Best of Breast: news for week ending 2 May 2014

The highlights from the world of Breast Cancer and Cancer, as culled from Google Alerts, for the week ending 2 May 2014.


Science-fiction or fact?

This week’s leader comes under the “Too Good to be True” and “Revolutionary” heading.  In fact, it was so incredible, I checked the date of the PR statement for the news release in case it was 1 April 2014 and a prank.  I did a search on the internet just to play safe.

I sometimes dream of travelling into the future where the cure for cancer has been found, and travelling back with a key device that could get rid of cancer without any side-effects.  This week, there’s a device that seems to have fallen out of an alien’s time machine.

Chemotherapy, as we all know, comes at a cost.  It not only kills cancer cells, but also all fast-growing cells and damages nerves in the body.  It’s a bit like using chemicals to try to burn off your right ear while leaving your left ear intact.

Some of the side-effects of chemotherapy include low blood cell counts, fatigue and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

CIPN sympoms include nerve damage, loss of sensation, and even severe pain in the hands, fingers and feet of cancer patients.

The American Cancer Society says that CIPN can even cause more serious problems like changes in your heart rate, blood pressure, dangerous falls, trouble breathing, paralysis and even organ failure. In many cases the pain caused by CIPN is permanent and can cripple the lives of cancer survivors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Another study this week shows that many women who have chemotherapy are at higher risk of ending up unemployed 4 years after diagnosis.

The cure, is often more feared, then the disease itself.


Beam me up Scotty? Lazarus: the first device to prevent and reverse chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

Now it seems there may be a device that can prevent and reverse the effects of CIPN and some of the other side-effects of chemotherapy.  Better still, it does it using low-level laser technology, without chemicals or radiation.  The Lazarus device from Photetica sounds like something out of a science-fiction (or Biblical) B-movie, because it looks simple, but promises to deliver.  The only hitch?  It’s currently not approved by the FDA and is seeking funds for trials through crowdfunding.

I think Lazarus an amazing device if it does what it says on the tin.  It is the answer to many a cancer patient’s prayers.  I hope it gets the funding it needs and gets implemented. Soon cannot come quickly enough for such innovation.  If it works, the inventors deserve a Nobel Prize.


This could be you for US$50,000 donation to Lazarus!

Donate from US$5 to US$10 million.  The marketing gurus at Photetica have got some fun goodies.  For US$50,000 here’s what you get:  “We’ll fly you and your significant other first class (domestically) to Dallas for the TEXAS UCLA game at “AT and T” stadium where you’ll enjoy club seats, Four Star accommodations, meals, entertainment and transports from DFW. Plus we’ll reward you with ten coupons good for ten Lazarus medical devices and FREE shipping. We can also assist you in the donation of your Lazarus devices to a non-profit organization for the purposes of a tax deduction.”  

As Lazarus will retail at US$8,000 per device, that’s not a bad return.


Also of note this week is a trial that shows that cryoablation (freezing) of small tumours (of 1cm or less) is as effective as surgery.  I can hear the howls of “you won’t get clear margins” from surgeons all over the world who see their livelihoods threatened.  But what surgeons don’t often point out is that surgery and so-called clear-margins (even in mastectomies) do not prevent local recurrences.  Let’s stop bleating that there’s only one way – surgery – to deal with tumours and get on with delivering effective treatments that are minimally invasive.  If I’d been offered this alternative when I was first diagnosed instead of a mastectomy I wouldn’t have hesitated.


Cryoablation from IceCure Medical Inc.

Cryoablation trial in the US

The good news is that in the US, IceCure Medical Inc are running trials of cryoablation:

Finally, there was so much news this week that I had to bump one of my favourites to the bottom of the list:  another story of a dog who sniffed out her owner’s breast cancer.  This is my fourth doggy-detection post this year.  I think scientists should sit up, hold out their right paws, and take notice.


Yep, it’s portable too.

1.  New device to prevent chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and other side-effects, seeks crowdfunding for trials

  • It may look like a simple piece of equipment, but Lazarus is a technology developed by Photetica to prevent and reverse chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) and other side-effects caused by breast cancer treatment.
  • CIPN is caused by the drugs that treat breast and other types of cancer.
  • It’s one of the most common reasons that cancer patients stop chemotherapy due to the unrelenting chronic pain that it causes.
  • Breast cancer patients are particularly susceptible to CIPN since the drugs proven to treat breast cancer according to cause CIPN IN 70-90 percent of breast cancer patients.


