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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Scientists identify two new genes associated with breast cancer

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Researchers in the US have identified two new genes associated with breast cancer: MSH6 and PMS2.

The new study suggests that each gene approximately doubles a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by age 60. The two genes were previously known to cause Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that raises the risk of colorectal, ovarian, stomach, and endometrial cancer.

This study shows that some women with Lynch syndrome are also more likely to develop breast cancer.

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Acupuncture reduces joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitor treatment

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A new study has found that acupuncture significantly reduces joint pain for post-menopausal women with early-stage breast cancer taking aromatase inhibitors.

The research, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, involved a randomised controlled trial comparing acupuncture, sham acupuncture and no acupuncture.

Lead researcher Dr Dawn Hershaman says aromatase inhibitors are among the most common and effective treatments given to post-menopausal women diagnosed with hormone receptor–positive breast cancer.

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Immunotherapy shows early promise for patients with Herceptin-resistant breast cancer

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A combination of the breakthrough drug Keytruda and Herceptin is well tolerated and has clinical benefits for patients with Herceptin-resistant HER2-positive breast cancer.

The new treatment regimen was tested in a clinical trial on patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer that had continued to grow on Herceptin (trastuzumab) therapies.

The results were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and researchers say they suggest that immunotherapy approaches could work in patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer that is resistant to Herceptin.

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Increasing the dose intensity of chemotherapy lowers breast cancer recurrence

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Increasing the dose intensity of chemotherapy by shortening the time period between treatments may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring, a new study shows.

The research, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, also noted that delivering drugs sequentially rather than at the same time helped to reduce the risk of recurrence and death.

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Push for new chemotherapy drug to be funded

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The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is pushing for the chemotherapy drug, Abraxane, to be publicly funded for women with advanced breast cancer.

BCAC has lodged an application with the Government’s drug-buying agency, PHARMAC, to publicly fund the drug for patients with advanced breast cancer.

Abraxane was approved as safe and effective for use in New Zealand in 2010 and is widely used in other countries. It has fewer side-effects than other similar chemotherapy drugs.

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12-months on Herceptin confirmed as the gold standard

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A new report released at the renowned San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in the USA has confirmed that 12 months of Herceptin gives women with HER2-positive breast cancer the best chance of survival.

Clinical trials have been underway in New Zealand and elsewhere to test whether a 9-week programme of Herceptin would offer the same benefits as the longer programme.

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says the results from the SOLD (Synergism Or Long Duration) trial are long-awaited and show incontrovertibly that 12 months of Herceptin provides the optimum standard of care.

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Bariatric surgery lowers the risk of breast cancer for obese women

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Bariatric surgery (reducing the size of the stomach) for severely obese women could lower their breast cancer risk by more than a third, according to a new study.

The research from University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has been published in the journal the Annals of Surgery and reviewed the medical data of more than 100,000 people in the United States.   

Lead researcher, Dr Daniel Schauer, says the results were surprising.

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Guest speaker shares ideas on improving access

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Metavivors NZ members were in full force at BCAC’s Annual General Meeting at Domain Lodge in Auckland recently. PHARMAC CEO, Steffan Crausaz also attended, as did Breast Cancer Support co-chairs Judith Shinegold and Lesley Harper, Michele Urlich from the Lymphoedema Support Network, and several other BCAC members.

BCAC Chairperson, Libby Burgess, described another full year of activity for BCAC. She thanked the 3,000 people who joined BCAC’s online campaign to let the Minister of Health know of the desperate need for better treatments for those with advanced breast cancer. 

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Report on medicines funding is a damning tale that needs an immediate happy ending

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A breast cancer charity says a new report that identifies a multi-million dollar funding gap for medicines is a damning indictment of a failing system and an urgent wake-up call for change.

The report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has found that medicines funding has fallen in real terms every year since 2007 to the point where there is now an investment gap of more than $680 million.

The NZIER says this is how much extra money would be needed simply to bring the medicines budget back to the level it was in 2007 in real terms.

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