Month: April 2016

Triple Negative Breast Cancer: What is it and Advances Being Made


I was recently reading this article about triple negative breast cancer. It is encouraging to see the continued efforts to find better treatments and hopefully many more long term survivors.

This is among the first clinical trials that include immunotherapy in the treatment of early stage TNBC. Immunotherapies represent a new class of drugs that increase the anti-cancer activity of immune cells residing in cancer tissues. Chemotherapy kills some cancer cells and damages many more, but these damaged cells often survive and cause recurrence of the cancer months or years later

What is triple negative breast cancer?

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) occurs when breast cancer cells test negative (pathology report) for estrogen receptors (ER-), progesterone receptors (PR-), and HER2 (HER2-).

These results indicate the growth of the cancer is not supported by the hormones estrogen and progesterone.  Hormonal therapy, often used in the treatment of breast cancer, as well as therapies that target HER2 receptors, are not helpful with this type of breast cancer (TNBC),  since it does not respond to such treatment.

About 10 to 20% of breast cancers are shown to be TNBC. There is an intense ongoing effort for researchers to find new treatment strategies to treat this type of breast cancer.

Why is it so difficult to treat?

As mentioned above, receptors of breast cancer cells are the target for treating breast cancer successfully. Receptors are proteins found inside and on the surface of cells. They receive messages from substances in the bloodstream and tell the cells what to do. In the case of healthy breast cells, messages are received from the hormones estrogen and progesterone. In about 20-30% of breast cancers, another receptor HER2 – there are too many of the receptors. In normal, healthy breast cells, HER2 regulates the growth and division of cells, thus having too many cause the breast cancer cells to grow and divide too quickly.

Additionally, TNBC tends to be more aggressive that other types of breast cancer. It also tends to be a high grade than other types. What this means is, the higher the grade, the less the cancer cells resemble normal, healthy breast cells. Lastly, TNBC is a cell type called “basal-like” – resemble the cells that line the breast ducts and basal-like cancers tend to be more aggressive and higher grade.

Researchers have found that TNBC is more likely to affect:

  • Younger people
  • African-American and Hispanic women
  • People with a gene mutation

What does the future look like for triple negative breast cancer?

Researchers are working to find the the best approaches in treating TNBC. As indicated in the attached article, targeted therapies are looking promising, but the research is at an early stage.

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Reiki During Breast Cancer Surgery


I was inspired to write this post after listening to a discussion about Reiki at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. The Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia is exploring the intersection of science, spirituality, and psychology. It is the first in the Ivy League to do so. The Institute is bringing together thought leaders, visionaries, healers, and psychologists.

Dr. Sheldon Feldman, Chief of Breast Surgery at New York Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center , and Raven Keyes, a Reiki Master shared their decades of work together. Dr. Feldman reflected on the beginning of his career, with the loss of his young sister to breast cancer. That was the catalyst that changed his idea of becoming a heart surgeon, an instead becoming a highly respected and renowned breast surgeon. Throughout his career, he has learned that traditional medical treatment is very individualized, and alternative therapies are often explored. There is a paradigm shift where healing modalites are more and more accepted as mainstream. Reiki is one of those modalities. Raven Keyes works along side Dr. Feldman in the operating room giving Reiki to those women who wish to have it. Reiki is very beneficial during surgery as it helps to alleviate fear, pain, and the feeling of loss of control. As a nurse and a Reiki Master, myself, I have experienced first hand the enormous benefits before and after surgery, throughout treatment, and during life as a cancer survivor. Dr. Feldman and Raven offering Reiki in the operating room are true healers in every sense of the word.