On the pulse 27 March 2015

  • East London conference communicating with ethnic minority groups on health issues
  • New method found which helps prevent early menopause for those with breast cancer
  • Study finds increased incidence of thyroid cancer among breast cancer patients

 East London conference communicating with ethnic minority groups on health issues                                                                                                                                  On 25 March, Victoria Todd, CEO, and Xanthe Roantree, East London Programme Manager, were invited by the HEAR Human Rights and Equalities Network for London to make a short presentation on the importance of clear communication when delivering breast cancer awareness messages to ethnic minorities. The HEAR conference concentrated on issues related to reducing health inequalities in London, with particular focus on community projects working with ethnic minority populations. Representatives from a vast range of voluntary and public sector organisations welcomed our talk outlining our breast awareness work with communities which aims to help diminish the high one year breast cancer mortality rates in East London. We thank Christine Goodall, Coordinator of the HEAR Network for inviting us to take part in this most useful and interesting conference.  Cancerkin welcomes hearing from any community organisation working in East London who would be interested to hear our breast cancer awareness talk. Please contact Xanthe or Jacqui on eastldn@cancerkin.org.uk  or call 0207 830 2310.

New method found which helps prevent early menopause for those with breast cancer                                                                                                                                        A new study has found that early menopause could be prevented and fertility preserved in young women affected by early stage breast cancer. The international clinical trial showed the risk associated with the sudden onset of menopause could be significantly reduced when the drug goserelin, which has the capacity to put the ovaries “at rest” for a short time during breast cancer treatment, was used in conjunction with a regime of chemotherapy. The study also found women who were administered goserelin were more likely to become pregnant and deliver a healthy baby.

Premenopausal women who present with early oestrogen and progesterone-negative breast cancer, and were also under the age of 50 were included in the trial. After 2 years, 22% of participants who had been given the standard treatment showed reduced oestrogen production compared to 8% of women who received goserelin. The pregnancy rates were also compared with the goserelin group presenting with a higher 22% versus 11% for the standard treatment group.

“Some of the most distressing side effects of chemotherapy in young women with breast cancer are early and sudden onset of menopause and infertility. These findings provide hope for young women with breast cancer who would like to prevent early menopause or still have children. We found that, in addition to reducing the risk of sudden, early menopause, and all of the symptoms that go along with menopause, goserelin was very safe and may even improve survival. These findings are changing how we manage young women with breast cancer,” said the study’s lead Kathy Albain, a researcher from the Loyola University Chicago Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Centre.

For more information on this study please see Breast Cancer News and New England Journal of Medicine

Study finds increased incidence of thyroid cancer among breast cancer patients Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre have found a high prevalence of thyroid cancer in patients affected by breast cancer. Previous studies have shown similar results suggesting a relationship between the two cancer types. In this new study, approximately 500,000 breast cancer patients and over 50,000 thyroid cancer patients were monitored from the years 1990-2011. The analysis showed that the incidence of thyroid cancer among breast cancer patients was higher compared to the general population, with the former disease developing in patients an average of 5 years after breast cancer. The results also showed that patients who went on to develop thyroid cancer after breast cancer presented with a more aggressive form of the disease compared to thyroid only patients.

Recommendations put forward by the researchers included an annual thyroid exam given to those diagnosed with breast cancer, especially for those who have undergone radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is known as being highly effective in destroying breast cancer cells but it may also have unwanted effects on normal tissue, which may explain, in part, the associated increase in thyroid cancer. “Recognition of this association between breast and thyroid cancer should prompt vigilant screening for thyroid cancer among breast cancer survivors,” says the study’s lead investigator Dr Jennifer Hong Kuo.

However, other possible contributors such as the drug Tamoxifen, which works by blocking the effects of the female hormone oestrogen and is typically used to treat breast cancer, and whether they play a role in an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer still require further investigation.

For more information on this study please see Breast Cancer News and EurekAlert!

On the pulse 20 March 2015

  • Volunteering for the Hampstead Heath Walk 2015
  • Scientist uncover 15 genetic ‘hot-spots’ that could increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer
  • Software used to map crime could be used to predict spread of cancer

Volunteering for the Hampstead Heath Walk 2015                                                   A 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 are able to give your support please email Jacqui on jmoneke@cancerkin.org.uk or phone 0207 830 2323.

Also, with the growing success of the walk a higher number of marshals will be needed this year to provide assistance to walkers while they are on route. If you are able to give your support and are interested in being a marshal  please get in contact with Holly on h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk or phone 0207 830 2323.

Scientist uncover 15 genetic ‘hot-spots’                                                                           In this study, funded by Cancer Research UK, scientists have discovered 15 new variations that could be linked to a higher risk of breast cancer by comparing the minute differences in the genetic code of more than 120,000 women of European ancestry, living with or without disease. The findings showed more than 90 of these small genetic variants were associated with breast cancer development.

