A poor gut microbiome could cause breast cancer to spread

New research from the University of Virginia Cancer Center and recently published in the journal Cancer Research suggests that an unhealthy gut microbiome could result in the spread of breast cancer throughout the body.

The research was spearheaded by Melanie Rutkowski, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology. Dr. Rutkowski used mice to show how an unhealthy gut caused breast cancer to become much more aggressive, leading it to disseminate to other parts of the body.

“When we disrupted the microbiome’s equilibrium in mice by chronically treating them antibiotics, it resulted in inflammation systemically and within the mammary tissue,” Dr. Rutkowski explains. “In this inflamed environment, tumor cells were much more able to disseminate from the tissue into the blood and to the lungs, which is a major site for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to metastasize.”

“Disrupting the microbiome resulted in long-term inflammation within the tissue and the tumor environment, “Rutkowski said.” These findings suggest that having an unhealthy microbiome, and the changes that occur within the tissue that are related to an unhealthy microbiome, may be early predictors of invasive or metastatic breast cancer. Ultimately, based upon these findings, we would speculate that an unhealthy microbiome contributes to increased invasion and a higher incidence of metastatic disease.”

However, Rutkowski is quick to reassure that the use of antibiotics in human women should not be enough to disrupt a women’s microbiome to the extent that she was with the mice in her research. Instead, she says, her methods utilized antibiotics as a means to disrupt the microbiomes of the mice and simulate what an unhealthy biome looks like, so as to determine its influence on the spread of breast cancer. Women with breast cancer should not, she says, refrain using antibiotics if needed to treat an infection just because of her study’s results.

The take-home message from Dr. Rutkowskiâ’s research is how crucial a healthy microbiome is, not just to prevent the spread of breast cancer, but for overall good health.

Source: Labroots

Is Immunotherapy for Cancer Safe?

Your immune system does more than simply fight colds and flu. Throughout your life, your natural defenses seek out and destroy anything that is not recognized as part of the self including all kinds of germs and cancer cells before they have a chance to cause disease. Your immune system manages to destroy most rogue cells before they form a full-fledged tumor, but some of them get by your defenses. If you already have cancer, your immune system will still be working hard to keep your disease in check, but it probably can’t do the job on its own.

In recent years, more and more cancer patients have received treatments designed to give the immune system the upper hand against cancer. This approach called immunotherapy or biological therapy isn’t as widely used as radiation or chemotherapy. For most types of cancer, immunotherapy hasn’t been shown to be more effective than these standard treatments. And like the others, it can cause its own unpleasant side effects.

But immunotherapy can still be a powerful tool, either on its own or combined with chemotherapy or radiation. For certain patients including some in the advanced stages of skin cancer or kidney cancer immunotherapy can offer more than the conventional options, even the possibility of a complete cure. For others, it’s an additional, less toxic method of controlling their disease or reducing side effects from other treatments. In the years to come, as scientists learn more about the immune system, immunotherapy promises to become even more common and more effective.

What does it involve?

Immunotherapy often involves adding more immune cells, immune signaling molecules, or other biochemicals to the body. Unlike chemotherapy, which affects all fast-growing cells, immune treatments target specific processes or types of cells and should have a low impact on healthy tissues. The side effects depend on the particular biological agent used. Some have very mild side effects, while others cause serious problems.

The delivery will also depend on the agent used as well as your treatment plan. Some immunotherapy treatments are in the form of pills or shots you can take at home, while others are delivered intravenously (IV) in the hospital or clinic. Immunotherapy may be administered a couple of times a day or as seldom as every month or two.

What are the different types of immunotherapy?

There are two major types of immunotherapy: Treatments that add new disease-fighting cells to your body (T cells) and treatments that add other elements to your own immune system (such as antibodies, cytokines, and others). Many immunotherapy agents are experimental or investigational and are only available by enrolling in clinical trials.

How will my doctor decide if immunotherapy is right for me?

Not all patients or all cancers are good candidates for immunotherapy. At this time, the approach isn’t used very often for patients with cancer of the prostate or ovaries. And if your cancer was caught at an early stage or is responding well to other treatments, immunotherapy may simply not be necessary.

In certain cases, however, immunotherapy does seem to be more effective when used for some smaller, earlier-stage cancers. If your doctor does recommend immunotherapy, you will be getting a cutting-edge treatment that could make a big difference.

Call Us now to know if you are a candidate.


American Cancer Society. What is immunotherapy? October 2010.
American Cancer Society. Types of immunotherapy. October 2010.
National Cancer Institute. Biological therapies for cancer. Questions and answers. 2006.

“Lock-‘n’-block” drug may prevent cancer from metastasizing

A new approach to breast cancer may prevent cancer from reappearing years later.

They got all of it are the reassuring words people hope to hear following cancer surgery, but a growing understanding of the science of how cancer spreads, and metastasizes, is suggesting that not only is this almost never true but and here is the surprising part it might be better to try to contain the cancer than to eliminate it.

The new approach, which at this point has been tested only in animal models, is called “Lock-‘n’-block” and a national team of scientists led by researchers at Purdue University has found that a drug already on the market for another use is showing strong promise as a therapy to keep breast cancer from metastasizing.

Michael Wendt, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, says that cancer researchers are beginning to realize they have been chasing an impossible goal.

