Sunday, November 3, 2019

Help possible for some breast, prostate diseases

Common dietary supplement might be the remedy for a rare genetic mutation that can lead to cancer

Although a rare genetic mutation leads to cancer, a fix may already be available.

According to a recent story by Gina Kolata in The New York Times, "a common dietary supplement may help overcome mutations in the Pten gene."

The real question, the Times asks, is, "Should patients take it?"

And the paper's answer, based on medical personnel that were interviewed, is a qualified yes.

Kolata's article says that the mutation "markedly raises the risk for several cancers, including prostate and breast cancer…as well as autism and schizophrenia in some individuals."

The lifetime risk in carriers, it indicates, is an astoundingly high 85 percent.

In theory, those at risk could help themselves by eating brussels sprouts, broccoli or other cruciferous veggies. The problem is, Kolata reports, to get enough to be of real use, "they'd have to eat a lot: six pounds of brussels sprouts a day — raw."

Instead, a healing compound "is widely available as a dietary supplement" found in local drugstores.

Experts, Kolata adds, "are debating whether to embark on a clinical trial with it."

The Times specifically cites a study published in the journal Science in which "researchers found evidence that a compound called indole-3-cabinol (i3c) blocks an enzyme that inhibits the activity of Pten. With the gene more active, patients with the mutation may be better protected against cancer."

The study, Kolata notes, "was done only in mice and in human cancer cells grown  in petrie dishes."

She explains, further, that although the findings do apply to Pten gene activity, "there is little evidence for most of the other wild claims made for i3c by supplement makers."

Although inherited Pten mutations are rare, striking one in 200,000, the gene also spontaneously mutates in many tumors. "When that happens," the Times piece maintains, "the patient's prognosis is poor."

Dr. Mustafa Sahin
The article quotes Dr. Mustafa Sahin, an expert on the gene at Boston Children's Hospital (who wasn't involved in the work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston that was the basis for the Journal report), called the research a "tour de force study" whose result was "a paradigm shift in the field [that is] very exciting in terms of its therapeutic implications."

The Times also quotes Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi, director of the center who's been trying to find a way to restore Pten activity for years and is the senior author of the paper, as saying about the findings: "We got lucky — or smart."

More information about mutations, especially the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer" a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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