DiversityNursing Blog

New Genetic Tests for Breast Cancer Hold Promise

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 02:34 PM

By ANDREW POLLACK

www.nytimes.com 

A Silicon Valley start-up with some big-name backers is threatening to upend genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancer by offering a test on a sample of saliva that is so inexpensiv e that most women could get it.

At the same time, the nation’s two largest clinical laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, normally bitter rivals, are joining with French researchers to pool their data to better interpret mutations in the two main breast cancer risk genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Other companies and laboratories are being invited to join the effort, called BRCA Share.

The announcements being made on Tuesday, although coincidental in their timing, speak to the surge in competition in genetic risk screening for cancer since 2013, when the Supreme Court invalidated the gene patents that gave Myriad Genetics a monopoly on BRCA testing.

The field has also been propelled by the actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie, who has a BRCA1 mutation and has written about her own decision to have her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to sharply reduce her risk of developing cancer.

But the issue of who should be tested remains controversial. The effort of the start-up, Color Genomics, to “democratize access to genetic testing,” in the words of the chief executive, Elad Gil, is generating concern among some experts.

The company plans to charge $249 for an analysis of BRCA1 and BRCA2, plus 17 other cancer-risk genes. That is one tenth the price of many tests now on the market.

Testing of the BRCA genes has generally been limited by medical guidelines to women who already have cancer or those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancers. Insurers generally have not paid for BRCA tests for other women, and some insurers are not paying at all for a newer type of screening known as a panel test that analyzes from 10 to 40 genes at once.

Dr. Gil of Color said his company’s test would be inexpensive enough for women to pay out of pocket, so that neither the woman nor Color will have to deal with insurance companies. He said the company was starting a program to provide free testing to women who cannot afford its test.

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One of the company’s unpaid advisers is Mary-Claire King, the University of Washington geneticist whose work led to the discovery of the BRCA1 gene. Dr. King last year publicly called for testing to be offered to all American women 30 and older.

She said that half the women with dangerous mutations would not qualify for testing under current guidelines, in part because many inherit the mutation from their fathers rather than their mothers and a family history of breast or ovarian cancer might not be evident.

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But other experts say that fewer women in the expanded group would be found to have dangerous mutations, raising the overall cost of testing per cancer case prevented. Moreover, expanded testing could result in many more women being told they have mutations that cannot be classified as either dangerous or benign, leaving women in a state of limbo as to whether they have an increased risk of cancer.

“We have to be careful that we are not just increasing this group of worried-well who have incomplete information,” said Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Offit said it was contradictory that Color was trying to expand testing to everyone on the same day the two biggest testing companies were joining forces to try to reduce how often they find these so-called variants of uncertain significance.

Color is planning to allow women to order tests through its website. Another Silicon Valley start-up that did that, 23andMe, had its health testing shut down in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration.

Color executives say that unlike with 23andMe, a doctor will be involved in every order and in the test results. If a consumer orders the test directly from its website, her information will be sent to a doctor hired by the company to evaluate it.

An F.D.A. spokeswoman said that if doctors place orders, testing companies that operate their own laboratories do not need F.D.A. approval to offer their tests.

Some testing experts question whether Color can provide testing as inexpensively as it claims. While the actual sequencing might be done for less than $250, that is only part of the cost, which also involves interpretation and working with patients and doctors, they say. Other companies generally charge at least $1,500 for complete analyses of the BRCA genes or for multigene tests.

But Dr. Gil said Color has highly automated its processes and will even offer genetic counseling to women. He said the company chose the saliva test rather than a blood one because it’s easier for users but still accurate. Women send the saliva sample to Color for testing.

Dr. Gil received a doctoral degree in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying a cancer gene. But he has spent much of his career at Google and Twitter. The company’s president, Othman Laraki, also worked at Google and Twitter.

Color’s backers — it says it has raised about $15 million — are mainly from the world of high tech rather than life sciences. Its lead investors are the venture capital firms Khosla Ventures and Formation 8. Individual investors include Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs; Susan L. Wagner, a co-founder of the investment firm BlackRock; Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco; and Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo.

Dr. Offit of Sloan Kettering said that even Myriad, which long had a monopoly on BRCA testing and has the most data, has reported having a 2 percent rate of variants of unknown significance, meaning 2 percent of the time it cannot tell if a variant in a gene increases the risk of cancer or is benign. Other companies might have higher rates. And the rates for some other, less-well-studied genes can be 20 or 30 percent, he said.

The entire testing industry is now scrambling to pool data to lower that rate, and in some cases to catch up to Myriad, which has kept much of its data proprietary as a competitive advantage. Various data-sharing efforts are already underway, including by ClinVar and the BRCA Challenge.

