Switching Off Breast Cancer

There’s some good news for women—and men—at risk for breast cancer. New advances in the understanding of how tumors develop is providing an unprecedented understanding of what triggers normal cells to become cancerous. This means that it may be possible for doctors to see signs of breast cancer earlier than ever, possibly before cancer even develops.

Researchers say that biochemical signaling pathways in the body can be triggered by inflammation to transform healthy breast tissue into cancer cells. This triggering leads to a self-sustaining chain reaction, where even once the initial inflammation dies down, the signals continue to travel along the pathway. These signals inhibit the action of tumor-suppressing RNA.

The implications of this discovery are being looked into. Doctors speculate that targeted treatments can be used to block the signals and reactivate the tumor suppressant.

Another treatment option being investigated is gene therapy, the introduction of tumor-suppressing genetic material into the patient. The idea is to induce the body to cut off the tumor cells’ blood and oxygen supply. this will cause the tumor to whither away rather than grow and metastasize.

Other teams of researcher are studying the possibility of vaccinations. Patients at high risk—such as women over 50, people with a family history of breast cancer, and women who experienced menarche before age 12 or menopause after age 55—may soon be able to get a vaccine to avoid the disease.

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