Friday, April 30, 2010

Selenium Might Help Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Selenium is a mineral found in water, soil, and some foods and is essential for a number of metabolic processes.  The potental cancer preventive benefits of selenium supplementation have been an active area of research for decades with much of this research pointing to the benefits of selenium for prostate cancer.  The potential benefits of selenium for reducing breast cancer risk appear to be less clear; however, this might be due to the forms of selenium tested in research studies.  A research paper from 1991 (free to download) suggested that some forms of selenium, particularly methylselenocysteine, have greater cancer fighting benefits that other forms of selenium.  Nonetheless, the way selenium might protect against breast cancer is still not fully understood, though a breast cancer research study (free to read) published a couple of years suggests that selenium's effect on the biological clock might be an important part of selenium's cancer fighting properties.

A new breast cancer study further explored this potential relationship between breast cancer, selenium, and the biological clock.  In this new study, breast cancer researchers induced breast cancer in rats with a chemical carcinogen and then either (1) fed rats selenium in the form of methylselenocysteine for 30 days or (2) did not give selenium to the rats.  Changes in genes associated with the biological clock were examined at the completion of the study.  Treatment with the chemical carcinogen disrupted several of the major genes involved with biological clock function in the rats' breast tissue including a melatonin receptor, estrogen receptors, and genes important to growth regulation.  Dietary supplementation with selenium for 30 days counteracted the negative effects of the chemical carcinogen by enhancing these biological clock genes in breast tissue.

These are interesting results that provide insight to potential causes of breast cancer and how to potentially counteract those causes.  Our biological clock is responsible for regulating many of our body functions and interruption of our biological clock has been linked to increased risk for some cancers.  In fact, the increased risk for breast cancer in night shift workers is thought to be due to interruption in the biological clock of these workers.  These recent animal studies suggest that selenium, in the form of methylselenocysteine, might restore one's normal biological clock and thus reduce breast cancer risk.  Future studies in a clinical setting will be needed to see if selenium has a similar function in human beings.

Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer to learn more about the type of diet and lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Predicting Progression of DCIS to Future Invasive Breast Cancer

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer.  Early treatment for DCIS was surgical removal of the lump in the breast.  However, the breast cancer typically returned in about 30% of the patients with breast cancer recurrence being either another DCIS or invasive breast cancer, which is a more severe form of breast cancer.  Unfortunately, it has not been possible in the past to determine which recurrences would be DCIS or the more severe invasive breast cancer.  A new research study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports on a way to predict which DCIS breast cancer patients will be at higher risk for future development of invasive breast cancer.

In their new breast cancer study, the researchers collected medical histories from 1,162 women diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer and treated with lumpectomy alone from 1983 to 1994.  Of these breast cancer patients, 324 experienced breast cancer recurrence in the form of either DCIS or invasive breast cancer.  The researchers analyzed the medical histories of the breast cancer patients and the tissue characteristics of their subsequent breast cancer tumors in an attempt to determine what characteristics might predict the development of invasive breast cancer.  The breast cancer researchers reported:
  • Women who detected their initial DCIS by palpation were at a greater risk for developing invasive breast cancer compared to women who had their initial DCIS detected by mammography.
  • Breast cancer patients with DCIS tumors characterized by the presence of breast cancer markers p16, COX-2, and Ki67 combined were at a substantially higher risk of developing future invasive breast cancer compared to breast cancer patients that were negative for all three of these markers.
  • Alternate tissue marker profiles and large disease-free margins were associated with breast cancer recurrence in the form of the less aggressive DCIS.
These are potentially important breast cancer research findings that might positively impact treatment decisions.  While DCIS breast cancer patients have a 30% chance of breast cancer recurrence if they opt for treatment by lumpectomy alone, this apparently is no longer considered standard of care for DCIS patients.  According to an accompanying editorial, most DCIS breast cancer patients are now treated with lumpectomy + radiation therapy and possibly hormone therapy in estrogen receptor - positive DCIS.  These new standard therapies have reduced the risk of recurrence to about 10% overall and less than 5% for invasive breast cancer.  Nonetheless, this new research would allow DCIS breast cancer patients some options in regards to personalizing their breast cancer therapy.  Women at very low risk of recurrence might opt for less aggressive forms of breast cancer therapy.

Improvements in determining what increases the risk for breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence are welcome steps forward in breast cancer research because it provides an opportunity to develop ways to decrease that risk.  To learn about diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your personal breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Hispanic vs Non-Hispanic Women

Differences in breast cancer risk, breast cancer stage at diagnosis, and breast cancer survival are evident between different races.  For example, breast cancer incidence after age 45 is higher in Caucasian women than African-American women; however, breast cancer mortality is higher in African-American women than Caucasian women at any age.  While these differences between races are evident, the reasons for these differences remain unclear and are an active area of research.

