A US study suggests that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is better than specialist doctors at identifying lung cancer. It’s a finding that could revolutionize cancer screening in the future, potentially allowing tumors to be found at an earlier stage and improving treatment outcomes. According to the study - which was conducted by researchers from Northwestern University in Illinois and the Google Health Research Group – Artificial Intelligence was able to outperform six specialist cancer doctors when it came to identifying cancer from a single CT scan. When multiple CT scans were used, the AI and the doctors were equally effective. Prior to the tests, the AI was trained with 42,290 CT lung scans from nearly 15,000 patients. It was not told what to look for in a CT scan, merely which patients went on to develop cancer and which didn’t. The results of the study, published in Nature Medicine, show that AI can not only boost cancer detection by 5%, but can also reduce false-positives by 11%. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Mozziyar Etemadi, from Northwestern University, said: “Not only can we better diagnose someone with cancer, we can also say if someone doesn't have cancer, potentially saving them from an invasive, costly, and risky lung biopsy.”
Despite some species living for over 200 years and carrying an abundance of blubber for most of their life, whales - the world’s largest mammals – have incredibly low rates of cancer. The same also goes for elephants and porpoises. But why and could these animals’ resistance help us better understand the disease and how to combat it? Well, according to a new study by a team of researchers from Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff; the Arizona State University, in Tempe; and other collaborating institutions, the answer may lie in these aquatic mammals' genes. Publishing their findings in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, the researchers say certain genomic loci had evolved at a faster rate in whales than they had in other mammals. More importantly, these were loci containing genes that regulate the maintenance process of healthy cells. The team discovered this by analysing samples taken from Salt, a female humpback whale. Salt was the perfect research candidate because she has been being followed since the 1970s and scientists have a wealth of data about her. Speaking about the findings of the research, Marc Tollis, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University and leader of the research team, said: “This suggests that whales are unique among mammals, in that in order to evolve their gigantic sizes, these important 'housekeeping' genes, that are evolutionarily conserved and normally prevent cancer, had to keep up in order to maintain the species' fitness. “We also found that despite these cancer-related parts of whale genomes evolving faster than [in] other mammals, on average, whales have accumulated far fewer DNA mutations in their genomes over time, compared to other mammals, which suggests they have slower mutation rates.”
We recently wrote about how just one rasher of bacon a day can increase bowel cancer risk. Now, new research has revealed that replacing red meat with plant protein can reduce heart disease risk. For the study, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, conducted a meta-analysis of trials comparing the effects of meat vs. other diets on our health. The results are published in the journal Circulation. It was an approach that allowed the researchers to not only examine the health effects of red meat, but also see whether substituting red meat for other protein sources brought benefits. Analyzing data from 36 randomized controlled trials, the researchers looked at the blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins of the participants. They then compared these levels with those of people who ate less red meat and more chicken, fish, legumes, soy, nuts, or carbohydrates. They found that while there wasn’t much difference in lipoproteins, blood pressure, or total cholesterol, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. In addition, diets rich in high-quality plant protein led to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Marta Guasch-Ferré, lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent. “But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”
Consuming even small amounts of red and processed meat each day can increase a person’s risk of bowel cancer, a new study has found. According to the research led by Oxford University and funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), just one rasher of bacon per day can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Eat three rashers per day (around 50g) and the risk of bowel cancer rises by 20%. While meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, the Department of Health in England advises that anyone who eats more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce their consumption to 70g, the average daily amount consumed in the UK. Processed meat, in particular, has previously been linked to a high likelihood of causing cancer. So foods like bacon, salami, hotdogs and some sausages should not be eaten too much on a daily basis. Also, high temperature cooking, such as on a barbecue, is also thought to increase a person’s risk of cancer due to the carcinogenic chemicals that are created during the cooking process. For the research, the study team analysed health data from almost half a million people in the UK. Speaking about the findings of the research, Emma Shields, information manager at CRUK, said “This study shows the more meat you eat, the higher your risk of getting cancer and obviously the reverse is true - the less you eat the less likely you are to get bowel cancer.”
Many people do not get all the nutrients they need from food and so take supplements to compensate. It’s something that’s worth an absolute fortune to the companies that produce them, with people spending around $30 billion per year on supplements in the United States alone. But new research shows that nutrients from supplements are not as good as those from food and that the latter is linked to a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cancer. According to the research paper, published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine, many people would be much better off spending money on fruit and vegetables instead of supplements. By analysing data from 27,725 participants in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Medford, MA, found that supplements do not afford the same benefits as eating different foods. For example, getting enough vitamin K from leafy greens and magnesium from legumes, nuts and whole grains was associated with a lower mortality rate. However, consuming 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium in supplement form was associated with a higher cancer risk, while getting excess calcium from food wasn’t. Speaking about the findings of the research, Fang Fang Zhang of Tufts University and study senior author, said: “Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements.” In other words, while supplements can help people who cannot get certain nutrients from foods due to allergies, they are not a silver bullet for health.
Scientists have dismantled cancer piece-by-piece and revealed its weaknesses in the hope that new treatments can be developed. The team of scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England, disabled every genetic instruction, one at a time, inside 30 different types of cancer. Their work revealed 600 new cancer vulnerabilities, each of which could be the target of a drug. The study is being praised in particular not only for its sheer scale, but also because it could open the doors to more personalised medicines being developed. Right now, much cancer treatment involves chemotherapy, which is far from ideal due to the damage it causes throughout a patient’s body. One gene that was identified as being essential for the survival of some of the most genetically unstable cancers is "Werner syndrome RecQ helicase" also known more simply as WRN. It plays a vital role in around 28% of stomach cancers and 15% of colon cancers, yet there are no drugs that currently target it. The ultimate goal is to create a “Cancer Dependency Map”, which could be used to highlight every cancer vulnerability. Medical professionals would then be able to prescribe a cocktail of precision drugs to kill a patient’s cancerous cells. Speaking about the research, prominent UK-based cancer charity, Cancer Research UK, said that what makes the research so powerful is its sheer scale.
