Category Archives: Research

Cancer Caregiver Stress, Depression & Burnout


Being a caregiver for a person with cancer takes its toll on one’s health, and even more so when the person with cancer is your child.

Caregivers of Children with Cancer (usually the mother) are faced with far more stress, as they usually have to give up their job, spend endless hours at their child’s bedside in the hospital – sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, make endless trips to doctors, clinics and hospitals, and still try to be there for the rest of the family. Childhood Cancer unfortunately often ends in divorce, which places even more of a burden on the mother and the stress becomes far worse and can often turn into depression or burnout.

While it is natural to want to stay by your sick child’s side and meet the needs of their siblings and other family members – all at once, this is a virtually impossible task, and unless you give both your mind and your body a break once in a while, you could well end up with caregiver-burnout!

When one continuously cares for others while under tremendous stress, one can begin to feel that you’re in over your head and have little control over the situation – this can cause the stress to begin taking a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to burnout.

When you are burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after your ill child, which is  why taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it is a necessity! There are plenty of things you can do to rein in the stress of caregiving and regain a sense of balance, joy, and hope in your life.

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Stopping Neuroblastoma’s Blood Supply in its Tracks


Researchers have discovered the mechanism by which a modified natural compound disrupts the formation of tumours’ blood vessel networks in Childhood Cancer Neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma occurs when malignant cancer cells form in the specialised nerve cells of the sympathetic nervous involved in the development of the nervous system and other tissues.

Neuroblastoma most commonly occurs in one of the adrenal glands situated in the tummy or in the chest, neck, abdomen, pelvis or the nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord. The adrenal glands are specialised glands that release hormones that help the body respond to stress and maintain blood pressure.

The international study, led by scientists at Children’s Cancer Institute and UNSW, is published in Scientific Reports and paves the way for less toxic treatments for Neuroblastoma, a Childhood Cancer with an average age of diagnosis of just one to two years old.

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HIV & Cancer Fields Collaborate For a Cure


Revolutions in cancer treatment are being tested in HIV in the hopes it will bring the world closer to a cure.

The first-ever anti-HIV drug, AZT, was initially developed to fight cancer but was abandoned in preliminary testing. This breakthrough drug saved lives and offered hope to people with AIDS. Over two decades later, the fields of oncology and HIV are collaborating again in the search for a functional cure for AIDS.

Why HIV cure and cancer?” asked Nobel Laureate Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi at a meeting in Paris last month. Renowned for co-discovering the HI virus in 1983, she said that the two had more in common that one would expect.

At a forum held shortly before the 9th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science in late July Barré-Sinoussi said a collaboration between the two fields held promise towards finding a more sustainable solution to the current option for people living with HIV: daily treatment for life.

Well we know, first of all, some people on long-term treatment develop cancer,” she explained. Secondly, she said that over the past five years there is “more and more data” showing similarities between tumour cells and those latently infected with HIV.

When a person’s antiretroviral treatment (ART) is working to suppress the amount of virus in the blood to below detectable levels (an undetectable viral load) a number of HIV-infected cells persist. These cells, latently infected cells, stop infecting other cells with HIV but they reactivate when a person stops taking ART. A group of latently infected cells is called an HIV reservoir – and it is this that scientists are trying to locate and destroy in the hopes of finding a cure.

 

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Dr Charles Keller’s New hope for Rare Children’s Cancers


While many types of cancers have had improved survival outcomes over recent years due to new drugs and other clinical innovations, there are certain cancers that have not progressed appreciably in their survival rates or in developing new methodologies and drug protocols for decades.

Unfortunately, these cancers primarily affect children and young adults. Since the number of patients diagnosed with these deadly diseases annually is small compared to other types of cancers such as breast, prostate and colon cancer, they are treated as “orphan” diseases which translate into less emphasis by the drug companies and medical establishment in finding treatments and cures for these forms of cancer.

It is therefore up to dedicated researchers and grassroots support groups to “pick up the slack” and help those children afflicted with these deadly diseases by finding new drug protocols and techniques to stop the cancers from metastasising at worst or to stop the cancer cells from developing at best.

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U.S. Senate Passes Bill to Improve Cancer Drugs for Children


Up until now, drug companies have been free to decide whether to pursue treatments for paediatric cancers as part of their work on adult cancers or not, and this has led to a minimal amount of new drugs specifically for paediatric cancers being developed.

An estimated 2,000 children die of cancer annually, and the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975 – there has been a 13% rise in Childhood Cancer in the past 20 years alone.

Despite significant advances against certain pediatric cancers, including Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, there are still some types of cancer for which there are few or no effective treatments.

The truth is that new drug development in pediatric cancer is extremely slow, often lagging way behind adult treatments, and few compounds are designed specifically for children.

The sad truth is that Childhood cancers make up less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed each year, and that is is not much of a market for drug makers, who rack up an estimated $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs while bringing a novel drug to market.

They won’t have much choice going forward!!

