Monday, July 18, 2011

Pepper Compound Selectively Kills Breast Cancer Cells

The transition between a normal cell and a cancer cell, whether it be a breast cancer cell or other cancer cell, requires a delicate balance between the cells' altered, faster metabolism and the cellular stress caused by the cells' changed metabolism.  In order to survive and thrive, cancer cells have adapted to handle the excess cellular stress.  Research studies have been exploring this delicate balance between increased metabolism and the extra stress associated with it in hopes of discovering ways to tip the balance away from cell growth towards cancer cell death.

One such recent study reported that piperlongumine, a natural compound from the Indian Long Pepper, might block the ability of breast cancer (and other cancer) cells to survive this high level of cellular stress.  To test the effects of piperlongumine, cancer researchers treated cancer cells in culture and in mice.  Some of the findings from this study include:
  • Piperlongumine treatment increased the level of oxidative molecules (called reactive oxygen species) in both cancer cells and normal cells engineered to be like cancer cells and resulted in an increase in cancer cell death.
  • Piperlongumine had no adverse or toxic effects on normal cells.
  • Cancer growth in mice with transplanted tumors was suppressed by piperlongumine treatment.
  • In mice that spontaneously develop breast cancer, piperlongumine inhibited tumor growth and metastasis.
While a lot more research needs to be done, this study suggests that this pepper compound has the ability to tip the balance between a revved-up cell metabolism and enhanced oxidative stress toward a higher level of oxidative stress that the cancer cells could not overcome and thus could not survive.  Apparently, the piperlongumine is interfering with the activity of enzymes needed to maintain the cells' oxidative stress balance.  Whether this approach to preventing and/or treating cancer will apply to all forms of cancer or whether it will work in human patients remains to be determined; however, the early results for this new form of breast cancer treatment appear promising.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fatty Foods Might Increase Breast Cancer Risk

While the research results have been somewhat inconsistent, there appears to be a growing amount of evidence that dietary fat consumption can increase breast cancer risk.  For example, one study in mice reported that a high-fat diet increased breast cancer burden and metastasis

A breast cancer study soon to be published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer examined the relationships between different fatty foods and breast cancer risk in 17,000 women between 45 and 73 years of age.  The risk of developing ER+PR+, ER-PR-, and overall breast cancers and the link to fatty foods was analyzed after 10 years of follow up.  The breast cancer investigators reported...
  • ER+PR+ breast cancer risk was decreased by about 11% with yogurt consumption, but was increased by 10% by consuming eggs and and dried soups/sauces.
  • The risk for ER-PR- breast cancer was increased by 31% by the consumption of vegetable oil-based margarine and dried soups/sauces.
  • When all breast cancers were examined, regular milk consumption was linked to a decrease in breast cancer risk and dried soups/sauces were linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.
These are interesting results that continue to suggest that dietary fat intake might impact breast cancer risk, though different foods had different effects.  While the increased risk for ER+PR+ breast cancer was relatively modest with dried soups/sauces, these foods had a more dramatic impact on ER-PR- breast cancer.  The fact that these breast cancer types are very different in their hormone receptor status suggests that these high fat foods might be effecting breast cancer risk through multiple pathways or non-hormonal pathways.  Previous research has suggested that the link between dietary fat and breast cancer might be the role of cholesterol in breast cancer blood vessel formation.  Future research will be needed to further clarify the possible link(s) between dietary fat and breast cancer risk and to determine if some foods are linked to a greater risk for breast cancer than other foods.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Graviola Fruit Extract Might Help Fight Breast Cancer

The development and growth of breast cancer is stimulated by many factors including a variety of growth factors.  One of these growth factors is epidermal growth factor (EGF) and some cancers overexpress the receptors for EGF.  Because of the effect of growth factors on breast cancer progression, breast cancer treatments and dietary modifications that suppress or block the function of EGF receptors are an important part of our fight against breast cancer.

A collaborative breast cancer research team recently reported that an extract made from graviola fruit appears to have cancer fighting properties linked to EGF receptor function.  Using both a cell culture system and an animal model of breast cancer, the researchers examined the impact of the graviola fruit extract on breast cancer cell and tumor growth.

In the cell culture system, the study investigators treated human breast cancer cells that overexpress the EGF receptor (MDA-MB-468 cells) with the graviola fruit extract.  The results showed that the graviola fruit extract suppressed the presence of EGF receptors, interrupted the breast cancer cell growth cycle and induced cell death.  These cancer fighting benefits of the graviola fruit extract were specifc to the breast cancer cells, since it had no effect on healthy, non-tumor breast cells.

To determine if the benefits seen in the cell culture tests translated to live animals, the researchers implanted these EGF receptor-overexpressing cells into mice and fed the mice the graviola fruit extract for 5 weeks.  Consumption of the graviola fruit extract reduced the presence of the EGF receptors in breast cancer tumors by 56% and inhibited tumor growth by 32%.

