November 18, 2011
The New York Times
By: Andrew Pollack
The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Friday revoked the approval of the drug Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer, ruling in an emotional issue that pitted the hopes of some desperate patients against the statistics of clinical trials.
The commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, said that the drug was not helping breast cancer patients to live longer or control their tumors, but did expose them to potentially serious side effects such as severe high blood pressure and hemorrhaging.
“This was a difficult decision,” Dr. Hamburg, said in a statement. The F.D.A. “recognizes how hard it is for patients and their families to cope with metastatic breast cancer and how great a need there is for more effective treatments. But patients must have confidence that the drugs they take are both safe and effective for their intended use.
“After reviewing the available studies,” she continued, “it is clear that women who take Avastin for metastatic breast cancer risk potentially life-threatening side effects without proof that the use of Avastin will provide a benefit, in terms of delay in tumor growth, that would justify those risks. Nor is there evidence that use of Avastin will help them live longer or improve their quality of life.”
Avastin will remain on the market as a treatment for other types of cancers, so doctors can use it off-label for breast cancer. But some insurers might no longer pay for the drug, which would put it out of reach of many women because it costs about $88,000 a year.
Medicare, however, has said it would continue to pay for the drug’s use in breast cancer.
The decision is a setback for the drug’s manufacturer, Genentech, which fought long and hard to keep the approval.
Analysts had previously estimated that loss of the breast approval could reduce sales at Roche, the Swiss company that bought Genentech in 2009, by about $1 billion. It appears that much of this decline has already occurred and Avastin appears to have lost its status as the world’s best-selling cancer drug to Roche’s own Rituxan, a medicine for lymphoma.
Genentech said in a statement that it was “disappointed with this outcome.” It said it would continue with plans to conduct another clinical trial in an effort to regain approval. It also said it would continue to provide help through its patient-support programs to breast cancer patients who might not be able to afford the drug.
Dr. Hamburg’s decision, outlined in a 69-page memorandum, agrees with the unanimous recommendation to revoke the approval made by an F.D.A. advisory committee in June, after an emotion-packed two-day hearing. The fact that it took Dr. Hamburg nearly five months to make a final decision attests to the sensitivity and complexity of the issue.
Some women who say the drug has been keeping them alive have pleaded desperately for the approval to be retained. So the revocation risked subjecting the Obama administration to criticism of being cruel. In addition, some Republicans had cited the possible action as an example of rationing under health care reform. (The F.D.A. has insisted that cost issues were not considered.)
Yet pressure came from the other direction as well. The administration had pledged to make scientific decisions on the basis of science. That made it difficult for Dr. Hamburg to go against the conclusions of the F.D.A.’s own staff and the strong recommendations of the outside experts on its advisory committee.
October 18, 2011
By S. L. Baker
According to mainstream medicine, mammograms are the key to surviving breast cancer because they supposedly catch the disease early for quick treatment. What this advice invariably leaves out is evidence that exposure to the radiation used in the tests may actually cause breast cancer in some women.
For example, a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) concluded annual mammography screening significantly increases breast cancer risk in women with a genetic or familial predisposition to the disease .
Now there’s another reason to be concerned about the push for women to have yearly mammograms. In a new study by University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) research shows that among women who receive a decade of annual mammograms, more than half of those women will be called and told the gut-wrenching news that their tests are positive when they are actually cancer-free. The victims of false-positive results — not a malignancy — are then subjected to more tests. In fact, one in twelve of these women will undergo invasive, potentially breast-scarring biopsy surgery.
“This study provides accurate estimates of the risk of a false-positive mammography and breast biopsy for women undergoing repeat mammography in community practice, and so provides important information about the potential harms of undergoing regular mammography,” states Karla Kerlikowske, a professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. Karla is also the co-author of the study, which was just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The research, led by Group Health Research Institute of Seattle for the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, investigated false-positives in mammography by studying the records of approximately 170,000 women between the ages of 40 and 59 from seven regions around the United States. Almost 4,500 of these research subjects were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
The study found that women who started having mammograms at age 40 instead of 50 were far more likely to have false-positive findings that resulted in more expensive and needless medical tests, including biopsies.