If you’re over 40, just 10 minutes of leisurely activity each week could lower your risk of death from multiple causes. That’s the key finding from a recently published study by researchers from China and the United States. According to the study involving 88,140 US adults, even low-level physical activity, such as gardening, can help people live longer lives. Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers said that even people who spend just a short time each week being physically active have a lower risk of death due to cancer, cardiovascular issues and all-cause mortality. However, participating in more vigorous types of exercise, including running and cycling, affords even greater health benefits. Unlike people who were physically inactive, those who undertook between 10 and 59 minutes of moderate, leisurely exercise each week had an 18% lower risk of death from all causes. Those who were physically active for a little longer (between 150 and 299 minutes per week) had a 31% lower risk of all-cause death. Undertaking over 1,500 minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis resulted in a 46% decrease in overall mortality risk. Furthermore, individuals who opted for more vigorous exercise instead of lighter physical activity had a much lower mortality risk still.
Following a low-calorie diet – even for just a few months – can arrest type-2 diabetes for at least two years, new research suggests. The findings of the study highlight that type-2 diabetes might not necessarily be the life sentence we previously thought. Nearly 300 people with type-2 diabetes in Scotland and Tyneside (in the UK) participated in the study. Half were given standard diabetes care, while the other half were put on a structured weight management programme. After 12 months, 46% of those on the low-calorie programme had successfully reversed their type-2 diabetes. In comparison, just 4% of the study participants given the standard treatment had gone into remission. Two years later, 36% of the study participants on the structured weight management programme were still in remission. “People with type 2 diabetes and healthcare professionals have told us their top research priority is: ‘Can the condition be reversed or cured?’ We can now say, with respect to reversal, that yes it can. Now we must focus on helping people maintain their weight loss and stay in remission for life,” said Prof Mike Lean from Glasgow University, who led the study with Taylor. Type-2 diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise and can lead to serious complications such as amputations, visual problems and heart disease. It is thought that one in 16 adults in the UK is currently living with type-2 diabetes, a condition that is fuelled by obesity. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
Cutting down on meat is something many people say they are striving to do nowadays. Initiatives like Veganuary and Meat-free Mondays are helping to drive the trend and highlight the benefits of consuming less meat. But what’s the reality? Has meat consumption gone up or down over the past 50 years? Well, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organization data, meat production today is nearly five times higher than it was in the 1960s. That is down to two main factors: first, there are more people to feed today. Second, people around the world have become richer, which is associated with a rise in meat consumption. In a nutshell, there are more people in the world and more of those people can afford to eat meat. This is highlighted when you consider the countries that eat the most meat. For example, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina all have annual meat consumption levels of more than 100kg per person. In fact, most countries in Western Europe have annual meat consumption levels of between 80kg and 90kg per person, while individuals in lower-income nations eat considerably less meat. For example, annual meat consumption levels in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nigerians are 7kg, 8kg and 9kg per person respectively. The bottom line is that meat is still a luxury in many countries today. So, despite the initiatives and the seeming shift to people consuming less meat, the reality is that meat consumption isn’t falling. One point that is worthy of note, however, is that meat eating habits are changing. For example, in the West, people are eating more poultry and less red meat (namely beef and pork). Have your meat eating habits changed in recent times? If they have, was it a conscious decision on your part? [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
People who have sedentary jobs could significantly boost their lifespans by taking short, regular movement breaks, a new study has found. It’s no secret that individuals who spend a lot of time sitting down are more likely to develop certain adverse health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, as well as having increased risk of osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, colon cancer and high blood pressure. However, just a small amount of exercise, the study suggests, could lower the risk of early death. According to the research – the findings of which are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – individuals who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death. For example, workers who had a movement break (involving some low-intensity exercise) every 30 minutes had a 17% lower risk of death than their counterparts who did not have any breaks. Moreover, individuals who broke up periods of sitting every 30 minutes with moderate- to high-intensity exercise lowered their risk of early death by 35%. Speaking about the findings of the research, Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and study lead, said: “If you have a job or lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting, you can lower your risk of early death by moving more often, for as long as you want and as your ability allows — whether that means taking an hour-long high-intensity spin class or choosing lower-intensity activities, like walking.”
The health benefits of eating fiber have long been hailed, but how much fiber should we all be eating to prevent chronic disease and premature death? A new study reveals just that… Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the research is the culmination of a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials that took place over almost 40 years. The results appear in the journal The Lancet. One of the objectives of the research was to help in the development of new guidelines for dietary fiber consumption, as well as discover which carbs protect us the most against noncommunicable diseases. So how much fiber should we be eating? Well, the research found that a daily intake of 25–29 grams of fiber is ideal. People who consumed this amount of fiber each day were 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause and had a 16–24 percent lower incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. The researchers also say that consuming more than 29 grams of fiber per day could lead to even more health benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said: “The health benefits of fiber are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology, and effects on metabolism. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels. “The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.” Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Are you consuming enough fiber?
A clinical trial is underway in Cambridge to determine whether a breath test can accurately detect the presence of cancer. Scientists from Cancer Research UK want to see if any cancer signatures can be picked up in breath samples. If they can, the hope is that such breath tests could be used alongside current blood and urine tests help doctors detect cancer at an early stage going forward. However, we won’t know the results of the trial for at least two years. When cells in the human body carry out biochemical reactions, molecules known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released. But if cancer is present, a different pattern of molecules is produced. The team is trying to determine if these different signatures can be detected in a person’s breath. The ultimate goal would be to develop a test that can not only detect cancer cells, but accurately pinpoint where they are i.e. what type of cancer. For the trial, breath samples from some 1,500 individuals will be analysed – some of who have cancer. Dr David Crosby, head of early detection research at Cancer Research UK, said breath tests had the potential "to revolutionise the way we detect and diagnose cancer in the future".