Most cancer therapy is targeted with the idea that we want to kill all of the cancer cells. Rid the body of cancer. But recently, there are lots of studies that suggest that we’re never going to be able to do that. Cancer cells evolve so fast that they will always find a way to overcome any type of therapy Wendt said. An emerging concept in cancer treatment is that maybe we shouldn’t try to kill all of the cancer cells, but try to keep them in a low state that doesn’t generate any kind of symptoms. A sort of dormancy, if you will.

Wendt has led a multi-institutional study that has identified a drug fostamatinib, which is sold under the trade name Tavalisse that was shown to be effective in mice in blocking and containing metastatic cancer cells. The research was recently published in the journal Cancer Research.

Aparna Shinde, a researcher at AbbVie Inc., and formerly a graduate student in the Purdue’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, said the research focused on breast cancer because it is especially known to lead to metatisizing cancers years later.

After you have breast cancer you always get this dissemination of cancer cells, she said. Breast cancer is no longer considered a curable disease it is now considered a chronic disease, because 10 or 20 years later, you can get secondary tumors because of the metastasizing cells.

But now we have shown that we can block these cells in a dormant state so that even if a patient has these metastizing cells we can hold them in this state for a very long time.

Wendt explains that when cancer cells move from a primary tumor and go to another part of the body, they can go through some form of years-long dormancy or latency. These cancer cells are very resistant to current drug therapies, because current drugs are designed to target cells that grow faster than normal cells, as tumor cells do. That is not true of these disseminated cancer cells, which can lie dormant for many, many years.

So that’s the goal we are exploring now. Instead of trying to eliminate those disseminated cells, how do we keep them in that dormant state? Wendt said.

The researchers used the drug fostamatinib because it inhibits a particular protein, spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK), that is found in these disseminated cancer cells.

This is great for us because this is a drug with low toxicity. It’s designed for people with chronic disease so that they can take for a long time, Wendt said. So, we think fostamatinib is a perfect candidate for this kind of years-long “Lock-‘n’-block” type of approach. We think this is a good candidate to move forward for a trial to see if we can stabilize dormancy. If SYK is expressed in other cancers this could apply to those as well.

In their current study, the researchers removed breast cancer tumors from the mice surgically. The tumor cells were labeled with luciferase, the bioluminescent firefly protein, which allows the researchers to track and quantify the level of metatisizing cells.

The researchers found that the cancer cells treated with fostamatinib remained in a dormant state and did not cause metastases in other areas of the body.

Our work is unique because there hasn’t been much research that tests treatments in a post-surgical metastatic setting. Most research is focused on treating the primary tumor. We are looking to target the later processes of disease to see if we can hold tumor cells in their dormant state, Wendt said. But you can imagine that clinical trials for this kind of thing is going to be very difficult because technically the patients are in remission and disease-free. We suspect that these patients have these dormant cancer cells disseminating through their bodies, but we don’t have a way to detect those right now.

Source: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-04-lock-n-block-drug-cancer-metastasizing.html?fbclid=IwAR18tygFU20g3OHiCSXp5BXcFsRAyEt-C1q7n3ASXRXagEhbsXJqc1xYOnA

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Immunotherapy

Cancer can cause a fight-or-flight response. Fear is normal. After all, who isn’t afraid when they hear the diagnosis?

Even so you can still bring the fight to it.

Your Body’s Unique Ability to Fight Cancer

Immunotherapy is in your corner. Basically, the treatment stands alongside your immune system to help your body fight cancer.

It functions the same way as your immunity does helping your body fight infections and other diseases. Its special forces include your white blood cells, your organs, and the tissues that make up your lymph system.

Biological therapy is another way to describe immunotherapy. Think of it as treating and defeating cancer with living organisms.

Attack Strategy

Cancer’s strategy is to hide from your immune system. Specific immune strategies call-out cancer cells and mark them as a target for destruction.

Immunotherapy is a counter-attack that can be used in a variety of ways. Each have a specific impact on cancer.

Checkpoint inhibitors
These drugs join your immune system for the strong assault on a tumor. They release the brakes that hold white blood cells back from killing cancer cells. The drugs run interference on cancer cells to prevent them from avoiding the attack of your immune system.

Cell transfer
This treatment strategy brings-out-the-fight in your T-cells natural ability to battle cancer. Cells are directly removed from your tumor. The active ones are ultimately used in the fight against the cancer.

Treatment vaccines
These battle cancer as they energize your immune system’s response to cancer cells. Its a different brand of vaccine than is used to help prevent disease.

Collateral Impact

Immunotherapy is effective. But side-effects are also common.

  • Skin reactions at injection site can include some pain, swelling, soreness, or a rash that’s red or itches.
  • Flu-like symptoms might occur such as fever, chills, weakness, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, muscle aches, fatigue, and headache.
  • Other side-effects are low or high blood pressure, weight gain from fluid retention, sinus congestion, some allergic reactions (though rare), and heart palpitations.

Your initial health, the stage of cancer, and type of therapy are factors in the side-effects you experience.

Keep in mind that routine doctor visits will monitor your progress with immunotherapy. Medical tests (including blood tests) and a variety of scans will measure the tumor’s size and any changes in blood work.

Contact us about immunotherapy and get answers to your questions about cancer treatment.