News in brief: Statin use linked to improved survival in TNBC; Cancer surgeon charged with indecent filming; COVID vaccinologist gets her own Barbie

Thursday, 12 Aug 2021

Statin use linked to improved survival in TNBC

Statin use is associated with better overall survival (OS) and breast cancer-specific survival among women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (BCSS),  a US study has found.

Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found a 58% relative improvement in breast cancer-specific survival and a 30% relative improvement in overall survival with new statin use after a diagnosis of TNBC.

The retrospective study analysed data for  23,192 women over the age of 66 who had stage I, II, and III TNBC including 2281 who started a statin within one year after diagnosis and who were followed up for a median of 4.4 years for overall survival.

Analysis by breast cancer stage suggested that the association of incidental statin use with improved outcomes may be stronger in women with early stage TNBC. Stronger effects were also seen with high-intensity statin use and with lipophilic statins.

The study investigators said the findings confirmed previous work that had suggested a benefit of statins on breast cancer outcomes, and several plausible biological mechanisms had been put forward to explain the effect including improved sensitivity to radiation therapy and reversal of acquired chemotherapy resistance. A tumour- suppressive effect of statins in breast cancer may be caused by the inhibition of matrix metalloprotein-ases, which are key regulators of malignant growth and  invasion, they noted.

“Our data suggest that statins may have a role as a therapy in patients with TNBC and support the initiation of prospective studies,” they concluded in the Journal Cancer.

Cancer surgeon charged with indecent filming

A South Australian surgeon specialising in breast cancer treatment has been released on bail after being charged with indecent filming.

Ho Keun Shin – who practises as Dr Peter Shin at the at the Breast and Endocrine Centre, Adelaide –  was released from custody after appearing at the Adelaide Magistrates Court, on condition that he did not return to his place of work.

Dr Shin is also a visiting specialist at the Breast and Endocrine Surgical Unit at Flinders Medical Centre public hospital and Burnside War Memorial Hospital.

According to the website of the Breast and Endocrine Centre, Dr Shin graduated from Auckland University and did specialised training in breast, endocrine and melanoma surgery in New Zealand, followed by specialised training in breast oncoplastics at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The matter will return to court in September.

COVID vaccinologist gets her own Barbie

Vaccinologist Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert has had a Barbie created in her image to honour her role in developing the Oxford SARS-CoV-2 vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

Professor Gilbert, Saϊd Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and Project Leader on the vaccine, is one of six women in STEM around to be recognised as a Barbie 2021 Role Model, in celebration of their work as “modern real-life heroes of the pandemic”.

“I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realise how vital careers in science are to help the world around us,” said Professor Gilbert in a statement. 

“My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a Vaccinologist.”

Mattel said the Barbie brand is making a donation to Prof Gilbert’s chosen STEM-focused organisation WISE (Women in Science & Engineering) in the UK to support My Skills My Life, an initiative which aims to inspire girls to take up a career in STEM. 

UCAS data suggests that just 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women, while there are only 24% of women in core STEM roles across the country, according to an analysis by WISE.

The other women honoured with a one-of-a-kind doll from Mattel are: 

  • Amy O’Sullivan, RN (US) – an Emergency Room nurse who treated the first COVID-19 patient at the Wycoff Hospital in Brooklyn, in New York. She later contracted the disease but later returned to work to care for other.
  • Dr Audery Cruz (US) – a frontline worker from Las Vegas, NV, who during the pandemic worked to fight racial bias and discrimination.
  • Dr Chika Stacy Oriuwa (Canada) – A psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, Canada, who is fighting systemic racism in healthcare.
  • Dr Jaqueline Goes de Jesus (Brazil) – a biomedical researcher credited for leading the sequencing of the genome of a COVID-19 variant in Brazil.
  • Dr Kirby White (Australia) – a general practitioner who co-founded Gowns for Doctors, a gown that could be laundered and re-used, allowing frontline workers in Victoria, AU to continue treating patients during the pandemic.


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