To help boost our understanding of cancer and help in the search for new treatments, scientists in Cambridge, UK have built a Virtual Reality (VR) 3D model of a tumour. The ‘virtual tumour’, which was created using a real tumour sample extracted from a patient, can be studied in detail from all angles, allowing its individual cells to be explored. And despite the fact the human tissue sample was only about the size of a pinhead, within the virtual laboratory it can be enlarged to appear several metres across. Forming part of an international research scheme, the 3D tumour model is the product of a £40 million grant awarded to the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre by Cancer Research UK last year. Multiple users from anywhere in the world can take advantage of the VR system simultaneously and fly through the tumour cells to afford a much more in-depth understanding of them. Talking to the BBC, Prof Greg Hannon, director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (part of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre), said: “No-one has examined the geography of a tumour in this level of detail before; it is a new way of looking at cancer.” [Recommended reading: Rainforest vine compound starves resilient pancreatic cancer cells]
Christmas Day is less than two weeks away and that means many of us will soon be gorging ourselves on all sorts of culinary delights. It’s a reality that will see a lot of people piling on the pounds this month ahead of the inevitable January fitness drive. But what if there was a simple way to limit the impact of Christmas feasting on our waistlines? A new study by the Universities of Birmingham and Loughborough in the UK suggests there is. According to the study involving 272 volunteers, regular home weigh-ins coupled with simple weight-loss tips can prevent people from putting on weight over the festive period. For the study, the volunteers were divided into two groups. One group weighed themselves regularly and were given dietary advice, including information on how many calories they needed to burn to negate Christmas food. The other group didn’t weight themselves and were only given a small amount of healthy lifestyle advice. The group that weighed themselves and had access to the additional information weighed 0.49kg less than the "comparison" group come the end of the study. Study lead author, Frances Mason, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Applied Health Research, said “People gain a kilo of weight on average annually. Often this weight gain happens at Christmas, and is never fully lost. This could possibly be a factor driving the obesity epidemic.” In other words, by simply keeping track of your weight and understanding the impact the foods you are eating are having on your waistline, you stand a better chance of avoiding weight gain at a time of year that’s traditionally associated with piling on the pounds. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is a “global epidemic” that must be tackled if we are to prevent its ill effects. In the United States, nearly 40% of adults and 18.5% of children aged 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. That’s why finding effective ways to treat the condition is paramount. But now scientists say they are on the verge of creating a pill that could make obesity a thing of the past - without the need for diet and exercise. Sounds too good to be true, right? Nevertheless, the team at Flinders University in South Australia say that they key to curbing obesity could lie in a single gene known as RCAN1. The team found that when RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were then fed a high fat diet, they did not gain weight. In fact, they could eat as much food as they wanted over a prolonged period of time, the researchers say. Damien Keating, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Flinders, and leader of the research team, said blocking RCAN1 allows the body to transform unhealthy white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Stunning pictures of the mice used for the trial highlight the difference when RCAN1 was blocked and when it wasn’t. The results of the research are published in the journal EMBO Reports.
Les lauréats du Nobel de médecine 2018, James Allison et Tasuku Honjo, ont révolutionné l’approche pour traiter les tumeurs, en trouvant le moyen d’activer la réponse du système immunitaire. Le Prix Nobel de médecine 2018 récompense l’Américain James Allison et le Japonais Tasuku Honjo, deux chercheurs qui ont développé une approche totalement innovante contre les cancers. De manière isolée, les deux hommes ont trouvé le moyen d’activer le système immunitaire de l’organisme pour l’aider à éliminer lui-même des tumeurs, une technique en plein essor appelée immunothérapie. Cancer: l’immunothérapie cherche à repousser ses limites Jusque-là, les médecins avaient accès à trois voies majeures pour lutter contre les cancers: la chirurgie, la radiothérapie pour irradier les tumeurs et les médicaments s’attaquant aux cellules tumorales, comme la chimiothérapie. Les travaux de James Allison, du centre MD Anderson de l’université du Texas et Tasuku Honjo, de l’université de Kyoto, apportent ainsi une quatrième approche, en stimulant le système immunitaire. Lymphocytes T La clé de l’approche inventée par les deux scientifiques, de manière totalement indépendante l’un de l’autre, repose sur le fonctionnement les lymphocytes T, les cellules responsables de la réponse immunitaire de l’organisme. Dans le cas de la plupart des tumeurs, les lymphocytes T n’arrivent pas à percevoir les cellules cancéreuses comme une menace, et n’essaient même pas de les détruire. Immunothérapie et chimio, une combinaison gagnante contre certains cancers James Allison a découvert un récepteur sur les lymphocytes T, appelé CTLA4, qui agit comme un frein sur leur fonctionnement. Avec un anticorps spécifique ciblant ce récepteur, un anti-CTLA4, Allison a prouvé qu’il pouvait guérir des souris victimes de tumeurs. Un succès spectaculaire qui a par la suite été reproduit chez l’homme, d’abord pour des mélanomes, puis pour bien d’autres types de tumeurs par la suite. De son côté, Tasuku Honjo a découvert une protéine, PD1, qui pouvait elle aussi agir comme un frein pour empêcher les lymphocytes T d’agir. Indépendamment des travaux d’Allison, le chercheur japonais a lui aussi trouvé un moyen d’inhiber PD1, permettant aux cellules du système immunitaires de s’attaquer efficacement à des mélanomes, puis à de nombreuses autres tumeurs. Cyrille Vanlerberghe, Le Figaro France
We recently wrote about how an exotic fish could help heal human hearts. Now, new research suggests that a rainforest vine compound is highly effective at killing treatment-resistant pancreatic cancer cells. Known for their ability to survive even the most inhospitable conditions, pancreatic cancer cells are notoriously difficult to kill. It’s one of the reasons why pancreatic cancer is so hard to treat and why the condition usually has a poor outlook. Indeed, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says the 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is just 12-24 percent. However, researchers from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany and the Institute of Natural Medicine at the University of Toyama in Japan have discovered that a compound found in a Congolese rainforest plant can make pancreatic cancer cells susceptible to nutrient starvation. The compound, ancistrolikokine E3, has anti-austerity properties and inhibits the Akt/mTOR pathway of pancreatic cancer cells. It’s this pathway that enables these cancer cells to thrive even under conditions of low nutrients and oxygen – an ability in the cancer field known as ‘austerity.’ While more research is needed, the compound is seen as promising for the development of future anticancer drugs.
Ovarian cancer treatment is much more effective if it’s administered during the early stages of the disease. In fact, when ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, approximately 94% of patients have a good prognosis post-treatment. However, the reality is that relatively few cases (about 20%) of ovarian cancer are diagnosed early, which makes treatment less effective. But a newly developed blood test could change this. Beyong a full pelvic exam, medical professionals, at present, have two options when it comes to testing for ovarian cancer: a transvaginal ultrasound and a cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) blood test. Unfortunately, both have significant limitations. For example, while the ultrasound can detect growths, it cannot determine whether they are cancerous. The CA 125 test looks for a specific ovarian cancer marker, but people with unrelated conditions also have high levels of this particular antigen. These limitations of the existing tests are one of the driving forces behind the development of the new blood test. The new test, developed by a team from Griffith University and the University of Adelaide (both in Australia), looks for telltale sugars associated with ovarian cancer cells. According to the findings of the team’s study, the new blood test detected large levels of the sugars in 90% of people with stage 1 ovarian cancer and 100% of people with later stage ovarian cancer. Moreover, the test detected none of the telltale sugars in healthy participants. Prof. James Paton, one of the study authors, said the test is a huge step toward diagnosing ovarian cancer in its early stages. “Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages, when there are more options for treatment and survival rates are better. Our new test is therefore a potential game-changer,” he said.