Now there is also BRCA Share, which is based on a database of genetic variants maintained by Inserm, a French government health research institute. Quest Diagnostics agreed to provide money to improve that database and pay for experiments on cells that could help determine whether certain mutations raise the risk of cancer.

“We are going to help them make it better,” said Dr. Charles M. Strom, vice president for genomics and genetics at Quest. He said BRCA Share would be open to others, with LabCorp becoming the first to join.

Participants will have to contribute their data to the database. Companies will pay for access to the data on a sliding scale based on their size, while others will have access to the data without paying, he said.

Topics: FDA, genes, health, healthcare, nurses, doctors, medical, cancer, patients, breast cancer, treatment, genetic testing, BRCA genes

Lymph Node Dissection May Not Be Necessary For Patients With Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 15, 2015 @ 02:22 PM

http://news.nurse.com 

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Surgeons are no longer removing most of the lymph nodes in the underarm area when a biopsy near the area shows cancer, a major change in breast cancer management, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
Researchers evaluated data from 2.7 million patients with breast cancer in the U.S. and learned to what extent surgeons were following recommendations from the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group Z0011, or ACOSOG Z-11 trial, published four years ago.

They reported that most early-stage breast cancer patients with tumors in their sentinel lymph node who undergo lumpectomy do not benefit from surgical removal of the remaining lymph nodes in the underarm area, called completion axillary lymph node dissection or ALND, according to a news release. They found no difference in cancer recurrence and five-year survival between patients who underwent ALND and those who did not.

Researchers found a dramatic increase in the proportion of lumpectomy patients who underwent only a sentinel lymph node biopsy — SNB — without an ALND. The SNB-alone rate more than doubled — from 23% in 2009 to 56% in 2011, according to the study.

“As far as I know, our study is the first to show that the findings from the ACOSOG Z-11 trial have changed clinical practice for breast cancer patients nationwide,” lead author Katharine Yao, MD, FACS, director of the Breast Surgical Program at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill., and clinical associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, said in the release. “The Z-11 trial has had a huge impact because of the lower risks for patients who undergo SNB alone.”

Investigators found that 74,309 patients (of the 2.72 million cases diagnosed between 1998 and 2011) met criteria for having SNB alone but underwent lumpectomy and radiation therapy to the whole breast, according to the press release.

The rate of SNB alone cases reportedly increased from 6.1% in 1998 to 56% in 2011. 
Yao said findings suggest that some practitioners may feel uncomfortable not performing ALND in high-risk patients, and called for more education for surgeons.

Topics: surgery, biopsy, nurse, doctors, medical, cancer, patients, breast cancer, treatment, lymph node

When Screening Tests Turn Healthy People Into Patients

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Mar 04, 2015 @ 12:29 PM

Markus MacGill

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As part of its campaign against "too much medicine" The BMJ has published reviews that question the value of screening for breast cancer in women and aneurysm in men - asking whether the harm of "over-diagnosis" outweighs the benefit of detecting and treating real cases of disease.

In the case of breast cancer, the analysis of the history of screening for the disease, written by a public health expert, calls for "urgent agreement" in the debate and controversy that exists between scientists.

For abdominal aortic aneurysm, the review about screening men who do not have symptoms suggests that the ratio of harm to benefit of carrying out these programs has worsened over the years.

This, they say, is thanks to a reduction in risk factors such as smoking, which has reduced the chance that screening will succeed in finding actual cases.

And a third paper looks at the results of surveys that gauged the level of over-diagnosis people would accept from screening programs aiming to detect different cancers - finding a wide range of attitudes to the harm or benefit of screening.

In the research on abdominal aortic aneurysm (a swelling in the main artery from the heart, which can lead to death when it ruptures), the authors estimate that 176 of every 10,000 men invited to screening are over-diagnosed. 

This means smaller aneurysms being picked up - and perhaps being repaired in preventive surgery - even though they might have swelled little and presented a low risk of rupturing. 

The researchers describe the real-life consequences of the programs, which, in the UK, invite all men over the age of 65 for screening, and in the US, only those who have smoked (a risk factor that greatly increases the likelihood of an aneurysm). They explain:

"These men are unnecessarily turned into patients and may experience appreciable anxiety throughout their remaining lives."

 

"Moreover," the authors continue, "37 of these men [out of every 10,000 screened] unnecessarily have preventive surgery and 1.6 of them die as a consequence." 

The authors quote men who have had abdominal aortic aneurysms detected by screening - they "report existential thoughts about frailty and mortality after diagnosis." One man describes his diagnosis as "a ticking bomb inside your stomach."

