Best of Breast: news for week ending 18 October 2013

A sweep of the latest medical developments in breast cancer from Google Alerts, for the week ending 18 October 2013.

[Google Alerts doesn’t always have the most up-to-date research developments, and as it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, heavy on 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 be glad to include them in the compilation, and include an acknowledgement of your contribution.]


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1(a)  Multivitamins May Save Some Breast Cancer Patients’ Lives

This recent study contrasts with one conducted in 2010 which showed that women who took multivitamins were 19% more likely to develop breast tumours (see reference below).

What I’d like to find out is what sort of multivitamins were used in the studies and at what dosages?  Also, what was the general health, diet and lifestyle choices of the women taking the multivitamins?  It’s already been shown in a study that taking beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers … er, hang on … shouldn’t they be stopping smoking instead?

[many thanks to the reader who posted a comment with a study on supplements and breast cancer:]

Researchers found evidence that postmenopausal patients who take multivitamins with minerals on a regular basis have a 30 percent lower rate of death when compared with those who don’t take the supplement. The research was conducted in collaboration with the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trials and the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.

From the study:  Multivitamin and mineral use and breast cancer mortality in older women with invasive breast cancer in the women’s health initiative:

The effect of multivitamins and mineral supplements on breast cancer patients has been somewhat controversial in recent years, as multiple studies have shown mixed results. This study, however, was among those with the largest number of participants, making its results more reliable.

Read this contradictory study conducting in 2010:

1(b)  Do multivitamin pills raise the risk of breast cancer? Tumour threat up by 20%, says study–says-study.html

“Women who take a daily multivitamin pill to ward off illness may actually be increasing their risk of breast cancer, according to a study.

Researchers found middle-aged and older women who regularly took supplements were almost 20 per cent more likely to develop a tumour.

They believe supplements may trigger tumour growth by increasing the density of breast tissue, a known risk factor for cancer.

Studies suggest taking supplements containing vitamins and minerals may increase breast tissue by more than 5 per cent.

It is also possible folic acid found in multivitamin pills could be a factor, as studies suggest high doses may promote tumour growth.

Experts from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, tracked more than 35,000 women aged between 49 and 83 over a ten-year period.

They found those who regularly took multivitamins were 19 per cent more likely to have developed a breast tumour.”

2.  Having breast cancer increases risk of another tumor by 39%

I don’t know if this is a scaremongering study or not.  I’d like to see further research done into whether the recurrence was due to the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or even endocrine therapy (i.e. tamoxifen).  And if they have any statistics for women who do not follow any of these treatments.

For example, the study states:  “In women over the age of 50, a second cancer was 29% more likely. In the latter age group, the risk of developing an endometrial cancer was three times higher if breast cancer had been previously diagnosed.” Well, tamoxifen has been linked with endometrial changes and even endometrial cancer.  The American Cancer Society lists tamoxifen as a known carcinogen, stating that it increases the risk of some types of uterine cancer while lowering the risk of breast cancer recurrence?

Women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer are 39% more likely to develop a second cancer in a different part of the body. Such is the conclusion of a recent study, pioneered by female Spanish researchers. The study suggests that this increased risk could be due to the similar risk factors involved in both cancers, or to the side effects of the treatment received by breast cáncer patients.

A national team of researchers has analysed the risk that women diagnosed with a first case of invasive breast cancer face of developing a second primary cancer in a part of the body other than the breast.

The results, published in the journal Gynecologic Oncology, indicate that this risk is 39% higher. María José Sánchez, co-author of the study and director of the Granada Cancer Register explained to SINC that the team’s study is the first populational study ever conducted in Spain to examine this associated risk.

3.  Anesthesia technique may reduce breast cancer recurrence and death

Breast cancer patients who received the combination of a nerve block with general anesthesia for their breast cancer surgery had less cancer recurrence and were three times less likely to die than those who received only general anesthesia, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2013 annual meeting. Additionally, patients who received the nerve block needed less opioid pain relief from drugs such as fentanyl and oxycodone.

“Surgery has long been the most effective treatment for solid cancer tumors,” said Palle S. Carlsson, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Anaesthesiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark. “However, it has been theorized that the long-term effect of anesthetic method, drugs used and the pain therapy applied after surgery can influence how the disease progresses – whether the cancer comes back or the patient dies.”

During cancer surgery, tumor cells released into the bloodstream can transfer from the original tumor area and implant in lymph nodes and other organs far from the primary tumor, according to Dr. Carlsson. The human immune system plays a major role in fighting these runaway cells; however, surgery and anesthesia weaken the immune system.

4.  Researchers Raise Concerns About BPA and Breast Cancer

A growing number of health advocates are raising concerns about possible links between the estrogen-like chemical BPA and breast cancer.

Consumer concern about BPA, or bisphenol A, has led manufacturers to remove it from baby bottles and infant-formula packaging.

But BPA could also pose a risk to children long before they take their first sip of milk, according to a September report from the Breast Cancer Fund, an advocacy group, because babies are exposed in the womb.

5.  New breast cancer imaging ‘detects subtypes and early treatment response’

Researchers say that a new imaging technique tested on mice is able to identify breast cancer subtypes accurately, as well as detecting early treatment response. This is according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Research.

The research team from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee says the imaging technique – optical metabolic imaging (OMI) – could eventually be used in endoscopes for live imaging of human cancers.

Furthermore, OMI was also able to differentiate between estrogen receptor-positive, estrogen receptor-negative, HER2-positive, and HER2-negative breast cancer cells.

The researchers then monitored the effect of trastuzumab – an anti-HER2 antibody – on three breast cancer cell lines that respond differently to the drug.

“We have shown that optical metabolic imaging enables fast, sensitive and accurate measurement of drug action.

Importantly, OMI measurements can be made repeatedly over time in a live animal, which significantly reduces the cost of these preclinical studies.”

Using the OMI technique on the mice, the researchers could see a difference in response between tumors that were sensitive to the drug, and those that were resistant 2 days following the first dose of the drug.

The researchers note that in comparison, the standard imaging technique – FDG-PET – was not able to measure any response differences throughout the full 12-day experiment.

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