One new breast cancer study examined differences in breast cancer risk factors between Hispanic women and non-Hispanic white women.  In this population-based study, risk estimates for breast cancer were determined and compared between the two groups of women.  The results of this study showed that differences in certain risk factors were evident between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women.  Some of these differences included:
  • Taller height and positive family history were not associated with breast cancer in premenopausal Hispanic women, but were associated with breast cancer in premenopausal non-Hispanic white women.
  • Some common breast cancer risk factors in postmenopausal non-Hispanic white women, like estrogen + progesterone hormone therapy use and younger age at first menstrual cycle, were only weakly related to breast cancer risk in Hispanic women.
  • Only 7-36% of breast cancers in Hispanic women were due to known, evaluated breast cancer risk factors.
This is interesting information that increases our breast cancer awareness in regards to racial differences in breast cancer risk factors.  The final bullet point above is particularly intersting. One could assume based on those numbers that the majority of breast cancers in Hispanic women are due to different, perhaps unknown breast cancer risk factors.  Overall, these breast cancer researchers suggested that some of the typical breast cancer risk factors observed in non-Hispanic white women have little bearing on breast cancer risk in Hispanic women.  This study emphasizes the possible importance of developing race-specific breast cancer risk models in order to determine risk factors important to specific populations.  This could eventually lead to improvements in breast cancer treatments and outcomes in the future.

Increasing our awareness of breast cancer differences is important in order to develop appropriate breast cancer risk reduction strategies.  To increase your awareness of diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your personal breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Immunotherapy + Chemotherapy for Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Triple negative breast cancer remains one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer and makes up about 10-20% of all breast cancers.  One of the biggest problems with triple negative breast cancer is that targeted therapies are basically not available.  Triple negative breast cancer is treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.  Fortunately, triple negative breast cancer has been reported to respond well to these treatments.  Nonetheless, the need for targeted therapies for this form of breast cancer are desperately needed.  A new study presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (Abstract #3852) reported on some early research on the benefits of combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy for triple negative breast cancer.

In their study, researchers first developed a new mouse model of triple negative breast cancer in which they could test this new combination therapy.  Researchers implanted breast cancer cells into the mice and either did not treat them or treated them with either (1) bevacizumab (an antibody that inhibits blood vessel growth in tumors), (2) nab-paclitaxel (a chemotherapy drug), or (3) nab-paclitaxel + bevacizumab.  Mice were examined for tumor growth and metastasis.  The results of the study showed that:
  • nab-paclitaxel + bevacizumab combined therapy suppressed tumor growth by 100%
  • Combination therapy reduced lymph node involvement by 50%
  • This combination therapy reduced lung metastasis by 87%
  • 50% of the mice receiving nab-paclitaxel + bevacizumab showed complete regression of primary tumors and metastases.
These are phenomenol results that suggest possible future targeted therapies for triple negative breast cancers. These early pre-clinical results are very positive for this particular combination therapy, though further testing, particularly in clinical trials, needs to be done.  In addition to the benefits observed for this combination therapy, this study provides a new pre-clinical model in which new therapies can be tested.  This might accelerate the development of new therapies for triple negative breast cancers.

Don't forget that even though science continues to make great strides in breast cancer research, there are many things we can do to reduce our personal breast cancer risk.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at to learn more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Army of Women: Partnering Women With Breast Cancer Researchers

Breast cancer research is vital to the cure and prevention of breast cancer.  While many women have an interest in participating in breast cancer research, a number of barriers appear to prevent them from taking part in a breast cancer clinical trial.  Some of these barriers include a lack of awareness of opportunities, discomfort with the research process, concerns with the study settings, presence of a 'no-treatment' group, and the strictness of the study requirements.

A relatively new resource, the Love/Avon Army of Women, was launched in October 2008 through a partnership between The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and The Avon Foundation for Women.  The Army of Women is an online recruitment tool designed to partner women with breast cancer scientists to help enhance breast cancer research.  The primary goal of the Army of Women is to recruit one million women interested in joining breast cancer clinical trials and to provide a place for breast cancer researchers to publicize available trials.  According to information presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (Abstract #2894), the Army of Women is making excellent progress.  Since October 2008, over 330,000 women have registered with the Army of Women.  The volunteers to date represent women from ages 18 - 100, from all 50 U.S. states, and from 47 countries.  Additionally, 16 studies have recruited from the Army of Women and according to their website 13 studies are currently recruiting new volunteers.

This is a wonderful resource striving to accelerate breast cancer research.  Based on information on their website, becoming a member of the Army of Women does not mean you are required to take part in a clinical trial.  Instead, members are provided information on clinical trial opportunities as they become available.  This allows members a chance to become completely familiar with the opportunity and the research process in the comfort of their own home and decide which, if any, clinical trial is of interest.  Whether you have breast cancer or not or have a family history of breast cancer or not, the Army of Women is a great resource for women interested in taking part in a breast cancer research study.