 

In addition to such risks of psychological burden, the authors cite the surgical risks for those who undergo a preventive operation, and the public health implications over cost-effectiveness.

"When health authorities invite asymptomatic men to screening, there should be no doubt that benefits clearly outweigh harms," the authors conclude. "We cannot judge whether this is true of abdominal aortic aneurysm screening: the harms have not been adequately investigated, as is true for cancer screening."

Value of breast cancer screening 'can be improved'

On the question of how good the harm-to-benefit ratio is for breast cancer screening, Prof. Alexandra Barratt, from the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia, gives an overview of the history of screening programs, and offers a list of ways to improve their benefit.

Writing her review for The BMJ's "too much medicine" campaign, Prof. Barratt believes "agreement between experts about over-diagnosis in breast cancer screening is urgently needed so that women can be better informed." She presses for the following measures, too:

  • Do better research to quantify the true amount of over-diagnosis - by developing "internationally agreed standards" for studies that monitor the problem created by screening programs
  • Investigate less aggressive treatment options for screen-detected breast cancers
  • Be more wary of new technology - for example, digital mammography has increased cancer detection without reducing death rates, so three-dimensional mammography (tomosynthesis), which "promises a 30-50% increase in detection of breast cancers" should not be implemented without more research on "whether it alters the balance of benefit and harm"
  • Provide quality information to women. "Many women continue to be 'prescribed' or encouraged to undergo screening rather than being supported to make an informed choice," says Prof. Barratt, yet "information is an intervention that may have both positive and detrimental effects"
  • Think twice before extending screening programs - "extending screening to women in their 70s has been shown to significantly increase the incidence of early-stage breast cancer, and this could have detrimental effects for older women."

Prof. Barrett says lessons have been learned in breast cancer screening that should inform programs for other cancers. Breast cancer has "led the way in developing awareness" about the potential for screening to over-diagnose and treat people who have no symptoms, and this is also needed for "the early detection of lung and thyroid cancers, as well as breast and prostate cancers."

This neatly leads to the subject of the third paper, on cancer screening more generally, which analyzes people's risk attitudes in relation to the early detection of different cancers and varying levels of benefit.

Over-detection is acceptable to patients

Dr. Ann Van den Bruel - a senior clinical research fellow at the University of Oxford's Nuffield department of primary care health sciences in the UK - conducted a survey with colleagues "to describe the level of over-detection people would find acceptable in screening for breast, prostate and bowel cancer."

Her "striking" findings, from asking people in the UK's general population, were that more people would accept a screening program that created over-detection "in the entire population" being tested than would accept "no over-detection at all."

People aged 50 or older accepted less over-detection, however, and there was a wide overall variation in the risks of over-diagnosis that people would accept from cancer screening.

The average levels of "acceptability" ranged from 113 cases of over-detection in every 1,000 people screened, to 313 cases.

People were significantly less happy to accept the risk of being over-diagnosed with bowel cancer than they were of this happening with breast or prostate cancer - the latter, in other words, being more worthwhile screening for in terms of perceived benefit versus risk.

The following results from the study highlight the two extremes expressed for attitudes to screening:

  • 4-7% of respondents indicated they would tolerate no amount of over-detection at all from a screening program
  • 7-14% considered it would be acceptable for the entire screened population to be over-detected - that is, doing the screening would be worthwhile even if it resulted in all 1,000 people tested being unnecessarily diagnosed.

The survey asked questions about three different types of cancer screening: breast cancer for women, prostate cancer for men, and bowel cancer for both.

For each type, the researchers presented the absolute number of cases there were each year in the UK, plus a description of the treatment, including adverse effects. They then presented two scenarios of screening effectiveness: a 10% reduction in deaths from the specific cancer, or a 50% cut.

Dr. Van den Bruel says:

"People accepted more over-detection when they perceived a higher benefit from cancer screening, so from a 10% mortality reduction to 50% mortality reduction, median acceptability increased significantly, with a maximum of 313 cases per 1,000 people screened for breast cancer."

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

 

 


Topics: diagnosed, health, nurse, disease, cancer, medicine, breast cancer, patient, treatment, prostate cancer, doctor, screening

This 19-Year-Old College Student Built an Artificial Brain That Detects Breast Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 10, 2014 @ 01:35 PM

By Elizabeth Kiefer

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Brittany Wenger is one seriously smart cookie. In 2012, the then-17-year-old submitted her "artificial brain" technology -- which assesses tissue samples for breast cancer -- to the Google Science Fair and walked away with the grand prize. It was no wonder: Her invention, which uses a type of computer program called neural networks, can identify complex data patterns and make breast cancer detection calls with 99 percent accuracy. But she's not stopping there: Brittany hopes to help wipe out cancer completely.

