I’ve been reading a lot lately about a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors, particularly from the City of Hope, one of the cancer centers I like to follow because they are doing such interesting research on treatments for cancer, both pharmaceutical and natural.
PARP Inhibitors – What They Are
Here is the whole skinny (well, at least what I was able to find and make sense of) on PARP Inhibitors.
PARP stands for “poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase”. PARP is an enzyme that researchers say is over-expressed in a variety of cancers, and its expression has been associated with overall prognosis in cancer, especially breast cancer.
PARP is important for repairing single-strand breaks in DNA, termed “nicks”. If the nicks in the DNA are not repaired, then when the cells divide and replicate themselves the new cells can cause double-strand breaks to form.
Drugs which inhibit PARP1 cause multiple double-strand breaks to form. The reason that this is a good thing is because in tumors with BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 mutations, the double-strand breaks cannot be efficiently repaired and that leads to the death of those cells. Research is showing that cancer cells that are low in oxygen (which is the case in fast growing tumors) are sensitive to PARP inhibitors.
I wondered what that meant for normal cells – how they would be affected. The research shows, however, that normal cells (which don’t duplicate their DNA as often as cancer cells) still have repair mechanisms operating and that allows them to survive the PARP inhibition.
PARP Inhibitors and Chemotherapy
Research is showing that by adding a PARP inhibitor to chemotherapy, the chances that the cancer cells will become resistant to the chemotherapy decrease. When cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy, the chemotherapy is no longer able to fight the cancer cells. By lowering the chances of resistance, a PARP inhibitor may increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
City of Hope Research
In September 2012, The City of Hope released an article titled Triple Negative Breast Cancer Treatment Gets a Boost. The article explains a little about PARP inhibitors and states “Scientists think the drugs may work especially well in cancers with BRCA mutations or triple negative breast cancers”. Triple negative breast cancer accounts for only 14-20% of breast cancers and is not driven by hormones like the bulk of breast tumors are.
Dr George Somlo, a researcher at the City of Hope in Duarte, CA, felt that this new class of drugs showed a lot of promise “because the drugs seem to be a little easier on healthy tissue, which helps reduce side effects, and they may make chemotherapy more effective“.
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Searching around for hopeful things for breast cancer patients is one of my favorite things to do (call me crazy but I like to help) and today I found some interesting research from City of Hope, a cancer center in Duarte, California.
The research demonstrated that blueberries have the ability to control tumor growth, decrease metastasis and induce cell death in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)
A Quick Explanation of Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Triple negative breast cancer is a particular subtype of breast cancer that lacks estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) receptors and because most breast cancer tumors do have at least one of these receptors, doctors are able to target them with specific therapies.
I have spoken to quite a few patients whose tumors were triple negative and many were more than a little anxious over their diagnosis particularly because there seems to be a lot of really negative information on the Internet about triple negative breast cancer – that it accounts for only about 15% of breast cancer and that it has a poorer prognosis compared to other subtypes with the receptors present. Thus, whenever I do find some positive research about TNBC, I like to share it.
Blueberries Are a Triple Threat
Dr Shiuan Chen, director of City of Hope’s Division of Tumor Cell Biology said “blueberries help fight triple-negative breast cancers by suppressing pathways critical to tumor development and migration.”
The research has not been carried out on real, live people yet (they are still waiting for the results of that study) but they have used it on TNBC cell cultures and also on laboratory animals with great results. The researchers discovered that the group that received the blueberries had a tumor weight that was 70% lighter, exhibited significantly lower proliferation rates, and higher apoptosis activity (apoptosis means programmed cell death) than the group not receiving the blueberries. So they considered that to be a triple threat against TNBC. I found a YouTube video where they discuss their findings – click here to view it.
Researchers estimated that in humans, a person weighing 130 lbs would need 4 oz daily to achieve the good effects that the studies exhibited.
Got TNBC? Get those blueberries in ya!
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer – What It Means
When a cancerous tumor is removed from a breast, a sample (biopsy) of the tumor is taken and a pathologist examines its characteristics to determine the status of three breast cancer specific markers – the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and a form of the epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2).
ER and PR are proteins that bind the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, respectively. These hormones are produced by the ovaries and play a major role in stimulating cell division in breast cells.
Estrogen and progesterone bind to their respective receptors on the surface of cells and stimulate cell division. Breast tumor cells with a positive (+) hormone receptor status have high levels of ER and PR. These types of breast cancer are typically treated with hormone therapy.
HER2 is a receptor protein located on the surface of breast cells. This protein binds growth factors and stimulates cell growth and division. Breast tumor cells with a positive (+) HER2 status have high levels of HER2 on their surface. These types of breast cancer can be treated with a special type of targeted therapy.
The Perceived Threat
Triple negative breast tumors do not have high levels of any of ER, PR or HER2 receptors. In theory triple negative tumors should have a better prognosis than tumors expressing ER, PR, or HER2, because they are not receiving the growth signals provided by these proteins.
This doesn’t seem to be the case, however. Oncologists know precisely how to treat breast cancers expressing ER+, PR+, or HER2+ — they do it with drugs such as Herceptin, Tamoxifen and Arimidex that inhibit the function of the receptors.
But triple negative breast cancer is unresponsive to these targeted treatments. Studies have shown that triple negative tumor cells may be more aggressive than other breast cancer subtypes, but the reasons for this are unknown. About 10-20% of breast cancers are found to be triple-negative. For doctors and researchers, there is intense interest in finding new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer.
Depending on the confidence and “bedside manner” of her doctor, patients who are categorized as triple negative can tend to worry quite a bit more than those who aren’t – there is a lot of negative information on the Internet about the lack of treatment options and the “aggressive nature of the tumor cells making triple negative breast cancer more difficult to treat”. Please keep reading!
The website breastcancer.org (an excellent source of breast cancer information) has an article that is worth reading: “Treatment for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer“.
New research has come to light from Cancer Research UK that breast cancer actually falls into TEN different categories, rather than the subgroups discussed above (estrogen and progesterone receptor positive or negative, and either HER2 positive or negative). One day soon we will be able to offer each woman an individualized therapy, depending on the type of breast cancer she has.
Forget the “Poor Prognosis” Terminology
My main purpose in writing this article is to calm the fears and concerns of women who are found to be triple negative. This is not a death sentence! You might have to fight a little harder, be a little more proactive. You might have to arm yourself with a little more knowledge (something I always recommend anyway!) but this is definitely survivable.
The first thing I would suggest you do (besides attending all of the medical appointments suggested for you) is to expand your mind and read “The Biology of Belief” by Dr Bruce Lipton. Dr Lipton is a cell biologist who has closely examined how our beliefs control our DNA. This is a powerful, life-changing book.
Then you could read “You Can Conquer Cancer” by Dr Ian Gawler, an Australian veterinarian who healed himself from a potentially lethal form of cancer using nutrition, meditation and various other natural forms of therapy.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet had it right when he said, “…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Then realize that there are some positives with your diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer:
1. You do not have to take hormone therapy drugs that have a whole host of unpleasant side effects.
2. Research shows that triple-negative tumors respond better to chemotherapy than tumors that are estrogen and progesterone positive. Chemo works better on you!
3. If you remain disease-free for four or more years the chances are your cancer will NEVER return.
4. Research for this type of breast cancer has been given a very high priority – there are study results being published practically weekly.
LASTLY, KNOW WITH EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING THAT YOU CAN BEAT THIS!
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