Best of Breast: news for week ending 14 November 2014

The latest highlights in cancer and breast cancer, from Google Alerts, for the week ending 14 November 2014.

Dr Carl June explains his experimental cancer treatment

1.  Doctors cure father of leukemia by injecting him with HIV in experimental trial

  • Marshall Jensen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012 and has spent the last two years searching for an effective treatment
  • He found a solution at Penn Medicine, where he was accepted into a trial to receive an experimental new gene therapy
  • The treatment involved implanting white blood cells with deactivated HIV and injecting them back in the body to fight off cancer
  • Of the 30 patients involved in the trial, 23 are still alive and 19 are in remission – like Jensen
  • The connection between leukemia and HIV was first discovered in 2006, when an HIV-positive man named Timothy Ray Brown was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. After receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation, Brown’s cancer went into remission and the HIV disappeared from his system making him the first man to ever be fully cured of the virus.
  • Dr June and his team are now looking at using the HIV treatment to attack other forms of cancers, and will be starting trials this summer for pancreatic cancer patients.

For more information:  Leukemia Patients Remain in Remission More Than Two Years After Receiving Genetically Engineered T Cell Therapy.  Patients seeking information about this trial may visit

2.  Canadian cat receives experimental breast cancer therapy

  • For cats, a breast cancer diagnosis is usually a death sentence.
  • But Maci, a furry senior from Toronto, just may beat the odds as she undergoes an experimental treatment scientists hope to one day use on humans.
  • Researchers at McMaster University and the Ontario Veterinary College have teamed up to give two dozen cats a new vaccine that, in conjunction with surgery, could reduce the incidence of relapse.
  • Called oncolytic virus therapy, the vaccine consists of two injections: an immune system booster and a dose of a virus named Maraba, which attacks tumours.
  • “We infuse (Maraba) into the bloodstreams of animals, and soon enough people with cancer, and it can find tumours wherever they are and infect them.”.
  • “When it does this … it kills the tumour.”
  • Cats with breast cancer are at very high risk of relapse, with the cancer coming back within a year of surgery in most cases.
  • Genetically, the type of cancer found in cats is similar to one of the most aggressive types of breast cancers in women: triple negative.

3.  How breast cancer cells transform normal cells into tumoral ones

  • Researchers have participated in an international study hat describes how exosomes secreted by tumor cells contain protein and microRNA molecules capable of transform neighboring cells into tumoral cells promoting tumor growth.
  • Exosomes are small vesicles which are secreted by all cells and contain proteins and messenger RNAs and microRNAs.
  • At first it was thought that only functioned as cellular debris warehouses but in recent years has been that could have an important role as a messenger between cells of the body and now many groups focus their research on the role that could be played exosomes in various diseases, including cancer.
  • “This finding opens the door to developing new biomarkers and new therapeutic strategies exploiting these characteristics of exosomes in breast tumors, and other tumors such as ovarian and endometrial cancer among others.”

For more information:  Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/ j.ccell.2014.09.005, Cancer Exosomes Perform Cell-Independent MicroRNA Biogenesis and Promote Tumorigenesis

4.  Study finds tai chi reduces inflammation in breast cancer survivors

  • UCLA researchers have discovered that the Chinese practice of tai chi can reduce inflammation in people who have had breast cancer, thereby reducing a risk factor for the recurrence of the cancer.
  • Current research indicates that women diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 10 years are three times more likely to suffer from lack of sleep. Insomnia can lead to increases in inflammation, which places breast cancer survivors at risk for cancer recurrence as well as cardiovascular disease.
  • “When people practice tai chi, there is a decrease in the stress hormones produced by the sympathetic nervous system.”
  • The researchers also discovered that tai chi relaxes the body to a certain point that it can reduce inflammation, which is commonly seen in most breast cancer survivors after treatment.
  • “We saw that tai chi reversed cellular inflammation, by producing a down-regulation of the genes that lead to inflammation. Tai chi is a movement meditation, and we have found that similar anti-inflammatory effects occur when people practice other forms of meditation.”

For more information:  J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr(2014) 2014 (50): 295-301.doi:10.1093/jncimonographs/lgu, Tai Chi, Cellular Inflammation, and Transcriptome Dynamics in Breast Cancer Survivors With Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial

5.  Breast cancer tumor response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) measured

  • Diffuse optical spectroscopic tomographic imaging (DOST) might be useful to predict which patients will best respond to chemotherapy used to shrink breast cancer tumors before surgery, according to a new study.
  • These findings could eliminate delays in effective early treatment for tumors unlikely to respond to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC).
  • DOST imaging is used to measure tumor tissue for hemoglobin and oxygen saturation levels, which are key indicators of the presence the tiny blood vessels cancer tumors need to grow.
  • This study suggests that biomarkers obtained through DOST imaging could help physicians determine the best treatment strategy for patients.
  • “The implication of this information is that certain tumors are predisposed to responding to neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and that this predisposition could be known prior to choosing the therapy.”

For more information:  Clinical Cancer Research (2014; doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1415), Predicting breast tumor response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy with Diffuse Optical Spectroscopic Tomography prior to treatment

6.  Lactose-Intolerant People Have Significantly Lower Risks Of Lung, Breast, And Ovarian Cancers

  • A new look at lactose-intolerant people reveals that there may be some link between milk and cancer risks.
  • The researchers examined whether low milk and dairy consumption by lactose-intolerant people protects them from lung, breast, and ovarian cancers.
  • The researchers noted that the results don’t actually prove cause and effect. They can’t say whether milk causes breast, lung, and ovarian cancers, but they did find that lactose-intolerant people had significantly lower rates of these three cancers.
  • “We must interpret these results with caution because the association we found is insufficient to conclude a causative effect. Further studies are needed to identify factors that explain the study’s results.”

For more information:  British Journal of Cancer , (14 October 2014) | doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.544Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden


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