Overall, these studies provide some early evidence that graviola fruit has breast cancer fighting properties.  In addition to its cancer fighting benefits, the graviola fruit is an excellent source of dietary fiber and vitamin C and a good source of magnesium, potassium, and several B vitamins.  Graviola fruit is also known as soursop, Brazilian pawpaw, and guanabana. 

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Risk Factors For Specific Breast Cancer Subtypes

Research study results have suggested that different molecular subtypes of breast cancer appear to have different specific risk factors linked to them.  While these links have been explored in older, postmenopausal women extensively, less research has been done to determine breast cancer subtype-specific risk factors in younger women.

A new breast cancer research study examined the associations between breast cancer risk factors and the risk of developing specific subtypes of breast cancer in women 56 years of age or younger.  For this study, 4,322 women (890 breast cancer patients and 3,422 population-based control women) were enrolled.  Molecular subtypes of breast cancer were determined by analysis of the hormone receptors present.  Of the 890 breast cancer cases, 51.1% were luminal A breast cancer, 27.6% were triple negative breast cancer, 13.1% were non-luminal HER-2/neu+ breast cancer, and 8.1% were luminal B breast cancer.

Luminal A breast cancer tumors are positive for estrogen receptor (ER[+]), positive for progesterone receptor (PR[+]), and negative for human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER-2[-]).  Study results indicated that the risk of developing luminal A breast cancers was linked to a history of benign breast disease and a family history of breast cancer.  Additionally, not having any children and older age at first birth for those women who had children both increased the risk for luminal A breast cancer.

Luminal B breast cancer tumors are similar to luminal A breast cancer tumors in that they are ER[+] and PR[+]; however, luminal B tumors are often either HER-2[+] or HER-2[-] with a high number of actively dividing cells.  Luminal B breast cancer tumors tend to be larger and of a poorer grade.  Luminal B breast cancer risk was linked to increasing body size, but this was only seen in premenopausal women.  Luminal B breast cancer risk was also increased by an earlier age at puberty and weakly increased by an older age at first birth.

HER-2[+] breast cancer tumors stain positive for HER-2 receptors, but do not contain estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER- and PR-).  HER-2[+] breast cancers are often lymph node positive and many have p53 gene mutations.  The risk for HER-2[+] breast cancer was weakly increased by an earlier age of puberty, not having children, and older age at first birth.

Triple negative breast cancer tumors test negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 receptors.  Triple negative breast cancers tend to be aggressive and have poorer outcomes. Triple negative breast cancer risk was increased by little or no breast feeding, increasing body size (premenopausal women), and a family history of breast cancer (particularly among women younger than 45 years).

Overall, the results of this study help clarify the different risk factors linked to each molecular subtype of breast cancer and enhance our breast cancer awareness.  By enhancing our breast cancer awareness and understanding what puts us at risk for breast cancer, we are all better prepared in our fight to prevent breast cancer.  While some of these factors are beyond our control, there are others like breast feeding and body weight are factors over which we have control.  Factors beyond our control can be used to help develop appropriate screening and prevention strategies.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Black Caraway Seed Compound Has Breast Cancer Fighting Properties

Thymoquinone is a plant chemical (phytonutrient) that is found naturally in the plant Nigella sativa, which is more commonly known as black caraway, fennel flower, nutmeg flower, blackseed or Roman coriander.  Numerous research studies have suggested that thymoquinone has cancer-fighting properties, partly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

A new breast cancer research study explored the effects of thymoquinone on breast cancer cells grown in culture to better understand its breast cancer protection benefits.  The breast cancer researchers reported that thymoquinone had multiple protective actions...
  • Thymoquinone decreased the growth of breast cancer cells in culture
  • Thymoquinone induced programmed cell death (apoptosis) of breast cancer cells
  • The ability of certain breast cancer cells to migrate and invade was reduced by treatment with thymoquinone
  • Thymoquinone treatment of breast cancer cells reduced the expression of genes responsible for the production of cell survival proteins.
The results of this study continue to clarify the cancer-fighting properties of thymoquinone.  A previous study has suggested that the effects of this compound appear to be fairly specific to cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells. Overall, the research on thymoquinone as a natural cancer-fighting agent appears positive.  Thymoquinone appears to be mostly present in the seeds of the Nigella sativa plant, so using black caraway seeds or seed oil in cooking is a good way to add this breast cancer-fighting compound to your diet.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Subtypes Identified

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is characterized by a lack of estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and epidermal growth factor 2 receptors.  Because of the lack of hormone receptors, triple negative breast cancers do not respond to targeted hormone therapy or HER2 therapy.  Standard therapy for TNBC remains mainly limited to surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy; however, newer therapies like PARP inhibitors are showing promise.

