Category Archives: Types of Breast Cancer

Study Shows Curcumin Works As Well As Herceptin In Some Cases

http://MarnieClark.com/Study-Shows-Curcumin-Works-As-Well-As-Herceptin-In-Some-CasesStudy Shows Curcumin Works As Well As Herceptin In Some Cases

While doing some research for one of my newsletters about curcumin, the pigment derived from the root spice turmeric, and its good effects for breast cancer, I ran across a study on curcumin that had some great information for those with HER2 positive breast cancer.

About 15-25 percent of breast cancer patients are HER2 positive, meaning that their tumors have an overexpression of this oncoprotein which researchers have observed is associated with a poor prognosis, increased disease recurrence and metastases. One of the drugs that has been created to address this problem is trastuzumab, also called Herceptin.

There is little doubt that Herceptin is saving lives, but there’s a problem for some people.

Quite a few women have contacted me from various parts of the world where Herceptin is either not available or too expensive – Africa being the main location where this is happening. These women have been diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer and are quite concerned that Herceptin is not available for them.  Another couple of problems exist as well. The tumor cells of some women have a resistance to Herceptin. And for some, Herceptin is too hard on their heart and/or lungs. So it is for these women that I am sharing this information.

The study I read was released in 2012 and its title is “The Potential Utility of Curcumin in the Treatment of HER-2-Overexpressed Breast Cancer: An In Vitro and In Vivo Comparison Study with Herceptin” [1].

As denoted by the title, the study was both an in vitro (test tube) study and in vivo (in body – with animals) study done with various lines of breast cancer cells and on mice. I believe the results are very interesting and are certainly worth considering, especially in view of the fact that not everyone has access to the drug Herceptin, some are resistant and some are just not able to tolerate it. These people need Herceptin alternatives.

The Research

Researchers wanted to gain some insight about what worked best for tumors that overexpress the HER2 oncoprotein. So they divided up various lines of breast cancer cells (listed below) in test tubes and also test animals into 8 different groups:

1. Those who received DMSO only
2. Those who received Herceptin only
3. Those who received curcumin only
4. Those who received a combination of Herceptin and curcumin
5. Those who received Taxol only
6. Those who received a combination of Taxol and Herceptin
7. Those who received a combination of Taxol and curcumin
8. Those who received a combination of Taxol, curcumin and Herceptin

The results revealed that curcumin reduced the cell viability of several different breast cancer cell lines, including MCF-7 (ER-positive, HER-2-negative), MDA-MB-231 (ER-negative, PR-negative, HER-2-negative – also known as triple negative), BT-474 (ER-positive, HER-2-positive), and SK-BR-3-hr (ER-negative, HER-2-positive but Herceptin-resistant) cells.

Herceptin Combined with Curcumin

Researchers found that when a low dose of Herceptin was used with curcumin, there was a synergistic effect, but when a high dose of Herceptin was used, there was an antagonistic effect, meaning that the combination didn’t work as well. So for someone having high doses of Herceptin, taking curcumin would most likely not provide an advantage.

In BT-474 cells (ER-positive, HER-2 positive), curcumin effectively decreased tumor size.

Also, researchers noted that curcumin had the ability to inhibit Herceptin-resistant breast cancer cells (SK-BR-3). This is of great importance to those who are HER2 positive but who are resistant to Herceptin. Researchers stated “The ability of curcumin to downregulate EGFR and HER-2 oncoproteins and inhibit the phosphorylation of Akt and MAPK and NF-kB activation suggests that curcumin has potential in the treatment of HER-2-overexpressed and/or herceptin-resistant breast cancer.”

In the animal study, curcumin treatment effectively reduced the tumor size by 76.7%, compared with the control; however, it was not as effective as Herceptin, which achieved an 86.7% tumor reduction.

Did you get that? Curcumin alone reduced tumor size by 76.7%. Yes, Herceptin did a better job, it reduced tumor size by 86.7% but Herceptin is also pretty hard on the body and curcumin is not.

Researchers also revealed that the combination of Herceptin and curcumin showed a greater antitumor effect than curcumin alone (87.5% versus 76.7% in tumor regression).

Interestingly, researchers anticipated the study to reveal that there would be a synergistic effect when combining Herceptin with curcumin, but in the animal study, combining Herceptin and curcumin was no better than Herceptin alone.

Taxol Combined With Curcumin

In the animal study, the combination of curcumin with Taxol had an antitumor effect comparable with combining Taxol and Herceptin, which is one of the current preferred chemotherapy regimens for those with HER2 positive breast cancer. The combination of Taxol, Herceptin and curcumin was associated with the smallest tumors, but was not “statistically different” from that of the Taxol and Herceptin regimen.

I take that last paragraph to mean that combining Taxol with curcumin is just as good as combining Taxol and Herceptin. That’s huge! And combining Taxol, Herceptin and curcumin provided the best results in the animal study.

In conclusion, I believe this study is significant. In people who do not tolerate Herceptin well or are unable to get this drug due to finances or geographical location, or for those whose tumor cells are Herceptin resistant, according to this study, the combination of Taxol and curcumin is just as good as combining Taxol and Herceptin.

For dosage advice of curcumin, see my article: Harvest The Power Of Curcumin To Kill Breast Cancer Cells.

References:
1. The Potential Utility of Curcumin in the Treatment of HER-2-Overexpressed Breast Cancer: An In Vitro and In Vivo Comparison Study with Herceptin – http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/486568/

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Essential Oil Research – Benefits Of Clove

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / artur84

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / artur84

Essential Oil Research – Benefits Of Clove

Continuing my series of articles about the benefits of essential oils, this week I’m focusing on the benefits of clove essential oil, a lovely, aromatic, exotic oil.

I have previously referenced the fascinating 2014 report titled Essential Oils and Their Constituents as Anticancer Agents: A Mechanistic View 1, but the information contained therein bears repeating.  As of February 2014, 135 research papers have been written about the anti-cancer properties of essential oils.  Of those 135 papers, 117 were written after 2005, which definitely indicates the increase of interest in essential oils.

Research indicates that clove is known to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, analgesic, antimutagenic, antigenotoxic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Only recently, however, has clove been studied for its anti-cancer potential.

Research on Clove Essential Oil and Breast Cancer

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum L.) is one of the oils that has been studied on actual breast cancer cell lines and found to be helpful.  A study reported in 2014 2 evaluated the cytotoxic activity of clove against MCF-7 breast cancer cells, which are invasive ductal carcinoma cells exhibiting both estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER+, PR+).  The study utilized several different extracts, including water, ethanol and essential oil.  The essential oil extract provided the highest cytotoxic (that means cell killing) activity against this particular cell line.  The researchers concluded that “Cloves are natural products with excellent cytotoxicity toward MCF-7 cells; thus, they are promising sources for the development of anticancer agents.”

A study reported in 2013 3 indicated that eugenol, the most prevalent phytochemical within clove, increased apoptosis (planned cell death, a good thing), decreased a protein coding gene known as E2F1 or survivin, inhibited cell proliferation, inhibited oncoproteins known to be highly expressed in breast cancer cells and tissues, and it did this both in vitro (in test tubes) and in vivo (in the body).  The really exciting part about this research study, however, was that they tested various breast cancer cell lines, including triple negative, and found that eugenol exhibited anti-cancer effects on both estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells. Eugenol was found not to be toxic to normal, healthy cells.

