Possible blood test for BC diagnosis. A Houston-based company, Power3 Medical Products, has developed a blood test for the diagnosis of breast cancer. The BC-SeraPro(TM) test is designed to measure the level of 22 protein biomarkers in the serum that differentiate between breast cancer patients and control subjects. The company initially launched the test in 12 Middle Eastern countries late last year. Results are compared to a large patient database with probability scores ranging from 0.0 to 1.0. The company warns that, when available, results of this test should not be considered a stand-alone diagnosis nor a guarantee. It has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Many sources: google ‘BC SeraPro’)

A new Pesticides and Cancer campaign. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) based in Brussels and the Mouvement pour le droit et le respect des generations futures, in Paris, have recently come together to launch a campaign. Citing a recent report commissioned by the European parliament, they estimate that at least one percent of cancers — or as many as 30,000 cancers diagnosed in Europe each year — can be linked to pesticide use. The campaign aims to achieve a ban on known or suspected hazardous pesticides, a reduction in the use of all pesticides, strong regulations to protect children, health care strategies that acknowledge the role of pesticides in the primary prevention of cancer, and an informal network of individuals and groups concerned and ready to act. (faulty url)

The Disappearing Male. This is the title of an intriguing documentary exploring the problem of rising male infertility, a decline in sperm quality, and more male babies born with genital defects or suffering from learning disabilities, autism, and so on. Some of the film focuses on the unequal sex ratio of babies born at the Aamjiwnaang reserve near Sarnia — a problem also covered in the film, Toxic Trespass. (Read more at http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone/2008/disappearingmale/)

Two-headed antibodies fight breast cancer. A small antibody-like molecule created by researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia can successfully attack two separate molecules on the surface of cancer cells at the same time, halting the growth of breast cancer cells in laboratory tests. The molecule might be a guidance system for delivering more aggressive drugs directly to cancer cells. (See “Targeting ErbB2 and ErbB3 with a bispecific single-chain Fv enhances targeting selectivity and induces a therapeutic effect in vitro” in Brit J of Cancer, Oct. 7, 2008)

Sentinel Lymph Node and Metastases. Women who have sentinel lymph node biopsies, and who are found to have isolated breast cancer cells, risk having metastases in other lymph nodes. A meta-analysis of results from sentinel node biopsy studies was conducted at a medical centre in Utrecht, The Netherlands. After pooling 29 published studies involving 836 patients, the researchers admit that the results remain controversial: There is still doubt about a need for extensive axillary lymph node dissection when isolated tumour cells are found during sentinel node biopsy. (J. Natl Cancer Instit, Nov. 11, 2008)

The perils of indoor dust. An analysis of indoor dust collected from vacuum cleaner bags in ten apartments in Davis, California, indicates that endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be more dangerous inside than outside. The dust included PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), phthalates, pyrethroids, DDT and its metabolites, and chlordane. Although the use of PCBs has been banned or restricted for decades, some samples had PCBs at levels considered to be of grave concern for human health. (www.sciencedirect.com/)

Bisphenol-A modifies chemotherapy. A team from the University of Cincinnati studied human breast cancer cells, subjecting them to low levels of bisphenol-A, similar to those found in the blood of adults. (Bisphenol-A is a component of many hard plastics and of tin can liners.) The researchers found that BPA acts on cancer cells as does estrogen — by inducing proteins that protect the cells from chemotherapy agents. In other words, bisphenol-A may protect cancer cells from dying in response to anti-cancer drugs, making chemotherapy significantly less effective. (“Plastic chemical may interfere with chemotherapy.” NY Times, October 9, 2008)

Foods that fight cancer. It is prohibitively expensive to conduct studies that follow people for years to see if they stay healthy because they eat certain foods. By comparison, drug approval is more efficient. Nevertheless, nutrition research has highlighted the cancer-fighting potential of cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, and especially broccoli) that contain sulforaphane glocosinolate; of walnuts that contain the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (as do canola oil and flaxseed); and of strawberries, pomegranates and green tea. (url link no longer valid)

Brief radiation therapy effective. Research at McMaster University Cancer Centre demonstrates that brief, intensive radiation therapy for early stage breast cancer is as effective as the current five- to seven-week treatments. Accelerated radiation was tested on 1,234 women with early stage breast cancer who were then followed for 12 years. At ten years post-treatment, recurrence was 6.2% in the accelerated treatment group as compared to 6.7% for patients who had received standard therapy. (www.canada.com/topics/ news/national/story.html?id=a152c 8b9-61d7-4f3a-847f-1afc771e7520) Invalid url

A new imaging method for breast cancer has been developed by a team of scientists from Penn State. Current imaging methods (X-rays and MRI) are limited in the size of tumours they can detect, the depth they can penetrate the body, and by their potential side effects. Near infrared bioimaging (NIR) is a noninvasive, painless and non-ionizing form of radiation that operates at wavelengths just above that of visible light. By combining NIR imaging with nanoparticles containing a NIR fluorescing dye, the researchers were able to detect tumours 5mm in diametre in a live mouse model. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/08092619 5129.htm)

