On the pulse – 27th April 2012

Cancerkin’s News Update…

Cancerkin in East London

After another successful complementary therapy session at the Bromley-By-Bow Community Centre earlier this month, Cancerkin was back at St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney on 23 April for our monthly session. Patients benefited from a variety of therapies, including one to one sessions of massage, reiki and reflexology and group sessions of pilates, tai chi and art therapy. 19 women with cancer attended and many commented on the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the day. This was all topped off by a gift of delicious sweet rice from one of our attendees! We would like to thank the staff of St Joseph’s and Bromley-By-Bow as always for their help in providing wonderful venues.

Mr Tim Davidson at Patient Support Group – 24 April 2012

On Tuesday, Mr Tim Davidson ChM, MRCP, FRCS, Consultant Breast Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital and Cancerkin’s Medical Director gave a talk to a packed out audience at our monthly patient support group. He gave a very helpful overview of all the most commonly asked questions about breast cancer and its treatment, including why some patients undergo a mastectomy and some a lumpectomy, the pros and cons of reconstructive surgery and an explanation of the fascinating research published last week by Cancer Research UK which has re-categorised breast cancer into 10 different subtypes.  Many participants took the opportunity to ask questions and we would like to thank Mr Davidson for sharing his time and expertise with us in what was an extremely interesting and informative meeting.

If you are interested in finding out more about upcoming support groups, please contact our Patient Support Manager Alice on a.boyle@cancerkin.org.uk.


In the news…

Breast cancer genes and prostate cancer…

Women with a family history of breast cancer are at a much higher risk of developing the disease. In those who have inherited a faulty BRCA1 gene, there is a six in ten chance of developing the disease, compared with women who do not carry the faulty gene and have around a one in eight chance. A new piece of research conducted by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust has found that men who carry the faulty BRCA1 breast cancer gene are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.  The study’s results, published in the British Journal of Cancer, showed that men carrying the gene had a one in 11 chance of developing the disease by the age of 65. Following the results, researchers suggest that men who have a strong family history of either breast or prostate cancer should be offered screening for BRCA1 so their health can be monitored from an early age.

During the study, 913 men underwent genetic testing for BRCA1 and results were received from 886 men. Four of the men tested were found to carry the faulty gene. Three out of the four men developed prostate cancer before the age of 65. From this, the researchers were able to conclude that men with prostate cancer have a one in 200 chance of having a faulty BRCA1 gene and that men who carry the faulty gene have an increased risk of developing the disease by 3.8 fold or, in other words, have almost a nine per cent risk of having prostate cancer by the age of 65.

Emma Malcolm, chief executive of the charity Prostate Action, said: “Early detection of prostate cancer can vastly improve the chances of successful treatment but at the moment there isn’t an effective way of screening for the disease. We’ve long known about the link between breast cancer and prostate cancer and this research confirms the likelihood of men developing prostate cancer from the inherited faulty BRCA1 gene. Once gene testing becomes faster and cheaper we may be able to identify those men at a higher risk of prostate cancer and monitor them from an early age.”  Study author Professor Ros Eeles, from The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “The important thing about this result is that there are drugs that can target specific defects that occur with the BRCA1 mutation and this kind of result can open up the possibility of targeted medicines based on genetics.”

To read the Telegraph article in full, please click here.

Laura Smith

On the pulse – 20th April 2012

Cancerkin’s news…

Mr Tim Davidson at Patient Support Group – 24 April 2012

Mr Tim Davidson ChM, MRCP, FRCS, Consultant breast surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital and Cancerkin’s Medical Director will be giving a talk at this month’s patient support group on Tuesday 24 April from 11am to 1pm. After the talk he will take questions from the audience. If you are interested in attending, contact Laura on l.smith@cancerkin.org.uk.

Look Good…Feel Better in April

On Tuesday we hosted another Look Good…Feel Better make up and skincare session here at the Cancerkin Centre for 16 women. The session was full of laughter and patients benefitted from expert beauty advice. Thank you to the LGFB Better team, in particular to Lisa, Margarida, Marianne and Tina who ran the session, for all the wonderful work they do.