A 2012 study 4 indicated that eugenol not only had the ability to inhibit cell proliferation and promote apoptosis (both features which are lacking with cancer cells), it also exhibited the ability to inhibit estrogen, making it similar or even better than tamoxifen and its metabolites for inhibiting estrogen.  Did you get that?  A NATURAL ANTI-ESTROGEN AGENT!

Having said that, I always say that healing from breast cancer is about more than just blocking the body’s own estrogen, a hormone we need in our bodies. There are many other ways to heal from breast cancer than suppressing a hormone that does so much for our health. Find out what some of those things are via my free newsletters – you can sign up for them from any page on my site.

Other Studies on Clove’s Anti-Cancer Effects

Another 2014 study  5 indicated that clove “can be explored as a viable source of bioactives for the development of chemotherapeutic drugs against cancer in addition to acting as nutraceutical and functional food ingredient.” This study found that the phenols found in clove were anti-mutagenic and highly antioxidant, making clove a valuable chemotherapeutic agent (that means cancer preventative).

A Chinese study also reported in 2014 6 investigated the anti-tumor effects of clove on colon tumors, specifically an ethyl acetate extract of cloves (which the first study referenced at 2 below also utilized and found was inferior to the essential oil of clove). They also tested oleanolic acid, one of the constituents of clove, and found the ethyl acetate extract to be superior to oleanolic acid, as well as superior to the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil at suppressing growth of colon tumor xenografts. The study found clove inhibited tumor growth, promoted cell cycle arrest and apoptosis.

Exciting research, is it not?

Disclaimer:
I am not telling you to cure your breast cancer using essential oils. I would certainly not rely upon essential oils alone to do that job. But in combination with a holistic regimen of nutrition and other lifestyle changes, together with chemotherapy and radiation (should you choose to go that route) I believe that essential oils can be an extremely beneficial healing tool and chemopreventive aid.

You can read my other articles on essential oil research by clicking this link.

References:

1.  Essential Oils and Their Constituents as Anticancer Agents: A Mechanistic View –   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4070586/

2.  Anticancer Potential of Syzygium Aromaticum L. in MCF-7 Human Breast Cancer Cell Lines – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4166826/

3.  Eugenol Triggers Apoptosis in Breast Cancer Cells Through E2f1/Survivin Down-regulation – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931838/

4. Structure-based Design of Eugenol Analogs as Potential Estrogen Receptor Antagonists – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3488830/

5.  In Vitro Antimutagenic, Antioxidant Activities and Total Phenolics of Clove (Syzygium Aromaticum L.) Seed Extracts – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25015457

6.  Clove Extract Inhibits Tumor Growth and Promotes Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4132639/

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

Herceptin and HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – Is It Effective – Part Two

Image Source: rgbstock.com / Jana Koll
Image Source: rgbstock.com / Jana Koll

Herceptin and HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – Is It Effective – Part Two

Because I like to keep you updated with the latest information and research, this post is a follow up to my post “Herceptin and HER2 + Breast Cancer – Is It Effective?” dated 2/18/2014.  Since writing that post, I have read some newer research and I wanted to share this with you.

A Synopsis Of My Last Post…

In my February 2014 post I  referred to one study done in 2002 1 in which 114 women, all of whom had metastases to other parts of their bodies, were given only Herceptin to treat their HER2 positive breast cancer.  The researchers reported that seventeen (57%) out of thirty patients had an objective response (which means either a partial or complete response) and twenty-two (51%) out of forty-three patients had what was termed a clinical benefit, an informal term which generally means anything other than progression of disease.  These patients also did not experience progression of disease at the follow-up appointment scheduled 12 months later.  Loosely translated, this means that roughly fifty percent of women with metastatic, HER2 positive breast cancer, treated only with Herceptin, remained alive after twelve months.

An Update Of The HERA Trial

The other article I referenced which appeared on the National Cancer Institute website 2 in 2011 discussed the Herceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial, run by the Breast International Group beginning in 2001.  At the time of reporting the HERA trial was not complete.  We now have the final results of the HERA trial which was carried out for 8 years.

After finishing surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, 5102 women with HER2 positive breast cancer were randomly assigned to one of three groups.  In the first group 1703 patients received trastuzumab (Herceptin) every 3 weeks for 1 year, a second group of 1701 patients were treated with Herceptin for 2 years, and in the third group 1698 patients were merely observed and given no Herceptin.  After the initial results of the study were released in 2005 the observation group was offered the chance to be moved into one of the two groups receiving Herceptin.

One of the reasons the HERA trial was conducted was to decide how long Herceptin should be given to achieve the best, disease free survival.  In terms of percentages, 75.8% of women who took Herceptin for two years were still alive, and 76% of women who took Herceptin for one year were still alive.  So taking the drug for an additional year conferred no extra benefits.  As a result of this study, most oncologists recommend that Herceptin be taken for one year.

The Latest Research

In my previous article about the efficacy of Herceptin I didn’t give a very glowing report and indeed, the statistics weren’t all that impressive, at least not to my eyes.

Unfortunately we don’t have any research indicating what a good healthy diet and specific supplements would do for women with HER2 positive breast cancer, no one will be funding THAT study.

In the meantime I have had some newer research put in front of me by an interested reader, which study was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year.   This research study followed 406 node-negative (meaning cancer had not spread to their lymph nodes) women with stage 1, HER2 positive breast cancer. These women had tumors up to 3 cm in size and were treated with a combination of paclitaxel (Taxol) and Herceptin weekly for 12 weeks, followed by 9 months of Herceptin alone.  The 3 year survival rate was 98.7%, a much more impressive figure.

To see the full results of the trial, check out “Clinical practice-changing trials: the HERA study paradigm”4 below.  It’s a downloadable PDF file.  See especially Table 1 Efficacy Results Of The Herceptin Adjuvant Study With Different Follow-Up Times, page 3 of that document.  You can draw your own conclusions.

Word Of Caution

I’d like to insert a couple of things here, just a tiny word of precaution.  Take into account, please, that the research was supported by Genentech, the company that stands to gain the most by the research.  Also please note that in the 2015 research the women who took part in the study were considered stage 1, their tumors were small and the disease had not spread elsewhere in the body.  These are the women who have the best chance of survival anyway, their disease being caught early.

Another thing to consider is that both Taxol and Herceptin can be very hard on the heart.   Nine patients (true, a relatively small percentage, only 0.54%, but if you’re one of those women…) in the HERA trial who received Herceptin developed severe congestive heart failure.  Even the researchers in the 2015 study 3 stated “the decision to use trastuzumab and chemotherapy is influenced by the toxicity of the treatment regimen.”

This cardiotoxicity may or may not be reversible.  If you are considering going on this drug, it might be wise to consult a naturopath for correct dosages of cardio-protective supplements, such as CoQ10, garlic and grapeseed extract.

References:

1.  Efficacy and safety of trastuzumab as a single agent in first-line treatment of HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11821453

2.  Trastuzumab after Chemotherapy Is Effective in HER2-Positive Breast Cancer – http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/research/trastuzumab-after-chemo

3.  Adjuvant Paclitaxel and Trastuzumab for Node-Negative, HER2-Positive Breast Cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4313867/

4.  Clinical practice-changing trials: the HERA study paradigm — http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dimitrios_Zardavas2/publication/258057600_Clinical_practice-changing_trials_the_HERA_study_paradigm/links/53d64f740cf2a7fbb2ea9b1b.pdf

For some good dietary tips for HER2 positive breast cancer, see my article The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

The Best Diet Against Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Image Source: morgueFile / adicshun

Image Source: morgueFile / adicshun

The Best Diet Against Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Continuing my series of articles on dietary recommendations for particular types of breast cancer, this one is directed towards those who have been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.