Strength training exercises benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, new research suggests. The survey of more than 4,000 American adults found that static exercise, like lifting weights, is more effective at reducing the risk of heart disease than cardiovascular exercise. Specifically, while undertaking both static and dynamic exercise was associated with a 30% to 70% reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, the link was strongest for younger individuals who did static exercises. Nevertheless, any amount of exercise brings benefits and doing both static and dynamic types is still better than focussing on just one kind, the researchers from St. George's University in St. George's, Grenada said. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Maia P. Smith, assistant professor at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.” Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend that American adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every week. The same guidelines also stipulate that said activity should be spread across the week and not completed in just one or two days. Are you doing enough physical activity each week? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
So-called “freakshakes” (milkshakes that contain chocolates, sweets, cake, cream, sauce and more) should be banned because they have “grotesque levels of sugar and calories,” a UK charity has said. Action on Sugar, a charity concerned with sugar and its effects on our health, has called for the belt-busting creations to be removed from sale, following a survey it conducted. For the study, the charity surveyed milkshakes sold in restaurants and fast food shops across the UK to see how much sugar and how many calories they contained. Topping the survey (not in a good way) was the Toby Carvery Unicorn Freakshake, which contains an eye-watering 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280 calories. That’s more than half the recommended number of daily calories for an adult and over six times the amount of daily sugar for a seven to 10-year-old. Many of the milkshakes looked at by Action on Sugar contained more than half the recommended daily amount of calories for an adult. More worryingly, out of the 46 products looked at by the charity, all would be labelled red/high for excessive levels of sugar per serving. Speaking about the findings of the survey, Action on Sugar chairman, Graham MacGregor, said: “These very high calorie drinks, if consumed on a daily basis, would result in children becoming obese and suffering from tooth decay - that is not acceptable. “These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below 300kcal per serving.” [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
We are often told that being overweight increases our risk of cancer. In fact, in the UK, obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, according to Cancer Research UK. But why does being overweight increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer? A group of scientists say they now know. The team from Trinity College Dublin say the reason overweight people are at greater risk of developing cancer is because a certain cell in the body that’s used to destroy cancer gets clogged with fat and stops working as a result. Publishing their findings in the Nature Immunology journal, the team said they were able to show that the body’s natural cancer-fighting cells get clogged by fat. They are hopeful that new drug treatments can be developed that will reverse the effects and restore the cancer-killing ability of said cells. Until then, though, the best advice remains to stay a healthy weight, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Leo Carlin, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Although we know that obesity increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer, we still don't fully understand the mechanisms underlying the link. “This study reveals how fat molecules prevent immune cells from properly positioning their tumour-killing machinery, and provides new avenues to investigate treatments.” [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
Women who are larks, otherwise known as “morning people”, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, a study has revealed. While the exact reason why remains unknown, the team of researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK say their findings are important and add to the growing understanding of how sleep affects our health. A person’s body clock (also known as their circadian rhythm) regulates when a person feels sleepy or awake over a 24-hour period. So-called morning people wake up earlier, peak earlier in the day and feel sleepy earlier in the evening. In contrast, “evening people” (night owls) get up later, peak later in the day and go to sleep later in the evening. Using a data analysis technique called Mendelian randomisation, the researchers looked at DNA snippets of more than 400,000 women. They discovered that women who were larks were less likely to have breast cancer than their night owl peers. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rebecca Richmond, a researcher from the University of Bristol, told the BBC: “The findings are potentially very important because sleep is ubiquitous and easily modified. “Previous research has looked at the impact of shift work, but this is showing there may be a risk factor for all women.” Nevertheless, many questions still remain. For example, more research now needs to be conducted to see whether the body clock itself is directly impacting a person’s risk of developing cancer, or if factors like night owls breaking their natural circadian rhythm to accommodate jobs is having an impact. [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
Patients with aggressive brain tumours could benefit from improved surgery outcomes by drinking a substance that makes their cancer glow pink, a trial suggests. For the trial, scientists gave patients with suspected glioma (a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord) a drink containing 5-ALA, a substance that accumulates in fast-growing cancer cells and makes them glow pink. The hope is that the glowing tumours will be easier for surgeons to safely remove, as they can be more easily distinguished from healthy brain tissue. Glioma is the most common type of brain cancer and treatment usually involves removing as much of the tumour as possible. The prognosis for patients, however, is usually poor. Speaking about the trial, Dr Kathreena Kurian, study author and associate professor in brain tumour research at the University of Bristol, said: “There's an urgent need to have something while the patient is on the table, while the neurosurgeon is operating, which will guide them to find the worst bits. “The beauty of 5-ALA is that they can see where high-grade glioma is, while they're operating.” The results of the trial have not yet been published, but were presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow over the weekend. The next step, the researchers say, is to test 5-ALA in children with brain tumours.
A new study, one of the largest of its kind, suggests being the wrong weight i.e. overweight or underweight cold knock four years off a person’s life expectancy. According to the study, the findings of which were published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, from the age of 40, people towards the higher end of the healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) range (a healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 25) had the lowest risk of dying from disease, including cancer and heart disease. In contrast, individuals who had BMI scores of less than 18.5 or more than 30 had life expectancies that were 4.4 years and 3.85 years shorter respectively. BMI scores, which are calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height (in metres squared), are still considered by health professionals to be the simplest and most accurate way to work out if someone is overweight or underweight. For the population-based cohort study, researchers analysed anonymised data on 3.6 million adults from the U.K. Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran, lead author of the study, said: “The most striking thing about our findings was how widely BMI was linked to different causes of death. BMI was associated with deaths from nearly all major causes.” He added that the research reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that people who have low BMI scores are at as much risk, if not more, of reducing their life expectancies.
