On the pulse 29th August 2012

  • Arts Lab back at Cancerkin
  • NICE publishes new recommendations on the use of bevacizumab (Avastin)

Arts Lab back at Cancerkin

We are pleased to welcome back Mary-Anne Paterson, who will be running another session of art workshops, starting on Wednesday 5th, at 11am-1pm. Past participants have provided feedback saying that these sessions are huge fun and helped reduce  anxiety and stress whilst increasing their self-esteem. Mary-Anne’s previous sessions were very popular, and we are thrilled to be able to offer another series of workshops. For more information, please contact Carissa on c.chu@cancerkin.org.uk or call us on 020 7830 2323.


NICE publishes new recommendations on the use of bevacizumab (Avastin)

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published new recommendations on the use of bevacizumab, better known as Avastin, as a treatment for breast cancer that has spread.

In these cases, they recommend that Avastin – when used in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug capecitabine – should not be used as an initial treatment for people for whom other chemotherapy options are not considered appropriate.

The development of this recommendation included a review of all available evidence, as well as a public consultation, and the final guideline were made on the basis that there is little evidence the combination works better than cheaper drugs. Speaking about the decision, Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE’s chief executive said “Evidence presented to the independent Appraisal Committee did not conclusively show that bevacizumab, in combination with capecitabine, could improve overall survival or improve a patient’s quality of life more than current treatment. These uncertainties, combined with the high cost of bevacizumab, mean the drug simply isn’t cost-effective”.

Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, noted that Avastin is an ‘expensive drug’ and there was little evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks of taking the drug for the majority of patients, which he described as a ‘disappointing’ situation.

He also noted that “doctors can apply for their patients to receive the drug if they believe it will benefit them, through the cancer drugs fund in England, and through individual patient treatment requests in the rest of the UK.”

Dr Rachel Greig, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, commented that the recommendation ‘was a difficult decision for NICE to make as this treatment combination can cause serious side effects and there is no evidence to show how this may affect a patient’s quality of life.’

Read more here or here.

On the pulse – 22nd August 2012

  • Look Good…Feel Better
  • Cancerkin’s Young Women’s Support Group
  • Walk the Walk
  • A drug which helps fight bone cancer could become available on the NHS, providing another option of pain management for people with secondary breast cancer


Look Good…Feel Better

This week we hosted our monthly ‘Look Good…Feel Better’ workshop. We give a massive “thank you” to Madeline, Sandra and Paula, the volunteer beauty advisors who donated their time to provide yet another fantastic session, designed to help women disguise the visible side-effects of cancer treatment and increase their confidence. The time flew by, accompanied by lots of fun and laughter, as the 15 women who attended received some much needed pampering! Cancerkin has enjoyed a happy partnership with ‘Look Good…Feel Better’ for many years now and hosts monthly workshops here at the Cancerkin Centre. We thank them for all their hard work in providing such a valuable service to our patients. To read more about the workshops, click here.


Cancerkin’s Young Women’s Support Group 

Our Young Women’s Support Group was held this week, and many thanks go to Julia Lampshire, who came along to talk to the group. An artist and business physiologist, Julia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, and she gave a brief talk on her experience, and how art has not only allowed her to come to terms with her diagnosis and treatment, but also helped her to find new ways to express herself and her opinions. Jules’s talk, and indeed her life, was interesting and enlightening, and led to a discussion on the individual ways people experience breast cancer, and how everyone can come together to find and provide support for each other.


Walk the Walk 

We have just received funding for three years from ‘Walk the Walk’ to help to support the ‘East London Project’. ‘Walk the Walk’ was set up as a one-off charity fundraiser 13 years ago, and developed into a major grant giving organisation that supports a multitude of breast cancer charities across the country. We must say a massive thank you to everyone at ‘Walk the Walk’, who have given us the ability to extend our services, raising awareness and providing support to even more people across London.


A drug which helps fight bone cancer could become available on the NHS, providing another option of pain management for people with secondary breast cancer 

Women with secondary breast cancer that has spread to their bones are now able to benefit from a new drug, which is to be made available on the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published its final draft guidance this week, recommending the drug for certain groups of cancer patients whose disease has spread, including bone tumours which developed from breast cancer.

