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Eye on Research — Winter 2006
by Sandra L. Cross, Zero Breast Cancer Board Member

The following updates and discussions of selected studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, media reviews and other sources are not intended to be a statement of final scientific truth. It generally takes several peer-reviewed studies reaching the same conclusion before a theory is accepted as scientific truth. The discussions below are updates and reports on selected studies of interest to breast cancer advocates.


Linus Pauling was Right After All

Despite Linus Pauling’s claims, numerous studies have shown that oral doses of vitamin C had little effect on breast cancer because when taken orally, the vitamin is quickly cleared from the body. However, a new study has shown that vitamin C can be a powerful cancer fighter when taken intravenously. After injection, levels of vitamin C in the blood were measured at about 70 times the concentration of oral doses. Mark Levine of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland applied vitamin C at levels that mimicked intravenous doses to both healthy and cancerous mice and human cells in the laboratory. After only one hour vitamin C had killed 50% of cancer cells in 5 out of 10 cancer cell cultures, but had no effect on healthy cells. They found that a chemical reaction on the surface of the cancer cells turned the vitamin C into hydrogen peroxide, which killed the cancer cells. Maybe cancer researchers will reconsider a new delivery method and dosage for non-toxic vitamin C therapy.

Results were published in the September 20th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Science News, Vol. 168, No. 16, Oct. 15, 2005, p. 253.


A Hormone is a Hormone is a Hormone

There is a growing use of alternative therapies to fight symptoms of menopause, but there are not many studies of the effects of the so-called “natural,” or phytoestrogens, on breast cancer risk. One such study on the use of a popular Chinese herb, dong quai (Angelica sinesis), found that the form of the herb used (water-extracted) stimulated the growth of a line of estrogen-positive breast cancer cells commonly used in research and also stimulated growth in a line of estrogen-negative breast cancer cells. The researchers, exhibiting proper scientific restraint, urged caution in the use of dong quai, a caution which should perhaps be extended to other natural estrogens such as black cohosh, and red clover.

Use of dong quai (Angelica sinesis) to treat pre-or post- menopausal symptoms in women with breast cancer: is it appropriate? Journal of the American Menopause Society 12(6):734-740, November/December 2005. Lau, Clara B. S PhD: Ho, Tony C. Y PhD: Chan, Terry W. LBPharm: Kim, Stephen C. FMPhil.


A Blood Test for Metastasis!

Finally, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown that a protein secreted by breast cancer cells can be easily detectable in the blood serum of patients with metastatic breast cancer by an inexpensive, reasonable, reliable clinical test. The protein is called mammoglobin, which is produced by a gene that is more active in breast cancer cells. Patients without metastatic breast cancer have a steady, low baseline level of mammoglobin, whereas patients with metastatic disease show much higher levels. The study was conducted on a small sample of approximately 56 women and found that about 80 percent of all breast cancers tested strongly for mammoglobin. (This is about the same rate of accuracy as a mammogram.)

Identification of mammoglobin as a novel serum marker for breast cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, 2005:11(18): 6528-6535.


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