Cancerkin’s East London Newsletter, January 2015

Happy 2015 to all of our supporters! We hope that this newsletter finds you well rested following the festive break.

Cancerkin’s Awareness Events
The East London team have been busy raising awareness of breast cancer in the East London community.

On 10 December,we visited St Paul’s Way Trust School in Tower Hamlets for our Awareness Ambassador Farhana’s first presentation. She gave an engaging talk to 20 girls from the school’s Sixth Form, which emphasised the importance of being breast aware from a young age. It is vital for us to reach young people with our awareness message, as it not only encourages healthy checking habits from an early age, but we often find that it is the younger generation who spread awareness to their family and friends.

Many thanks to Sajeda Begum for arranging this successful event.

On 15 January we attended Newham Council’s Green Street Health Event at St Stephen’s Primary School in Upton Park to raise awareness of the importance of being breast aware and also the support services we offer in East London. The event proved to be a huge success: we taught 32 people how to self-check their breasts and gave out information to many more, which kept the team busy all night! Even the West Ham United mascot, Bubbles, received a lesson in how to check his breasts (as men can get breast cancer too), which you can see on our facebook page.

Feedback from the event was very positive, with many visitors commenting on the importance of the breast awareness message and the lack of knowledge in the local area. We would therefore like to thank Zainab Shaikh of Newham Council for organising such a fantastic event and inviting us along.

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Programme
January marked the start of the focus groups for the external Monitoring and Evaluation of the East London Programme by Queen Mary University of London, who will work on behalf of Cancerkin. Over the past few weeks, the Education Development team have been asking our patients about the impact of our support services on their well-being. This audit will enable us to evaluate our services to determine ways in which our East London Programme has been successful and how we can continue to improve the services we provide to breast cancer patients.

For more information on joining a focus group to give your thoughts on how the programme is run and how you would like to see it progress, please contact the East London team on or 0207 830 2310.

On the pulse 30 January 2015

  • Registration is open for the Hampstead Heath Walk 2015
  • Dismissal of possible cancer symptoms could be a contributing factor to delayed diagnosis
  • ‘Unboiling’ an egg is a breakthrough that could have major benefits for cancer research

Registration open for the Hampstead Heath Walk 2015
Registration is now open for this year’s annual walk, which will take place on Hampstead Heath on Sunday 7 June 2015. For more information, or to book your place, simply download the registration form on our website.

We look forward to seeing you in June.

Dismissal of possible cancer symptoms could be a contributing factor to delayed diagnosis                                                                                                                                 A study conducted by Cancer Research UK has found a tendency for people to dismiss ‘red flag’ cancer symptoms as trivial because they fear wasting a doctor’s time, while half of those aged over 50 may dismiss symptoms as signs of ageing. These findings could be a significant contributor to delayed diagnoses in the UK.

Researchers determined whether people who experience possible cancer symptoms respond by seeking medical advice or opting not to do so. Volunteers were asked to complete a health survey, designed specifically to omit any mention of cancer, which questioned them on whether they had experience any of the 17 body changes detailed in the questionnaire in recent months. Of the 17 symptoms listed, 10 ‘red flag’ symptoms were incorporated such as difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss and persistent unexplained pain.

Approximately 1700 people, aged over 50 years from three London GP practices participated in the study, with more than 900 respondents reporting having at least one alarm symptom within three months. Interviews were then conducted with almost 50 of those who took in the study, finding that 45% of the group had not seen their GP about their symptoms.

Senior research fellow at University College London, Dr Katriina Whitaker, commented on these findings, “Many of the people we interviewed had red flag symptoms but felt that these were trivial and didn’t need medical attention, particularly if they were painless or intermittent. Others felt that they shouldn’t make a fuss or waste valuable NHS resources. However, some people made the decision to get symptoms checked out after seeing a cancer awareness campaign or being encouraged to do so by family or friends – this seemed to almost legitimise their symptoms as important.”

This research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, came as a new NHS TV and radio campaign was launched by Public Health England, aimed to encourage people to visit their doctor about health complaints which may seem trivial, but could be a life-saving indicator of cancer.

It is estimated almost 1000 lives could be saved in England every year if more cases are detected sooner, helping survival rates to match the best in Europe.

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, says: “The advice we give is: if in doubt, check it out – this would not be wasting your GP’s time. Often your symptoms won’t be caused by cancer, but if they are, the quicker the diagnosis, the better the outcome. Seeking prompt advice from your GP about symptoms, either on the phone or during an appointment, could be a life-saver, whatever your age. And the good news is that more than half of all patients diagnosed with cancer now survive for more than 10 years.”

For more information please see British Journal of General Practice, Cancer Research UK and the Telegraph.

