according to a new clinicopathologic study.

Although this situation is rare — with a frequency less than 0.2% — pathologists should be aware of the potential, said lead investigator Yaolin Zhou, MD, a third-year pathology resident at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.”

9.  Research to change how breast cancer treated by radiotherapy

The study, by researchers from Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the University of Cambridge led by Dr Charlotte Coles, found that women who received treatment with Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) showed better overall cosmetic results compared to those given standard radiotherapy using only 2-dimensional (2D) planning. The study, which has been funded by the charity Breast Cancer Campaign and the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

10.  External beam radiotherapy for early-stage breast cancer does not increase mortality risks

“Early-stage breast cancer patients who receive external beam therapy (XRT) are not at higher risk for serious long-term side effects in the chest area, including increase in deaths from cardiac disease and secondary malignancies, according to research presented today at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO’s) 55th Annual Meeting.}

11.  Less is more for radiotherapy in early breast cancers

 Three weeks of radiotherapy is as good as five weeks – as well as being more convenient and less tiring for patients
 Professor John Yarnold

Giving radiotherapy in fewer, larger treatments is at least as safe and effective at treating early breast cancer as the international standard dose, according to the 10-year follow-up results of a major Cancer Research UK trial, published in TheLancet Oncology.

Nearly 4500 women across the UK took part in the START trials, which were co-ordinated by the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and funded by Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health.

The 5-year results showed it was just as effective and safe to give women a lower total dose of radiotherapy in fewer, larger treatments than the 25-dose international standard, following primary surgery for early breast cancer. As a result, the shorter treatment course of 15 treatments was adopted in the UK in 2008, but the longer course is still used in many other countries.


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