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India can bring down cost for Breast Cancer Detection, says US Scientist

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Breast Cancer (representational Image), Pixabay

Kolkata, Feb 28, 2017: American genome expert Mary-Claire King, whose work resulted in the identification of the breast cancer gene BRCA1 and transformed the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, on Tuesday expressed faith in Indian scientists to make technology cheaper for breast cancer detection.

“We need to tackle this problem with modern 21st-century tools. The actual cost of sequencing patients dropped from about $4,000 to $250 (around Rs 16,000) in the US in the last few years. Indians are incredibly good at making technology better, faster and cheaper,” she said.

King was addressing a packed audience of researchers, students and faculty at a lecture here on ‘Understanding Inherited Breast and Ovarian Cancer: From Gene Discovery to Precision Medicine and Public Health’ for The Cell Press-TNQ India distinguished Lectureship Series, 2017. It was supported by National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani.

For India, the US National Medal of Science awardee proposed that every breast and ovarian cancer patient be tested genetically for mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2 as well as other known breast and ovarian cancer genes.

Specific inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers, and they have been associated with increased risks of several additional types of cancer.

“My proposition for India is every breast and ovarian cancer patient should be sequenced for mutations to BRCA1 and BRCA2 and all other known breast and ovarian cancer genes. I am not suggesting that in the resource-limited context here that all women above the age of 30 be screened, just begin with patients,” said the University of Washington professor.

Testing could help women predisposed to mutations to make an informed choice on whether to opt for risk-reducing surgery, chemoprevention and also encourage follow-ups of sisters and daughters of patients (there’s a 50 percent chance of passing it along).

The 71-year-old active researcher dubbed cervical cancer a “disease of poor women” while breast cancer is one of those “rare conditions that is a disease of prosperity”.

“The reason that breast cancer incidences are going up is because we are the most successful mammals that have ever lived, by this we mean we are fabulous. We are fertile longer, we are able and we are fit, we retain cognitive functions longer,” she added.

In addition to her work on identifying breast cancer genes, King is recognised worldwide for demonstrating that humans and chimpanzees are 99 per cent genetically identical and applying genomic sequencing to identify victims of human rights abuses (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina wanted King to find their kidnapped grandchildren). (IANS)

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New Smart Drug Shows Promise for Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

The addition of cell-cycle inhibitor ribociclib increased survival rates to 70 percent after 3½ years

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Drug, Metasatic, Triple-Negative
FILE - A radiologist uses a magnifying glass to check mammograms for breast cancer in Los Angeles, California, May 6, 2010.. VOA

A new form of drug drastically improves survival rates of pre-menopausal women with the most common type of breast cancer, researchers said on Saturday, citing the results of an international clinical trial.

The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, showed that the addition of cell-cycle inhibitor ribociclib increased survival rates to 70 percent after 3½ years.

The mortality rate was 29 percent less than when patients were randomly assigned a placebo.

Lead author Sara Hurvitz told AFP the study focused on hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, which accounts for two-thirds of all breast cancer cases among younger women and is generally treated by therapies that block estrogen production.

Drug, Metasatic, Triple-Negative
FILE – Slides are prepared during a breast and cervical cancer screening program at the NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in Minneapolis, Minn. VOA

“You actually can get synergy, or a better response, better cancer kill, by adding one of these cell-cycle inhibitors” on top of the hormone suppression, Hurvitz said.

The drug works by inhibiting the activity of cancer-cell promoting enzymes known as cyclin-dependent 4/6 kinases.

The treatment is less toxic than traditional chemotherapy because it more selectively targets cancerous cells, blocking their ability to multiply.

An estimated 268,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2019, while the advanced form of the disease is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women aged 20 to 59.

Growing menace

Though advanced breast cancer is less common among younger women, its incidence grew 2 percent per year between 1978 and 2008 for women aged 20 to 39, according to a previous study.

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The new trial, which looked at more than 670 cases, included only women under the age of 59 who had advanced cancer — stage four — for which they had not received prior hormone-blocking therapy.

“These are patients who tend to be diagnosed later, at a later stage in their disease, because we don’t have great screening modalities for young women,” said Hurvitz.

In addition, patients who develop breast cancer early tend to have more complex cases.

“That’s what makes us so excited, because it’s a therapy that’s affecting so many patients with advanced disease,” added Hurvitz.

Drug, Metasatic, Triple-Negative
A new form of drug drastically improves survival rates of pre-menopausal women with the most common type of breast cancer. Pixabay

A pill is administered daily for 21 days, followed by seven days off to allow the body time to recover, since two-thirds of patients have a moderate to severe drop in white cell count.

Jamie Bennett, a spokeswoman for Novartis, which markets the drug under the brand name Kisqali and funded the research, said it cost $12,553 for a 28-day dose.

But, she added, “the majority of patients in the U.S. with commercial insurance will pay $0 per month for their Kisqali prescription.”

There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, and the majority of the women on the drug will require some form of therapy for the rest of their lives.

‘Significant survival benefit’

Oncologist Harold Burstein, who was not involved in the research, said it was “an important study,” having established that the use of cyclin inhibitors “translates into a significant survival benefit for women.”

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Burstein, who is with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said, “Hopefully, these data will enable access for this product for more women around the world, particularly in health care systems which assess value rigorously as part of their decisions for national access to drugs.”

Moving forward, Hurvitz said she was interested in investigating whether ribociclib could help nip cancer in the bud at an earlier stage.

“We want to go and look at those women diagnosed with early stage disease, small tumors, tumors that haven’t gone to the lymph nodes or haven’t gone to other parts of the body, and see if we can stop it from returning later,” she said.

A new global clinical trial is now underway. (VOA)