On the pulse 26th September 2012

  • Cancerkin needs you!
  • Maggie’s Getting Started with Cancer Treatment Workshop
  • The Royal Free Hospital holds its first ever web chat to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Study into the causes of male breast cancer has found a gene that can increase the risk of the disease by up to 50%

Cancerkin needs you!

We are currently looking for volunteers to help at two events, both in support of breast cancer awareness month.

Our theatre event, ‘The Judas Kiss’ is being held on the 10th October 2012 and we are currently looking for volunteers to act as ushers, from 6.00pm until 10.30pm.

Our annual breast awareness stand will be on Tuesday 16th October 2012, from 10am to 4pm, outside the Atrium at the Royal Free Hospital. We will be handing out information on breast awareness and Cancerkin’s services and we need volunteers to hold collection tins and help manage the stall. 

Please get in touch if you are able to help us with either of these events, by contacting Holly either on 0207 830 2323 or by emailing h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk. We look forward to your support!

 

Maggie’s Getting Started with Cancer Treatment Workshop

We are very pleased to be working with Maggie’s to provide a wonderful workshop on Tuesday 2nd October, from 12.30pm to 4.30pm. This workshop is for those who are recently diagnosed with cancer and aims to help them understand their treatment courses and to manage and feel empowered about their own lives during treatment. Everyone who participates is also given a specially made handbook which accompanies the workshop. Lunch is provided.

If you are newly diagnosed and would like to come to this session, please let Carissa know by calling 020 7830 2323 or e-mailing c.chu@cancerkin.org.uk as soon as possible as places are limited.

 

The Royal Free Hospital holds its first ever web chat to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Consultant oncological surgeon Mo Keshtgar will take part in the Royal Free Hospital’s first ever web chat on Monday 8 October from 2-3pm to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Open to all, it offers you the chance to ask a world-renowned breast cancer expert any question you may have.

To take part, simply visit the Royal Free website at 2pm on the 8th October and ask your question.

If you are unable to take part at that time, you can still ask your question by emailing rfh.communications@nhs.net (please put ‘web chat’ in the subject line) or by tweeting @RoyalFreeNHS before the event. They’ll answer as many questions as they can in the hour and you’ll be able to see the answers on their website after the chat has taken place. 

To find out more, please visit the Royal Free Hospital website here.

 

Study into the causes of male breast cancer has found a gene that can increase the risk of the disease by up to 50%

A study published this week in Nature Genetics has found a gene that can increase the risk of developing  the disease by up to 50 per cent.

Around 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, making it rare compared with the 48,000 women who develop the disease. These results, the work of scientists from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), were drawn from the Male Breast Cancer Study, the world’s largest study into the causes of male breast cancer. This particular project, named the Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) involved 823 male breast cancer patients, and investigated 447, 000 genetic changes. The results were then confirmed in a further 438 patients.

They found that changes in the RAD51B gene, involved in the repair of damaged DNA, can raise a man’s breast cancer risk by as much as 50 per cent. However, the absolute risk of breast cancer in men with this faulty gene remains low. Changes in a different part of RAD51B have been shown to raise the risk of breast cancer in women.

Study author Dr Nick Orr said: “This study represents a leap forward in our understanding of male breast cancer. It shows that while there are similarities with female breast cancer, the causes of the disease can work differently in men. This raises the possibility of different ways to treat the disease specifically for men.”

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, co-leader of the Male Breast Cancer Study, said: “Male breast cancer is rare, which makes it difficult to study. Through drawing on many hundreds of patients from this country and abroad, we can now start to unravel its causes. We will be continuing this research to try to find more genes that raise the risk of male breast cancer, in order to better understand the causes of this disease in men, and in women.

For more information, see here and here.

  • Afternoon tea at Floris
  • Nature publishes a landmark study that classifies “breast cancer” into ten different diseases
  • A new drug could give several extra months of good quality life for patients with the most common type of advanced breast cancer.

