Weekly Breast Cancer Research Update – May 2016 – #1May 2nd, 2016
NBCF funding leads to Australia’s first breast cancer prevention treatment listed on PBS
Thanks in part to funding from NBCF, tamoxifen is the first breast cancer prevention treatment to be added to the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Now an estimated 250,000 women with a family history or a genetic predisposition to breast cancer can benefit from subsidised tamoxifen as a preventative measure.
Women with a gene mutation known to increase their cancer risk may have fewer eggs in their ovaries, which means women in their mid-30s who carry the BRCA1 mutation have, on average, ovarian reserves similar to those of non-carriers who are two years older, according to NBCF-funded researcher Kelly-Anne Phillips from the Peter Mac Cancer Centre.
Young women with early breast cancer face a difficult choice about whether to opt for a mastectomy or breast conserving therapy. New research has shown young women, who had early stage breast cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes and who opted for breast conserving therapy with radiation therapy, had a 13% higher risk of developing a local recurrence of their disease over a 20-year period than women who had a mastectomy and no radiation therapy. Also, another US study has found that more women are opting for mastectomies, possibly unnecessarily.
NBCF note: Currently the majority of patients having breast conserving treatment undergo radiotherapy after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in the breast. Recently MRIs have also been used to see if there is more than one cancer, which has led to more tissue being removed during surgery – however, it is not known if this actually helps women. Prof Bruce Mann was funded by NBCF to determine whether women can be safely treated without radiotherapy – possibly allowing many women to safely avoid both mastectomies and radiotherapy. We should know the outcome of this study in the near future.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive form of breast cancer and the only type of breast cancer for which there are no targeted therapies. This study has identified alteration in specific genes that may explain why TNBC is resistant to most existing treatments, and suggests that a targeted therapy currently in clinical development may prove beneficial.
Cancer patients know chemotherapy can be a life-saver, but the side effects are notorious. One common complaint is that the treatment leaves them feeling foggy-headed and forgetful, unable to concentrate or focus as well as they used to. It’s been nicknamed ‘chemo brain’. But now a large new study has found no evidence that those drugs increase the risk of memory problems or other cognitive decline.
NBCF note: This is quite a controversial finding, as other studies have found links between chemotherapy and loss of memory and ability to focus. An NBCF-funded researcher has just completed her study into whether ‘chemo-brain’ can be treated with the plant ginkgo biloba which may be able to improve cognition and mood, without side effects. This study has only just finished and we should see the results soon.