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New breast cancer discovery could help slow the spread of the disease

Experts have identified a gene responsible for the rapid progression of breast cancer

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia Cancer Center has found a way to potentially slow the spread of breast cancer

Some of the most serious cases of breast cancer are those that become metastatic, which means that cancerous cells have traveled to other parts of the body. In this study, the researchers identified the gene responsible for metastatic breast cancer -- TRIM37 -- and learned that it could make tumors resistant to traditional treatments like chemotherapy. 

“Despite metastasis being the key reason for failure of cancer therapies, it remains poorly understood,” said researcher Sanchita Bhatnagar, PhD. “We do not clearly understand what drives the metastatic growth in patients. In general, several genes are altered during tumorigenesis. However, whether targeting the same genes will prevent metastatic transition remains to be addressed.” 

Preventing cancer cells from spreading

The majority of breast cancer patients are typically treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, once a tumor becomes metastatic, these treatments are unsuccessful. 

Dr. Bhatnagar and her team set out to discover how they could specifically target the TRIM37 gene and ultimately give patients a viable treatment option. She conducted her study on mice and used a combination of nanoparticles and antibodies that were designed to block the cancerous cells and allow healthy cells to flourish. 

“It’s a kiss of death that selectively reduces the expression of TRIM37 in cancer cells and prevents the spread,” said Dr. Bhatnagar. 

The researchers decided to target the mice’s lungs with the nanoparticle treatment, as it is the site of the majority of metastatic tumors for breast cancer patients. The treatment was delivered nasally, and the researchers monitored the mice’s lungs to see how effective this intervention was at slowing the spread of cancerous cells. Ultimately, the researchers observed significant improvements in the mice that were given the nanoparticle treatment. 

“The lungs showed dramatic reduction in metastatic lesions after the treatment in comparison to the mice that received no treatment,” Dr. Bhatnagar said. 

Very effective option

While the researchers plan to continue developing this work, they predict that targeting the TRIM37 gene in this way could be an effective treatment option for nearly 80 percent of those with triple negative breast cancer. They also noted that this could be an effective way to treat other types of cancer. 

“This is a delivery platform, not only for targeting our protein of interest, but for many other chemotherapeutic drugs that can be packaged into the nanoparticles and selectively delivered,” said Dr. Bhatnagar. 

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia Cancer Center has found a way to potentially slow the spread of breast cancer. 

Some of the most serious cases of breast cancer are those that become metastatic, which means that cancerous cells have traveled to other parts of the body. In this study, the researchers identified the gene responsible for metastatic breast cancer -- TRIM37 -- and learned that it could make tumors resistant to traditional t...

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    Onion and garlic linked with lower risk of breast cancer in women

    Researchers say the foods could help reduce breast cancer risk by nearly 70 percent

    Researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that women who regularly consume onions and garlic could be reducing their risk of developing breast cancer.

    In a population-based study in Puerto Rico, the team looked at consumption of the two foods and found that eating them on a daily basis led to a significant reduction in breast cancer risk.

    “We found that among Puerto Rican women, the combined intake of onion and garlic, as well as sofrito, was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer,” said researcher Gauri Desai. 

    How the ingredients help

    The women involved in the study were between the ages of 30 and 79, and 346 women without breast cancer were compared with 314 women who had been diagnosed with the disease. 

    All of the participants completed food frequency questionnaires so the researchers could determine how often they were consuming onions, garlic, or sofrito -- a popular condiment in Puerto Rico with an onion and garlic base. 

    The study revealed that consuming onions and garlic regularly was effective in reducing the women’s likelihood of developing breast cancer. When compared with those who never ate garlic or onions, those who incorporated the ingredients into their daily lives were nearly 70 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. 

    According to Desai, the ingredients contain “flavonols and organosulfur compounds,” both of which have properties that are known to reduce cancer risk. The compounds have also been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes.. 

    Diet plays a role

    Earlier this summer, researchers found that eating less red meat could also be effective for women to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. 

    While red meat in any capacity has been found to be bad for consumers’ overall health, opting for poultry instead of red meat can be beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer. 

    “Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen,” said researcher Dale P. Sandler, PhD. “Our study adds further evidence that red meat consumption may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer, whereas poultry was associated with decreased risk.” 

    Researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that women who regularly consume onions and garlic could be reducing their risk of developing breast...
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    Women at increased risk for breast cancer for up to 20 years after childbirth

    Researchers say age and heredity could play a large role

    Pregnancy comes with several health risks, both for mothers and their babies. Though nine months of pregnancy come with countless doctor’s appointments and a keen sense of attention to women’s bodies and overall health, research has shown why that shouldn’t stop after the baby is born.

