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

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