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 r.ved@cancerkin.org.uk 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.

On the pulse 13 February 2015

  • Cancerkin Awareness Event at the Brady Centre in Whitechapel
  • Scientists uncover 2 genetic mutations linked to the most common forms of breast cancer
  • Study identifies molecule which could slow the growth of tumour cells carrying BRCA1 and BRAC2 genetic faults

Breast Awareness Event at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Whitechapel     Cancerkin’s East London team have been busy raising breast awareness in the East London community this week. On 11 February, we visited the Social Action for Health group at the Brady Centre in Whitechapel to deliver an engaging talk that emphasised the importance of breast awareness and early diagnosis in increasing breast cancer survival rates. Our audience of 16 lively Bangladeshi women were very positive about our talk, with many visitors commenting on the importance of the breast awareness message, especially for people at the local level where knowledge on the topic is lacking.

Many thanks to Sabiha Khanam for inviting Cancerkin and for arranging this successful event.

If you would like to know more about our awareness events and how to arrange one with us please contact Xanthe on x.roantree@cancerkin.org.ukor 020 7830 2310.

Scientists uncover two genetic mutations linked to the most common forms of breast cancer                                                                                                                           A major scientific breakthrough was hailed by scientists after a study identified two genetic mutations thought to be linked to the most common form of breast cancer. Each year, 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, of which 70% are oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer, or ER+.

This study, conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research, involved 100,000 women, half of whom had breast cancer. The participants’ genetic code was examined to determine variations in their DNA which are more common in those with the disease. Scientists found two genetic variants which increased the risk of developing ER+ breast cancer, one by 14% and one by 11%. These genetic variants are thought to help control the activity of the gene KLF4, which in turn is thought to help control cell growth and division.

Dr Nick Orr, who led the study, said “Our study zoomed in on an area of our genome that we knew was linked to breast cancer risk, and has identified two new genetic variants that add significantly to our knowledge about the genetic causes of the disease. The more genetic risk factors for breast cancer we discover, of which there are currently more than 80, the more accurately we will be able predict who is at risk of getting the disease. Ultimately this will be vital for designing preventative strategies against breast cancer.”

Senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, Dr Emma Smith also highlighted the importance of the research findings: “”Thanks to modern technology we’re building an increasingly detailed picture of the small variations in DNA that can influence a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

The next challenges are understanding the biology underpinning their effects, so we can use this information to predict individual risk more accurately, improve screening and find better ways to treat and prevent breast cancer”.

For more information on this study please see The Telegraph and Drug Target Review.

Study identifies molecule which could slow the growth of tumour cells carrying BRCA1 and BRAC2 genetic faults                                                                                     A study, published in Nature, has discovered a molecule inside cells which could help to slow the growth of tumour cells carrying the genetic faults BRAC1 and BRAC2.

The study focused on the molecular mechanisms cells use to repair damage to their DNA and highlighted the protein PoIQ, a key player in a particular process of DNA repair.  PcIQ has previously been shown to be active in breast and ovarian tumour samples. When the researchers “switched off” PoIQ they found that the growth of tumour cells carrying the cancerous faults in their BRAC1 gene slowed.

If this discovery is confirmed in follow-up studies, it could lead to developing new treatments which target cancer cells with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene faults.

Professor Steve Jackson, Senior Group Leader in the Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge, said: “This new work suggests that drugs targeting PolQ, if they can be successfully developed, might selectively kill some cancer cells, especially those with associated BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations”.

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


On the pulse 6 February 2015

  • Patient Support Groups at Cancerkin
  • New report has estimated that one in two people born today will develop cancer

Patient Support Groups at Cancerkin
Last week, January’s Patient Support Group took place in conjunction with the Macmillan Support and Advice Programme. The focus of the session was exercise and included a talk on the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise, as well as the chance to learn and carry out some gentle exercises to do at home. Everyone who attended found the session very beneficial with the practical information given and the chance to ask questions both rated very highly.

The next Patient Support Group will take place on Friday 27 February 2015 at 11AM to 12.30PM and will focus on nutrition. Amber Silverman, a Nutritional Therapist will talk about the benefits of a wholefood diet, with specific regard to keeping up energy levels and ensuring that the body is being fed a variety of nutrients. If you would like to attend, please contact Reema on r.ved@cancerkin.org.uk or 0207 830 2323 to book your place.

New report has estimated that one in two people born today will develop cance        A forecast compiled by Cancer Research UK and published in the British Journal of Cancer has predicted that 50% of people born today will develop cancer at some point in their lives. This estimate was calculated using a new method and has replaced the previous figure of more than one in three.

The chance of an individual developing cancer at some point in their life is known as “lifetime risk”. This is not the risk of dying of cancer but the risk of developing it during one’s lifetime. Traditionally, this was calculated using the latest available cancer diagnosis rates and the assumption that this rate would stay the same for their entire life.  For example, someone born in 2015 would turn 60 in 2075. As we don’t know the rate of cancer cases in 60-year olds in 2075, the risk was estimated using today’s data. For their risk at 70 or 80, current figures for cancer incidence in 70 or 80 year olds was used. This gave the previous prediction of four people out of every ten born today being diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.

Incidence rates, however, are unlikely to stay the same throughout our lives. By studying the data we already have of how cancer incidence changes throughout a person’s life, and predicting cancer rates in the future, the researchers were able to produce a far more accurate picture of how cancer risk changes over time. This hasn’t been a quick increase – the study shows that lifetime risk has been gradually increasing over the past decades.

The reason behind this increase is mostly due to people living longer.  Age is by far the biggest risk factor for most cancers: in the UK, more than 75% of all people diagnosed with cancer are over the age of 60. This is because cancer is a disease of genes. Over time, mistakes accumulate in DNA code and these can kick start a cell’s journey towards becoming cancerous. The longer people live, the more time there is for these faults to build up.

The researchers estimated two thirds of the increase in lifetime risk was due to people living longer, and the rest was caused by changes in cancer rates across different age groups. When looking at these changes, it is clear that how people live their lives can have an effect. For example, diets high in red and processed meats have contributed to the rise in bowel cancer cases and increased sunbathing and use of sunbeds has raised the risk of people developing melanoma skin cancer.

For breast cancer, breast screening has led to finding more cancers and cancers at a younger ages. The increase in breast cancer cases is also down to changes in our lifestyle – women have fewer babies and are breastfeeding less.

Study author Professor Peter Sasieni, based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 per cent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65. If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point. But there’s a lot we can do to make it less likely – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight.

If we want to reduce the risk of developing the disease we must redouble our efforts and take action now to better prevent the disease for future generations.”

Despite the figure of one in two people developing cancer seeming pretty terrifying, this BBC report shows it is not all bad news:

  • Whilst incidence of cancer is increasing, cancer survival rates are also rising. Lots of forms of cancer can now be treated successfully, for example three quarters of breast cancers which are caught at an early stage.
  • There are far fewer deaths from heart disease and infections, which mean more people are living long enough to potentially develop cancer. Several parts of Europe are now reaching a “tipping point” where cardiovascular disease is no longer the leading cause of death.

For more information, please see the press release and the detailed report from Cancer Research UK.