Hello Alice, Goodbye Una!

On Monday 23 April, we are thrilled to welcome our new Patients Services Manager, Alice Boyle, to the Cancerkin Team.  Last week, we said goodbye to Alice’s predecessor Una Reynolds. Una joined Cancerkin in May 2011 and was much loved by patients and staff alike during her time here. She has taken up a position at the Grange Park Opera Company as an Opera Singer and will be appearing in their summer productions. We wish her every happiness and success in the future and look forward to seeing her on the stage!


In the news…

New research reclassifies breast cancer…

A major study by scientists at Cancer Research UK and the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver in Canada has reclassified breast cancer into ten separate diseases, based on the genetic fingerprint of breast cancer cells. The results were published this week in Nature Journal and are the culmination of the largest global study of the genes of breast cancer tissue ever performed. After decades of research, scientists now believe doctors will in the future be able to better tailor treatment and more accurately predict survival for each individual breast cancer patient based on the subtypes of the disease.

Researchers analysed the DNA and RNA of 2,000 tumour samples taken from women diagnosed with breast cancer between five and ten years ago.  They made three important discoveries. They were able to classify the disease into at least ten different categories. The subtypes were grouped by common genetic features that correlate to survival. This could change the way drugs are tailored to breast cancer patients. Scientists also discovered several completely new breast cancer genes. These are genes that drive the disease and are potential targets for developing new treatment. Furthermore they uncovered the relationship between these genes and the networks that control cell growth and division, known as cell signalling pathways.

Study co-lead author, Professor Carlos Caldas, at the University of Cambridge, said: “Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work, and those that won’t, in a much more precise way than is currently possible. This research won’t affect women diagnosed with breast cancer today. But in the future, breast cancer patients will receive treatment targeted to the genetic fingerprint of their tumour. We’ve drilled down into the fundamental detail of the biological causes of breast cancer in a comprehensive genetic study. Based on our results we’ve reclassified breast cancer into 10 types – making breast cancer an umbrella term for an even greater number of diseases. Essentially we’ve moved from knowing what a breast tumour looks like under a microscope to pinpointing its molecular anatomy – and eventually we’ll know which drugs it will respond to. The next stage is to discover how tumours in each subgroup behave – for example do they grow or spread quickly? And we need to carry out more research in the laboratory and in patients to confirm the most effective treatment plan for each of the 10 types of breast cancer.”

To find out more about this landmark discovery, please click here.

Advice on preventing cancer is empowering …

An interesting blog on the Cancer Research UK website has discussed why it is so important to conduct research into and provide information on the relationship between leading a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention. In response to different attitudes towards the link between the cancer and lifestyle, the blog explains that understanding and advising on the causes of cancer empowers people by giving them the information they need to reduce their risk, and that there is a moral duty to communicate this information to the wider public.

As the blog points out, some people may ask, what is the point of healthy living if it is no guarantee against cancer? Because by leading a healthy lifestyle, we can help to ‘stack the odds in their favour.’ Here an analogy of wearing a seatbelt when driving is introduced. Just as wearing a seatbelt considerably reduces but does not eliminate our risk of being hurt in a traffic accident, not smoking and staying active can help us to significantly reduce but not eradicate our cancer risk. Others may feel the media’s focus on the links between lifestyle choice and cancer leads to ‘the finger of blame’ being pointed at those who already have the disease. At this point it is emphatically stated that attempting to apportion blame would be both unscientific and insensitive. Again, just as studies into the use of seatbelts in traffic accidents are about trying to protect future drivers, research into how lifestyle can affect cancer risk is about preventing future cancer cases, as prevention is always better than cure.

Communicating the results of this research to the public can help to change public behaviour for the better, the blog explains. For example, the message that smoking causes cancer has worked its way into the public conscience, changed laws and has lead to a huge reduction in the number of lung cancer cases. Beyond smoking, however, the media often confronts us with conflicting information on diet, lifestyle and cancer, which gives the incorrect impression that when it comes to cancer risk, the evidence base is constantly changing. This is not true. The evidence to support lifestyle changes that can reduce cancer risk has been established from decades of research. Theses key changes are: maintaining a healthy body weight; reducing alcohol intake; eating a balanced diet; staying active and staying safe in the sun.

