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anonymous  October 25, 2007 7:44 PM

More Women Getting Double Mastectomies
October 23, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More women who have cancer in only one breast are getting both breasts removed, says research that found the trend more than doubled in just six years. It's still a rare option: Most breast cancer in this country is treated by lumpectomy, removing just the tumor while saving the breast.

But the new study suggests 4.5 percent of breast cancer surgery in 2003 involved women getting cancerous and healthy breasts simultaneously removed, a 150 percent increase from 1998 -- with no sign that the trend was slowing.

Young women are most likely to choose the aggressive operation, researchers report Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The concern is whether they're choosing in the heat of the moment -- breast cancer surgery often is within two weeks of diagnosis -- or with good understanding of its pros and cons.

"Are these realistic decisions or not?" asks Dr. Todd Tuttle, cancer surgery chief at the University of Minnesota, who led the study after more women sought the option in his own hospital.

"I'm afraid that women believe having their opposite breast removed is somehow going to improve their breast cancer survival. In fact, it probably will not affect their survival," he said.

The initial tumor already may have sent out seeds of spread to key organs, Tuttle explained.

But removing the remaining healthy breast does greatly lower, although not eliminate, chances of a new cancer developing on the opposite side.

Don't underestimate the peace of mind that brings, said Trisha Stotler Meyer of Vienna, Va., who had her breasts removed three weeks ago.

"Doctors are not up at night crying" in fear of their next mammogram, said Meyer, 37, who went back for a double mastectomy after her initial cancer surgery. "I don't want to have to deal with the stress."

Meyer is far from alone.

In a single day last week, Dr. Shawna Willey of Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center had two patients seek the operation.

One needed her entire cancerous breast removed, and immediately asked to have the healthy one removed, too. Another woman had recently undergone a lumpectomy and was sick from chemotherapy -- and returned to ask that both breasts be fully removed.

"Her perception is, 'If I have my breasts taken off, I never have to do this again,'" said Willey, who asked the woman to see a counselor and finish chemo before deciding.

"I can understand that point of view," she added. "But I always tell them, it's not a guarantee."

The American Cancer Society estimates 178,480 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. About 40,460 will die of it.

Some women at high risk, because of notorious breast cancer genes or family history, choose preventive mastectomies before cancer ever strikes.

Tuttle's study is the first national look at how many women choose to remove both a diseased and healthy breast together.

He used a government cancer registry that covers 16 regions, a representative sample of the U.S. population, to track more than 150,000 breast cancer surgeries between 1998 and 2003.

Tuttle calculated that lumpectomies accounted for almost 60 percent of those surgeries in 2003. Lumpectomies have gradually increased since they were proven just as effective as breast removal for early cancer in 1991.

The surprise: Single mastectomies remain the No. 2 option but are dropping -- while double mastectomies, although uncommon, were on the rise for every stage of cancer. Even women who qualify for anti-hormone drugs that greatly protect the remaining breast were as likely to choose removal as women with harder-to-treat tumors.

Why? Tuttle is planning a new study to tell, and to see if candidates are warned about such risks as infection that increase with the bigger surgery.

Meyer, the Virginia woman, had time to fully consider the option. She was diagnosed with cancer in January 2005, shortly after her son's birth. At first, she was content with a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. But she didn't qualify for protective anti-hormone drugs. And then in March, Meyer found a lump in her healthy breast. It wasn't cancer but a cyst that would wax and wane, making for tense checkups.

"It really freaked me out," Meyer said. "It was at that moment that my breasts became like tonsils. I don't need them anymore. They're gone."

Georgetown's Willey says better reconstructive surgery is partly spurring the trend. Still, she often encourages women to wait to remove the second breast, as lining up reconstruction sometimes dangerously delays treating the cancer.

"When I was younger ... I really tried to argue with patients and talk them out of it," Willey said. Now, if they've weighed the options, she doesn't.

"I can't recall a single patient who tells me they regret that decision."

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anonymous  October 11, 2007 2:50 PM

Taxol Doesn't Treat Common Breast Cancer
October 11, 2007

(The Associated Press) -- The widely used chemotherapy drug Taxol does not work for the most common form of breast cancer and helps far fewer patients than has been believed, surprising new research suggests.

If further study bears this out, more than 20,000 women each year in the United States alone might be spared the side effects of this drug or similar ones without significantly raising the risk their cancer will return. That would be roughly half of all breast cancer patients who get chemo now.

"We want to make sure these data are correct before withholding it (Taxol) from some patients ... the stakes are high," said the lead researcher, Dr. Daniel Hayes of the University of Michigan. "On the other hand, we don't want to keep a therapy that doesn't work."

In the study, Taxol did the most good for women who had overactive HER-2 genes -- the target of the newer breast cancer drug Herceptin. These women were about 40 percent less likely to have a recurrence if they received Taxol.

Conversely, Taxol did not significantly help women whose tumors were HER-2 negative and were being helped to grow by estrogen. This is the most common form of the disease.

The differences were revealed by a new analysis of a study done in the 1990s, using modern genetic tools that were not available at that time.

"The days of 'one size fits all' therapy for patients with breast cancer are coming to an end," Dr. Anne Moore of Weill Cornell Medical College wrote in an editorial accompanying the study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

"Oncologists have a responsibility to their patients to be aware of this report."

The original study involved more than 3,000 women whose cancer had spread to nearby lymph nodes but not widely throughout the body. This is the situation of about one-fourth of the 175,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. each year.

Researchers tested adding paclitaxel, sold as Taxol by New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and now also in generic form. They gave it after surgery to remove the cancer and treatment with the chemo drugs Adriamycin and Cytoxan.

Taxol improved survival and became a new standard of care. But the drug frequently causes neurological side effects including numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. In the original study, 18 percent of women had this problem months and even years after taking Taxol.

Even more worrisome has been the growing evidence that some women do not benefit as much from chemo as others. Hayes and other researchers wondered whether that was true in their Taxol study.

They retrieved frozen tissue samples from 1,500 of the original participants, did genetic tests to better identify their types of cancer, and discovered big differences in who had responded to the drug.

The study was paid for by grants from the federal government and a breast cancer foundation. Several researchers consult for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"We should have done this a long time ago," but the tools were lacking and researchers now have the advantage of longer follow-up of these women, said another senior author, Donald Berry. He is biostatistics chief at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Berry is reanalyzing another earlier Taxol study, and Moore urged other scientists to do the same.

With more evidence, "we can begin to use the biology of the cancer to decide whether the chemotherapy will work" before subjecting women to it, Hayes said.

The typical four-cycle treatment with generic paclitaxel costs $7,000 or more, including infusion fees that doctors charge. Insurance typically pays most of this.

For now, many doctors will be reluctant to skip Taxol or other chemo, said Dr. Julie Gralow, a cancer specialist at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Some may fear lawsuits if the cancer recurs and the chemo wasn't given, she said.

"It's just so much easier to give the chemotherapy and know you've been super-aggressive."

However, Kris Miller, a 54-year-old former nurse from Chelsea, Mich., said patients should be given the choice. She has had problems since taking Taxol two years ago for a type of breast cancer that the new research suggests would not respond to the drug.

"Most people recover from it, and I guess I'm one of those unfortunate ones that did not," she said of the side effects. "I have severe numbness and tingling, mostly in my feet. It becomes painful by the end of the day. It never goes away."

"I hope they give people that option," to weigh the risks and benefits and possibly skip Taxol, she said. "If I was going through it now, I would like to have that information."

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anonymous  October 08, 2007 6:13 PM

Breast Cancer Chemo May Damage Heart
October 8, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Breast cancer survivors may face increased risk of heart disease -- and doctors are debating if it's time to largely abandon a chemotherapy mainstay that is one reason for the problem.

Drugs called anthracyclines are a breast chemo staple despite a well-known risk: They weaken some women's hearts. What's new is research suggesting the drugs work no better than safer alternatives for most women.

It's a controversy born of success: Treatment advances are enabling more women than ever before to beat breast cancer, and some 2.4 million survivors are alive today. Now a move is under way to determine just how many women are vulnerable to heart disease because of their cancer battle, and how to help them.

Chemo is only one cardiac culprit. Other factors play a role, too: Chest radiation, the weight gain that plagues many survivors, physical inactivity during treatment and stress.

"In the process of curing their breast cancer, we've exposed them to some pretty nasty things. And it's not just one nasty thing, it's a sequence of nasty things," explains Dr. Pamela Douglas, a Duke University cardiologist who is planning research into how to protect these women's hearts.

"This is really coming at you from all sides," says Douglas, who outlined the "multiple hits" in this month's Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

But much of the debate centers on who should use anthracyclines, including the best-known Adriamycin, that can damage heart muscle, sapping its pumping strength.

Dr. Dennis Slamon of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center cites nine studies, here and abroad, that conclude that only the 20 percent of patients whose tumors have an overactive gene called Her2 are specifically sensitive to anthracyclines.

Then Slamon's closer inspection found that not all Her2 patients are alike -- and only those who have a second overactive gene, called TopoII, derive special benefit from anthracyclines. That's about 8 percent of breast cancer patients.

The powerful Her2-targeting drug Herceptin -- key for women with Her2-positive tumors -- also comes with a heart-damage warning. But adding it to anthracyclines increases the heart risk fivefold, with no extra benefit, Slamon found.

Outright heart failure during chemo is rare, around 2 percent of patients. But Douglas cites research that anywhere from 10 percent to half of anthracycline users experience more subtle heart weakening, making them more vulnerable to aging's usual rigors, like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

And in this month's Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers tracked breast cancer survivors ages 66 to 70 who had undergone chemo 10 years earlier. Those who had received an anthracycline were 26 percent more likely to have developed heart failure in the following decade than those on different chemo.

"It's almost like the perfect storm," Slamon says of all the research. "We're adding no incremental benefit with plenty of incremental toxicity."

