Genetic testing and screening for cancer risk

Cancer screening and cancer diagnosis
Cancer screening, cancer diagnosis and the Human Genome Project
Genetic testing which can show heightened risks of developing cancer is about to boom, thanks to the development of the Human Genome Project. Women can now be screened for the presence of faulty genes like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Genes are little messages sitting on the ball of string which is your DNA. BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been falsely dubbed the ’breast cancer genes’ as, in the 67 per cent of women who have these genes, breast cancer is a high risk. In fact BRCA1 is connected with the immune system and BRCA2 with DNA repair. Both genes have also been linked to a percentage of prostate cancers whilst other, similar genes have been identified for colon and other cancer risks.
The hope is that new ’biologic’ drugs are being developed to take account of these genes, if their mechanism of cause and action can be accurately determined. Below you can read an article about a new Breast Cancer Vaccine being developed. It is not actually a vaccine as we understand vaccines, but a drug which specifically targets a protein produced by some breast cancer cells. Soon new drugs will be developed to compensate for a lack of proteins, or an over productoion of proteins due to your genetic weaknesses.
At the moment, women identified with familial genetic issues are offered preventative mastectomies or the drug Tamoxifen. This drug has been shown to have benefits, but also it is itself classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organisation, as it increases the risks of other cancers (for example, an increased risk of endometrial cancer).
Another word of warning concerns screening mammograms. Some women with genetic concerns are told to ensure they have regular screening mammograms. In fact new research has shown that with ’at risk’ women this increases the risk of cancer. See ourr article on mammograms. (look left!)
It is appropriate that women with these genes are not influenced by scare mongering, but do take sensible lifestyle and dietary precautions. Recent research covered in icon has shown that 50 years ago less than 40 per cent of people with these faulty genes developed cancer but now this figure is approaching 75 per cent. Clearly then, modern diet and lifestyle factors are playing a significant role and people (women and men) with any of these genes could do a lot worse than follow some of the recommendations in this book, to build themselves their own microclimate of health.

Vaccine may prevent 80 per cent of breast cancers

American Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have developed a vaccine that, in trials with mice, prevented a cancer cell protein forming. The protein is present in about 80 per cent of all breast cancers.

In the study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated - half with a vaccine containing -lactalbumin; the other half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen. None of the mice vaccinated with -lactalbumin developed breast cancer, whereas all of the control group did.

The trials were conducted with mice, because they have 99 per cent of the same genes as humans. The researchers reported this vaccine as an enormous breakthrough and the plan is to take it forward to three stages of human Clinical Trials. These could take 10 years to complete. Currently about 42,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, although about 12 per cent of these are false positives. 

Chris Comments:
As readers know my views on the issue of vaccines have been consistent for a number of years now: The failure of drugs to cure cancer on a large scale has meant that cancer bodies and drug companies have had to change their rhetoric and focus. No longer do they glibly talk ’cure’ but a more modest vocabulary of ’cancer survival’ and ’cancer management’.

But this is not due to humility. 2 million people live with cancer in the UK today. Cancer rates are forecast to double over the next 20 years. So that’s going to mean some very big profits keeping 4 million people alive with daily and weekly drug regimes. A cured person on the other hand is someone who has dropped out of the ’target market’ to use a marketing term.

So drugs companies have come up with another string to their bow ’If finding a ’cure’ for cancer is so elusive, why don’t we create vaccines to prevent the cancer in the first place?’ Then we can target everybody not just the 5 per cent with cancer. Brilliant, 20 times the potential market!

Now, I am all for prevention; like cutting out dangerous chemicals and pesticides in or on our foods and in our in-home, personal care and household products, and so on. Unfortunately, many of the companies searching for cancer ’cures’ are also making these toxic products, so vested interests overwhelm common sense

But what better than to find a virus at the heart of every cancer and create a vaccine to eradicate each? Every man could then have a 5 yearly triple jab against prostate, lung and colon cancer, every woman against breast, lung and colon too. The profits will be HUGE!

Already the HBV vaccine to beat liver cancer has been developed and seems to offer a serious benefit.

By contrast, as many of you also know, I consider the fuss made over cervical cancer vaccines positively ignorant. The vaccines knock out a few strains at best of the HPV virus and may prevent 70 per cent of HPV induced cervical cancer. But only time will tell, the vaccines have only been tested for a short period, ’experts’ are already saying that women may need a top up every five years (who knows?), other factors cause cervical cancer (there is some research evidence pointing a finger at talcum powder), the vaccine has never been tested with males (who have a different biochemistry to females) yet ’experts’ think all boys should be vaccinated too, an injection for females and males oin the UK will cost the Health Service 2 billion pounds which we don’t have, blah, blah, blah. Dr Diane Harper one of the top researchers involved in the Clinical Trials for Gardasil and Cevarix has gone on public record saying that ’This vaccine will not decrease cancer rates at all.’ I rest my case.

However, the theory goes wrong if it is found that viruses do not lie behind every cancer. Only recently claims that a virus XMRV lay behind prostate cancer have been shown to be rubbish. ’No link at all’ was the conclusion in the research published in Retrovirology. So the jury is out, but mark my words vaccines against ’viruses’ lying behind cancer is what the cancer bodies will be increasingly espousing (as they are prodded with very big Pharma Company sticks).

But this breast cancer vaccine is different. It neither knocks out a virus, nor boosts the immune system to fight one off, as with the history of vaccines from polio to measles. It is part of a new breed of drugs based on work with the Human Genome Project. More and more scientists are coming round to the view we have espoused for the last 6 years. Namely, that there are hundreds of different cancers and your cancer is as individual as you are. No longer will cancers be defined by location but by some unique factor, enzyme or protein that drives them. So a protein may be present in a breast cancer cell, and also a colon cancer cell and a brain tumour cell. Not all, but some of each. And drugs will be able to knock out thast protein - and even prevent it forming in the first place.

This breast cancer vaccine is an example. It is very clever.

I can see a problem: Can you really see this getting to market? Suppose it does. Then 80 per cent of the sales of Tamoxifen, Arimidex, Herceptin and other brands disappear overnight, not to mention the decline in importance and revenue of breast cancer charities! I so hope that this view is just cynical and that here, in this vaccine, we do have a genuine breakthrough that makes it to the doctors’ surgeries. But within two days of the first reports on this vaccine, I had already seen 5 articles raising concerns about, and even dismissing, this breakthrough.

I’ll put this article in my ’bring forward’ file for ten years time! We’ll just have to wait and see.

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