The physical health problems associated with diabetes are well understood and publicised. For example, diabetics have an increased risk of developing cancer, kidney disorders and cardiovascular disease. But what about the mental impact of living with diabetes? It’s not something that gets a lot of attention, but the findings of a new study could see it thrust under the spotlight. That’s because the study by researchers from Finland found a worrying connection between diabetes and the risk of someone dying by suicide or alcoholism. According to the study, diabetics are more than 10 times more likely to die as a result of alcoholism – predominantly cirrhosis of the liver – and 110% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The highest risk was seen among diabetes patients who rely on regular insulin injections to avoid serious health complications. Professor Leo Niskanen, of the University of Helsinki, who led the study, said diabetes patients who have to monitor their glucose levels and administer insulin frequently suffer tremendous mental strain. “This strain combined with the anxiety of developing serious complications like heart or kidney disease may also take their toll on psychological well-being,” he said. Is it time we started talking about the mental health implications of living with diabetes? [Related reading: Type-2 diabetes could actually be detected up to 20 years in advance, researchers say]
A major study has found that eating processed meat, like bacon and sausages, may raise the risk of breast cancer in women. According to the review of studies involving more than one million women, eating higher levels of processed meat could result in a 9% greater risk of developing breast cancer. The research by a team from Harvard University’s T H Chan School of Public Health reviewed 15 related studies. It supports previous findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which suggest processed meats cause cancer. However, while the study has identified a potential link between processed meat and breast cancer, there is no clear evidence to show these types of foods are actually the cause. Furthermore, as outlined by the study authors in the International Journal of Cancer, their findings only relate to processed meat, not red meat. Bacon, sausages, salami, ham, hot dogs and corned beef are all examples of processed meat. And while it is not fully known why these foods are associated with a greater risk of cancer, it is thought that preservatives, like salt, may react with protein in the meat turning it carcinogenic. But rather than eliminating processed meat from your diet completely, the advice is simply to cut down. At present, current NHS guidelines recommend eating no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day. If you’re eating more than that on a regular basis, maybe it’s time to make some dietary changes.
By 2043, obesity will surpass smoking to be the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women. That’s one of the shocking new predictions to come out of a report by Cancer Research UK. At present, around 7% of cancers in women are linked to being overweight and obese, while 12% are said to be caused by smoking. But as the number of individuals who smoke continues to fall and obesity rates continue to rise, the UK cancer charity believes that gap will completely disappear over the next 25 years (assuming current trends continue). In fact, by 2035, the percentage of cancers caused by smoking and by carrying excess weight will almost be equal (25,000 cancer cases each year related to smoking vs. 23,000 related to being overweight). However, after just another eight years (by 2043), being overweight and obese is likely to be linked to even more cases of cancer in women than smoking. Interestingly, the cancer charity says that obesity will not overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in men until some time later. The reason for this, though, is simply because more men than women smoke. While obesity is more prevalent among men too, it is thought to be a greater catalyst in women for developing cancer. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said the UK government must act now to stem the tide of obesity-related cancers. “That's why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children, like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of 'less healthy' products,” she said. Smoking-related cancers include: acute myeloid leukaemia lung bladder bowel cervical pancreatic stomach Obesity-related cancers include: bowel gall bladder kidney liver breast ovarian thyroid
One in five men and one in six women will develop cancer in their lifetime. That’s one of the stark predictions revealed in a new report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is based in Lyon, France. This year alone, there will be 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million people will die with the disease worldwide. This represents a significant increase from 14.1 million cases and 8.2 million deaths in 2012. The report also predicts that by the end of the century, cancer will be the number one killer globally and the single biggest barrier to people living long lives. Looking closely at data from 185 countries, the researchers focussed on 36 different types of cancer. Lung cancer, colorectal (bowel) cancer and female breast cancer are thought to be responsible for a third of all cancer cases worldwide. Researchers have attributed the rise to the world’s growing and ageing population. That’s because more people equals more cancer, and as people get older their cancer risks grow. Moreover, as countries become wealthier, more of the people living in them develop lifestyle-related cancers. Speaking about the report, Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said: “These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play.” “Efficient prevention and early detection policies must be implemented urgently to complement treatments in order to control this devastating disease across the world.”
It’s a widely accepted fact that cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are good for the gut, but scientists say they have now discovered why. The work by the team from the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre in London, focussed on the way cruciferous vegetables alter the lining of the intestines. As they are digested, anti-cancer chemicals, including indole-3-carbinol, are produced. Indole-3-carbinol changes the behaviour of stem cells in the lower bowel and the study involving mice showed it protected them from cancer – even mice whose genes put them at a very high risk of developing the disease. Speaking about the findings of the study, one of the researchers, Dr Gitta Stockinger, said: “Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression.” Prof Tim Key, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.” Interestingly, Dr Stockinger added that cruciferous vegetables should not be overcooked to get the most benefit. According to the charity Bowel Cancer UK, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, affecting almost 42,000 people every year.
