Cancerkin’s East London Newsletter, February 2015

A warm welcome to all our supporters! We hope this newsletter finds you well and that our monthly update of what the East London Programme has been up to proves informative.

Cancerkin’s Awareness events                                                                                       The East London team has been busy working in different areas of East London helping to raise breast awareness in the local community.

In February we held two awareness events in the borough of Tower Hamlets and one in Dalston, Hackney: on 3 February, we visited the Health Wisdom Group in Exmouth Community Hall, Tower Hamlets, on 11 February we were invited to the Brady Centre Women’s Group, Whitechapel and on 17 February we were pleased to attend the AgeWell group in Dalston.

At these locations we were asked to deliver a presentation on the importance of breast awareness, how to check your breasts for any changes that could be a cause for concern and the mammogram screening process offered by the NHS.  Feedback from all three events was overwhelmingly positive and many said they left knowing much more about the risks associated with breast cancer and the best approach to mitigate them.

Many thanks to Nurun Nessa for arranging the event with the Health Wisdom Group, to Sabiha Khanam for inviting us to the Brady Centre and co-ordinating event, and to Juliet Formby for arranging our introduction to the AgeWell group and Louise Owen for facilitating the awareness talk.

Update on Monitoring and Evaluation of the Programme                                           The external Monitoring and Evaluation for the East London Programme, co-ordinated by Queen Mary University of London, is nearing the end of its first interview phase. Twenty-two of our patients have given their time to discuss the impact of our support services on their well-being providing valuable feedback for the programme.

We would like to say a big thank you to all of you and encourage those who would like to give their feedback to get in touch. 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.

Recruitment for Awareness Ambassadors now open!                                                The East London team are currently recruiting Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassadors whom we can train as volunteers to organise and deliver awareness events alongside local community organisations.

This is an exciting opportunity that can enable participants to develop skills in event management, health promotion, organisation and communication. We are looking for enthusiastic individuals who are passionate about delivering the vital message of breast awareness.

If this is a role that interests you or you know of someone who would make a committed Ambassador please get in touch with us on or 0207 830 231

On the pulse 27 February 2015

• Volunteering for the Hampstead Heath Walk 2015
• The blind breast cancer detectors
• The order of genetic mutations could reveal what cancer will do next

Volunteering for the Hampstead Heath Walk 2015
This is an early reminder for our annual walk at Hampstead Heath taking place on 7 June 2015 to help support the work of Cancerkin. We are happy to announce registration for the walk is now open so if you would like to participate in the event, simply download the registration form from our website.

Official invitations for the Hampstead Heath Walk will also be going out in a few weeks and we need volunteers who can help us with preparing mail-outs. Any time that can be given to us, no matter how large or small, would be greatly appreciated. And we will of course be providing tea, coffee and biscuits.

If you think you can help (even if its sparing 5 minutes before or after an appointment), please contact Holly on phone the front desk at the Cancerkin Centre on 0208 830 2323.

The blind breast cancer detectors
Many women in Germany who have been screened for breast cancer have found themselves examined by a blind health professional. The idea behind this innovative approach was proposed by Duisburg-based gynaecologist, Dr Frank Hoffmann, who explained the difficulties of effective screening methods saying “Three minutes is all the time I have to do clinical breast examinations in my practice. That’s not enough time to find small lumps in the breast tissue, which is crucial to catching breast cancer early.”

People who are able to read Braille are known to have a highly developed sense of touch compared to sighted individuals, and this skill was what prompted Hoffman to guess that visually impaired or blind women may be better qualified to perform clinical breast examinations. The soon to be published study by Essen University suggests that this is the case, with blind female participants finding a third more lumps than regular gynaecologists. Hoffman explained “”Women doing self-examinations can feel tumours which are 2cm and larger. Doctors usually find tumours between 1cm and 2cm, whereas blind examiners find lumps between 6mm and 8mm. That makes a real difference. That’s the time it takes a tumour to spread its cells into the body.”

These findings have motivated him to found the organisation, Discovering Hands, which aims to save lives through early detection by training blind women to become Medical Tactile Examiners or MTEs. Currently, 17 MTEs are working in various practices across Germany and Hoffman is in talks to expand these practices to other countries.

“I’m convinced,” he says, “that especially in countries that aren’t technically so advanced as Germany – this model could improve the quality of medical standards very dramatically.”

For more information on this study please see BBC News and Discovering Hands.

The order of genetic mutations could reveal what cancer will do next
Research has been able to demonstrate that cancer can occur through mutations in a person’s genetic code, triggering the abnormal growth of cells that is a hallmark of the disease. For the first time a study has shown that the order in which these mutations occur may also be a defining factor of cancer development.