Now the influential National Breast Cancer Coalition is lobbying oncologists and government regulators to reconsider treatment guidelines.

"These are very strong, very real data that they need to pay attention to," says coalition president Fran Visco.

But many oncologists aren't convinced, and want more evidence that other chemos work as well.

Indeed, Duke University is beginning a major study funded by the Defense Department to do additional genetic testing on Her2-negative women, to compare Adriamycin to the non-anthracycline Taxotere.

"It's fair to say I'm using less Adriamycin for truly early stage" cancer, says lead researcher Dr. Kelly Marcom, Duke's breast oncology chief.

"But there are still patients that I think have cancers that may be more sensitive to Adriamycin," Marcom adds. The jury is still out."

However that controversy ends, a bigger question is how to find and help survivors with heart damage from any cause. As Jane Sartin of Providence, N.C., learned, symptoms are sneaky.

Sartin underwent a mastectomy for side-by-side breast tumors, and took Adriamycin followed by Herceptin. She was warned about heart side effects, and knew as an overweight smoker she already was at risk. Yet she blamed the surgery when she got winded.

"I had never said anything to my doctor about it. I'd say, 'I'm tired, I think from the surgery,'" recalls Sartin, 45.

Twice her ejection fraction -- a measure of blood pumped per beat -- dropped well below normal. It bounced back with treatment changes, and Sartin believes her cancer therapy's benefit justified the side effect.

"I really felt like, hey, I can deal with anything as long as I'm alive," says Sartin, who now is dieting and weaning herself from cigarettes.

For now, never shrug off heart-related symptoms, stresses Dr. Ann Bolger of the University of California, San Francisco, an American Heart Association spokeswoman. Early care can be lifesaving.

Duke's Douglas recommends that all breast cancer patients get a formal heart risk assessment before oncologists decide final treatment. It might sway cancer therapy, or signal who'll need extra heart care later.

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THIS is a fun proactive thing to do!! September 19, 2007 7:38 PM

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 [ send green star]
anonymous  September 06, 2007 12:40 PM

Breast Cancer More Deadly in Black Women
September 6, 2007

(The Associated Press) -- A new study gives a possible explanation for why breast cancer is more deadly in black women: they are more likely to have tumors that do not respond to the hormone-based treatments that help many others with the disease.

The study is the largest yet to link a biological factor to the racial disparity, which also has been blamed on black women getting fewer mammograms and less aggressive treatment.

"This puts biology more to the forefront," said Dr. Julie Gralow, a cancer specialist at the University of Washington School of Medicine familiar with the work. "It's not just access to care, access to treatment and other factors that have been implicated in the past."

The study was led by Dr. M. Catherine Lee of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and is to be presented at a conference starting Friday in San Francisco, organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and other cancer groups.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. An estimated 178,480 new cases and 40,460 deaths from it are expected in the United States this year.

Blacks are less likely than whites to develop breast cancer but are more likely to die from it, doctors have long known. Blacks also are diagnosed at younger ages and at later stages of disease.

Researchers for the first time used the National Cancer Data Base, a tumor registry maintained by the American College of Surgeons, to explore these issues, using more than 170,000 cases diagnosed in 1998. Ten percent were in black women.

The study focused on the 95,500 women whose cancers were invasive rather than still confined to a milk duct. About 39 percent of such tumors in black women were estrogen receptor-negative, or ER-negative, compared with 22 percent of those in white women.

Estrogen helps tumors grow. Drugs that block this hormone, like tamoxifen and a newer class of medications called aromatase inhibitors, work against these cancers.

ER-negative tumors are resistant to such therapies and harder to treat. Other tools like chemotherapy, radiation and targeted biological drugs then become more important for such women, and doctors should consider this when they evaluate black women with the disease, Lee said.

In the study, ER-negative tumors were more common in black women at every stage of disease and at all ages.

For example, only 17 percent of early stage tumors in white women were ER-negative, but 31 percent in black women were. Of the most advanced cancers, 31 percent in whites and 46 percent in blacks were ER-negative.

Echoing previous research, the new study found that black women were diagnosed at younger ages -- an average of 57 years old versus 62 for white women -- and with more advanced disease: only 29 percent had early stage tumors versus 42 percent of white women. They also had larger tumors and more cell traits that are signs of a poor prognosis.

Smaller studies have suggested biological differences between breast cancer in blacks and whites. Earlier this year, the Carolina Breast Cancer Study found that young black women were more likely to have an aggressive form called the basal-like subtype.

Last fall, two studies by researchers from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that black women were more likely to have larger, later-stage tumors and lower survival rates than Hispanic and white women given similar treatments.

But these findings do not mean that differences in screening and health care are not contributing to the trend, especially in certain parts of the country, said Dr. Wendy Woodward, a breast cancer specialist at M.D. Anderson.

"You really have to kind of go at the problem from all angles. If you solve the access problem and women come in and you don't have an adequate therapy for them, you haven't taken a step forward," she said.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, agreed. Racial disparity in breast cancer survival did not appear until the mid-1980s, suggesting that much of it is due to lack of screening mammograms and access to care, he said.

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anonymous  September 06, 2007 12:39 PM

My niece by marriage, just had both breasts removed about a month ago...they did the chemo before the surgery...everything has checked-out negative...because of her family history...they are going to do a complete hysterectomy in a few months...she is only in her twenties...    [report anonymous abuse]
anonymous  July 23, 2007 3:57 PM

Is Chemo Best Before or After Surgery?
July 23, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More breast cancer patients are being offered chemotherapy before surgery instead of afterward -- amid much debate about how to do it right and when it's a good option.

Doctors have long known that having chemo first sometimes shrinks an advanced tumor enough that a woman can undergo smaller surgery and keep her breast.

What's new is the hope that it may help more women with earlier-stage cancer in a different way: by letting doctors switch drugs if the tumor doesn't respond right away. Wait until after surgery, and there's no way to measure the drugs' effect.

Does it really work? There's the rub: Studies show it doesn't endanger a woman to have chemo before surgery -- but so far, the hoped-for better survival hasn't been proven either.

That conundrum means whether a woman is offered pre-surgery chemo, and how, depends more on what doctor she chooses than on firm guidelines.

"I'm a fan of letting patients know what their choices are," says Dr. Minetta Liu of Georgetown University Hospital, a proponent who estimates that up to 10 percent of her patients who need chemo patients choose it pre-surgery. "You're not asking them to do something that's going to have a negative impact on their survival. It just may not help."

On the other side is Dr. Clifford Hudis of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who wants more research to settle the issue before the fledgling trend becomes routine.

"It should not be used ... just because it exists," Hudis says.

With breast cancer deaths dropping since 1990, "the notion that we should move to a different strategy should be challenged, he adds. "We have uncharted territory."

More than 178,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Thanks to improvements in treatment and early detection, many will survive long-term. Still, breast cancer kills 40,000 a year.

Not every patient needs chemotherapy. It depends on the tumor's size and type, and whether the cancer has begun to spread, something determined with a check of lymph nodes under the arm.

There are no good statistics on how often women who need chemo choose it upfront. Most still have chemo after surgery, especially those treated in community hospitals.

But with more specialized cancer centers pushing upfront chemo for earlier-stage patients -- and dozens of clinical trials testing different methods -- the National Cancer Institute brought together experts last spring to debate the evidence behind what all agreed is a rising trend.

What's clear: If shrinking a tumor might save a woman's breast, or offer a markedly smaller lumpectomy, then pre-surgery chemo is a good option. Studies in the late 1990s proved that, and women with large tumors routinely are offered pre-surgery chemo -- including Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, who entered a chemo-first clinical trial when her breast cancer was first diagnosed in 2004. (Earlier this year, she learned her cancer had returned and spread to bone.)

Where the NCI panel urged more study: Pre-surgery chemo in women with earlier-stage cancer, in case even small tumors have sent microscopic seedlings throughout the body.

Proponents contend that by using the intact breast tumor as a guide, they can tell when chemo's not working and try another drug -- and learn more about what subtypes of cancer are most dangerous and how to fight them.

About 25 percent of women who get upfront chemo have their initial tumor actually disappear, says Dr. Patrick Borgen of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. They don't avoid surgery: Doctors mark the spot before the chemo, and then cut it out anyway in case any cancer cells still lurk.

But those women do have a lower chance of relapse than their counterparts who don't respond as well.

That leads to some tough questions:

-What to do with women who still have some tumor left to cut out after their chemo? There's no way to predict who will be fine and who will relapse, and no evidence that adding more chemo after surgery makes a difference. Doctors must make clear what to expect so these women don't feel like they flunked, stresses Georgetown's Liu.

-What if doctors switched pre-surgery chemo several times in hopes of better shrinkage? Hudis warns that such women may never undergo a full standard treatment, just bits and pieces that actually might mean a worse outcome. What to do when tumors don't shrink right away is under study now.

-How do doctors really know when a tumor's shrinking? Again, studies are tracking that. Surgeons sometimes find patients labeled hard-to-treat when scar tissue or a noninvasive type of cancer that doesn't respond to chemo in the first place was in the way.

Perhaps the biggest controversy: How to test and remove lymph nodes in women getting upfront chemo.

For now, specialists advise anyone considering pre-surgery chemo to get advanced testing, including a big enough biopsy, to make sure she's a good candidate.

Dr. Deborah Axelrod of New York University just had a woman seek pre-surgery chemo for a tumor way too small to need it. "The word is getting out," she says. "I'm not sure it's understood."

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anonymous  July 18, 2007 9:20 AM

These studies get a bit confusing sometimes...the report below this one is saying that low-fat, etc., is the way to go then this comes along....I believe to get a totally accurate study meals would have to be provided to participants in a cloistered environment...most of us do not have the will power to stay on the same diet year and year as this study required...

Fruits, Veggies Don't Stop Cancer Return
July 18, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) -- Hopes that a diet low in fat and chock-full of fruits and vegetables could prevent the return of breast cancer were dashed Tuesday by a large, seven-year experiment in more than 3,000 women.