Since she took home the gold two years ago, she's been named one of Time's 30 Under 30, given a truly inspiring TED Talk, and launched her app, Cloud4Cancer, which allows doctors to enter their own data and fuel continued cancer research. And did we mention she's also holding down a full course load at Duke University? Um, yeah. 

We recently chatted with Brittany about how she got started, her challenges along the way, and how she balances being a college student with breaking the barriers of cancer diagnostics.

How did you get into computer programming?

When I was in 7th grade I took an elective class on futuristic thinking. When we were assigned our final paper, I decided to write mine on technology of the future. The moment I started researching artificial intelligence and its transcendence into human knowledge, I was inspired. I went out and bought a coding textbook, and taught myself how to code. I remember one of the first projects that I ever worked on was an artificial neural network that taught people how to play soccer.

You're a self-taught coder who went on to create a potentially game-changing cancer detection tool. How did that happen?

Well, it definitely didn't happen overnight. I spent over five years working with neural networks, starting with an entire year of research to try and recognize patterns and connect breast cancer to artificial intelligence. I faced a lot of roadblocks along the way, as this was a very complicated program with no predefined solution. I went through thousands of pages of coding and data that was available through public domains, and performed over 7.6 million test trials. I two failed projects before finally succeeding on my third attempt, taking what didn't work the first few times to optimize the code that helped build the Cloud4Cancer app.

Why did you decide on developing breast cancer detection technology?

When I was 15, my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have a very close-knit family, so seeing the impact that the disease can have on a woman and her family, firsthand, was so real to me. When I learned that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, I knew that I wanted to get involved in making the process better for patients. Now, the coding that I first used to help detect breast cancer has been extended into diagnosing other types of cancers, including blood-based diseases like leukemia.

What's been the most rewarding part of the process?

The people. I've already had the opportunity to work with real patients and breast cancer survivors, as well as talk with kids who are interested in doing research or coding in the future. Knowing that my cloud application has the potential to save lives and expedite the process of discovery is so rewarding. I still get chills thinking about how, a couple of years down the line, my research can actually contribute to finding the cure for cancer.

You've got a lot on your plate these days, between Cloud4Cancer and school. How do you balance everything?

The great thing about where I am with school right now is that my schedule is entirely what I make it. I can attend classes during the week and then travel over some weekends. School is not something that I will ever bend on, as I'm actually going for my MD, PhD in pediatric oncology. At the same time, my initiative is so important to me, I don't want either one to ever outweigh the other. Luckily, I think they complement each other well and what I'm learning in my classes helps me improve Cloud4Cancer.

What's one thing you want other young women to know if they're thinking about going the tech route?

If you're interested, go for it! There have never been so many available resources or opportunities -- for women, and for society as a whole -- to pursue a career in the field. I love how technology allows you to make new things by putting together the little pieces and working towards something bigger that can really benefit the world. There's no greater feeling than solving a problem and seeing your code come to life.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Topics: innovation, artificial intelligence, college student, technology, brain, medical, cancer, detection, breast cancer, app

New Device May Ease Mammography Discomfort

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 12:17 PM

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Researchers have developed a new device that may result in more comfortable mammography for women. According to a study being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), standardizing the pressure applied in mammography would reduce pain associated with breast compression without sacrificing image quality.

Compression of the breast is necessary in mammography to optimize image quality and minimize absorbed radiation dose. However, mechanical compression of the breast in mammography often causes discomfort and pain and deters some women from mammography screening.

An additional problem associated with compression is the variation that occurs when the technologist adjusts compression force to breast size, composition, skin tautness and pain tolerance. Over-compression, or unnecessarily high pressures during compression, is common in certain European countries, especially for women with small breasts. Over-compression occurs less frequently in the United States, where under-compression, or extremely low applied pressure, is more common.

"This means that the breast may be almost not compressed at all, which increases the risks of image quality degradation and extra radiation dose," said Woutjan Branderhorst, Ph.D., researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Physics at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Overall, adjustments in force can lead to substantial variation in the amount of pressure applied to the breast, ranging from less than 3 kilopascals (kPa) to greater than 30 kPa.

Dr. Branderhorst and colleagues theorized that a compression protocol based on pressure rather than force would reduce the pain and variability associated with the current force-based compression protocol. Force is the total impact of one object on another, whereas pressure is the ratio of force to the area over which it is applied.

The researchers developed a device that displays the average pressure during compression and studied its effects in a double-blinded, randomized control trial on 433 asymptomatic women scheduled for screening mammography.

