Category Archives: Research

Reduction in Radiotherapy for Childhood Brain Tumours Unsucessful


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.

 

Cancer-Detecting Gum May Soon Be Available: Fact or Fiction?


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?

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Do Childhood Cancer Survivors have a Genetic Risk for Future Cancers?


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).

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Caution Called for in Development of Drugs for Most Common Malignant Paediatric Brain Tumour


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.

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Reservoir of Chemotherapy-Resistant Stem Cells in the Intestine


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.

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Early Deaths from Childhood Cancer Up to 4 X More Common Than Previously Reported


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.

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Gene Therapy: Does it Work?


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.

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What Happened to the EBC-46 Miracle Cancer Drug?


Back in 2014, researchers published the results of a study in the journal PLoS One that showed the complete destruction of tumours, without relapse, in 75% of laboratory mice treated with direct injections of EBC-46 into the cancerous cells. In some cases, this destruction occurred in as little as 48 hours.

Dr. Glen Boyle was the lead author of that study, conducted by a team of cancer scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia as well as the private pharmaceutical company QBiotics.  The team extracted a compound from seeds contained in the berry of the Blushwood tree (Fontainea picrosperma), which only grows in the Atherton Tablelands, an area of Rainforest in the North of Queensland.

At the time, Boyle stated that “in most cases a single injection starts killing the cancer off in 4-5 hours.” He also said “the compound works in three ways – it kills the tumour, cuts off the blood supply and activates the immune system to clear it all up.”

In extremely broad brushstrokes, researchers posit that the compound achieves these goals primarily by activating an enzyme called Protein Kinase C, though the exact mechanisms remain unclear.

In December 2016 an article entitled “Scientists find Australian berry to cure cancer in 48 hours!” started doing the rounds and is still being widely shared, but is this 100% true??

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Less Use of Radiation Therapy Leads to Decline in Secondary Cancers in Childhood Cancer Survivors


AtomResearch done by St Jude Children’s Research Hospital shows that Childhood Cancer survival rates are on the rise and that children are seeing fewer new tissue growths as well as fewer complications later on. Researchers say that this decline is due to a sharp drop in the use of radiation therapy.

Radiation treatment in paediatric cancers has been cut by nearly half since 1970; the percentage of pediatric cancer patients treated with radiation fell from 77% to 33%. The average radiation dose has also lessened.

Radiation therapy was long seen as the standard treatment for treating various cancers, but in recent years, scientists have learned that the probability of second cancers increases as the radiation dose increases. Radiation kills off the cancerous tissue, but the downside is that it is very difficult to localise the high energy X-rays and they often hit other uninfected tissues, which can cause a second cancer to develop.

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The Most Exciting News for Cancer Research Yet!!!


cancer-research-uk-grand-challenge-20-million-research-grantsIn 2015 Cancer Research UK launched a series of £20m awards for researchers attempting game changing research. These are the most ambitious grants in the world allowing international research teams to take on the biggest problems in cancer research, the Grand Challenges.

Seven Grand Challenges were set in consultation with patients, innovators and the scientific community, and multidisciplinary teams from across the Globe were tasked to submit proposals to tackle them – of the 56 bids received, 9 pioneering teams were shortlisted.

The idea was originally to fund only 1 team, but the independent scientific advisory panel were so impressed by the quality and potential of the shortlisted teams that they recommended an increase in the investment from one award to FOUR!!

Thanks to the generous support of partners and donors it was possible to fund not just one, but four exceptional teams.

As 10 of the world’s leading scientists deliberated on their decision to select the first winners of the Grand Challenge awards after months of hard work and sleepless nights, explains Dr Rick Klausner, chair of the Grand Challenge Advisory Board said:

We were almost pinching ourselves when we read the winning teams’ applications. They were among the most exciting I’ve ever read, and I’ve been reading and reviewing funding applications for almost 40 years!”

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Epigenetic Diversity in Childhood Cancer


artistic-rendering-of-a-methylated-dna-moleculeTumours of the elderly, such as breast cancer and colon cancer, accumulate thousands of DNA mutations. These genetic defects contribute to cancer-specific properties including uncontrolled growth, invasion in neighbouring tissues, and evasion from the immune system.

Similar properties are also found in Childhood Cancers, although those tumours carry much fewer genetic defects, making it difficult to explain their clinical heterogeneity.

This is particularly true for Ewing Sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer in children and adolescents.

A single genetic defect – the EWS-ETS fusion – is present in all tumours, initiating cancer development and defining Ewing sarcoma as a disease, but the tumours carry very few DNA mutations that could explain the observed differences in the disease course of Ewing sarcoma patients.

Tackling this question, a team of scientists from Austria, France, Germany and Spain led by Eleni Tomazou from the St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute in Vienna profiled many Ewing Tumours. They found that the disease’s clinical diversity is reflected by widespread epigenetic heterogeneity.

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Vulnerability Of Child Cancer Patients To Treatment Toxicities


apoptosis-cycleDespite many successes in treating paediatric cancer, young children remain at high risk for developing severe, long-lasting impairments in their brain, heart, and other vital organs from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In adults, however, these tissues are relatively spared.

This disparity creates a complicated balancing act for doctors – administering doses high enough to have a chance of curing young cancer patients while minimising the risk of long-term cognitive and heart damage.

This “therapeutic window” is particularly narrow in infants and young children compared to adults, whose vital organs are more resilient to intense treatment.

Now, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say they have discovered a potential explanation for why brain and heart tissues in very young children are more sensitive to collateral damage from cancer treatment than older individuals. Reporting in Cancer Cell, they show that the tissues in these still-developing organs are more prone to apoptosis, or programmed cell death, when subjected to toxic stresses like chemotherapy and radiation.

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