It’s per­sonal…

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - Ed­i­tor Suzy Brokensha

When An­gelina Jolie opted to have a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy as a pre­emp­tive move against breast can­cer, it seemed shock­ing (see the in­ter­view with Dr Kristi Funk, An­gelina’s doc­tor, on page 26

– she has some fas­ci­nat­ing things to say about diet). The point is that she made the right de­ci­sion for her given her fam­ily his­tory and ge­netic blue­print, although it may not have been the right de­ci­sion for some­one else… There are just so many vari­ables.

The fu­ture of medicine is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly per­sonal, which is ex­cel­lent news. Be­ing able to tar­get dis­ease more di­rectly has to be bet­ter than the cur­rent spat­ter-gun ap­proach, which some­times seems to do as much harm as it does good.

In June this year, re­searchers shared pos­i­tive re­sults from an ex­per­i­men­tal ther­apy that had ex­tracted and mul­ti­plied im­munesys­tem cells from a 49-year-old woman be­fore in­fus­ing them back into her. The treat­ment she re­ceived could not have been more spe­cific – it was her own im­mune sys­tem fight­ing back, just mas­sively bol­stered by lab-repli­cated cells.

‘It’s as highly per­son­alised as a treat­ment can be,’ says Dr Steven Rosen­berg of the US Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute. ‘We are cre­at­ing a new drug for ev­ery pa­tient, tar­get­ing the unique mu­ta­tions in that per­son’s can­cer.’ The pa­tient has been can­cer-free for two and a half years since, and although the method is still in the trial phase, it’s re­ally good to know such ground­break­ing ad­vances are be­ing made.

Even so, the sin­gle best thing we can do about breast can­cer is to de­tect it early. Oc­to­ber is the month we re­mind our­selves of that, but we should be check­ing our­selves all the time. So I’m go­ing to say, as I do ev­ery Oc­to­ber: put this mag­a­zine down right now. Then put your hands on your breasts and check for any­thing un­usual. Have reg­u­lar mam­mo­grams if you’re in that age bracket. And make sure your friends and loved ones are do­ing it too.

We’ll beat breast can­cer in the end, but it will be much eas­ier if we think about it for more than just one month of the year!

Love, Suzy

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