 The drug, denosumab, helps prevent bone complications, including bone fracture, spinal compression and bone complications that require radiotherapy or surgery. Professor Carole Longson, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE said ‘bone metastasis can severely affect a person’s quality of life, stopping them from doing things so many of us take for granted. We are therefore pleased that our draft guidance recommends denosumab for those patients who are most likely to benefit from the treatment’.

Tara Beaumont, clinical nurse specialist for secondary breast cancer at Breast Cancer Care, gave further details: ‘The NICE approval of denosumab marks a positive milestone for secondary breast cancer patient choice and quality of life, which we warmly welcome. People whose breast cancer has spread to their bones can experience a reduction in quality of life, and currently have limited treatment options, so making denosumab available through the NHS means that there is another option for people for whom bisphosphonates are not appropriate. As denosumab can be given subcutaneously (as an injection under the skin) rather than intravenously (into the vein), it also offers patients a different route of administration, which may be more convenient. We hope that this announcement paves the way for similar positive developments in secondary breast cancer treatment and raises awareness of the importance of quality of life and symptom management for those living with incurable cancer.’

If no appeals are lodged against the guidance, it will be published later this year, and patients will be able to get treatment on the NHS.

To read more, here are the reports from Breast Cancer Care and The Independent.


Holly Lovering

On the pulse- 15th August 2012

  • ‘The Judas Kiss’, Hampstead Theatre Event on 10th October
  • Goodbye to Laura and Cherry
  • Research indicates healthy cells around solid, metastasised tumours can help fuel chemotherapy resistance


‘The Judas Kiss’, Hampstead Theatre Event on 10th October

Cancerkin this year is hosting a performance of ‘The Judas Kiss’, held at the Hampstead Theatre on the 10th of October. Based on two key events during the life of Oscar Wilde, and starring Rupert Everett, this is set to be a memorable night. Tickets remain; however book soon as they are selling fast. Contact Holly on h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk for reservations.


Goodbye to Laura and Cherry

This week we say goodbye to Laura Smith and Cherry Cheung. Laura joined Cancerkin in 2010, and has been responsible for lots of successful funding applications which have enabled Cancerkin to continue to deliver its services, as well managing Cancerkin’s annual programme of fundraising events, including two very successful Hyde Park Walks.  Laura is moving to Breakthrough Breast Cancer to take up the role of Major Giving Fundraiser. Cherry joined us on the East London Project in 2011, becoming the East London Project Manager in January 2012. She has been responsible for organising complementary therapy and awareness events throughout East London, including two breast awareness  events with the Chinese community – one in Cantonese and the other in Mandarin! Cherry also played an important part in our successful bid for funding from The Big Lottery Fund for three years. She has secured a place on Price Waterhouse Cooper’s assurance graduate scheme, where she will join the insurance and investment management division. We wish them both every success and happiness in the future.


Research indicates healthy cells around solid, metastasised tumours can help fuel chemotherapy resistance

Developing resistance to chemotherapy affects 90% of patients with solid tumours that have metastasised throughout the body. However, research published this month in Nature Medicine, indicates scientists have discovered a key factor driving this drug resistance, which could lead to the development of new methods to overcome drug resistance and improve cure rates.

A team of scientists lead by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center studied cancer cells and the microenvironment surrounding them in prostate, breast and ovarian cancer patients, who had received chemotherapy treatment. As cancer therapies are becomingly increasingly ‘targeted’, more studies are focusing on the “neighbourhood” of tumours which are proving to be very important. As senior author Peter S. Nelson notes, ‘cancer cells inside the body live in a very complex environment or neighbourhood. Where the tumour cell resides and who its neighbours are influence its response and resistance to therapy’.

By studying the cells surrounding the tumour, they found the fibroblast – a normal, noncancerous cell – sustains DNA damage when exposed to chemotherapy.  Normally, fibroblasts help maintain the structural integrity of connective tissue, playing a critical role in wound healing and collagen production. These cells naturally produce a protein called WNT16B. However, researchers found that after fibroblasts exposure to DNA-damaging cancer treatment, production of WNT16B increased by up to 30 times. It was already known that in high levels this protein enables cancer cells to grow, but, until now, it was not known to play a significant role in treatment resistance.

Professor Fran Balkwill, a Cancer Research UK expert on the microenvironment around tumours noted ‘This work fits in with other research showing cancer treatments don’t just affect cancer cells, but can also target cells in and around tumours.’  She further adds that the next step is finding a way to block this treatment response in the tumour environment, improving the effectiveness of therapies.

Read more here or here.