Breast cancer awareness is an important part of our fight against breast cancer.  The Army of Women is an excellent resource to increase one's awareness of breast cancer research opportunities.  To enhance your awareness of diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of breast cancer, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lycopene Regulates Enzymes Involved in Breast Cancer Protection

Lycopene is an antioxidant compound that is responsible for the red color of a number of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.  Lycopene has been reported in numerous research studies to have a variety of health benefits, including cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer.  While research into the breast cancer fighting benefits of lycopene are still in the fairly early stages, some of this research suggests potential benefits of lycopene for breast cancer protection.

One recent breast cancer study examined the impact of lycopene on enzymes involved in breast cancer initiation and protection.  Many common environmental contaminants implicated in breast cancer initiation are metabolized by two Phase I enzymes.  This metabolism results in the formation of chemicals in the body which can damage our DNA and increase breast cancer risk.  Fortunately, our bodies also produce enzymes, called Phase II enzymes, that help our bodies get rid of these chemicals.  In this new study, the breast cancer researchers tested the ability of lycopene to alter the function of these enzymes.  The results of their study showed that:
  • Lycopene inhibited the activity of the Phase I enzymes responsible for the production of cancer-causing chemicals.
  • In a cell culture system with breast cancer cells, lycopene suppressed the production of cancer-causing chemicals
  • Lycopene increased by 4-fold the activity of the Phase II enzyme responsible for eliminating the cancer-causing chemicals.
This is interesting research that demonstrates some of the ways by which lycopene might have breast cancer fighting benefits.  Our bodies are frequently exposed to a variety of chemicals that can be harmful to our health.  Fortunately, our bodies are generally capable of eliminating many of these chemicals.  This new study suggests that certain foods and phytochemicals in those foods, lycopene in this case, might be able to enhance our body's ability to protect us from such cancer-causing chemicals. 

There are many foods that can help us reduce our breast cancer risk.  To learn about my 10 favorite cancer fighting foods, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer (

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Broccoli Phytochemical Might Inhibit Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Broccoli is rich in a number of phytochemicals including sulforaphane and indoles that have been implicated as important cancer fighting compounds.  The potential benefits of broccoli and the phytochemicals found in broccoli have been studied in a number of cancers, including breast cancer. 

A new breast cancer study (Abstract 4271) presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research examined the effect of the broccoli compound sulforaphane on breast cancer stem cells, cells reported to be important in the initiation and recurrence of breast cancer.  For this study, the investigators tested the impact of sulforaphane on cancer stem cells in culture and on cancer stem cells implanted into mice.  The breast cancer researchers reported that:
  • Treatment of a breast cancer cell line with sulforaphane reduced the percentage of breast cancer stem cells by about 65-80%.
  • Sulforaphane treatment reduced the size and number of breast tumors formed in culture by 50-75%.
  • Injection of sulforaphane into mice killed breast cancer stem cells implanted into mice, thereby preventing tumor re-growth.
  • Analysis of the mechanism by which sulforaphane exerted its effects showed that sulforaphane suppressed a self-renewal pathway.
These are exciting results that show the possible ways that broccoli might reduce breast cancer risk.  By suppressing the function of breast cancer stem cells, the cancer fighting compoud in broccoli might help reduce the risk of cancer developing or recurring.  While this study was done in cell culture and in mice, the results suggest potential benefits for people.  However, the amount of sulforaphane used in the mouse study was pretty high (50 mg/kg of body weight).  A 150-lb person would have to consume about 3.5 grams of sulforaphane to reach an equivalent dose and that would take a LOT of broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables. 

Future studies in people will need to be done to determine if these results translate to people.  However, that is no reason to not eat broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables.  Broccoli is an extremely nutrient-rich food that can be used in many dishes.  In fact, one cup of broccoli provides about 200% of our daily requirements of vitamin C and vitamin K.  It is also very rich in vitamin D, folate, and dietary fiber.

The potential anti-cancer properties of broccoli and its nutrient-rich profile makes broccoli one of my favorite breast cancer fighting foods.  To learn about my other favorite breast cancer fighting foods, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Breast Cancer Prevention: Tamoxifen vs. Raloxifene

The ultimate goal in breast cancer research (or any disease research) is to find a way to prevent breast cancer from occurring.  Tamoxifen is widely used to treat breast cancer patients with estrogen receptor - positive breast cancer; however, it has also been approved since 1998 to help prevent breast cancer in high risk breast cancer patients.  This approval was based on the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial, which showed that high risk breast cancer patients who took tamoxifen for 5 years showed a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk.

