Best of Breast: news for week ending 27 June 2014

The weekly round-up of news developments from Google Alerts, for Breast Cancer and Cancer, for the week ending 27 June 2014.

A surfeit of news articles this week, so I’ll just draw your attention to the first two:  the first is a study on how limiting carbohydrate intake could cut down breast cancer recurrence in women with certain types of tumours.  The question is:  how do we find out whether or not our tumours are IGF1 receptor positive?  It would go far in helping out sort the tricky diet dilemma for all breast cancer patients.  There are a plethora of diets out there, some very high in carbs (e.g. Gerson with its juices) and their passionate advocates.  However, what works for some women may not work for others, and this study underlines the fact that limiting carb intake (which is the foundation of many cancer diets) may not be effective for some.

The second article comes with a warning:  distressing photos.  A study on weedkiller and GMO corn causing tumours in mice has been confirmed as accurate.   The study was first published two years ago and caused an uproar and withdrawn, it has since been reviewed and republished.  I’m just puzzled that not more has been made of this study.  Methinks Big Pharma may be behind this news mask.


Poison or Food? image credit:

1.  Limiting carbs could reduce breast cancer recurrence in women with positive IGF1 receptor

  • Scientists conducted a study of 265 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors to assess the association between carbohydrate intake and recurrence of breast cancer.
  • The researchers found that half of the primary breast tumors were positive for the insulin-like growth factor-I (IGFI) receptor.
  • Factors separately associated with increased risk of breast cancer recurrence were IGFI receptor–positive status and stable or increased intake of carbohydrates.
  • Among women with primary breast cancer that was IGFI receptor–positive, carbohydrate intake increased the risk of recurrence more than five-fold.
  • Among women with primary breast cancer that was IGFI receptor–negative, carbohydrate intake had no significant effect on the risk of recurrence.
  • This is the first study to suggest that it might be possible to personalize recommended diets for breast cancer survivors based on the molecular characteristics of their primary tumor.
  • Further research is needed to confirm these findings, and breast cancer survivors should not be concerned about dramatically lowering their carbohydrate intake based on this study.

For more information:  Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention,  doi: 10.1158/ 1055-9965.EPI-13-1218, Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence Associated with Carbohydrate Intake and Tissue Expression of IGFI Receptor

2.  GM Maize and Roundup can Cause Tumours, Multiple Organ Damage and Premature Death

  • The findings of a controversial study linking GM corn and a popular weedkiller to breast cancer have been confirmed.
  • The study caused uproar when it was first published two years ago, and was subsequently withdrawn by the journal’s editors following a fierce backlash from pro-GM scientists.
  • But it has since been peer-reviewed twice more to confirm the research was conducted properly, and is now being republished.
  • Trials involving rats given GM corn sprayed with the weedkiller Roundup produced animals with enormous tumours.
  • The researchers, from the University of Caen in France, claim the effects of genetic modification on the corn, as well as the chemicals found in Roundup, were implicated in the changes seen in the rats.
  • The corn was created by US biotech firm Monsanto to be resistant to Roundup, so that the crops can be sprayed with chemicals that kill off any weeds but still grow normally.
  • Some rats were fed the GM corn, some ate it sprayed with Roundup while others consumed Roundup at low doses. A control group was fed a ‘clean’ diet without GM or Roundup.
  • After two years, between 50 and 80 per cent of the female rats in all treated groups had developed large tumours, while only 30 per cent of the control group was affected.

For more information:


3.  Teflon promotes breast cancer cell development

  • A study recently published in Toxicology Letters suggests that exposure to a chemical used to make Teflon, a strain-resistant material can promote breast cancer cell invasion.
  • Teflon is used in many consumer products that need the water-repellent property of this material including clothing/fabric, cookware and furniture.
  • The study led by researchers at Nanjing Medical University in Nanjing, China shows that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the chemical used in Teflon at a concentration of greater than 5 nm enhances the invasion ability of in vitro breast cancer cells.
  • PFOA, also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a known toxicant and carcinogen which can cause testicular cancer and breast cancer in animals.
  • This chemical has been considered a likely human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • In addition to its potential effect on the breast cancer invasiveness, this chemical can also cause infertility in women.

