I am now fundraising for treatments at: GoFundMe http://www.gofundme.com/78jh2w and https://www.justgiving.com/goBananasforRona
Here is the weekly summary of news alerts from Google Breast Cancer and Cancer for week ending 14 February.
I was spoiled for choice this week – all my favourite topics came up (and not a single tedious cohort study): curcumin (wow!), intravenous Vitamin C (double-wow!), more mouse trials (see Valentine’s Day card they sent us), cancer vaccine, new drugs (wow-wow-and-wow) and tamoxifen.
Curcumin: One of my most popular posts is on curcumin. Scientists have now discovered that putting an implant of curcumin into mice halted tumour growth vs ingesting it orally. Before we all rush out and get one … remember, it’s only been tested on mice, and only available in mice-size implants. However, the good news is that intravenous curcumin is available. The bad news, it’s in Germany and only six clinics at the moment have access to it. The good news, it’s available from the reputable PraxisKlinik Siebenhuner integrative clinic in Frankfurt (costs about Euro1,600 for six infusions).
Intravenous Vitamin C: There’s a study from the University of Kansas on the efficacy of intravenous Vitamin C in ameliorating chemotherapy symptoms – I’m not sure why it’s “new” news – this has been part of the protocol at the University of Kentucky for awhile. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I tried IV C and it didn’t work i.e. shrink the tumour. Having said that, in the two years I was on IV C, I never got any metastasis, so maybe something was working.
Tamoxifen: In Best of Breast (w/e 31 Jan) I mentioned that bodybuilders were taking tamoxifen, i.e. going out and buying it. Well, this week it’s revealed that bodybuilders may be unwittingly taking tamoxifen in bodybuilding supplements – it’s not even listed on the label. In case you were wondering … they take tamoxifen because they want to stop their man boobs from growing from steroid use.
This week’s headline: Finally … with all the juicy topics lined up, I chose to lead with a computer game that you can download to your iPhone or Smartphone and play and help scientists analyse real genetic data for cancer faster. Wouldn’t it be great to help beat cancer and have some fun too? Game on!
1. Video game to help find cure for cancer
- Cancer Research UK has developed the mobile game “Play to Cure: Genes in Space,” which will involve sifting through real genetic data by people all over the world to aid scientists in decoding it quickly to ascertain the causes of breast cancer.
- “There is too much data to cope with, and we need human eyes and human brains to really understand it,” said Dr. Kat Arney from Cancer Research U.K.
- The mobile phone game’s mechanics are such that players would be imitating what scientists perform in labs when looking for tumor cells.
- “Play to Cure: Genes in Space is the world’s first free mobile game that uses the collective force of players to analyse real genetic data and help beat cancer sooner,” notes the game’s description.
- The game involves the collection of Element Alpha by players as they chart their way through an asteroid field that has glowing blue stuff. The Element Alpha is really genetic data of over 2,000 breast cancer patients. Players need to shoot or avoid asteroids and are actually looking for DNA microarray data. A DNA microarray basically looks at the gene frequencies of people, but this data needs to be interpreted to determine the causes of cancer.
- “Every route you fly will be fed back to scientists in Cambridge and will help them hone in on key parts of the genome that they need to be looking at to understand how cancer cells are growing and going wrong,” explained Dr. Arney.
- Users can also upgrade their ship to become more powerful and can trade their Element Alpha for more points.
- According to scientists, early experiments reveal that gaming results are up to 15 percent more accurate than the current methods deployed to analyze data.
- “Play to Cure: Genes in Space” is now available for free for both Apple and Android smartphones.
- Here is a description of the game:
- A mysterious substance is discovered in the voids of deep space. Dubbed Element Alpha, the substance is refined for use in medicine, engineering and construction and soon the Element Alpha industry explodes galaxy wide.
- As an employee of Bifrost Industries, one of the biggest traders of the substance, your job is to collect as much Element Alpha as you can and trade it for upgrades to your spacecraft to help you manoeuvre the asteroid-filled space course.
2. Curcumin implant used to shrink breast tumours [only in mice – sorry!]
- Numerous studies have found curcumin has anti-cancer properties.
- Now scientists have developed a curcumin implant that can be inserted into the body
- The spice is thought to block the effects of hormones that feed the growth of breast cancer cells
- Now scientists have found the spice, curcumin, shrinks tumours in mice by about a third and slows the rate at which rogue cells reproduce.
- But eating lots of curry is not the answer as most of the spice just gets broken down in the stomach.
- And the issue with curcumin is one of bioavailability
- Scientists at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, got round the problem by packing the savoury powder inside miniature dissolving capsules.
- Each one is just two millimetres long and contains 200 milligrammes of powder.