Just by changing breast screening from every year to every other year, the researchers documented that a woman’s risk of having a false-positive finding dropped from 61 percent to 42 percent (about a third) over the course of ten years. What’s more, they found that if radiologists would simply review a patient’s previous mammograms it “may halve the odds of a false-positive recall.”
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines now recommend biennial mammograms starting at age 50 and continuing until age 74. However, many doctors still recommend annual mammograms, often beginning at age 40.
The new study concluded that after a decade of yearly screening, a majority of women will receive at least one false-positive result. Out of these, 7 to 9 percent will face having a biopsy and the risks that involves — from anesthesia complications to scarring to infection — although these women are, in fact, cancer-free.
And what about the argument that yearly mammograms are needed to catch cancer early enough to cure? The researchers found that women screened every two years were not significantly more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer.
“We conducted this study to help women know what to expect when they get regular mammograms over the course of many years,” study leader Rebecca Hubbard, PhD, an assistant investigator at Group Health Research Institute, explained in the media statement. “We hope that if women know what to expect with screening, they’ll feel less anxiety if – or when – they are called back for more testing. In the vast majority of cases, this does not mean they have cancer.”
September 12, 2011
By: Fiona Macrae
Scientists have turned a chemical found in crocuses into a ‘smart bomb’ that targets cancerous tumours.
Crucially, healthy tissue is unharmed, reducing the odds of debilitating side effects.
Pretty: And crocuses could provide a cure which works against all cancers
And unlike other side effect-free drugs, it is able to kill off more than one type of the disease, including breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer.
Potentially, all solid tumours could be vulnerable to drugs developed this way, meaning it could be used against all but blood cancers.
In some tests of the drug, half of tumours vanished completely after a single injection, the British Science Festival will hear this week.
The drug, based on colchicine, an extract from the autumn crocus, is at an early stage of development, and has so far been tested only on mice.
But the University of Bradford researchers are optimistic about its potential in humans.
Professor Laurence Patterson said: ‘What we have designed is effectively a “smart bomb” that can be triggered directly at any solid tumour without appearing to harm healthy tissue.
‘If all goes well, we would hope to see these drugs used as part of a combination of therapies to treat and manage cancer.’
Colchicine has long been known to have anti-cancer properties but has been considered too toxic for use in the human body. To get round this, the researchers attached a chemical ‘tail’ to it, deactivating it until it reaches the cancer.
Once there, the tail is cut off by an enzyme called MMP, which is found in tumours.
Removing the tail activates the drug, which then attacks and breaks down the blood vessels supplying the tumours with oxygen and nourishment.
Cancers use the blood supply to spread around the body and it is hoped that the treatment, called ICT2588, will also combat this.
The first tests on humans could start in as little as 18 months. If successful, the drug could be on the market in six to seven years.
Henry Scowcroft, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This is exciting but very early work that hasn’t yet been tested in cancer patients.’
Professor Paul Workman, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said the results so far were promising.
He added: ‘If confirmed in more extensive laboratory studies, drugs based on this approach could be very useful as part of combination treatments.’
November 3rd, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Regularly taking a fish oil supplement may lower the risk of breast cancer by 32 percent, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle have found.
“This study is one of the largest studies that have come out showing that there may be a role for fish oil in the prevention of cancer, specifically breast cancer,” said Lorenzo Cohen, of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas-Houston.
The researchers followed 35,016 post-menopausal women between the ages of 50 and 76 who were taking part in the 10-year Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study, an investigation into the effects of non-vitamin supplements on male and female cancer risk. All participants were residents of Washington state and had no history of breast cancer.