For more information:  Toxicol Lett. 2014 Jun 2, Perfluorooctanoic acid stimulates breast cancer cells invasion and up-regulates matrix metalloproteinase-2/-9 expression mediated by activating NF-κB

4.  Cholesterol-busting compound (not a statin) may halt hormone-dependent breast cancer

  • Researchers have established that around 70% of breast cancers in women depend on the hormone estrogen to keep them growing.
  • These can be treated with drugs like tamoxifen that target the hormone as a way to starve the cells.
  • However, while the cancer may at first respond to hormone treatment, eventually most develop resistance to anti-hormone drugs and the cells begin to grow and spread again.
  • Cholesterol can also contribute to hormone resistance because cells use it to make hormones.
  • Now, a new study shows that a compound designed as a cholesterol-lowering drug can kill cancer cells and stop tumor progression in hormone-dependent breast cancers, which represent the majority of breast cancers in women.
  • The compound, a cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitor made by Roche Pharmaceuticals, works in a different way to statins.
  • They found the cholesterol-lowering compound reduced growth of the breast cancer cells, and in many cases also caused their death.
  • Plus, it destroyed an estrogen receptor – a protein that spurs tumor cell growth.
  • Having shown the compound’s effects in cell cultures, the team then tested it in mice with breast cancer.
  • They found the molecule killed the breast cancer cells by destroying their estrogen receptors.  It had no effect on normal mammary cells.
  • The anti-tumor properties of the compound appear to be in part due to an off-target effect that increases the ratio of ERβ/ERα in breast cancer cells.
  • For more information:  Breast Cancer Research and TreatmentJuly 2014Volume 146, Issue 1, pp 51-62, Cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors as potent novel anti-cancer agents: suppression of hormone-dependent breast cancer by the oxidosqualene cyclase inhibitor RO 48-8071

5.  New 3D breast screening technique increases cancer detection by 41% compared with traditional mammograms

  • The technique builds a detailed three-dimensional picture of breast tissue
  • Increased detection of invasive cancer by 41% compared with mammograms
  • Overall, it resulted in a 29% higher detection rate for all breast cancers

6.  Acupuncture enhances delivery of Paclitaxel

  • Paclitaxel, also known as Taxol, is a mitotic inhibitor used in the treatment of lung, ovarian and breast cancer along with other types including cancers of the head and neck.
  • New research confirms that acupuncture enhances the delivery of an important chemotherapy drug for the treatment of lung cancer to the lungs while simultaneously protecting the liver and kidneys.
  • Using high-performance liquid chromatography, the researchers discovered that applying acupuncture needles at acupoint Feishu (BL13) targeted paclitaxel to the lungs more effectively than when using acupoint Lingtai (DU10).
  • Both acupuncture points increased the time of metabolism while significantly reducing distribution of paclitaxel to the liver and kidneys.
  • The researchers note that electroacupuncture influences “tissue distribution of Paclitaxel.”
  • Additionally, they posit that tissue distribution changes may be one of the effective action mechanisms by which acupuncture exerts its therapeutic effects during chemotherapy.
  • They note that BL13 (Feishu) is commonly used by licensed acupuncturists for the treatment of lung related disorders.
  • They note that Feishu is translated as lung acupoint and is now in common use by licensed acupuncturists for the treatment of side effects due to lung cancer chemotherapy.
  • The researchers add that BL13, according to TCM principles, treats lung disorders by “activation and regulation of qi (energy flow in the human body). Based on these theories, the mechanisms of acupuncture’s therapeutic properties are considered to be linked to the modulation of lung function and the tissue distribution of chemotherapies.”