The government study found no benefit from a mega-veggies-and-fruit diet over the U.S. recommended servings of five fruits and vegetables a day -- more than most Americans get.

Researchers noted that none of the breast cancer survivors lost weight on either diet. That led some experts to suggest that weight loss and exercise should be the next frontier for cancer prevention research. The study appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"It sends us back to the drawing board," said Susan Gapstur of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the new study but co-wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal.

"Should we really have focused on dietary components like fruits, vegetables and fat?" Gapstur asked. "Or should we be focusing, in addition to diet, on lifestyle factors including physical activity and weight?"

For now, the message for the 2.4 million breast cancer survivors in the United States is that they don't need to go overboard on veggies, researchers said.

"This should really lift some of the guilt if women are feeling, 'I'm just not doing enough,'" said study co-author Marcia Stefanick of Stanford University.

The research was kicked off by a $5 million grant from the late Wal-Mart heir John Walton and got an additional $30 million in support from the National Cancer Institute.

Walton wanted to support a scientific study so cancer survivors wouldn't have to "rely on folklore," said John Pierce, head of cancer prevention at University of California, San Diego, who led the research.

Earlier research on whether a healthy diet prevents breast cancer has shown mixed results. The new study was designed to be more rigorous.

In this experiment, all the women had been successfully treated for early stage breast cancer. Their average age was 53 when the study began.

A group of 1,537 women were randomly assigned to a daily diet that included five vegetable servings, three fruit servings, 16 ounces of vegetable juice and 30 grams of fiber. In most cases, a serving equaled a half-cup. French fries and iceberg lettuce couldn't be counted as vegetables.

The women were allowed to eat meat, but were told to get no more than 15 percent to 20 percent of their calories from fat, a goal they ultimately were unable to achieve.

"That's a tough diet," said Pierce, who ate that way himself along with his staff and the women in the study.

As a comparison, another 1,551 women were assigned to get educational materials about the importance of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

The women in both groups kept food diaries regularly, but not daily, through the course of the study.

During the next seven years, the cancer returned in about the same proportion of women in both groups: 256 women (16.7 percent) of the women on the special diet and 262 women (16.9 percent) in the comparison group. About 10 percent of both groups died during that time, most of them from breast cancer.

It didn't matter whether the breast cancer was the most common type - fueled by hormones - or not; the special diet didn't prevent the cancer from coming back. Those results run counter to a previous study by different researchers that suggested low-fat diets may help prevent the return of the type of breast cancer that is not linked to hormones.

In the mega-veggies group, the women changed their eating habits substantially, mostly by increasing fruits and vegetables to as much as 11 servings a day. They failed to meet the fat target, but did eat 13 percent less in fat calories than did the comparison group.

After one year, women on the high-vegetable diet had 73 percent higher blood levels of carotenoids (pigments found in fruits and vegetables) than the other women. That indicates they were truthful about how many fruits and vegetables they ate, Pierce said.

But they may not have been so honest about the calories they ate. The super-veggie group gained 1.3 pounds and the comparison group gained 0.88 pound, on average.

"There's no question they were underreporting on calories, especially the heavier women," Pierce said, or they would have lost weight.


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anonymous  July 12, 2007 6:27 PM

Cancer Risk Higher With Western Diet
July 12, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Older Chinese women who eat a Western-style diet loaded with meats and sweets appear to have a greater risk for breast cancer than women who eat mainly soy and vegetables, a new study has concluded.

Previous research has found connections between a meat- and fat-heavy Western diet and several kinds of cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes. And other research has identified links between obesity and cancer.

Researchers said this study signals a link between breast cancer and overall eating patterns -- not a single food or nutrient -- in Asian women, who have long had lower rates of the disease than Western women. But their numbers have started to rise as their diets have become more Westernized.

The study, which is not definitive, looked at general eating habits of about 3,000 women in Shanghai, ranging in age from 25 to 64. About half of that group had been diagnosed with breast cancer and are participants in an ongoing breast cancer study in Shanghai.

All the women were interviewed at length about their diets, answering questions about how often they ate 76 different items commonly found in Shanghai. Researchers then categorized the women into one of two dietary groups.

The "meat-sweet" group loaded up on red meat, shrimp, fish, candy, desserts, bread and milk. The "vegetable-soy" group stuck to tofu, vegetables, sprouts, beans, fish and soy milk.

Post-menopausal women in the meat-sweet group showed a 60 percent greater risk of developing the most common kind of breast cancer, the kind fueled by the hormone estrogen, compared to those in the vegetable-soy group, according to U.S. and Chinese researchers who conducted the study.

"We saw the clearest effect when we looked at post-menopausal women who were overweight, so it looks like there's an interaction between a meat-sweet diet and being overweight," said study co-author Marilyn Tseng, of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Researchers couldn't say how the combination of a Western diet and obesity might work in tandem to drive breast cancer.

The study, which appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found no link, good or bad, between breast cancer and a vegetable-soy diet.

"This isn't a breakthrough, but it does add to the growing body of evidence that diet is related to breast cancer and other cancers," said Lawrence Cheskin, associate professor of international health and human nutrition at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not connected to the study.

"We see a rise in cancers depending on what we're eating and if we're obese."

Tseng also said that the research should be a less frustrating guide for anybody looking to adopt sensible eating habits, instead of often contradictory research that names one vitamin, mineral or food as a cancer-quashing magic bullet.

"This gives us a broader sense because it looks at diet as a whole as opposed to targeting one element," Tseng said. "In terms of public health recommendations, that tends to give the wrong impression that you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by going after one specific component."

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anonymous  June 20, 2007 6:25 PM

Breast Cancer Genes Can Come From Father
June 20, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) -- A deadly gene's path can hide in a family tree when a woman has few aunts and older sisters, making it appear that her breast cancer struck out of nowhere when it really came from Dad.

A new study suggests thousands of young women with breast cancer -- an estimated 8,000 a year in the U.S. -- aren't offered testing to identify faulty genes and clarify their medical decisions.

Guidelines used by insurance companies to decide coverage for genetic testing should change to reflect the findings, said study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Weitzel of City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. Testing can cost more than $3,000.

"Interestingly, it's about Dad," Weitzel said. Half of genetic breast cancers are inherited from a woman's father, not her mother. But unless Dad has female relatives with breast cancer, the faulty gene may have been passed down silently, without causing cancer. (Men can get genetic breast cancer, too, but it's not common.)

Weitzel said doctors often overlook the genetic risk from the father's side of the family.

The study, appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the genetic test results from 306 women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50.

None of the cancer patients in the study had a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Among the women with plenty of female relatives, about 5 percent had BRCA gene mutations. But among those with few sisters and aunts older than 45 (when breast cancer would be likely to appear), almost 14 percent had mutations of the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2. That suggests that these cancer patients were unaware of their genetic mutations because there were so few women in the family to signal a cancer risk.

The researchers defined few female relatives as fewer than two on either the father's or mother's side of the family.

Women who were adopted and don't know their family medical history should be aware of the findings, Weitzel said. Women whose female relatives died young before breast cancer had time to show up also are affected.

When such a woman gets breast cancer before age 50, she should get a genetic test, said Dr. Noah Kauff, a cancer geneticist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. That would help her decide whether to have the unaffected breast or her ovaries removed to prevent more cancer. Kauff was not involved in the research, but wrote an accompanying editorial.

"The study allows physicians and patients to make an argument to insurance carriers that, although there's not a family history of breast cancer, it's still reasonable to test and it should be a covered benefit," Kauff said.

Genetic testing helps a woman choose her next medical steps. A woman with breast cancer who has a BRCA gene mutation has a four times greater risk of developing cancer in the other breast and a 10 times greater risk of ovarian cancer than does a woman with breast cancer who has no BRCA gene mutation.

Some women with a family history of breast cancer choose to have a BRCA genetic test so they can decide whether to reduce their cancer risk by removing their ovaries and breasts before any cancer appears. Drug therapy and monitoring with annual MRI tests offer alternatives.

Testing the genes of more women would cost more money, but Weitzel said that won't add significantly to health care costs and will prevent cancer in some of the women.

The study also showed that three commonly used predictive models don't accurately estimate the genetic breast cancer risk for women without a family history of cancer. The American Cancer Society recently based its recommendation for annual MRIs on risk assessments from the predictive models.

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anonymous  June 04, 2007 11:49 AM

Less Radiation OK for Breast Cancer
June 4, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) -- Women with early-stage breast tumors can undergo a shorter course of radiation without a greater risk that their cancer will come back years later, the largest study to test this suggests.

The results are good news for women who must quit work or travel far to receive the five-week, daily treatments usually given.

"This is very disruptive to your life. If we could achieve the same outcome with less frequent visits to the radiation center ... this would be a tremendous benefit," said Dr. Julie Gralow of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

Gralow was not involved in the study, but reviewed and discussed it at a meeting Sunday of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Most of the 180,000 breast cancers diagnosed each year in the United States are the type this study addressed -- still confined to the breast. The usual treatment is surgery plus chemotherapy or hormone therapy, followed by radiation to prevent a recurrence.

Dr. John Dewar of the University of Dundee in Scotland led a two-part study of nearly 4,500 women in the United Kingdom to test shorter courses of radiation.

Women received either the standard 50 Grays, the unit used in measuring radiation, in 25 treatments spread over five weeks, or roughly 40 Grays given in 13 treatments every other day for five weeks or in 15 treatments over three weeks.

Five years later, cancer recurrence rates were low for all groups, ranging from 2 to 5 percent. So few recurrences occurred -- 158 -- that doctors believe the treatments are equivalent but cannot say so with certainty.

Many will want to see what happens to these women with longer follow up, said Dr. Gary Freedman of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. He is testing a shorter course, too, and noted that in the United States, most doctors give a total of 60 to 64 Grays -- the standard 50 plus a boost dose directly to the tumor area.