The current classification of triple negative breast cancer by a lack of receptors really tells us what this form of breast cancer is not, but does not tell us what it is.  On-going research studies have been attempting to more clearly characterize triple negative breast cancer in hopes of developing personalized and targeted therapies for TNBC.  One such study was recently published and is free to read online.

In this study researchers identified 587 TNBC cases and analyzed their gene expression profiles to better characterize the molecular subtypes of triple negative breast cancer.  The researchers reported that they identified 6 TNBC molecular subtypes and that the subtypes had unique responses to treatments.  These subtypes are briefly described below.
  • Basal-Like - two basal-like molecular subtypes were identified and called BL1 and BL2.  These subtypes had elevated expressions of cell growth cycle genes and DNA damage response genes.  These subtypes were primarily responsive to treatment with cisplatin.
  • Mesenchymal Type - two mesenchymal types, labeled M and MSL, were identified.  These two molecular subtypes showed high gene expression patterns linked to growth factor pathways and to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition.  These subtypes were mainly responsive to dasatinib and NVP-BEZ235, a specific cell kinase inhibitor.
  • Immunomodulatory - one immunomodulatory (IM) subtype was identified.  This subtype expresses high levels of genes associated with the immune system.
  • Luminal Androgen Receptor - one luminal androgen receptor (LAR) TNBC subtype was identified.  This subtype was characterized by a high level of androgen receptors  and it was senstive to the androgen receptor blocker bicalutamide.
These results are potentially very important and could have major implications on the development of future breast cancer treatments for triple negative breast cancer. It is clear from this study, that there are distinct forms of TNBC and that each form responds differently to treatments.  Additionally, the study investigators reported that each subtype of TNBC showed different rates of relapse-free survival.  These results could be an important first step in truly personalizing targeted breast cancer treatments for patients with triple negative breast cancer.

To learn about diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pre-Surgical Lapatinib Treatment Reduces HER2+ Breast Cancer Growth

HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancers express an excess of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.  Overexpression of this receptor causes the breast cancer tumors to be more aggressive, which results in greater risk for breast cancer recurrence and poorer outcomes.

Previous research has suggested that breast cancer treatments that take place between diagnosis and surgery can help improve surgical success and breast cancer outcomes.  Therefore, the development of breast cancer treatments that can slow breast cancer growth during this time is an important area of research.

A recent research study explored the potential benefits of treating breast cancer patients with lapatinib, a HER2-specific breast cancer treatment.  For this study, 60 breast cancer patients were treated with lapatinib for the 3 weeks between breast biopsy and surgery.  Breast tissue samples after surgery were examined for differences in breast cancer growth compared to women treated with a placebo.  The study investigators reported:
  • Cell growth decreased by about 9% in patients treated with lapatinib, while cell growth increased by 15% in placebo-treated patients.
  • The decrease in breast cancer cell growth was greater in estrogen receptor-negative tumors (35% decrease) than in estrogen receptor-positive tumors (12% decrease).
  • Breast tumor size was smaller after lapatinib treatment (18 mm) than after placebo treatment (24 mm).
  • Breast cancer tumor progression was only 27% on lapatinib compared to 56% growth on placebo treatment.
  • Lapatinib treatment resulted in a 14% partial response, while placebo treatment was associated with only a 4% partial response.
These results clearly show that breast cancer treatment with lapatinib during the 3 weeks between diagnosis and surgical treatment is an effective way to slow tumor growth.  This is an important finding because slowing tumor growth before surgery can help improve surgical success.  This, of course, can lead to decreased changes of breast cancer recurrence and might lead to better overall outcomes. Additional studies with larger numbers of breast cancer patients appear to be planned to confirm these initial results.

To learn about diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Obesity May Increase Breast Cancer Risk Via Inflammatory Pathways

Obesity is now considered a major contributor to several chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer among others.  Initial research exploring the link between obesity and breast cancer suggested that the production of estrogen from fat tissue was one of the main factors linking obesity to breast cancer.  However, estrogen production is not the only pathway linking obesity to breast cancer.  A growing body of evidence implicates inflammation as a major contributor to breast cancer development.

Previous research has identified 'crown-like structures' (dying fat cells surrounded by immune cells) in the fat tissue of human beings and in the mammary glands of obese mice.  In addition to the presence of these crown-like structures in the mouse mammary glands, the researchers observed increased activation of the inflammation process and higher levels of aromatase, the enzyme responsible for estrogen production.

