Best of Breast: news for week ending 4 April 2014

A summary of the weekly news for week ending 4 April 2014, for breast cancer and cancer, culled from Google Alerts.

Please watch this video.  It’s about a dog who sniffed out its owner’s breast cancer AFTER it was missed by a mammogram.  It is a heartwarming demonstration of the love between an owner and her dog, which just happens to save the owner’s life.

And yes, I’ve posted similar incidents previously with Daisy the Springer Spaniel in Best of Breast w/e 30 August 2013, Troy the Doberman in Best of Breast 7 February 2014, and dogs being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer.

The more I read about such amazing cancer-detection faculties from man’s best friend, the more I wish I had a dog.  I’ve got three cats, and comforting as they are, they’ve never once sniffed pointedly at my breasts and indicated things weren’t quite right.  I think there should be more research into dog scans – imagine, detecting early breast cancer that’s missed by mammograms, without a blood draw or biopsy!  With the millions that’s being poured into chemotherapy and radiotherapy with their concomitant side effects, aren’t scientists missing something very obvious and cheaper here?

[on the other hand, maybe it’s best if Big Pharma doesn’t get involved in patenting a breed of dog that can sniff out breast cancer – can you imagine how much they would charge for such a dog?]

Other items of interest:  (1) fatigue in patients who’ve had chemotherapy could be caused by latent Epstein-Barr Virus or cytomegalovirus.  Epstein-Barr is the fancy name for glandular fever, and is one of the most common viruses in humans.   In the United States, about half of all five-year-old children and 90 to 95 percent of adults have evidence of previous infection. (2) With the summer season coming, people will be dusting off their BBQs, so find out how to minimise the carcinogenic effects of BBQ food (3) why estrogen-blocking treatments (like Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors) fail (4) chemotherapy contributes to early-ageing [I know we’re supposed to feel grateful for such treatments saving lives, but it’s hard when they add up to 15 years to the ageing process – thanks, cancer!]

1.  Dog Saved Owner’s Life By Detecting Breast Cancer That Mammogram Missed

  • When Maureen Burns’ 9-year-old dog, Max, started to act strangely, she worried that her beloved pet was sick. Turns out that Burns herself was ill—and Max knew it.
  • In a video shared by BBC Earth, Burns describes the “odd signs” that Max started to exhibit.
  • “The odd signs were when he would come up and touch my breast with his nose, and back off so desperately unhappy with such a sad look in his eyes,” Burns said in the video.
  • It turns out that Burns had a lump in her breast, undetected by her last mammogram. She then decided to get another scan and mammogram, thinking there might be a connection with her pet’s behavior. Those also came back negative.
  • BBC reports that dogs can smell the chemicals given off by cancerous tumors. In fact, according to an InSitu study, dogs are 88 percent specific and 99 percent sensitive when it comes to detecting lung and breast cancer in the early stages, just by smelling a patient’s breath.
  • Burns is now cancer free after an operation to remove the tumor—and Max knows it.
  • “He put his nose across my breast to check where the operation had been and was wagging his tail and his eyes were happy,” Burns said in the video. “I love Max and I owe him so much.”

image credit:

2.  Throw another tinnie on the barbie: Researchers find marinading meat in beer before grilling can reduce cancer-causing chemicals

  • As barbecue season approaches, researchers have discovered an unlikely ingredient that could improve the safety of your meat – letting it swill in beer.
  • Beer, wine or tea marinades can reduce the levels of some potential carcinogens, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, in cooked meat, but little was known about how different beer marinades affect Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) levels, until now.
  • The researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill.
  • Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork.