Lisa Warren is a patient who received the shorter course in Freedman's study. Warren, 46, lives nearly an hour's drive from the cancer center and was eager when the short course was offered.

"I was all for that," she said. "Seven weeks is a long time to be running back and forth. Mentally and physically, it's very draining."

Gralow, whose Seattle clinic sees many Alaskan women who must travel great distances for treatment, said she would consider the shorter treatment in such situations.

"This is very exciting news for our patients," because many women around the country live in rural areas or are elderly and must have someone drive them to get care, she said.

Shorter treatment had another benefit: less swelling or shrinkage of breast tissue and less enlargement of blood vessels as a side effect of radiation.

Other news at the conference:

-The median survival of black women with advanced breast cancer lags that of their white counterparts -- 17 months versus 27 months -- an analysis of federal statistics from 1999 to 2003 finds. It is unclear, however, whether the gap is due to true racial differences or to variations in treatment, which the statistics do not reflect.

-MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scans detect 10 percent to 20 percent more pre-invasive breast cancers than standard mammograms, especially the type most likely to spread, a study of 6,000 women in Germany found. However, no information was available on how many false alarms MRIs gave - the biggest factor limiting their use now, besides higher cost and limited availability.

-Many survivors of childhood cancers are not getting recommended follow up tests to watch for second cancers later in life, a survey of 8,500 cancer survivors found. Only one-fourth at risk of developing heart problems because of their cancer treatment were tested for this every year or two as doctors recommend, and only half of women at risk of breast cancer got annual mammograms.

About 10 million Americans are cancer survivors, so the study "tells us both about our success and some of our challenges for the future," said Dr. Nancy Davidson, a cancer specialist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and president-elect of the oncology society.

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anonymous  April 03, 2007 5:53 PM

Breast self-examination is very important...knowing what to look for and feel for can be is a video using a real woman, showing the proper procedure, along with step by step instructions...

video..breast self awareness guide

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anonymous  December 04, 2006 5:51 PM

Ultrasound Method May Supplant Biopsies
December 4, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) -- An experimental ultrasound technique that measures how easily breast lumps compress and bounce back could enable doctors to determine instantly whether a woman has cancer or not -- without having to do a biopsy.

In a small study of 80 women, the technique, called "elastography," distinguished harmless lumps from malignant ones with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

If the results hold up in a larger study, elastography could save thousands of women from the waiting, cost, discomfort and anxiety of a biopsy, in which cells are removed from the breast -- sometimes with a needle, sometimes with a scalpel -- and examined under a microscope.

"There's a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of fear involved" with biopsies, said Susan Brown, manager of health education for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. "And there's the cost of leaving work to make a second appointment. If this can be done instead of a biopsy, there would be a real cost reduction."

Up to 1 million biopsies are performed each year on suspicious breast tissue detected by mammograms and self-exams, but as many as eight out of 10 of these biopsies find that the lumps are benign.

Biopsies can cost $200 to $1,000, depending on whether some fluid or an entire lump is removed, and it can take days or weeks to get the results. The cost of elastography is not yet clear, but some experts said the procedure might run $100 to $200. And it can yield results in minutes.

When checked against biopsies of women's breast tissue, the ultrasound technique correctly identified 17 out of 17 cancerous tumors, and 105 out of 106 harmless lesions. The findings were reported at a national radiology meeting in Chicago this week.

Scientists said the approach may also be used someday to rapidly diagnose damaged hearts and guide the treatment of prostate cancer.

The technique was pioneered during the 1990s at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston by Jonathan Ophir and his colleagues.

Ophir describes elastography as a way to measure and picture the elasticity of body tissue. In effect, it is an extension of one of the oldest tools in medicine, palpation, in which a doctor feels the shape and firmness of body tissue.

To explain elastography, Ophir likens the body to a box-spring mattress, but "a crazy mattress made out of millions of small springs and each one is a little different. Each is moving around at a different rate, depending on their individual stiffness." Cancerous tumors are like stiff springs. Normal tissue and benign lesions compress more easily.

Both traditional ultrasound and elastography use echoes from high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of what is going on inside the body, but elastography goes a step further.

In traditional ultrasound, a doctor or technician places a handheld device on the skin that sends high-frequency sound waves into the body. Organs and tissue reflect the sound back as echoes, which are sent to a computer that turns them into a picture. Many people have seen ultrasound images of fetuses in the womb.

Elastography, though, also gauges movement. As the doctor moves the handheld device against the breast, the device collects echoes before and after the compression or movement of the breast tissue. The resulting images show stiff tissues as dark areas and soft tissues as light areas.

Breast cancer shows up larger on an elastogram than it does on a traditional ultrasound image, perhaps because the elastogram can "see" the scar tissue around the cancer, Ophir said.

"It's like finding a marble in Jell-O," said Dr. Richard Barr, a professor of radiology at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine who reported his findings at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting. Germany-based Siemens AG provided the ultrasound equipment and software for Barr's study.

Ophir and other researchers said breast cancer diagnosis will be elastography's first real-world application.

"If it doesn't fly there, it won't fly anywhere," said Elisa Konofagou of Columbia University, who is testing elastography on animals and humans to determine the extent of damage after a heart attack. Uses in prostate cancer and thyroid cancer also are under study elsewhere.

Dr. Constantine Godellas, a cancer surgeon at Rush University Medical Center, said some patients and doctors would have trouble giving up biopsies, even if further research confirmed elastography's accuracy. Doctors may fear lawsuits if they do not order biopsies, he said.

"With the medical legal climate the way it is, that's a tough call to make," Godellas said. "It won't be until a lot more research has been done that people will really buy into it."

Dr. Ellen Mendelson, chief of breast imaging at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, predicted the technique will be used, but may not supplant biopsies, which are becoming less invasive.

"The goal of reducing unnecessary biopsies is laudable, but you don't want to miss a cancer," Mendelson said.

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anonymous  November 15, 2006 4:07 PM

Red Meat May Raise Breast Cancer Risk
November 14, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) -- Eating red meat may raise a woman's risk of a common type of breast cancer, and vitamin supplements will do little if anything to protect her heart, two new studies suggest.

Women who ate more than 1 1/2 servings of red meat per day were almost twice as likely to develop hormone-related breast cancer as those who ate fewer than three portions per week, one study found.

The other -- one of the longest and largest tests of whether supplements of various vitamins can prevent heart problems and strokes in high-risk women -- found that the popular pills do no good, although there were hints that women with the highest risk might get some benefit from vitamin C.

The meat study was published in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. The vitamin study was presented at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago. Both were led by doctors at Harvard Medical School and were aimed at two diseases women most fear and want to prevent.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E attach to substances that can damage cells. Scientists have been testing them for preventing such diseases as Alzheimer's and cancer.

This is the first large study to test vitamin C alone, not in combination with E or other vitamins, for heart health, said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the research.

More than 8,000 women were randomly assigned to take vitamin C, E or beta carotene alone or in various combinations for nearly a decade. An additional 5,442 women took folic acid and B vitamin supplements for more than seven years.

"Overall, there was minimal evidence of any cardiovascular benefit of any of these antioxidants," and people should not start or continue taking them for that purpose, Manson said.

Among the 3,000 women in the study who had no prior heart disease but three or more risk factors for it, those who received vitamin C alone or in combination had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke. Smokers taking C also had a 48 percent lower risk.

Vitamin E may give very small benefits for some women, the study suggests. Those with prior heart disease had a 12 percent reduction in the risk of new heart problems, Manson said.

"Many of these subgroup findings are intriguing. However, they need to be confirmed in other studies," Manson said. "We don't want this to be interpreted as a conclusive finding."

What does appear conclusive is that folic acid and B vitamins "are not effective as preventive agents," said Dr. Christine Albert, who presented that portion of the study at the heart meeting on Monday. These nutrients lower homocysteine, a blood substance thought to increase heart disease risk, but many studies now call the importance of that into question.

The meat study was based on observation rather than an experiment. The Nurses' Health Study tracked the diets and health of more than 90,000 women who were 26 to 46 years old when they enrolled roughly two decades ago.

They filled out diet questionnaires in 1991, 1995 and 1999, and were divided into five groups based on how much red meat they said they ate. Researchers checked on their health for 12 years on average and confirmed breast cancer diagnoses with medical records.

Meat consumption was linked to a risk of developing tumors whose growth was fueled by estrogen or progesterone -- the most common type -- but not to tumors that grow independently of these hormones.

The women who ate more red meat were more likely to smoke and be overweight, but when the researchers took those factors into account, they still saw that red meat was linked with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Earlier studies have found that obesity raises the risk of breast cancer and that red meat raises the risk of colorectal cancer.

"Our study may give another motivation to reduce red meat intake," said study co-author Eunyoung Cho.

However, Dr. Anne McTiernan of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle cautioned that the findings rely on women's recall of what they ate -- an inexact way to measure diet.

"A 16-ounce steak and a three-ounce piece of meat are counted the same. People are horrible at determining what is a real serving," said McTiernan, author of "Breast Fitness," a book on reducing cancer risk.

It may be wise to cut down on red meat because of its fat and calorie content, McTiernan said, but "this isn't a reason to become a vegetarian if you weren't planning to do that already."

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Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation August 18, 2006 6:15 AM

Despite over a decade of research, and more than $1.7 billion spent, 110 women are dying from breast cancer every day. Yet, we still don’t know how breast cancer starts or how to stop it.

And we are still approaching treatment for breast cancer in the same ways: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. This doesn’t have to happen. The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is dedicated to ending breast cancer in the next ten years.

To learn more about the Foundation and how you can join us in helping to end this disease in ten years, visit our Foundation website hereDr. Susan Love Examines Bio-Identical Hormones in Ms.
The Spring issue of Ms., now on newstands, includes a Health column by Dr. Susan Love about bio-identical hormones.

