Originally established in 1985, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins on October 1 and ends October 31. What began as a partnership between the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries and the American Cancer society quickly gained traction and has seen amazing collaboration from various sponsors including the American Academy of Family Physicians, AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, CancerCare Inc, and many others. Although it’s rare, breast cancer in men is typically overlooked. Groups like A Man’s Pink, the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men, and Out of the Shadow of Pink collectively defined the third week of October as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week around the world.
In August, an international group of researchers published findings of a study comparing conventional radiotherapy and single dose targeted radio therapy in The BMJ. A summary from ScienceDaily states,
“For most women with early breast cancer, a single dose of targeted radiotherapy during surgery is just as effective as conventional radiotherapy, which requires several visits to hospital after surgery, according to new findings.”
The research group found that this targeted intraoperative radiotherapy (TARGIT-IORT) resulted in a four out of five chance of avoiding conventional radiotherapy and fewer side effects. It also found rates of survival and recurrent cancer were no different than those of conventional radiotherapy. This study and its findings are based on a sample of 2,300 women who were aged 45 years or older. These women were determined to be eligible for breast conservation surgery, also known as a lumpectomy. They were located throughout Australia, Canada, and the United States, as well as seven countries across Europe and the UK. From five years of monitoring, the researchers found that the local recurrence risk of TARGIT-IORT was clinically insignificant compared to conventional radiotherapy. Some limitations of the study were pointed out by the researchers, such as, affection of the results from possible over diagnosis of non-invasive local recurrence and a lack of non-breast cancer causes of background risk factors for deaths. They also highlighted the study’s strengths, which suggested reliable and robust results, including a high level of complete follow up, the large sample size, long duration, and the randomized design. The researchers concluded this radiotherapy option “should be accessible to healthcare providers and discussed with patients when surgery for breast cancer is being planned.”
In September, Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists found a new method of killing specific human breast cancer cells that multiply. Although it has only been tested on cancer cells derived from patients and grown in labs, it could help discover drugs that kill the aforementioned cells while leaving healthy ones unharmed. Associate professor of molecular biology and genetics at JHU School of Medicine, Andrew Holland, Ph.D., says, “Some of the most widely used cancer drugs already kill rapidly dividing cells. However, most of these drugs have notable drawbacks, including killing healthy cells, such as fast-multiplying bone marrow cells, along with the cancer cells.” By adding an experimental drug known as a PLK4 inhibitor to breast cancer cells with high levels of the protein TRIM37, they found the cells could not divide. Further, they found these breast cancer cells either stopped growing or died when the PLK4 inhibitor was added to them. In regard to this Holland says, “The idea would be to identify tumors with high levels of TRIM37 and use a PLK4 inhibitor to selectively kill cancer cells and leave healthy cells relatively unharmed.” The scientists published a summary of their findings in Nature.