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October is Breast Cancer Month

October 1, 2016

Genomics

Did you ever think about your genetic tendency to develop cancer or a chronic degenerative condition? In the case of Angela Jolie, the NY Times Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery and a Forbes blogpost Angelina Jolie’s Round Two With Mutated BRCA1: Solid Science Sprinkled With Nonsense reported that Jolie was positive for the BRCA–1 gene, which predisposed her to breast and ovarian cancer. She chose the course of action she thought was best for herself and shared her choice, publicly sparking a widespread conversation about breast treatment options. Statistics indicate that only 70% to 80%of women with the BRCA–1 gene will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. But why not the other 20% to 30%? Although BRCA-1 is a highly penetrant gene, our environment affects our health as well by activating or deactivating genes. These triggers in our daily lives can include lifestyle habits, exposure to toxins, and chemical/hormone imbalances causing these genetic mutations to become active and cause cancer. This environmental risk, termed “epigenomics” from the Greek word “epi” or above, describes the influence of these environmental factors on the expression of our genes.

 

The human genome is a complete set of a sequence of nuclear acids that are encoded and make up our DNA. Certain lengths of sequences where the nucleic acids act together represent a gene. Some genes in the genome are active and some are not or have an unknown function—for example, they may be involved in regulating gene networks. Some may define where an active gene begins and ends. 99.99% of the genome of all humans is identical. A difference in a very small number of genes causes individual expression in the population. Most genes (approximately 85%) are active during the formation of the embryo, but then they go dormant. There may be some genes that carry a mutation that, if expressed, cause clinical cancer. The key is identifying what causes the mutation to be expressed.

 

If you knew your risk, how does this affect you? From a preventive standpoint, it can direct measures for control of the environmental factors that switch a cancer causing gene to become active. This is more than just blindly taking supplements. Why shoot in the dark when you can have a detailed road map to look at your risk? Genetic testing is available ( http://www2.cenegenics.com/e/49072/genomics-testing-/3ngy1p/250275004 ) to define risk for inherited gene mutations for cancer and other chronic / degenerative conditions, or the presence of a gene that has become mutated because of environmental factors. Having formal testing does not change the genes, but it can direct the type and aggressivity of prevention and treatment.

 

Initiatives are underway to develop a reliable early detection test for patients who have a diagnosis of cancer. None have yet been approved by the FDA. The one I have the most experience with is the ClearID, a simple blood test called the circulating tumor cell test (CTC). Please read about it in the next two articles ClearID – A new tool to monitor breast cancer survivors and ClearID – A new tool for monitoring breast cancer recurrence. I have also used this test with prostate and other cancers.

 

 

ClearID is more sensitive than other blood tests and conventional medical techniques in detecting early cancer recurrence. The appearance of tumor cells circulating when there were none before, or an increase in number of circulating tumor cells can indicate that the cancer is active and progressing. This may occur despite a negative PET scan or other imaging studies that are frequently used to monitor cancer.

Remember that imaging studies can be associated with lot of x-ray exposure and tumors have to be a certain size to be detected by the studies. With ClearID we are talking about detecting tumors at cell size.

 

Attempts are being made to culture and genetically test these circulating tumor cells for sensitivity to chemotherapy and other types of treatment.

These are the wild ones who have escaped treatment, maybe with further mutations. These are resistant tumor cells. Hmmmm……

 

The body has a tremendous ability to survive. Think in terms of people who are abusing themselves with alcohol. Their body fights back and they keep going for many years until it finally gives out. There is a school of thought that says the development of cancer cells is the body’s attempt to develop a line of cells that can survive in a toxic environment. If the environment is never changed, cancer is back. And you have to consider the possibility of toxicity initiating the cancer in the first place.

 

There is also an increased awareness of delivery systems like liposomes

(http://www.peakenergy.com/articles/nh20140411/Exposing-the-truth-about-liposomal-nutrients) which can improve the introduction of chemotherapeutic agents into cells. This allows a much lower dose to be effective, and thus, reduced side effects. Insulin therapy is an area that is gaining respect as an adjunct or complementary to conventional treatment.

 

All of this information simply defines your risk and gives black and white data points that can help develop a better road map as far as what can be done on a preventive or treatment basis. None of these tests interfere with conventional medicine but help give guidelines as far as how aggressive and what other measures can be done to keep these cancer genes from turning on and becoming active. I look at the CTC test as an early warning system.

 

And one final plug– two basics about cancer:

  1. cancer loves sugar
  2. cancer hates oxygen

 

There are treatment options in both categories that do not interfere with conventional medicine. The oncologist will frequently say hold off on anything else because we were not exposed to the use of complementary and alternative options in medical school. So the standard answer is to do nothing because it may interfere with chemotherapy. In my opinion, this results in suboptimal treatment.

 

I have been using the CTC test for four years now. It appears that some of the major cancer centers are now beginning to use and gain experience with this test.

 

So when you hear about advances in cancer treatment look at the overall picture. In any regimen a basic point is that the “human machine” first has to be balanced for optimal function. Natural medicine acting in a complementary fashion with conventional medicine is a more complete (holistic) approach.

Posted in Blog by jbosiljevac

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