“Despite a lack of scientific evidence, sales of bio-identical hormones have increased as women skeptical of the pharmaceutical industry, or disposed to try alternative products, have sought substitutes for HRT.”

To learn more about Ms., click here

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anonymous  August 17, 2006 4:30 PM

Chemo Harms More Breast Cancer Patients
August 16, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Younger breast cancer patients seem to suffer more serious side effects from chemotherapy than previously thought. Roughly one in six of those women wind up at the emergency room or hospitalized because of such side effects as infection, low blood counts, dehydration or nausea, researchers reported Tuesday.

Some of the side effects occurred at rates three to four times higher than earlier research had predicted.

Tuesday's study marks the first attempt to assess the real-world risks of chemotherapy for some 35,000 breast cancer patients under age 64 who get the drugs each year.

Most side-effect information comes from clinical trials of medications that can underestimate toxicity. Those trials are designed to prove if the drugs fight cancer and therefore should be sold, and they tend to enroll only the best candidates instead of women who might be particularly sensitive to side effects.

Adding to that conundrum: Many breast cancer patients don't need chemotherapy in the first place; surgery, radiation and hormone treatment are enough. But doctors don't always have an easy way to tell who would benefit from chemo on top of all that.

And for women in the to-treat-or-not gray zone, age sometimes is the deciding factor -- because those under 64 are thought to tolerate chemotherapy better than older women.

"We don't believe our study is saying that chemotherapy is not helpful," stressed Dr. Michael Hassett of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who led the research, published in Tuesday's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

But, "we've been struggling as a professional community to understand which women benefit from chemotherapy," he added.

If a woman knows how often she is likely to be admitted to the hospital, it may help her decide whether to gamble on the drugs or skip them, he explained.

Hassett and colleagues culled a massive database of insurance claims to study how often breast cancer patients under 64 wound up at the hospital in the year after diagnosis, and how often some leading chemotherapy side effects were blamed.

A total of 16 percent of chemo recipients received either emergency room care or hospitalization for those side effects. Most common: infection and fever, afflicting 8 percent of the patients. That's not a high number - but it is four times what previous clinical trials had predicted, the researchers reported.

Moreover, 61 percent of the chemo recipients had an ER visit or hospitalization for some reason -- not just a chemotherapy-related side effect -- compared with 42 percent of breast cancer patients not on the drugs. The study couldn't explain the difference.

"The study highlights the importance of studying how drugs affect people in everyday medical care" so they can "make informed decisions about the risks and benefits of their treatment options," said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which funded the work.

Better understanding of the risks is especially important for those patients who choose chemo despite a good prognosis, when it may increase their chances of survival by less than 5 percent, Dr. Joseph Lau of the Tufts-New England Medical Center wrote in an accompanying editorial.

The extra care of course meant extra medical bills. Hassett estimated that serious chemo side effects could cost health plans up to $45 million a year.

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anonymous  June 06, 2006 3:04 AM

Breast Cancer Drug Study Brings Surprises
June 5, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) -- Final results from a big study comparing two drugs for preventing breast cancer in high-risk women reveal surprises that challenge the government's claim that one is clearly better.

The study compared the old standby, tamoxifen, to raloxifene, a newer drug so far approved only for preventing the bone disease osteoporosis. The government contends raloxifene is safer.

At a news conference in April, the National Cancer Institute, which paid for the $88 million study, said both drugs were equally effective at lowering the risk of serious forms of breast cancer. But raloxifene users had 36 percent fewer uterine cancers and 29 percent fewer blood clots, making it a safer choice, government researchers said.

However, data made public on Monday show that the uterine cancer results were not statistically significant. This means the actual number of cases differed so little that they could have happened by chance.

Scientific standards have long held that such results only suggest trends and are not definitive, certainly not to the extent that government scientists portrayed them to be.

Furthermore, so few blood clots occurred in the study that some doctors don't believe that result proves raloxifene is better. Also, it isn't known whether raloxifene's cancer-prevention benefit will last years after women stop taking the pills, as tamoxifen's is known to do.

"There is some genuine controversy here," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Not everyone agrees "that there was a clear winner in this study," he said.

The news generated heated discussions at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, where the study's results were to have been reported first, so experts could review them as they were released to the public. Instead, the cancer institute hastily called the press conference and didn't disclose in materials sent to reporters that some key results were not statistically significant.

"It needs to be publicly vetted because it's not clear either way" which drug is better, said Dr. Roy Herbst, a University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center doctor who helped run the oncology meeting, the world's largest cancer conference.

The cancer institute's prevention chief, Dr. Leslie Ford, defended her characterization of raloxifene as a clear winner and the way the news came out. The press conference was called to give women in the study the first word of its results without them "leaking out" as happened with two earlier high-profile women's health studies, Ford said.

Other doctors questioned the urgency, because these drugs are taken for five years to prevent long-term breast cancer risks -- a very different situation from a drug to treat a disease that could have an immediate life-or-death impact.

Tamoxifen has been used for decades to treat and prevent breast cancer. It blunts estrogen, which fuels the growth of most tumors that occur after menopause, but also acts like estrogen elsewhere in the body and has previously been shown to raise the risk of blood clots and uterine cancer. Raloxifene, sold as Evista by Eli Lilly & Co. for osteoporosis, is believed less likely to cause these problems.

The study tested the drugs in nearly 20,000 postmenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer because of gene mutations, family history or other reasons. (Raloxifene's safety in premenopausal women is unknown.)

Results were released Monday at the cancer meeting and will be in the June 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The results:

-Invasive breast cancers: 168 among the 9,745 raloxifene users; 163 among the 9,726 who took tamoxifen.

-Non-invasive breast cancers: 57 in the tamoxifen group; 80 in raloxifene users.

-Uterine cancers: 36 among the 4,732 on tamoxifen; 23 in the 4,712 on raloxifene. (Half of the women in the study had had a hysterectomy and therefore were not at risk of uterine cancer).

-Less serious forms of breast cancer developed in 57 women on tamoxifen and 80 on raloxifene.

All of these results were a draw, statistically, meaning neither drug was better than the other.

Tamoxifen users probably would have had more uterine cancers as time went on, because they had more cases of abnormal uterine growths requiring hysterectomies, said Joseph Costantino of the University of Pittsburgh, the study's statistician.

Blood clots in the legs or lungs developed in 141 of the 9,726 on tamoxifen and in 100 of the 9,745 on raloxifene -- a result that did meet statistical muster.

The difference of 41 clots among nearly 20,000 women is extremely small, and the real message is that both drugs are relatively safe, the cancer society's Lichtenfeld said.

"It's not necessarily going to change my practice" of prescribing tamoxifen, said Dr. George Somlo, co-director of the breast program at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.

"The winners are the women because they now have choices" of two good drugs for preventing breast cancer, said the cancer institute's Ford.

Price probably won't drive decisions, unless Lilly raises the cost of Evista should it win Food and Drug Administration approval for breast cancer prevention. Generic tamoxifen costs $100 a month and Evista, as sold now for osteoporosis, $75.

In a separate analysis reported on Monday, Dr. Patricia Ganz of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, compared quality of life among 973 tamoxifen and 1,101 raloxifene users in the study and found no difference in how they rated their overall physical and mental health.

However, weight gain, pain during sex, joint pain and vaginal drynes  [report anonymous abuse]

anonymous  June 06, 2006 3:01 AM

Anon, I cohost this group and I would certainly love to see more people jump in and discuss issues. Please do not hold back from posting. Just jump right in.  [report anonymous abuse]
anonymous  May 31, 2006 10:44 PM

 Anjee R.

Give someone eles a chance  to answer sometime youmight get more people involved.

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anonymous  May 31, 2006 7:27 PM

Newer Breast Scan May Spare Unnecessary Biopsies
May 30, 2006

(The New York Times News Service) -- A type of screening called magnetic resonance spectroscopy may reduce the need for biopsies of breast abnormalities by 58 percent, researchers report.

A team at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City found that when MR spectroscopy was conducted in addition to MRI screening for breast abnormalities, 23 out of the 40 masses would not have needed biopsy -- and all the cancers would have been caught.

"All cancers in this study were identified with MR spectroscopy. There were no false-negative results," says lead researcher Dr. Lia Bartella, an assistant professor in the Department of Breast Imaging at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. "With the addition of MR spectroscopy to our breast MRI exam, we found that the number of biopsies recommended on the basis of MRI findings decreased significantly. These results should encourage more women to take this potentially lifesaving test."

In the study, 56 patients with 57 breast abnormalities were screened in three ways: first using standard MRIs, then with MR spectroscopy, and finally by biopsy.

"Breast tumors have elevated levels of choline compounds, which are a marker of an active tumor," Bartella says. "By performing a brief MR spectroscopy procedure after an MRI scan, which takes only 10 additional minutes, we can noninvasively see which tumors show elevated choline levels, and therefore which lesions are likely malignant. This eliminates the need for biopsy to find out what the tumor is made of."

As reported in the June issue of Radiology, biopsy results confirmed 31 malignancies and 26 benign masses. After results of all three tests were compared, all 31 malignant masses were correctly identified using MR spectroscopy (100 percent sensitivity), 23 of 26 benign masses identified with MR spectroscopy (88 percent sensitivity). The three incorrectly diagnosed masses showed higher levels of choline on the MR spectroscopy, but were discovered to be benign upon biopsy.

"MR spectroscopy is fast and well-tolerated, and could be readily incorporated into a breast MRI examination," says Bartella. "By reducing the number of benign biopsies recommended at MRI, the use of MR spectroscopy will not only reduce patient morbidity, but will save unnecessary anxiety, cost and time for both the patient and the medical staff."

