On the pulse 24 April 2014


  • Hampstead Heath Walk 2014
  • Study identifies  first genetic variant which increases the risk of invasive lobular carcinoma

Hampstead Heath Walk

The first Cancerkin Hampstead Heath Walk is now only six weeks away (on Sunday 8th June 2014) and we are all working hard to ensure the day will be a success.  Lots of our supporters have already signed up or volunteered to be marshals and we would love you come along and join in as well.


The walk follows a beautiful route across the Heath, and you can chose to walk, jog or run either a 5km or 10km trail. The walk begins at 10.30am (registration opens at 9.15am) and it promises to be a day of fun and laughter. To enter, all you need to do is fill out an entry form, which can be found on our website.


If you don’t want to take part in the walk, but would still like to be involved, please do to volunteer to help on the day. Our marshals and other volunteers play a key role in ensuring the day is a success and any support you can offer is so appreciated.


If you have any questions about either taking part in or volunteering for the walk, please contact me. I can be reached either on h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk or 0207 830 2323 and am happy to answer any queries you may have.


Study has identified the first genetic variant which increases the risk of invasive lobular carcinoma
Research published in PLOS Genetics has identified the first genetic variant specifically associated with invasive lobular carcinoma, a breast cancer sub-type.

Invasive lobular carcinoma accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all breast cancer cases. It develops in the lobes of the breast that produce milk and can be difficult to diagnose as the cancer does not always form a definite lump and so may not be seen on a mammogram. Because of this, it is often diagnosed at a later stage when it is more difficult to treat.

This study, co-led by the Institute of Cancer Research, London, King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London was the largest ever to consider this particular breast cancer sub-type. Involving over 100 research institutions, it compared the DNA of over 6,500 women with invasive lobular cancer with more than 35,000 women without the disease.

They found that women with a particular genetic variant, called rs11977670, had a 13 percent higher chance of developing invasive lobular cancer than women without the variant. This discovery, in addition to other markers, could enable genetic screening tools to be developed to assess a woman’s risk of invasive lobular cancer. It also gave new insights into the genetic causes of the disease as well as lobular carcinoma in situ, a precursor to cancer.

In addition to finding a new genetic variant, the scientists evaluated 75 genetic variants previously linked with increased breast cancer risk. They found that most of these were specifically associated with the risk of invasive lobular cancer as well as overall breast cancer risk. The study also showed for the first time that genetic factors that increase the risk of invasive breast cancer can also predispose to lobular carcinoma in situ.

Study co-author Dr Elinor Sawyer said: “A diagnosis of breast cancer can be devastating, particularly if it is not picked up early and the cancer is at a stage when it may be more difficult to treat. This can be the case for lobular breast cancers as they are difficult to see on mammograms. By identifying genetic factors that result in an increased risk of lobular cancer we hope in the future to be able to find better ways of assessing the risk of developing these cancers, so different screening tests can be offered to those at high risk, as well as finding new treatments for lobular cancer.”

Study co-leader Professor Montserrat Garcia-Closas said: “Our study is the first to link a genetic variant specifically with a higher risk of invasive lobular carcinoma, which accounts for around 10 to 15 per cent of all cases. It also finds that more than 50 previously discovered variants specifically increase the risk of lobular tumours, as well as making breast cancer overall more likely.

“Understanding the genetic factors at work in lobular cancers could be particularly important, because they are often missed by mammography because of their unusual growth patterns. In the future, we hope that improving our knowledge of the genes involved in lobular carcinoma could improve our ability to prevent and treat it.”

For more information please visit Breast Cancer Campaign.

Holly Lovering                                                                                                   24 April 2014

On the pulse 20 March 2014

  • Cancerkin visits Chai Cancer Care
  • New prognostic test for breast cancer could improve patient treatment

Cancerkin visits Chai Cancer Care
As part of Cancerkin’s commitment to work with similar organisations, Victoria Todd (Cancerkin’s Chief Executive) visited the Chai Cancer Care centre this week and met with Louise Hager, Chai’s Chairman, and Lisa Steele, their Chief Executive. She came back very impressed with their stunningly beautiful Centre, the range of therapies they offer and the very warm welcome she received.

Study identifies protein which causes breast cancer cells to migrate
A study published online in The Journal of Cell Biology has identified a protein that causes individual cells to be released from their neighbouring cells and migrate away from healthy breast tissue. Their results, they say, help clarify the molecular changes required for cancer cells to metastasize.

