Science Interviews

Interview

Sun, 30th Sep 2007

Beating Breast Cancer - News from the Cancer Conference

Dr Kat Arney

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Each year, the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) holds a conference which "aims to provide the major international forum in the UK for the dissemination of research advances in cancer, across all disciplines."  Naked Scientist Kat Arney reports in with the latest news

Chris - So what’s this conference all about?

Kat - Well this is the biggest cancer conference in the UK and this year they’re hoping to get nearly 2000 people along; that’s scientists, doctors and patients from all around the world, basically trying to get to grips with the latest in cancer research. So we’ve got people talking about new advances in drugs and drug development. I just spoke to a really fascinating guy called Greg Verdine, who’s giving a talk tomorrow and he’s basically developing an entirely new type of drug which could revolutionise cancer treatment. It’s very exciting stuff.

Chris - What’s the news on how breast cancer spreads around the body?

Kat - It’s not so much that – it’s more about the story on stats that has come out. It’s breast cancer awareness month in October and the key thing is we’re learning all about the genes that are involved in cancer and the new treatments. But there are so many things that women can actually do to prevent breast cancer themselves. One of Cancer Research UK’s epidemiologists (stats guy), Professor Max Parkin, has actually calculated that potentially 6000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented every year by women changing their lifestyles.

Chris - What sorts of lifestyle changes are they advocating, because that’s a lot of people!

Kat - It’s a lot of women. For example, we know that prolonged use of HRT over a number of years does increase your risk of breast cancer. If the number of women taking HRT without clinical need drops then you could save around 2000 cases per year. By reducing obesity you could prevent another 1800 cases per year. By doing a bit of exercise, your half an hour a day, five days a week you can actually prevent more than 1000 cases per year. So it’s pretty significant stuff.

Chris - Would dealing with those factors have an impact on other cancers as well? Could the prevention numbers be even higher?

Kat - Exactly, this is just to do with breast cancer but we know that, for example, being overweight can increase your risk of contracting other types of cancer like womb cancer and bowel cancer. Getting a bit physical – that can cut your risk of contracting many types of cancer. Keeping a healthy bodyweight is really good for that. Also cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink too, that can be pretty handy. It’s really a double edged thing here. We’re finding out about the latest in cancer treatments and really getting to the nuts and bolts of what’s wrong in cancer. And then thinking about prevention: there’s going to be an interesting debate tonight with people from Breast Cancer Care. They’ll be talking about the use of pills for the treatment of breast cancer or whether we should look to change our lifestyles.

Chris - And looking forward to the rest of the week, what else will you be focusing in on?

Kat - Well there’s a really exciting lecture coming up on Tuesday on pancreatic cancer with a guy called David Tuveson, who’s from Cambridge. He’s probably one of the best people in the world at the moment working on pancreatic cancer: a cancer which has a really terrible survival rate. It’s really very low so it’s going to be interesting to see if people feel they’re making progress in pancreatic cancer treatment and how we can go forward. Also there’re some interesting seminars and symposia involving patients. They’ll be looking at the impact of more and more people who are surviving cancer and the issues they have to deal with. They’ll also talk about how can you go forward living with cancer as a more chronic disease, rather than something that doesn’t do you any good at all.

Chris - Thanks Kat, see you soon.

Kat - See you soon!

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