What Exactly is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer ( or “IBC”) is a more unusual form of invasive breast cancer that affects the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast, causing the breast to become red and inflamed.

Where most breast cancers form a lump (known as the tumor) IBC spreads along and blocks the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast.  Lymphatic vessels are responsible for removing excess fluids and waste products from the body to help prevent infections.  When lymphatic vessels become blocked, the breast becomes red and swollen, similar to an infection.  This is what gives IBC its name.

Only about 1-2% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have IBC, so it’s reasonably rare and often misdiagnosed.  The majority of women diagnosed with IBC range in age between 40-59.

Diet and Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Because IBC tends to be a more rare form of breast cancer, few studies on people have investigated the effectiveness of a certain type of diet  for its beneficial effects on IBC.  Having said that, a few studies have demonstrated the impact of food extracts on IBC cells in the laboratory and those studies have indicated these three foods to have benefit for IBC patients:
Reishi mushrooms1
Pomegranate juice2
Green tea3

Despite the lack of studies on humans, it only makes sense that by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet you will be helping to heal IBC.  Cancer is inflammation, after all.  Prof Fran Balkwill of Cancer Research UK states “If genetic damage is the match that lights the fire, inflammation may provide the fuel that feeds the flames.”

Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Wherever possible, try to ensure that the items from the list below are organic, because if you are trying to heal from cancer you need to stay away from conventionally grown produce and meats as much as possible due to pesticide residues in produce and, in the case of meats, growth stimulators and antibiotics.  You really need to keep the toxin load at a minimum to give your body the best chance to heal. If you are unable to obtain organically grown produce, just make sure to wash it extremely well.  Soak produce in a tub or pail of fresh water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes, then rinse well.

Here’s the list of foods and spices (or their components) which have been found to decrease inflammation:

    • Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation;
    • Freshly ground flaxseed – for the same reason as above – the omega 3 fatty acids and flaxseed’s lignans with their uncanny ability to decrease the growth of breast cancer4;
    • Whole grains – in moderation.  Quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats, bulgur wheat are good.  Consuming whole grains can be helpful for keeping inflammation at bay.  Avoid refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.  Whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood, and they usually have less sugar;
    • Dark, leafy greens – full of vitamin E which is key for protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.  Spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, etc are great, they also tend to have higher concentrations of key vitamins and minerals and natural phytochemicals which fight disease than veggies with lighter-colored leaves;
    • Bell peppers contain high quantities of antioxidant vitamins.  Hot chilies are also useful – they are rich in capsaicin, a chemical used in topical creams that reduce pain and inflammation;
    • Beets and their juice (raw of course) have excellent antioxidant properties, vitamins, fiber and plant pigments which have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer;
    • Fresh basil and peppermint – full of antioxidants, highly anti-inflammatory;
    • Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties.  Studies have linked ginger to lowered post-exercise inflammation and a decrease in joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They aren’t sure why this happens, only that it is beneficial for inflammation;
    • Turmeric is potently anti-inflammatory.  Research indicates it is able to turn off a NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation;
    • Garlic shuts off the pathways that lead to inflammation in the body;
    • Onions contain quercetin and allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid;
    • Orange food – sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, apricots – all high in vitamins C and E and the carotenoids, alpha- and beta-carotene, which are potent anti-inflammatories;
    • Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal (it’s a phytochemical that gives olive oil its taste) and it has been shown to have a similar effect as NSAID painkillers in the body;
    • Coconut oil has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties 5;
    • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, etc) are a rich source of anthocyanins, powerful phytochemicals that give the berries their rich colors and are potent anti-inflammatories;
    • Raisins – eating raisins helps to reduce a marker of inflammation known as TNF-alpha;
    • Tart cherries – a 2012 study found that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.”6  The study indicated that tart cherry juice can reduce inflammation in the blood of lab rats by up to 50%.  In humans, tart cherries have been shown to help athletes improve performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain medications.  They contain high levels of anthocyanins 1 and 2.  A therapeutic dose is 1-1/2 cups of tart cherries per day – or 1 cup of tart cherry juice.  Sweet cherries don’t have the same effects;
    • Cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, kale and wasabi, because they are rich in sulfur, which helps your liver detox;
    • Vitamin D – research indicates that adequate levels of vitamin D are important for inhibiting the metastasis of IBC 7

This is not an exhaustive list – indeed, there are many other foods which are known to have anti-cancer benefits.   See my page Diet and Cancer for a list of other foods that have anti-cancer activity.

I recommend that breast cancer patients and survivors with IBC include as many as they can of the things on the “good” list above and limit or avoid the “please avoid” things that appear below.

Please Avoid These

No food list is complete without mentioning the things that should be avoided for inflammatory breast cancer because they have been shown to promote breast cancer growth. Those things are:

White and other highly processed breads, cereals, white rice, pasta, sugar in all its forms, most fruit (because of the fruit sugars), most dairy products, alcohol, cigarette smoking.

A Warning About Copper

According to the website foodforbreastcancer.com, “Circulating copper levels have been shown to correlate with tumor incidence and burden. Inducing copper deficiency reduced tumor growth and angiogenesis in a mouse model of IBC.”  It was recommended to avoid the following high-copper foods:

Calf’s liver or veal liver
Beef liver
Shellfish, especially oysters & lobster
Sesame seeds
Soybean products made with defatted soy flour, soybeans
Chocolate, dark & cocoa powder
Nuts, especially cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachio nuts
Calamari
Cooked shiitake mushrooms
Sunflower seeds & pumpkin seeds
Sun dried tomatoes
Lentils

Special note: kale also contains plenty of copper but the good benefits of kale – its detoxification and anti-cancer properties – I feel outweigh the copper concern.  If you were worried about it, you could take an antacid after eating kale or the foods listed above because the stomach requires an acid environment to properly absorb copper. Antacids interfere with this absorption.

Essential Oils May Play a Role In Anti-Inflammatory Process

One last item – there are also quite a number of essential oils which research has indicated may be helpful for inflammatory conditions. Nearly every single essential oil has anti-inflammatory benefits. I have been writing articles about essential oils for The Truth About Cancer website, so head on over there and put “essential oils” into the search field.

Thanks in part to http://foodforbreastcancer.com/ for some of the dietary recommendations in this article.  Written by Sarah Charles, also a breast cancer survivor and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.

Research:

1.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23468988

2.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23065001

3.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24039951

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24869971

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645831

6. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/researchers-say-tart-cherries-have-the-highest-anti-inflammatory-content-of-any-food-155672215.html

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22610818

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16987032

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer

Image source: rgbstock / AI71
Image source: rgbstock / AI71

The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer

Continuing my series of articles on dietary recommendations for particular types of breast cancer, this one is for those of you who have been diagnosed with HER2 Positive (HER2+) breast cancer.

What Exactly is HER2 Positive Breast Cancer?

HER2 positive refers to a type of breast cancer that overexpresses the HER2/neu gene. About 15-20% of breast cancers are HER2+, meaning the cancer is fueled by over-production of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 protein.  HER2+ breast cancers contain excess copies of this gene, leading to dramatically more HER2 protein on the surface of cancer cells.  Because of this protein, which produces signals that tell the cells to grow, they do so out of control, causing this form of breast cancer.

