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.
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??
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!”
In an effort to help thousands of children who undergo cancer treatment each year, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Childhood Cancer STAR (Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research) Act. This bipartisan legislation will advance paediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance, and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer.
“Too many young people’s lives have been cut short by cancer. These kids and their families who’ve battled this disease inspire us to take action. The Childhood Cancer STAR Act will help young cancer patients and their families get access to potentially life-saving treatments, support survivors, and move us another step closer toward our goal of ending pediatric cancer,” said Senator Reed.
“This bipartisan legislation will continue the advances in research, prevention and care for our loved ones and families impacted by childhood cancer,” said Senator Capito. “The Childhood Cancer STAR Act gives parents and patients access to the information they need to make vital decisions about treatment and care post-treatment. This legislation will also give those who understand the unique needs of childhood cancer patients a seat at the table when decisions about cancer care are taking place.”
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.
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.
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.