Mitchell Gaynor, founder and president of Gaynor Integrative Oncology and author, talks about the current and future treatments for breast cancer.
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The Future of Breast Cancer Research Well I think that both are very worthwhile goals, so it has been amazing what’s been done for cancer treatment over the last 20 years, truly amazing and not just for breast cancer, all cancers. Dr. Dennis Slayman the Head of Oncology at UCLA Medical Center, made truly one of the biggest discoveries in the history of cancer research when he developed the HER2/neu and protein and subsequently developed a therapy based upon treatment directed against HER2/neu called Herceptin, it’s revolutionized breast cancer treatment. There are a lot of women, even in my own practice who have been getting Herceptin with stage IV disease for a number of years and doing quite well. It has increased in newly diagnosed patients who are HER2 positive markedly increased third disease free survival. So, you know, and that’s not chemotherapy, so that’s what is more in the targeted therapy realm. There are a number of other targeted therapies on the horizon, so new drug research, vaccine research, really looking at the human genome, looking at what we call single nuclear type polymorphisms or SMPs, you know, just little tiny nuclear tide change in one gene can inactivate the gene. So BRCA1 and 2 those are tumor suppressor genes, one little abnormality in those, they don’t work so much and so you increase the risk of breast cancer and we’re looking at a lot of these now. So we know people with lower levels of detoxifying enzymes don’t detoxify a lot of these carcinogens as well and looking at insulin like growth factor. There are a lot of therapies that are being looked at in relation to insulin like growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, Avastin has been used, that targets angiogenesis again, a targeted therapy that’s not chemotherapy and there are a number of combinations of these type of compounds that are being used for a variety of different cancers and a variety of different stages. So clearly research money needs to be put into this because we’re living in a country that where one in three people develop cancer, we need better treatments and we need that to continue to evolve. On the other hand we also need to focus on something different than just the war on cancer, the war on cancer was first coined by President Nixon in the 1970s, so we need a major push to find a cure for cancer and since then a lot of great therapies that I’ve just mentioned and many more have come out of that war on cancer, so that’s important. But we also need a war on carcinogenesis, carcinogenesis refers to the causes of cancer. All the environmental toxins that are out there that are not just out there, they’re in our bodies okay. So we have polluted a lot of the planet and we’ve polluted our bodies and clearly I think that the fact that childhood brain tumors have increased dramatically since 1970, you know, some cancer incidence has actually gone down but many have gone up and childhood leukemia has gone up and I do believe that it’s really no coincidence that we’re seeing, you know, an epidemic of learning disabilities, an epidemic of, you know, development disabilities. We’re seeing the incidents of autism increase dramatically over the last 30 years and I don’t believe that any of these are occurring in a vacuum. So I believe there’s a link between a lot of the illnesses that we’re seeing and the environmental toxins that are ending up in our bodies, they’re not just out in the environment. So there’s no difference between the external environment and our internal environment. So we need a war on carcinogenesis as well as a war on cancer, a war on the causes of cancer as well as treating it once it’s already occurred and I believe that’s a war that really can help prevent cancer. I believe that by minimizing people’s exposures to a lot of carcinogens we can affect cancer incidence and I believe that through a lot of the nutritional modalities that I’ve just discussed, we can also improve not only cancer survival but