Researchers Reveal New Breast Cancer Treatment

What if we could spare breast cancer patients from the exhaustive side effects of chemotherapy and surgery? Thanks to new experiments from Harvard, that possibility is inching closer to reality, as researchers develop injections that insert medication directly into the breasts. Breast cancer cells originate closely to the linings of the milk ducts. These injections, developed by Dr. Silva Krause and a team of doctors from Boston, Massachusetts would enter through the nipple and directly target cancer cells (via the milk ducts) head-on. This method is a radical alternative for the current state of breast cancer treatment, which is notoriously invasive and taxing on the entire body.

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Why Choose Vaccinations Over Traditional Treatment?

"[Nipple injections] could diminish the side effects typically observed with systemic chemotherapy," Dr. Krause explains in a press release. Due to the straightforwardness of this method, a lot of the necessary evils that coexist with treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery can be avoided. This includes oral drugs that must pass through other tissues and organs, which come with the threat of collateral side effects. The injections also prevent drug breakdown by the liver, which often waters down the potency of medication.

Although the thought of a nipple injection doesn't sound like a walk in the park (even when compared to other treatments), they would only occur weekly or bi-weekly over the course of several months. Researchers insist that there will be no damage to the nipple.

New Alternative Treatments And Research

Of the 200,000 cases of breast cancer cases that occur each year, half of those affected will choose to have a mastectomy—a large reason for many of the breast reconstructions that happen today. But fortunately nipple injections are part of a burgeoning trend of alternatives to the often extreme treatments that make up conventional breast cancer care.

  • Cancer-Fighting Implants. Researchers from the University of Akron are developing breast implants that can disperse medication. Created with a polymer coating, the implants claim to reduce pain and inflammation from surgery and even prevent against cancer cells that might remain inside the body after a mastectomy.
  • One-Day Radiation Therapy. Also known as intra-operative radiation, this procedure involves subjecting the breasts to partial radiation, as opposed to the traditional method that includes the entire breast. With this alternative, patients are given their total dosage of therapy in one sitting. However, the portion is significantly less than the typical amount of radiation they would receive over a standard six week period.
  • Targeting Sugar Processing. Dr. Jeremy Blaydes of the University of Southampton in the UK discovered that chemicals (cyclic peptide inhibitors, to be exact) can prevent cancer cells from spreading. How? Cancer cells love sugar, and when they consume it, they stimulate proteins to bind together, furthering even more growth. Instead of targetting cancer cells, Blaydes and his colleagues are determining a method that aims directly at the proteins that are responsible for the spread of cancer throughout the body.

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Two generations ago, the only way to prevent cervical cancer was to undergo a hysterectomy and completely remove the uterus. Once the cervical cancer vaccine was developed, women's health was drastically changed for the better. Many believe that a similar vaccination, such as the developments of Krause and her colleagues, are just as groundbreaking for the course of breast cancer treatment. Luckily, Dr. Krause and company aren't alone. The Artemis Project, founded by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, is an initiative that provides grants for researchers studying breast cancer vaccines and is supporting multiple projects in the race for better treatment.