On the pulse 24th February 2012

Cancerkin’s news…

Annual lecture…

Cancerkin’s annual lecture is on Tuesday 27 March 2012 and there are still places left if your wish to attend. The lecture will be given this year by Professor Jonathan Waxman, MD FRCP Professor of Oncology and Consultant Physician at Imperial College London, in the Atrium at the Royal Free Hospital. It will be based around his new book ‘The Elephant in the Room’, a collection of stories about cancer patients and their doctors, which provides an insight into how cancer is cared for. The lecture will begin at 6.30pm and admission is free of charge.

To reserve a place, please contact Laura on l.smith@cancerkin.org.uk.

Public Open day for Cancer Research…

The University College London (UCL), North London Cancer Research Network (NLCRN), Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and the Cancer Research UK Centre are hosting a Public Open day for Cancer Research. It is an opportunity for members of the public to increase their knowledge of developments in cancer research and treatments led by local researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH). It will be held on Saturday 28th April 2012 between 11am and 3pm and will consist of 4 short talks in the morning and tours of the Cancer Research Facility, Cancer Institute and new Cancer Centre after lunch. If you are interested in finding our more, you can visit their site here.

Patient Support Group in February fully booked…

Please note that the patient support group on Tuesday 28th February is full. Due to the nature of the session, which will feature a visit from make-up artist Debbie Dannell and her team, there are a limited number of spaces and we will be unable to admit anyone who has not reserved a place. If you have missed out this time around, don’t worry as we hope to hold the sessions on a more regular basis and there will be opportunities to attend in the future.

Problems with Cancerkin emails

Cancerkin would like to apologise to anyone who has received any out-of-date emails from us this week. We have had some work done on our email system which has caused any past emails that were undelivered to be sent all at once. The problem is now being fixed and we are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.

In the news…

Genetic breast cancer code unravelled…

Around ten percent of all breast cancer cases are hereditary. They account for around 4,500 cases of the disease in the UK each year and are most commonly caused by a fault in the BRCA1 gene. Women who carry this gene mutation are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer by up to 85 percent, and cancers caused by the mutation are often aggressive and do not respond to targeted treatment such as tamoxifen and herceptin.  Scientists have this week made exciting progress in cracking the genetic code behind cancers caused by BRCA1 mutations. They have fully sequenced the DNA of two BRCA1 breast cancers and have identified three new breast cancer genes in the process. It is hoped this new information will lead to the development of better treatments for patients with this type of hereditary breast cancer.

Scientists at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research looked at two tumours caused by a faulty BRCA1 gene. One tumour was classified hormone receptor negative, the other, hormone receptor positive. They tracked all the genetic mutations in each tumour and found the tumours shared only one similar alteration in addition to the initial BRCA1 fault and that all further changes were different. The hormone receptor negative tumour was found to have twice as many mutations. Scientists compared their findings to another group of breast cancers and identified three genes – DAPK3, TMEM134 and GATA4 – that were also altered in a number of other tumours, suggesting they the may be involved in causing the disease or driving its growth.

Study co-author, Professor Jorge Reis-Filho, said of the findings: “This research has big implications for how we treat hereditary breast cancer in the future. We often consider patients with a faulty BRCA gene as one group but our work shows that each tumour can look very different from each other genetically. Now we understand this, we can start to identify the best treatment strategies to save more lives of hereditary breast cancer patients.” Dr Rachael Natrajan, also a study co-author, added: “It is exciting to find new genes which could be involved in causing and driving breast cancer. Now these have been identified we have to do more work to find out the role that they play. Ultimately, this knowledge could help us develop new treatments that target the specific defects of each patient’s disease.”

To read more about this exciting breakthrough, please click here.

Treatment for menopausal symptoms after breast cancer…

Between 65 and 85 percent of women who undergo treatment for breast cancer will experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be prescribed to menopausal women as a means of managing such symptoms but they are not usually given to women who have had breast cancer as the treatment can increase the risk of cancer recurrence and the symptoms can return when HRT is stopped. Research published this week in The Lancet Oncology journal has found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may offer a safe and effective alternative to breast cancer patients.

Scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London recruited 96 women from breast clinics in London who were suffering with symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes. The women were split into two groups: one group received ‘usual care’, comprising access to nurses and oncologists and to telephone support programmes and other cancer support services; the other group received usual care plus CBT, consisting of one 90 minute session a week for six weeks. The sessions included psycho-education, paced breathing and cognitive and behavioural strategies for managing side-effects. During the study, women were asked to rate the extent to which their symptoms negatively impacted upon their lives. Those in the group receiving CBT had significantly reduced ratings for hot flushes and night sweats after nine weeks compared with the group receiving usual care only and improvements remained after 26 weeks.