For more information:  Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine (2014): 1-4, Effects of acupuncture on the tissue distribution of Paclitaxel in lung carcinoma mice

7.  Multivitamin, calcium supplements may prevent breast cancer

  • A new case-control study suggests that taking multivitamin and calcium supplements may help prevent breast cancer, the most common cancer that is diagnosed in over one million women worldwide every year.
  • In the study conducted in Puerto Rico, 312 women with breast cancer were compared with 524 without the disease for their consumption of multivitamin and calcium intake, DNA repair capacity and other parameters.
  • Women with breast cancer were found 30% less likely to take multivitamins and 30% less likely to take calcium supplements than women without the disease.
  • And it was also found that women with low DNA repaired capability were 50% less likely to take calcium supplements and 30% less likely to currently take vitamins, compared with those with high DNA repair capability.
  • The study suggests that vitamin supplementation may be an independent protective factor against breast cancer and calcium supplements may also protect against breast cancer because they were associated with high DNA repair capability, which was associated with low risk of breast cancer.

For more information:  Integr Med (Encinitas). 2013 Jun;12(3):38-46.  Breast Cancer and DNA Repair Capacity: Association With Use of Multivitamin and Calcium Supplements.

8.  AAV2 Virus kills triple negative breast cancer cells in mice

  • A virus not known to cause disease kills triple-negative breast cancer cells and killed tumors grown from these cells in mice, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.
  • Adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) infects humans but is not known to cause sickness.
  • In prior studies, the researchers tested the virus on a variety of breast cancers that represent degrees of aggressiveness and on human papillomavirus-positive cervical cancer cells.
  • The virus initiated apoptosis — natural cell death — in cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.
  • In the current study, the researchers tested AAV2 on a cell-line representative of triple-negative breast cancer.
  • The AAV2 killed 100 percent of the cells in the laboratory by activating proteins called caspases, which are essential for the cell’s natural death.
  • In addition, consistent with past studies, AAV2-infected cancer cells produced more Ki-67, an immunity system activating protein and c-Myc, a protein that helps both to increase cell growth and induce apoptosis.
  • The cancer cell growth slowed by day 17 and all cells were dead by day 21.
  • AAV2 mediated cell killing of multiple breast cancer cell lines representing both low and high grades of cancer and targeted the cancer cells independent of hormone or growth factor classification.
  • The researchers then injected AAV2 into human breast cancer cell line-derived tumors in mice without functioning immune systems.
  • Mice that received AAV2 outlived the untreated mice and did not show signs of being sick, unlike the untreated mice.
  • Tumor sizes decreased in the treated mice, areas of cell death were visible and all AAV2 treated mice survived through the study, a direct contrast to the untreated mice.

For more information:  Cancer Biology and Therapy, doi: 10.4161/cbt.29172, Adeno-associated virus type 2 infection of nude mouse human breast cancer xenograft induces necrotic death and inhibits tumor growth

9.  Exemestane plus OFS [ovarian function suppression] provides practice-effective results in pre-menopausal breast cancer

  • Adjuvant exemestane is more effective at preventing recurrence than tamoxifen is when either is given with ovarian function suppression in premenopausal women with hormone-sensitive breast cancers, according to a joint analysis of the phase III TEXT and SOFT trials.
  • The results were consistent in TEXT (Tamoxifen and Exemestane Trial) and SOFT (Suppression of Ovarian Function Trial), and in women who did and did not receive chemotherapy, said Dr. Pagani, clinical director of the breast unit at the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, Bellinzona.
  • Among the 43% of women who did not receive chemotherapy, 97.6% of these women in TEXT and 97.5% in SOFT who received the aromatase inhibitor exemestane (Aromasin) remained free from breast cancer at 5 years.
  • On average, these women had lower-risk features such as older age and smaller tumors, however, 21% of them in TEXT and 8% in SOFT had node-positive disease, she observed. After 5.7 years median follow-up, there were very few distant recurrences in this subgroup, only 1% in the exemestane group.
  • “These results suggest that some premenopausal women have an excellent prognosis with highly effective endocrine therapy without chemotherapy,” Dr. Pagani said.
  • Currently, the standard adjuvant endocrine therapy for premenopausal women is 5 years of tamoxifen, while aromatase inhibitors are primarily used in postmenopausal women, where they have been shown to improve outcomes over tamoxifen.

