On the Pulse – 6th August 2015

On The Pulse

  • Final reminder for Hampstead Heath sponsorship money
  • DNA discovery points to new clinical biomarker in predicting breast cancer risk

Final reminder for Hampstead Heath sponsorship money

This is the last week to send in your Hampstead Heath Walk sponsorship money. If you took part in the walk and want to be in with a chance of winning prizes generously donated by Floris, Perfumers to HM The Queen Elizabeth II, there is only one week to send us any outstanding money. The final deadline for money to reach us is Friday 14th August. On that day we will count up how much has been raised in total and announce our top three fundraisers, who will each receive a luxury prize donated by Floris.

Donations made on JustGiving will be sent straight to us, and funds collected personally can either be brought in person to the Cancerkin Centre or sent in the post (our address is Cancerkin Centre, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London, NW3 2QG). However, please do ensure that:

  • Your envelope is addressed to Ellie Shaw and includes your sponsorship form with your name clearly marked;
  • All the sponsors on your form have provided their full home address as we can only claim gift aid on their donation using their home address;
  • Please do not send cash in the post. Please ensure any cheques are made payable to Cancerkin.


DNA discovery points to new clinical biomarker in predicting breast cancer risk

In a ground breaking study scientists have discovered that a simple blood test could help identify the risk of developing breast cancer. The research was undertaken by Imperial College London and the Human Genetics Foundation in Italy. After studying 2,600 women from different areas of the globe scientists have concluded that DNA methylation levels in blood cells are associated with an increased breast cancer risk, and could be used to identify women at increased risk of developing the disease.

DNA methylation is the process which modifies the functions of genes and regulates how much of a gene’s protein product gets made, something that is essential for normal cell development. The team’s findings build on a growing body of evidence suggesting that lower than normal methylation of white blood cell DNA could be predictive of a heightened breast cancer risk.

The group for this study was made up of 4 main cohorts:  Breast Cancer Now’s Generations Study (a research project started in 2004 following over 100,000 women and men for 40 years to discover why some people develop breast cancer and others don’t) the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, Italy, the Norwegian Women and Cancer (NOWAC) study and the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study.

The studies analysed by the researchers took blood samples from healthy women involved in the groups who were then monitored for an average period of around nine years. The women who developed breast cancer during this time had a lower level of DNA methylation in their white blood cells, compared to the women who didn’t develop the disease.

Notably, while three of the four cohorts confirmed this finding, the association was not replicated in the NOWAC study, something that poses questions about potential differences between populations. It is hoped that by being able to predict who might get breast cancer we can intervene to reduce their risk of developing the disease.

Dr James Flanagan, the studies head scientist “this topic has the potential to show how lifestyle and environmental factors influence one’s risk of developing breast cancer. Crucially, epigenetic patterns are modifiable; meaning that, unlike genetic risk, there is a possibility that we may find ways in which you can modify your epigenetic risk, so that fewer people develop cancer in the first place.” Whilst this research is at a very early stage, it is hoped that one day scientists could potentially be able to proactively change methylation patterns, underlining the importance of research into epigenetics.

To read more about this research please visit Imperial College London or Breast Cancer Now


Checking your breasts regularly can be vital to an early diagnosis of breast cancer, which can significantly increase your chances of survival. Men are also at risk so it is important for both sexes to be vigilant.

Signs and symptoms to look for:

•    Lumping or thickening of the breast tissue

•    Constant pain of the breast or armpit

•    One breast becoming bigger in size compared to the other

•    Puckering or dimpling of the skin

•    Nipples changing size, position or becoming inverted (turned inside)

•    Nipples developing a rash, crusting or producing discharge (bodily fluid)

•    Swelling that appears under the armpit or around the collarbone