Par Martine Lochouarn Publié le 17/06/2018 à 06:00 INFOGRAPHIE - Un diagnostic précoce de ce cancer permettrait d’améliorer la prise en charge. Au cinquième rang mondial par sa fréquence, le cancer de l’estomac figure en troisième place par le nombre de morts, près de 9 % de tous les décès par cancer. Son incidence varie selon les régions du globe, les ethnies et le niveau de développement. L’Asie de l’Est, Japon, Corée et Chine surtout, est fortement touchée, mais aussi l’Amérique du Sud. «Intermédiaire en Europe de l’Est, son incidence est plus faible en Europe de l’Ouest, à l’exception du Portugal, fortement touché», explique le Pr Tamara Matysiak-Budnik, gastro-entérologue et cancérologue (CHU Nantes). En France, de 6000 à 7000 nouveaux cas sont diagnostiqués chaque année, pour 4500 décès. C’est un cancer du sujet âgé, de pronostic médiocre. En quelques décennies, les progrès de l’hygiène alimentaire ont beaucoup réduit son incidence, qui est aujourd’hui assez stable. «L’association démontrée entre infection par H.pylori et cancer gastrique est aussi forte que celle entre tabac et cancer du poumon.» Pr Tamara Matysiak-Budnik, gastro-entérologue et cancérologue (CHU Nantes) La forme la plus fréquente, qui touche le corps et la partie basse de l’estomac, diminue encore peu à peu, mais les cancers de la jonction estomac-oesophage (cardia) plus rares, augmentent avec l’épidémie d’obésité qui favorise le reflux gastro-œsophagien. Moins de 5 % des cancers sont d’origine génétique. Il s’agit souvent de cancers «diffus», infiltrant l’estomac, de très mauvais pronostic, qui touchent des sujets jeunes. Mais le premier facteur de risque de cancer de l’estomac, c’est l’infection par Helicobacter pylori, responsable de près de 90 % des cas. Cette bactérie acquise dans l’enfance colonise la muqueuse gastrique, le plus souvent sans symptôme. «L’association démontrée entre infection par H. pylori et cancer gastrique est aussi forte que celle entre tabac et cancer du poumon», explique la gastro-entérologue. En France, de 20 à 30 % des individus sont infectés, mais 80 % le sont en Afrique et 10 % dans les pays nordiques. Parmi les personnes infectées, de 2 à 20 % auront un ulcère, et parmi elles 1 % aura un cancer gastrique. «Ce processus complexe de carcinogenèse s’étend sur des décennies et passe par une cascade d’étapes, dont la première, la gastrite superficielle, ne survient pas sans infection par H. pylori, ce qui ne signifie pas que cette infection est suffisante», explique le Pr Matysiak-Budnik. L’excès de sel, de viande rouge, d’aliments fumés, le tabac favorisent aussi ce processus, les fruits et légumes ayant un effet protecteur. Les antibiotiques pour éradiquer la bactérie «L’éradication par antibiotiques de l’infection à H. pylori guérit et fait régresser les gastrites superficielles et la plupart des gastrites atrophiques, prévenant ainsi le cancer de l’estomac.» Comme l’incidence de ce cancer est faible en France, un dépistage sur toute la population ne paraît pas adapté. Mais il existe au Japon, et la Slovénie l’envisage. En revanche, la recherche de H. pylori et son éradication sont indispensables dans les formes héréditaires, chez les parents au premier degré de personnes ayant un cancer gastrique, chez les personnes ayant un ulcère, une gastrique atrophique, précancéreuse, ou ayant subi une ablation partielle de l’estomac pour cancer, et chez celles traitées au long cours par certains médicaments anti-acide, les IPP (inhibiteurs de la pompe à protons). La lésion peut être retirée par endoscopie Si le cancer gastrique a un pronostic médiocre, c’est d’abord à cause de son diagnostic tardif, les cancers précoces ne donnant pas de symptômes. Parfois, une lésion précoce est découverte par des signes très généraux comme une anémie. «Mais le plus souvent ils sont détectés à un stade évolué, parce que surviennent une hémorragie digestive, des douleurs qui ressemblent à un ulcère, un amaigrissement, des difficultés d’alimentation… C’est l’examen endoscopique et la biopsie des lésions qui confirment ce diagnostic, explique le Pr Thomas Aparicio, gastro-entérologue et cancérologue (hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris). Si la lésion est petite et superficielle, elle est parfois enlevée par endoscopie dans des centres très expérimentés. Mais la laparoscopie est moins utilisée que dans le cancer du côlon, et l’ablation chirurgicale se fait le plus souvent en ouvrant l’abdomen.» Le principal progrès de ces quinze dernières années dans l’amélioration de la survie, c’est la chimiothérapie périopératoire, avec en général deux mois de chimiothérapie préopératoire pour réduire la tumeur et éliminer les micrométastases, et deux mois de chimiothérapie postopératoire. Les 30 % de cancers métastatiques d’emblée ne sont pas opérés. Comme pour d’autres tumeurs, ces formes métastatiques commencent à bénéficier des avancées des thérapies ciblées et de l’immunothérapie. Mais, globalement, les progrès sont modestes et les essais souvent décevants. «Notre arme principale reste la détection, le plus précoce possible, qui a un peu progressé puisqu’on identifie 10 % de cancers superficiels précoces, contre 4 % il y a dix ans», insiste le Pr Matysiak-Budnik. De nouveaux tests en cours d’évaluation pourraient aider à améliorer ce dépistage…
Une approche innovante a permis d’identifier des molécules produites par des micro-organismes présents dans l’eau de mer. Voici une découverte rassurante: une équipe de chercheurs du collège de médecine de l’université du Wisconsin, à Madison, a découvert un nouvel antibiotique au mode d’action inédit. Une molécule baptisée «keyicine». C’est en cultivant des protéobactéries du genre Rhodococcus - qui vivent en symbiose avec des invertébrés marins - avec des bactéries Micromonospora qu’ils ont pu faire apparaître cette nouvelle molécule. Cultivées dans des conditions «traditionnelles», les Rhodococcus seules ne fabriquent pas cette keyicine: les gènes qui commandent sa fabrication sont silencieux. Les chercheurs ont réussi à réveiller ces gènes et estiment que d’autres molécules intéressantes sont sans doute encore à découvrir (travaux publiés dans la revue ACS Chemical Biology ). «Nous pensons que les produits naturels restent l’une des plus grandes sources de molécules diverses destinées à traiter les maladies humaines» Navid Adnani, premier signataire des travaux Parmi les défis qui attendent la médecine et la pharmacie, l’apparition de germes devenus insensibles aux médicaments est un obstacle majeur. Les chercheurs de l’école de pharmacie de l’université du Wisconsin ont fait le constat que, entre les années 1970 et le début des années 2000, la recherche, tant publique que privée, a délaissé les produits «naturels» provenant des bactéries pour s’appuyer essentiellement sur la chimie de synthèse. En effet, on a cru que l’homme avait fait le tour des produits naturels, et que la chimie, via des batteries de tests de dépistage, serait beaucoup plus efficace. «Grâce aux progrès technologiques, à celui de la génétique, de la protéomique, de la métabolomique, etc., nous pensons que les produits naturels restent l’une des plus grandes sources de molécules diverses destinées à traiter les maladies humaines», écrivent Navid Adnani, premier signataire des travaux, et ses collègues. «Une urgence de santé publique» Pour réussir à relever ce défi, les scientifiques se sont dit que la méthode traditionnelle de culture des bactéries - dans une boîte avec un milieu nutritif donné et une analyse de tous les produits issus de cette culture - ne convenait pas. D’ailleurs, on sait que d’innombrables bactéries ne poussent pas dans ces conditions: on estime d’ailleurs qu’on a réussi à cultiver en laboratoire moins de 1 % des bactéries présentes sur Terre! D’où leur idée à double détente. Un, aller chercher dans des réservoirs peu connus, comme les bactéries sous-marines. Un litre d’eau de mer contiendrait 100 millions à 1 milliard de bactéries de 20.000 espèces différentes. Deux, faire des co-cultures d’espèces bactériennes différentes et regarder ce que cela donne. Et bingo, cela a fonctionné. «Cela a l’air d’un joli travail. Et on ne découvre pas tant que cela de nouveaux antibiotiques», reconnaît Élodie Psender, pharmacienne au CHU de Limoges, impliquée dans le grand programme européen Combacte, un partenariat public-privé qui a pour objectif de générer des essais innovants pour faciliter l’enregistrement des nouveaux agents antibactériens. En Europe, la résistance aux antibiotiques est responsable de plus de 25.000 décès chaque année «Les recherches sur de nouveaux antibiotiques continuent mais, au vu des antibiorésistances, la recherche s’oriente vers de nouvelles thérapies innovantes, avec par exemple des anticorps. On travaille aussi à développer des tests précoces d’identification d’infections, ce qui permettra de mieux traiter et de faire de la prévention.» Selon l’Organisation mondiale de la santé, «la résistance aux antibiotiques est en train de devenir une urgence de santé publique en des proportions encore inconnues». En Europe, la résistance aux antibiotiques est responsable de plus de 25.000 décès chaque année. Les chercheurs pharmaciens du Wisconsin ont établi la structure chimique de la keyicine. Elle appartient à une famille d’antibiotiques, également efficaces contre certains cancers, les anthracyclines. Mais son mode d’action est différent. Tandis que les autres anthracyclines tuent les cellules en s’attaquant à leur ADN, la keyicine ne le fait pas. Ce qui pourrait donc rendre l’acquisition d’une résistance bactérienne beaucoup moins facile.