For more information:  Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 201462 (12), pp 2638–264,  DOI: 10.1021/jf404966w, Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork

3.  Can vitamin A turn back the clock on breast cancer?

  • A derivative of vitamin A, known as retinoic acid, found abundantly in sweet potato and carrots, helps turn pre-cancer cells back to normal healthy breast cells, according to research published this month in the International Journal of Oncology. The research could help explain why some clinical studies have been unable to see a benefit of vitamin A on cancer: the vitamin doesn’t appear to change the course of full-blown cancer, only pre-cancerous cells, and only works at a very narrow dose.
  • When the researchers exposed the four breast cell types to different concentrations of retinoic acid – one of the chemicals that the body converts vitamin A into – they noticed a strong change in the pre-cancerous cells. Not only did the pre-cancerous cells begin to look more like normal cells in terms of their shape, they also changed their genetic signature back to normal. Dr. Fernandez’s pre-cancerous cells had 443 genes that were either up or downregulated on their way to becoming cancerous. All of these genes returned to normal levels after treatment with retinoic acid. “It looks like retinoic acid exerts effects on cancer cells in part via the modulation of the epigenome,” says Fernandez.
  • Interestingly, the cells that were considered fully cancerous did not respond at all to retinoic acid, suggesting that there may be a small window of opportunity for retinoic acid to be helpful in preventing cancer progression. In addition, the researchers showed that only one concentration of retinoic acid (about one micro Molar) produced the anti-cancer effects. Lower concentrations gave no change, and higher concentrations produced a smaller effect.

For more information:  Jefferson University Hospital

4.  Why some estrogen-blocking breast cancer treatments fail

  • Scientists have found why a type of breast cancer gene that blocks estrogen synthesis to activate cancer-killing genes sometimes loses its effectiveness. This is because the cancer takes over patient’s tumor and re-writes the DNA.
  • The hormone estrogen represses genes, such as HOXC10, that induce cell death and inhibit growth. About 70 percent of breast cancer tumors are positive for a protein called ‘estrogen receptor alpha,’ which prevents HOXC10 from killing the cancer. To overcome this, doctors put these patients on anti-estrogen therapy, including aromatase inhibitors.
  • Unfortunately, in some cases, the tumor uses different epigenetic mechanisms, independent of estrogen, to repress the HOXC10 gene. This allows the cancer to continue growing. When the tumor uses these mechanisms, it makes deeper modifications to the expression of the patient’s DNA, permanently blocking the HOXC10 and other genes and making cancer treatment much more difficult.
  • “In some patients the tumors never respond to aromatase inhibitors and just keep growing. In other patients, using aromatase inhibitors to block estrogen synthesis and allow HOXC10 and other genes to destroy the cancer works in the short term,” said Dr. Oesterreich. “But, eventually, we see the tumor start to gain ground again as the cancer permanently represses genes such as HOXC10. At that point, the aromatase inhibitor is no longer effective.”
For more information:  Science Translational Medicine, 26 March 2014: , Vol. 6, Issue 229, p. 229ra41 
Sci. Transl. Med. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008326 “Epigenetic Reprogramming of HOXC10 in Endocrine-Resistant Breast Cancer”
EBV virus

EBV virus aka Gladular Fever aka Infectious mononucleosis (image credit:

5.  Breast cancer patients – cause of fatigue may be EBV and CMV viruses

  • A recent study found that fatigue is the most common complaint of breast cancer patients and survivors.
  • Both the disease and the treatments weaken the immune system. As a result, the latent viruses in these patients will start to replicate and increase their numbers. One typical virus that infects most people is the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Research shows that in high concentrations, these viruses cause fatigue. Therefore, polyDNA suggests reducing the numbers of latent viruses in the body to reduce physical and mental fatigue.
  • Breast cancer reduces the efficiency of the immune system. In addition, treatments for breast cancer such as, “chemotherapy and radiotherapy can weaken immunity by causing a drop in the number of white blood cells made in the bone marrow.” (See, Last updated July 24, 2013).
  • This weakening of the immune system can allow an infection with a latent virus, such as with EBV, to create conditions favorable to the growth of cancer cells, and to feelings of fatigue.
  • It is important to note that even when a breast cancer survivor is in complete remission, that individual may suffer for years from debilitating fatigue. Study authors wrote that “fatigue may persist for months or years after breast cancer resection despite no evidence of active cancer.
  • polyDNA recommends that individuals with breast cancer, or who are breast cancer survivors, ask their doctors for a blood test that identifies the existence of a latent infection with EBV or CMV (human cytomegalovirus), two of the most common latent viruses.
  • If positive, that individual should then speak to their doctors about Gene-Eden-VIR. This natural antiviral targets the latent EBV and CMV, and was recently proven to reduce mental and physical fatigue in a post-marketing clinical study that followed FDA guidelines.
  • This is the second time that a peer reviewed medical journal published a paper reporting a clinical study on Gene-Eden-VIR’s, patent protected, natural formula. The first paper, entitled “Gene-Eden-VIR Is Antiviral: Results of a Post Marketing Clinical Study” was published in September 2013 and can be found at:

For more infomation and to view the entire paper on Gene-Eden-VIR and fatigue: For more information on Gene-Eden-VIR please visit the product’s official website at:

6.  Scientists May Have Just Figured Out How to Vaccinate Cancer

  • A group of researchers at the Austrian Academy of Sciences have been trying to teach the immune system to identify and attack cancer cells, allowing the human body to use its natural defenses against the spread of disease.
  • How it works: Until now, the side effects of cancer vaccines have made them too dangerous to consider using. While the immune system’s natural killer cells can be induced to attack cancer and inhibit its growth, they also have the tendency to attack healthy cells and seriously compromise a person’s health. But the Austrian researchers were convinced that they could activate the immune system without forcing it to attack itself, and it’s looking like they were right.
  • Through several mice trials, the team discovered that a certain group of cancer-bearing mice had longer life spans than other groups. These mice’s natural killers cells were also much more effective at targeting cancer cells and limiting cancer growth to certain areas — all without life-threatening side effects. The difference? They lacked an enzyme called E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl-b.
  • The enzyme normally acts as an inhibitor for the immune system, preventing many natural killer cells from becoming activated. But by targeting this enzyme, the researchers were able to spur anti-metastatic activity in the immune system — meaning “it might be possible to develop a ‘pill’ that awakens the innate immune system to kill cancer metastases.”

For more information:  The E3 ligase Cbl-b and TAM receptors regulate cancer metasis,


Click to expand. p16 is the most robust ageing marker currently (image source:


7.  Researchers show cancer chemotherapy accelerates ‘molecular aging’

  • Physicians have long suspected that chemotherapy can accelerate the aging process in patients treated for cancer.
  • Using a test developed at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to determine molecular aging, UNC oncologists have directly measured the impact of anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs on biological aging.
  • Researchers measured the level of p16, a protein that causes cellular aging, in the blood of 33 women over the age of 50 who had undergone chemotherapy for curable breast cancer. Samples were taken for analysis of molecular age from patients before chemotherapy, immediately following chemotherapy and a year after therapy finished.
  • The analysis showed that curative chemotherapy also caused an increase in a patient’s molecular age that on average was equivalent to 15 years of normal aging. The same was true in a separate group of 176 breast cancer survivors who had received chemotherapy on average three and a half years prior.
  • “Our theory is that if you have an advanced molecular age to begin with, it will be harder for you to tolerate chemotherapy,” said Dr. Sanoff. “We believe a high level of p16 before treatment could mean that a patient will have a harder time making new blood cells after each chemotherapy treatment, and therefore be at greater risk for anemia and infection during chemotherapy.”

For more information:  Journal of National Cancer Institute, dju057, doi: 10.1093/jnci/dju057, Effect of Cytotoxic Chemotherapy on Markers of Molecular Age in Patients With Breast Cancer

8.  Study Indicates Breast Brachytherapy Effective for Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) Breast Cancer

Cianna Medical, Inc., a women’s health company, today announced the results of a retrospective study of breast cancer patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) treated with SAVI® breast brachytherapy. Researchers reported excellent local control, with recurrence rates that appear to be equivalent to those expected for whole breast irradiation with similar follow-up.

SAVI is a strut-based device that delivers a form of accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) known as breast brachytherapy, a five-day course of targeted radiation for early-stage breast cancer. With more than 10 years of clinical evidence showing excellent outcomes in efficacy and safety, breast brachytherapy is proven to be an appropriate treatment for early-stage breast cancer.

For more information:


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