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Understanding the Impact of Childhood Cancer Rates across Sub-Saharan Africa


Collated Childhood cancer statistics in sub Saharan Africa have been published for the first time as a monograph in the peer reviewed journal ecancermedicalscience, allowing researchers and policymakers a critical new insight into the impact of paediatric cancer across this region.

On the African continent, only South Africa operates a childhood cancer registry on the national level.

This new study brings together data from 16 of the smaller localised registers, which, as members of the African Cancer Registry Network (AFCRN), have been evaluated as achieving adequate coverage of their target population. The study has allowed for the collection of this scattered knowledge for the first time and presents it in an accessible format.

The cancers are classified according to the third revision of the International Classification of Childhood Cancer (ICCC-3) and recorded rates in Africa are compared with those in childhood populations in the UK, France, and the USA.

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Can Antioxidant Supplements Prevent Cancer?


Antioxidants are substances that can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, or unstable molecules. That damage, called “oxidative stress,” is linked to the kind of damage in DNA mutations that can contribute to the risk of certain cancers, as well as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

In most cases, you can find all the antioxidants you need in a healthy, plant-based diet.

To date, nine randomised controlled clinical trials of dietary antioxidant supplements for cancer prevention have been conducted worldwide to study the effects of antioxidant supplements and cancer. The different studies reached varying conclusions about the efficacy and safety of taking antioxidant supplements to help prevent cancer or taking them during cancer treatment.

Some studies have shown that taking antioxidant supplements – such as vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, and beta-carotene – might help reduce the risk for certain diseases related to oxidative stress, including cancer.

Additional large randomized controlled trials are needed to provide clear scientific evidence about the potential benefits or harms of taking antioxidant supplements during cancer treatment,” the National Cancer Institute (NCI), reports.

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New Method Means Stem Cell Transplantation is Reaching More Populations


Stem cell transplantation has drastically evolved, not only moving into different types of haematologic malignancies, but also into patient populations of different ethnicities, according to associate director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Tsiporah B. Shore, M.D.

We live in a very multi-ethnic world, and it is more and more vital that all ethnic and racial groups needs can be accommodated.

With the addition of novel approaches such as haplo-cord and haploidentical transplants, an increasing number of patients are able to receive this necessary treatment.

Stem cell transplantation is a very important procedure that should be available for everyone. Looking at the unrelated registry, or even within families, there are very limited donors for many ethnic populations. It is vital that something is done about that so that transplants are available to everyone, even when donors are not available in the registry.

Shore’s centre has pioneered a new method called the haplo-cord transplant and also do cord transplantations and haploidentical transplantations – options which are fairly new and different to what was available five years ago thus enabling the entre to find donors for almost everyone.

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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Launches OncoKids – A Comprehensive DNA and RNA Paediatric Cancer Panel


A team of investigators at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles recently launched OncoKidsSM, a next-generation sequencing-based panel specifically designed for paediatric cancers.

The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) OncoKidsSM cancer panel is a primer-based target enrichment, next-generation sequencing assay designed to detect diagnostic, prognostic and biologic markers for targeted therapy across the spectrum of pediatric cancers. These cancers include leukaemias, sarcomas, brain tumours and embryonal tumours. OncoKidsSM is a targeted gene panel intended to guide the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pediatric patients based on the genomic alterations specific to their tumor.

The OncoKidsSM panel was developed by a team comprised of laboratory geneticists, oncologists and pathologists.

In contrast to adult cancers, which may contain hundreds of sequence alterations, paediatric malignancies may develop from a very small number of mutations, only some of which overlap with the types of mutations seen in adult cancers.

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Conquering Cancer’s Biggest Side-Effect: Fear


Cancer can be a frightening, nerve-wracking disease, and medical science often overlooks the emotional toll it takes on patients.

Children with Cancer can suffer even worse as they have to deal with all the hospital and clinic appointments, tests, tubes, operations, scans and treatments.

When dealing with Childhood Cancer, not only does the disease take its toll on the Child with Cancer, but also on the Parents and siblings.

The stress of dealing with cancer in a child can cause many problems in the family unit, with siblings feeling that they are being ignored, parents being overworked and run ragged as the disease takes its course, and many fathers are unable to cope as they feel helpless and that they have failed their child – on top of which the mother often has to stop working to support the Child with Cancer – leaving the father as the only breadwinner and the only one at home to take care of the rest of the family.

Childhood Cancer often causes the break-up of the family unit, ending in divorce and leaving the mother to deal with everything on her own.

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High Levels of Education Linked to Heightened Brain Tumour Risk


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

Cancer Protects Itself via Inflammatory Pathways


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

Link between Blood Sugar & Brain Cancer Found


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

The Ugly Business of Cancer!!


What most people do not realise, is that Cancer is a Business!! This is the ugly fact that parents are not told on the fateful day that their child is diagnosed with cancer.

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

Method May Help Myeloma Patients Avoid Painful Biopsies


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.

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