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anonymous  May 23, 2006 9:04 AM

Granada-born Researcher Warns That Female University Students Have The Profile Of Women Prone To Develop Breast Cancer

The risks of suffering from breast cancer are mostly linked to reproductive habits. This is not goods news for female university students today, as they have the profile of potential ill breast cancer patients. The research coordinator of the Hospital Clinico of Granada, Dr. Nicolás Olea, reasserts this idea with a study he carried out with over 500 women who were admitted to that hospital between 1996 and 1998 to have a breast cancer-related operation. Approximately half of them had a breast tumour removed, whereas the rest was due to other medical reasons.

The result was that young female university students accumulate all the risk factors that researchers led by Dr. Olea describe as ‘instigating factors' of this disease. ‘The abuse of cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco are some of them', he stressed. In addition to this, their lifestyles do not meet the preventive standards described by this Granada Dr.- to have the first child before they are 19, to have more than 4 children, and to accumulate 36 months of breast feeding. In his project, these guidelines are considered by Dr. Olea as ‘significant in breast cancer prevention'. He assures that if they are not followed, ‘the risk of having a tumour is four times higher'. This is why Dr. Olea looks back to the past to give examples of a healthy lifestyle.

The reason is that maternity decreases the levels of estrogens in the body, a sexual female hormone that in normal amounts is essential for conditioning women's normal reproductive development. This is why breast cancer is associated to reproductive habits. However, the problem lies in an excessive concentration of this hormone, also present in the environment. According to him, cosmetics include it under the chemical name of parabens, ftalos and some ultra-violet filters such as benzonphenon All these are substances that act and take the place of estrogens' body functions. ‘To put it simple, they do act as hormones and strengthen their effects', he explains.

In addition to this, the frames of television sets, house appliances and plastics or fabrics with flame-retarding properties have similar components and effects. In fact some persistent pesticides were forbidden years ago by the authorities due to these reasons. Even so, Dr. Olea has some doubts about some of their components, such as endosulphan and dicophol. ‘They put women who work in the fields at risk, as they are still used in large amounts today'.

Consejería de Innovación, Ciencia y Empresa
c/ Albert Einstein s/n

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anonymous  May 23, 2006 9:03 AM

Ill. Gov. Blagojevich Announces Expansion Of No-Cost Breast, Cervical Cancer Screening Program For Uninsured Women

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Sunday announced that the income eligibility limit for the Illinois Department of Public Health's Breast and Cervical Cancer Program -- which provides some uninsured women with no-cost screenings for the cancers -- will be raised from 200% to 250% of the federal poverty level, the Edwardsville Intelligencer reports (Capel, Edwardsville Intelligencer, 5/16). The program provides eligible women between the ages of 40 and 64 with mammograms and breast exams at no cost, and it provides eligible women between the ages of 35 and 64 with no-cost pelvic exams and Pap tests (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/15). Uninsured younger women who have annual incomes too high to qualify but show symptoms of breast or cervical cancer also can be considered for the program on a case-by-case basis (Belleville News-Democrat, 5/15). Blagojevich's plan also allows eligible women who were diagnosed with cancer outside the program to receive treatment services at no cost. Such women previously were not allowed to participate. The recently approved state budget includes $3.6 million in new funding and $2 million in federal funding for the program. The program has provided about 150,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings since 1995, and 425 women currently are enrolled in the program (Blagojevich release, 5/14).

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Sentinel Node Biopsy Improves Quality of Life in Early-Stage Breast Cancer May 17, 2006 4:46 AM

Reprinted from the NCI Cancer Bulletin, vol. 3/no. 19, May 9, 2006 (see the current issue).

In the May 3, 2006, Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), investigators reported results from the first multicenter randomized trial to compare postoperative quality of life between patients with early-stage breast cancer who underwent sentinel node biopsy and those who underwent standard axillary lymph node clearance.

Standard axillary lymph node clearance involves removal of all the lymph nodes in the armpit region. The procedure can cause considerable morbidity, and most women with early-stage breast cancer do not have metastases to their lymph nodes. In sentinel lymph node biopsy, a single node that is directly connected to the tumor site by the lymphatic system is examined for metastases. If none are found, no further lymph nodes are removed.

The ALMANAC trial randomly assigned patients to two groups: 1) standard axillary clearance or 2) sentinel node biopsy with delayed axillary clearance (or axillary radiation therapy if metastases were found). Surgeons performing sentinel node biopsies received special training through the trial centers. Researchers evaluated patients in both groups for side effects and for perceived quality of life.

Patients in the standard axillary treatment group were significantly more likely to report moderate or severe lymphedema at one, three, six, and 12 months after surgery than were patients undergoing sentinel node biopsy. Patients in the standard axillary treatment group also had greater sensory loss and nerve damage up to 12 months after surgery. Self-reported quality of life was significantly higher at all time points for patients undergoing sentinel node biopsy than for the standard treatment group.

The authors conclude that sentinel node biopsy is a safe and effective alternative treatment for patients with early-stage breast cancer. However, they caution that data on "…relapse-free and overall survival following sentinel lymph node biopsy are required before this procedure can be accepted as the standard of care."

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anonymous  May 16, 2006 7:59 PM

Surgery Not Verboten in Metastatic Breast Cancer
May 16, 2006

(USA TODAY) -- In roughly 6% of newly diagnosed U.S. breast cancer patients last year, the disease already had spread to a distant part of their bodies.

For years, doctors have believed that such patients, more than 12,600 a year, are incurable, so the main goal has been to prolong life and relieve or prevent symptoms.

But two medical studies in the past month suggest that some women who are newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer might benefit from more aggressive treatment.

Typically, only those patients with breast complications such as ulcers have surgery to remove their primary tumors.

In fact, conventional wisdom holds that surgically removing the primary tumor might actually fuel the growth of distant tumor cells.

Both new studies found that women whose primary tumors were completely removed after a diagnosis of metastatic disease were half as likely to die as those who did not have surgery.

One study, posted online Monday by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included all 300 metastatic breast cancer patients recorded by the Geneva (Switzerland) Cancer Registry from 1977 to 1996.

The other study, posted online last month by the Annals of Surgical Oncology, focused on 224 patients treated at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center between 1997 and 2002.

No study has ever proven the widely held belief that removing a primary breast cancer in patients with metastatic disease stimulates tumor cells lurking elsewhere in the body, says lead author Elisabetta Rapiti, a cancer registry researcher. In other types of metastatic cancer, such as kidney, "everybody agrees to operate," Rapiti says.

Still, only a trial in which women newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer are randomly assigned to surgery or no surgery can confirm that cutting out the tumor -- and not some other characteristic of women who get surgery -- prolongs lives, the authors write.

"If this were a new drug that showed a 30% improvement in survival, everybody would be going nuts: We should rush this into trial," says Monica Morrow, co-author of an accompanying editorial and chair of cancer surgery at Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center.

She says she's not sure why doctors have much less enthusiasm for a randomized trial of a "very safe and very well-tolerated surgery."

In 2002, Morrow co-wrote the first paper to suggest a benefit from surgery in women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

"Rushing into surgery initially is not the appropriate thing to do," Morrow cautions such women. Instead, she says, "it makes sense" to start with chemotherapy.

Only women whose tumors respond to chemo would then be surgery candidates, she says.

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anonymous Inflammation Markers Identify Fatigue In Breast Cancer Survivors May 04, 2006 9:35 PM

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have defined conditions associated with disabling fatigue that persists for years in almost a third of breast cancer survivors, according to a study in the May issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

The key to their fatigue stems from responses within their immune systems.

"These studies identify a biological basis for persistent fatigue in cancer survivors that is implemented by inflammation," said Michael Irwin, M.D., director and senior research scientist, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience, and the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center.

"We have detected a biological marker that is a composite of two immune response elements," he added. "This biomarker identifies - and can predict - which women have long term persistent fatigue.

"These findings point the way for development of novel treatment strategies that decrease this inflammatory response and thwart the fatigue that these patients endure."

One component of the marker, Dr. Irwin explained, is a measure of the amount of interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) free-floating in the blood of breast cancer survivors compared to the amount of that receptor remaining on the membranes of specific blood cells - where the receptor normally is found and functions within the immune response.

The IL-6R is usually embedded on the surface membrane of white blood cells, or monocytes. In some survivors, however, many of the IL-6R are shed from the monocytes and are soluble within the blood plasma. Those free-floating receptors can still bind to circulating cytokine IL-6, Dr. Irwin noted, and in that form have the potential to interact with cells that normally don't respond to cytokine/receptor activation - such as brain cells that may regulate fatigue sensation.

IL6 is a biological chemical that helps drive initial immune responses within people. "IL-6 contributes to an activation of monocytes in the blood, and enables antigen presenting cells to activate T cells as part of the cellular immune response," Dr. Irwin said.

The second component of the marker is an index measured by the level of T cells that are characterized by CD69, a cell membrane protein that indicates early activation of those T cells. Patients with a decreased number of CD69+ T cells along with the high ratio of serum IL 6R/monocyte-bound IL-6R were likely to experience persistent fatigue.

Battling breast cancer is a daunting challenge to women diagnosed with the disease, but with advanced screening and treatment strategies, patients with early stage breast cancer are surviving longer. Breast cancer survivors are the largest group of patients to overcome any type of cancer in the United States. While patients surviving other types of cancer also can experience the long-lasting fatigue syndrome, a greater proportion of breast cancer survivors endure the condition.

Cancer researchers had explored various possible reasons for the persistent fatigue in breast cancer survivors, Dr. Irwin said, such as different kinds of treatment, or biological events including anemia.

Dr. Irwin and his colleagues' research is the first to document an association between biological mechanisms involved with the immune response and persistent fatigue.

"It is such an important quality of life issue. Many patients are surviving from their cancer treatments, but they are surviving with substantial impairments in their ability to carry on their lives," Dr. Irwin said. "We've addressed the cancer in these survivors, and now we can also address the functional declines in the quality of life of these patients."

