Breast Cancer Cells in the Blood Predict High Risk of Recurrence

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”



 

BREAST CANCER CELLS IN THE BLOOD PREDICT HIGH RISK OF RECURRENCE

During my time in the lab, as a research fellow at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, I completed several research studies that revealed a powerful link between the presence of tiny numbers of cancer cells floating in the blood and overall survival in patients without any evidence of recurrent cancer by standard laboratory and radiographic tests.  In these research studies, we used a powerful test, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to detect fragments of genetic material from otherwise undetectable cancer cells in the blood of patients with a prior history of cancer.  (RT-PCR, which can detect the presence of a single tumor cell floating amongst more than a million normal blood cells, is a powerful tool for detecting trace numbers of cancer cells present in the blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and other tissues of the body.)

A newly published RT-PCR research study appears in the current issue of the British Journal of Cancer. In this study, the blood of 82 early-stage breast cancer patients was tested for occult breast cancer cells using RT-PCR. Additionally, 16 patients with advanced breast cancer and 45 patient volunteers without breast cancer were used as “control groups.” All of these patient volunteers were then followed for an average of 51 months.

Among the women with very early breast cancer, 20 percent were found to have occult breast cancer cells lurking in their blood. By comparison, 81 percent of the women with late-stage breast cancer were found to have breast cancer cells circulating in their blood. (None of the healthy volunteers were found to have genetic evidence of circulating breast cancer cells in their blood.)

In this study, as with the findings of my own research in this area, the presence of rare circulating cancer cells in the blood of even patients with early-stage breast cancer was a powerful predictor of future breast cancer recurrence. Among these early-stage breast cancer patients, a positive RT-PCR test of the blood was associated with more than 5 times the risk of breast cancer recurrence (a more than 500 percent increase in recurrence risk) when compared to the early-stage breast cancer patients who did not have any detectable tumor cells circulating in their blood.

As with my own research, and the research of other cancer scientists, this newly published breast cancer research study confirms that the presence of trace numbers of cancer cells in the blood, even in patients with very early breast cancer, is highly predictive of future breast cancer recurrence. This is an important finding, and for several reasons. First of all, the detection of even tiny numbers of circulating tumor cells in the blood of early-stage breast cancer patients indicates a much worse prognosis for such patients, even when all of our standard laboratory and x-ray tests do not reveal any evidence of persistent or recurrent cancer in these same patients. Secondly, “ultra-staging” cancer patients with RT-PCR may be able to help us to identify early-stage cancer patients who might benefit from more aggressive treatment than patients who have no detectable tumor cells circulating in their blood.

Based upon the findings of this study, and those of other similar research studies (including my own), RT-PCR has the potential to become a very powerful clinical tool to help us to more accurately stage patients with early-stage cancers, and to individualize and personalize cancer treatment based upon this so-called “molecular” approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment.




For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity



Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author



For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.





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Statin Drugs Decrease Prostate Cancer Risk

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”



 

STATIN DRUGS DECREASE PROSTATE CANCER RISK

As I discuss in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, the role of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs in cancer prevention continues to be debated because of contradictory research findings. (While some clinical research studies have suggested that long-term statin use may reduce cancer risk, other studies have not shown any apparent improvement in cancer risk associated with these commonly prescribed medications.) However, a newly published public health study from the Veterans Affairs New England Healthcare System, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggests that statin drugs may be associated with a significant decrease in the risk of prostate cancer.

In this very large study, the medical records of 55,875 veterans were evaluated. Among this large group of veterans, 41,078 were taking statin drugs, while the remaining 14,797 men were taking medication for high blood pressure (but not statin drugs.) When the incidence of prostate cancer was assessed in each of these two groups of men, the researchers performing this research study found that there was a 31 percent decrease in the incidence of prostate cancer among the group of male veterans that took statin drugs. Moreover, the incidence of high-risk (high grade) prostate cancer among the men taking statins was a whopping 60 percent lower than that observed among the veterans who were not taking statin drugs.

Although the precise mechanism(s) of action is not entirely clear, long-term statin use in this large group of older male veterans appeared to significantly reduce the overall risk of prostate cancer, as well as the risk of more aggressive types of prostate cancer. (Like other research studies, this study also found a trend towards increased prostate cancer risk in men with elevated levels of cholesterol in their blood, and so decreased cholesterol levels, due to statin drugs, may explain, at least in part, the decrease in prostate cancer risk observed in the veterans who took statins in this research study. However, statin drugs also reduce inflammation in the body, and chronic inflammation of the prostate gland is also thought to be a risk factor for this common form of cancer.)

As with all clinical research studies that are based upon the review of patient medical records, the results of this research study need to be confirmed with a prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical research trial. Until this “gold standard” method of clinical research is performed, however, this large retrospective study of U.S. veterans offers some of the strongest research evidence linking long-term statin drug use with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.



For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.





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New Drug Dramatically Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”




NEW DRUG DRAMATICALLY REDUCES BREAST CANCER RISK

Known risk factors for breast cancer include: (1) age greater than 60, (2) a previous personal history of breast cancer or precancerous conditions of the breast (such as atypical lobular hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ, atypical ductal hyperplasia, or ductal carcinoma in situ), (3) one or more first degree relatives with breast cancer, (4) A personal history or family history of BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 hereditary breast and ovarian cancer gene mutations, (5) not having children, or having children after age 35, (6) multiple prior breast biopsies for non-cancer lumps, and (7) early-onset of menstruation, or late onset of menopause, as well as other less powerful breast cancer risk factors.