Three of the four compressions for each participant were standardized to a target force of 14 dekanewtons (daN). One randomly assigned compression was standardized to a target pressure of 10 kPa.

Participants scored pain on a numerical rating scale, and three experienced breast screening radiologists indicated which images required a retake. The 10 kPa pressure did not compromise radiation dose or image quality, and, on average, the women reported it to be less painful than the 14 daN force.

The study's implications are potentially significant, Dr. Branderhorst said. There are an estimated 39 million mammography exams performed every year in the U.S. alone, which translates into more than 156 million compressions. Pressure standardization could help avoid a large amount of unnecessary pain and optimize radiation dose without adversely affecting image quality or the proportion of required retakes.

"Standardizing the applied pressure would reduce both over- and under-compression and lead to a more reproducible imaging procedure with less pain," Dr. Branderhorst said.

The device that displays average pressure is easily added to existing mammography systems, according to Dr. Branderhorst.

"Essentially, what is needed is the measurement of the contact area with the breast, which then is combined with the measured applied force to determine the average pressure in the breast," he said. "A relatively small upgrade of the compression paddle is sufficient."

Further research will be needed to determine if the 10 kPa pressure is the optimal target.

The researchers are also working on new methods to help mammography technologists improve compression through better positioning of the breast.

Source: www.sciencedaily.com

Topics: mammography, tests, screenings, technology, health, healthcare, nurses, doctors, medical, breast cancer

'Invisible Tattoos' Could Improve Body Confidence After Breast Cancer Radiotherapy

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Nov 03, 2014 @ 11:16 AM

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Invisible tattoos could replace the permanent dark ink tattoos used to ensure that breast cancer patients having radiotherapy are treated in exactly the same spot during each session, according to results from a pilot study to be presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference.

Research suggests that the permanent pin prick marks made on the skin of women having radiotherapy reminds them of their diagnosis for years to come, reducing body confidence and self-esteem.

It's also more difficult to spot these tattoos in dark-skinned women, potentially leading to inconsistencies in the area being treated.

The NIHR-funded researchers, based at The Royal Marsden hospital in London, asked 42 breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy to rate how they felt about their body, before the treatment and one month later.

Half the women were offered fluorescent tattoos, only visible under UV light, while the other half had conventional dark ink tattoos.

The researchers found that 56 per cent of the women who had fluorescent tattoos felt better about their bodies one month after treatment, compared to only 14 per cent among those who received black ink tattoos.

Using fluorescent tattoos also made no difference to the accuracy of treatment and took only slightly longer to carry out, compared to conventional dark ink tattoos.

Steven Landeg, a senior radiographer from the Royal Marsden, who is presenting the data, said: "These findings suggest that offering fluorescent radiotherapy tattoos as an alternative to dark ink ones could help ameliorate the negative feelings some women feel towards their bodies after treatment. It's important to remember that body image is subjective and dark ink radiotherapy tattoos will affect patients differently, but we hope that these results will go some way towards making this a viable option for radiotherapy patients in the future."

Evelyn Weatherall, 62, Surrey, had six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy, after being diagnosed with breast cancer following routine mammography through the UK's breast screening programme.

She said: "I'd asked if I could be part of any kind of clinical trial during my treatment because I'd read about how successful they were proving to be. My doctors told me about the invisible tattoos they were pioneering at The Royal Marsden hospital and I was more than happy to take part. I had lost my hair during chemotherapy and felt that I didn't want another visible reminder of my cancer.

"I think I was one of the first to undergo this procedure and it really worked. There wasn't a mark on my skin after the radiotherapy planning. I was going to a wedding soon afterwards and knew I'd be able to wear an outfit that didn't make me feel self-conscious.

"It's wonderful to think that I may have been a part of something that could become standard in the future."

Professor Matt Seymour, NCRI's clinical research director said: "With more than half of all cancer patients now surviving 10 years and beyond, it's imperative that we do everything we can to reduce the long term impact of treatment on patients, including cosmetic changes."

The study was funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).

Source: MNT

Topics: cancer, patients, breast cancer, radiation, chemotherapy, tattoos, radiology, self esteem, body confidence

How A Cooling Cap Could Change Breast Cancer Treatment

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 15, 2014 @ 11:29 AM

By JESSICA FIRGER

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When Donna Tookes learned she had breast cancer last winter, the 59-year-old thought she had no choice but to accept one of the most dreaded side-effects of chemotherapy: losing her mane of silver hair, a feature that strangers young and old frequently stopped to admire.

"I had resigned myself," Tookes told CBS News. "I had purchased an array of scarves, about 10. And I actually practiced tying them."

