Genetics company 23andMe—popular for their DTC ancestry tests—has been FDA approved for their mail-order breast cancer tests. Consumers can check whether they possess one of three mutations to their aptly-named BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increase breast cancer risk by 45%-85%. Thing is, there are 1,000 known variations of those genes, and it doesn’t even test the most common. Also, the genes tested mainly affect women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Also, if a patient doesn’t test positive for these mutations they may think they’re in the clear breast cancer-wise. Also, some physicians are worried about the mental health effects of learning you may be at risk for cancer without being counseled through it by a professional. But hey, they send the tests to your home so that’s convenient!
A study of 1.8 million Danish women (for those keeping track, that’s almost a third of the country’s population) found that birth control pills may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. That news isn’t surprising in of itself, there have been studies alleging link this for years. But because the study was so large, researchers were able to see if newer birth control pills—which use lower doses of hormones than older pills—also had the same link, which they did. Same for IUDs that use hormones. No need to worry too much though, the risk is pretty tiny, and increases with age. If you’re concerned, you can ask your doctor about switching to a non-hormone based contraceptives.
Last week, researchers found that exercise can counteract the cognitive decline some patients experience post-breast cancer treatment. It’s the 457th publication since 2012 to use a Fitbit device in research. Or to put it a different way, this study found that 83 percent of clinical trials used a Fitbit as opposed to another brand. Researchers apparently just really prefer it. That’s good news for the company, since it now has a slew of clinical data under its belt, and it’s thinking about a run at a medical device designation a few years in the future. According to their GM of Health Solutions, “as we start going deeper down the health road with more and more advanced sensors, I’d say, just stay tuned.” Oooooh, mysterious.
Danish researchers examined data on women ages 35-80 over a 30-year span and found that mammogram screening did not reduce the incidence of advanced tumors. This study adds to evidence that routine mammograms carry a risk of over diagnosis. The American Cancer Society isn’t quite ready for screening guidelines to change. But, maybe the response to screening should. Researchers estimate as many as one in three breast tumors diagnosed in women who received mammograms would not have caused a health problem. Over diagnosis carries its own risks as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have serious side effects. But, the medical community doesn’t know what “watchful waiting” means in the world of breast cancer. Should we be surprised that some scientists don’t have a firm grasp on breasts?
Mylan and its partner, Biocon, announced strong results from a Phase III trial for a biosimilar (MYL-1401O) of Roche’s blockbuster biologic breast cancer treatment, Herceptin. A thumbs up from the FDA would mean a financial boon for Mylan and Biocon as well as a good sign for other companies pursuing biosimilar approval since only two biosimilars are currently approved for use in the US. In addition, HER2-positive breast cancer patients would also reap the financial benefits of a biosimilar treatment. While efficacy and safety are comparable between branded Herceptin and MYL-1401O, the biosimilar would be offered at a more affordable price point which should please patients and payers alike. Roche, we imagine, would be less than thrilled.