    A new study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health found that women could be at risk for developing breast cancer for up to 20 years after childbirth.

    “What we saw was this pattern where risk was highest about five years after birth, and then it gradually declined as time went on,” lead researcher Dr. Hazel Nichols told CNN.

    Women at risk

    The researchers collected data from 15 cohort studies to explore the likelihood of women developing breast cancer post-childbirth. All of the women involved in the study were under the age of 55, and those who had given birth were compared with those of the same age who had not.

    For the women who had experienced childbirth, their risk for developing breast cancer was higher than for those who hadn’t. The researchers found that the risk could last for up to 24 years post-birth, but it was at its highest level five years following childbirth.

    The risk of developing breast cancer was highest for women who had the disease in their family lines, in addition to women who had children later in life. However, a mother’s decision to breastfeed didn’t affect their risk of developing breast cancer.

    The researchers are hopeful that the findings from this study will urge healthcare providers to make the most informed choices for their patients and promote preventive breast cancer measures.

    Other breast cancer risks

    With nearly one in eight women in the United States at risk of developing invasive breast cancer, it’s important that consumers know some preventive measures associated with the disease.

    Last year, researchers found that women that took just 81mg of aspirin on a regular basis were less likely to develop breast cancer. However, that wasn’t the case for women that took a different painkiller or a higher dosage.

    The researchers explain that aspirin can work as an aromatase inhibitor, which reduces the amount of estrogen in the blood and can therefore help to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

    “We did not by and large find associations with the other pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen,” said Dr. Christina A. Clarke. “We also did not find associations with regular aspirin since this type of medication is taken sporadically for headaches or other pain, and not daily for prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

    Researchers also found that for postmenopausal women, losing weight was effective in reducing the risk of breast cancer.

    While gaining weight wasn’t found to be a direct link to breast cancer, the study participants that gained weight were over 50 percent more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer -- a strain of the illness that doesn’t respond to traditional hormonal therapy. Conversely, those who lost weight over the course of the study were just 12 percent likely to develop breast cancer.

    Pregnancy comes with several health risks, both for mothers and their babies. Though nine months of pregnancy come with countless doctor’s appointments and...
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    Weight loss could be key to lowering risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women

    The study results prove timely as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    Breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of women in the United States each year, and much research has been done on risk factors that influence breast cancer diagnoses.

    While previous studies have shown obesity increases the risk for breast cancer, a new study published in CANCER tested the effects of weight loss on the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The researchers found that older women who lost weight had less of a risk of developing invasive breast cancer, as opposed to those that either maintained or gained weight.

    “Our study indicates that moderate, relatively short-term weight reduction was associated with a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women,” said lead author Dr. Rowan Chlebowski.

    Effects of weight loss

    To test their hypothesis, the researchers evaluated information from over 61,000 women who had participated in the World Health Initiative Observational Study.

    At the start of the study, each woman’s body mass index (BMI), height, and weight were recorded. Participants were evaluated again three years into the study as either stable, loss, or gain. The women in the study also all had normal mammogram results and no history of breast cancer.

    The study found that gaining weight wasn’t a direct link to breast cancer. However, participants in the study who did gain weight -- by at least five percent -- were 54 percent more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer -- a strain of the disease that doesn’t respond to hormonal therapy.

    On the other hand, those who experienced a weight loss by at least five percent were 12 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.

    Breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of women in the United States each year, and much research has been done on risk factors that influence breast...
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    Study suggests cancer surgery raises risk of disease spread

    Researchers say the wound-healing process can unleash new tumors

    Surgery has long been an option to treat breast cancer, but new research suggests that it could make the disease worse in some cases.

    Findings published in the the journal Science Translational Medicine show that the process of the wound healing from surgery may increase the possibility of cancer spreading.

    “Patients undergoing surgical resection of primary breast tumors confront a risk for metastatic recurrence that peaks sharply 12 to 18 months after surgery,” the authors write.

    Previous research has also indicated that growth factors and inflammatory response from surgery are tied to increased risk of cancer spreading to other areas of the body. In some studies, the invasiveness of the procedure is tied to the risk.

    Removes constraints on cells

    Robert Weinberg, the study’s senior author, says the process of the surgical wound healing appears to remove the constraints on other cancer cells that have already spread to other areas of the body. Those constraints usually keep the cells from producing new malignant tumors.

    Dr. Jason Williams, a radiologist at the Williams Cancer Institute, says the findings may be especially important for breast cancer patients.

    "This gives further support to less invasive breast cancer treatments such as ultrasound guided percutaneous Cryoablation," Williams said. "We have known of these links and have combined injecting ketorolac into the tumor site treated by cryoablation for several years."

