Breast Cancer: Latest Medical Breakthroughs

Friday, 21 Jan 2011 01:49 PM

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Incidence: Breast cancer accounts for 10.4% of all types of cancer according to some researchers. Breast cancer generally affects women older than 30. Therefore, regularly checking for symptoms is strongly recommended, especially if there is a family history of the disease. Doctors advise women to check their breasts regularly for any noticeable changes in appearance.

Symptoms:
Breast cancer symptoms may not present themselves during the very initial stage of the disease. This may lead to the spread of cancerous cells to other parts of the body and the growth of tumors. Pain, swelling of the breast, irritation,  nipples moving inwards (retracting), and discharge from the nipples are some breast cancer symptoms.

Why is the staging of breast cancer important?
Identifying the stage of breast cancer is vital for its treatment. Staging helps the doctor decide on treatment options. The breast cancer stages are classified from 0 to 4. Staging is done by identifying the location and the size of the tumor. It is important to note that the survival rate of patients declines as the stage increases.
 
In medical parlance, stages 0 to 4 are referred to as T0 to T4, with T meaning Tumor, while T0 means no tumor is detected. T1 indicates lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), thereby identifying its location. T2 means the tumor is less than 2 cm in size and T3 indicates that it is larger than 5cm. By the final T4 stage, the tumor is attached to the chest wall and is spreading.

Reducing sugar slows breast cancer spread
Researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine have discovered that a certain type of sugar in the body is elevated in breast cancer cells which causes the cancer to grow and spread. When researchers reduced and normalized the levels of this sugar, cancer cells showed slow growth and invasion could be blocked. The findings, published in the March 1 issue of Oncogene, represent a potential new therapeutic target for treating aggressive forms of breast cancer.
 
For years, scientists have known that cancer cells consume nearly ten times more sugar than neighboring normal cells. This increased sugar level fuels rapid cell growth and spread. The Drexel researchers studied a particular sugar-based protein modification known as O-GlcNAc. Alterations in this modification have previously been linked to diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, but not cancer.
 
The Drexel researchers and their collaborators are now working to develop more effective chemicals to target the O-GlcNAc enzyme, a potential new therapeutic target for treating breast cancer and possibly other cancers.

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