Afternoon tea at Floris

Last week, Floris kindly hosted afternoon tea at their historic shop in Jermyn Street to award the prizes of Floris products to Brenda Freedman, Linda Cohen and Gaurav Shrivastava, for their fabulous fundraising at the Hyde Park Walk. Before the prizes were presented we were given the opportunity to look around the Floris museum of perfumes and artifacts collected since their founding. This included their order books, where the names of people such as Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh and scores of royalty could be seen. It was a fascinating and very enjoyable afternoon, and we thank Floris for their continued support and the hospitality they showed us. Photos of the afternoon and prize giving can be seen on our website, or on our facebook page.

Nature publishes a landmark study that classifies “breast cancer” into ten different diseases

This week, Nature published a landmark study concluding that what we call ‘breast cancer’ is in fact at least ten different diseases.

The study group, led by Professor Carlos Caldas (Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute) and Professor Sam Aparicio (British Columbia Cancer Centre, Canada), studied the patterns of molecules inside tumours from nearly two thousand women, for whom information about the tumour characteristics had been meticulously recorded. This was then compared with the women’s survival, and other information, like their age at diagnosis. Over a period of decades, this study group, named METABRIC (Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium) carefully developed a resource of thousands of individual tumours, which were then analysed and reanalysed in a number of different ways. 

This lead them to classify ‘breast cancer’ into ten different types, each which has its own molecular fingerprint and each with different weak spots.

While cancer tests historically measured the levels of proteins inside tumours, research recently has focused on which genes are switched on or off inside the cancer cells. However, researchers following the fates of women diagnosed with different types of cancer noticed even the four ‘genetic’ types of cancer cannot reliably predict the best treatment, or how a tumour would behave. The research published this week has given us a newer, better “map” of breast cancer.

Cancer Research UK described this as ‘simultaneously daunting and heartening – daunting because each of these diseases will likely need a different strategy to overcome it; and heartening because it opens up multiple new fronts in our efforts to beat breast cancer’.

This new way of looking at breast cancer will not affect the way anyone with breast cancer is currently treated; instead, it advances how scientists will approach future research and clinical trials. These ten subtypes are also not the end of the story – some clusters already look like they can be broken down even further. METABRIC also plans to fully sequence 150 genes in each sample, focusing on those most important in breast cancer, which should refine the “breast cancer map” even further.

Professor Charles Swanton, a Cancer Research UK funded researcher called this result an “extraordinary” finding that took our understanding of breast cancer “to the next level”.

For a far more detailed look at the study and outcomes, see the Cancer Research UK article here.

A new drug could give several extra months of good quality life for patients with the most common type of advanced breast cancer.

The European Commission has approved the use of Afinitor® (everolimus) tablets, in combination with an aromatase inhibitor.

Dr Rachel Greig, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “Everolimus is one of the biggest advances in breast cancer treatment in many years. This drug could make a massive difference to thousands of patients with advanced breast cancer. While this is by no means a cure, it could give patients several extra months of good quality life with their families. Everolimus needs to be assessed by NICE [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] but we are strongly backing it to be made available for those who need it.”

Jackie Harris, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care concurred, saying: “As the first mTOR [mammalian target of rapamycin] inhibitor, the availability of everolimus (Afinitor) in the UK for treatment of oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) secondary breast cancer is a promising step forward for a patient group whose treatment options are currently limited.”

“By working with existing therapies, to which some tumours can become resistant, everolimus can extend the benefit of aromatase inhibitors and delay the need for possible chemotherapy.The side effects of everolimus are generally well tolerated, meaning the extra months of progression-free survival can be accompanied by a valuable improvement in quality of life compared to other treatment options.”

NICE’s assessment for this drug is set to be published in 2013.

For more information, see here and here.

 

On the pulse 12th September 2012

  • The Judas Kiss
  • Return to Bromley-by-Bow
  • Cancer Research study has found links between a patient’s likelihood of suffering from severe pain in the week after surgery and their medical history and psychological state
  • International study has found women with faulty BRCA genes are more likely to develop breast cancer if they are exposed to chest X-rays before they are 30

The Judas Kiss

Only 21 tickets remain for our theatre night, held to coincide with Breast Awareness  Month. Starring Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox, The Judas Kiss describes two pivotal moments in Oscar Wilde’s life; the day Wilde decides to stay in England and face imprisonment, and the night, after his release two years later, when the lover for whom he risked everything betrays him.