Une étude coréenne montre que la pollution atmosphérique est néfaste pour la flore cutanée. Depuis quelques années, les études sur la flore intestinale (ou microbiote intestinal) se multiplient. Côlon irritable, maladie de Crohn,
Les vaccins destinés aux nourrissons sont très rarement remis en question mais ceux contre la grippe saisonnière et l’hépatite B suscitent des réticences. En 2016, trois Français interrogés sur quatre se sont déclarés favorables à la vaccination en général, selon une étude de Santé publique France rendue publique mercredi. L’enquête, menée en métropole en 2016 auprès de près de 15.000 personnes, montre toutefois que plus de 40% des personnes sont défavorables à une ou plusieurs vaccinations en particulier. Alors que 90% des personnes interrogées étaient favorables à la vaccination selon les enquêtes de 2000 et 2005, elles n’étaient plus que 60% en 2010. La vaccination avait ensuite retrouvé ses lettres de noblesses en 2014, année où 79% des Français étaient convaincus de son intérêt. Cette confiance s’est légèrement érodée dans les deux années qui ont suivi, puisque 75% des personnes interrogées en 2016 ont déclaré être favorables à la vaccination. Seulement 2,4% de la population interrogée est défavorable à la totalité des vaccins, un taux stable depuis 2010. La défiance, héritage des polémiques passées La vaccination contre la rougeole, les oreillons et la <a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/mieux-etre/vaccination-depistage/vaccination-contre-rubeole/quand-faut-il-se-vacciner">rubéole</a> (vaccin ROR), le<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/tuberculose/quest-ce-que-tuberculose-0"> BCG </a>et la vaccination contre la <a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/diphterie/quest-ce-que-cest-0">diphtérie</a>, le<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/tetanos/quest-ce-que-cest"> tétanos </a>et la<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/poliomyelite/quest-ce-que-cest"> poliomyélite </a>(DTP) suscitent peu d’avis défavorables (moins de 2% des personnes). «Les réticences concernent très peu les vaccinations pour nourrissons, mise à part celle contre<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/hepatite-b/quest-ce-que-cest"> l’hépatite B </a>qui cristallise encore des réticences», relève le Dr Christine Jestin de l’agence sanitaire Santé publique France qui publie ce numéro du BEH consacré aux vaccinations. Par contre, la vaccination contre la grippe saisonnière est celle qui recueille le plus d’opinions défavorables (15% de l’ensemble des personnes interrogées âgées de 18 à 75 ans), devant la vaccination contre<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/hepatite-b/quest-ce-que-cest"> l’hépatite B </a>(13%) et celle contre les<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/hpv-papillomas-virus-humains/qui-faut-il-vacciner"> infections à papillomavirus </a>(5,8%). «En France, les différentes polémiques touchant certains vaccins au cours des deux dernières décennies - hépatite B en 1998, grippe A(H1N1) en 2009 et, dans une moindre mesure infections à papillomavirus humains (HPV) en 2013 - ont sans doute contribué à faire de la France un pays où l’innocuité des vaccins est mise en doute par la population», notent les auteurs de l’étude. Une confiance variable selon le type de vaccin Les avis défavorables à la vaccination contre l’hépatite B sont plus nombreux chez les 55-64 ans. «Le souvenir de la polémique autour des effets secondaires du vaccin contre l’hépatite B, qui avait notamment entraîné fin 1998 la suspension de la campagne de vaccination à l’école, pourrait expliquer ce résultat», indiquent les chercheurs. Concernant la vaccination contre les infections à papillomavirus humains, les réticences sont plus nombreuses chez les 18-24 ans, qui ont vécu la controverse de 2013. Les 25-34 ans y sont beaucoup plus favorables. «Il est possible que les femmes de cette tranche d’âge, qui ont commencé à bénéficier du dépistage du cancer du col, comprennent aussi beaucoup mieux les enjeux de cette vaccination», analysent les auteurs. L’étude montre que la confiance dans les vaccins diffère selon l’âge. Ainsi, les personnes les plus favorables à la vaccination sont les 18-24 ans, tandis que les jeunes adultes (25-34 ans) comptent la proportion la plus importante de personnes qui y sont défavorables. L’adhésion à la vaccination diffère également en fonction de la catégorie socioprofessionnelle. En 2016 comme en 2010, les personnes les plus défavorables sont celles avec les niveaux de diplômes et de revenus les plus faibles. Selon les auteurs, il est nécessaire de poursuivre «les efforts d’information et de pédagogie auprès de la population générale (...) pour que la vaccination demeure ce qu’elle a toujours été: une des meilleures interventions en santé publique pour améliorer la santé de la population.»
In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. It’s also overtaken breast cancer in recent years to become the third most common type of cancer. That’s why any news when it comes to potential prostate cancer breakthroughs is always exciting. Immunotherapy has been revolutionising the treatment of cancer and now a team from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London have conducted a trial, the results of which they say are "spectacular" and a "big deal". The trial focussed on drugs that boost a patient’s immune system, saving the lives of some men with terminal prostate cancer. Immunotherapy works by helping a person’s immune system recognise and subsequently attack cancer cells. One of the study participants, Michael English, 72, was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone-based therapies did not kill his cancer, however. Then, two years ago, he started taking the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. Today, he is effectively cancer free, with scans no longer showing any signs of the tumour. However, it’s an approach that will not, unfortunately, help all men. In fact, only between 10% and 15% of patients had any response to the therapy at all. This is not something that’s unusual for immunotherapy. Nell Barrie, from Cancer Research UK, said: "The next step will be to find out how to tell which men will benefit from taking this drug. "This is important as although immunotherapy is exciting, it can have severe side effects".