The blog goes on to discuss that, while we know certain cancers are caused by certain lifestyle choices and that we can reduce our risk by avoiding these, there is no way to definitively say who will develop the disease and who won’t based on their lifestyle. Cancers are caused by faulty or damaged genes, and this damage comes from different sources, not just from lifestyle. Faulty genes can be inherited or damage can occur following exposure to carcinogens like tobacco and ultraviolet light from the sun or just by chance. Epidemiological research allows us to estimate how many people in a population will get cancer, but we are currently unable to predict what will happen to individuals. However, the knowledge we have about the causes of cancer and what we can do to reduce our risk is a powerful tool in beating the disease.

To read the blog in full, please click here. You may also be interested an article published in the Guardian about cancer experts and the changes they have made to their lifestyle to prevent cancer, including mammograms, sunscreen, taking a daily dose of aspirin, following a vegetarian diet, avoiding red meat and giving up smoking. To read more, please click here.

Laura Smith

On the pulse – 5th April 2012

Cancerkin’s news…

Join us at the Hyde Park Walk 2012!

It’s time to dust off the walking shoes and put on your Cancerkin T-shirt – the Hyde Park Walk is just a few months away! Our biggest event of the year is on 17th June 2012 and you can now register to take part. As you will know, in 2012 we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary, so this year’s walk will be an extra special event to mark the occasion. We hope to see you there!

Visit our website to find out more about the walk and how to register. If you have any questions, please contact Laura on l.smith@cancerkin.org.uk.

Volunteers needed

We will need help folding letters and stuffing envelopes over the next few weeks. If you have a few hours spare on a weekday between 9am and 5pm and would like to come along and join in, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Laura on l.smith@cancerkin.org.uk.

Easter opening hours

Please note that the Cancerkin Centre will be closed on Good Friday, 6 April, and Easter Monday, 9 April. We will be open again on Tuesday 10 April. Please also note there will no Nia Technique on Wednesday 11 April or Pilates on Thursday 12 April. Classes will resume in the following week.

Wishing you all a restful break over the Easter weekend!

In the news…

Further research into breast screening

National breast screening programmes have come under close scrutiny in recent months, following claims that mammograms lead to over-diagnosis and over-treatment. In the UK, women aged between 50 and 70 are invited by the NHS to have a mammogram every three years and it was estimated by the Department of Health in 2011 that this saves around 1,400 lives each year. However, recent research has questioned the benefits of breast screening and a new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine is the latest to suggest that the good it does is outweighed by the harm it can cause.

Norwegian academics at the New Havard Public School of Health in the USA compared rates of invasive breast cancer in different areas of Norway. Some areas had screening for breast cancer, others did not. Based on the figures, they calculated that for every 2,500 women who were screened, between 26 and 30 would be diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those diagnosed, they found between six and ten were cases of benign breast cancer that would not have caused problems if left untreated. The researchers suggest that this translates to an over-diagnosis rate of 15 to 25 percent.  The women with benign cancers went on to have treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as it is currently impossible to distinguish between tumours that will spread and those that will not. The researchers suggest that of the 2500 women screened, one woman’s life would be saved through early diagnosis.

The study authors concluded that: “Overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment of nonfatal cancer creates a substantial ethical and clinical dilemma and may cast doubt on whether mammography screening programs should exist.”  However, breast cancer experts generally continue to advocate breast screening, stating the harm caused through over-diagnosis is worth the lives saved. In response to the latest research, Dr Caitlin Palframan from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “The rate of over-diagnosis in breast cancer screening has been debated widely and led to confusing messages for women on the effectiveness of breast screening.  However, we believe that screening is vital as it helps detect breast cancer early when treatment options are likely to be less aggressive and have more successful outcomes.”

To read more, please click here.

Laura Smith