Meeting with decision makers to press for action to save and extend lives

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Representatives of Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) went to Wellington recently to meet with Government and National MPs who have health responsibilities to discuss some of the key issues affecting those with breast cancer.

The two key issues highlighted by BCAC in the talks were the need to improve access to medicines; and the need to address inequities for Māori and Pasifika women in breast cancer screening and treatment.

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Major breast cancer study highlights urgent work needed

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Important research released 21 June shows huge disparities in breast cancer screening, treatment and outcomes for Māori and Pasifika women in New Zealand.

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) says this is unacceptable and is calling for significant immediate steps to be taken to improve this situation.

The research, How to Improve Outcomes for Women with Breast Cancer in New Zealand, was funded by the Health Research Council through the University of Waikato with assistance from Waikato District Health Board. It was led by Professor Ross Lawrenson.

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From three months to live to no sign of cancer: One woman’s experience increases optimism for immunotherapy

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BCAC is thrilled a clinical trial involving American engineer Judy Perkins has led to her being declared free of breast cancer with what specialists are calling an extended remission. This wonderful news has come two years after she was told she had only three months to live. 

The trial of the experimental therapy was carried out by the US National Cancer Institute. BCAC are aware there is still much to learn before scientists can turn this experimental therapy into a treatment.

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Many women won’t need chemotherapy when guided by a diagnostic test: US study

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More women with the most common form of early stage breast cancer may not need chemotherapy and may instead rely on hormone therapies, according to a landmark study.

The findings in the study were based on a 21-tumor gene expression test which would also inform treatment decisions in real life.

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Research underway into blood test to detect cancer

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American researchers have hopes a new blood test they have developed may in the future be able to detect 10 types of cancer potentially years before someone becomes unwell.

The research team, with scientists from Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute and Standford University, say their test has been shown to pick up early signs of cancers including breast, ovarian, bowel and lung cancer. However, they note more work is needed before the results are conclusive and before the test can be used in the real world.

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US study says low-fat diet may improve outlook for people experiencing breast cancer

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Recent research has found that changing to a low-fat diet may have a positive influence on breast cancer outcomes.

A study led by Dr Rowan T Chlebowski, PhD of the City of Hope National Medical Center in California found that, in a randomized clinical trial, a low-fat eating pattern was associated with lower risk of death after breast cancer.

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Poor report card on access to medicines, especially cancer medicines

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BCAC says a new report highlights how desperately poor access to new and innovative medicines is in New Zealand.

The Medicines NZ Medicines Landscape 2017 report finds that New Zealand comes last out of 20 comparable OECD countries for access to publicly-funded new medicines.

The report says this means more than 230,000 patients in New Zealand are currently waiting for access to medicines that are not yet approved for public funding in this country.

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The breast tumour microenvironment: A target for therapy

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BCAC committee member, Louise Malone, attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2017 and gives us an update on the latest cutting-edge research into new targeted immunotherapy treatments.

As cancer researchers better understand the complex interchanges between tumour cells and immune cells and the microenvironment in which they operate, new targets for therapy are emerging. 

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Study finds 110 genes associated with breast cancer risk

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In the most comprehensive study ever looking at the genetics of breast cancer, scientists have linked 110 genes to an increased risk of the disease.

The Institute of Cancer Research study used a pioneering genetic technique to analyse 63 areas of the genome that had previously been associated with the risk of breast cancer.

Finding the genes responsible for increased risk is not straightforward because small sequences of DNA can interact with completely different parts of the genome through a strange phenomenon known as ‘DNA looping’.

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The link between alcohol and cancer

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New research from the UK shows how alcohol damages DNA in stem cells and helps to explain why drinking can increase your risk of cancer.

The study, by scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge has been published in the journal Nature, and used mice to show how alcohol exposure leads to permanent genetic damage.

Scientists gave diluted alcohol (known as ethanol) to mice. They then used chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing to examine the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a harmful chemical produced when the body processes alcohol.

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