Many thanks to the researchers, staff and volunteers who helped make our recent Breast Cancer Research Celebration to mark 5 years of BREAST-PREDICT such a great success.
Hundreds dropped by the bandstand in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green on Sunday 9 September to get a taste of cancer research and a glimpse of the important work carried out by BREAST-PREDICT, the Irish Cancer Society’s collaborative breast cancer research centre.
The event was also used to highlight new BREAST-PREDICT research findings by RCSI researcher Dr Jamie Madden, under the supervision of Prof Kathleen Bennett, Associate Professor in Pharmacoepidemiology at RCSI Dublin
The research found that women who take vitamin D after being diagnosed with breast cancer may have an increased chance of survival.
The researchers analysed data from almost 5,500 breast cancer patients and found that taking vitamin D supplements after diagnosis was associated with an increased relative survival of 20 per cent compared to those who did not.
For the research, anonymised data on the pharmacy claims of almost 5,500 women with breast cancer aged 50-80 between 2000 and 2011 was provided by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland.
Prof Bennett said: “Previous studies have found that higher blood levels of vitamin D, which can come from our diet, sunlight or supplements, is associated with increased breast cancer survival. Our study suggests that vitamin D supplementation might be useful for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Large clinical trials are already underway overseas to look into this further.”
The research team’s findings were recently published in the journal ‘Breast Cancer Research and Treatment’.
While the findings are significant, the researchers did not have access to information on other measures from the women that could possibly impact their likelihood of better outcome. For example, increasingly studies are showing that moderate physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet can benefit a patient undergoing cancer treatment but this was not collected in this study.
The research also found vitamin D users to be younger on average, be less likely to smoke and have lower tumour stage and tumour grade progression compared to non-users, all factors more likely to be associated with better survival.
Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “Before rushing out to buy vitamin D supplements, we urge women with breast cancer to first talk to their medical team. Vitamin D use can cause health issues and each woman’s cancer is unique and will require personalised treatment.
“While this is an important preliminary study, the findings only shows an association, and not causal link. We will only know if vitamin D supplementation should be recommended to improve breast cancer treatment outcome in the coming years when the results of clinical trials emerge.”
The findings were revealed as breast cancer researchers, survivors, and broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan today launch ‘Cups Against Breast Cancer,’ an Irish Cancer Society fundraising campaign which aims to raise money for breast cancer research and support services.
Dr O’Connor, added: “This research is an example of the vital work of BREAST-PREDICT, made possible by the country’s support of fundraising campaigns like ‘Cups Against Breast Cancer’.
“Since the Irish Cancer Society established BREAST-PREDICT five years ago, we’ve funded the work of over 50 breast cancer researchers across the country. That’s meant a €7.5 million investment that’s only been possible through the public’s generous donations.
“The Irish Cancer Society can only invest in cancer research because of this support. Throughout October we’re asking the public to continue this support by hosting a Cups Against Breast Cancer coffee morning to raise funds for breast cancer research and free patient support services.”
For more information on Cups Against Breast Cancer visit www.cancer.ie/cupsagainstcancer.