MRI to determine need for radiation. For women whose breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes, an MRI scan could replace exploratory surgery to determine whether radiation therapy is needed. Physicians at the University of Washington Medical Center found that tumour information from MRI scans correlated with surgically-based findings of cancer spread to lymph nodes. This is important because, in the recent past, decisions regarding radiation were made after surgery and before chemotherapy. The ultimate benefit is that some women will be spared radiation, especially those with smaller tumours and tumours that have not spread to the lymph nodes. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/ 09/080921162042.htm)

Leading cancer researchers cast doubt on the quest for drug cure. Experts are calling into question the focus of cancer research on developing new drug therapies. They say more attention should be paid to finding the causes of genetic mutations that lead to deadly tumours. After studying a mind-boggling array of genetic changes that lead to the development of cancer, one researcher said that redirecting research funds into detection and prevention — rather than research into new drugs — would be a more sensible strategy. (TheStar.com, Sept. 4, 2008)

New breast cancer screening tool. A new technique called molecular breast imaging (MBI) appears to work better than mammography, finding tumours in women with dense breast tissue. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, MBI can find tumours invisible to mammography, costs half as much as an MRI, and presents a low risk of radiation provided it is not used too often. (National Post, Sept. 3, 2008)

Risk of breast cancer recurrence is low. A study examining breast cancer recurrence looked at 2,838 patients whose cancers ranged from stage I to stage III and who had been disease-free for five years after treatment. Overall, 89% remained recurrence-free ten years after diagnosis and 80% remained disease-free after fifteen years. Women who had estrogen receptor positive (ER+) cancer were more likely to have late recurrences than those with estrogen receptor negative (ER-) cancers. It is important to note that, despite low rates of recurrence, being disease-free after five years does not constitute a “cure.” (To learn more, visit bcaction.org/index.php?page=breast-cancer-myths-debunked)

Avoiding adverse reactions from prescription drugs. According to experts, you should shy away from new medications that have been on the market for less than two years. Reviews of the medical literature reveal that only one in seven new drugs is superior to existing medications and two out of every seven new drugs result in eventual side-effects serious enough to warrant special warnings or to be withdrawn from the market. Many of these adverse reactions don’t become apparent until a drug has been used by millions of patients for several years. (Paul Taylor, Globe & Mail, Aug. 29/08)

Activity key to breast cancer patients’ survival. Women who stay active after being diagnosed with breast cancer — and even those who take up exercise for the first time after diagnosis — have a better chance of surviving the disease. Dozens of studies over the past two decades have shown that exercise can reduce breast cancer risk by up to 40%. More recent research has found that activity has equal or even greater benefits for survival among women with the disease. (“Influence of Pre- and Postdiagnosis Physical Activity on Mortality in Breast Cancer Survivors: The Health, Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle Study” J Clin Oncol, Aug. 20, 2008)

Growth factor predicts poor outcome in breast cancer. The response to insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) in breast cancer cells predicts an aggressive tumour that is less likely to respond to treatment. This gives impetus to the trend to tailor cancer treatments to the attributes of various tumours. IGF-I is a major regulator of cell growth and cell survival and also regulates DNA repair. This has major implications for anti-cancer treatments that seek to cause DNA damage and tumour cell death. (Science Daily at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080829114911.htm)

What is Tibolone? Tibolone (Livial(TM)) is a synthetic drug that has estrogenic, androgenic, and progestogenic effects and thus qualifies as hormonal therapy. It is used to treat menopausal symptoms and has been suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer. However, a recent randomized double-blind study involving 4,538 women, aged 60 to 85, found that tibolone reduced the risk of fractures and breast cancer, but increased the risk of stroke. Tibolone is currently approved in 90 countries worldwide for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, and in 45 countries to prevent osteoporosis. It is not available in the U.S. or Canada. (“The Effects of Tibolone in Older Postmenopausal Women,” New Engl J Med, Aug. 14/08)

Osteoporosis drug might slow the growth of breast cancer. Zoledronic acid (marketed by Novartis under the trade names Zometa, Zomera, Aclasta and Reclast) is sometimes used to help prevent the development of osteoporosis. Researchers have combined it with doxorubicin (Adriamycin), a chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer, to halt the progression of tumours in mice. The combined drugs caused some cancer cells to self-destruct and cut off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to others. (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2106564/Breast-cancer-risk-reduced-by-brittle-bone-drug.html)

Dedicated breast CT scanners more comfortable than mammography. Dedicated breast computed tomography (CT) scanners, alone and in combination with positron emission tomography (PET), offer three-dimensional images of the breast and do away with breast compression. The woman lies face down with a breast suspended through an opening in the bed and the scanner rotates around the breast. The dedicated breast CT scanner appears to be superior to mammography for mass detection of tumours but is less efficient in detecting microcalcifications. (50th AAPE Annual Meeting, July 29/08)