Over the last several years, a breast cancer research clinical trial called Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR) has been running to compare the effectiveness of raloxifene to tamoxifen for reducing breast cancer risk.  The updated results from this trial were presented on Monday at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.  Some of the results presented showed that:
  • After 81 months of follow-up, raloxifene was shown to be 76% as effective as tamoxifen at reducing the risk for invasive breast cancer in women at high risk for breast cancer.
  • For non-invasive breast cancers, raloxifene was about 78% as effective as tamoxifen.
  • Raloxifene had a substantially safer profile with a 45% reduction in endometrial cancer and and 25% reduction in risk for serious blood clots compared to women taking tamoxifen.
Based on these results it appears that while raloxifene clearly reduces the risk for developing breast cancer in high risk women, it is not quite as effective as tamoxifen.  However, raloxifene appears to be a much safer alternative to tamoxifen due to fewer side effects, particularly in regards to rare side effects like endometrial cancer and blood clots.  This is good news for women at high risk for breast cancer who are interested in reducing their breast cancer risk, since the results of this study suggest a safer alternative to tamoxifen.  Despite the fact that these two drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, many women are reluctant to take this breast cancer prevention route and many doctors are apparently reluctant to suggest it.  According to an article in the NCI Cancer Bulletin, this is likely because there is no way to know if the patient is improving upon her risk or not.

You can read a more detailed story about this study in the NCI Cancer Bulletin or if you are interested you can actually watch a webcast of the full 17 minute presentation on the meeting website.  To watch the webcast, just click HERE, pick the April 19th date and scroll down to the 10:00 am Special Session by Dr. Wickerham.

In addition to pharmaceutical drugs that can reduce breast cancer risk, there are diet and lifestyle changes we can all make to reduce our risk for breast cancer.  To learn more, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Calcium and Vitamin Intake Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Vitamins and minerals are essential parts of human nutrition and a lack of adequate amounts can lead to various chronic health conditions.  Research over the years has reported that taking additional vitamins and minerals might or might not help reduce the risk of cancers, including breast cancer.  A new breast cancer research study reports that regular intake of calcium and vitamins might substantially reduce breast cancer risk.

In this new breast cancer study, presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers explored the relationship between breast cancer risk and consumption of vitamins and calcium and attempted to examine the mechanism by which calcium and vitamins might be beneficial.  For this breast cancer study, the researchers compared dietary supplement use, DNA repair functions, and other information between 268 breast cancer cases and 457 non-cancer control subjects.  Analysis of various possible associations showed that:
  • Vitamin intake was associated with 30% lower risk of having breast cancer
  • Calcium intake reduced breast cancer risk by 40%
  • Higher levels of calcium and vitamin intake were related with a greater ability of DNA to repair itself
  • Calcium's relationship with a reduced breast cancer risk appeared to be dependent on the DNA's ability to repair itself, while this was not true for vitamins.
This new breast cancer research highlights the potential importance of vitamins and calcium for reducing breast cancer risk.  While the study summary did not indicate how much calcium or vitamins were being consumed, the study author indicated in a press release that the subjects were not taking 'mega-doses' of these supplements.  The U.S. National Library of Medicine is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about vitamins and other supplements

In many cases, we can get all the vitamins and minerals we need from the food we consume.  Read about my favorite cancer fighting foods in my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Monday, April 19, 2010

Multigene Test Might Predict Benefit of Chemotherapy

The MammaPrint multigene test is a test that measures 70 genes to determine the risk of breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body.  New research suggests that this test might also help determine whether adding chemotherapy to endocrine therapy can be beneficial for breast cancer patients.

In this new breast cancer study, breast cancer-specific survival and distant disease-free survival after 5 years were measured in breast cancer patients receiving either endocrine therapy alone or endocrine therapy + chemotherapy.  Differences in these survival measures were examined in patients classified as high risk and low risk by the 70-gene test. 

In the low risk group, the breast cancer investigators reported that:
  • Breast cancer-specific survival was 97% in patients getting endocrine therapy and 99% in patients getting endocrine therapy + chemotherapy
  • Distant disease-free survival was 93% in patients getting endocrine therapy and 99% in patients getting endocrine therapy + chemotherapy
In the high risk group, it was shown that:
  • Patients getting endocrine therapy only had a rate of breast cancer-specific survival of 81%, which increased to 94% in patients being treated with both endocrine therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Distant disease-free survival in the patients receiving endocrine therapy alone was 76% compared to 88% in patients treated with endocrine therapy and chemotherapy.
Based on these results, the breast cancer investigators suggest that adding chemotherapy to endocrine therapy for patients at low risk for breast cancer metastasis provides little additional benefit.  In contrast, breast cancer outcomes were substantially improved by adding chemotherapy to endocrine therapy in high risk patients.

This is interesting new research that could potentially have an important impact on a breast cancer patient's decision regarding their breast cancer therapy.  This is yet another step forward in providing personalized treatments for breast cancer patients that meets their specific individual needs. 

Increasing our awareness of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment options is an important part of the fight against breast cancer.  Becoming more aware of lifestyle choices we can make that will help reduce the risk of getting breast cancer is also important.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( to increase your breast cancer awareness.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Risk of Contralateral Breast Cancer in BRCA Mutation Carriers: Population-Based Study

Women who carry either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are at increased risk for breast cancer and younger women with breast cancer are frequently tested for BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations.  Most previous studies, including one I posted a blog about earlier, have examined the risk for developing breast cancer in the opposite breast among women in high risk families.  However, little research has been done to examine this risk in the general population.

