Best of Breast: news for week ending 4 October 2013

A round-up of the latest medical developments in breast cancer from Google Alerts, for the week ending 4 October 2013.

[Google Alerts doesn’t always have the most up-to-date research developments, and is heavy on the first-person stories, Angelina Jolie, 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.]

photo credit:

photo credit:

1.  Teenage girls who eat peanut butter twice a week ‘reduce their risk of breast cancer by 39%’

  • Nine to 15-year-olds who eat peanut butter twice a week are much less likely to develop benign breast disease by the age of 30
  • Some benign breast diseases increase risk of breast cancer later in life
  • The findings also suggest beans, lentils, soybeans and corn also help prevent benign breast disease

Why peanut butter, I asked myself? I’d been told to avoid peanuts because of the alleged levels of aflatoxin, a natural toxin produced by certain strains of a mold.  Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen, known to cause liver cancer in laboratory animals. The jury is still out regarding the danger of long-term exposure of low levels of aflatoxins.  In countries where peanuts are a staple food, it may contribute to liver cancer.  According to Dr Andrew Weil, commercial peanut butter (in the US) is generally safe:

I suppose peanut butter is ubiquitous so it was easy to run the study on a staple food, rather than, say almond butter or cashew butter.  Peanuts are not really nuts, they are a legume.  if you have to eat a nut butter, go for almond butter which has a better fatty acid profile.  And if you have to eat peanut butter, make sure it doesn’t contain any hydrogenated vegetable oil and is low in sugar.

[Note:  aflatoxin imay also occur in maize, rice, figs and other dried foods, spices and crude vegetable oils, and cocoa beans – it’s a minefield!]

2.  Walking an hour a day can cut risk of breast cancer: Brisk stroll can reduce chance in over-50s by 14%

  • Women who do more vigorous activities get almost double protection
  • Scientists claim this is the first study to examine walking benefits
  • It is thought to cut down the body fat that nurtures cancer hormones

3.  New breast cancer imaging technique could cut down on false positives

A joint BYU-Utah research team is developing a new breast cancer screening technique that has the potential to reduce false positives, and, possibly, minimize the need for invasive biopsies.

Specifically, the device is producing as much as five-times more accurate images than previous efforts with an emerging methodology called sodium MRI.

Sodium MRI has the potential to improve assessment of breast lesions because sodium concentrations are thought to increase in malignant tumors. Bangerter and his team believe that the addition of sodium MRI to a breast cancer screening exam could provide important additional diagnostic information that will cut down on false positives.

4.  Breast cancer: ‘less is more’ for lymph node removal

Scientists say that removing fewer lymph nodes in surgery for breast cancer patients causes less harm and often demonstrates equally good results. This is according to a review published in JAMA.

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted a review of the risks and benefits of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), compared with complete axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) from 17 previous studies published in JAMA.

The review showed that breast-conserving therapy – partial mastectomy followed by whole breast radiation – alongside a complete ALND for women with no suspicious axillary nodes, is associated with more harm than benefit, compared with SLNB alone.

5.  HER2 therapy – T-DM1 Works Even in Heavily Pretreated Breast Cancer

The novel twist on HER2-targeted therapy, which combines a monoclonal antibody with a chemotherapy in 1 product, T-DM1 (ado-trastuzumab emtansine, Kadcyla, Roche/Genentech), has now been shown to work even in heavily pretreated patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer.

6.  Breast cancer spread: clues found in molecular switch

The surface of every cell is covered with receptors, tiny “switchboards” that control communication between the cell and the world around it.

For instance, only certain proteins are able to dock onto the receptors and thereby deliver molecular signals relevant to particular cell processes, such as growth, division, making of proteins and death.

In this latest study, the Danish team, led by professor and protein researcher Jesper Velgaard Olsen, investigated a cell surface receptor that is known to be important for health and disease, the so-called FGFR2b receptor.

If an FGFR2b signal goes wrong, this affects normal development of lung tissue. There is also evidence of FGFR2b playing a role in certain types of breast cancer, write the researchers.

…  the FGFR2b receptor could become a new biomarker for diagnosing and treating cancers:

“The more we know about the body’s transmission systems, the better we become at targeting medical treatment. Hopefully, we will in future be able to offer customized treatment based on the individual patient’s cellular profile.”

7.  No woman need die from breast cancer by 2050: Experts predict development in treatments and changes to diet will mean 95% are cured

  • Academics from 30 universities drew up action plan to tackle disease
  • In 40 years they say death from breast cancer will be ‘rare’
  • Improvement could happen even if a cure is not found
  • Claim number of women developing illness will drop by a fifth before 2025
  • There are nearly 50,000 new cases and 11,500 deaths every year

8.  MetaStat’s MetaSite Breast(TM) Diagnostic Assay Predicts Metastasis in Breast Cancer Study

MetaStat Inc. (OTCQB: MTST) (“MetaStat” or the “Company”), a life science company focused on understanding and treating systemic metastasis, today announced that a study of nearly 500 women with breast cancer showed the value of the Company’s MetaSite Breast(TM) test in the prediction of metastatic disease. The sponsored study was conducted in collaboration with Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Weill Cornell Medical College.

The MetaSite Breast(TM) test is a mechanism-based assay that identifies the tumor microenvironment of metastasis.

9.  Breast cancer: ‘critical gaps’ found in research

A new study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research has identified 10 “critical gaps” that exist in the research of the disease, which could see the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives if not addressed urgently.

The 10 gaps identified are:

  1. Understanding how genetic changes lead to the development of breast cancer.
  2. Identifying sustainable lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, which can reduce the risk of breast cancer, and improved chemoprevention for women at increased risk of the disease.
  3. Targeting breast screening at those who will benefit most through finding accurate and practical ways to calculate a woman’s individual risk for breast cancer.
  4. Understanding the molecules and processes that encourage different types of breast cancer to grow, as well as those that allow breast cancer tumors to become resistant to treatments and spread to other areas.
  5. Understanding how cancer cells with different characteristics form within a tumor, why cancer cells sometimes go into hibernation, and why some breast cancers are resistant to treatment from the beginning while others take time.
  6. Developing tests to predict patients’ response to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  7. Understanding how to use combinations of drugs and other therapies to improve and tailor treatments for each individual.
  8. Developing better ways of using imaging to diagnose breast cancer, track how the disease responds to treatments and monitor its spread throughout the body.
  9. Providing practical and effective support to help people deal with the emotional impacts of breast cancer and the side effects of treatment.
  10. Collecting tumor tissue and blood samples donated by breast cancer patients at different stages of their disease, as well as detailed information of each patient, to help study the disease and develop new treatments.

– I have friends who’ve gone the conventional/classical route of surgery/chemo/radiotherapy from Day 1, only for the cancer to recur and metastasise.  I also have friends who’ve not gone the conventional route and are still alive 20 years later.  For those of us who place our faith in medical science, medical science is letting us down because it’s still treating all cancer patients with a one-size-fits-all approach.  Yes, it’s probably more expensive, but rather than letting people through the gap or forcing them to spend huge sums of money in overseas cancer clinics, targeted, and personalised treatments are the way ahead … roll on future, and quickly please.


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