  • According to the American Cancer Society 30-40 percent of all chemo patients get CIPN.
  • Lazarus’s computer controlled, low-level laser delivery system sends visible and non visible photons into your hands and feet during a 45 minute treatment protocol.
  • These photons travel through the connective tissue of the body to the cells, recharging these cells much like a car battery is recharged via a battery charger.
  • Use of Lazarus has also been shown to improve white blood cell count.
  • Photetica has been working on researching and developing Lazarus for the past five years. The patented technology is in clinical studies at a Rochester, Minnesota based oncology research and treatment center.

Watch this Testimonial

  • Lazarus is currently not approved by the FDA.  Photetica will be applying for a humanitarian exception with the FDA, because the technology is focused on solving a problem that no one else has solved.
  • Clinical trials will be focused on the following:
    • Preventing and reversing CIPN in breast cancer patients.
    • Keep the WBC (white blood cell) count stable so chemotherapy  treatment regimens can be completed by breast cancer patients with reduced side  effects.
    • Increase the quality of life (QOL) for cancer patients.
  • The crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the clinical studies and put Lazarus in market by Q4 2015.
  • When released, Lazarus will be priced at US$8,000.

Read more and donate at:

2.  Cryoblation ‘Freezing’ Technique May Work for Some Women With Early Breast Cancer

  • A tumor-freezing technique might offer a reasonable alternative to surgery for some women with early stage breast cancer, a preliminary study suggests.
  • The research, to be reported Wednesday at the American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting in Las Vegas, looked at a treatment called cryoablation. The approach, also called cryotherapy, uses substances such as liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze and destroy cancer cells.
  • Cryoablation is already an option for benign breast tumors called fibroadenomas, and for certain cancers — including some cases of skin, prostate and liver cancers. But researchers are just beginning to look into its potential for breast cancer.
  • The new study included 86 women with early stage invasive ductal breast cancer — which means the cancer had begun to invade the fatty tissue around the milk ducts.
  • The standard treatment is to surgically remove the cancer, usually followed by radiation. And it’s very effective; the five-year survival rate for stage 1 breast cancer is 100 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • Still, some researchers want to find less invasive treatments — especially since breast cancer screening often finds tiny tumors, explained study author Dr. Rache Simmons.
  • Cryoablation fits the “less invasive” bill: A surgeon inserts a thin probe through a small incision in the skin, and then — guided by ultrasound — targets and freezes the tumor.
  • There are potential advantages of cryoablation over conventional surgery, according to Simmons, who is chief of breast surgery at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.
  • For one, it can be done with local anesthesia, and it avoids the pain and hospital stay that comes with surgery. “Cryoablation lends itself very well to the outpatient setting,” Simmons said.  And afterward, she noted, there’s no surgical scar.
  • Overall, the treatment was only moderately successful: It got rid of all evidence of the cancer in 69 percent of the women. The rest of the women still had some “residual” cancer.
  • However, Simmons said, the treatment was “100 percent effective” in a subset of women with the smallest tumors — about 1 centimeter or less. So it’s possible that for those women, cryoablation could be a new option.

SOURCES: Rache Simmons, M.D., chief, breast surgery, New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York City; Subhakar Mutyala, M.D., associate director, Scott & White Cancer Institute, Temple, Texas; April 30, 2014, presentation, American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting, Las Vegas.


3.  Triclosan Linked to the Growth of Breast Cancer Cells

  • According to a recent study published in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the chemicals triclosan and octylphenol are linked to the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in numerous commonly known household products such as toothpastes, personal care products, deodorants and cleaning products.
  • Triclosan is a known endocrine disrupter.
  • Octylphenol is a commercial solvent that can be found in paints and plastics, and is often used as an inert ingredient in pesticide formulations.

For more information:  Chemical Research in Toxicology, Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/tx5000156, Publication Date (Web): March 31, 2014, Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society:  Progression of Breast Cancer Cells Was Enhanced by Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, Triclosan and Octylphenol, via an Estrogen Receptor-Dependent Signaling Pathway in Cellular and Mouse Xenograft Models

[Please note, all is not lost! There is a flavonoid, kaempferol that protects against triclosan exposure.  Source:  Endocrine Abstracts (2014) 35 P504  DOI:10.1530/endoabs, “Treatment with kaempferol resulted in the regulation of cell cycle-related and apoptosis-related genes in cancer cell growth caused by triclosan in MCF-7 breast cancer cells“.