Ten “red flag” symptoms to see your GP about, in case they mean cancer:

  • Persistent cough or hoarseness – could mean lung cancer.
  • Change in the appearance of a mole – can mean skin cancer
  • Persistent change in bowel habits – could mean bowel cancer
  • A sore that does not heal – depends where; a mouth ulcer can mean mouth cancer
  • Persistent difficulty swallowing – can mean oesophageal cancer
  • Unexplained weight loss – can mean several types of cancer
  • Persistent change in bladder habits – could mean bladder cancer, and in mean could  mean prostate cancer
  • Unexplained lump – could denote many types of cancer, depending where
  • Persistent unexplained pain – depending where, can mean several types of cancer
  • Unexplained bleeding – depends where, could mean bowel cancer, cervical cancer or  vulval cancer 

Source: Cancer Research UK

‘Unboiling’ an egg is a breakthrough that could have major benefits for cancer research                                                                                                                               An international team of researchers have developed a way to uncook a hen’s egg –  findings which could help to significantly improve cost efficiency for industries ranging  from cheese production to cancer research.

After boiling an egg for twenty minutes, scientists worked to reverse the state of one of the key protein components within the egg white. This breakthrough will help to combat the difficulties that arise when proteins ‘misfold’. Currently, scientists are forced to use time-consuming methods to untangle these misfolded proteins or expensive preventative measures to avoid the problem altogether.

The experiment involves immersing the cooked egg white component in a urea substance to revert it back into the liquid state and then using a vortex fluid device allowing the tangled proteins to gently pull apart and reform their correct structure.

This innovative process takes places in minutes, compared to days using conventional techniques, and is inexpensive in contrast to current production methods. Many aspects of cancer research could see significant cost savings using this technique. For example, cancer antibodies made for research purposes are derived from expensive hamster ovary cells- bought because they do not show the same propensity to misfold.

Estimates have suggested cancer research, the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture and many other industries could also save much of the $160 billion they spend on proteins each year.

For more information please see UCI News and The Guardian.


On the pulse 24 January 2015

  • First Look Good Feel Better in 2015
  • January’s Patient Support Group will focus on exercise  
  • Study identifies gene as a driver for triple-negative breast cancers

First Look Good Feel Better in 2015
This week, we hosted our first Look Good Feel Better of 2015. It was a great success, with many of the participants commenting on how uplifting they found the workshop, as well as the support and encouragement given to them by the LGFB team.  Cancerkin would like to say a big thank you to Look Good Feel Better for all their help and their volunteers for their enthusiasm and sense of fun.

If you would like to book onto a Look Good Feel Better workshop, please contact Reema on or call 0207 830 2323. Please note Look Good Feel Better sessions are only available to those who have not attended a previous workshop.

January’s Patient Support Group will focus on exercise
The next Patient Support Group will take place on Friday 30 January 2015 from 11am to 12.30pm. We will be working with the Macmillan Support and Advice Programme to provide a session focusing on the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise after a cancer diagnosis and treatment. There will also be a chance to carry out some gentle exercise and ask questions.

If you would like to attend, please book your place by contacting Reema on or 0207 830 2323.

Study identifies gene as a driver for triple-negative breast cancers
Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute have identified the BCL11A gene as a driver for triple negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.

Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) are one of the most difficult breast cancer types to treat:  only 77% of those diagnosed with the disease survive more than 5 years compared to 93% for those diagnosed with other types of breast cancer. This is because some breast cancer cells have proteins called receptors, which hormones or other proteins can attach to and stimulate the cancer cell to grow. For example, many breast cancers have receptors for the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and less commonly for a protein called HER2.  Patients with breast cancers that have one or more of these receptors can be given treatments such as tamoxifen or Herceptin which target their specific receptors. TNBCs, however, do not have any oestrogen, progesterone or HER2 receptors and so patients with TNBC have fewer treatment options as these targeted therapies will not be effective.

In this study, researchers analysed genetic data from 3000 breast cancer patients to try and identify which genes were broken or dysfunctional in TNBC. They found that in 80% of TNBC cases the BCL11A gene was overactive – or producing a larger amount of the BCL11A protein than normal.  An overactive BCL11A gene was also associated with a more advanced grade of tumour.

To fully test the effects of an overactive BCL11A gene on breast cancer, the scientists genetically engineered mice to have inactive copies of the gene in the mammary gland. They found that mice with the gene “switched off” did not develop tumours, while mice that were left with an active copy of the BCL11A gene did. Interestingly, when the BCL11A gene was “switched off” after breast tumours had formed, the tumour not only stopped growing but reduced in size. This indicates BCL11A not only causes tumours to form, but that targeting the gene could also cause them to regress.

This greater understanding of TNBC at the molecular level could pave the way for new therapies, as well as informing clinical decisions and treatment choices.

Dr Walid Khaled of the University of Cambridge, said: “Our gene studies in human cells clearly marked BCL11A as a driver for triple-negative breast cancers.

“We also showed that adding an active human BCL11A gene to human or mouse breast cells in the lab drove them to behave as cancer cells. As important, when we reduced the activity of BCL11A in three samples of human triple-negative breast cancer cells, they lost some characteristics of cancer cells and became less tumorigenic when tested in mice.

“So by increasing BCL11A activity we increase cancer-like behaviour; by reducing it, we reduce cancer-like behaviour.”

Dr Emma Smith, the senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Finding out the genes that play a role in triple negative breast cancer could lead to new ways to tackle the disease so this study is a promising step forward. Triple negative breast cancer can be challenging to treat, so research into the biology of the disease is vital to help scientists come up with new treatments.”

For more information on this study please see Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Telegraph. For more information on TNBC please see Cancer Research UK or Macmillan Cancer Support.