After an average of six years, the researchers found that women who regularly took a fish oil supplement were 32 percent less likely to develop invasive ductal breast cancer than women who did not take the supplements. No information was available on what doses of fish oil the study participants were taking.
Invasive ductal breast cancer, in which tumors form in the breast’s milk ducts, is the most common form of the disease. In contrast, lobular breast tumors form in the organ’s milk glands.
The researchers also looked for a breast cancer-preventive effect of the menopause-relieving supplements black cohosh, dong quai, soy, and St. John’s wort, but found none.
Scientists remain unsure what role fish oil might play in reducing cancer risk. Since some research has implicated inflammation in cancer risk, the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil may explain part of the effect.
“Fish oil, in general, is a very good anti-inflammatory agent, and inflammation plays a role in cancer development,” fish oil researcher Peiying Yang of M.D. Anderson said.
Fish oil’s high content of omega-3 fatty acids may also play a role. Although previous studies have found no connection between consumption of fatty fish and lowered cancer risk, fish oil supplements typically contain a higher omega-3 concentration than fish itself.
Omega-3s are known to play an essential role in inter-cell communication, inflammation control, and the formation of cell membranes. They have also been linked to lower trigylceride levels, higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of heart attack and death in people who suffer from heart disease. They may also decrease the risk of dangerously abnormal heartbeat.
Additional research is underway to determine whether omega-3s and fish oil can help prevent or treat cancer, dementia, and other mental health conditions.
A growing body of research suggests that the typical Western diet is far too low in these essential oils, which can be found in fatty fish (such as salmon and sardines), canola oil, soybeans and flaxseeds. However, because the oils may cause an increased risk of bleeding if combined with certain medications including over-the-counter NSAIDs, they should be used only in consultation with a health professional.
For those wishing to take fish oil supplements, the wide variety of options can be overwhelming. In addition, these products are not regulated by the FDA.
“Some products may be contaminated with heavy metals,” Cohen said. “If you are not going to get fish oil from the fish itself, do appropriate homework to make sure you choose a reputable product.”
Good Morning America recommends that consumers look for oils that are of high purity and are certified by U.S. Pharmacopeia, the official NGO that sets standards for healthcare products sold in the United States. Many over-the-counter brands meet these standards just as well as name brands, at a significantly lower price.
A physician or other health practitioner may also be able to help consumers select a reputable product.
October 15th, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
For over 25 years, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization has been conducting campaigns to “promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to screening services.” But since such campaigns began, breast cancer mortality rates have remained virtually the same, while more women than ever needlessly undergo dangerous treatments for a disease they do not even have.
Groups like the American Cancer Society (ACS), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation all support breast cancer awareness initiatives, which include urging women to get annual mammograms and to undergo conventional treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy at the first signs of a tumor. But many professors, scientists and health professionals now say that such programs and recommendations have not only failed to achieve positive results, but have actually put more women in harm’s way.
“I don’t think people understand the lack of progress (achieved by breast cancer awareness programs),” Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, is quoted as saying in a recent Los Angeles Times article. Visco referenced statistics showing that deaths from breast cancer have dropped maybe two percent since they started in 1990, which is likely a statistically insignificant figure.
Dr. H. Gilbert Welch from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice explained that breast cancer awareness campaigns have failed to keep up with developments in breast cancer research, including new research showing that most of the cancers identified with mammography are not even malignant. And as a result of continued screening, millions of women end up being treated with expensive, potentially life-threatening treatments for cancers that will never harm them.
A recent paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that for every one woman helped by a mammogram, up to 15 others are misdiagnosed and mistreated. But because of breast cancer awareness campaigns that continue to scare women and push them towards outmoded, unscientific methods of approaching the disease, many women are willing to participate in conventional screening and treatment programs anyway, even if such programs ultimately cause them needless harm and possible death.
A drug company founded National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
A quick look into the history of NBCAM reveals that its founding sponsor is AstraZeneca, a multi-national drug company that manufactures breast cancer drugs like Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Faslodex and Zoladex. And what was the original stated goal of NBCAM? To promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.