For more information:  2014 ASCO General Meeting, Randomized comparison of adjuvant aromatase inhibitor (AI) exemestane (E) plus ovarian function suppression (OFS) vs tamoxifen (T) plus OFS in premenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+) early breast cancer (BC): Joint analysis of IBCSG TEXT and SOFT trials

10.  Molecular breast imaging protocol unmasks more cancer in advanced cases

  • Patients with advanced breast cancer that may have spread to their lymph nodes could benefit from a more robust dose of a molecular imaging agent when undergoing lymphoscintigraphy.
  • This functional imaging technique scouts for new cancer as it begins to metastasize.
  • Best results also indicate that imaging could be improved by injecting the agent, Tc-99m filtered sulfur colloid, the day prior to surgical resection.
  • This research was shared at the 2014 Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Annual Meeting in St Louis, Missouri.

11. High ratio of androgen receptor-positive cells to estrogen receptor-positive cells may cause recurrence

  • Researchers believe they have discovered one reason why some women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer may respond poorly or only temporarily to estrogen-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen.
  • Now scientists have found that estrogen receptor alpha—a main driver of estrogen-fueled breast cancer—may rely on the androgen receptor for its function.
  • They found that women were 4.4 times more likely to have a cancer recurrence during tamoxifen treatment when their main tumor had a high ratio (2:1 or greater) of androgen receptor-positive cells to estrogen receptor-positive cells.
  • The investigators hypothesized that maximal estrogen receptor activity depends on the androgen receptor’s nuclear localization.
  • This process involves the receptor moving itself and the hormone molecule, to which it is bound, inside the nucleus of a cell, where the receptor “does its important business.”
  • A new anti-androgen drug called enzalutamide, which is approved for treatment of prostate cancer was tested.
  • Unlike older anti-androgen drugs, which allow the androgen receptor to go to the cell’s nucleus, enzalutamide inhibits the ability of androgen receptors to enter the nucleus.
  • If the androgen receptor is outside the nucleus, both estrogen and androgen driven tumor growth is inhibited.
  • In preclinical models (human cells and mice) of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers that also were positive for the androgen receptor, enzalutamide treatment inhibited both androgen- and estrogen-controlled tumor growth.
  • Further, the combination of enzalutamide and tamoxifen decreased estrogen-driven tumor growth better than either drug alone.
  • Another study by the same team found that breast cancers that are estrogen receptor negative (“triple negative”) can also rely on the androgen receptor for growth.
  • In preclinical models of estrogen receptor-negative tumors, enzalutamide treatment decreased tumor growth by 85 percent, according to the abstract.

For more information:  International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago,

12.  Radiation-free alternative to breast cancer detection

  • A no-radiation, no-contact device that could revolutionize breast cancer diagnosis is several steps closer to the market as it undergoes further clinical trials in Israel, in Sweden and in two major US cancer centers.
  • The device, called MIRA (for Metabolic Imaging and Risk Assessment) proved it can classify women for the likelihood of harboring cancer.
  • MIRA objectively assesses imaging biomarkers associated with metabolic processes in the breast tissue, so it can detect cancer earlier than current screening modalities such as mammography and ultrasound.
  • “A cancer is smarter than us and will trick the human body such that our body will generate blood vessels and a specific environment to enable the tumor to grow and expand. Those metabolic changes precede the anatomic ones. Once detection is targeted to this stage, there is a good chance that the cancer can be caught at a very early stage.”
  • The RI-8 is especially welcome news for women with dense breast tissue, and that includes the majority of young women.