Tookes was diagnosed with breast cancer in January after her annual mammogram, when her doctors detected some mild calcifications in her right breast. These clusters of white flecks visible on her scan indicated there might be something seriously wrong. After a few subsequent tests, Tookes learned she had HER2 breast cancer, an especially aggressive form that can be difficult to treat. Though her doctors caught the cancer early, they wanted to be certain it would never return, which meant a unilateral mastectomy followed by 12 rounds of punishing chemotherapy.

"You have a consultation before you start chemotherapy," said Tookes, who lives with her husband and children in Stamford, Connecticut, and has worked for more than three decades as a flight attendant. "I was told I would lose my hair. And then the nurse assured me, she told me 'you're beautiful,' and that I was one of the only ones who could carry the bald look because I have that bone structure."

But her family could see that losing her hair would take a serious toll on her psyche. Tookes had heard about some treatment in Europe that helps prevent chemo-related hair loss, though she didn't know many details. Secretly, her husband began to conduct research. He wrote to friends in Sweden, who were able to obtain information about a new and innovative therapy called a scalp cooling cap. He soon found out that Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City was involved in a clinical trial on the device, known as the DigniCap System, which is worn by a patient during chemotherapy transfusions.

The snug cap is secured onto a patient's head each time she undergoes chemotherapy. It chills the scalp down to 5 degrees Celsius so that the blood vessels surrounding the hair roots contract, meaning that less of the toxins from chemo enter the hair follicle. This minimizes -- and in some cases completely stops -- a patient's hair from falling out.

At first, Tookes was slightly skeptical, but her family finally convinced her to move her cancer treatment from her hospital in Connecticut to Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City.

Dr. Paula Klein, assistant professor of medicine, hematology and medical oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and principal investigator for the clinical trial, told CBS News the device has been effective at limiting hair loss in nearly all of her patients enrolled.

"Unfortunately, in breast cancer the two most active agents are associated with significant hair loss," said Klein. "For many women with early stage breast cancer, they are getting chemotherapy for prevention of recurrence."

Klein said overall, women who use the cap lose just 25 percent of their hair. There are some patients who lose more and a lucky handful who lost no hair at all.

The clinical trial is now in its final phase. The company behind the cap, Dignitana, will be submitting results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of November, and hope to win FDA approval for the cap in 2015.

For women struggling through a difficult medical ordeal, the benefit is significant. Research published in 2008 in the journal Psycho-Oncology looked at 38 existing studies on breast cancer treatment and quality of life issues, and found hair loss consistently ranked the most troubling side effect of treatment for women. "Significant alopecia [hair loss] is problematic," said Klein. "Every time you look in the mirror, you remember you're getting cancer treatment."

Many breast cancer survivors report that even when their hair finally grows back after chemotherapy it is often different in color or texture than the hair they had before, due to the period of time it takes the hair follicles to recover from the damage caused by the drugs.

Moreover, the feelings associated with hair loss impact nearly every aspect of a breast cancer patient's life -- from her self-image and sexuality to whether or not she is comfortable at work or even walking into the supermarket to buy a quart of milk.

When she first prepared for treatment, Tookes worried how people would react to her appearance if she lost all of her hair. But it didn't happen. Seven weeks into chemo, she finally felt confident enough to return the unused wardrobe of scarves. She still had a full head of hair. Because the cooling therapy was used only on her scalp, Tookes did still lose her eyebrows and "everything south of there."

Tookes is now cancer-free and says the therapy helped her stay optimistic about her prognosis. "My mother used to say, you just comb your hair and get yourself together and you'll get through hard times," she said.

Source: www.cbsnews.com

Topics: cooling cap, DigniCap, health, healthcare, nurses, doctors, cancer, breast cancer, chemotherapy, treatment

Co-Workers Donate Sick Days to LA Teacher Fighting Breast Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Sep 08, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

By GILLIAN MOHNEY

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One California teacher is happy to simply be back in the classroom as the new school year kicks off.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer last year, Carol Clark was forced to stay out of the classroom for nearly the entire year due to treatments and complications.

Eventually she was gone for so long, her health insurance and salary were threatened. But Clark's benefits were saved after multiple colleagues donated their sick days to the 6th grade teacher.

Clark, 56, a teacher at Jaime Escalante Elementary School in Cudahy, California, ended up receiving an additional 154 sick days from co-workers or other teachers as part of a program run by the Los Angeles Unified School District to help teachers in Clark’s situation, according to ABC News station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Before the donation Clark had been struggling to keep her salary and benefits. For many teachers in the Los Angeles area, once they use up their sick days and their vacation days they can start losing both their salary and health benefits.