Many women are told that a HER2+ diagnosis is associated with a significantly higher chance of local breast cancer recurrence (that means the cancer often returns in the same breast as the original tumor). Before the late 1990s, women with HER2+ breast cancer had poorer survival rates. Today, however, because of targeted therapies like Herceptin, this is no longer the case and it is a much more treatable disease.  Herceptin works by attaching to HER2 receptors on cancer cells, blocking signals that cause growth, and alerting the immune system to destroy the cancer.

Can Diet Make A Difference?

Please know that there are plenty of things you can eat and supplements you can take which will make a big difference for you and will assist your return to wellness.

Research shows that there are some foods and spices that are especially potent in inhibiting HER2+ breast cancer cell growth and proliferation and in promoting the process known as apoptosis (programmed cell death).  In addition, some foods have been found to amplify the effects of Herceptin.

Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have HER2+ Breast Cancer

Wherever possible, try to ensure that the items from the list below are organic, because if you are trying to heal from cancer you need to stay away from conventionally grown produce and meats as much as possible due to the pesticide and herbicide residues.  You really need to keep the toxin load at a minimum to give your body a better chance to heal. If you are unable to obtain organically grown produce, just make sure to wash – wash – wash it extremely well.  Soak produce in a tub or pail of fresh water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes, then rinse well.

Here’s the list of foods and spices (or their components) which have been found to inhibit the growth or proliferation of HER2+ breast cancer cells. Many of these things also help to counteract the toxicity of Herceptin:

bell peppers (capsicum), black pepper, blueberries, red cabbage, green cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy/Chinese cabbage, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, purple carrots, cherries (particularly sour cherries), celery, cranberries, red grapes, green tea, horseradish, herring, hot peppers, lake trout, mackerel, mustard and mustard greens, extra virgin olive oil, red onions, parsley, pomegranates, raspberries, black rice, wild caught salmon, sardines, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips and turnip greens, walnuts, watercress.

This is not an exhaustive list – indeed, there are many other foods which are known to have anti-cancer benefits – but this is the list that we have research for which indicates a potent anti-HER2+ activity. See my page Diet and Cancer for a list of other foods that have anti-cancer activity.

I recommend that breast cancer patients and survivors with HER2+ breast cancer include as many of the things on the “good” list above and limit or avoid the “please avoid” things that appear below.

Please Avoid These

No food list is complete without mentioning the things that should be avoided for HER2+ breast cancer because they have been shown to promote HER2+ breast cancer growth or increase HER2+ expression. Those things are: alcohol, antioxidant vitamins (this may be contentious – early research has shown that antioxidant vitamins could potentially enable early-stage HER2+ tumor cells to survive when they otherwise would die.  I believe further research is necessary to get a better answer on this), folic acid supplements, genistein supplements, grapefruit, the Chinese herb ligusticum chuanxiong, milk thistle or silymarin supplements, the Chinese herb Si-Wu-Tang (may interfere with the effectiveness of Herceptin), soy protein isolate, cigarette smoking.

Foods That Assist the Effects of Herceptin

The following foods have been found to assist the effects of Herceptin against HER2+ breast cancer:

açaí berries, blackberries, boysenberries, cherries (particularly sour or tart), blackcurrants, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts etc), flaxseed, green tea, extra virgin olive oil, passion fruit, purple or red plums, pomegranates, black raspberries, black or purple rice, strawberries, purple sweet potatoes, walnuts

One last item – there are also quite a number of essential oils and other supplements which research has indicated are helpful against breast cancer, and if you would like to know more about which ones to use, contact me.

Thanks for some of the dietary recommendations in this article goes out to http://foodforbreastcancer.com/ – written by Sarah Charles, also a breast cancer survivor and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

The Best Diet For Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Image Source: Freedigitalphotos.net / Rakratchada Torsap
Image Source: Freedigitalphotos.net / Rakratchada Torsap

The Best Diet For Triple Negative Breast Cancer

As a follow-up to last week’s article The Best Diet For Hormone Receptor Positive Breast Cancers, this one is all about the best food for someone who has or is healing from triple negative breast cancer.

Doctors often tell us that triple negative breast cancer is harder to overcome because the usual hormonal therapies don’t work for this form of breast cancer. Don’t let that worry you though – there are plenty of things you can eat and supplements you can take which will greatly help your return to wellness.

What Does Triple Negative Breast Cancer Mean?

If the term “triple negative” is unfamiliar to you, it refers to the fact that this type of breast cancer has no hormone receptors on the surface of the cells, meaning it is not fueled by hormones. It is estrogen receptor negative (ER-), progesterone receptor negative (PR-), and it does not overexpress HER2, three of the things your pathologist will be looking for when a tumor has been removed and is examined to see what therapies should be recommended. It is often referred to as “TNBC”.

Does Food Actually Make A Difference?

Yes it does.  A recent small study done on 354 women with TNBC found “that dietary modulations and/or micronutrient supplementations may prevent or reverse TNBC phenotype, so tumors can be treated with less toxic therapeutic strategies, particularly in genetically susceptible women.” 1

In another study reported in 2013, scientists found that “omega-3 and its metabolites undermine proliferation in all cell lines. However, they were dramatically more effective in inhibiting proliferation in the triple-negative cell lines.” 2

Blueberries have specifically been researched for their effects on TNBC at the City of Hope cancer center in California, check out my article:  Interesting City of Hope Research On Blueberries And Triple Negative Breast Cancer .

Another article you might find interesting, written by Jennifer Griffin, sharing her story of how she beat TNBC:  How I Kicked Triple Negative Breast Cancer .

Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Wherever possible, try to ensure that the items from the list below are organic, because if you are trying to heal from cancer you need to stay away from conventionally grown produce and meats as much as possible due to the pesticide and herbicide residues. You really need to keep the toxin load at a minimum to give your body a better chance to heal.  If you are unable to obtain organically grown produce, just make sure to wash – wash – wash it extremely well.  Soak produce in a tub or pail of fresh water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes, then rinse well.

Here’s the list:

Apples, arugula, bell peppers, black pepper, blackberries, blueberries, bok choy, blackcurrants, boysenberries, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries (both sweet and sour), coconut oil, collard greens, cranberries (not the sugared dried ones), cucumbers, flaxseed (freshly ground is best), garlic, ginger, grapes (red are best), green tea, hemp, herring, honey (minimally processed), horseradish, hot peppers, kale, lake trout, leeks, lettuce – romaine, mackerel, mangoes, mustard & mustard greens, omega-3 fats, onions, parsley, peas, pomegranate juice, pumpkin, raspberries, reishi mushrooms, saffron, salmon (wild), sardines, seaweed, spinach, squash, tomatoes, turmeric, tuna, turnips, turnip greens, walnuts, watercress, watermelon, zucchini.

One more thing you might find helpful – the supplement MSM has been found to be useful for TNBC.  See my article:  South Korean Study On MSM Indicates Potent Anti-Breast Cancer Activity (the research  specifically mentions TNBC).

There are also quite a number of essential oils that research has indicated are helpful as well, if you would like to know more about which ones to use, contact me.

For information on the food that should be avoided, as well as a list of supplements and nutrients that support a healthy body and should be included in your health regime, see my page Diet and Cancer.

A big thank you for part of the food list goes out to http://foodforbreastcancer.com/ – written by Sarah Charles, herself a breast cancer survivor, and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.

References:

1. Combined genetic and nutritional risk models of triple negative breast cancer:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25023197

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Slow Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259069.php

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

How To Cope With DCIS

Image Source: Google Images

Image Source: Google Images

How To Cope With DCIS

Because of the fact that there has been so much controversy lately about overtreatment of DCIS, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the things that you can do after a DCIS diagnosis, and some good ways to cope with DCIS.