Most NaturalNews readers already know that mammography is largely ineffective and dangerous to health. Mammograms do not differentiate between harmless and malignant tumors, and they pump a regular dose of radiation into women’s breasts that can eventually cause tumors to form. But the one thing mammograms are good at is racking up lots of breast cancer diagnoses.
Before the days of mammography, breast lumps were not the major scare they are today. But today, otherwise healthy women are habitually screened and told that detected tumor need immediate intervention, even though the vast majority of them are harmless. Sometimes women actually develop harmful tumors from the mammograms themselves, resulting in the same interventions. Either way, at the end of the day, drug companies like AstraZeneca reap large profits from the mammogram system.
“It’s a common problem with disease awareness campaigns and patient advocacy groups,” said Welch. “If you look into their funding sources, you’ll often find a pharmaceutical company or device maker who stands to benefit from an expansion in the number of people with the condition.”
Laurie Casaday, spokeswoman for NBCAM and senior manager of corporate affairs in oncology for AstraZeneca, denies such claims, however. She insists that the program is “not about selling a breast cancer drug”, but is instead about “making sure women are educated about their breast health.”
If the organization was really concerned about educating women about their breast health, though, it would acknowledge the mounting scientific evidence that denies the viability of mammography and conventional cancer treatments, and would subsequently stop using fear-mongering campaigns to persuade women to take that route. But this scenario will likely never happen because, in doing so, AstraZeneca and other drug companies would experience a tremendous drop in revenue due to significantly less false diagnoses.
Prevent breast cancer naturally
Real breast cancer awareness involves taking active steps to improve your health naturally, both nutritionally and environmentally. These include maintaining optimal vitamin D levels in your blood, avoiding exposure to toxins that cause cancer and eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables rich in anti-cancer nutrients.
by S.L. Baker
It’s well-established that exposure to ionizing radiation can trigger mutations and other genetic damage and cause normal cells to become malignant. So it seems amazing how mainstream medicine frequently dismisses the idea that medical imaging tests from mammograms to CT scans could play much of a role in causing breast cancer. Take this example from the web site for Cornell University’s Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors:
In answer to the question “Is ionizing radiation a cause of breast cancer?”, the Cornell experts say “Yes” and note “.. female breast tissue is highly susceptible to radiation effects.” But then they pooh-pooh the possible hazard from mammography x-rays saying the risk …”should not be a factor in individual decisions to undergo this procedure. The same is true for most diagnostic x-ray procedures.”
If that’s not confusing enough, they turn around and state: “Nonetheless, unnecessary radiation exposures should be avoided and continued vigilance is required to ensure that the benefits associated with specific procedures outweigh the future risks.”
Why radiation causes breast cancer
Common sense suggests there is plenty of reason to be worried about radiation causing breast cancer. And now there’s a new reason to be concerned. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered that radiation exposure can alter cells’ microenvironment (the environment surrounding cells). And that greatly raises the odds future cells will become cancerous.
The reason is that signals from a cell’s microenvironment, altered by radiation exposure, can cause a cell’s phenotype (made up of all its biochemical and physical characteristics) to change by regulating or de-regulating the way a cell uses its genes. The result can be a cell that not only becomes pre-cancerous but that passes this pre-malignant condition on to future cells.
“Our work shows that radiation can change the microenvironment of breast cells, and this in turn can allow the growth of abnormal cells with a long-lived phenotype that have a much greater potential to be cancerous,” Paul Yaswen, a cell biologist and breast cancer research specialist with Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division, said in a statement to the press.
“Many in the cancer research community, especially radiobiologists, have been slow to acknowledge and incorporate in their work the idea that cells in human tissues are not independent entities, but are highly communicative with each other and with their microenvironment,” he added.