Hundreds of mutations have been linked to cancer, but some have been shown to have more of an effect on the disease than others, and more importantly it has been shown that the pathway of disease progression is dependent on which “driver mutation” occurs first, affecting not only how the cancer develops but also which treatments will be most effective in combating it.

The research explored the mutations of two genes, known to be critical to pre-leukaemia development, called JAK2 (the mutated variant leads to unrestricted red blood cell and platelet production) and TET2, which normally works by aiding the destruction of abnormal stem cells but when mutated helps unhealthy cells to accumulate in the bone marrow. By using blood samples from 246 participants the results showed that disease trajectory was different depending on which mutation occurred first of the two genes.

“This is a landmark study,” says Charles Swanton of Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute. “It’s the first to conclusively demonstrate that the order in which two driver events occur influences the subsequent evolution of the tumour, the underlying biological behaviour, type of disorder and clinical presentation of the disease. ”

David Kent, a lead author of the study from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, says “It’s the first time we’ve been able to show that the order impacts both the clinical and biological features of the disease. Before we didn’t know that order mattered. If the effects of mutation order were established for all common cancers, it could have a dramatic impact on treatment. We hope that our study will stimulate the search in other cancers for whether or not the order of mutation acquisition matters. Doing this is likely to be easiest for cancers for which regular early biopsies are taken, such as breast and prostate cancer.”

For more information on this study please see New Scientist and Scientific American.

On the pulse 20 February 2015

  • February’s Look Good Feel Better workshop a great success
  • Cancer research from the University of Windsor has sparked call for action by global health organization
  • Scientists discover new molecule that protects heart from breast cancer drug toxicity

February’s Look Good Feel Better workshop a great success                                  Our monthly Look Good Feel Better workshop has been a popular fixture at Cancerkin and this month’s session proved to be no different. Eleven of our patients attended LGFB commenting on how positive and uplifting the experience was, with one attendee saying “It was very supportive and very good advice was given. Well done and thank you”. Cancerkin would like to say a big thank you to Look Good Feel Better for all their support and to their volunteers for their enthusiasm and energy that helped to make this workshop so engaging.

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.

Cancer research from the University of Windsor has sparked call for action by global health organization                                                                                         Occupational health researchers at the University of Windsor, Canada,  Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith, have pioneered “ground-breaking” research into the possible risks of breast cancer in the workplace which has ‘sparked a call for global action’ by the American Public Health Association (APHA).

As part of a wider research team, which involved the collaboration of Canadian, Northern Ireland and US institutes, Brophy and Keith collated the occupational histories of more than 1000 women being treated for breast cancer and a matching number of women who had not developed the disease; serving as a control group. Findings showed women working in “high-risk” jobs such as automotive plastics, farming and metal industries were shown to have higher incidences of breast cancer – and certain types of occupations posed a greater risk compared to other notable risk factors such as poor diet and exercise.

“Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women in North America, but the majority of women do not have the known or suspected risk factors. More attention to the exposures and hazards faced by women at work is urgently required” said Brophy.  Keith added, “This lack of gender perspective comes at a heavy price to many working women”.

One significant implication that these results will have for cancer prevention is the finding that women who work in food canning and automotive plastics have a risk of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer five times greater than those who work in other industries.

In light of this research, APHA has passed a resolution that will involve the organisation lobbying and pushing industry, lawmakers and decision-makers to ensure safeguards to limit employee exposure to suspected occupational carcinogens. APHA committee co-chair, Celeste Monforton, has described this study as “landmark work” with the hope that it will generate international attention and bring about more focus for working women and cancer.

For more information please see The Windsor Star and University of Stirling.

Scientists discover new molecule that protects heart from breast cancer drug toxicity                                                                                                                                  Dr Alessandra Ghigo, who led ground-breaking research into a new molecule that could help protect the heart from toxicity caused by anti-cancer therapy, explained the importance of research into the new medical field of cardio-oncology, “Cardiotoxicity of cancer drugs has become an increasing problem in the last decade due to the increasing success of anticancer therapy and aggressive use of these drugs. More people are now surviving cancer but it is estimated that 32% of them could die of heart disease caused by their treatment”.

The study explored a potential solution to the cardiotoxic side effects of cancer drugs by focussing on the role of an enzyme key to heart regulation called PI3K. When a molecule which inhibited PI3K activity was used it not only helped to protect heart function in mice but also aided the activity of doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat many different forms of cancer, by working with it synergistically to slow tumour growth.

These findings could have positive wider implications for chemotherapy as Dr Ghigo explains: “One of the main problems with the cardiotoxicity induced by chemotherapy is that the anticancer regimens need to be modified. We may have to use lower doses of agents to prevent the cardiotoxicity or stop the treatment. By using this inhibitor of PI3K, together with the chemotherapy, we could allow a wider and safer use of anticancer therapies because we don’t need to lower the dose or change the treatment.”

For more information on this study please see EurekAlert! and OncLive.