On average, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in the UK is 1 in 8. However, researchers predict that approximately 1 in 20 women may have inherited enough genetic variants to double their risk, and a smaller group, less than 1 in 100, have genetic variations that could increase their risk of developing the disease to 1 in 3 – tripling the average risk. It is thought the isolated genetic differences increases risk by a small amount, but these genetic variations working collectively could lead to significant risk.

Professor Doug Easton, the study author from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, said: “Our study is another step towards untangling the breast cancer puzzle. As well as giving us more information about how and why a higher breast cancer risk can be inherited, the genetic markers we found can help us to target screening and cancer prevention measures at those women who need them the most. The next bit of solving the puzzle involves research to understand more about how genetic variations work to increase a woman’s risk. And we’re sure there are more of these variations still to be discovered”.

For more information on this study please see University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK.

Software used to map crime could be used to predict spread of cancer                 Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research have discovered a method to map patterns of immune cell locations associated with tumour sites, to predict how well these cells can combat the disease.  This has been done using an algorithm similar to that found in crime mapping software used by the Metropolitan Police to establish patterns of criminal behaviour to best predict “offending hotspots”.

The tumour analysis of 245 female participants diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease – known as oestrogen receptor negative, showed women with a higher number of immune cells lived 91 months before their cancer spread, in contrast with those with lower numbers living 64 months. Dr Yinyin Yuan, the lead researcher in computational pathology at the ICR said “Our research is aiming to develop completely new ways of telling apart more and less aggressive cancers, based on how successful the immune system is in keeping tumours in check. By analysing the complex ways in which the immune system interacts with cancer cells, we can split women with breast cancer into two groups, who might need different types of treatment”.

For more information on this study please see The Telegraph and Cancer Research UK.

On the pulse 13 March 2015

  • Young Women’s Support Group
  • Study explores link between a  family history of prostate cancer and a women’s risk developing of breast cancer
  • Macmillan study uncovers need for better social care support for those affected by cancer

Young Women’s Support Group                                                                                   March’s Young Women’s Support Group took place on Wednesday 11 March. We had three new members at the session and everyone joined in the discussion about their experiences of breast cancer.  The participation of Royal Free Breast Care Nurse Tina Kelleher was very much appreciated as she was able to answer any questions they had and discuss their concerns.

Study explores link between a family history of prostate cancer and a women’s risk developing of breast cancer                                                                                                 Research conducted at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit has shown that there may be a 14% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer for women whose father, brother or son has prostate cancer. The study, led by Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer (a researcher at the institute) has also shown that women with a family history of both prostate and breast cancer have a 78% higher risk of developing the disease- with the risk even greater for those from a BME background compared to Caucasian.

The findings were published in the journal Cancer which details the research team’s evaluation of more than 78,000 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between 1993 and 1998. During the initial stages of the study all of the participants were cancer-free but by the end of the follow-up in 2009 more than 3,500 had been diagnosed with breast cancer leading to an exploration of their family medical history. Though an answer for what causes this association has not yet been uncovered, Beebe-Dimmer suggested, “It may be genetic, it may be shared environment. The two cancers have similar causes in that both are driven by exposure to the sex steroid hormones oestrogen and testosterone”.

Though this research has established a link between the two cancer types and is the largest study of its kind to examine the association, it does not present a direct cause-and-effect relationship. The 14% higher risk has been described as “modest” by Beebe-Dimmer, who also added “breast cancer family history is likely still more important in terms of risk assessment”. These results highlight the need for women to know their complete family medical history, including that of their fathers, brother and sons. “Doctors should ask about all cancers in the family, even in members of the opposite sex. Communication of this information to the physician is important in assessing future risk of breast cancer and may impact screening recommendations” explains Beebe-Dimmer.

For more information on this study please see WebMD and Cancer.

Macmillan study uncovers need for better social care support for those affected by cancer                                                                                                                       Research conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support has found that only 1 in 5 people affected by cancer in the UK receive formal support, with more than 100,000 people living with the disease left unable to carry out daily tasks, such as washing or dressing.  In addition, approximately 160,000 people were often or always left housebound due to lack of support. “People at all stages of the disease are lacking the care and support they desperately need, with devastating consequences for their health and dignity,” the report said. The results suggest patients may not always be aware of the availability of practical, personal and emotional support services and that health and social care providers should give clearer information about what is on offer, so as to help improve access to these services.

Lynda Thomas, the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said “There is a growing recognition that social care is often vital for people living with long-term conditions. But unfortunately people with cancer have been highlighted as a group that already have all of their needs met by the NHS, because they are thought to be purely medical in nature. Today’s findings show that people with cancer have needs which are far more widespread than we had even realised”.

For more information on this study please see The Guardian and Macmillan Cancer Support.