For their study, Yaswen and his research teams used human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs), the cells that line breast ducts, where most breast cancers start. When placed in a culture dish, the vast majority of HMECs display a phenotype that allows them to divide between five and 20 times until they become what is known as senescent, or unable to divide. However, there are also some variants of these cells which have a phenotype that allows them to continue dividing for many weeks in culture. Known as a vHMEC phenotype, this type of breast cell arises spontaneously and is more susceptible to malignancy because it lacks a tumor-suppressing protein dubbed p16.
To find out what radiation exposure does to the cellular environment and how it could impact the future of cell behavior, the Berkeley Lab scientists grew sets of HMECs from normal breast tissue in culture dishes for about a week. Then they zapped each set with a single treatment of a low-to-moderate dose of radiation and compared the irradiated cells to sets of breast cells that had not been irradiated.
The results, just published in the on-line journal Breast Cancer Research, showed that four to six weeks after the radiation exposure, the normal breast cancer cells had stopped dividing far earlier than they would have normally — and this premature cell senescence had accelerated the outgrowth of vHMECS.
“However, by getting normal cells to prematurely age and stop dividing, the radiation exposure created space for epigenetically altered cells that would otherwise have been filled by normal cells. In other words, the radiation promoted the growth of pre-cancerous cells by making the environment that surrounded the cells more hospitable to their continued growth,” Yaswen explained in the press statement.
The researchers pointed out that the levels of radiation used in their experiments were not as much as a woman would be exposed to during a single routine mammogram but were comparable to those a woman could receive during a CT scans or radiotherapy “and could represent sources of concern.”
Of course, women are often pushed to get annual mammograms, raising their overall radiation exposure through the years. And, as NaturalNews has reported, previous research has already provided compelling evidence linking mammography to breast cancer.
June 8, 2010
By Sherry Baker
(NaturalNews) Even the most aggressive types of breast cancer cells couldn’t stand up to treatments with peach and plum extracts. That’s the outcome of a natural fruit-derived treatment tested in the Texas AgriLife Research Lab which resulted in cancer cells dying while normal cells were not harmed at all.
“It was a differential effect which is what you’re looking for because in current cancer treatment with chemotherapy, the substance kills all cells, so it is really tough on the body,” Dr. David Byrne, an AgriLife Research plant breeder and scientist, said in a press statement. “Here, there is a five-fold difference in the toxic intensity. You can put it at a level where it will kill the cancer cells — the very aggressive ones — and not the normal ones.”
May 27, 2010
Environmental Working Group
A rose may be a rose. But that rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrance industry’s 3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer.
Makers of popular perfumes, colognes and body sprays market their scents with terms like “floral,” “exotic,” or “musky,” but they don’t disclose that many scents are actually a complex cocktail of natural essences and synthetic chemicals – often petrochemicals. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by Environmental Working Group revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, topped by American Eagle Seventy Seven with 24, Chanel Coco with 18, and Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio with 17.
The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label. Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.
Also in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans (Silva 2004) and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies (Swan 2008), and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk (Hutter 2009; Reiner 2007).
May 20, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Regular consumption of pomegranate may help prevent breast cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from the City of Hope and published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
Researchers tested 10 different naturally occurring pomegranate compounds, all of them in the ellagitannin family of chemicals. They found that some of the ellagitannins significantly reduced the activity of the enzyme aromatase in the laboratory.
In the body, aromatase transforms the hormone androgen into the hormone estrogen. Because 75 percent of breast tumors contain estrogen receptors and use the hormone to fuel their growth, aromatase inhibitors are a popular form of treatment for slowing the growth of breast tumors in post-menopausal women.
Pharmaceutical aromatase inhibitors include the AstraZeneca drug Armidex, the Pfizer drug Aromasin and the Novartis drug Femara.
April 30, 2010
Given these new findings on vitamin D supplements, “it looks promising for vitamin D,” Laura N. Anderson, one of the study’s authors and a doctoral student at Cancer Care Ontario in Toronto, told Reuters Health. “We certainly need more research done in this area,” she said.