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Study confirms women with dense breasts are prone to cancer

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Breast cancer

Using automated breast density measurements, Norwegian researchers were able to more precisely confirm that women with dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer.

The study included more than 100,000 women and more than 300,000 screening exams.

“We found that screening examinations of women having dense breasts showed higher rates of recall and biopsy, and higher odds of screen-detected and interval breast cancers than women with non-dense breasts,” said the study’s senior author, Solveig Hofvind.

She is a researcher and head of BreastScreen Norway for the Cancer Registry of Norway.

Dense breasts pose a challenge when it comes to cancer screening, because dense tissue shows up white on a mammogram.

That’s also how breast tumors look on a mammogram. Dense breast tissue can actually hide or mask cancers, according to Hofvind.

The findings were published June 26 in Radiology.

Dr. Liane Philpotts wrote an accompanying editorial. She is chief of breast imaging at the Yale School of Medicine.

“Dense breasts are not something that a patient feels. You can only tell if someone has dense breast tissue on a mammogram,” Philpotts said.

Meanwhile, few treatment options are available to people facing a second battle with a particularly fatal type of brain tumor called glioblastoma.

But dosing the tumor with a genetically modified poliovirus — one that doesn’t cause the eponymous, devastating disease — may give these patients more time, a small clinical study suggests.

Of 61 people with recurring glioblastoma who were treated with the modified virus, 21 percent were alive after three years.

In a “historical” comparison group of 104 patients, who would have been eligible for the treatment but died before it was available, four percent lived as long, researchers report online June 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Two patients who received the altered virus are still alive today, six years after treatment.

“They’ve been able to lead largely normal lives, and we almost never see that with these brain tumors,” says neuro-oncologist and study coauthor Darell Bigner of Duke University Medical Center.

The standard treatment for glioblastoma is surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer often recurs, Bigner says.

Usually patients do not survive longer than 20 months after being diagnosed; those with a recurrence typically live less than a year.

Poliovirus, which can cause paralysis and death, infects nerve cells through a cell surface protein that also shows up on tumor cells, including in glioblastoma.

In previous work, the Duke research team swapped out the genetic machinery that allows the virus to commandeer and destroy nerve cells with a part from human rhinovirus, the common cold culprit.

But this change did not prevent the poliovirus from killing tumor cells. The treatment also triggers the immune system to target the brain tumors.

In the new study, the team delivered a single dose of the virus to patients, infused over 6.5 hours through a small tube traversing the skull and directly into the tumor.

None of the patients who received the revamped virus developed symptoms related to polio.

Both people who have survived for six years developed glioblastoma again, but were successfully treated a second time with the altered poliovirus.


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