A new breast cancer research study assessed this risk.  To do so, the investigators used information from the WECARE study, a population-based study that included about 700 women with contralateral breast cancer and 1,400 women who did not develop contralateral breast cancer.  All of these women were tested for the BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations and risk for contralateral breast cancer was determined regardless of family history.  The results of the investigator's assessment showed that:
  • BRCA1 mutation carriers had a 4.5-fold increased risk for developing cancer in the opposite breast, regardless of family history.
  • BRCA2 mutation carriers had a 3.4-fold increased risk for contralateral breast cancer, regardless of family history.
  • Women younger than 55 years of age who carried at least one of the BRCA mutations were at about an 18% increased risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast compared to only 5% risk in non-carriers.
  • Among carriers of the BRCA mutations, the risk for contralateral breast cancer increased with the younger a woman's age was at first diagnosis.
This important new study shows that women carrying either of the BRCA mutations are at a substantial risk for developing cancer in the opposite breast even if they don't have a family history of breast cancer.  This information is important for increasing breast cancer awareness and important for decision making in regards to breast cancer treatment and screenings for women with either of the BRCA mutations.  Knowing what the risk of contralateral breast cancer is in this population of women will help physicians develop appropriate strategies for these women.

Breast cancer awareness is an important first step in our fight against breast cancer.   To increase your own awareness of steps you can take to reduce your own breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Estrogen Receptor Beta in Breast Cancer Cells

Like many tissues in the human body, breast tissue contains estrogen receptors.  These estrogen receptors come in at least two main types, estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta).  Many research studies have suggested that the impact of estrogen or other chemicals that can bind to estrogen receptors depends on the ratio of these two types of estrogen receptors. A new research study examined what happens to breast cancer cells in culture when they lose their ERbeta receptors.

To study this impact of ERbeta receptors, the breast cancer researchers took two types of cells, non-cancerous breast cells and breast cancer cells, and removed their ERbeta receptors and then examined changes in their ability to grow and respond to tamoxifen.  These breast cancer researchers reported that:
  • Both cell types showed a substantial increase in growth when their ERbeta receptors were removed.
  • Removal of ERbeta from the breast cancer cells caused these cells to become less responsive to tamoxifen treatment.
  • These changes support the idea that ERbeta receptors might act as breast cancer tumor suppressors.
This is fascinating new research into the impact of estrogen receptors on breast cancer.  While hormones are clearly a risk factor for women with hormone-dependent breast cancer, the risk might be modified by which receptors are present and the levels at which they are present.  If ERbeta receptors truly have tumor suppressor properties, then compounds that bind these ERbeta receptors might have some potential for reducing breast cancer risk.

To find out what kind of diet and lifestyle changes we can all make to reduce breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bambangan Seed Extract Inhibits Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Bambangan (Mangifera pajang) is a fruit in the mango family that is native to Malaysia.  The kernel of this fruit has been shown to be rich in antioxidants like gallic acid and rutin.  A new study reports that extracts of the bambangan kernel might have breast cancer fighting properties.

In this breast cancer study, researchers cultured both hormone-dependent breast cancer cells (MCF-7 cells) and non-hormone dependent breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231 cells) and treated them with different amounts of the bambangan seed extract.  The results of this study showed that:
  • The bambangan seed extract blocked breast cancer cell growth by stopping the cell growth cycle at specific points depending on the cell line.
  • Programmed cell death of both breast cancer cell lines was stimulated by the bambangan seed extract.
  • The breast cancer cell death was induced rapidly with about 15% of the cells dying within 24 hours (non-hormone dependent breast cancer cells) and 36 hours (hormone-dependent breast cancer cells).
This new research study indicates that bambangan might have cancer fighting benefits.  Unfortunately, the phytochemicals likely to be responsible for these cancer fighting properties appear to be present mostly in the seed kernel, so it might be necessary to get the cancer fighting benefits of the bambangan by taking a supplement or consuming other fruits/vegetables with similar plant chemical content.  One option might be the mango, a relative of the bambangan and a fruit also shown to have cancer fighting properties as we discussed in a previous blog.  Other alternatives might be fruis and vegetables rich in gallic acid (walnut, blackberry, raspberry) and/or rutin (buckwheat, citrus fruits, apple peel).

To find out what my favorite breast cancer fighting foods are, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Breast Cancer Therapy

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are a common part of our daily diet, particularly the omega-6 (linoleic and gamma linolenic) and omega-3 (alpha linolenic, EPA, and DHA) fatty acids.  Because of their importance to cell membrane function, numerous research studies have explored their potential ability to enhance breast cancer therapies designed to kill breast cancer cells.