Professor Myra Hunter, lead author of the study, said: “Our findings show that group CBT can reduce the effect of hot flushes and night sweats for women who have had breast cancer treatment. These reductions were sustained and associated with improvements in mood, sleep, and quality of life. Group CBT seems to be a safe, acceptable, and effective treatment option which can be incorporated into breast cancer survivorship programmes and delivered by trained breast cancer nurses.” Martin Ledwick, Head Information Nurse at Cancer Research UK, said of the study: “We know that many women can have problems with hot flushes and night sweats following treatment for breast cancer and that this can be distressing, particularly when they have not previously suffered from these symptoms. Although certain drugs can help, many women prefer to seek alternatives where possible. We hope this new approach will provide these women with a more acceptable way of managing these symptoms.”

To read more about the study, please click here.

On the pulse 17th February 2012

Cancerkin’s News Update…

East London update…

Our East London programme, now under the supervision of our new project manager Cherry Cheung, is continuing to make exciting progress.

Cancerkin held another complementary therapy session at the Bromley-By-Bow Centre last week and all those who took part found our therapies enjoyable and relaxing. We will hold another session in the coming weeks at St Joseph Hospice in Hackney and are pleased to be introducing two new group therapies at the session– Pilates and creative writing. As always we are very grateful to our host venues in East London for providing wonderful work spaces with friendly and obliging staff. Thank you to those at St Josephs and the Bromley-By-Bow Centre for your ongoing support.

Our team of Awareness Ambassadors from the University of East London are also continuing their training. They have been shadowing the Cancerkin team at the centre here in Hampstead and have been helping out with awareness work at our events in East London. We are inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm shown by the team and thank them for all their hard work.

Celebrations at Cancerkin…

2012 is Cancerkin’s 25th Anniversary. We are very excited to celebrate such a landmark occasion and hope you will be able to celebrate with us at one of our upcoming events.

If you haven’t yet reserved your place at Cancerkin’s annual lecture on Tuesday 27 March 2012, do not worry as there are still spaces left. The lecture will be given this year by Professor Jonathan Waxman, MD FRCP Professor of Oncology and Consultant Physician at Imperial College London, in the Atrium at the Royal Free Hospital. It will be based around his new book ‘The Elephant in the Room’, a collection of stories about cancer patients and their doctors, which provides an insight into how cancer is cared for. The lecture will begin at 6.30pm and admission is free of charge.

And don’t forget that our biggest event of the year, the Cancerkin Hyde Park Walk, will be taking place on Sunday 17th June 2012. We do hope to see you, your family and your friends there.

For more information on our events, please contact Laura on l.smith@cancerkin.org.uk.


In the news…

Genetic testing for triple negative patients…

A report published this week in the British Journal of Cancer has called for more women diagnosed with triple negative (TN) breast cancer to be tested for the BRCA1 gene. Women with the gene mutation have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and of developing it at a much younger age. Research shows that those who carry the mutation have up to a 65 per cent chance of developing breast cancer by the time they reach the age of 70. If breast cancer is caused by a BRCA1 gene mutation, it will influence which treatment a patient is given.

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research looked at over 300 women with TN breast cancer and found that almost one in five women diagnosed under the age of 50 carried the BRAC1 mutation. However, based on their findings, they estimate that more than one in three women would not have been tested under current NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines. Due to the cost of genetic testing, NICE guidelines recommend that women should only be offered genetic testing if the likelihood of them carrying BRAC1 is over 20 per cent. To be eligible for testing, a patient must fulfil a range of critieria determined through various methods. However, lead author of the report, Professor Nazneen Rahman at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, said: “Using a simple age criteria for testing will provide a clear and understandable guide for doctors and women to follow, and should result in many more women benefitting from the optimised care that genetic information makes possible.”

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said of the issue: “It’s important that we identify women and their families who carry BRCA1 mutations. They’re more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer, so armed with this knowledge doctors can offer targeted screening and tailored treatments to these women.”

To read more about this topic, please click here or here.

On the pulse – 3rd February 2012

Cancerkin’s News Update…..