To determine if these observations in mice were also present in women, these breast cancer researchers obtained breast tissue from 30 women who had breast surgery.  Analysis of the breast tissue samples showed:
  • 14 of the 30 women (47%) had these crown-like structures in their breast tissue samples
  • As body mass index became greater, so did the severity of the breast inflammation
  • Breast inflammation was also increased with increasing fat cell size 
  • In the overweight and obese women in the study, aromatase levels and activity were elevated
These study results continue to confirm the link between obesity and breast cancer as well as providing additional detail on the relationships between obesity, inflammation, estrogen production, and breast cancer.  Based on these results, the study investigators suggest that in overweight and obese women, chronic tissue inflammation is stimulated, which increases aromatase activity.  An increase in aromatase activity can then lead to increased estrogen production.

Overall, this new information outlines some of the biological processes that link obesity to increased breast cancer risk.  Developing a better understanding of these processes might lead to better and earlier breast cancer prevention strategies. However, it is also important to realize that this research also re-emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight in our fight against breast cancer.   

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Resveratrol Blocks Breast Cancer Progression In Culture

Breast cancer progression and metastasis requires a change in breast tissue cells from a normal epithelial form to a mesenchymal, connective tissue-like form.  A number of factors are involved in this mesenchymal transition and various growth factors have been implicated in this key step of breast cancer progression. Therefore, finding ways to block the mesenchymal transition and prevent the growth and metastasis of breast cancer is an important area of research.

New breast cancer research suggests that resveratrol, a natural antioxidant found in red grapes, might be able to block growth factor-induced breast cancer progression.  For this cell culture study, investigators cultured MCF-7 breast cancer cells and treated them with epidermal growth factor (EGF) and treated them with EGF + resveratrol.  Treatment of MCF-7 breast cancer cells with EGF caused the breast cancer cells to change their physical appearance similar to what is seen during the mesenchymal transition.  Additionally, mesenchymal markers increased in these cells after EGF treatment and the cells developed the ability to migrate, confirming the ability of this growth factor to promote breast cancer progression.

Co-treatment of breast cancer cells with EGF + resveratrol blocked the effect of EGF on breast cancer cells.  Resveratrol treatment prevented the breast cancer cells from undergoing the mesenchymal transition and blocked the ability of the breast cancer cells to migrate after EGF treatment.  These beneficial effects of resveratrol were mediated by its ability to block the EGF activation of a specific cellular pathway called ERK 1/2.

This is an interesting study that adds to the growing amount of evidence for the health benefits of resveratrol.  While resveratrol has developed a well-deserved reputation as a phytonutrient with health benefits, most of these benefits to date have been related to heart health.  However, this study and other emerging evidence suggest that resveratrol has breast cancer fighting properties as well.  While more research will need to be done to see if these cell culture studies translate to benefits in people, the early evidence is promising.  Red grapes, red grape juice, peanuts, and some berries are good sources of resveratrol, so adding resveratrol to your diet is not only easy, but healthy.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Are Beta-Blockers Useful In The Fight Against Breast Cancer?

In a previous blog I discussed the results of a new study, which indicated that blood pressure medications alter the risk for breast cancer recurrence.  While the ACE inhibitors increased the risk for recurrence, the beta-blockers decreased this risk and blunted the effect of the ACE inhibitors. Two new studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology continue to explore the possible cancer-fighting benefits of beta blockers.

In the first breast cancer study, researchers investigated the link between using beta blockers with breast cancer survival in patients treated with chemotherapy.  For this study, breast cancer patients taking beta blockers (102 patients) were compared to patients not taking beta blockers (1,311 patients).  Differences in overall survival and relapse-free survival were assessed.  After making adjustments for multiple factors, use of beta blockers improved the chances of relapse-free survival by nearly 50%, but did not improve the chances of overall survival.  The benefits were even greater in triple negative breast cancer patients.  Triple negative breast cancer patients taking beta blockers showed a 70% increased chance of relapse-free survival.

The second breast cancer study compared the potential benefits of two different beta-blockers, propranolol (a beta 1 and beta 2 blocker) and atenolol (a beta 1 blocker).  For this study, information on breast cancer stage and beta blocker use was collected and compared to women not taking a beta blocker.  The results of this study showed that the beta 1 blocker, atenolol, had no effect on the risk of local tumor invasion nor on the risk of metastatic breast cancer.  In contrast, women using propranolol were about 75% less likely to be diagnosed with local tumor invasion and about 80% less likely to have lymph node involvement or metastases.  Additionally, breast cancer - specific mortality was reduced  in propranolol users.

These two studies provide some interesting insight into the possible benefits of beta blockers in the fight against breast cancer.  Beta blocker use improved the chances of relapse-free survival in all breast cancer patients, but this benefit was even better in triple negative breast cancer patients.  Furthermore, these studies show that not all beta blockers are the same when it comes to the fight against breast cancer.  It appears from the second study that beta blockers that work through the beta 2 pathway are more effective at reducing the breast cancer progression and improving survival than beta blockers that use the beta 1 pathway.  These early studies show the possible usefulness of beta blockers in our fight against breast cancer.

To learn about diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER. Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.