Category Archives: Research

Liquid Biopsy New Hope for Precision Therapies for Retinoblastoma Tumours


Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer that develops in the light-sensitive lining of the eye, called the retina.

Retinoblastoma can occur at any age but mainly occurs in children younger than 5 years of age and most often in those younger than 2.

In many developing countries where tumours can progress until they literally burst out of eyes, retinoblastoma remains an often fatal diagnosis, whereas in other countries the survival rate has risen to 98%.

Retinoblastoma was one of the first cancers to have its genetic origins identified in the late 1980s — a finding that helped launch the current era of personalised treatments that have transformed treatment of breast, lung, and prostate cancer.

To date though, children who develop these rare tumours have not benefited from that wave of precision diagnostics and therapies. This is mainly due to the fact that doctors have not been able to biopsy the tumours for genetic information that could guide treatment, without removing the very eyes the clinicians are trying so hard to save.

You can read about our own Little Fighter, Helen’s story HERE

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What will CAR T-Cell Therapy for Paediatric ALL Treatment Mean to Africa?


Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy is a form of cancer immunotherapy which seeks to sharpen and strengthen the immune system’s inherent cancer-fighting powers.

CAR T-Cell Therapy was approved in August 2017 ~ the first time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CAR T-cell therapy for a form of cancer ~ for the treatment of paediatric and young adult patients with B-cell ALL that has relapsed or hasn’t responded to previous treatments.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) is a type of leukaemia in which a group of white blood cells, called lymphocytes, are affected. Leukaemia is the most common form of cancer in children, and about 80% of children with leukaemia have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

CAR T-Cell Therapy involves treating patients with modified versions of their own immune system T cells ­– white blood cells that help protect the body from disease.

Lewis Silverman, MD, Clinical Director of the Hematologic Malignancy Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said:

It’s a very exciting development in our ability to treat childhood ALL. It offers hope to those that we haven’t been able to treat with conventional therapy. This is a hugely exciting time in childhood leukaemia research”

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Hope for Cancer Research in Africa


 

Mubarak Labaran Liman

Mubarak Labaran Liman has overcome the death of his father and a scarcity of resources to develop a thriving career in his native Nigeria, studying the role of African ethno-medicine in the management, prevention, and control of cancer and diabetes.

Liman is one of five recipients of the 2017 AACR African Cancer Researchers Travel Awards (ACRTA). These travel awards provide financial assistance to meritorious early-career African cancer researchers who wish to attend and present their research at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in the United States.

Intended to enhance the education and training of African researchers engaged in all fields of cancer research, the ACRTA are also designed to encourage cross-cultural collaborations and learning.

Receiving this award is an honour for me and for my whole family,” says Liman, who presented his work on the potential of African sweet detar, a plant used in West African cooking, to prevent colon cancer.

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Children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease @ Higher Risk for Cancer


A new study from Sweden, Childhood Onset Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Risk of Cancer: a Swedish Nationwide Cohort Study 1964-2014, has found that children with inflammatory bowel disease have a higher risk of cancer – especially gastrointestinal cancers – both in childhood and in later life, compared with individuals without the disease.

The international team of researchers, including members of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, reported the findings in the BMJ, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, on 20 September 2017.

The lack of data for childhood onset inflammatory bowel disease is especially worrisome given the increasing incidence and prevalence of Paediatric Crohn’s disease (mainly colitis).

The study notes that the raised risk of cancer for children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) carries on into adulthood and has not reduced following the introduction of new ways to manage the disease, such as with biological agents.

While researchers found a higher relative risk of cancer, the absolute risks are low. Compared with healthy individuals, there was one extra case of cancer for every 556 people with IBD followed for 1 year.

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Health Benefits of the Lowly Dandelion


There’s something magical about making a wish while blowing dandelion petals through the air. Just one glance at a dandelion brings back childhood memories. And while some consider them pesky weeds, dandelion offers a treasure trove of healing benefits.

Dandelion greens are used in so many health applications today. Whether steamed, sautéed, used in soup, or boiled with water and brown sugar for tea, the greens of these weeds are considered an herbal medicine.

The extract (from dandelion root) is purported to work by inducing apoptosis in the cancer cells. To put this another way, this process forces the cancer cells to commit suicide without damaging the healthy cells in any way.

Dandelion Root is frequently used by herbalists to treat liver, kidney, and gallbladder problems. Dandelion Root has been used in China for certain kinds of cancers for centuries. Dandelion is a source of a variety of nutrients and the leaves and root contain Vitamins (A,C, K and B-vitamins) as well as minerals (including magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and choline).

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Powerful Resource to Advance Treatment of Childhood Solid Tumours Unveiled at St. Jude


In an effort to improve outcomes for patients with some of the deadliest Childhood Cancers, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have created the world’s largest collection of Childhood solid tumour samples, drug-sensitivity data and related information and have made the resource available at no charge to the global scientific community.

St. Jude and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute collaborated to create the resource, known as the Childhood Solid Tumour Network (CSTN), which was launched in 2013.

Survival rates for children with recurrent solid tumours have not improved significantly in more than 20 years and remain below 30 %,” said corresponding author Michael Dyer, Ph.D., Chair of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “This research will change that by promoting scientific collaboration to leverage the efforts of researchers worldwide to advance understanding and ultimately treatment of Childhood solid tumours.”

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The Cancer Moonshot/Biden Cancer Initiative


When Deborah Mayer, PH.D., RN, AOCN, FAAN, was a young oncology nurse, she met a patient with sarcoma who clearly expressed her expectations for care.

I expect my doctor to try to cure me,” the patient told Mayer, who is now a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor in the School of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill. “But if nobody has asked me how I slept or when I last moved my bowels, then the time you’re buying me is not worth living.”

Mayer took that conversation as a call to action, never forgetting the importance of symptom management.

Recently, she relied on her passion for and knowledge about the subject when she sat on former Vice President Joe Biden’s Blue Ribbon Panel that helped shape the Moonshot initiative, a national endeavour to make 10 years’ worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment within half that time. The panel helped inform Biden’s task force and the National Cancer Advisory Board about what should be included in the Moonshot.

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Donated Tumour Yields Answers for DIPG


Jennifer Kranz was diagnosed with an especially aggressive form of a deadly childhood brain tumour, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), on her 6th birthday in 2013, and died less than four months after being diagnosed.

Jennifer’s parents heard about the work of Stanford paediatric neuro-oncologist Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, who studies donated DIPG tumour tissue to understand how its biology might be targeted with new treatments during Jennifer’s illness, and during their final appointment at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, the Kranzes asked if they could donate their daughter’s tumour for this research after her death.

They said ‘Yes, here is the paperwork,’ and we signed it,” Libby said. Then she realized the donation form asked only for consent to study the tumour on Jennifer’s brainstem, making no mention of the metastases that had spread to the frontal lobe of her brain and down her spine.

But we want to donate all of it,” Libby, Jennifer’s mom told Sonia Partap, MD, Jennifer’s oncologist. The Stanford team made the arrangements, and Libby also asked Monje to try to figure out how Jennifer’s tumour had spread so fast.

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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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