Kaempferol i(3,5,7-trihydroxy-2-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one) is a flavonoid found in many edible plants (e.g. tea, broccoli, cabbage, kale, beans, endive, leek, tomato, strawberries and grapes) and in plants or botanical products commonly used in traditional medicine (e.g. Ginkgo biloba, Tilia spp, Equisetum spp, Moringa oleifera, Sophora japonica and propolis).  Kaempferol has also been shown to reduce the cardiotoxic effects of Adriamycin (doxorubicin) in rats.

Unfortunately I do not know what is the therapeutic dose of kaempferol and there is, to the best of my knowledge, no human trials using kaempferol.]

4.  Zinc transporter that influences baby’s milk zinc levels may influence a woman’s predisposition to breast density and breast cancer

  • Scientists studying the role of zinc in breast development, lactation, and involution (the process whereby the majority of breast epithelial cells rapidly undergo programmed cell death once an infant is weaned) have found a link between zinc deficiency and breast cancer
  • Shannon Kelleher, associate professor of nutritional sciences, and team has identified a mutation in a particular zinc transporter—called ZnT2—that cause defects in the milk-secreting mammary epithelial cells.
  • This mutation causes women to have severe zinc deficiencies in their breast milk—about a 75-percent reduction.
  • The same zinc transporter that influences milk zinc levels may influence a woman’s predisposition to breast cancer.
  • “A higher breast density predisposes a woman to breast cancer,” explains Kelleher. “Our zinc-deficient mice and our mice without ZnT2 all have dense breasts. They actually lay down collagen, fibrotic tissue in their mammary glands.”
  • In addition to heightening the risk of breast cancer by contributing to dense breasts, ZnT2 may also do so by decreasing the length of time a woman is able to breastfeed.
  • “Scientists have long known that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not breastfeed,” Kelleher says. “There seems to be something protective about breastfeeding, and this protection becomes greater the longer a woman breastfeeds.”
  • Her team is investigating how ZnT2 influences involution following weaning. They have found that ZnT2 is critical for this process.

For more information:  Pennsylvia State University news, 29 April 2014, Key factor in neonatal zinc deficiency may impact lactation and breast cancer

5.  Israeli lab develops blood test based on antibodies to detect breast cancer

  • Traditional blood tests for cancer are based on detecting proteins in the blood and may not always be accurate.
  • Eventus Diagnostics (EventusDx) has developed what it describes as an accurate, cost-effective, immune system-based means of detecting the presence of cancer in the breast tissue.
  • The Octava tests, which measure cancer-specific antibodies produced by the immune system in response to the growth of tumors, can be used to quickly diagnose breast cancer and identify false negative mammogram results.
  •  The technology developed by EventusDx has already been patented after being verified in clinical trials with over 800 women in the US, Israel and Italy, and published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • The findings showed that the Octava Blue test accurately identified the presence or absence of breast cancer in over 500 women who had positive mammograms followed by breast biopsy with “very high sensitivity.”

6.  High Body-Mass Index (not body shape) linked to breast cancer risk after menopause

  • Body shape — whether a woman is wide at the waistline — is not in itself a risk factor for breast cancer, according to a large new study.
  • But overall body weight is a factor, the researchers discovered.
  • Previous studies have suggested that being “apple-shaped” or having excess fat around the waist is linked to a slew of health problems, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • To see whether excess abdominal fat contributes to breast cancer risk independent of overall Body Mass Index, scientists analyzed data about nearly 29,000 postmenopausal women over an average of 11.6 years.
  • BMI is a measurement used to help determine if people are underweight, overweight or are normal for their height
  • Having a BMI in the obese range (30 or greater) has also been linked to breast cancer risk up to twice that of women in the normal weight range (BMIs of 25 or less, in this study).
  • For every one-point increase in BMI, there was a 4 percent rise in breast cancer risk.
  • Most prior studies on this issue looked at BMI or at waist circumference, but had not looked at them together. This study brings some clarity to the association between obesity and risk of breast cancer.
  • While the study found an association between being overweight and having a higher risk for breast cancer in women, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

For more information:  Cancer Causes and Control, 9 April 2014, Waist circumference, body mass index, and postmenopausal breast cancer incidence in the Cancer Prevention Study-II Nutrition Cohort

7.  Lower-dose chest radiation in childhood still carries high risk for breast cancer

  • Girls with childhood cancers who received whole-lung irradiation had a 43-fold increase in subsequent risk of breast cancer, compared with the general population, a study showed.
  • The risk exceeded previous reports and resembled that of BRCA mutation carriers, said Dr. Chaya S. Moskowitz of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and her associates.