A recent review paper was published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer summarizing the current state of this research.  According to this paper, some of the PUFAs appear to be able to function both independently on breast cancer cells and in combination with chemotherapy drugs.  Some of the beneficial cancer-fighting properties of PUFAs reported in this paper include:
  • An ability to kill breast cancer cells in culture and breast tumors implanted in animals.
  • An ability to enhance the effect of a variety of chemotherapy drugs.
  • A lack of any substantial side effects.
The ability of PUFAs to kill cancer cells and enhance the therapeutic potential of chemotherapy drugs appears to be related to the effects of PUFAs on (1) oxidative stress, (2) changes in enzymes that metabolize chemotherapeutic drugs, and (3) inhibition of blood vessel growth.  According to this report, breast cancer researchers believe that the ability of PUFAs to enhance chemotherapy drugs without having serious side effects may allow breast cancer treatments to be done with lower doses of chemotherapy.  These potential benefits of PUFAs on the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs have lead breast cancer researchers to start testing chemotherapy drugs physically attached to PUFAs.  Early studies indicate that this kind of combination might improve the anti-cancer activity with fewer side effects.

While this review demonstrates the anti-cancer potential of a dietary component when combined with a chemotherapy drug, there is still a lot of research to be done.  Determining the most effective PUFA, the best combinations of PUFAs and chemotherapy drugs, appropriate doses, and mechanisms of action will require extensive research and human clinical trials.  Nonetheless, the future of some of the PUFAs for breast cancer therapy looks promising at this point.

The effect of the PUFAs on breast cancer risk has been debated in the scientific literature for a long time now with early studies suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids provide health benefits, while the omega-6 fatty acids might be associated with health risks.  Currently, many researchers believe that the health risk associated with omega-6 fatty acids is related more to the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that we consume in our diets with healthy diets having a ratio of 1-4 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3 (compared to the 15:1 in our less healthy Western diets).  Reducing your intake of omega-6 fatty acids while increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids is a good way to achieve a healthier balance of dietary fats and will make it easier to maintain a healthier diet.

Flaxseed is one of my favorite cancer fighting foods and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  To learn more about the benefit of flaxseed for reducing breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ferulic Acid Reduces Breast Tumor Formation in Rats

Ferulic acid is a natural compound found in the leaves and seeds of many plants.  It is structurally similar to curcumin and has antioxidant properties.  Because of its antioxidant properties, it has been suggested that it might protect cell membranes and DNA from oxidative damage implicated in cancer and cellular aging. 

A new breast cancer research study examined the impact of dietary consumption of ferulic acid on breast cancer formation in rats.  For this study, researchers treated rats with a chemical called DMBA to cause breast cancer formation and fed ferulic acid to these rats in the amount of 40 mg/kg of body weight/day.  The study investigators reported that eating this amount of ferulic acid per day prevented tumor formation in 80% of the mice.  Additionally, the abnormal cellular changes normally caused by the DMBA, which leads to breast cancer in these rats, were substantially reduced.

This is interesting breast cancer research on this naturally occurring plant compound.  Ferulic acid can be found in fruits like apples, oranges and pineapples and in grains like rice, wheat, and oat offering another reason to make fruits and whole grains good dietary choices.  However, it is important to remember that this study was done in rats and it was a small study.  Additionally, the amount of ferulic acid given to the rats in this breast cancer study was relatively large, equivalent to giving 3 grams to a 150-lb person.  It would be very difficult to obtain this level of intake through regular consumption of fruits and whole grains, making it potentially necessary to add it in supplement form.  A free review article on the potential health benefits of ferulic acid is available to anyone interested in reading more about this interesting phytochemical.

To learn about some of my favorite cancer-fighting foods, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tocotrienol + Anti-Cancer Drug Combinations for Breast Cancer

Excessive or abnormal signaling of ErbB receptors (more commonly known as epidermal growth factor [EGF] receptors) is associated with several different forms of cancer, including breast cancer.  Therefore, inactivation of these receptors are common targets for cancer therapy.  Unfortunately, the clinical effectiveness of these therapies do not always meet expectations.  This appears to be potentially due to the presence of 4 versions or subtypes of these receptors, making it difficult for anti-cancer drugs that target individual subtypes to work well.

A new study published in the free journal BMC Cancer examined the potential effectiveness of combining anti-cancer drugs with gamma-tocotrienol, a member of the Vitamin E family that has been shown to have cancer fighting properties.  For this study, breast cancer researchers grew mouse breast cancer cells in culture and treated them with anti-cancer drugs (gefitinib, erlotinib, and trastuzumab), gamma-tocotrienol, and various combinations of these substances.  Changes in breast cancer cell growth and survival were examined.  The breast cancer researchers reported that:
  • Treatment with gamma-tocotrienol, gefitinib, and erlotinib individually at high doses substantially inhibited the growth of the mouse breast cancer cells.
  • Combined treatment of gamma-tocotrienol with lower-than-effective doses of either gefitinib or erlotinib resulted in dramatic decrease in breast cancer cell growth.
  • Combined treatment of gamma-tocotrienol with either gefitinib or erlotinib at low doses increased markers of cell death in mouse breast cancer cells indicating increase killing of these cells.
Overall, these results indicate that treating breast cancer cells with low doses of anti-cancer drugs in combination with gamma-tocotrienol, a member of the Vitamin E family, is effective at reducing breast cancer cell growth and survival in culture.  The effectiveness of these combinations was thought to be due to targeting multiple forms of the EGF receptors. The importance of this study is at lease two-fold.  First, this study confirms the potential usefulness of tocotrienols in the fight against cancer.  Second, this study shows that when combined with gamma-tocotrienol, some anti-cancer drugs might be able to be used at lower doses.  Any time that breast cancer can be effectively attacked with lower doses of therapeutic drugs is a good thing.