What Is DCIS?

DCIS stands for “ductal carcinoma in situ” and it means that there are too many cells and while they have the features of cancer, they are confined to the inside of the milk duct of the breast.  For more information about the different kinds of breast cancer, including DCIS, please see my article The Difference Between DCIS, LCIS, ILC, IBC, Paget’s Disease & Phyllodes Tumors.

Essentially, however, a DCIS diagnosis is a good thing.  It is the earliest stage of breast cancer, considered stage 0, and not invasive.  Some doctors treat it aggressively, with surgery (sometimes even mastectomy), chemotherapy and radiation, while others take a “wait and see” approach because it grows so slowly.  Most DCIS is discovered by mammogram, because it is usually undetectable by palpation.

Grading of DCIS

During a biopsy, when cells from your breast are removed for closer inspection, they are graded to help your physician determine the best course of treatment for you.  There are three grades of DCIS:

1.  Low or grade I – these look very similar to normal cells;

2.  Moderate or grade II – these cells grow faster than, and look less like, normal cells.

3.  High or grade III – these cells tend to grow more quickly and look much different from healthy breast cells.

Within the low-moderate grades, there are four further subclassifications:

Cribriform DCIS:  Gaps exist between cancer cells in the affected breast ducts, the pattern looks like little holes and slits.

Comedo Type DCIS: This type can be slightly more aggressive than other forms of DCIS.  The cells look and behave closer to invasive breast cancer cells. Comedo cells also look different under the microscope – the center of the duct is plugged with dead cellular debris known as necrosis.  Also, microcalcifications (small calcium deposits) are frequently seen in the areas of necrosis.

Micropapillary and papillary:  These two types have little fern-like projections of cells into the center of the duct. The micropapillary type projections are smaller than the papillary type.

How To Cope With a DCIS Diagnosis

The first thing is, don’t panic.  DCIS is not life threatening and you are in a very good position to manage this using a very natural approach.  Here are the things that I would recommend for you:

Step 1.  Build Up Your Immune System – Since we rely upon our immune system to be our first line of defense against disease and cancer, making it as strong as it can be is the most important step toward wellness.  See my page 8 Ways to Build a Super Strong Immune System.

Step 2. Get the Toxic Chemicals Out Of Your Life – Please immediately stop using grocery store body products and household cleaners.  They are full of hormone disrupting chemicals and these are putting us at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Become a label reader and an empowered consumer.  Let me know if you need help with products or resources to find out whether the ones you are using are safe.

Step 3.  Know Which Supplements Make The Biggest Difference To Your Daily Health – There are many research-backed supplements that will make a big difference to your breast health (and indeed your overall health). See my “must-have” list of supplements.

Step 4.  Get Your Estrogen Levels Checked – Most doctors don’t do this, but I believe that before we are prescribed hormone blocking drugs, we should be in possession of all the facts.  We might not even need them!  Read this article to decide which test is best for you:  http://www.townsendletter.com/Jan2014/hormone0114.html

Step 5.  Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked – Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to breast cancer.  The test to ask for is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.  If you are low, take vitamin D3. The best, most therapeutic dose is 5,000 iu per day.

Step 6.  Get Your Thyroid Checked – There is almost always an issue with the thyroid after breast cancer treatments end, and sometimes even before diagnosis, so as long as you’re in the doctor’s office getting your vitamin D levels checked for step 5, get your thyroid checked out as well.

Step 7.  Eat Plenty of Super Foods Daily – Please include several servings of super foods daily, see my page Diet and Cancer for some ideas.  Know which foods help you and which ones don’t.  How important is the role of nutrition?  Every bite of food is either feeding cancer or starving it.  I’m not saying you can never enjoy a piece of chocolate cake again, but know which foods will help you counteract the “naughty days” and strive to do the right thing most of the time.

Step 8.  Exercise Daily – Or at least 5 times per week. Make sure to incorporate at least 30 minutes of walking, dancing, running, yoga, Pilates, cycling – whatever your passion, move your body!  It reduces your recurrence risk by a huge degree, especially when combined with Step 7 (and we have research to back that up).

Step 9.  Keep Stress Out Of Your Life – Whether you choose meditation, counseling, massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, keep those toxic stress levels away for good.  Most women tell me that in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis, poorly managed stress was the key factor that they feel undermined their immune system and let cancer in the door.  Keeping stress away and dealing with toxic emotions is truly important.

Step 10.  Get Good Quality Sleep – If you don’t have it, take steps to repair it, sleep is that important. See my article Want to Sleep Better?

Step 11. Cleanse Your Bowel and Liver Regularly – It is good to do this every 6 months or so.  Please don’t ignore this step, it’s key for keeping you healthy.  There are many ways to do this. If you require help, work with me, with your naturopath or integrative oncologist.

As you can see, this is a sensible and holistic approach.  If you would like more tips from me, sign up for my free e-books and newsletters on the right side of this page, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

References:

http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/dcis/diagnosis

http://erc.endocrinology-journals.org/content/8/1/33.full.pdf

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dcis/basics/symptoms/con-20031842

http://www.dcis.info/biopsy-examination.html

Oh and that controversy I was talking about – overdiagnosis and overtreatment of DCIS?  Read this article on the Breast Cancer Action website.

Herceptin and HER2 + Breast Cancer – Is It Effective?

 

Artwork courtesy of rgbstock.com / ba1969
Image Source: rgbstock.com / ba1969

Herceptin and HER2 + Breast Cancer – Is It Effective?

I have had a couple of questions about HER2 positive (“HER2 +”) breast cancer and the drug known as Herceptin, or trastuzumab, and its effectiveness.  I did a bunch of research, here’s what I found out.

HER stands for human epidermal growth factor, and it is a protein that can affect the growth of some breast cancer cells.  It is actually found on the surface of healthy breast cells — in a healthy breast there will be approximately 20,000 HER2 receptors, but when the cells are creating too many copies of this protein, known as overexpression, which occurs in approximately 25% of patients, there can be over 2 million receptors and that’s important because overexpression of the HER2 protein, as well as amplification of the HER2 gene, have been associated with impaired prognosis in patients with both early and advanced breast cancer.

How HER2 + Breast Cancer Is Different

In the late 1990’s researchers and doctors, being faced with an aggressive form of breast cancer that did not respond as well to the usual chemotherapeutic drugs, observed that for some breast cancer patients, overexpression of a particular gene known as HER2 meant that that patient often had a more aggressive form of breast cancer.

The HER2 gene makes a protein which creates a receptor that sits on the outside of a cell.  HER2 receptors act like antennae on the surface of cells and they receive signals that stimulate the cell to grow and multiply.   Breast cancer cells with too many HER2 receptors receive too many growth signals and thus start growing and multiplying too quickly.  Left untreated, this form of breast cancer can progress rapidly.

How Herceptin Works

Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody, or MAB, made by Genentech BioOncology.  MABs are a type of biological therapy made in a laboratory.  Monoclonal just means all one type.  MABs are designed to recognize and attach to specific proteins on the surface of cells.  Each MAB recognizes one very particular protein, in this case, the HER2 receptor.

Once Herceptin attaches itself to the HER2 receptor on the outside surface of breast cancer cells, it blocks them from receiving growth signals and flags it for destruction by the immune system.  It also blocks HER2 signalling within the cell, thus slowing or stopping the growth of the breast cancer.   According to Genentech BioOncology, the drug can also increase the effectiveness of other chemotherapeutic agents and it is designed to be used in combination with other chemotherapeutic drugs.

