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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

(News Editors: Below are two timely news stories on groundbreaking research on breast cancer that is occurring at Creighton University School of Medicine. Drs. Wang and Lynch are available for interviews.)

Breast Cancer Findings Could Lead to Better Treatments
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. New findings by Creighton University Cancer Center researchers could significantly advance scientists’ understanding of the role estrogen plays in breast cancer and potentially lead to more effective treatments of the disease.

First reported this summer, the findings involve the discovery of a novel variant of a known human estrogen receptor (hER-a66). The new variant - called hER-a36 – “functions very differently from hER-a66 in response to estrogen signaling and inhibits key estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent activities of hER-a66 and stimulating cell growth,” notes ZhaoYi Wang, Ph.D, Creighton associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology and of pathology.

Wang was the principle author of an article on the findings, which appeared in June in an advanced online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Brian Loggie, M.D., Creighton chief of surgical oncology and director of the Cancer Center, and researchers from two other institutions were co-authors.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Wang a $1.47 million grant to continue this research.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women worldwide and the second leading cause of death for U.S. women. Estrogen is involved with the cancer’s development.

Learn About Your Risk of Hereditary Breast Cancer
While most women over the age of 40 know they should get an annual mammogram, it’s what they don’t know that could kill them.

Of an estimated 213,000 thousand American women who will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, 5 to 10 percent or even more of those cases will have a hereditary link. Knowing whether breast cancer runs in your family – maternal and/or paternal sides – is critical to its prevention as well as successful treatment, says Henry Lynch, M.D., director of the Creighton University Hereditary Cancer Center.

“Hereditary breast cancer occurs at the average age of 44 years” he says. “That’s more than 20 years earlier than breast cancer in the general population. Women who are at genetic risk should undergo annual mammograms beginning at the age of 25. They also need to receive genetic counseling and be monitored diligently by their physicians with biannual exams.”

In some cases, women who are at genetic risk of breast cancer also have a hereditary predisposition to ovarian cancer. In the 1970s, Lynch identified germline mutations, that now allow women to be tested for this syndrome.

Lynch, chairman of Creighton’s Departments of Preventive Medicine and Public Health and holder of the Charles F. and Mary C. Heider Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, is a pioneer in hereditary cancer research.

He began looking for a possible genetic link to certain cancer types, with a particular emphasis on breast cancer, more than 40 years ago, when cancer was thought to triggered solely by environmental causes. His detailed recordkeeping and compilations of family medical histories have allowed him to identify cancer syndromes and their patterns of inheritance through generations of extended families.

To learn more about your risk of hereditary breast cancer, call or e-mail the Creighton University Hereditary Cancer Center in Omaha, Neb., at 800-648-8133 or htlynch@creighton.edu. The center’s web address is: http://medicine.creighton.edu/HCI.

Posted: 10/10/06