Best of Breast: news for week ending 19 December 2014

A summary of medical developments in cancer and breast cancer, collated from Google Alerts, for the week ending 19 December 2014.




I still have a lot of catching up to do, and I’ve just realised that the news feeds are full of the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium – help!

I know I should rejoice because the Symposium is full of researchers jostling to show off their latest “cures”, but after so many years of following the Symposium (and other symposiums) I’ve come to realise that they are about shoot-outs between different types of chemotherapy, and that the supposed breakthroughs haven’t really filtered through to mainstream/commercial/ affordable treatments.

I open with CYP2D6 testing as a marker for how effectively the body can metabolise tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen [Endoxifen] has long been the de facto treatment for (pre-menopausal) women with estrogen-positive breast cancer, it’s been touted as a preventative against recurrences.

However, what they don’t tell us is that tamoxifen doesn’t always work, or it may work only partially.  Tamoxifen is metabolized by the human body, via the CYP2D6 gene, into endoxifen which is the active metabolite.  If there are variants in the CYP2D6 gene, then this means that tamoxifen will not be effectively metabolised.

The test for CYP2D6 can be obtained in the US by the Mayo Clinic (Cytochrome P450 2D6 Genotype for Tamoxifen Hormonal Therapy) and in the UK by Roche (Roche AmpliChip® CYP450 Test).  See also information  on:

It is well worth getting if you want answers if you think tamoxifen isn’t working for you.  However, the solution, as some research seems to suggest, is to increase the dose of tamoxifen, or to switch off the ovaries [chemically or via ablation] and take more hormonal suppressors.

The second article is about a 20-year study which seemed to show that although tamoxifen prevented incidences of breast cancer, this did not affect overall mortality, and in fact led to an increase in ER-negative tumours after 10 years, and a 45% increase in endometrial cancer.  It seems to be saying:  yes, there’s less chance of you dying of breast cancer, but you’re still going to die of something else

(Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.)

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 12 December 2014

The latest news in breast cancer and cancer, aggregated from Google Alerts, for the week ending 12 December 2014.


Smoking can erase the Y chromosome (on the right) Image credit:

There’s been a gradual but steady rise in the number of immunotherapy articles, featuring cancer vaccines.

I think what people need to realise is that a cancer vaccine is not like a flu vaccine where a one-off will provide cover for that season’s viruses.  A cancer vaccine has to cope with a myriad of different metabolic factors, the state of the patient’s immune system etc.

Often cancer vaccines require a course of vaccines for as long as the person lives. The nature of the beast is that it is different in everyone and it mutates, presenting different faces to evade and disguise itself from the body’s immune system.  Multiple vaccines has to be administered to adapt to this enemy that wears a thousand masks.  If the person is lucky, the immune system will wake up and do the rest.  But if not … there are no guarantees that cancer vaccines will work for everybody.

I visited Prof Nesslehut, the world’s expert in dendritic cell vaccines and other immunotherapies, and was advised that a course of vaccines would start at one per month for six months, then tapering down to three-month and six-month intervals.  Over a five-year period that would add up to about Euro100,000 depending on the variants used.

So personalised immunotherapy that is affordable is yonks away unless you’re lucky enough to get onto a trial.

It’s the start of the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium which means loads of research into breast cancer sub-types and treatments, which this week is heavy on TNBC.

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 5 December 2014

The latest medical discoveries for breast cancer and cancer, for the week ending 5 December 2014 from Google Alerts.

Anyone who has breast cancer probably knows about the benefits of eating broccoli or broccoli sprouts.  Both contain (amongst other worthy substances) sulforaphane, which has cancer-fighting properties.


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Now a company, Evgen, has jumped on the bandwagon and created a sulforaphane supplement.  They’ve made it sound like the cure for cancer, but I’m not sure how this supplement differs from say, Indole-3-carbinole or DIM.

So should we all rush out and buy the family pack?

Here’s what Food For Breast Cancer has to say:

“We recommend consuming broccoli as food and against consuming broccoli pills that have been enhanced to boost the proportion of the presumed key anti-cancer chemicals in broccoli.

There is some evidence that concentrated cruciferous vegetable extracts can act as estrogen agonists and promote breast cancer cell proliferation.

Also, the anticancer properties of broccoli are likely to be the result of synergistic interaction of its various chemical components – isolated components have successfully inhibited proliferation in the laboratory, but their efficacy and safety in humans needs to be evaluated in large scale clinical trials.”

It’s very tempting to get your greens from a pill, and if you’re like me always on the look-out for the latest cancer cure-all, but once again moderation is the key.  Get your sulforaphane from the food you eat.

1.  Vaccine slows progress of breast cancer

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 28 November 2014

Highlights of medical developments in the world of cancer and breast cancer, from Google Alerts, for the week ending 28 November 2014.

Two topics caught my eye for this week’s round-up:  a cancer detection test and research done into tamoxifen resistance.