    Ketorolac is a medication that has been used to slow or prevent cancer spread. Williams says it makes sense that it, and other less invasive treatments, should receive new consideration. However, he says more research will be necessary to refine the treatments.

    Somewhat controversial

    The theory that surgery can cause cancer to spread is somewhat controversial. In fact, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) includes it among its list of myths about the disease and says the risk is very low.

    “Following standard procedures, surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading during biopsies or surgery to remove tumors,” NCI says on its website. “For example, if they must remove tissue from more than one area of the body, they use different surgical tools for each area.”

    Surgery has long been an option to treat breast cancer, but new research suggests that it could make the disease worse in some cases.Findings published...
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    Early-stage breast cancer patients may get too much treatment

    Cancer researchers say medical guidelines aren't being followed

    Besides the physical and emotional toll a disease like cancer takes, there is also the financial toll. For example, some drugs used to treat cancer are extremely expensive. For patients, there is definitely a financial aspect to managing their disease.

    Now, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are producing evidence that many women with early-stage breast cancer are getting treatment that may be a waste of money.

    Specifically, they say patients often receive advanced imaging and other tests that provide little, if any medical benefit. In fact, they say these procedures could have harmful effects, and it's likely they will make the treatment more expensive.

    Guidelines not being followed

    Study leader Dr. Gary Lyman, a breast cancer oncologist, says current guidelines recommend against routine surveillance testing for patients in the early stage of breast cancer, but they're frequently performed anyway.

    Lyman says the guidelines were drawn up to help patients and doctors make the best decisions, based on the best medical evidence. The guidelines specifically recommend against the routine use of advanced imaging scans and costly blood tests to track tumor markers.

    That's because there have been several studies that have shown the patient gets no benefit, and there's a strong likelihood of false-positive results that can lead to unnecessary procedures, such as radiation treatment.

    Message not getting through

    But the Hutchinson researchers say the message isn't getting through. Their review of records in more than 2,000 early-stage breast cancer cases found that 37% percent received tumor-marker tests during the post-treatment surveillance period. On average, there were 2.8 tests per patient.

    While there are obvious health concerns, Lyman said these patients faced costs higher than the patients who didn't get the extra tests and procedures.

    "We believe one of the best ways we can help patients reduce their financial burden is for us to reinforce the message with oncologists that these tests have been shown to provide no benefit for this particular group of patients,” said Lyman.

    Lyman and the research team will present the findings early next month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

    The cost of treating breast cancer varies by the stage, with the lowest costs during early stages. An analysis of treatment costs by the National Institutes of Health placed average costs, in the first 24 months after diagnosis, at $72,000 for early-stage breast cancer.

    Besides the physical and emotional toll a disease like cancer takes, there is also the financial toll. For example, some drugs used to treat cancer are ext...
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    Screening developed for women with dense breast tissue

    Rapid Breast MRI developer says the protocol could detect breast cancer six years earlier

    A doctor in Flint, Mich., says he has developed a special screening process to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.

    He says his "Rapid Breast MRI" protocol could detect breast cancer up to six years earlier than a mammogram and could possibly save thousands of lives.

    "Your breasts will be seen as dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat in the breasts," the American Cancer Society says on its website.

    As it turns out, breast density is very common and not abnormal. However, it can present some challenges to screening using a mammogram.

    Not clear what women should do

    According to the Mayo Clinic, some states have laws requiring doctors to inform women when a mammogram shows they have dense breast tissue. "But just what women should do in response isn't clear," the Mayo Clinic says.

    Dr. David A. Strahle, chairman of Regional Medical Imaging (RMI), believes Rapid Breast MRI could be the answer.

    An MRI is a highly effective way to see what is going on inside the body. The only problem is, it's very expensive. For that reason, only about 2% of women -- those considered at high risk for breast cancer -- get MRI screenings.

    Strahle says his protocol cuts the time required for a breast scan by 70%, to just seven minutes. That, he says, will drastically reduce the cost.

    Half the cost of regular MRI

    While insurance companies do not yet cover Rapid Breast MRI, Strahle says the exam costs $395 out-of-pocket, compared to $700 or more for a full diagnostic MRI. Strahle says the scan only needs to be performed every two years, as opposed to more frequent mammograms.

    "This is a major breakthrough," Strahle said. "I can see a day when we can prevent this disease from killing women."

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women in the U.S. Nearly 41,000 U.S. women died from breast cancer in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

    According to the CDC, women age 50 to 74 should be screened for breast cancer every two years. Women under 50 should discuss with their doctor when to begin screening.

