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Breast Cancer Research and Advocacy Pioneers to Speak at HSU
by Carol Harrison, The Eureka Reporter, 6/14/08
Two pioneers in breast cancer research and advocacy are speaking in Arcata Thursday as a benefit for the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project.
Drs. Susan Love and Ellen Mahoney will discuss the newest screening techniques and latest treatment options for a disease that was the fifth leading cause of death among women in 2002.
They will also discuss a joint research study being conducted in Humboldt County that seeks to make breast cancer theoretically impossible.
An extensive question-and-answer period will follow.
The event is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. at the Van Duzer Theatre at Humboldt State University.
Tickets are $25 apiece and may be purchased at the door, Lima’s Pharmacy in Eureka or McKinleyville, Green’s Fortuna Pharmacy, Mahoney’s office in Eureka or the volunteer gift shop at Mad River Community Hospital.
"The two spoke together in Humboldt County 10 years ago as the Breast Health Project was getting started," recalled HCBHP patient care coordinator Sharon Nelson. "Both have witnessed a lot of growth over the past 10 years and here we are in rural Humboldt County having the opportunity to learn from two physicians very much on the cutting edge."
Love has a worldwide reputation as one of the founding mothers of the breast cancer advocacy movement. She started the first all-women Breast Center in Boston before moving west to develop a model for multidisciplinary breast care at the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center.
Today, she is president and medical director for the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, a sought-after speaker and the author of "Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book," now in its fourth printing. The New York Times called it "the bible for women with breast cancer."
A decade ago, she was among the first to raise concerns about the use of hormones in postmenopausal women as the author of "Dr. Susan Love’s Menopause and Hormone Book," now in its second printing.
Love invented the intraductal catheter at UCLA that paved the way for the research project Mahoney is heading.
A breast has six to nine separate ductal systems, each of which is accessible from the nipple, Mahoney said in a previous interview.
"Breast cancer arises from a set of seemingly random mistakes made by the cells that line a particular ductal system as they divide," she wrote in the May newsletter of the HCBHP. "Since we cannot tell for certain which (ductal carcinoma in situ) will eventually become cancer, it is a good idea to get rid of the cells that have mutated to this degree.
"Until now, surgical excision is the only way, with radiation as a backup to kill DCIS left behind.
"But we are proposing that there may be other ways to destroy the lining cells of a particular ductal system, by using the same opening for milk at the nipple to access the involved duct to instill a small amount of a drug known the kill the cells."
The study needs 30 women newly diagnosed with DCIS on a core needle biopsy.
"There’s very particular criteria about who can participate in the study," Nelson said. "We’ve probably talked to three or four women, but as they’ve gone through the process they haven’t ended up being candidates for various technical reasons."
The study is the top-funded research project by the California Breast Cancer Research Program coordinated out of the Office of the President at the University of California.
While Mahoney’s project attempts to tackle cancer where it starts, the pair will update the many treatment advances that were the focus of media attention at the May 30 through June 3 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
At this year’s conference, three studies related to breast cancer drew media attention.
The first found that giving zoledronic acid (Zometa), a bone-building drug, to premenopausal women undergoing ovarian suppression and hormone therapy significantly reduced the risk of recurrence in early stage breast cancer.
The second found that adding bevacizumab (Avastin) to docetaxel (Taxotere) slows disease progression in women newly diagnosed with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration’s approval earlier this year of Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer was controversial.
There was no evidence that the drug extended overall survival, only that it slowed the progression of the disease. In addition, the Love Foundation blog (http://blog.dslrf.org/) site reported Avastin resulted in more side effects and also was responsible for five of the 363 deaths that occurred during the study.
Expect a thoughtful discussion of how to determine the worth of drugs that delay disease progression while at the same time offering potential side effects that could threaten the quality of the life they extend.
The third study surprised some in finding that for older women with early stage breast cancer, standard chemotherapy was significantly more effective than the oral chemotherapy drug capecitabine (Xeloda).
It was thought the oral drug would be easier on women 65 and older.
The pair may also share their concerns about a proposal in the University of California to eliminate the planning, evaluation and information dissemination functions of the CBCRP, which traditionally spent almost 8 percent of its resources in those areas.
According to Love’s foundation, that would "eliminate the ability to fund the best breast cancer research, which is only possible by evaluating what has been done and planning for future projects. Dissemination and translation of research — getting the research results out to the community and providers — is essential to any ethical research funding program."