Is Herceptin Effective?

That’s a good question.  I will share the results of two studies I found: Efficacy and Safety of Herceptin (Humanized Anti-HER2 Antibody) As A Single Agent In 222 Women With HER2 Overexpression Who Relapsed Following Chemotherapy For Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Click that link to view the full PDF article.  You can print it out and take it to your doctor to explain the medical jargon.  If I read this correctly, the women in the study had metastatic breast cancer (meaning the cancer had already moved to other parts of the body) and so the results won’t be as good as for patients whose disease was caught at an earlier stage.  In this study, “57% of the responding patients were known to be free of disease progression at 12 months or more of follow-up.”  You can draw your own conclusions from that.

The second article appeared on the National Cancer Institute website:  Trastuzumab after Chemotherapy Is Effective in HER2-Positive Breast Cancer which discusses the Herceptin Adjuvant (HERA) trial reported in Lancet Oncology on February 25, 2011.   In this Italian study, 1,703 women received one year of adjuvant therapy with Herceptin (trastuzumab) while another 1,698 women were placed in an observation group.  Four years later, 79% of women in the Herceptin group were disease-free, compared with 72%  in the observation group.

The Down Side

Am I crazy or is that only a difference of 7%?  Not exactly huge, is it?  Especially considering that a one year course of Herceptin treatment costs about $70,000 in the United States, and that it comes with a long list of side effects, which include flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, infusion reactions, diarrhea, infections, increased cough, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, rash, low white and red blood cells, muscle pain and, in 5-30% of patients, heart damage, especially when combined with the chemo drug Adriamycin.

2015 Update: I have written a follow-up to this post:  Herceptin and HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – Is It Effective – Part Two.

References:

Slamon DJ, Clark GM, Wong SG, et al. Human breast cancer: correlation of relapse and survival with amplification of the HER-2/neu oncogene. Science. 1987; 235:177-182.

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/targeted_therapies/herceptin/how_works

Cobleigh MA, Vogel CL, Tripathy NJ, et al. Efficacy and safety of Herceptin (humanized anti-HER2 antibody) as a single agent in 222 women with HER2 overexpression who relapsed following chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. Program and abstracts of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 34th Annual Meeting; May 16-19, 1998; Los Angeles, California. Abstract 376

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 and e-book on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

The Latest On Breast Cancer Stem Cells

 

Photo courtesy of Photokanok / freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy of Photokanok / freedigitalphotos.net

The Latest On Breast Cancer Stem Cells

So what are breast cancer stem cells?

They are a specific group of stem cells, which are undifferentiated biological cells capable of creating more cells of the same type, ad infinitum, and from which certain other kinds of cells arise by differentiation.

Breast cancer stem cells were first discovered in 2003 by scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. UM scientists found that just a few breast cancer stem cells were responsible for the growth and spread of breast cancer.  They also found that unless the cancer stem cells could be destroyed, a tumor would be more likely to return and spread malignant cells to other parts of the body, a process called metastasis.

Conventional Therapies For Advanced Breast Cancer Targets The Wrong Cells

Because cancer stem cells are resistant to traditional chemotherapy and radiation, new treatments are needed that can be targeted directly at these stem cells, thus the ongoing research.  UM scientists believe that conventional therapies for advanced breast cancer have limited effectiveness because they are targeting the wrong cells. These therapies were designed to shrink cancers by killing all the rapidly growing cells in a tumor.  The scientists at UM believe that therapies could be more effective and cause fewer side effects if they were aimed specifically at cancer stem cells.  Here is a short 36-second video with Dr Max Wicha from UM explaining a little about breast cancer stem cells.  There are other, longer videos available on You Tube to view should you wish to know more.

In this study: Cancer Stem Cell Markers Are Enriched In Normal Tissue Adjacent To Triple Negative Breast Cancer And Inversely Correlated With DNA Repair Deficiency, published in September 2013, researchers discovered that women with triple-negative breast cancer have more stem cells present in their normal breast tissue than women with other types of cancer.  The scientists felt that “the presence of stem cells may be an important predictive marker for the risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer.”  They stated further studies are needed to determine a causal relationship between stem cells and the breast cancer incidence.

Additionally, the study that I linked to above noted that a small percentage of women with triple-negative breast cancer also had faulty DNA-repair pathways, and put that figure at about one in 9 of women with TNBC.

So What Do We Do With This Information?

First of all, don’t worry about it.  I have only written about this because a few of my readers have asked about breast cancer stem cells. 

If you follow the advice I give in my Diet and Cancer page, you will be well-protected.  Specifically, see my entries about breast cancer stem cells in “broccoli” and “turmeric”.  Keep a strong immune system (for more advice about that see my page 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System), keep your stress levels down (Yes, take that vacation!  You need it!) and follow my advice in my newsletters and e-books.  If you are doing all these things, you are miles ahead.

References:

http://www.mcancer.org/research/stem-cells/breast

http://breast-cancer-research.com/content/15/5/R77

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, and/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. 

You Woke With A Red, Hot, Swollen Breast?

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Marin

You Woke With A Red, Hot, Swollen Breast?

If you have awoken with a red, hot, swollen breast, get yourself to your doctor without delay.  Without wishing to alarm you, this could be a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer (“IBC”), which is very unlike other forms of breast cancer where a specific lump can be felt.  It could also be a simple breast infection, but after you have read this article, hopefully you will know the difference.

Symptoms of IBC

This list of symptoms comes directly from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation (more appears about them below) and may include one or more of the following:

  • The breast may appear to be discolored – red, purple, pink or bruised in appearance
  • The breast may have a dimpled skin texture, like that of an orange peel
  • The breast may feel warm or hot to the touch
  • The breast may be tender, enlarged or fairly firm
  • The nipple may be flattened or retracted or mis-shapen, the skin of nipple could also be swollen or crusted, and there may be a change of color of the skin around the nipple (the areola)
  • There may be shooting pains or a sort of stabbing pain within the affected breast
  • The breast may be itchy and you can’t relieve it with creams or salves
  • There may be thickened areas of breast tissue
  • There might be a hardened area in the breast which feels more like a pencil lead than a lump
  • Lymph nodes under the arm may be enlarged, as well as above and/or below the collarbone

Complicating Factors…

The biggest problem with IBC is that it can be elusive to diagnose.  You can’t see IBC on a mammogram, and many physicians are not trained to deal with it or even recognize it.

For quite some time, it has been considered a particularly bad form of breast cancer – mainly because of delays in diagnosis, lack of expertise of physicians, and its resistance to the standard chemotherapy drugs used for other forms of breast cancer.

Don’t panic though – I am increasingly coming into contact with women who are long term survivors of IBC, so get yourself educated about it.  There are lots of things you can do to heal from IBC.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation – An Excellent Resource

Fortunately, there is a fantastic resource for anyone who has IBC or wants to know more about it.  The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation came together in 2006 to address the growing need to inform physicians and patients about this particular form of breast cancer, because it is so very different.  Here is a link to their excellent website.

There are also some excellent You Tube videos put together by Dr Naoto Ueno, Executive Director of the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Dr Ueno is also a Medical Advisor to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation:

Learn Inflammatory Breast Cancer From the Expert, Part 1

Learn Inflammatory Breast Cancer From The Expert, Part 2

Learn Inflammatory Breast Cancer From The Expert, Part 3

You might also like to know that diet makes a difference in this sort of breast cancer – see my article  The Best Diet Against Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

I sincerely hope that this information helps you and if I can assist you further, please contact me.

