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

On the Pulse – 31st July 2015

  • Getting to know…
  • Farewell to our East London complementary therapy services
  • New research shows two classes of cheaper generic drugs can help reduce breast cancer deaths


Getting to know…

This week we are getting to know Jacqui Moneke, Cancerkin’s East London Programme Manager.

Jacqui OTP


How long have you worked at Cancerkin?

I worked at Cancerkin since January 2015. I started as the East London Outreach and Development Assistant and was then promoted to East London Programme Manager.

What attracted you to the role? 

I already worked with a few charities before and really liked the idea of working closely with patients. I wanted to pursue a career in the voluntary sector and this role gave me a very varied job description to explore possibilities.

Tell us about what the future holds?

I will be leaving Cancerkin in August to go to medical school at The University of Keele. Hopefully I will be a doctor in 5 years but might be very broke!  

Do you have an interesting fact you would like to share?

I’m a classically trained singer up to grade 5 with distinction. I have been in a choir since the age of 7 and was lucky enough to tour Italy with them. I also had a solo at the Royal Festival Hall with an orchestra when I was 9.

Do you have a favourite book?

Not really, but the book I have read the most is ‘For Esme – with love and squalor’ by J D Salinger.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I would go travelling, buy each of my siblings a house and purchase a holiday home for my parents! If I had some left over money I would also buy up derelict properties and turn them into social housing and shelters. There are far too many homeless people in London with nowhere to go.

And finally our question to everyone what’s your favourite cake?

I don’t really like cake or chocolate.

Really?! No cake at all?

Well I do like fresh Madeira cake but it has to be very buttery and fresh out of the oven.


Farewell to our East London complementary therapy services

Cancerkin’s East London complementary therapy service has now come to an end with our last session taking place on Tuesday 28 July 2015 at the Given-Wilson Institute in Plaistow. There have been a lot of changes in East London since we held our first session in 2010 and there are now other, East London based, organisations able to continue the good work we pioneered six years ago. St. Joseph’s Hospice already provides complementary therapies and has now opened a new complementary therapy service in Plaistow. A Maggie’s Centre will also be opening at Bart’s Hospital, Islington in 2016. We are proud that our programme has had such a positive impact on more than 250 patients that we have treated and assisted during our sessions. We feel we have helped pave the way for others to continue to offer these services.  The East London Programme is now looking to expand its breast awareness work in the boroughs of Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets to inform women and men in the community about breast cancer helping to reduce the one-year mortality rate in the boroughs – currently amongst the highest in the UK.


New research shows two classes of cheaper generic drugs can help reduce breast cancer deaths

Two studies recently published in the Lancet revealed 2 different classes of drugs called aromatase inhibitors (AIs) and bisphosphates may increase the survival chances of post-menopausal women with early breast cancer. The findings also showed the two drugs used together had increasing benefits while also decreasing some side-effects.

The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer are post-menopausal and the disease is most commonly detected at an early stage. Surgery to remove the tumour is currently the first course of treatment in most cases, but may leave traces of dangerous micrometastases (small secondary tumours). 80% of breast cancer cases are oestrogen-receptor (ER) positive, or sensitive to hormones in the body, such as the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen. Endocrine treatments, such as AIs, bisphosphates and tamoxifen, which can disrupt the tumour’s response to these body hormones, can help stop further growth and prevent a recurrence of breast cancer in the future.

The research, brought together by the Early Breast Cancer Trialist’s Collaborative Group (EBCTCG) – a global collaboration of work set up by researchers at the University of Oxford, involved 30,000 postmenopausal women  who participated in 9 clinical trials in the 1st study. Over a 5 year span, those on the newer endocrine treatment (i.e. an AI) showed better survival rates than those on standard endocrine therapy (tamoxifen). Compared to tamoxifen, taking the new endocrine treatment for a further 5 years reduced the likelihood of breast cancer recurrence by 30% and the risk of dying from breast cancer by 15%. The 2nd study combines evidence from around 20,000 women in 26 clinical trials. It showed that 2 – 5 years of bisphosphates treatment, usually used to treat osteoporosis, reduces the risk of breast cancer recurring in post-menopausal women, and also has a significant positive impact on survival chances. However, this type of treatment was seen to have little effect for pre-menopausal women.

Professor Richard Gray, from the University of Oxford and the lead statistician for both studies, commented on the findings saying, “These studies provide really good evidence that both of these inexpensive, generic drugs can help to reduce breast cancer mortality in postmenopausal women. About two-thirds of all women with breast cancer are postmenopausal with hormone-sensitive tumours, so could potentially benefit from both drugs. The drugs are complementary, because the main side effect of aromatase inhibitors is an increase in bone loss and fractures, while bisphosphonates reduce bone loss and fractures as well as improving survival”.