This is set to be a fantastic evening, and you can book your place either by completing an order form, which can be downloaded from our website (www.cancerkin.org.uk/how-you-can-help/fundraising-events), or calling us on 020 7830 2323. We hope to see you there!

Therapy sessions at Bromley-by-Bow

Cancerkin held another successful day of complementary therapy sessions at Bromley-by-Bow Community Centre on Friday, with patients able to benefit from a range of one-to-one therapies. It was lovely to hear one woman commenting that the therapies gave her a reason to get out of the house and that she felt empowered after the session. We would like to thank all the staff at the Bromley-by-Bow Community Centre for continuing to provide a wonderful venue for our East London-based services.

Cancer Research study has found links between a patient’s likelihood of suffering from severe pain in the week after surgery and their medical history and psychological state

A Cancer Research study published this week has found women having surgery for breast cancer are up to three times more likely to have severe pain in the first week after surgery if they suffer from other painful conditions, such as arthritis, low back pain and migraine.

The researchers, based at the Universities of Warwick, Aberdeen and Dundee, surveyed three hundred and thirty-eight patients across North Scotland. Each patient was asked to fill in detailed questionnaires before surgery on their general health, how they were feeling and whether they had any existing pain. The researchers then collected specific data on the amount and type of any pain they were experiencing, and whether they had taken pain killers.

The study found 40 per cent of the women surveyed reported moderate to severe pain and rest, and 50 per cent on movement, one week after surgery. Most patients are discharged home at this time. As well as the link to pre-existing painful conditions, they also found psychological state was important, with women who felt more optimistic before their surgery found to suffer lower intensity pain in the week after. Those who had more extensive surgery to remove their lymph nodes also were prone to more severe pain the week after surgery.

These findings could be used as a simple way of identifying before surgery the breast cancer patients that may benefit from extra pain relief or support. Study leader, Dr Julie Bruce from the University of Warwick, said: “Women generally receive the same advice and treatment for pain relief following breast cancer surgery, but this study shows how factors such as a patient’s psychological state and whether they have a prior history of chronic pain can really affect their recovery. Importantly, doctors may be able to use this as a way of identifying women who need more intensive pain relief immediately after surgery. These results are particularly important because research shows that severe pain in the first week after surgery can significantly delay recovery.”  

Liz Woolf, head of Cancer Research UK’s information website, CancerHelp UK, said: “It’s so important to be able to identify in advance those who may be in need of extra pain relief or support. Earlier studies suggest that up to half of women who undergo surgery for breast cancer may continue to suffer from pain for up to a year afterwards. This study is ongoing and it will be helpful to see what impact things like having a history of chronic pain and psychological state may have on longer term pain after surgery.”

To read the full report, click here

International study has found women with faulty BRCA genes are more likely to develop breast cancer if they are exposed to chest X-rays before they are 30

An international study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, which was published this week in the BMJ has found that women with faults in BRCA genes are more likely to develop breast cancer if they are exposed to chest X-rays before they are 30.

Almost 2000 women with BRCA faults in the Netherlands, France and the UK were studied between 2006 and 2009 to see if variations in their DNA increased the risk of breast cancer after exposure to low doses of radiation. Women under 30 with BRCA faults who were exposed to chest X-rays and other radiation procedures were found to be 43 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer, compared to women with the same faults who were not exposed. However, this increased risk did not apply to procedures carried out in women over thirty.

Study author, Professor Douglas Easton, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Cambridge said: “BRCA genes help repair DNA damage – damage which can be caused by exposure to radiation like X-rays. Women with faults in these genes are less able to repair damage caused by radiation, so they are a greater risk of developing breast cancer. It’s important that these women and their doctors are aware of this.”

In the UK, women with BRCA faults are only screened for breast cancer after they are 30, and with a procedure called MRI that does not expose them to radiation. Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK notes: “This research highlights that young women with a faulty BRCA gene are potential more sensitive to low doses of radiation and doctors need to be aware of these risks when considering procedures using X-rays. In the UK younger women are already screened using MRI scans rather than mammograms to avoid these risks, but this isn’t the case in all countries yet.”               

For more information, click here and here