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 and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

South Korean Study on MSM Indicates Potent Anti-Breast Cancer Activity

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Renjith Krishnan
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Renjith Krishnan

South Korean Study on MSM Indicates Potent Anti-Breast Cancer Activity

Recently one of my newsletter subscribers asked me about MSM – or methylsulfonylmethane – which is an organic, sulfur-containing, natural compound found in many foods.  She was wondering whether it had any value as an anti-breast cancer supplement and while I hadn’t heard of it specifically being used for breast cancer, I knew it had many healing properties so I did some digging and found a relatively new (April 2012) research study done in South Korea which showed some surprising and inspiring results.

The study, Methylsulfonylmethane Suppresses Breast Cancer Growth by Down-Regulating STAT3 and STAT5b Pathways appears on the Public Library of Science website and its authors are Lim E, Hong D, Park J, Joung Y, Darvin P, Kim S, Na Y, Hwang T, Ye S, Moon E, Cho B, Do Park K, Lee H, Park T, Yang Y (2012). 

If you don’t wish to read the entire study, make sure you read the Abstract (in the first paragraph – link above).  MSM decreased the viability of ALL types of breast cancer, including triple negative breast cancer cells, which is (according to some oncologists) a difficult-to-treat form of breast cancer because it does not respond to hormonal therapies.  This does not mean that it can’t be treated, however!

MSM Shown To Decrease Viability of Human Breast Cancer Cells

The scientists involved in the study were able to demonstrate that MSM substantially decreased the viability of human breast cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner – the higher the dose, the more benefits – and it did this in just 30 days.

So why is there no celebrating being done via news articles and press releases?  Probably because MSM is easily attainable and no drug companies are going to benefit hugely from this information.  It’s left up to health advocates to unbury the information and share it with you.

Sulfur’s Importance In The Body

Sulfur is the most abundant mineral in the human body, it comprises more than one quarter of a person’s body weight, but interestingly, it is not stored in the body.  You have to get it through your diet. 

Sulfur belongs in the same chemical family as oxygen, it is a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier, it binds and assists in the removal of heavy metals from the body, among many other important functions.  Half of the sulfur in your body is found in skin, muscles, and bones and it is a super-important component of joint cartilage and keratin (found in hair and skin).

Sulfur is found in raw milk (not pasteurized milk), meat, fish, fruits, vegetables (the best source being garlic and onions) and grains.  People who eat a lot of processed foods do not have sufficient quantities of sulfur in their diet – processed foods are notoriously deficient.  So you can understand that a deficiency of sulfur could lead to a range of degenerative diseases. Will you get enough MSM through the diet to help treat breast cancer?  Most likely not. 

Daily dosing for breast cancer, approximated from the study, could be from 2,000 mg to 10,000 mg, but human studies are needed to determine optimal dosing.

MSM is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and if you know anything about cancer, you know that inflammation is involved in the process.  MSM is easily obtainable in health food stores.  If you aren’t sure whether or not you need it, or  how much to take, please see a naturopath.

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 and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

New Research Indicates Exercise Not Protective Against Non-Invasive Breast Cancer

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Vlado
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Vlado

New Research Indicates Exercise Not Protective Against Non-Invasive Breast Cancer

Researchers from 10 European countries published a study in the ‘Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention‘ journal which examined the association between physical activity and in situ, non-invasive breast cancer. 

The European researchers examined whether physical activity might have a protective effect against non-invasive breast cancer.  The study was a large one, it followed 283,927 women, 1,059 of whom had non-invasive breast cancer, and concluded that physical activity had no such protective effect.  Even the researchers were surprised at this finding, they clearly didn’t expect it.

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011 230,480 American women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and an estimated 57,650 women were diagnosed with non-invasive “in situ” carcinoma.  Of these cases, about 85% will be ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), meaning the abnormal cells are contained within the milk ducts, and approximately 15% are lobular carcinoma in situ.

Controversy Over DCIS and Over-Treatment

To get slightly off the topic of exercise, I’d like to explain that “in situ” breast cancer is the most frequent form of non-invasive breast cancer and is thought to be a risk factor or precursor for the development of invasive breast cancer.  There is much controversy, however, about this.  To my knowledge, there is no available data on DCIS that is left untreated, but I did locate a interesting review of autopsy records which showed that somewhere between 9%-15% of women have undetected DCIS at death (Welch, 1997). 

Which totally supports the idea that many diagnosed with DCIS will not have a problem with progression into invasive cancer.  The problem is that we do not know how to identify which ones will and which ones won’t yet.  How best to treat DCIS, and even whether to consider it cancer, remain controversial and many women have undergone invasive procedures and toxic therapies that they probably should not have been subjected to.  See my recent article Breast Cancer Action Webinar Discusses Screening Mammography and Breast Cancer Overdiagnosis for more information.

Exercise Does Have Benefits For Invasive Breast Cancer

Interestingly, previous studies have shown that exercise does have value and protective benefits against invasive breast cancer.

There are many studies which have discovered that physically active menopausal women have a decreased chance of developing invasive breast cancer compared to their not-so-active menopausal counterparts.

Even though, according to the European study discussed above, exercise does not necessarily confer protective benefits against developing non-invasive breast cancer, it still carries so many other positive benefits and I will continue to recommend regular exercise to women.

References:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-02/f-sf-pad022813.php

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23074288

Welch HG, Black WC. Using Autopsy Series To Estimate the Disease “Reservoir” for Ductal Carcinoma in Situ of the Breast: How Much More Breast Cancer Can We Find? Annals of Internal Medicine 1997; 127 (11) 1023-1028.

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).  It is my honor to help you through this.

T-DM1 Approved For Her2 Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and antpkr
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and antpkr

T-DM1 Approved For Her2 Breast Cancer
 
Further to my post of August 15, 2012, New Chemotherapy Drug for HER2 – Genentech’s T-DM1, I have an update for you.  The FDA has finally approved T-DM1, now known as the brand-name Kadcyla, for women with HER2+, metastatic breast cancer. The new therapy has been approved for use in patients who have already undergone unsuccessful treatment with a combination of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and a taxane. 
 
An Interesting Method of Delivery

Kadcyla is a conjugate – it combines the drug trastuzumab, better known by the brand name Herceptin, and a powerful chemotherapy drug called DM1.  The trastuzumab portion targets HER2+ cells, then the attached chemotherapeutic molecule – the DM1, which is too toxic to deliver directly into the patient’s bloodstream – is delivered and attacks the cancer cell.   T-DM1 has helped inspire a new generation of antibody + drug conjugates.

Study Results

FDA approval was based on a study known as EMILIA, in which patients with HER2+, metastatic breast cancer who had failed treatment with a combination of trastuzumab and taxane were randomized to ado-trastuzumab emtansine or conventional therapy with lapatinib and capecitabine (Xeloda).  The patients given ado-trastuzumab emtansine resulted in significant improvements in both progression-free survival (9.6 vs 6.4 months) and overall survival (30.9 vs 25.1 months). 

The Down-Side (Why Is There Always A Down-Side?)

This sounds like really great news, however, the drug is not without risk (what else is new?).  The FDA requires labeling on Kadcyla to warn of risks of liver toxicity, reductions in left ventricular ejection fraction for the heart, and death.  In addition, there is risk of severe birth defects, so a woman’s pregnancy status should be determined before starting treatment, the FDA said.  The most common side effects associated with the drug were nausea, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, thrombocytopenia, elevated liver enzymes, headache, and constipation.

