I Have Always Said Breast Cancer is Caused By More Than One Thing…


breast cancer cells

Breast Cancer Cells

After watching my mother and grandmother go through breast cancer, reading more than 80 books and countless research articles on the subject and then going through it myself, I have long felt that breast cancer is caused by more than one thing.

So I was really interested to read a recent article in the Huffington Post entitled “Breast Cancer is 10 Different Diseases Landmark Study Finds“.

Landmark British Study

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, Cancer Research UK, the University of Columbia, Canada and a number of other institutions worldwide. It was funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Columbia Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and published in the scientific journal “Nature”.

The study examined variations in DNA in nearly 2,000 breast tumors in what was the largest such study of breast cancer tissue in the world, the culmination of decades of work.

The Familiar 4 Subgroups of Breast Cancer

The researchers decided that the term “breast cancer” should be an umbrella term for what appeared to them to be at least 10 quite different diseases.  Up until now, breast cancer had been classified into four subgroups:

  1. Double positive cancers that had high levels of both estrogen and progesterone receptors on tumor cells
  2. Tumors that exhibit high levels of either ER or PR receptors
  3. Double negative cancers that had neither estrogen or progesterone receptors
  4. Tumors that exhibit high levels of HER2, a protein discovered in the 90’s that appears to drive breast cancer in some women

More Articles…

The Huffington Post article was rather disappointing to me because it did not list the other 6 new subgroups, leading me to search further afield.

Britain’s Daily Mail had the article as well and I got a few more tidbits of information:

  • because further research was required, it would be 3-5 years before women with breast cancer would start reaping the benefits of more targeted treatments
  • researchers were pleased because they were closer to their goal for women to receive tailor-made treatments specific to their particular type of breast cancer
  • researchers hoped to speed up the search for more targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer

The Daily Mail article said “The ‘exquisitely detailed’ analysis also revealed several new genes that drive the growth and spread of the disease. This opens the door for the development of drugs that counter their effects. Knowledge of the genetics of each type of the disease will also speed the development of drugs, allowing women to have treatments tailored to their tumor. A handful of such ‘wonder-drugs’, including Herceptin, are already in use.”

Still no mention of the other 6 subgroups.

Finally an Answer

I spent a few hours reading articles and finally found the very best one that described the 10 clusters or subgroups of breast cancer.  Click here to read this terrific article, written by Henry Scowcroft of scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org. It’s a long one, but worth reading.  Scroll down the page to the paragraph titled “The ten clusters”. There’s no point in my describing the other 6 subgroups of breast cancer when he’s done such a beautiful job of it.

I loved the fact that the researchers were making it a priority to focus on the links between the immune system and cancer, something I’ve felt for a long time should be a primary focus when treating breast cancer.

I would also like to see research being done relating to how stress plays a part in the development of breast cancer.  Nearly every single survivor I’ve spoken to has admitted to me that stress was a huge factor in their lives leading up to the discovery of their breast cancer.  It was the same for me.

So – we’ll have to wait awhile for the results of this study and it won’t help the women going through breast cancer right now, but certainly future generations will reap the benefits.

One other question comes to mind – while I’m grateful to Britain’s researchers for doing this kind of work I do wonder why it’s so frequently British and Australian researchers that are making great strides in breast cancer.  What the heck is going on in American research labs?


Increasing the resolution on breast cancer – the METABRIC study

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New Australian Research Aims To Block Tumor Spread in Breast Cancer

research labExciting New Australian Research Focuses on Blocking Tumor Spread in Breast Cancer

My Australian friends have shared with me some great new research being done by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in association with Monash Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne.

The research shows great potential – as cancer survivors the main anxiety we have is that after undergoing all that treatment they throw at us, at the end of it all we’re left wondering “Did they get it all?  Or will it come back?” Our key concern is the possibility that the cancer cells could spread somewhere else in our body (called metastasis).  That’s how I lost my mother and grandmother, so it was a very real concern to me.

Sneaky Cancer Cells

Dr Belinda Parker of the Metastasis Research Laboratory at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre says that they have discovered that the disease spreads secretly by switching off the interferon immune signalling and hiding in the blood stream.  They are “quite excited by this because therapies that are currently already available can be used to switch this immune signal back on, and we’ve found that that actually prevents the spread of cancer to bone.”

In more simple terms, cancer cells produce signals, the same signals that are produced when we have a bacterial or a viral infection.  Cells that lose these signals are the ones that can spread without detection by the immune system.

Interferon Therapy

Because there are already clinical therapies for hepatitis, HIV, and other cancers like melanoma that can switch the lost signals back on and get the immune system to react to cancer cells, the chances are good that they will be able to create an interferon therapy for breast cancer patients whose tumors exhibit a loss of immune signals.

