Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have uncovered a specific molecular marker called Ki67, which increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer significantly if found in higher percentages.

Science Daily reported that women were five times more likely to get breast cancer when their levels of Ki67 were higher than normal.This particular molecular marker finds proliferating cells within the mammary ducts and milk-producing lobules.

This could be importance evidence for oncologists around the globe, as breast cancer is the leading cause of death among female cancer patients worldwide. These findings were published in a paper in the April 1 issue of Cancer Research.

The researchers looked at biopsies from 302 subjects who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study II. These particular participants were diagnosed with benign breast disease.

clinic-doctor-health-hospitalThe researchers compared tissue among the 69 subjects who developed breast cancer later in life to the 233 samples of women who did not contract the disease. The levels of the Ki67 molecular marker was the biggest differentiating factor that the scientists found between the two groups of tissue samples.

This type of study is very important for oncologists for one major reason – it could identify which patients may go on to develop breast cancer. As such, doctors could work to lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer through preventive measures like diet, exercise, or even medication like tamoxifen and raloxifene that reduces risk of the disease.

“Currently, we are not able to do a very good job at distinguishing women at high and low risk of breast cancer,” Co-senior Author Rulla Tamimi, an Associate Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, told the news source. “By identifying women at high risk of breast cancer, we can better develop individualized screening and also target risk reducing strategies.”

“Instead of only telling women that they don’t have cancer, we could test the biopsies and tell women if they were at high risk or low risk for developing breast cancer in the future,” Kornelia Polyak, a Breast Cancer Researcher at Dana-Farber, told the source.

Breast cancer research is not the only major area of interest in oncology, as Cancer Research UK scientists have created a new drug combination to treat B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The researchers analyzed the two drugs trametinib and ABT-263 to see how the combination treated the cancer in mice. Trametinib obstructs the MEK/ERK signalling pathway in order to keep the cancer from growing and proliferating.

When this drug was individually used in the lab, it did not stop the cancer cells from growing. The reasoning was due to higher levels of some proteins that kept the cells from dying. As such, the researchers used the medicine ABT-263 to target and destroy the proteins.

Together, the two drugs were able to keep the cancer from growing. The medications ABT-263 and trametinib were able to kill off the cancer cells.

“Cancer cells often outwit us by rewiring themselves, but this early research offers a promising idea to get ahead of them. We’ll still need to do further research to prove that this is the case beyond cancer cells in the laboratory and it may take many years before we see it in the clinic, but it’s the first step to finding a new effective drug combination for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia,” Professor Richard Marais, Lead Author and Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said in a public statement.

Another study published in The Lancet Oncology was found to benefit patients with pancreatic cancer, according to Cancer Research UK. One drug that targets the immune system along with the use of chemotherapy was found to shrink tumors found in pancreatic cancer patients.

This type of treatment could offer those with pancreatic cancer new hope, as it could improve their chances for surgery and give them the potential for long-term survival. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult types, as it has a high mortality rate.

“There is a desperate need for new ways to treat pancreatic cancer. And this promising early stage study suggests that treatments that harness the power of the immune system may be of benefit to people with pancreatic cancer when combined with chemotherapy,” Professor Andrew Biankin, a Cancer Research UK expert in pancreatic cancer, said in a public statement.

“Immunotherapy treatments have shown real promise for treating other types of cancer, so if a similar approach could be used to treat people with pancreatic cancer that would be great news.”

“Just how important this could be for patients now needs testing in larger clinical trials. But if these studies do offer patients a chance of surgery then this could be of great benefit to those affected by pancreatic cancer.”

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