The Five Biggest Breast Cancer Discoveries in 2016

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As we raise awareness for breast cancer we tend to focus on prevention and research; but let us not forget the obstacles we have overcome so far. Following is a list of the five biggest accomplishments we have had this year alone.

1. Drug Combination “completely destroys” Breast Cancer Tumors In 11 Days
This March, The BBC reported that researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London found the combination of two cancer drugs, trastuzumab (Herceptin) and lapatinib (Tyverb), resulted in the complete destruction of breast cancer in eleven percent of patients in eleven days. Seventeen percent of the patients tumors shrank so significantly that they no longer needed chemotherapy as a result of the drug combination.

Science Daily reported that, while the research is still preliminary, the results could act as a stepping stone to tailored cancer treatment and a way to fight HER2 positive breast cancer without chemotherapy. The drugs works by binding itself to HER2 receptors and blocking growth signals. HER2 is a protein that fuels the growth of HER2 positive cancer tumors. HER2 occurs in approximately one tenth of all breast cancers.

2. Blood Test Breast Cancer Detection
In the beginning of this year a group of Australian and French Scientists got closer than ever at making a blood test for breast cancer a true probability. Currently breast cancer detection consists of a mammogram exam, a sonogram and likely followed by invasive biopsy.

A study published last month by the researchers revealed that the presence of isotopes carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 in certain quantities in a sample of tissue can show whether or not the tissue is cancerous. According to the study’s lead researcher Professor Guillaume Tcherkez, this signifies that in a few years, doctors may be able to detect and monitor breast cancer using a simple blood test.

3. Scientist’ Discover How Invasive HER2 Breast Cancer Reactivates
HER2 breast cancer is difficult to treat because current methods only deactivate cancer cells, which can be reactivated. An excess of HER2 can lead to the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells in some invasive forms of breast cancer, making it a lot harder to treat.

The team discovered what makes current antibody treatments ineffective at destroying HER2. They pointed out that it is the RAS protein that is responsible for reactivating the growth signal for HER2 receptors. Then they designed a protein compound capable of binding itself to HER2 receptors and blocking growth signals. According to a researcher involved in the study during a press release; Andreas Pluckthun stated that identifying this “achilles heel of HER2 positive cancer cells” may pave the way for more effective and potentially lifesaving cancer treatments.

4. Discovery Of Five New Breast Cancer Genes Brings Us Closer To Personalized Medicine
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) sequenced the genomes of breast cancer genes according to a study published earlier this year. This allowed them to find five additional genes associated with breast cancer as well as thirteen new mutational signatures that influence the development of tumors.

This discovery can help in many ways. For example, it can reveal new reasons for cancer incidence and help determine why the disease strikes particular people. It can also pave the way for precision medicine, a form of medical care that is individualized for each patient.

“In the future, we’d like to be able to profile individual cancer genomes so that we can identify the treatment most likely to be successful for a woman or man diagnosed with breast cancer,” Dr. Serena Nik-Zainal, a researcher involved in the study, said in a statement.

5. Teen Discovers How To Treat “Untreatable” Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Unlike other forms of breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer is difficult to treat because it does not have receptors on the cell surface. The prognosis was always poor with this cancer and was treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

The Telegraph reported that a 16-year-old from England, Krtin Nithiyanandam, discovered how to stop the cancer cells in triple negative breast cancer from differentiating into a more dangerous form of cancer. Nithiyanandam also discovered how to suppress tumor growth and consequently make chemotherapy on triple negative cancer tumors more effective. These two discoveries can be used to invent better treatments for this difficult form of breast cancer.

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