Volume 93, Issue 78

Thursday, February 17, 2000


White Paper talks reveal concerns

Breast cancer study pays off

Research projects rake in funds

Harris speaks out on gun control

City task force targets housing

Gas prices lead to finger pointing

Internet use decreases social interaction


Caught on campus

Breast cancer study pays off

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

Western researchers have broken new ground in the detection, prevention and possible treatment of breast cancer.

John Wiebe, a professor of zoology and endocrinology and the study's lead researcher, explained the five year effort has shed light on the possible positive effects of progesterone, a female hormone involved in breast development. The results of the study will be published in this week's Cancer Research, an international medical journal.

Wiebe explained enzymes which react with progesterone produce two derivatives – one which stimulates cancerous cell growth and one which inhibits proliferation of the tumour. The study was conducted with experiments on tissue from the breasts of six breast cancer patients, Wiebe said, adding the team tried to pinpoint the capability of the non-tumourous tissue to convert progesterone into the cancer-inhibitor.

"This is an interesting finding which suggests another hormonal basis for [breast] cancer," Wiebe said. He added traditional breast cancer treatment has taken the form of trying to block estrogen development, followed by chemotherapy. "The fact is that only one-third of cancer patients respond to estrogen treatment. Of those that respond, the majority will show relapse."

The study's findings may now explain why two-thirds of the patients do not respond to the estrogen treatment, he said.

Last year alone, an estimated 18,700 women developed breast cancer, said Lorna Dobi, health promotion co-ordinator for the Ontario Breast Cancer Screening Program. Approximately 5,400 of those diagnosed with the disease will die from it, she said, adding the numbers applied to women 50 years of age and over.

Approximately one in 10 screens conducted by the OBCSP result in abnormalities, with 20 per cent of those eventually diagnosed as cancerous, she said.

Nancy Compton, program co-ordinator of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative, the group who funded the study, said the research began in July of 1996 and was completed last June.

Wiebe explained the study was not released until this week, since researchers wanted to ensure complete accuracy. "We've held back on this for a long time because we wanted to check it from every angle," he said.

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