Staying “Abreast” With MSK News

Historically BMI has been used by doctors to identify if individuals are of a healthy weight. Since BMI does not take into account fat, muscle, and bone composition, it is not the best indicator of disease risk. Extra body fat is actually the culprit for disease risk. A study conducted by Dr. Neil Iyengar and his team found that this is true when it comes to breast cancer risk. Many breast cancer tumors are estrogen-receptive, so increases in estrogen cause them to grow. The study found that women with normal BMIs, those with higher body fat levels were at significantly higher risk of developing ER-positive breast cancer. Women in the top 25% for body fat were twice as likely to develop the cancer than those in the bottom 25%.

The FDA has cleared the first treatment for BRCA-positive breast cancer patients. Lynparza (olaparib) is a type of PARP inhibitor that blocks an enzyme involved in repairing damaged DNA, thus causing cancer cells to not be fixed and die, slowing tumor growth. Dr. Mark Robson, who led the trial, sees the drug as an “exciting new option” for these patients and a “building block” to be used in combination with other treatments.

A dutch study found that women with breast implants may be more likely to develop a rare cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymophoma. MSK’s Dr. Colleen McCarthy contributed an accompanying editorial to the JAMA Oncology study, where she advises women who are considering implants to discuss the risks and options with their doctors. “Breast implants remain among the most studied medical devices available in the world, and breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma is an extremely rare and highly treatable form of lymphoma,” McCarthy added. “For women considering breast implant surgery, the advantages and disadvantages to textured versus smooth shelled implants should be explored.”

Researchers Design Remote-Controlled Cancer Killers

Dr. Michel Sadelain and his team along with researchers at UC-San Diego and USC have shown that using mechanogenetics – how physical forces and changes in the mechanical properties of cells and tissues can influence how genes are expressed – to manipulate CAR-T cells to only attack cancer tissues. The researchers found by using ultrasound waves, they could direct certain cells to turn on CAR-T cell gene expression. This research could revolutionize the availability and safety of CAR-T cell treatment by increasing the effectiveness and minimizing the subsequent toxicities of these treatments.

MSK’s Dr. Jimmie Holland Passes Away at 89

Jimmie C. Holland is known around the world as the founder of psycho-oncology. She passed away on December 24 at the age of 89. Dr. Holland’s contributions at MSK are enormous, from establishing it’s first full-time psychiatry service in 1977, and chairing the Department of Psychiatry until 2003. She founded numerous journals on the topic of psycho-oncology, and continued to participate in patient care well into advanced age. Dr. William Breitbart, Chief of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at MSK described Jimmie as “a hero, an advocate, an inspirational leader, a teacher, a mentor who launched the careers of the leaders of a worldwide field, and always, up to the last days of her life, a caring and effective clinician.”

You can visit Dr. Holland’s Synapse profile (MSK Publication Database) to review some of her research contributions to the field of psycho-oncology.