Category Archives: Research
In 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!”
Tumours 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.
Despite 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.
Did you know that the artificial turf that your children play on contains carcinogenic materials? Many sports clubs and even schools are using artificial turf for soccer fields, hockey fields and the like these days, and this may be costing your children their health.
Amy Griffin, Associate Head Coach of Women’s Soccer at the University of Washington in Seattle, first began to wonder about artificial turf and cancer in 2009. “We had two goalies from the neighbourhood, and they had grown up and gone to college,” Griffin said. “And then they both came down with lymphoma.
While sitting around socialising, talk turned to why the two had both contracted lymphoma, and someone said, “I wonder if it has something to do with the black dots.”
“Black Dots” are the crumb rubber used in today’s artificial turf fields (and on playgrounds). Those fields are designed to be more pliable than AstroTurf because they’re made from longer synthetic grass surrounded by infill made of ground rubber from used tires, usually mixed with sand.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – published on 12th January, 2017 – consolidated all evidence published since 1999 regarding the health impacts associated with cannabis and cannabis-derived products, such as marijuana.
In excess of 10,000 scientific abstracts were considered by the committee that carried out the study and wrote the report in order to reach its nearly 100 conclusions.
The growing accessibility of cannabis and acceptance of its use for recreational purposes have raised important public health concerns. Neither the level of therapeutic benefit offered by the drug nor the risks it carries for causing adverse health effects have been rigorously assessed.
“For years the landscape of marijuana use has been rapidly shifting as more and more states are legalizing cannabis for the treatment of medical conditions and recreational use,” said Marie McCormick, chair of the committee; the Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health, department of social and behavioral sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass.
Unfortunately, for Survivors of Childhood Cancer, the risks to their health are not over by any means…
Various studies have shown that Childhood Cancer Survivors may be at increased risk of being obese due to the therapies they underwent to fight the cancer.
Among the strongest predictor of obesity in survivors was childhood obesity, which is also a strong predictor of adult obesity in the general public. Other obesity risk factors were age and childhood cancer treatment.
Obesity rates are especially elevated in Childhood Cancer Survivors who were exposed to cranial radiation, which is used to prevent or delay the spread of cancer to the brain.
In a study published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, a team led by Carmen Wilson, PhD and Kirsten Ness, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, designed a study to estimate the prevalence of obesity among childhood cancer survivors and to identify the clinical and treatment-related risks for obesity in these individuals. The study also looked for potential genetic factors that might play a role.
A group of South African cancer practitioners has developed a new set of Comprehensive Guidelines to manage chemotherapy treatment and improve patient safety and protect healthcare workers.
Chemotherapy Administration Guidelines was compiled by members of the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON) in consultation with global oncologists and cancer experts to address a substantial gap in South African cancer care protocol. The resource, a first for South Africa, will be released later this month.
According to Dr David Eedes, clinical oncology advisor for ICON, there has never been a single resource document in South Africa that addresses best practice at all three levels of chemotherapy administration:
- The Oncologists who prescribe the medication;
- The Pharmacists who dispense it; and
- The Nurses who administer it.
In a recent study, Anti-PD-1 antitumor immunity is enhanced by local and abrogated by systemic chemotherapy in GBM, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found in experiments on mice with a form of aggressive brain cancer, that localised chemotherapy delivered directly to the brain rather than given systemically may be the best way to keep the immune system intact and strong when immunotherapy is also part of the treatment.
The researchers say their study results, reported in Science Translational Medicine, could directly affect the design of immunotherapy clinical trials and treatment strategies for people with a deadly form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
“We understand that our research was done in a mouse model and not in humans, but our evidence is strong that systemic chemotherapy alters the immune system in a way that it never fully recovers,” says Michael Lim, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery and director of brain tumor immunotherapy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
“With aggressive cancers like glioblastoma, it is important that we don’t handicap the defenses we may need to add alternative treatments, such as immunotherapy, to chemotherapy,” he adds.
By interfacing brain cells onto graphene, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown they can differentiate a single hyperactive cancerous cell from a normal cell, pointing the way to developing a simple, non-invasive tool for early cancer diagnosis.
“This graphene system is able to detect the level of activity of an interfaced cell,” says Vikas Berry, associate professor and head of chemical engineering at UIC, who led the research along with Ankit Mehta, assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery in the UIC College of Medicine.
“Graphene is the thinnest known material and is very sensitive to whatever happens on its surface,” Berry said. The nanomaterial is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms linked in a hexagonal chicken-wire pattern, and all the atoms share a cloud of electrons moving freely about the surface.
“The cell’s interface with graphene rearranges the charge distribution in graphene, which modifies the energy of atomic vibration as detected by Raman spectroscopy,” Berry said, referring to a powerful workhorse technique that is routinely used to study graphene.
The death of a child is an event no parent can ever truly move beyond. Though grief is a lifelong process, for some a personal tragedy such as this can be a springboard to launch an organisation focused on bringing attention to an important cause.
That was the case for Jill and Mazen Kamen, who officially launched the Kamen Brain Tumor Foundation after losing their 19-year-old son in April to brain cancer.
In 2009 he had been diagnosed with a type of rapidly growing brain tumour called a high-grade astrocytoma that, despite aggressive treatment, eventually evolved into a glioblastoma — the highly malignant brain tumor that also took the lives of Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau, in 2015 and former Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009.
“The first phase is shock when your child is diagnosed,” said Mazen. “You can’t believe it. You start questioning the why, the where. It’s like someone has hit you with a Mack truck. You have to go through that. But you also have to regroup yourself very quickly, because now you have a long, tedious road ahead. And you really have to do your homework very quickly and efficiently, if you can, to face this.”
According to recent research published in the journal Nature Medicine, intermittent fasting may help combat the most common type of childhood Leukaemia – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), also called Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia , is a cancer that begins in immature versions of white blood cells in the bone marrow, called lymphocytes.
All prohibits the maturation of certain cells, which then results in large numbers of immature, leukemic cells being released into the bloodstream, outweighing the number of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
This reduction in healthy white blood cells makes a patient vulnerable to infection, while low levels of platelets and red blood cells can lead to unusual bleeding and anaemia. Other signs and symptoms of ALL include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, rib pain, and bone or joint pain.
According to the American Cancer Society, ALL is the most common form of childhood Leukaemia , accounting for around 3 in 4 Leukaemia cases in children.
According to recent research from the Institute for Research in Barcelona, funded by Worldwide Cancer Research, eating chocolate, biscuits and bread while suffering from cancer makes the disease more deadly.
A key ingredient in palm oil,found in some toiletries and in various foodstuffs, including chocolate, stimulates a protein called CD36 in humans.
This protein, which is found in the membranes of tumour cells, is responsible for taking up fatty acids. CD36 activity and dependence on lipid (fat) metabolism distinguish metastasis-initiating cells from other tumour cells.
Experts believe that this protein plays a vital role in tumours spreading around the body (metastasising), making it more deadly. It is hoped the ‘game-changing’ findings could lead to new treatments to prevent cancer from reaching vital organs.