Dr. Irwin defined the fatigue biomarker in collaboration with Alicia Collado-Hidalgo, Julienne E. Bower, Patricia A. Ganz, and Steve W. Cole, with the David E. Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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anonymous  May 04, 2006 9:34 PM

This study proved that there is an aberrant immune response in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue," Irwin said. "With this information, we may now be able to identify those patients at greatest risk for persistent fatigue and implement interventions early on that will lessen the severity and duration of the fatigue."

The immune systems of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer are activated at high levels to help them fight disease and help the body recover from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Some data suggest that survivors who develop fatigue might have immune system changes before the cancer and the treatments may be exacerbating that. Further studies are needed to understand how this immune activation occurs and what clinical factors predispose to it, Irwin said

"We know from studies that animals with immune activation and cytokines circulating in their blood don't move around a lot, they don't eat, they don't engage in sexual activity," Irwin said. "From our study, we believe that the severity of fatigue in breast cancer survivors is not related to the type of treatment they received or its duration, but rather that the fatigue is driven by constant immune activation. Their immune systems simply don't shut down after treatment."

Irwin and his team studied 32 breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue and compared their blood samples to 18 survivors who did not suffer from fatigue. The pro-inflammatory proteins in the blood of fatigued cancer survivors could be used as a biomarker to classify those women who may suffer from fatigue after treatment. In those who appear to be predisposed to fatigue - the women whose immune systems have not shut off as they should - it may be possible in the future to provide interventions can right away that might eliminate or, at the least, alleviate the severity and duration of the fatigue.

While there are drugs such as statins that can be used to dampen immune response, future studies by Irwin and his team will focus on behavioral interventions such as tai chi and yoga. Exercise and meditation, Irwin said, have been shown to decrease levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine expression in the blood.

"If we can identify survivors at greatest risk of persistent fatigue, we can implement interventions early on to help them," Irwin said. "That would be good news for the increasing numbers of women who are surviving breast cancer every year."

The number of breast cancer survivors is steadily increasing due to advances in screening and treatment strategies. More patients are being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and are surviving longer. In fact, breast cancer survivors are the largest group of patients to overcome any type of cancer in the United States. It is estimated that there are more than 2 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today.


UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center comprises more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating the results into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2005, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named the best cancer center in the western United States by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for six consecutive years.

Contact: Kim Irwin
University of California - Los Angeles

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anonymous  May 04, 2006 9:33 PM

Immune Systems In Breast Cancer Survivors Who Suffer From Fatigue Fail To Shut Off After Therapy

Breast cancer survivors who suffer from persistent, debilitating fatigue years after their diagnosis have something in common: their immune systems don't shut down following treatment, according to researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center.

This constant immune system activation, which researchers discovered by measuring specific proteins in blood samples from survivors, may be causing the fatigue, UCLA researchers theorize. Their discovery may lead to behavioral interventions such as tai chi and yoga that will help alleviate persistent fatigue, which affects about a third of breast cancer survivors for years after they complete treatment.

The study is the first to look at the cellular basis for immune activation in fatigued breast cancer survivors, said Dr. Michael Irwin, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and the study's lead author. The research appears in the May issue of Clinical Cancer Research, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

"Without knowing why this fatigue happens at the cellular level, we can't develop efficient therapies to treat it," said Irwin, who also serves as director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

"Breast cancer survivors can be severely disabled by fatigue and that can dramatically impact their quality of life. That's the tragedy of our treatments for cancer," Irwin said. "We have focused on treating the disease, but we should also focus on the patient's well being later. Right now, we have no treatment for cancer-related fatigue and we need something that will allow patients to return to their prior level of functioning."

Dr. Patricia Ganz, a nationally renowned expert who has studied quality of life in breast cancer survivors for two decades, agrees that fatigue is a serious problem for survivors, a fact that their primary care physicians don't always understand.

"When breast cancer survivors talk to their physicians about being tired and how it affects their lives, they're often told that they survived cancer, so they should be grateful to be alive," said Ganz, one of the co-authors of the study. "But their fatigue is a very real problem that needs to taken seriously and addressed."

A small study at UCLA had previously demonstrated abnormalities in immune activation in breast cancer survivors. If researchers could determine the biological factors underlying this activation, and therefore fatigue, they could uncover a biomarker for the condition that could help them predict which patients would suffer from fatigue and which would not, Irwin said.

Irwin and his colleagues took blood samples from breast cancer survivors one to five years out from diagnosis and placed them into two groups, those who suffered from persistent fatigue and those who did not. The researchers measured the levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine protein in their blood - levels that indicated the immune system was turned on. Irwin said the pro-inflammatory protein levels were significantly different between the two groups. Those with persistent fatigue had 30 percent more of the proteins circulating in their blood. Additionally, their immune cells produced more cytokines in laboratory analyses than the cells from survivors without fatigue, and those cytokines were more efficient at producing the pro-inflammatory proteins driving the immune response.

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anonymous Benefits Of Bone Thinning Drug Raloxifene As Breast Cancer Preventive Needs Further Study, Column Sa May 04, 2006 9:08 PM

04 May 2006 - 21:00pm (PDT)

Preliminary results from the latest study on the bone thinning drug raloxifene have deemed it as a "preventive strike" against breast cancer, but the study does not answer whether the drug will reduce a woman's overall risk of developing the disease, Washington Post columnist Abigail Trafford writes (Trafford, Washington Post, 5/2). The initial results of a National Cancer Institute-sponsored study released last month showed that raloxifene is as effective as the breast cancer prevention drug tamoxifen in reducing breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women already at an increased risk of developing the disease and that it is less likely to cause serious complications. FDA in 1998 approved tamoxifen -- sold under the brand name Nolvadex by AstraZeneca -- to reduce breast cancer risk after a study showed it decreased the likelihood of women developing the disease by 50%. Raloxifene, sold under the brand name Evista and made by Eli Lilly, is approved by FDA for use as a preventive drug for osteoporosis and bone thinning but not for breast cancer. Both drugs are designed to block estrogen -- which stimulates many breast cancer tumors -- and have side effects, including an increased risk of blood clots (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 4/18). "It's promising research," but the latest study is not a "victory," Trafford writes. The scale used to measure an "increased risk" of developing breast cancer is based on age and personal and family history, which evaluated together, would deem millions of women potential candidates, "even though most of them will not get breast cancer," she writes. She adds, "As yet, there are no definitive techniques to identify who will and who won't" develop the disease. In addition, the study does not determine the "long-term benefit" of the drug, does not specify the duration for which "asymptomatic women" should take it and does not address the adverse effects that may develop from raloxifene's long-term use, according to Trafford. The latest research "plays" on our desire to "win the war on breast cancer," the Trafford says, concluding that sometimes it is more important "to resist the clamor for victory and settle for more cautious bulletins" (Washington Post, 5/2).
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anonymous  May 01, 2006 1:15 PM

Forward Looking Statements

AviaraDx, Inc. cautions you that statements included in this press release that are not a description of historical facts are forward-looking statements. For example, statements about the Company's expectations, beliefs, plans, objectives, assumptions or future events or performance are not historical facts and are all forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon AviaraDx's current expectations. The Company's actual results and the timing of events may differ materially from those set forth in this release as a result of certain risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation: uncertainty regarding market acceptance of the Company's technologies; rapid pace of technological change in the identification and validation of proprietary biomarkers for the prognosis of increased breast cancer recurrence risk; uncertainty of product development and the associated risks related to clinical trials; the risk that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration will not approve the Company's products or technologies, or that such approval will be delayed or require substantial additional testing and information, which could result in increased costs and uncertainty; the Company's ability to continue to conduct clinical trials; uncertainty relating to third party reimbursement; the ability of the Company or its commercial partners to convince health care professionals and third party payers of the medical and economic benefits of the Company's products and technologies; the risk of loss of collaborative arrangements with third parties; the difficulty in managing growth and successfully managing resources; and other risks. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. We disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

AviaraDx, Inc.
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anonymous  May 01, 2006 1:14 PM

Clinical Utility Of Two Novel Genes That Can Identify Patients At Higher Risk For Early Breast Cancer Recurrence

AviaraDx, Inc., formerly known as Arcturus Bioscience, Inc., a leader in molecular cancer profiling, announced today that a study, conducted in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, demonstrated the clinical utility of two novel genes that can identify patients at higher risk for early breast cancer recurrence and has been published in the April 2006 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic tested the level of expression of the HOXB13 and IL17BR genes from paraffin-embedded tumor tissue derived from postmenopausal women with early stage, estrogen positive breast cancer who were enrolled in an earlier prospective tamoxifen study conducted by the North Central Cancer Treatment Group. They demonstrated that the 2-gene expression ratio was an independent marker of early breast cancer relapse and overall survival in lymph node negative breast cancer patients, but not lymph node positive tumors.

"The study with Mayo Clinic is the first of a series of clinical studies conducted by AviaraDx, its clinical collaborators and independent research groups, which we expect to be published in peer reviewed scientific journals this year," said Antonius Schuh, Chief Executive Officer of AviaraDx. "We are excited about the rapidly growing body of evidence supporting the clinical utility of HOXB13 and IL17 in the prediction of breast cancer recurrence and are expecting our diagnostic licensing partners to launch a testing service based on both biomarkers in 2006."

AviaraDx discovered both biomarkers in a collaborative study with Harvard Medical School and Mass. General Hospital which was published in the June 2004 issue of Cancer Cell. As a result of this study, these two biomarkers serve as the foundation of the AviaraDx Breast Cancer Recurrence (BCR) Technology. Breast cancer is diagnosed in over 200,000 women each year and claims the lives of over 40,000 in the United States alone. More than 2/3 breast cancers are hormone positive, and most of these are early stage (lymph node negative).

About AviaraDx, Inc.

AviaraDx, Inc., formerly Arcturus Bioscience, Inc., is a leader in describing disease at the molecular level to enable molecular medicine and the development of proprietary technologies for diagnostic applications in oncology.