Dr Claire Guest and Daisy

8.  Dog saves owner’s life by warning her she has breast cancer

  • Daisy the Labrador, was in training to sniff out prostate and bladder cancer.
  • Her owner, Dr Claire Guest was present and Daisy started jumping up at her.
  • One day, Daisy bumped into Dr Guest’s chest and it was sore, so Dr Guest got it checked out.
  • “I had a very deep breast cancer which wouldn’t have been found for years without Daisy alerting me to it,” says Guest, who had a successful lumpectomy and radiotherapy after her 2009 diagnosis.

  • Ironically, Dr Guest was the chief executive of the charity Medical Alert Assistance Dogs which mainly trains diabetes alert dogs, but is now training 10 Cancer Detection Dogs.
  • Her interest in dogs’ cancer-sniffing abilities had actually been sparked years earlier, after a friend’s pooch kept licking and sniffing a mole on her leg, which turned out to be malignant melanoma.

9.  Initial chemotherapy ‘puts breast cancer patients at higher risk of unemployment’

  • Many women wish to continue with paid employment after being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
  • A new study based on a surveys, suggests that a large number of breast cancer patients lose employment after diagnosis and that the type of treatment they receive may be to blame.
  • The researchers found that of the patients under 65 who completed both surveys and whose breast cancer did not recur, 746 (76%) were in paid employment prior to their breast cancer diagnosis.
  • But from the 4-year follow up survey, it was revealed that 236 (30%) of these patients were no longer working.
  • From looking at the cancer treatment these women received, those who had chemotherapy as part of their initial treatment were less likely to be in paid employment at the 4-year follow-up, compared with those who did not receive chemotherapy as their first treatment.
  • The researchers calculated that women who underwent chemotherapy at the time of breast cancer diagnosis were 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed following treatment.

“Many clinicians believe that although patients may miss work during treatment, they will ‘bounce back’ in the longer term. The results of this study suggest otherwise and highlight a possible long-term adverse consequence to adjuvant chemotherapy that may not have been fully appreciated to date.”

For more information: Cancer, 28 April 2014, DOI: 10.1002/cncr.28607, AbstractImpact of Adjuvant Chemotherapy on Long-Term Employment of Survivors of Early-Stage Breast Cancer.

10.  New approach may overcome breast cancer resistance to HER2-targeted therapies

  • About 20% of breast cancers have elevated levels of the protein HER2 and are considered HER2-positive.
  • Drugs that target HER2 have improved outcomes for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, but most tumors eventually become resistant to the effects of these drugs.
  • Resistance to a combination of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeted therapies, trastuzumab and lapatinib, was associated with elevated activation of a group of proteins called fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs), which are the target of a number of drugs currently being developed.
  • Analysis of five tumors resistant to trastuzumab and lapatinib and five tumors sensitive to the drug combination showed that one of the resistant tumors had extra copies of the genes FGF3, FGF4, and FGF19.
  • These genes produce proteins that attach to FGFRs, triggering cell growth.
  • Scientists found that tumor cells with extra copies of the genes FGF3, FGF4, and FGF19 showed signs of elevated FGFR activation, as measured by levels of phosphorylated FGFR.
  • “This suggests that amplification of FGFR signaling could be a mechanism of acquired resistance to dual blockade of HER2.  We are in the early stages of experiments designed to test whether drugs that block FGFRs, FGFR inhibitors, are effective in mice whose tumors have become resistant to the combination of trastuzumab and lapatinib.
  • These preclinical results were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 2014 Annual Meeting, in San Diego, California.


From Sarah Charles’ excellent website:  Food for Breast Cancer:

11.  Dietary mushroom intake linked to lowered risk of breast cancer

For more information:  PLoS One, April 01, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093437,  Dietary mushroom intake may reduce the risk of breast cancer: evidence from a meta-analysis of observational studies

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