The researchers looked at epithelial cells, which line the inside and outside of organs throughout the body and give rise to 85% of all cancers. In this study, they focused on mammary epithelial cells, which form the ducts that carry milk within the breast. As Dr Ewald, one of the study authors, explains, “tumour cells have to break their connections to other epithelial cells in order to leave the breast and build metastases in other parts of the body.”

The scientists removed small pieces of mammary tissue from normal mice and grew them in gels that mimic their natural environment. By using coloured proteins to mark different types of cells, they were then able to watch how cell behaviour varied with changes to the genetics of the cell.

The first protein studied, E-cadherin, is found on the surface of most epithelial cells and is used to connect epithelial cells to each other.  Its absence is often associated with human breast cancers. Therefore, when the scientists deleted the protein from normal mouse mammary cells, they were surprised to find that most of the epithelial cells still remained connected to each other. The same result was found in live mice.

In a second set of experiments, the team turned on a gene called Twist 1. Within 24 hours, dozens of individual cells had begun to move past the epithelial boundary and into the gel beyond. Again, similar results were seen when this experiment was repeated in live mice.

Further experiments indicated the single cell detachment and migration induced by Twist 1 actually requires the presence of E-caderin – the protein that helps bind cells together. As Dr Ewald says, “This finding is quite counterintuitive and we are eager to understand the biology behind it…our goal is to improve outcomes for patients with metastatic breast cancer, and this work takes us one step closer to doing so.”

For more information please visit Science Daily.

On the pulse 13 March 2014

  • Cancerkin’s Annual Lecture
  • New prognostic test for breast cancer could improve patient treatment

Cancerkin’s Annual Lecture
The Annual Lecture was held this week and was a great success. Professor Justin Stebbing MD MA FRCP FRCPath PhD, Professor of Cancer Medicine and Medical Oncology at Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust gave a fascinating lecture on how breast cancer treatment has developed over the past few decades, and what is to come in the future. He was joined by Aleksandra Filipovic, a Clinical Fellow at Imperial College, who discussed some of the underlying science in more depth, and Vanessa Carlos, a patient, who was able to give a “patient’s-eye view” on breast cancer treatment today.

It really was an inspiring lecture, which balanced both the science behind breast cancer treatment with the importance of the treating the patient as a person. Professor Stebbing also answered questions after the lecture, giving full and insightful comments on a number of topics.

For the first time, the lecture was completely booked, and we are glad that so many of you were able to hear such a captivating lecture. The comments we have heard from people who attended have all been overwhelmingly positive, and so we would like to say a big thank you to John Carrier, Cancerkin’s Chairman, for leading the evening and Tim Davidson, Cancerkin’s Medical Director for chairing the question and answer session. We would especially like to thank Professor Stebbing, Aleksandra Filipovic and Vanessa Carlos for what was a most enlightening and enjoyable talk.

New prognostic test for breast cancer could improve patient treatment
A study by researchers based at the University of Nottingham have developed The Nottingham Prognostic Index Plus (NPI+), a new clinical test for breast cancer  which aims to improve patient treatment.

The NPI+ test was developed from the existing Nottingham Prognostic Index. The Nottingham Prognostic Index was created 30 years ago and is currently used across the world when treating patients with breast cancer to evaluate the risk of the disease returning after surgery.  However, it now known that breast cancer is a biologically complex disease, with its various forms having very different outcomes. Therefore, the more information a doctor has on a particular patient’s cancer, the better they can produce an effective plan of treatment.

The new NPI+ test therefore incorporates the measurement of 10 proteins (biomarkers) found in breast cancer cells. These biomarkers include ER and HER2 which are currently tested for in clinics along with others which are not currently tested for.

The findings, published in The British Journal of Cancer, could significantly improve the way breast cancer patients are treated by providing clinicians with more detailed information about the patient’s breast cancer type and its likely behaviour, therefore enabling them to develop a more personalised treatment plan. As the technology required to measure protein biomarkers is already in place in most pathology laboratories across the UK, the NPI+ test could be ready for use in as little as two years, dependant on further validation work.

Professor Ian Ellis, the study’s leader, said:  “Using a panel of 10 biomarkers and other clinical information, we are able to categorise women with breast cancer into one of seven treatment-specific classes based on their personal cancer biology. We believe the categorisation of women with breast cancer into more specific risk classes will deliver better targeting of relevant therapies, which will result in improved outcomes with reduced costs and less anxiety for the patient.

NPI+ will reduce uncertainty for clinicians and patients by removing a large number of patients with indeterminate prognosis and allow better-informed treatment decisions. In addition the ability to give survival prediction will be welcomed by concerned patients. Decisions can be made more quickly reducing waiting times and unnecessary consultation time.”

For more information, please see Medical News Today.