October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the breast cancer world there’s always a lot of talk about “finding the cure.” I don’t know that it’s possible to find a cure for any type of cancer. I think that addressing cancer has to consist of a two-pronged approach: 1) Focusing on the causes so we can effectively engage in prevention and 2) Finding better (i.e. more effective and less devastating) treatment options for those who already have it. I firmly believe that prevention is the best long-term solution for significantly reducing the incidence of breast cancer (or any other type of cancer for that matter) and developing better tools and technology for early detection are also critical. There are many things we can do to lower our risk of developing cancer, but at the end of the day, if we’re not so lucky, having a wider range or treatment options would make a difficult situation a whole lot better and improve our odds of survival.
Despite all of the support and funding for breast cancer research and the advances in treatment achieved over the past 20 years, women diagnosed with breast cancer today still have limited and often devastating options for treatment. Depending on the type of breast cancer and the stage that it’s diagnosed at, women basically have three options: surgery to remove part or all of the breast, chemotherapy, or radiation –or some combination of these.
If you or someone you know has suffered through breast cancer treatment, then you know how hard it is on both the body and the mind. But there is a glimmer of hope that more and better treatment options are on the horizon. A number of recently concluded studies reveal new treatments for breast cancer with promising results.
The first study, sponsored by Genentech, tested a new treatment that targets and kills breast cancer cells while leaving healthy cells undamaged. Nearly 1,000 women with advanced breast cancer took part in the study, and according to researchers, the treatment stopped the progression of breast cancer for several months. This form of highly targeted treatment also appears to improve survival rates. Compared to another group who were given standard cancer treatment drugs, 20 percent more of the women involved in this study were still alive after two years.
This new treatment, called the T-DM1, is being dubbed “smart bomb” by researchers. Researchers combined Herceptin (the first gene-targeted therapy for breast cancer) with a chemotherapy that is normally too toxic to give on its own and another chemical that keeps the two substances bonded together until they reach a cancer cell. Once the cancer-killing cocktail comes in contact with a cancer cell, it releases the toxin to kill just the cancer cell.
The researchers in this study are confident that this double weapon will not be as damaging to the body as current treatments for breast cancer. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an OB/Gyn and former medical correspondent for CBS News explains it like this: “Think of it like a heat-seeking missile with a nuclear warhead. So it travels around the body, does no damage until it meets the cancer, and then it deploys a massively toxic dose that wipes out [just] the cancer.”
While some of the women on T-DM1 showed signs of minor liver damage and low levels of blood clotting agents, most did not experience the usual problems of chemotherapy. The study’s leader, Dr. Kimberly Blackwell of Duke University added: “People don’t lose their hair, they don’t throw up. They don’t need nausea medicines, they don’t need transfusions.” You can view the ABC News story on this here.
Another study in England took a look at a more natural treatment approach for breast cancer. Scientists at Aston University in Birmingham and Russells Hall Hospital in Dudely examined the effects of a plant extract on cancer cells. The plant is called Virgin’s Mantle (Fagonia cretica) and it grows in the desert regions of Pakistan, India, Africa, and parts of Europe. It was chosen as the focus for this study because virgin’s mantle extracts are used to make medicinal tea in some of these places. In fact, a small hospital in Pakistan began using the herbal tea 40 years ago to treat breast cancer patients.
Though the treatment has long been regarded as folklore or placebo, the study found surprising results when the plant extract was combined with cancer cells in a lab. Tests showed that the extract stopped the growth of cancer cells within five hours and killed them off within twenty-four hours. Not surprisingly, women who take the tea report that there are no serious side effects –like those that result from conventional chemotherapy.
What causes the plant extract to be so effective? According to the researchers, the extract has a unique mechanism that can fix defects in the cell DNA that normally prevent tumor growth. When DNA is not properly functioning, cancer can flourish and even the effects of treatments such as chemo are less effective.
Researchers are quick to note that more research is needed to demonstrate if the plant extract is as effective at killing cancer in the body as it is in the lab and how it can be used to develop a new treatment drug.
Copyright 2009-2012 Dropwise Essentials
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.