- They implanted tumour-ridden mice with two capsules each and fed another group a daily diet of the curry spice.
- Curcumin is thought to work by blocking the effects of hormones that feed the growth of breast cancer cells.
- Other teams of researchers are looking at whether injecting curcumin into tumours could help women beat breast cancer.
3. Vitamin C keeps cancer at bay
- HIGH-DOSE VITAMIN C can boost the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy in the lab and mice, research suggests.
- Given by injection, it could potentially be a safe, effective and low-cost treatment for ovarian and other cancers, say scientists at the University of Kansas.
- Reporting in Science Translational Medicine, they call for large-scale government clinical trials.
- Pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to run trials, as vitamins cannot be patented.
- Vitamin C has long been used as an alternative therapy for cancer.
- The researchers said that when given by injection vitamin C is absorbed into the body, and can kill cancer cells without harming normal ones.
- The researchers injected vitamin C into human ovarian cancer cells in the lab, into mice, and into patients with advanced ovarian cancer.
- They found ovarian cancer cells were sensitive to vitamin C treatment, but normal cells were unharmed.
- The treatment worked in tandem with standard chemotherapy drugs to slow tumour growth in mouse studies. Meanwhile, a small group of patients reported fewer side-effects when given vitamin C alongside chemotherapy.
4. Breast cancer vaccine developed by Australian scientists can stop disease returning [not in mice – yayy!]
- A VACCINE that can prevent breast cancer returning has been developed by Australian scientists and could be on the market within five to ten years.
- Trials of the vaccine in 31 women have shown it slashes the rate of breast cancer returning from 60 to just 12 per cent over a 15-year period.
- One of the scientists behind the breakthrough, Burnet Institute Professor Ian McKenzie, hopes that one day every woman will get the vaccine to prevent breast cancer.
- The team behind the discovery identified a protein called mucin 1 that is different on cancer cells than normal cells. They then developed a sugar polymer, mannan, from baker’s yeast that was able to bind to this protein and attached a cancer antigen onto it.
- When it is injected into the body it prompts the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
- Ninety per cent of breast cancers carry the mucin 1 protein targeted by the vaccine and it is also present in between 60-90 per cent of many other types of cancer.
- Sixteen women who had been treated for early breast cancer were injected with the vaccine in the mid-1990s and another 15 were given a placebo.
- Fifteen years later nine of the patients who received the placebo had seen their cancer return while only two women who received the vaccine had a recurrence.
- And the cancer took much longer to return in the women who had the vaccine — 118 months after their first surgery for the two vaccinated women, compared to 65 months for those on the placebo.
- The women in the trial received an injection every two weeks for three months and received two boosters at six and nine months when the treatment ceased.
- While the initial trial involved 31 women with early stage breast cancer a second trial of about 50 women being planned will involve women with metastatic cancer to see if it will work for them.
- Ascend Pharmaceuticals is looking for funding to run the second trial before proceeding to a full blown clinical trial.
- Professor McKenzie laments that the vaccine could already be on the market if there had been funding made available a decade ago.
For more information: http://lifescientist.com.au/content/health-medical/article/ascend-gears-up-for-cancer-immunotherapy-trials-533111508
Kadcyla? Pardon me – I heard “Godzilla”! (image credit: fanpop.com)
5. Kadcyla – new drug for Her2 positive breast cancer [a monster of a drug?]
- KADCYLA is a new drug for breast cancer which extends women’s lives by almost six months while reducing toxic side effects including hair loss.
- Results from a major trial show it prolonged the lives of patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer by 30.9 months compared with 25.1 months on standard therapy.
- Patients had fewer, less severe side effects and reported a better quality of life.
- Kadcyla seeks out and kills cancerous cells in a two-stage attack. It attaches to the tumour cell and blocks signals that encourage the cancer to grow and spread, then breaches the outer defences and releases a payload of chemotherapy to destroy it from within.
- Because its action is so precise, a normally toxic form of chemotherapy can be used but healthy tissue is spared from unnecessary damage.
- The cancer is delayed from returning and side effects from chemotherapy such as diarrhoea and hair loss are significantly reduced.
6. Running and yoga can help breast cancer survivors recover faster [but both not done at the same time, I hope?]
- Breast cancer survivors eager to get back on track may want to pump up their workouts after two separate studies found that running outpaced walking when it comes to reducing mortality rates.
- Likewise, newly published research found that survivors who practiced yoga exhibited lower levels of inflammation and increased energy.
- Researchers noted that the mortality rate was lower among runners compared to walkers.
- According to their number crunching, which is based on metabolic equivalent (MET) figures, the runners’ risk for mortality decreased more than 40 percent per MET hours per day.
