There have been several interesting stories about new research into breast cancer. Firstly, a local one that I whole heartedly agree with, is a study at Aberdeen University to look at how Vitamin D levels might affect breast cancer. We get most of our vitamin D from the sun (and a bit from oily fish, if you eat it!), a previous study done at the University of Aberdeen has shown that women in Aberdeen are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than women living in Surrey in the South of England (presumably because they get more sunshine in the summer months). This work is being paid for by money raised in Fraserburgh on the MoonlightProwl, which takes place on the 5th of June. All money raised on the MoonlighProwl is spent locally. It has long been known that the mediterrean diet helps you live longer, but some people have argued that its not the high number of fruits/vegetables/olive oil that is improtant but rather the beneficial effect of long lunches and good weather! Research like this is important if we are to try and understand why cancer rates vary between different countries.
There has been a widely reported study, which has discovered more genes that increase your risk of breast cancer, the story has been covered by the BBC and the research was published in the journal Nature Genetics. One thing to note is that this study looked at people with a family history of the disease (less than 1/20 cases of breast cancer are linked to genes, the vast majority happen by “chance”) and the 13 gene variants they discovered only account for about 8% of inherited breast cancers. Obvisouly the more we know about all types of cancer, the more likely we are to develop better treatments, but this research is unlikely to change anything in the clnic for some time. Having said that, it is a large well conducted study that looked at thousands of women with a family history of breast cancer (around 4,000). As always, to get a better understanding of the numbers, have aread of Behind the Headlines – Breast cancer, new genetic clues.
Cancer Research UK have a good blog post about triple negative breast cancer, that is breast cancer that doesn’t respond to durgs like tamoxifen or herceptin. Finally, new research is starting to explain why some women don’t respond to herceptin even though they overexpress the Her2 molecule. As you can see there is lots of research going on and lots more that needs to be done.