For more information:

13.  Protein called Memo can predict metastasis and outcome in breast cancer

  • A protein called Memo, plays an essential role in the formation of breast cancer metastasis.
  • A study published by scientists at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Science Signaling showed that Memo is required for cell migration and invasion.
  • Analyses of Memo revealed that the protein binds copper and, as a copper-dependent redox protein, influences the oxidative milieu of a cell.
  • This is particularly relevant because activation of a number of proteins through oxidation promotes the movement of cells.
  • It was also showed that Memo is an excellent prognostic marker for poor patient outcome.
  • The abundance of Memo correlated well with many parameters of aggressive disease ‒ even better than lymph node status, the currently most important indicator of disease-free survival and overall survival in breast cancer.
  • “This finding is particularly noteworthy, because in our study we look at breast cancer patients with a generally good prognosis. Most of them were estrogen receptor or progesterone receptor positive, showed no lymph node involvement and had low-grade tumors.”
  • Nevertheless, increased amounts of Memo were found in about 7% of the patients, which predicted early metastasis and death.
  • Since Memo requires copper for its activity, it is interesting to consider copper chelation therapies currently in phase 2 clinical trials.
  • The FMI scientists showed that the copper chelator tetrathiomolybdate (TM) had a pronounced effect on the invasive ability of breast cancer cells and their results suggest that Memo is one of the important targets.
  • “We think that Memo may be one of the major copper-bound enzymes that promote invasion.”

For more information:  Sci Signal. 2014 Jun 10;7(329):ra56. DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004870Memo is a copper-dependent redox protein with an essential role in migration and metastasis

14.  CXCR4 protein linked to poor prognosis

  • Researchers have investigated the role of CXCR4 in both normal and cancerous breast stem cells – cells that are used for tissue growth and replenishment.
  • The group from The University of Manchester – part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre – found that the protein controls repeated replication of breast cancer stem cells and has a potential role in cancer spread.
  • In a study published in the journal Oncotarget, the team show that there were increased levels of CXCR4 in breast stem cells. However, only in cancerous cells did the protein control the growth of new cells.

For more information:  Oncotarget, 2014 Feb 15;5(3):599-612, A differential role for CXCR4 in the regulation of normal versus malignant breast stem cell activity

15.  KIF2A silencing inhibits the proliferation and migration of breast cancer cells and correlates with unfavorable prognosis in breast cancer

  • Kinesin family member 2a (KIF2A), a type of motor protein found in eukaryotic cells, is associated with development and progression of various human cancers.
  • A study found that the expression of KIF2A in cancer tissues was higher than that in normal adjacent tissues from the same patient.
  • In addition, analysis indicated that KIF2A was an independent prognostic for outcome in breast cancer.
  • The proliferation, migration and invasion of cancer cells in vitro were suppressed by KIF2A gene silencing
  • Conclusion:  KIF2A may play an important role in breast cancer progression and is potentially a novel predictive and prognostic marker for breast cancer.

16.  Known breast cancer gene needs a partner to initiate and spread tumors

  • A study led by Princeton University researchers has revealed that the gene Metadherin — which is implicated in promoting the spread of breast cancer tumors — only stimulates tumor growth when the protein made by the gene interacts with a second protein known as SND1.
  • The researchers report in the journal Cancer Cell that Metadherin, or MTDH, also plays a role in the initial growth of tumors, which occurs much earlier than the gene’s role in metastasis of the cancer to other parts of the body.
  • In addition, the gene was not necessary for normal cell growth and development in mice, indicating that therapeutics that target this gene are likely to have a good safety profile, the researchers report.
  • MTDH was initially identified as a gene that drives the spread, or metastasis, of mouse breast tumor cells by Dr. Ruoslahti at the Burnham Institute in 2004.
  • Metadherin’s role in human breast cancer was further underscored by a 2009 study from the Kang laboratory when researchers noted that the gene was highly expressed — meaning it produced MTDH proteins at abnormally high levels compared to normal cells — in more than 40 percent of tumor samples obtained from breast cancer patients.
  • Subsequent studies in the Kang lab revealed that MTDH overexpression is associated with poor survival rates, increased risk of metastasis and resistance to chemotherapy.

For more information:  Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2014.04.027, MTDH-SND1 Interaction Is Crucial for Expansion and Activity of Tumor-Initiating Cells in Diverse Oncogene- and Carcinogen-Induced Mammary Tumors


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