Last year Clark missed nearly all of the school year except for just two months. Clark originally thought she would be able to come back for the spring semester, but she ended up needing major surgery after complications arose.

“I finished chemotherapy. Within a week I developed complications,” said Clark. “I couldn’t come back to school at all.”

To cover her time off, Clark used her vacation days and another 120 sick days that she had accrued over 16 years of teaching. But it wasn’t enough.

At the end of last year, she had no more sick days and was still too sick to teach. Clark had one other option. Her husband, also a teacher at Jaime Escalante Elementary School, was able to rally co-workers and other teachers to donate their sick days as part of the “Catastrophic Illness Donation Program.”

"We get paid for 180 days in the school year. So she got 154, so almost a whole year," Dave Clark told KABC-TV.

Gayle Pollard-Terry, deputy director of communications for the Los Angeles Unified School District, told ABC News that the program helps around 20 to 25 teachers every year.

“When you run out of all of your sick paid leave…if you run out, you [can] lose your health benefits and your income,” she said.

Pollard-Terry said the program can help fill the gap for sick teachers or school district employees.

She said although most donations are not as extreme as Clark’s tally, there have been at least two other donation drives where more than 150 days were raised for a teacher.

For Carol Clark the outpouring of donations from co-workers both past and present was surprising and emotional. She now has extra days to help her through new surgeries scheduled for this year.

“Other people ask me ‘What do you say to people who donate?’” said Clark. “I don’t know what to say to them. I say thank you. But that doesn’t’ seem like enough. It was really a tremendous thing that they did.”

Clark said she tried to thank her co-workers in a staff meeting but was too “chocked up” to speak. Instead she ended up writing them an email to thank them.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com

Topics: insurance, health insurance, teachers, sick days, treatments, breast cancer

Overheard on CNN: Less pink, more cures for breast cancer

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 @ 03:01 PM

From CNN

breastcancera

Many CNN commenters expressed skepticism about the so-called “pinkwashing” of October, echoing the sentiments of some women quoted in my recent article who don't feel connected to all of the awareness efforts.

KtinME writes that the color pink is particularly vexing to her because it has come to represent the commercialization of breast cancer awareness:

I criticized my hospital for using pink envelopes when mailing out mammogram results and was told in no uncertain terms that pink was the color of caring and compassion and that I obviously had issues with fear of breast cancer. I don't have a fear of breast cancer, but I will agree I have issues with the commercialism and complete co-opting of the color pink.

Pink envelopes with mammogram results are creepy. Pink shoes on football players are stupid. Pink merchandise is just plain silly. I used to like pink.

[…] a COLOR is meaningless when it comes to what cancer patients need and a COLOR is an easy way out for people to think they're being supportive of cancer awareness, cancer patients, and cancer survivors. How about instead we give them rides for their treatment, clean homes to come to, meals to eat, affordable access to medical care at home? How about we make sure their employers keep their jobs open for them? How about we make sure they have insurance now and forever? THOSE things would mean a lot more than sporting a pink bracelet or buying something pink. Enough with the pink!!!

Several readers such as Anthony Quatroni believe that “it’s all about money” – in other words, curing diseases isn’t as profitable as long-term treatments, so a cure will never be found.

But prattguy, self-identified as someone who works in medical research, pointed out that polio is a disease that was cured, yet foundations are still working to eradicate it worldwide.

Klur added that cancer is not one disease, it’s many diverse diseases even within a single organ. But there’s good news:

Many women who get breast cancer now survive to live a long and fruitful life thanks to advancements in cancer research. So, no, the reason for research investment is not greed!!! Furthermore, people who work in academia doing research are not getting rich- believe me- they are overworked and highly underpaid for the research that they dedicate their lives to.

Bschneid agreed, reminding fellow commenters that a lot of people dedicated to cancer research aren’t making such big profits:

Most cancer researchers do not make a lot of money, but are either cancer survivors themselves or have a loved one who has cancer or died of cancer. They have plenty of motivation. My husband, a cancer researcher, goes to work seven days a week while dealing with chemotherapy himself. To suggest that greed is the reason there is no "cure" for cancer is ignorant.

Some pointed out that other awareness months don’t get nearly as much attention. TexasRunner wrote:

This isn't a man vs. woman issue. September is National Prostate Awareness month but does it garner as much attention as the PINK does for breast cancer in October? No, it doesn't. Men deal with our own forms of cancer like prostate cancer and testicular cancer yet the drives to find a cure for those forms of cancer pale in comparison, usually because it hits a lower number for testicular cancer and for prostate cancer it happens at an older age. Do you not think men who have testicular cancer aren't aware of the jokes surrounding it?

