• 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.


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