Around 70% of women with the most common type of breast cancer could be spared chemotherapy, a new study has found. Following trials of a genetic test that analyses the danger of a tumour, it was discovered that thousands of women could avoid chemo using under a new “precision medicine” approach. The genetic test, Oncotype Dx, gives women a score between 0 and 100. Currently, women who get a low score are advised they do not need chemo. Those with a high score are told they definitely do. However, most women get a mid-range score and generally have chemotherapy. But the new study has revealed that these women have the same survival rates with or without chemo. This was particularly the case for women aged over 50. The nine-year-survival-rate was 93.9% without chemotherapy and 93.8% with chemotherapy. Cancer doctors said the findings would change practice in UK clinics on Monday, while charities said the news, affecting 3,000 UK women a year, was "wonderful". Speaking about the findings of the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Rachel Rawson, from the charity Breast Cancer Care, said: "Every day, women with certain types of breast cancer face the terrible dilemma of whether or not to have the treatment, without hard facts about the benefit for them. "This life-changing breakthrough is absolutely wonderful news as it could liberate thousands of women from the agony of chemotherapy."
Most people are familiar with the phrase, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but what about an egg a day? New research suggests that a daily egg may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite sometimes getting a bad press for their high cholesterol content, eggs, it seems, could help us steer clear of cardiovascular conditions, according to research published in the journal Heart. For their study, researchers from the School of Public Health at Peking University Health Science Centre in Beijing, China analysed survey data relating to more than 500,000 individuals. Of those individuals, 461,213 were free from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes at baseline. Egg consumption among the study participants was noted and the individuals were followed up with after a median period of 8.9 years. The researchers' found that individuals who usually ate about one egg per day had a 26% lower risk of experiencing hemorrhagic stroke; a 28% lower risk of death due to this type of event; and an 18% lower risk of CVD-related mortality. Current NHS guidelines in the UK relating to egg consumption state: "although eggs contain some cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more of an effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs". So, in other words, it’s not eggs that are necessarily the problem when it comes to cholesterol, but rather how you cook them. Indeed, eggs are a great source of healthful nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, phospholipids, and carotenoids.
The modern, germ-free lifestyles many children lead could be responsible for the most common type of cancer in children - acute lymphoblastic leukaemia - according to one of the UK’s most well-respected scientists. Professor Mel Greaves, from the Institute of Cancer Research, has been studying for 30 years how the immune system can become cancerous if it is not exposed to enough bugs early in life. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia affects one in 2,000 children and is more common in advanced, affluent societies, suggesting cleaner modern lifestyles could play a defining role. Prof Greaves says the disease happens in three stages: a genetic mutation inside the womb, a lack of exposure to microbes in early life and an immune malfunction and leukaemia in childhood. He believes that it could be possible to prevent the condition. Prof Greaves said: "The research strongly suggests that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia has a clear biological cause and is triggered by a variety of infections in predisposed children whose immune systems have not been properly primed." Unfortunately, preventing the disease isn’t as simple as exposing children to dirt. They need, according to Prof Greaves, contact with beneficial bacteria. The best way to do this is to give them a safe cocktail of bacteria, such as in a yoghurt drink, that will help boost their immune system. [Related reading: Thumb-suckers and nail-biters less prone to allergies – study]
A new study has revealed that many people in England are unsure about cancer risk factors and often incorrectly identify fake cancer causes. The survey of 1,330 people found that drinking from plastic bottles and using microwave ovens are two of the fake cancer causes people often cite. The good news is that 88% of people surveyed correctly identified smoking as a major cancer risk factor, while 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn were also causes of cancer - all of which have been proven. According to Cancer Research UK, smoking, overexposure to UV radiation and being overweight are the biggest preventable causes of cancer. In fact, the charity says that about four in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented with lifestyle changes and people need the right information to help them "separate the wheat from the chaff". Researchers from University College London and the University of Leeds conducted the survey and discovered that more than 40% of participants wrongly thought that stress and food additives caused cancer. Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds said: "It's worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. "Compared to past research, it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media." Clare Hyde, from Cancer Research UK, said: "There is no guarantee against getting cancer - but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news."
Individuals who routinely drink more than one alcoholic beverage every day have an overabundance of bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths, a new study has found. Compared to their non-drinking peers, drinkers have less good, such as Lactobacillales that help protect your gums, and more bad bacteria, such as certain Actinomyces, Bacteroidales, and Neisseria species that can lead to gum disease, heart problems and even some cancers. [Related reading: Regular excess drinking found to shorten life expectancy] Publishing their findings in the science journal Microbiome, the study authors said the acids found in alcoholic drinks could make the oral environment hostile for certain bacteria to grow, hence the lower number of so-called good bacteria. For the study, a group of more than 1,000 individuals had their saliva tested. The group included 270 non-drinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results show that the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, all potentially harmful, as well as fewer Lactobacillales, a family of bacteria associated with a reduction of gum inflammation. Talking about the findings of the study, Jiyoung Ahn, the study's senior investigator and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine, said: "heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases."
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 47,000 new cases diagnosed every year. And up until now, the most widely used tests for the disease had included the PSA blood test, a digital rectal examination (DRE), MRI scans and a biopsy. However, each of these wasn’t without its problems. But now a new ultrasound process, which offers more successful diagnosis and management of prostate cancer, has been identified by researchers at Dundee University. The technique, known as non-invasive shear wave elastography (SWE), offers "much greater accuracy and reliability" than current methods and is less expensive, according to the researchers. It targets the prostate with ultrasound and was evaluated using a study at Dundee University involving around 200 patients. Because cancerous tissue is denser than normal tissue, the shear waves are slowed as they pass through it. During the study, the technique was able to successfully identify 89% of prostate cancers, as well as other more aggressive cancers, including those spreading outside of the prostate. Ghulam Nabi, professor of surgical uro-oncology at Dundee University, said, "Prostate cancer is one of the most difficult to pinpoint. "We are still in a position where our diagnosis of prostate cancer is extremely inefficient, leading to unnecessary treatments for many patients." Speaking about the new test, Prof Nabi said it was “like someone has turned the lights on in a darkened room."