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Scientists hope to put breast cancers ‘to sleep’

March 28, 2008

By CancerResearchUK.org

Scientists have suggested that it may one day be possible to push some breast cancers into a state of ’sleep’ by targeting a gene involved in some aggressive forms of the disease.

Experts at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) are in the early stages of research into Id1, a gene that is normally only switched on during the growth and development of embryos.

HRT Raises Recurrence Risk Among Breast Cancer Survivors

March 27, 2008

By Amanda Gardner, HealthDay News ABC

Breast cancer survivors who take hormone replacement therapy face a higher risk of a recurrence or a new malignancy.

European researchers report more grim news concerning women and hormone replacement therapy: Not only do healthy women run the risk of developing breast cancer while taking the therapy, breast cancer survivors who do the same face a higher risk of a recurrence or a new malignancy.

“This is the first study where patients with relatively recent breast cancer were randomized to take either hormone therapy or to do alternative therapies,” said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Really, at this point, there’s no guarantee of the safety of hormone replacement therapy in breast cancer survivors. Some forms of estrogen and progestin and different regimens of those two may be safer, but the risks are pretty clear-cut.”

The study, conducted by researchers from King’s College London and Scandinavia, is published in the March 25 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Research Can Begin to Rationalize Complex Process of the Development of Metastases

March 24, 2008

By Barbara Bachtler, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch

A pioneer in cancer research says research can begin to rationalize complex process of the development of metastases.

“The process of tumor metastasis has until recently been one of bewildering complexity. However, one can now begin to rationalize this complex process in terms of a relatively small number of master control genes which normally operate during normal development and which are appropriated and exploited by cancer cells”, Dr. Robert Weinberg, a pioneer in cancer research from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, USA, said in Berlin.

Scientists Find Possible Cause for ‘Chemobrain’ in Breast Cancer Patients

March 19, 2008

By Sciencecentric.com

‘Several studies have investigated chemotherapy’s cause and effect on memory problems, but until now scientists had no clue what changes in the brain lead to memory loss,’ Jame Abraham, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program at West Virginia University’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Centre, said.

Glaxo’s Tyverb Referred for More Discussion in Europe

March 19, 2008

By Andrea Gerlin and Angela Cullen, Bloomberg News

GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Tyverb breast cancer drug was sent back to a European regulatory panel after new data showed the medicine may raise the risk of liver damage, slowing final approval.

The European Medicines Agency said in December that it recommended conditional approval of Tyverb for breast cancer that has advanced or spread to other parts of the body in patients with the HER-2 gene, which makes the disease more aggressive. Conditional approval is valid for one year while the company obtains more information about the medicine and its effectiveness, EMEA said at the time.

High BMI means bad news for breast cancer patients

March 15, 2008

By The Hindu

Women with locally advanced breast cancer or an inflammatory form of the disease have worse prognosis if they are obese or have a high Body Mass Index (BMI), the measure of a person’s fat based on their height and weight.

According to a new study, BMI may be an effective prognostic tool for specific types of breast cancer.

The High Cost of a Cancer Drug

March 11, 2008

By New York Times Editorial

The Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of Avastin, a hugely expensive drug, to treat advanced breast cancer has raised perplexing issues for women, their doctors and the entire health care system.

The drug had previously been approved to treat colorectal and lung cancers, extending the lives of patients by a few months. Now the F.D.A. has granted Avastin “accelerated approval” for use in metastatic breast cancer on the basis of a clinical trial that showed it slowed progression of the disease but did not significantly extend the lives of patients.

The key study showed that when used with another drug, Avastin almost doubled the time cancers were held in check before starting to worsen. It also doubled the number of women whose tumors shrank significantly.

It did not extend overall survival rates and caused more serious side effects, including perhaps half a dozen deaths. That seems like a modest basis for approval pending completion of additional clinical trials. The quandary is whether an extra 5 1/2 months of holding tumor progression at bay is worth toxic side effects.

The drug is already prescribed “off label” for some 11,000 American women with advanced breast cancer, but the latest approval is expected to increase its use among some 43,000 women deemed suitable candidates for treatment. The cost could be enormous. Genentech charges about $92,000 a year for breast cancer patients. For women with annual family incomes below about $100,000, it caps the charges at $55,000 a year.

The company argues that Avastin emerged from many years of costly research. It does not claim that the drug is cost-effective for advanced breast cancer but believes it will clearly be worth the cost if shown effective in earlier stages of breast cancer.

Britain’s National Health Service has balked at paying for Avastin for breast cancer patients. If this country hopes to get escalating health care costs under control, it will need a way to determine which treatments are worth paying for, and which are not. The case of Avastin is a reminder of just how difficult that can be.

Stem Cell Protein Stops Cancer in its Tracks

March 6, 2008

By Ivanhoe Newswire

A protein found in human embryonic stem cells is showing promise in fending off the spread of deadly cancers.

Northwestern researchers say the protein, which they’ve dubbed “Lefty,” inhibits the production of another protein known as Nodal, found in embryonic stem cells and cancer cells alike. Under normal circumstances, Nodal plays a key role in helping embryonic stem cells turn into the different cells needed in the human body, such as tissue cells, skin cells, etc.

Cancer drug: How good is good enough?

March 4, 2008

By Stephen Smith, Boston Globe

Does slowing the fire justify use of a medication?  

In patients stricken with advanced breast cancer, the disease can rage like a wildfire, jumping from hot spot to hot spot, sparking pain and disability.   

So if there’s a drug that can slow the fire for a while, even if it’s not ultimately doused, does that justify use of the medication? And at what cost, to the patient and to society?  

Late last month, federal drug regulators gave their answer when they approved a drug called Avastin for treatment of patients with advanced breast cancer. The decision proved controversial because research showed that the patients on the drug didn’t live significantly longer, even though they had more time without tumor growth than patients not on Avastin.