Category Archives: Research
A university degree is linked to a heightened risk of developing a brain tumor, suggests a large observational study, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Gliomas, in particular, were more common among people who had studied at university for at least three years than they were among those who didn’t go on to higher education, the data show.
The researchers base their findings on more than 4.3 million Swedes, all of whom were born between 1911 and 1961 and living in Sweden in 1991.
They were monitored between 1993 and 2010 to see if they developed a primary brain tumor, and information on educational attainment, disposable income, marital status, and occupation was obtained from national insurance, labour market,and national census data.
During the monitoring period, 1.1 million people died and more than 48,000 emigrated, but 5735 of the men and 7101 of the women developed a brain tumour. Read the rest of this entry
A few years ago, scientists in the laboratory of Stanford’s Irving Weissman, MD, discovered that cancer cells cover themselves in copies of the CD47 “don’t eat me” protein to protect themselves from being engulfed and devoured by immune cells called macrophages.
What they could never really tell though, is how the cancer cells actually increased the production of CD47.
Recently, however, Weissman and his colleagues discovered that cancer cells accomplish this trick by recruiting molecular pathways usually used for inflammatory processes. One particular pathway involves a protein called tumour necrosis factor (TNF-alpha), which is produced in response to infection or trauma. It attracts and activates macrophage cells, which destroy sick or damaged cells. Ironically, that same genetic machinery is being used by cancer cells to protect themselves from those macrophages. The research study was published in the journal Nature Communications. Read the rest of this entry
According to a new study from The Ohio State University, while many cancers are more common among those with diabetes, cancerous brain tumours called gliomas are less common among those with elevated blood sugar and diabetes.
Glioma is one of the most common types of cancerous tumours originating in the brain. It begins in the cells that surround nerve cells and help them function.
The discovery builds on previous Ohio State research showing that high blood sugar appears to reduce a person’s risk of a noncancerous brain tumour called meningioma. Both studies were led by Judith Schwartzbaum, an associate professor of epidemiology and a researcher in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. The new glioma study appears in the journal Scientific Reports. Read the rest of this entry
Finding out that your child has cancer is devastating enough in itself, but what is even worse are the months and years that follow… the fight against this monstrous disease, the toll it takes on your child with cancer, your other children, your spouse, your marriage/relationship, your familial relationships, your friendships, your work, your own health, and your finances.
When we talk about The Business of Cancer, we are not only talking about the financial costs of Childhood Cancer Treatment, although they are high, but everything that it takes to deal with a diagnosis of Childhood Cancer…
A typical cancer patient’s treatment can easily cost hundreds of thousands of rands per year:
“Depending on the kind of cancer and the complexity of a case, treatment per year can cost less than R10 000, or way over R1 million,” according to Dr Ernst Marais, Operations Executive at the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON). Read the rest of this entry
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are white blood cells produced in bone marrow that churn out antibodies to help fight infection.
When plasma cells become cancerous, they produce abnormal proteins, and the cells can build up in bone marrow, ultimately seeping into the bloodstream.
The disease is typically diagnosed through a bone marrow biopsy, in which a needle is inserted near a patient’s hip bone to suck out a sample of bone marrow – a painful process for many patients. Clinicians can then isolate and analyse the plasma cells in the bone marrow sample to determine if they are cancerous.
There is currently no way to easily detect plasma cells that have escaped into the bloodstream. Circulating plasma cells are not normally found in healthy people, and the ability to detect these cells in blood could enable doctors to diagnose and track the progression of multiple myeloma.
A research study, Radiotherapy after high-dose chemotherapy with autologous hematopoietic cell rescue: Quality assessment of Head Start III, published in Paediatric Blood & Cancer, shows that reduced Radiation Therapy results in worse outcomes.
“This study shows that attention to the timing, dose, and location of radiation therapy is crucial,” Kenneth K. Wong, MD, a radiation oncologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and first author on the study.
The paper is a qualitative assessment of the Head Start III trial which avoids or delays Radiation Therapy in children with brain tumours. The studies represent an innovative approach to the treatment of malignant brain tumours – using high dose Chemotherapy followed by transfusion of blood stem cells – as a substitute for radiation in younger children, where the late side effects of radiation to the developing brain can be particularly detrimental. If disease persists after this course of treatment or if the child is older, they receive radiation therapy.
In the latest Head Start III study, only 31 of 220 children received radiation – of those, a subset (8 of 25), consisting of children 6 years of age or younger, had deviations from the treatment plan.
“Parents or providers may want to delay the start of radiation or reduce the dose or area of exposure – particularly in very young children,” said Wong. “But in a study already limiting radiation exposure – patients with these kinds of protocol violations experienced worse outcomes.”
Patients that received radiation therapy treatment according to protocol and within 11 weeks of recovery from stem cell transfusion showed improved overall survival.
On April 10, 2017, Fox News published an article, Chew on this: Cancer-Detecting Gum May Soon Be Available, which stated that “soon there may be a new chewing gum that could help save your life.”