So regardless of whether or not you like the slogans at least people pay attention and are aware and donate to find a cure.

Topics: breast cancer, cure, funding

Breakthrough Technique Images Breast Tumors in 3-D With Great Clarity, Reduced Radiation

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 @ 02:59 PM

ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2012) — Like cleaning the lenses of a foggy pair of glasses, scientists are now able to use a technique developed by UCLA researchers and their European colleagues to produce three-dimensional images of breast tissue that are two to three times sharper than those made using current CT scanners at hospitals. The technique also uses a lower dose of X-ray radiation than a mammogram.

These higher-quality images could allow breast tumors to be detected earlier and with much greater accuracy. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.

The research is published the week of Oct. 22 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

describe the imageThe most common breast cancer screening method used today is called dual-view digital mammography, but it isn't always successful in identifying tumors, said Jianwei (John) Miao, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and researcher with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

"While commonly used, the limitation is that it provides only two images of the breast tissue, which can explain why 10 to 20 percent of breast tumors are not detectable on mammograms," Miao said. "A three-dimensional view of the breast can be generated by a CT scan, but this is not frequently used clinically, as it requires a larger dose of radiation than a mammogram. It is very important to keep the dose low to prevent damage to this sensitive tissue during screening."

Recognizing these limitations, the scientists went in a new direction. In collaboration with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France and Germany's Ludwig Maximilians University, Miao's international colleagues used a special detection method known as phase contrast tomography to X-ray a human breast from multiple angles.

They then applied equally sloped tomography, or EST -- a breakthrough computing algorithm developed by Miao's UCLA team that enables high-quality image-reconstruction -- to 512 of these images to produce 3-D images of the breast at a higher resolution than ever before. The process required less radiation than a mammogram.

In a blind evaluation, five independent radiologists from Ludwig Maximilians University ranked these images as having a higher sharpness, contrast and overall image quality than 3-D images of breast tissue created using other standard methods.

"Even small details of the breast tumor can be seen using this technique," said Maximilian Reiser, director of the radiology department at Ludwig Maximilians University, who contributed his medical expertise to the research.

The technology commonly used today for mammograms or imaging a patient's bones measures the difference in an X-ray's intensity before and after it passes through the body. But the phase contrast X-ray tomography used in this study measures the difference in the way an X-ray oscillates through normal tissue rather than through slightly denser tissue like a tumor or bone. While a very small breast tumor might not absorb many X-rays, the way it changes the oscillation of an X-ray can be quite large, Miao said. Phase contrast tomography captures this difference in oscillation, and each image made using this technique contributes to the overall 3-D picture.

The computational algorithm EST developed by Miao's UCLA team is a primary driver of this advance. Three-dimensional reconstructions, like the ones created in this research, are produced using sophisticated software and a powerful computer to combine many images into one 3-D image, much like various slices of an orange can be combined to form the whole. By rethinking the mathematic equations of the software in use today, Miao's group developed a more powerful algorithm that requires fewer "slices" to get a clearer overall 3-D picture.

"The technology used in mammogram screenings has been around for more than 100 years," said Paola Coan, a professor of X-ray imaging at Ludwig Maximilians University. "We want to see the difference between healthy tissue and the cancer using X-rays, and that difference can be very difficult to see, particularly in the breast, using standard techniques. The idea we used here was to combine phase contrast tomography with EST, and this combination is what gave us much higher quality 3-D images than ever before."

While this new technology is like a key in a lock, the door will only swing open -- bringing high-resolution 3-D imaging from the synchrotron facility to the clinic -- with further technological advances, said Alberto Bravin, managing physicist of the biomedical research laboratory at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. He added that the technology is still in the research phase and will not be available to patients for some time.

"A high-quality X-ray source is an absolute requirement for this technique," Bravin said. "While we can demonstrate the power of our technology, the X-ray source must come from a small enough device for it to become commonly used for breast cancer screening. Many research groups are actively working to develop this smaller X-ray source. Once this hurdle is cleared, our research is poised to make a big impact on society."

These results represent the collaborative efforts of senior authors Miao, Bravin and Coan. Significant contributions were provided by co-first authors Yunzhe Zhao, a recent UCLA doctoral graduate in Miao's laboratory, and Emmanuel Brun, a scientist working with Bravin and Coan. Other co-authors included Zhifeng Huang of UCLA and Aniko Sztrókay, Paul Claude Diemoz, Susanne Liebhardt, Alberto Mittone and Sergei Gasilov of Ludwig Maximilians University.

The research was funded by UC Discovery/Tomosoft Technologies; the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health; and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft-Cluster of Excellence Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics.

Topics: technology, breast cancer, radiation, 3D, tumor

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