    A doctor in Flint, Mich., says he has developed a special screening process to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.He says his "Rapi...
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    AI software could make early breast cancer detection easier

    Researchers say the software could eliminate false positives and unnecessary biopsies

    Breast cancer screenings are an important preventative health measure. However, up to 50% of the time these tests can produce a false positive.

    Now, scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute have developed artificial intelligence (A.I.) software that can predict women's breast cancer risk faster and more reliably than other tests.

    The software boasts 99% accuracy, meaning the risk of false-positive results (and the unnecessary anxiety that follows) would be significantly lowered.

    30 times human speed

    The cancer-detecting AI, which scientists have not yet named, works by reviewing patient charts and converting them into diagnostic information.

    In addition to its impressive rate of accuracy, the software also produces quick results. Manual physician evaluations can take up to 60 hours. The AI, on the other hand, runs at 30 times human speed.

    Beyond shortening the time it takes to effectively predict cancer risk, the AI could help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, said lead researcher Dr. Stephen T. Wong of the Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering, per Breast Cancer News.

    "This software intelligently reviews millions of records in a short amount of time, enabling us to determine breast cancer risk more efficiently using a patient's mammogram," Wong said in release.

    The AI software successfully and efficiently evaluated the more than 500 in just a few hours, which saved doctors over 500 hours. It also helped researchers rate patients’ probability of being at risk for breast cancer.

    "Accurate review of this many charts would be practically impossible without AI," said Wong.

    Breast cancer screenings are an important preventative health measure. However, up to 50% of the time these tests can produce a false positive. Now, sc...
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    Most expensive breast cancer treatments not always most effective

    Researchers say oncologists should consider cost when prescribing

    Drug costs have increased significantly in recent years, at times even`becoming a political issue. The drugs that seem to increase the most are specialty drugs, like those used to treat chronic diseases, such as cancer.

    Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have found the cost of different breast cancer chemotherapy treatments can vary widely, with little or no correlation to effectiveness.

    Dr. Sharon Giordana, chair of Health Services Research, says an understanding of costs should play a role in helping doctors and patients decide on a course of treatment.

    "The costs of cancer care have been increasing dramatically, both for the health care system and for patients. As physicians, we increasingly are recognizing the financial burden on our patients," said Giordano. "Both physicians and patients need greater access to information about the treatment costs, so this critical issue can be discussed during a patient's decision making process."

    Cut costs by $1 billion a year

    Giordana cites estimates from the American Cancer Society that there are more than 246,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer each year in the U.S. Since more than a third of these patients will be treated with chemotherapy, Giordana says choosing a therapy that is just as effective, but less costly, could shave $1 billion a year off the nation's health care bill.

    A recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina concluded that cancer drug inflation is a very real thing. Specifically, the researchers found that when a new cancer drug comes on the market, its initial cost is much higher than the initial costs of drugs introduced a decade or more ago.

    Six times more expensive

    Their study determined that a month's worth of treatment with the newest cancer drugs, on the market since 2014, were, on average, six times more expensive than the launch prices of similar drugs introduced in 2000, even after adjusting for inflation.

    In the Texas study, researchers focused on younger patients who had private health insurance. Giordano says patients without private health insurance likely face even higher out-of-pocket expense for chemotherapy.

    For that reason, she says oncologists need to prescribe the most effective treatments, while being aware of the substantial financial burden associated with chemotherapy.

    Drug costs have increased significantly in recent years, at times even`becoming a political issue. The drugs that seem to increase the most are specialty d...
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    Fruits and vegetables early in life linked to lower risk of breast cancer later

    Findings indicate that high consumption rates can reduce the risk by 25%

    You may have heard of the old adage that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but it may be more true than many of us realized. A new study has linked higher consumption of fruits and vegetables in adolescence with lowered risk of breast cancer later in life.

    Up until this point, some experts had posited that eating fruits and vegetables affected breast cancer risk, but many established studies had only analyzed these eating habits for middle-aged or older individuals.

    In order to rectify this, a team of researchers followed a group of 90,000 nurses in early adulthood over the course of 20 years, asking the participants to report on their diets and recall how they ate when they were younger. They found that those who consumed a high amount of fruits and vegetables (2.9 servings per day versus .5 servings per day) had a 25% lower risk of breast cancer when they reached middle-age.

    The researchers also found that certain fruits and vegetables had particularly strong ties to lower risks of breast cancer. They included foods like apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, and kale.

    Interestingly, consumption of fruit juices in adolescence did not have any tangible effect on breast cancer risk, suggesting that eating the whole versions of these products was more beneficial.

    The full study has been published in The BMJ.

    You may have heard of the old adage that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but it may be more true than many of us realized. A new study has linked h...
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