Dr Parker has proven that interferon therapies effectively reactivate the immune signal in mouse models of breast cancer.

“If we can stop the first spread to bone, then it is possible that we could prevent subsequent metastases to the brain, lung and liver,” Dr Parker said.

In the future (and they aren’t saying when), the pathology tests that determine whether a breast cancer tumor is driven by hormones, what stage it is and what grade it is, et cetera, may also include information about whether this particular tumor has lost its immune signals and, if so, that patient would then be treated with the therapies that switch the signals back on.

Dr Helen Zorbas is the CEO of Cancer Australia and, when interviewed, said that understanding how cancer spreads through the body is like the Holy Grail of medicine, she was excited by the new research.

Holy Grail indeed.  Good work, Aussies!





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Ian Gawler Cites Surprising British Medical Journal Research About Breast Screening

Ian Gawler Cites Surprising British Medical Journal Research About Breast Screening

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and PinkBlue

Ian Gawler, one of my thought leaders, is a cancer survivor, author of many books on mind-body medicine (my favorite is “You Can Conquer Cancer“) and formed the Gawler Foundation in 1983.

Today on Ian Gawler’s blog, he cites some surprising research just released by the British Medical Journal that says, in effect, that we are being over-medicalized.   Now, that news is really NOT so surprising when you think about it – what’s surprising is that the eminent BMJ is admitting it.

Ian’s blog stated today “Research claims over half [of] breast cancers would amount to nothing if left untreated, and raises questions about breast screening.  Writing in the prestigious British Medical Journal, academics from Australia and Canada claim up to 54% of breast cancers detected in women in their 50’s by breast cancer screening would never have manifested clinically.”

Now isn’t THAT interesting?

Dr Gawler stated: “The article goes on to identify the phenomenon of over-medicalisation, saying healthy people are increasingly harmed by a barrage of unnecessary tests, procedures and drugs. The tendency to over-screen, over-diagnose and over-treat has become rampant in modern medicine, and poses a ‘significant threat to human health’.”

Arrive At Your Own Truth

As interesting as all of that is – and I will let you draw your own conclusions about it – my absolute favorite part of Dr Gawler’s blog puts into words exactly what I’ve been trying to impart to my readers about arriving at your own truth.  He says “Please do not believe what I say, just because I said it!”

That’s exactly the point I’m trying to make here – my focus is to provide you with information which will empower you to make your own decisions.  Don’t blindly follow any course of action just because someone says you must!  This is your journey, you have every right to choose the therapies that make sense for YOU.

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.

Portrait of a Breast Cancer Survivor – Artist’s Journey


Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Idea go

I was so inspired by this lovely story – a portrait of a breast cancer survivor named Victoria Behm, who is a NYC artist.  She was diagnosed at the age of 57 with the exact same kind of breast cancer I had.

She made an illustrated notebook of her nine-month journey through breast cancer treatment – see her whole story HERE, along with some of her amazing artwork.  I loved this story because it brought such an element of personal triumph over her breast cancer diagnosis.  I loved her artwork (some of it will make you laugh, especially slide 9) and I especially loved that she’s a survivor.

Enjoy the story and for those of you actively fighting this disease, remember the words of Winston Churchill:

If you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING“!!!!!!

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.  

About Cancer and Emotions: Regret Lowers Your Immunity


About Cancer and Emotions Regret Lowers Your Immunity

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and graur razvan ionut

About Cancer and Emotions: Regret Lowers Your Immunity

The Huffington Post today added to our knowledge base about cancer and emotions and how interrelated they are.

According to a study done by Montreal’s Concordia University, the distressing feelings that come with experiencing regret can have a negative impact on your immune system.

Not too surprising!  For myself, prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, I was all too aware that I was under a super-abundance of stress and not handling it well at all.  Negative emotions like worry, fear, unremitting anger, an inability to forgive someone – quite simply, they are all toxic.

Experienced for long enough they can depress your immune system, the very thing you need to keep disease at bay or overcome it.

What to do about it?  Well, quite simply you have to do what works for you.  According to livescience.com, if you are able to get in touch with your emotions (name them), you can tame them, according to new research that covers the benefits of meditation and may help to discover why meditation works.

“Brain scans show that putting negative emotions into words calms the brain’s emotion center. That could explain meditation’s purported emotional benefits, because people who meditate often label their negative emotions in an effort to ‘let them go.’  Psychologists have long believed that people who talk about their feelings have more control over them, but they don’t know why it works.”

So you must do what works for you, whether it be talking with your psychiatrist, your best friend, or spending some time in reflective meditation.  Don’t know how to meditate?  Want some help?  I’ve created a downloadable how-to-meditate course specifically for cancer patients.

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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