As if all of that weren’t enough, the drug will cost $9,800 a month, or about $94,000 for a 9.5-month course of therapy.  Let’s hope it can keep people alive.

References:

http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/BreastCancer/35052

http://www.asco.org/ASCOv2/Meetings/Abstracts?&vmview=abst_detail_view&confID=114&abstractID=98675

http://chicago2012.asco.org/ASCODailyNews/LBA1.aspx

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.

Raw Vegetables Diet Shown To Protect Against Her 2 Positive Cancers

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Grant Cochrane
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Grant Cochrane

Raw Vegetables Diet Shown to Protect Against HER 2 Positive Cancers

I’m always on the lookout for good nutritional information for my readers with breast cancer, particularly for those in the HER 2 positive category because they are typically given such a dismal prognosis.  Today I’ve come across an interesting study done in Italy clear back in 2007.

The Italian Research Study

The Italian researchers hypothesized that various dietary factors associated with breast cancer risk might differentially influence the HER-2 status of the cancers that develop.  They followed 8,861 volunteer women and observed that four dietary patterns developed among these Italian women:

  1. Salad Vegetables, which was a high consumption of raw vegetables and olive oil;
  2. Prudent (interesting name, don’t you think?) which was mainly cooked vegetables, poultry and fish;
  3. Western, which was meat, potatoes, eggs and butter;
  4. Canteen, which was pasta, tomato sauce, wine

The researchers observed that the first diet, comprising mainly raw salad vegetables and olive oil, exhibited a protective effect against HER-2-positive cancers (Sant M, Allemani C, Sieri S, Krogh V, Menard S, Tagliabue E, et al. Salad vegetables dietary pattern protects against HER-2-positive breast cancer: a prospective Italian study. Int J Cancer. 2007;121(4):911-914).  Here’s a link to the study abstract.

The UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco, California) has also published a lengthy report titled Nutrition & Breast Cancer and they cite this same study in their report.  UCSF further advises “A lifelong commitment to a plant based diet may lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and may also reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer.  A plant based diet consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, and other plant protein sources.”

Besides all of this data, you just plain FEEL BETTER when you eat this way.  That’s your body telling you what it needs!

See my page “Diet and Cancer” for more information on exactly which vegetables and fruits confer the most protective effects.

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).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Stoonn

When my mother had breast cancer in 1996-98, I took her to see a naturopathic doctor, Dr Jacob Schor, here in Denver.  I am a subscriber of his very interesting newsletters and today’s newsletter was exciting enough to share with you because it discusses a study done on mice that shows flaxseed oil enhances the effect of Herceptin for those with HER2+ breast cancer.

Dr Schor admitted that he prefers to write about human trials and, indeed when he writes papers for publications such as Naturopathic Doctors News and Review and the Natural Medicine Journal, they prefer that he only write about recent human clinical trials.  But he says “…I printed out a paper this morning that describes a mouse study that I feel compelled to write about because the information, if it holds true in human trials, is so clinically relevant that it seems silly to wait until those studies are published.”

This research came out May 21, 2010 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology by Julie Mason and her colleagues at the University of Toronto and it examined the effects of flaxseed oil on select breast cancer cells and how it reacted to the chemotherapy drug Herceptin.

Both Dr Schor and I agree that flaxseed oil is not the best way to get the protective lectins that it provides – it’s much better to take flaxseed meal or, better yet, grind flaxseeds yourself and create the freshest, most bioavailable lectins in your own little coffee grinder.

The Exciting Study Results

The 2010 study looked at how flaxseed oil interacts with the drug Trastuzumab, better known as Herceptin.  Herceptin is the drug of choice to treat HER2 positive breast cancer.  As Dr Schor’s newsletter states, “anything that may help in treating this particular subgroup of women is of interest, even if the research was only done in mice.”  I agree.

For the study, Dr Mason implanted HER2+ human breast cancer cells in immune-deficient mice.  The mice were given flaxseed oil as part of their diet and various doses of Herceptin.  In the control group of mice who received neither oil nor drug, the tumors grew unchecked, some increasing in size by 187% over the four weeks the experiment lasted.

Herceptin was given at two different doses.  The tumors in the mice receiving the lower dose (2.5 mg/kg body weight) did not grow, staying the same size through the course of the study.  The higher dose of Herceptin (5mg/kg body weight) worked better than the low dose – the tumors decreased by 75%.  That’s remarkable enough, but read on.

The mice who received flaxseed oil did even better.  The tumors in the mice who got the drug at low doses but also received flaxseed oil regressed by 89%.  For mice receiving the high drug dose plus flaxseed oil, the tumors regressed 84%.  So for these mice, more drug was not necessarily better.

Dr Schor reports “Tumor sizes were tracked for several weeks after the drugs were stopped and the results got even more interesting.  The benefit seen in the low dose drug plus flax seed oil mice continued to increase even after stopping the drug so that two weeks after the drug was stopped the tumors in the low drug dose plus oil mice were 87% smaller than in the mice that only received the drug at low doses. They tied with the mice that had been given the drug in high doses.  The concerns often expressed by medical oncologists that the supplements prescribed by naturopathic doctors seem in this particular situation to be unfounded.  The study abstract reaching the conclusion: ‘Flax seed oil did not interfere with Trastuzumab but rather enhanced its tumor-reducing effects and combined flax seed oil and low dose Trastuzumab was as effective as high dose Trastuzumab treatment.’ “

Recommended Dosage

Dr Schor admitted that “translating dosing information obtained from mice to humans is never an easy task but if the data obtained in this study were to hold true in humans, adding flax seed oil to a patient’s regimen might enhance the effect of the chemo during the 12 weeks of 2 mg/kg dosing.”  He recommends dosing at 1-2 tablespoons per day for a person.

Now obviously we would much rather see the results of a human trial but since flaxseed meal (or oil) is so good for you anyway, there seems little reason to wait until such data has been published.

If you are HER2+ I’d say “Get it in you!”

Dr Schor’s contact details: Dr Jacob Schor, Denver Naturopathic Clinic, 1181 S Parker Road, Suite 101, Denver CO 80231, website: http://denvernaturopathic.com/

Reference:
Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 May 21. [Epub ahead of print]
Flaxseed oil-trastuzumab interaction in breast cancer.
Mason JK, Chen J, Thompson LU.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 150 College Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3E2, Canada.
Abstract
Flaxseed oil (FO), which is rich in n-3 fatty acid, is commonly consumed by breast cancer patients because of its potential anti-cancer effects. Trastuzumab (TRAS) is the primary drug for epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer. We investigated in athymic mice whether combining dietary FO (8%) with TRAS treatment (2.5 or 5mg/kg body weight) can cause better or adverse effect on established human breast tumors overexpressing HER2 (BT-474). Control tumors significantly grew 187%, TRAS2.5 treated tumors did not change, while TRAS5, FO+TRAS2.5 and FO+TRAS5 treated tumors significantly regressed 75%, 89% and 84%, respectively, after 4 weeks treatment. Two weeks after stopping TRAS treatment while continuing on same diet, tumor size in FO+TRAS2.5 group was 87% lower than in TRAS2.5 group and was not different from TRAS5 group with or without FO. Combined TRAS2.5 treatment with FO caused a significantly lower tumor cell proliferation and higher apoptosis compared to TRAS2.5 treatment alone and showed similar effect to TRAS5 treatment with or without FO. Hence, FO did not interfere with TRAS but rather enhanced its tumor-reducing effects and combined FO and low dose TRAS was as effective as high dose TRAS treatment. Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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.  

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