Friday, February 3, 2006
Dr. Susan Love presents breast cancer research at OU
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Dr. Susan Love, MD, MBA, author of “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book,” is a highly respected breast cancer researcher who believes the eradication of the disease is closer than we think. She shared her findings during the third lecture in the Varner Vitality Series on Feb. 1.
“We’re close to being able to prevent cancer altogether. I would say in the next five years,” Love said. “It’s our job. We need to be the generation that stops breast cancer and we can do it.”
Love said breast cancer research has come a long way in a short time. From full mastectomies to lumpectomies with radiation, treatments have been modified as knowledge of cancer has grown.
“When I first started, the thinking about breast cancer was that it started in the breast and grew out,” Love said. “They believed if you cut far enough out, you could get it.”
She said the research showed it could be in the bloodstream so chemotherapy helped treat some of it, but not all.
“We were thinking of cancer as if it were a foreign invader,” Love said. “It’s not a foreign invader; they are our own cells that are going bad.”
By studying not only the cancer cells, but the environment they live and grow in, Love said the research goes much further in identifying the cells before they become cancerous.
“The other thing that’s changing in the treatment is one-size-fits-all. What we are finding is that’s probably not the way to do it,” Love said.
Patients have been treated with the same dosages of chemotherapy and the same type of procedures, but through research, scientists now know there are actually about six different kinds of cancer and the cancers on one end of the spectrum are sensitive to hormone treatment and those on the other end are not, they are treated more effectively with chemotherapy. Then there are some in the middle and research is ongoing with those.
“This means for the first time that we can actually have the type of treatment tailored to the patient and the tumor and it will actually work better,” Love said. “We’re going to move from the one-size-fits-all and everybody gets chemo to a more targeted treatment.”
Love produced research to help with the more personalized treatment. She has developed a procedure called Ductal Lavage that actually looks at the cells from the milk ducts of the breast, which is where all breast cancer starts.
“I invented a little catheter that you can thread through the nipple. You put in some salt water, swish it around, suck it back out and you get 10,000 cells to look at under a microscope,” she said.
Love hopes to one day be able to identify precancerous cells and develop a treatment to prevent them from becoming breast cancer. This equates, Love said, to going to the high school and trying to predict who might become criminals based on how they are dressed. So now, the research is focusing on looking for markers in the fluid, examining the anatomy of the breast and finding out what the breasts are doing when they are not being used for breastfeeding.
Love said cervical cancer has been traced to the sexually transmitted disease HPV, and shortly there will be a vaccine available for HPV, giving doctors a tool to prevent cervical cancer altogether.
“We can do that with cancer of the breast. We can,” Love said. “We have to aim at ‘we’re going to get rid of the whole disease.’ We need to aim high.”
For more information on Ductal Lavage or breast cancer research, visit the Dr. Susan Love Web site.