News round-up: palbociclib, asparagus and BRCA

PUBLISHED ON: 3 March 2018

A round-up of the latest news about breast cancer research, treatments and side effects.


1. Life-extending secondary breast cancer drugs approved for use on the NHS

Both palbociclib (Ibrance) and ribociclib (Kisqali) were approved in England and Wales by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The two treatments, when combined with other drugs, can target certain types of incurable, secondary breast cancer, helping to prevent further progression of the disease for as long as two years.

Palbociclib was also approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for use on the NHS in Scotland.

2. Cancer care inequality across the country

Women are twice as likely to die from breast cancer in certain parts of the country, according to a recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Cancer. In a statement to press, Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: 'The failings in early diagnosis are shocking as this fundamentally saves lives. On top of this, many of those who live beyond breast cancer are not living well... The NHS must not only ensure people are diagnosed as early as possible, but also that everyone has access to vital information and support once their hospital treatment ends.'

3. Breast screening numbers at lowest in 10 years

mammogram machine in use

According to the latest data from NHS Digital, breast screening uptake in England is at its lowest level in 10 years. Mammograms remain the most effective tool for detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the different signs and symptoms of breast cancer, to know what’s normal for you and to get anything unusual checked out by your GP.

4. BRCA in the news

In January medical journal The Lancet published research that showed that younger women with breast cancer who have an altered BRCA gene have the same survival chances as those without an altered gene. An altered BRCA gene significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. This news could give women with an altered gene more time to decide whether to have risk-reducing surgery.

Other research revealed that testing all women over the age of 30 for an altered BRCA gene could prevent 80,000 breast and ovarian cancer cases. Our Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme stressing that it's crucial not to forget how difficult the decisions can be if someone is told they have an altered gene, and how vital it is to have appropriate support in place if this were to happen.

5. Weight loss after menopause linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer

US research has suggested that postmenopausal women who lose weight may have a significantly reduced chance of developing breast cancer.

While maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and exercise is one the most beneficial things you can do for your health, there are no guarantees that this will reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. The two biggest risk factors are being a woman and increasing age.

6. Could eating asparagus be linked to breast cancer spreading?


New research on mice suggests that restricting the amino acid asparagine from their diet could decrease the risk of breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Although our bodies already naturally produce some asparagine, it is found in many foods such as asparagus, soy, dairy, poultry, beef and seafood. However, the research is in very early stages and further studies are needed to understand whether there is any impact on human bodies. Find out more about diet and breast cancer.

7. Night light proved not to increase breast cancer risk

Responding to new research, our Clinical Nurse Specialist said women should be reassured 'higher levels of light at night does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer'. Read more about breast cancer and risk.