The article went on to say:
The gum absorbs what are known as “volatiles” in a person’s saliva as they chew it, then the chewed gum is analyzed to determine whether it contains certain chemicals produced in the body when a person has cancer.
Katherine Bazemore, president and CEO of Volatile Analysis explained that there are chemicals produced in the body called volatile organic compounds, and they are unique to each type of cancer. By determining which of those compounds are found in the gum, doctors can tell which type of cancer is present in the patient.
The gum is still in the testing stage so it may be too early to determine how well it will work. But the company is hoping to make the gum available to doctors and patients sometime next year.
While you may not be able to blow bubbles with it, Bazemore promises the gum will come in flavors that taste just like candy.
Now this sounds FANTASTIC, but is it the truth?
According to the first large-scale whole-genome sequencing study on Childhood Cancer Survivors, approximately 12% of them have genetic mutations that put them or their children at risk for future cancers.
Previous studies include Second Primary Cancers in Survivors of Childhood Cancer, published in The Lancet in 2009, a registry-based report about a Nordic cohort of 47 697 childhood cancer survivors reported that “The overall risk of second primary cancers was 2·3-fold greater than that in the general population. In two large cohorts of 14 581 individuals who had survived for 5 years or more (USA, Childhood Cancer Survivor Study) and 16 541 who had survived for 3 years or more (UK, population-based study), the risk was reported to be 6·4-fold2 and 5·8-fold3 greater, respectively, than that in the general population.”
The findings from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s latest whole genome sequencing of cancer survivors study was recently presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2017 Annual Meeting, and highlights the previously under-appreciated role that genetics plays in second neoplasms (SNs).
Researchers led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have worked out how a crucial cancer-related protein, a “histone writer” called Ezh2, plays a role in suppressing as well as driving the most aggressive form of the brain tumour medulloblastoma.
Ezh2 is a histone writer, an enzyme that can tag or label other proteins in a way that turns off genes. The new findings, which appear online in Cell Reports, show that unlike in some earlier studies where the protein helped to advance disease, Ezh2 can also suppress cancer. This dichotomy has implications for the potential use of drugs intended to inhibit this enzyme, some of which are being tested in clinical trials.
The enzyme looked at in this study is the histone H3K27 mono-, di- and trimethylase of polycomb repressive complex 2, or Ezh2 for short. This histone writer adds methyl groups to specific histone proteins leading to epigenetic modifications that affect gene expression. The team used CRISPR gene editing to knock out the activity of the protein in a mouse model. Loss of function of this protein due to gene editing resulted in acceleration of the development of medulloblastoma tumours.
The intestine has a high rate of cellular regeneration due to the wear and tear originated by its function degrading and absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste. The entire cell wall is renewed once a week approximately. This explains why the intestine holds a large number of stem cells in constant division, thereby producing new cell populations of the various types present in this organ.
Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) headed by ICREA investigator Eduard Batlle, head of the Colorectal Cancer Laboratory, have discovered a new group of intestinal stem cells with very different characteristics to those of the abundant and active stem cells already known in this organ. Performed in collaboration with the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG-CRG), the study has been published in Cell Stem Cell. These new group of stem cells are quiescent, that is to say, they do not proliferate and are apparently dormant.
The researchers describe them as a reservoir of stem cells – it is estimated that there is one quiescent cell for every 10 active intestinal stem cells. In healthy conditions, these cells have no apparent relevant function. However, they are important in situations of stress, , for example, after chemotherapy, in inflammatory processes, and in tissue infections – all conditions in which the population of “normal/active” stem cells is depleted. These quiescent cells would serve to regenerate the organ by giving rise to the various types of cells present in the intestine, renewing the population of “normal/active” stem cells, and restoring balance to the tissue.
Treatments for childhood cancers have improved to the point that 5-year survival rates are over 80 %.
However, one group has failed to benefit from these improvements, namely children who die so soon after diagnosis that they are not able to receive treatment, or who receive treatment so late in the course of their disease that it is destined to fail.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology explores this challenging population, finding that death within a month of diagnosis is more likely in very young children and those from minority racial and ethnic groups even independent of low socioeconomic status.
The study uses a large national database to find that the rate of deaths within one month of diagnosis has been previously under-reported in clinical trial data, with early deaths from some paediatric cancer subtypes up to four times as common as had been implied by clinical trial reports.
While Gene Therapy has been around for a few years already, we don’t seem to be hearing much about it being used to treat cancer, especially paediatric cancer, and one cannot help but wonder why…
In most gene therapy studies, a “normal” gene is inserted into the genome to replace an “abnormal,” disease-causing gene. In cancer, some cells become diseased because certain genes have been permanently turned off. Using gene therapy, mutated genes that cause disease could be turned off so that they no longer promote disease, or healthy genes that help prevent disease could be turned on so that they can inhibit the disease.
Other cells may be missing certain genes. Researchers hope that replacing missing or defective genes can help treat certain diseases. For example, a common tumor suppressor gene called p53 normally prevents tumor growth in your body. Several types of cancer have been linked to a missing or inactive p53 gene. If doctors could replace p53 where it’s missing, that might trigger the cancer cells to die.