- Metabolic equivalent is the ratio of the metabolic rate — or the rate of energy consumption — during a specific physical activity to a reference metabolic rate.
- In this case, one MET-hour is equal to a one-kilometer run.
- In fact, runners who averaged 2.25 miles (3.6 km) a day drastically reduced their risk for mortality — 95 percent — compared to those who failed to meet exercise recommendations.
- Meanwhile walkers reduced their mortality risk by just five percent per MET hour per day.
For more information: International Journal of Cancer – Significantly greater reduction in breast cancer mortality from post-diagnosis running than walking; Journal of Clinical Oncology – Yoga’s Impact on Inflammation, Mood, and Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial
7. Tamoxifen also fights Cryptococcosis fungal disease in HIV/AIDs patients
- Tamoxifen, a drug currently used to treat breast cancer, also kills a fungus that causes a deadly brain infection in immunocompromised patients.
- The findings, which could lead to new treatments for a disease that kills more HIV/AIDS patients than tuberculosis, appear in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM.)
- “This work sets the stage for additional animal studies to see if tamoxifen can be used as a drug in people and will allow us to design new drugs related to tamoxifen that are better antifungals,” says Damian Krysan of the University of Rochester, an author on the study.
- Cryptococcosis is one of the most prevalent human fungal infections, responsible for approximately 1 million new infections and 620,000 deaths worldwide each year.
- The disease strikes primarily people living with HIV/AIDS and causes more deaths in this population than tuberculosis. It manifests as either pneumonia or a brain infection known as meningoencephalitis.
- Krysan and his colleagues also demonstrated that tamoxifen does not kill the fungus in the same way it works against breast cancer. Instead, it inhibits proteins related to calmodulin, an important calcium binding protein. They found that by making modifications to tamoxifen that improve its ability to interfere with calmodulin, they also improved its ability to kill Cryptococcus.
8. Tamoxifen found in bodybuilding supplements
- Researchers have found the breast cancer drug tamoxifen in samples of a widely available bodybuilding dietary supplement.
- In a letter to The BMJ this week, they explain that, for more than 30 years, bodybuilders have taken tamoxifen to prevent and treat gynaecomastia (breast swelling) caused by use of anabolic steroids.
- Usually, tamoxifen is sourced from the illicit market, they say. However, bodybuilding discussion forums have speculated that a dietary supplement called Esto Suppress contains tamoxifen because the label listed one of its chemical names.
- The researchers purchased four samples at different times between late 2011 and early 2012 and analysed their contents. Tamoxifen was found in three out of the four samples at different concentrations (3.8 mg, 0.9 mg and 3 mg).
- The product label suggested a dosage of two capsules a day, which in the case of sample 1 may have provided 7.6 mg of tamoxifen (10-20 mg is used clinically for treating gynaecomastia).
- It is not known whether the Esto Suppress currently being sold still contains tamoxifen, but since the 2000s a growing number of off-the-shelf “food,” “herbal,” or “dietary” “supplements” – aimed at gym goers and people wanting to lose weight or enhance their sex lives – have contained pharmacologically active substances, explain the authors.
For more information: British Medical Journal – Is the breast cancer drug tamoxifen being sold as a bodybuilding dietary supplement?
9. 55-Gene Exam Might Predict Breast Cancer Progression
- New research suggests that a panel of 55 genes might help guide medical odds-makers.
- Women who had genetic alterations in this panel were less likely to survive breast cancer over nearly two decades of follow-up than those without any changes, said study researcher Susette Mueller, professor emeritus of oncology at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.
- “If people had changes in any of the 55 genes, they had worse outcomes,” she said.
- Researchers studying this panel focused on the loss of a powerful tumor suppressor gene known as SYK. When a copy of SYK is lost, 51 other genes are directly affected. This leads to genetic disruption, according to the authors of the study, published online Feb. 11 in PLOS ONE.
- The gene screen is far from ready for use in everyday practice, Mueller noted. But it’s hoped that more research will show it’s a reliable tool, one that might guide doctors making treatment decisions.
For more information: SYK Allelic Loss and the Role of Syk-Regulated Genes in Breast Cancer Survival
10. Double Mastectomy Reduces Breast Cancer Mortality Rate by 48 Percent for BRCA1/2 mutations
What is already known on this topic
Women who carry a germline mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a 60% risk of breast cancer and once diagnosed a 34% risk of cancer in the contralateral breast by 15 years
Mastectomy of the contralateral breast is associated with a large reduction in the risk of contralateral breast cancer, but it has not yet been shown that contralateral mastectomy reduces breast cancer related mortality
What this study adds
In this non-randomised observational study, women with BRCA associated breast cancer who were treated with bilateral mastectomy were 48% less likely to die of breast cancer within 20 years of diagnosis than women treated with unilateral mastectomy
Bilateral mastectomy should be discussed as an option for young women with a BRCA mutation and early onset breast cancer
Given the small number of events in this cohort, further research is required to confirm these findings
For more information: British Medical Journal – Contralateral mastectomy and survival after breast cancer in carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations: retrospective analysis
11. Smoking linked with increased risk of most common type of breast cancer
- Young women who smoke and have been smoking a pack a day for a decade or more have a significantly increased risk of developing the most common type of breast cancer.