For more information please see BBC News and The Lancet

On The Pulse – 24th July 2015

  • Getting to know …. Rain Webster
  • Independent taskforce report aims to boost cancer survival and transform patient experience

Getting to know ….

This week we are chatting to Rain Webster, Cancerkin’s Reiki therapist.Rain OTP

How long have you been providing Reiki at Cancerkin?

5 years, I started in 2010.

So how long have you been practicing Reiki and how did you get into it?

Since 2000 – I did an introductory course on homeopathy to start with. At the same time as I did the course I was also seeing an osteopath for my back. When he was healing my back he almost put me into a meditative state. I had no idea Reiki existed when it was explained to me. My osteopath felt an intuitive healing method would be good for me to teach, so I pursued the practice. He is still my mentor now!

If someone had never heard of Reiki before how would you describe it to them?

As a universal healing energy. During my sessions I give a short explanation and then get patients to tell me a little bit about themselves and what’s important to them, in an informal setting. It gives people the opportunity to express how they are really feeling.  I believe you don’t always get that opportunity in clinical medicine.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

It is really rewarding and fulfilling. Not everyone connects with Reiki – certain therapies are needed at different times. However, often people are surprised at how they connect with it and how it helps people really address balance in their lives and pulls in another perspective.

You’ve been a practising Reiki for 15 years now, but what did you do before?

I was very arty, doing ceramic sculpture, making jewellery and lots of dance.

Tell me about your favourite place in the world?

A river valley in the South of France – it’s a beautiful place to walk and a secret paradise of mine.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to dance – I used to just get up and dance for the sake of it!

And finally, what is your favourite cake?

I’m gluten intolerant so usually make a brown rice flour cake with cardamom and cinnamon – delicious.

Reiki appointments at the Cancerkin Centre take place every Thursday. Please call the office on 02078302323 to book your place.


Independent taskforce report aims to boost cancer survival and transform patient experience

Sunday 19th July saw the Independent Cancer Taskforce publish their latest report ‘Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015 – 2020’. The report was written to help the NHS and Public Health England achieve first rate cancer outcomes. The taskforce was set up by NHS England in January 2015 and includes health professionals and charity representatives. It’s independently chaired by Dr Harpal Kumar, the Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK[1].

The report talks in detail about six strategic priorities:

A radical upgrade in prevention and public health – This section outlines how the NHS should work closely with the government to develop a prevention plan with a focus on decreasing smoking and obesity.

A national ambition to achieve earlier diagnosis – The taskforce would like to see that by 2020 95% of patients referred for cancer testing by their GP “are definitively diagnosed with cancer, or cancer is excluded, and the result communicated to the patient, within four weeks”.

Patient experience on par with clinical effectiveness and safety – The strategy recommends giving all consenting patients electronic access to all test results and other communications involving further care by 2020. Patients should also have access to a clinical nurse specialist or other key worker to help coordinate their care.

 Transformation in support for people living with and beyond cancer – By 2020 every person with cancer should have access to elements of a ‘Recovery Package’ – a comprehensive plan that outlines treatment as well as post-treatment support and care.

Investment to deliver a modern high-quality service, including:

  • A replacement plan for radiotherapy machines (linacs) as they reach 10-years old and upgrading of existing linacs by the time they have been operational for six years;
  •  A permanent and sustainable model for the Cancer Drugs Fund to help patients get access to innovative cancer treatments;
  • A nationally-commissioned, regionally-delivered, molecular diagnostics service, to guide more personalised prevention, screening and treatment;
  •  Plans to address critical deficits in the cancer workforce.

Overhauled processes for commissioning, accountability and provision – Clearer expectations need to be set by the end of 2015 for how cancer services should be commissioned. A network of Cancer Alliances should be established across the country bringing together key partners at a local level, including patients.

Harpal Kumar, chair of the Independent Cancer Taskforce, said: “We have an opportunity to save many thousands of lives from cancer every year. We’re better informed than ever about how best to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease, and how to deliver better patient experience and quality of life. What’s needed now is action. Three previous cancer strategies did a great job of setting England on the path to a world class cancer service. But we are a long way from where we should be. Our expectation is that the Government and NHS will now make the investments required and implement this strategy with commitment and speed.”


To read more from the report please visit The Cancer Taskforce website



[1] Dr Hapal Kumar is also going to be giving Cancerkin’s annual lecture on the 8th October 2015 at the Royal Free Hospital. To be a part of Dr Kumar’s talk please reserve your seat by e-mailing Ellie Shaw at eshaw@cancerkin.org.uk