Tags: Cancer | breast | cancer | cure | awareness | gene | dna

Top Doctor's Breast Cancer Cure Campaign Is Personal

By    |   Monday, 20 October 2014 05:20 PM

For Priscilla Brastianos, M.D, the war on cancer is personal. The Boston-based oncologist lost both her mother and grandmother to breast cancer. Now she is spearheading an international effort to track how and why breast cancer spreads — a research initiative she hopes will unlock the door to new drugs and treatments.
 
In an interview on Newsmax TV’s “Meet the Doctors” program, timed to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Brastianos says she is hopeful new frontiers in DNA and genetic research will provide a better understanding of how tumors spread, as well as how to stop them.

“During my medical school my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we started the journey of chemotherapies, radiation and surgeries …and sadly just a few months ago she passed ago,” she says, noting her grandmother also died from the disease more than 50 years ago. “And it was the journey of those two women that inspired me to pursue research in breast cancer.
 
“Too many women are dying of breast cancer and that is what inspires me every day.”
 
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Dr. Brastianos, a neuro-oncologist and hematologist affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, has practiced medicine for eight years. But she is also conducting her own independent research into why breast cancer often spreads to the brain and spinal cord, if it goes untreated.
 
“My main interest is understanding why breast cancer goes to the central nervous system,” she explains. “Why does it go to the brain, why does it go to the spine? Many women do die of metastasis — meaning breast cancer that has spread … Unfortunately the prognosis in those women is poor. So once a woman has a diagnosis of [cancer that has spread], their survival unfortunately and sadly is on the order of a few months to a couple years. So my job is to really find something for these women.”
 
The international research effort she has helped direct is studying the DNA of those tumors, with the hope that a better understanding of the genetics of breast cancer will provide a road map to prevent or even cure it.
 
“There’s two goals here,” she notes. “The first is to understand if we can predict … which women are going to develop disease that spreads. And the second goal is to identify new drug targets … to actually find what drugs are going to work for these women.”
 
She adds: “It’s a very personal mission of mine, absolutely.”
 
Dr. Brastianos’ team of investigators has already made several important discoveries. Earlier this year, the researchers found that a gene mutation associated with several types of cancer also may be responsible for a rare but debilitating brain tumor called papillary craniopharyngioma.  Their discovery, reported in Nature Genetics, could lead to new therapies for this currently hard-to-treat tumor.

Until more effective treatments are developed for breast cancer, Dr. Brastianos and other specialists recommend that women learn everything they can about new genetic tests that are available, the benefits and limitations of mammograms, and what they can — and should do — to reduce their risks of developing the disease, which strikes about one in every eight women born today who will live to see her 85th birthday.
 
The vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer — upwards of 95 percent — can survive it if it’s caught and treated early. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to spotlight the importance of early detection of breast cancer and for all women to consider the following recommendations from health experts:
  • Genetic testing can help you identify if you are at risk for developing breast cancer. If it runs in your family, you should talk to your doctor about seeing if you carry the so-called BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes that increase your risk for developing the disease.
  • Self-breast exams are critically important for identifying suspicious lumps you should bring to your doctor’s attention. Make sure you know how to perform a self-breast exam or ask a healthcare provider to show you how.
  • If you’re 40 or older, talk to your doctor about the best way to be screened for breast cancer and whether a regular mammogram is a good idea for you. Some women may also benefit from ultrasound screening, an MRI, or digital mammography.
  • Make sure you’re doing everything that  scientific research has determined can help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer — from eating a nutritious diet, to getting regular exercise, to managing stress in your life.
 

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For cancer specialist Dr. Priscilla Brastianos, the hunt for a cure is personal. The Boston-based oncologist lost both her mother and grandmother to breast cancer. Now she is helping to lead an international research effort to track how and why breast cancer spreads — and how to stop it.
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Monday, 20 October 2014 05:20 PM
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