- That is the finding of an analysis published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
- The study indicates that an increased risk of breast cancer may be another health risk incurred by young women who smoke.
- The majority of recent studies evaluating the relationship between smoking and breast cancer risk among young women have found that smoking is linked with an increased risk; however, few studies have evaluated risks according to different subtypes of breast cancer.
- The researchers found that young women who were current or recent smokers and had been smoking a pack a day for at least 10 years had a 60 percent increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. In contrast, smoking was not related to a woman’s risk of triple-negative breast cancer.
12. University of Beirut scientists create drug that blocks breast cancer metastasis
- The drug, which is called DCQ, acts against cancer cells in an environment with limited oxygen, a state known as “tumor hypoxia,” which is characteristic of more aggressive strains of breast cancer.
- It was synthesized in the lab of Makhlouf Haddadin and tested in the labs of Hala Gali-Muhtasib and Marwan al-Sabban, all professors at the American University of Beirut. The reaction that synthesizes the drug is called the Beirut Reaction and was developed and patented by Haddadin.
- The drug only works in this oxygen-deprived environment and targets a particular protein that is crucial to cancer cell reproduction, triggering a process called “apoptosis,” or cell suicide.
- Normal tissues and cells in the body are usually not oxygen-deprived, so they are not affected by the drug.
- The drug showed promising results against cancer cells in petri dishes and lab mice. About half of the mice that were given the drug after being injected with cancer cells survived beyond 60 days. Over the same period of time, 90 percent of the mice who were not given the treatment died.
- Hypoxia is also associated with the growth of cancer stem cells, which allow the tumor to grow in size and regenerate. It is also linked to “metastasis,” or the spread of cancer cells from, for example, the breasts to the liver or lungs.
- This means that hypoxia is usually a feature of advanced cancers, where chemotherapy is not effective.
- The researchers, all of them from AUB, tested the drug first on three strains of breast cancer cells in a petri dish and then on mice.
- The results of the experiment were published in Molecular Cancer, an international peer-reviewed medical journal, late last month.
13. Cancer immunotherapy leader Allison to receive 2014 Szent-Gyorgyi Prize
- Discovering key elements of immune system T cell biology and applying that knowledge to create a new way to treat cancer has earned Jim Allison, Ph.D., the 2014 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research from the National Foundation for Cancer Research.
- Allison, professor and chair of Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and director of the Moon Shots Program immunotherapy platform, was recruited to MD Anderson in 2012 to build a program that supports immunotherapy research across multiple cancer types.
- After launching his career and T cell research at MD Anderson, Allison moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he identified an immune checkpoint molecule called CTLA-4 on T cells that turns them off before they can mount a successful attack on tumors that they are primed to destroy.
- Allison developed an antibody that blocks the CTLA-4 1mmune checkpoint, unleashing a T cell attack. Ipilimumab (Yervoy®) became the first drug to extend survival for patients with late-stage melanoma.
- At MD Anderson, clinical trials of ipilimumab and other drugs individually or in combination target melanoma, lymphoma, lung, breast, gastric and prostate cancers.
14. Personalized Therapy Feasible for Metastatic Breast Cancer
- For patients with metastatic breast cancer, personalization of therapy is feasible, according to a study published online Feb. 7 in The Lancet Oncology.
- Fabrice André, M.D., from INSERM Unit U981 in Paris, and colleagues recruited 423 patients with breast cancer with a metastasis accessible for biopsy from 18 centers. Four hundred seven biopsy samples were assessed using comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) array and Sanger sequencing on PIK3CA andAKT1. Therapeutic targets were selected based on the genomic alterations identified.
- The researchers found that CGH array was feasible in 67 percent of patients, and Sanger sequencing was feasible in 70 percent. In 46 percent of patients, a targetable genomic alteration was identified, most frequently in PIK3CA, CCND1, and FGFR1 (25, 19, and 13 percent of identified genomic alterations, respectively).
For more information: Lancet Oncology 7 February 2014 – Comparative genomic hybridisation array and DNA sequencing to direct treatment of metastatic breast cancer: a multicentre, prospective trial (SAFIR01/UNICANCER)