There are very few prescription medications available that significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer. However, for women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, the so-called SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators) can significantly reduce breast cancer risk. The most widely prescribed SERM is tamoxifen, which has been shown to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer, in high-risk women, by nearly 50 percent. However, while tamoxifen is commonly prescribed for women who have hormone-sensitive breast cancer (because this drug also reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence in such cases), it is not widely prescribed for cancer prevention purposes.

There are several reasons why tamoxifen is not frequently prescribed as a breast cancer prevention medication. First of all, tamoxifen is most commonly prescribed by Oncologists, and so most primary care physicians are not comfortable enough with this medication to prescribe it. Secondly, tamoxifen has been associated with potentially serious side effects, including an increased risk of uterine cancer, blood clots in the veins and lungs, and cataracts. (Another SERM, raloxifene, does not appear to significantly increase the risk of uterine cancer, but this medication otherwise has the same potential side effects as tamoxifen.)

A new class of estrogen-blocking medications, aromatase inhibitors, is now commonly used in place of tamoxifen as hormone-blocking therapy in postmenopausal patients with breast cancer. Although aromatase inhibitors, like virtually all medications, have side effects of their own, they are not known to be associated with an increased risk of cancer or potentially life-threatening blood clots, like tamoxifen, and they appear to be even more effective in reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence than tamoxifen and other SERMs.

Now, a newly published clinical research study, which appears in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, has revealed that exemestane, an aromatase inhibitor, appears to be even more effective in preventing breast cancer than tamoxifen (as well as being safer, in terms of side effects, than tamoxifen).

This clinical research trial was a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study (which is the “gold standard” method of performing clinical research). A total of 4,560 women, ages 35 and older (the average age was 63 years), were enrolled in this clinical research study, and were secretly and randomly assigned to receive either exemestane or an identical-appearing placebo (“sugar pill”). These patient volunteers, all of whom were at increased risk of developing breast cancer, were then followed for an average of about 3 years.

By the end of the study, 11 women in the exemestane (treatment) group had developed breast cancer, while 32 women in the placebo (control) group were diagnosed with breast cancer. These findings translated into a 65 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer associated with the use of exemestane in these high-risk women.

Although the prolonged use of aromatase inhibitors can lead to osteoporosis (“thinning” of the bones), there was no increase in the incidence of bone fractures or other skeletal complications noted among the women who took exemestane during the course of this research study. (Aromatase inhibitors can also cause significant bone and joint pain.) Indeed, during the course of this clinical study, there were no significant differences between the exemestane group and the placebo group in terms of side effects or complications.

Therefore, this breakthrough clinical research study showed that an aromatase inhibitor, exemestane, was more effective in preventing breast cancer in high risk women than tamoxifen and other SERMs; and unlike tamoxifen, exemestane did not appear to be associated with any significant side effects or complications following three years of treatment. Because of this clinically important combination of greater effectiveness and fewer side effects, this study’s findings are highly likely to change recommendations for the “chemoprevention” of breast cancer in women who are at an elevated risk of developing this most common of cancers in women. (One important caveat to note is that aromatase inhibitors, unlike tamoxifen and other SERMS, can only be used in postmenopausal women.)



 

For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity



Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author



For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.





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Vitamin D Decreases Diabetes Risk

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”



VITAMIN D DECREASES DIABETES RISK

I have written extensively about Vitamin D in the past, particularly in the areas of cancer prevention and cardiovascular disease prevention.  As regular readers of this column already know, Vitamin D, which actually functions more like a hormone than a vitamin, appears to be the only vitamin with clinically significant cancer prevention and cardiovascular disease prevention properties.  Now, a newly published clinical research study suggests that higher levels of Vitamin D in the blood may be associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.  This new clinical study appears in the current issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

This new report comes from a large cancer screening trial, the U.S. Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. A total of 2,500 patient volunteers were extensively surveyed and examined, and the following clinical data was collected for all participants: gender, age, geographical location, educational level, smoking history, body mass index (BMI), level of physical activity, and diet (including Vitamin D and calcium intake). Importantly, all of these study participants underwent testing for Vitamin D levels in their blood.

After adjusting for known risk factors associated with developing diabetes (such as BMI, physical activity level, smoking, and total dietary energy intake), the scientists conducting this study found a very strong association between Vitamin D levels in the blood and diabetes risk. In this moderately large clinical research study, the likelihood of having diabetes was more than three times greater among patient volunteers with low levels of Vitamin D (less than 72 pmol/L) when compared with patients who had higher levels of Vitamin D (103 pmol/L or greater).  Once again, this dramatic association between Vitamin D levels in the blood and diabetes risk persisted even after accounting for diabetes risk factors associated with each individual patient volunteer.

The findings of this prospectively conducted clinical research study add considerable weight to previous observations that diabetes is more common in people who live in areas where Vitamin D levels are known to be low throughout the population. Although the mechanism whereby Vitamin D may reduce the risk of diabetes is not known at this time, previous research in laboratory mice has demonstrated that chemical receptors for Vitamin D can be found in the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. This finding, together with an increasing volume of research data linking low Vitamin D levels to a higher risk of developing diabetes, suggests that Vitamin D probably plays a direct role in modulating insulin production by the pancreas, as well as in determining the sensitivity of our bodies to circulating insulin.


For additional evidence-based information on Vitamin D as part of a cancer prevention lifestyle, please click on the following links:

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race

Vitamin D Significantly Reduces Colorectal Cancer Risk

Vitamin D and Dementia

Breast Cancer Recurrence and Vitamin D

Vitamin D and Falls in the Elderly

Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer Survival

Vitamin and Breast Cancer Risk

Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease


For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.




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