To learn more about other vitamins and foods that can help us all to fight breast cancer, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fish Eating Dietary Pattern Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

While more and more research is exploring the potential relationships between eating habits and breast cancer risk, the results of these studies have been inconsistent.  Despite these inconsistencies, there is growing evidence that some foods and some dietary patterns might help reduce breast cancer risk.  For example, recent research suggests that breast cancer risk can be reduced by following a prudent dietary pattern or a Mediterranean diet pattern.

A new study examining this relationship analyzed the impact of 4 dietary patterns on breast cancer risk in over 35,000 women in the United Kingdom.  The dietary patterns in this study were defined based on responses to a food frequency questionnaire.  These dietary patterns were labeled as:
  1. Vegetarians - consumed red meat, poultry or fish less than once per week
  2. Fish eaters - ate fish at least once per week, but no poultry or red meat
  3. Poultry eaters - consumed poultry at least once per week and may eat fish, but not red meat
  4. Red meat eaters - ate red meat at least once per week and might or might not consume fish or poultry
Analysis of the relationship between these dietary patterns in the women who developed breast cancer during the nine-year follow-up period showed that when all breast cancer patients were analyzed, a fish-eating dietary pattern was associated with a 22% reduction in breast cancer risk and a vegetarian-eating pattern was associated with a 12% reduction in breast cancer risk compared to a red meat-eating pattern.  However, neither of these reached statistical signficance.  When the women were divided by their menopausal status, fish-eating postmenopausal women had a statistically significant reduction in breat cancer risk of 40% compared to red-meat eaters.

The study investigators indicated that limitations in this study might have resulted in some of the statistically nonsignficant relationships.  These limitations included some possible overlap in the dietary patterns and an inability to look at differences in the amounts of key diet components eaten.  Despite these limitations, this study suggests that following a dietary pattern focused more on fish consumption or consumption of fruits and vegetables might reduce breast cancer risk in comparison to a diet focused on red meat.  This was especially true in postmenopausal women consuming a primarily fish-eating dietary pattern.  Overall, these results suggest that following a healthy eating pattern, which most professionals consider to be one rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish, might help reduce breast cancer risk.

To learn more about other some specific foods that might help reduce breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Caner at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dual Modality Tomographic Breast Imaging

A potentially important new breast imaging technique, called Dual Modality Tomosynthesis (DMT), has been developed and successfully tested at the University of Virginia.  This new imaging technique combines two different types of imaging to scan the breast for lesions.  This DMT scanner combines 3-D digital X-ray imaging to get a structural image of the breast with 3-D molecular breast imaging, a technique that uses molecular tracers to highlight cancerous tissues and obtain a functional image of the breast.

To test this new breast scanner, the researchers conducted a small clinical trial in women preparing to have a breast biopsy taken.  Seventeen women with a total of 21 breast lesions were scanned with the new DMT scanner and the images were compared with the actual tissue analysis from the biopsies.  The results of the study showed that:
  • DMT correctly diagnosed 100% of lesions shown to be malignant by biopsy tissue examination.
  • 100% of the lesions determined to be benign by tissue analysis were correctly identified by the DMT scanning.
  • DMT breast imaging also showed high marks for sensitivity (86%), negative predictive value (93%), and accuracy (95%)
These exciting results indicate that this new breast imaging procedure might more accurately image the breast and diagnose the lesion as malignant or benign.  According to these initial results, the DMT scanning technique appears to be able to minimize the number of false positive diagnoses and more accurately images lesions in dense breast tissue.  With more accurate imaging, it might be possible to avoid unnecessary breast biopsies.  A press release from the University of Virginia discusses this study in additional detail and chronicles the experience of one woman in this study including pictures of her scanning images.

While we can't all develop new breast cancer treatments and technologies, there are plenty of simple things we can do to reduce breast cancer risk.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( to learn more.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Topically Applied Breast Cancer Therapy

Nearly all breast cancer therapy drugs are delivered either orally or intravenously and while these drugs and routes of administration have proven effective, many of them come with unwanted side effects.  It is thought that some of these side effects might be due to the way the treatments are absorbed and metabolized by the body and the fact that the drugs are generally delivered throughout the whole body when given orally or intravenously.  New research is exploring the possibility of delivering breast cancer drugs with a skin patch.