These technologies include the Molecular Cancer Identification (MCID) technology which is based upon a set of clinically validated molecular signatures relating to 90% of the most common cancers, and the Breast Cancer Recurrence (BCR) Technology, which is based upon a proprietary biomarker index for the prognosis of breast cancer recurrence risk and metastatic potential.

Commercialization of the MCID Technology commenced with its licensing partners Quest Diagnostics, and Laboratory Corporation of America and Agendia BV for their Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP) diagnostic service. Quest Diagnostics has also licensed the BCR Technology for the development of a diagnostic service. AviaraDx technologies and intellectual properties position the Company to address the multi-billion dollar market opportunities associated with the development and commercialization for additional cancer diagnostics and inventions to cost-effectively improve patient prognosis and response prediction in cancer therapy.

AviaraDx has recently relocated its headquarters from Mountain View, California to Carlsbad, California. Please visit the AviaraDx website at for more information.

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anonymous  May 01, 2006 1:13 PM

Secret Herb In Tests To Stop Breast Cancer Patients' Hot Flushes And Night Sweats

Researchers at the University of Manchester are testing a secret herb in a bid to stop the severe hot flushes that besiege breast cancer patients on hormone treatment.

Professor Alex Molassiotis, of the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, says the herb - one of the mint family, found in any kitchen - is thought to stop the hot flushes and night sweats which can be so bad that some women have to change their clothes three or four times a night.

It is traditionally used by Mediterranean women undergoing the menopause, but Professor Molassiotis cannot name it as he and his team are carrying out a double blind trial (neither the patient nor the doctor is allowed to know whether they are in the group taking the herb or a placebo).

The women are taking hormone treatment to lower oestrogen and progesterone levels as these affect the growth of some breast cancer cells. This can lead to early or revisiting menopause with symptoms such as anxiety, dry skin, bone thinning and hot flushes, with some women having up to 30 flushes a day. It is too risky for them to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as this will increase the hormone levels again. Instead they are advised to cut out tea, coffee and nicotine, try alternative remedies or a certain type of anti-depressant.

Professor Molassiotis said: "It is hoped that the herbal remedy will be simpler and cheaper to take, as well as more effective, thus improving the lives of women who need all their energy to fight the disease."

He and his team are now recruiting 170 volunteers for the randomized trial, half of whom will take the phytooestrogen herb in the form of a pill and half of whom will take a placebo, from Greater Manchester and Cheshire. Only breast cancer patients who have or are receiving hormone treatments for their cancer are allowed to take part, and only if they experience at least one hot flush a day of moderate and above severity for at least a month. The treatment will be for a total of three months, taking one pill a day. The team will assess the volunteers' hot flushes four times over six months from starting the trial with questionnaires and a blood sample.


To take part in the trial, find out more about the study or see if you are eligible to participate, please contact Research Associate Dr Barbara Potrata on 0161 446 8550 or email

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For all breast cancer and lymphedema survivors, please check out my personal non-profit website

peace, health & love,


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anonymous  April 25, 2006 11:47 AM

Breast cancer and chemotherapy gel
Women who undergo surgery for breast cancer followed by radiation therapy often experience breast deformities that can only be corrected through reconstructive surgery. Researchers at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, in collaboration with bioengineers at Carnegie Mellon University, have developed a polymer-based therapy for breast cancer that could serve as an artificial tissue filler after surgery and a clinically effective therapy. Their findings, based on studies with mice, will be presented at 10:15 a.m., Tuesday, April 25 at the World Congress on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, April 24 to 27, at the Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

"Although radiation therapy is the standard treatment for breast cancer following surgery, it is expensive, time consuming and increases the cosmetic deformity caused by surgery," said Howard D. Edington, M.D., associate professor of surgery and surgical oncology at the University of Pittsburgh and faculty member at McGowan. "We sought to develop a possible alternative to radiation therapy that would not only release chemotherapy slowly to kill the cancerous cells left behind after surgery but that also would fill in the dimples and sometimes quite significant indentations that are common after breast surgery and radiation."

To test their idea, the researchers encapsulated a common breast cancer chemotherapy drug, doxorubicin, in microspheres, or beads, and then mixed them with a gelatin made of a polymer substance. Mice with breast cancer tumors were treated by inserting the gel under the skin next to the mammary gland. The researchers found that they could successfully control the delivery of chemotherapy over a period of 30 days and that the tumors were completely eradicated compared to a control group of mice that were implanted with the gel insert without chemotherapy.

"Through further research and testing, our goal is to develop this into a clinical treatment for women undergoing breast cancer surgery," said Dr. Edington who also is chief of surgery at Magee-Womens Hospital. "This treatment may help decrease the occurrences of breast deformity. With more studies under our belt, we believe this approach could eventually represent an alternative to breast radiation after surgery."

According to Dr. Edington, clinical trials on women with breast cancer will follow additional laboratory studies. A paper detailing these results will be published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research.

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anonymous  April 25, 2006 11:46 AM

Breast cancer treatment and stem cells
Stem cells and how to boost them is hot on the research agenda. But stopping them could be critical too, as evidence implicating stem cells in cancer is mounting.

In the human breast, up to 20 per cent of all tumours are now suspected to originate in stem cells. Now scientists from the Icelandic Cancer Society and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland have grown three-dimensional breast cell cultures to reveal unexpected subtleties about these stem cells that could explain why they spawn malignancies.

These stem cells, Valgardur Sigurdsson remarked during the EuroSTELLS Conference in Venice, Italy (19-21 March), could become targets for cancer treatment, leading to new therapies that wipe out cancer at its source. The hope is that they might also become useful tools to test new drugs.

"People have long suspected there should be a stem cell population in the human breast gland," said Sigurdsson who is part of the ESF-funded team led by Thorarinn Gudjonsson. A 'virgin' breast, before pregnancy, is very different to a fully functioning, milk-producing breast. With lactation, the breast becomes fully differentiated, and once this stage is over, it involutes. This cycle of proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis also happens in every menstrual cycle and in a more dramatic form during pregnancy. "This caught our attention, and has driven our research," Sigurdsson pointed out.

Breast cancer almost always occurs in the luminal epithelial compartment, which is also where milk is produced. Perhaps it is not surprising then, that stem cells reside in this compartment. In 2002, Thorarinn Gudjonsson, successfully isolated cells from the human breast with stem cell properties.

Gudjonsson immortalised these cells and grew them in three dimensional matrix that mimics the real, living tissue. Biologists have long relied on 2-dimensional cell cultures as the basic tool of their trade. But there is a big difference between a flat layer of cells and culturing cells in three-dimensions. The Icelandic researchers, realizing just how much a cells context matters, used the 3-D cell culture pioneered by Mina Bissell, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. "We can build up a 3-D breast structure similar to what you have in vivo," says Gudjonsson.

"You can analyse cell-cell interactions and signaling pathways in these cells during morphogenesis and in cancer progression." The Icelandic researchers are now focusing their efforts on how endothelial cells convey signals to stem cells in normal breast formation and in cancer. In collaboration with another Icelandic research team, the Gudjonsson lab is now unraveling the role of tyrosine kinase receptors and their downstream signaling events.

The benefits of these 3-D assays are manifold. "This is a useful system for drug screening and testing new drugs as well as for understanding cancer progression," says Gudjonsson.

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anonymous BREAST CANCER April 25, 2006 11:44 AM

Terahertz Imaging May Reduce Breast Cancer Surgeries
Breast cancer tumor removal

A promising new technique to ensure complete tumor removal at breast cancer excision is introduced in the May issue of Radiology.

Researchers used light waves in a newly explored region of the electromagnetic spectrum - the terahertz region - to examine excised breast tissue and determine if the removed tissue margins were clear of cancer, with good results. This technology has the potential to eliminate the need for multiple surgeries and tissue samples to get clear surgical margins.

"We found that terahertz light could reliably distinguish between normal breast tissue, tumor and even early-stage 'in situ' cancers in excised tissue samples," said Vincent P. Wallace, Ph.D., lead investigator at TeraView, who worked with Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, in conducting the study. "This technology could aid the surgeon in immediately identifying residual cancer after the main tumor has been removed, thus minimizing the need for additional surgical procedures."

Currently, excised tissue samples must be sent for histopathologic examination, which typically takes several days. Thus, surgeons don't know if all the tumor has been removed until well after the surgical procedure has been completed, and often, repeat surgeries have to be scheduled. For the first time, however, terahertz imaging has the potential to eliminate the need for subsequent procedures by allowing the surgeon to analyze tissue samples during the initial excision procedure.

Terahertz light is located between the infrared and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The researchers found that by placing a slice of excised breast tissue on a special quartz plate and exposing it to terahertz light, the light waves reflected from the tissue contained unique information about its state. The researchers were able to distinguish both invasive and noninvasive breast carcinomas from healthy tissue.

Twenty-two excised breast tissue samples were obtained from 22 women who underwent either wide local excision or mastectomy to remove breast cancer. All samples were first sliced and imaged with terahertz light, and then submitted for histopathologic analysis. Imaging took less than five minutes.

"There were substantial differences in the optical properties of normal and diseased tissue," Dr. Wallace said. The size and shape of the diseased regions at terahertz imaging were compared with those at histopathologic examination, with good results. All but three samples yielded invasive cancers. In total, there were two invasive lobular carcinomas, 14 invasive ductal carcinomas, three mixed invasive ductal and lobular carcinomas, two cases of pure ductal carcinoma in situ and one dense radial scar.

In breast cancer excision surgery, the aim is to remove the entire tumor with an adequate margin of normal tissue, while minimizing the amount of healthy tissue being removed. If a histopathologist analyzes the tissue and finds tumor at or near the edges, this indicates that there is a higher chance of cancer recurrence. A second operation is required to remove more tissue, involving additional hospital resources and increased risk of patient morbidity. Thus, there is a clinical need to accurately define the margins of the tumor during surgery.

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