Farewells at Cancerkin…

It has been an eventful week for the Cancerkin Team. On Tuesday we said goodbye to East London Project Manager Asini Wijiwardane. Asini joined Cancerkin as our first intern in 2009 and has been working on the project ever since, setting up complementary therapy sessions at St Josephs and then Bromley By Bow, recruiting Experienced Patients and training breast awareness ambassadors. It is thanks to her hard work and dedication that the project has made such encouraging progress. She leaves us to become Health Campaigns Project Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, while the project is left in the very capable hands of our new Project Manager, Cherry Cheung.

On Thursday, Cancerkin said farewell once more to Finance and Research Officer Guy Mollett. Guy has been working at Cancerkin during his gap year and is about to head off on his travels around the Galapagos Islands and Central America. He will then go on to study Medicine at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth. Our new Finance Officer Shushan Tewolde-Berhan will be taking over the role.

Cancerkin annual lecture: ‘The Elephant in the Room’

Cancerkin’s annual lecture will be given this year by Professor Jonathan Waxman, MD FRCP Professor of Oncology and Consultant Physician at Imperial College London, in the Atrium at the Royal Free Hospital on Tuesday 27 March 2012. The lecture is being held this year in celebration of our 25th anniversary.

Professor Waxman is a clinician who has helped develop new treatments for cancer that are now part of standard practice. He is the founder and Life President of The Prostate Cancer Charity, and has published a huge number of research papers, chapters and books on cancer, as well as a novel and a law book. He is also a prominent campaigner and fundraiser for work into cancer research and care.

His lecture will be based around his new book ‘The Elephant in the Room’, a collection of stories about cancer patients and their doctors, which provides an insight into how cancer is cared for. The lecture will begin at 6.30pm and admission is free of charge. If you would like to attend, please contact Laura on l.smith@cancerkin.org.uk.

Thank you…

This week, Katie Walker, lead clinical dietician at the Royal Free Hospital, gave a fascinating talk at our patient support group. Katie discussed research into how diet and nutrition may affect our health and highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. We thank Katie for sharing her expertise with us in what was a hugely informative session.


In the News…..

Possible vaccine to treat breast cancer…

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the US have developed a vaccine, made up of a patients own cells, that could be used to treat breast cancer. In a small initial trial of the vaccine, scientists enrolled 27 women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer. Using a technique similar to blood donation, specialised white blood cells were taken from each patient. They were then manipulated in a laboratory so that the immune system would recognise cancer cells as foreign and would therefore attack them. Patients were then injected with the personalised vaccine in four weekly doses, followed by surgery to remove the remaining cancer cells.

The study, published in the Journal of Immunotherapy, compared pre- and post-vaccination samples to monitor the effect of the vaccine. Researchers found that after treatment, twenty percent (five) patients had no disease visible. This suggested that their immune system had killed the cancer. They found that damaging proteins were eliminated in eleven patients and reduced by twenty percent or more in another two. They also found that certain patients maintained their immune responses for over four years, indicating a degree of protection from recurrence.

Study leader Dr Brian Czerniecki said: “Here we are going after HER2/neu, which is critical for survival of early breast cancers. If we knock it out with the immune response, we cripple the tumour cells. […] We are continuing to see this pattern in our second, ongoing trial.” The team is continuing to enroll patients into a larger study and is designing another study to test the approach in women with early invasive breast cancer.

To read more, please click here.

Benefits of exercise confirmed…

Much has been written about the benefits of exercise for cancer patients and it is a topic we frequently discuss here in On the pulse. New analysis of 34 different studies on exercise and cancer patients has found that, when appropriate, physical activity can improve a patient’s health and quality of life after they finish their treatment.

The report, published by scientists at the University of Hong Kong, looked at data from trials investigating the effects of exercise on adults who had been treated for breast, prostate, gynaecological, bowel, gastric or lung cancer. The studies looked at the effects of different kinds of physical activity – aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, resistance training such as using elastic resistance bands and strength training, such as weights. In women who had undergone breast cancer treatment, scientists found an improvement in body mass index, body weight, physical functions, psychological outcomes like fatigue and depression and quality of life. They also found that doing different kinds of exercise, such as aerobic and resistance activities, was significantly more effective than doing aerobic exercise alone.

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said of the results: “This study provides us with further evidence that exercise may help to improve the quality of life of some cancer patients. But it’s important to remember that cancer can be diagnosed at any stage and there are many different types of cancer. Each patient’s individual condition, state of health and needs should be taken into account before prescribing exercise and many patients will need to seek advice from their doctor, physiotherapist or specialist nurse before embarking on an exercise programme.”

To read more about the report, please click here.

Laura Smith