The cancer test was presented at a Ted talk and what it promises is a “cheap, open-source device that can test blood for several types of cancer at once”.  I like the word “cheap”.  It means cancer patients can afford to get more frequent testing without worrying about costs.  There are loads of different tests out there, some which depend on tumour markers, some on circulating tumour cells, some on growth factors, or inflammation markers in the body.  But they all cost money.  And the time to be vigilant is not only when you have active disease, but when you are in remission because cancer never goes away … it just becomes latent and you want to detect those treatment-resistant stem cells early on when they rear their ugly heads again.

Tamoxifen, as you probably are aware, is an estrogen antagonist (or blocker), and therefore used for estrogen-positive breast cancer.  Tamoxifen-resistance is an interest of mine ever since I discovered that I’m an intermediate metaboliser of tamoxifen and therefore it’s no bloody good taking it in lower doses.  In case you are interested, the test for whether or not you are metabolising tamoxifen properly is the cytochrome P450 for the CYP2D6 Genotype test [with thanks to Grace Gawler, cancer strategist, who pointed me in the direction of this test!].  Both the Mayo Clinic and Roche offer this test.  Tamoxifen-resistance is something that most cancer patients aren’t aware of.  Tamoxifen is touted as a cure-all, but it’s a fact that after some time, cancer cells evolve to find ways around estrogen blockers – clever buggers, and then it’s back to the drawing board to find yet another chemical cosh.


1.  New Device Detects Multiple Types Of Cancer With A Single Blood Test

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 21 November 2014

New developments in the world of cancer and breast cancer, aggregated from Google Alerts, for the week ending 21 November, 2014.


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1.  Cannabis extracts can ‘dramatically slow’ growth of brain cancer tumours, new research suggests

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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

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 7 November 2014

News for Breast Cancer and Cancer, from Google Alerts, for the week ending 7 November 2014.

[Apologies, I’m so behind in Best of Breast it’s no joke. I’ve been sorting out personal issues the past months which have taken priority.  Looks as though I’ll be spending the festive season playing catch-up!]

One of the highlights this week is the proof that biphosphonates, used in breast cancer that has spread to the bones, can also prolong survival.  But before you all go out and get the family pack, please note that one of the possible side-effects of biphosphonates is osteonecrosis of the jaw (localised death of bone tissue).

There’s also more evidence to show that mindfulness meditation can affect the body at the cellular level.


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1.  Biphosphonates can act on breast cancer tumours and prolong survival

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 31 October 2014

New developments in Breast Cancer and Cancer from Google Alerts, for the week ending 31 October 2014.

We’re used to thinking of arsenic as a poison, so it comes as a surprise that arsenic in drinking water in a region in Chile has been linked to 50% lower deaths from breast cancer.

In case you were wondering where you can get hold of some arsenic, you don’t have to look any further than your supermarket:  according to a UK study, more than half the rice products in the EU exceed child safety limits for arsenic!

Talk about cereal killers!


1.  Arsenic in drinking water linked to fewer breast cancer deaths

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 24 October 2014

News from Google Alerts for the week ending 24 October 2014, with the focus on breast cancer and cancer.

Loads of goodies this week, from an article on how disruptions to the biological clock can cause breast cancer.  (It’s not the first piece of research into this, but I thought I’d draw your attention to this because when you take your medication and supplements could be affected by the timing).

Also of interest is a cancer clinic in London set up by a leading drug developer who is recruiting patients for a trial of drugs, for whom standard treatment is not working.  From what PR material I’ve read, the group is offering drugs and treatments that are complementary to standard-of-care, including statins and metformin.  It sounds very like the protocol that Life Extension Foundation recommends.  What’s significant is that it’s the first time mainstream doctors (including a highly-reputable oncologist) are sticking their necks out to give patients more options, and it’s nice to see doctors willing to embrace knowledge and techniques that are patient-centred.

There’s also an article on the link between Vitamin D and prostate cancer, and I include this here because prostate cancer is very like hormonally-driven breast cancer.  There has been a lot of research into Vitamin D and cancer, but not many explanations on why it seems to work to help keep cancer at bay.


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1.  Biological clock disruptions increase breast cancer risk

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 17 October 2014

News from the world of breast cancer and cancer from Google Alerts, for the week ending 17 October 2o14.

There is a belief that cancer is a modern-day disease, but that’s not true.  An article this week shows that a mummy of a Siberian princess had metastatic breast cancer.  Cancer tends to be a disease of age, and in the past people tended to die younger of other illnesses, before they had a chance to develop cancer.  No amount of olde-worlde diets could save them from cancer.  It is as much a killer than as it is now.

Even though this is a blog on breast cancer, I also included an article on prostate cancer.  Why?  Because prostate cancer, is very much like breast cancer, in that it is hormone-driven.  Some approaches to cure prostate cancer can be applied to breast cancer.  In this case, scientists are exploiting prostate cancer cells’ appetite for copper.  Instead of trying to stop copper from reaching cancer cells, scientists chose to piggy-back drugs on copper, ensuring that the drugs reach the cancer cells.

Finally, there’s a cool game you can download that will allow you to help researchers in their fight against cancer – it’s called “Reverse The Odds” – and it’s free.


1.  Gamers called to analyse real images of cancer cells in Stand Up To Cancer game

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