In this new study, breast cancer researchers used a cell culture system designed to test the ability of drugs and other compounds to diffuse across various membranes.  For their study, these investigators tested the ability of 4-hydroxytamoxifen, the active metabolite of tamoxifen, and two epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors to pass through full thickness skin and potentially alter the growth of breast cancer cells.  The results of these experiments showed that:
  • All three test drugs were able to successfully cross the full thickness skin.
  • The amount that crossed the skin was low (< 5% of the applied dose)
  • A combination of these three drugs was shown to cross the skin barrier and reduce the growth of breast cancer cells in the chamber below by about 66%.
While this breast cancer research is in the very, very early stages, the results of this study are intriguing and open the possibility of new breast cancer therapy options.  In general, the benefits of applying treatments to the skin rather than taking them orally is that it might be possible to limit whole body exposure and therefore reduce potential side effects.  Of course,  this cell culture research will need to be re-tested in animal studies and eventually in human clinical trials before we will know the real potential of topically applied breast cancer treatments.  Previous studies have explored the possibility of topical treatments for breast cancer that had metastasized to the skin, which is different than trying to treat the primary breast tumor in this fashion.

While discoveries of possible new methods to treat breast cancer continue to be made, there are things we can do as part of our every day life to reduce our risk of getting breast cancer.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( to learn more.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reducing The Impact of The BRCA1 Mutation

The BRCA1 gene belongs to a class of genes known as tumor suppressor genes.  Under normal conditions, the protein produced by the BRCA1 gene is an important factor in the cell's ability to properly repair DNA damage.  When a mutation occurs in the BRCA1 gene, the cell is unable to properly repair DNA damage and the risk for breast (and other) cancers is dramatically increased.  In fact, women who have this BRCA1 gene mutation have about a 60% chance of getting breast cancer compared to only about a 12% risk in women without this gene mutation. 

New breast cancer research has examined the mechanisms involved in the loss of the ability to properly repair DNA in mice with this same mutation and have discovered a potential way to overcome this deficiency.  According to this new study, the interaction between the BRCA1 protein and another cell protein called 53BP1 determine the way DNA is repaired:
  • If both BRCA1 and 53BP1 are present, the BRCA1 protein drives proper DNA repair.
  • In the absence of the BRCA1 protein (due to the gene mutation), the 53BP1 protein drives DNA repair down an error-prone path that promotes breast cancer.
Because of this interaction, the researchers questioned what would happen if this 53BP1 protein was not available to promote dysfunctional DNA repair.   Their investigation showed that:
  • Blocking the production of the 53BP1 protein in cells grown in culture allowed DNA repair to proceed in a normal, error-free method.
  • In mice, inactivating the 53BP1 gene suppressed breast tumor formation.
These are exciting and important results.   To date, therapies specific for BRCA1-positive breast cancers are limited.  Instead, these breast cancer patients have to primarily focus on managing risk by getting more frequent screening, avoiding factors that increase breast cancer risk, or undergoing prophylactic mastectomy.  This new research suggests possibilities for targeted therapies for BRCA1-positive breast cancer patients.  If the improper DNA repair mechanisms in these patients can be overcome and returned to the normal, error-free pathway by blocking the production of the 53BP1 protein, then therapies that can block this protein might one day be able to reduce the incidence of breast cancer in women with the BRCA1 mutation.

To learn more about easy diet and lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk of breast, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Impact of BMI on Breast Cancer Survival

Research has made it pretty clear that obesity is a major risk factor for a number of chronic health conditions.  Breast cancer is one of those conditions that appears to be negatively effected by being overweight or obese.  Research to date suggests that being overweight not only increases the risk of getting breast cancer, but might worsen breast cancer outcomes.  This is something I have discussed in earlier blogs.

New breast cancer research explored the relationship between body mass index (BMI), age, stage of disease, and breast cancer survival.  For this study, breast cancer researchers reviewed nearly 2,300 breast cancer patients, grouped them by their BMI level, and compared recurrence free survival, breast cancer specific survival, and overall survival between the BMI groups.  The results of this new study indicated that:
  • On average, obese patients had larger tumors.
  • There was a trend for obese patients to have an increased incidence of lymph node involvement (37% in obese patients vs. 33% in non-obese patients)
  • Recurrence free survival was substantially lower in obese patients (77%) compared to non-obese patients (82%)
  • Breast cancer specific survival was only slightly worse in obese patients (85% vs. 87%), but overall survival was significantly worse in obese patients compared to non-obese patients (77% vs. 81%).
  • Obese patients were reported to be 1.43 times more likely to experience breast cancer recurrence.
  • While breast cancer outcomes were worse in patients with a high BMI, this risk was even greater in patients with lymph node involvement and patients that were younger than 60 years of age.
This new study confirms the elevated risk of poor breast cancer outcomes in patients with a high body mass index.  In this study, obese patients were more likely to experience breast cancer recurrence, lymph node involvement and lower chances to survive.  Like other studies examining the relationship between body size and breast cancer, this study emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight in regards to breast cancer outcomes.  Fortunately, body weight is a modifiable risk factor for breast cancer.

To learn more about the importance of following a healthy diet in order to maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your risk of getting breast cancer, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at