New research suggests cancer patients are at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the general population. According to the study, the results of which are published in the European Heart Journal, more than one in 10 cancer survivors die from heart and blood vessel problems, rather than their initial illness. Among the 3,234,256 cancer patients studied for the research, 38% died from cancer, while 11% died from cardiovascular diseases. Among the deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 76% were due to heart disease. The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was also highest in the first year after a patient’s cancer diagnosis and among patients younger than 35. Among those cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 55 and who went on to survive their illness, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was more than 10 times higher than that for the general population. Meanwhile, patients with breast, prostate or bladder cancer were most likely to die from heart disease – but this is simply because these are the most common types of cancer. It is still unclear as to why cancer patients have a seemingly higher risk of heart disease, but their treatment itself or lifestyle factors, such as being overweight, drinking too much and not exercising, could be to blame, experts say.
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An innovative new blood test can detect breast cancer up to 5 years before symptoms appear, researchers say. Developed by a team at the University of Nottingham, England, the new blood test identifies specific immune system ‘autoantibodies’, which are produced when tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are present – like those produced by breast cancer cells. While the test is still only partially effective, it could eventually provide the best chance of detecting breast cancer early, enabling faster treatment and a greater chance of success. In the pilot study, the researchers took blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. They then matched these samples with ones from 90 patients without breast cancer. Then, they used a technology called protein microarray to test the blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies and 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease). The researchers used a technology called protein microarray to rapidly test the blood samples for autoantibodies against 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease. Speaking last Sunday at the U.K. National Cancer Research Institute conference in Glasgow, Scotland, researcher Daniyah Alfattani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nottingham's Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC), said: “The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens. We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood.” At present, annual mammograms are the best way for doctors to detect the presence of breast cancer while in its early stages.
Lycopene - a natural pigment that gives red fruits and vegetables their colour - is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, and tomatoes contain plenty of it. In fact, it is estimated that tomatoes account for 80% of the lycopene in the US diet. Now, a new study suggests Lycopene may also help boost sperm quality. According to the research by a team at the University of Sheffield, healthy men who consumed the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree each day were found to have better quality sperm. During the 12-week trial, 60 men were randomly selected to take 14mg of lactolycopene supplement each day. The reason a supplement was used is because the participants would have had to eat 2kg of tomatoes each day to obtain an equivalent dose of lycopene. The participants’ sperm was tested before, during and after the trial. While there was no difference in sperm concentration, the men who had been taking the lycopene had healthier and faster sperm. Encouraged by the results, the researchers now want to expand the trial to include more men and see if the findings are the same. Lycopene has also been previously linked to other health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Male breast cancer is pretty rare. In fact, it accounts for just 1% of all breast cancer cases. That’s why very few studies have looked at what factors can lead to more positive outcomes for patients. To address this reality, researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have conducted one of the largest male breast cancer studies to date, the findings of which are published in the journal Cancer. The researchers found that 51% of male breast cancer diagnoses occurred between the ages of 50 and 69, and that the average age of diagnosis was 64. In fact, only 15% of the patients were diagnosed before the age of 50. Interestingly, the study authors found that black men, older patients, individuals with other ongoing health issue and those with higher tumor grade and stage had poorer prognoses. Furthermore, they found that patients who underwent a full mastectomy also had poorer outcomes. The prognosis was better for patients who lived in wealthier areas, whose tumors carried the progesterone receptor and men who received radiation therapy, chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy. While female breast cancer treatment has improved dramatically over the years, the study authors say it is unclear whether these advancements have been applied to the management of male breast cancer too. Two of the reasons for this are because male breast cancer usually occurs later in life and it commonly spreads to the person’s lymph nodes. The researchers hope their paper will shine some more light on this little known condition and lead to better outcomes for patients going forward.
A new tumour-agnostic drug has been approved for use in Europe. The revolutionary drug, experts say, has the potential to cure more cancer patients and reduce side-effects. Called larotrectinib, the new drug does not care where the cancer is growing in the body and instead looks for a specific genetic abnormality, which means it can be used to treat a wide range of tumours. Doctors in the UK have said the new drug is “a really exciting thing” and marks a move away from having ‘drugs that treat breast cancer’, ‘drugs that treat bowel cancer’ and ‘drugs that treat lung cancer’, to having drugs that target the genetic make-up of each patient’s tumour. However, the decision by European regulators does not mean that any cancer patient can take advantage of larotrectinib right away. Its approval for use right now only applies to patients with solid tumours that have been caused by a genetic abnormality known as an NTRK gene fusion. This rare abnormality happens when part of an individual’s DNA accidentally merges with another, leading to an alteration in the body’s blueprint that allows cancer to grow. Speaking about the drug development, Dr Julia Chisholm, a children's cancer consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said: “It is a really exciting thing, as is it works across a range of cancers. It's not confined to one.”
Cancer has surpassed cardiovascular disease as the biggest killer of middle-aged people in higher-income nations, a study suggests. Globally, stroke and heart problems are the leading causes of death among this age group. But the findings of this latest research led by a team from Canada's McMaster University shows that middle-aged people in rich nations are 2.5 times more likely to die of cancer than cardiovascular disease. In contrast, people in poor countries are three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The study, published in The Lancet, is drawn from a global research program, the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE) study, involving 160,000 people from 21 different countries. While cardiovascular disease accounted for more than 40% of deaths in middle- and low-income countries, it only accounted for less than a quarter in richer nations. The researchers say this could be due to people living in richer countries receiving more medication and support. Speaking about the findings of the research, Gilles Dagenais, a professor at Quebec’s Laval University in Canada who co-led the work, said: “Our report found cancer to be the second most common cause of death globally in 2017, accounting for 26% of all deaths. But as (heart disease) rates continue to fall, cancer could likely become the leading cause of death worldwide, within just a few decades.”
It’s widely accepted that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a person’s health. But now a new study has firmly and scientifically concluded that eating foods that are rich in flavonoids (like fruits and vegetables) could stave off disease and extend life. According to research by a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, people who eat 500mg of flavonoids every day have the lowest risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related deaths. So how much do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Well, the scientists say it is important to get the flavonoids from a variety of sources. They say someone can achieve the 500mg of total flavonoids by consuming one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries and 100g of broccoli. Interestingly, the study of more than 50,000 adults found that the benefits of consuming 500mg of flavonoids daily were most pronounced in people who smoke and drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day. However, the scientists were quick to point out that consuming flavonoids does not enough to undo the harmful effects of smoking and high alcohol consumption. The study also found that consuming more than 500mg of flavonoids daily was not associated with any additional benefits. The paper appears in the journal Natural Communications.
A small study in the UK has found an unlikely ally in a strain of the common cold virus in the fight against bladder cancer. For the study, the findings of which appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, 15 patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer were intravenously given coxsackievirus (CVA21) ahead of scheduled surgery to remove their tumours. Post-surgery, when tissue samples were examined, there were signs the virus had targeted and killed cancer cells in the bladder. Furthermore, after the cancer cells had been killed, the virus reproduced and targeted other cancer cells. All other healthy cells were left intact. “The virus gets inside cancer cells and kills them by triggering an immune protein - and that leads to signalling of other immune cells to come and join the party,” said study leader Prof Hardev Pandha, from the University of Surrey and Royal Surrey County Hospital. The researchers from the University of Sussex who carried out the study said their findings could “help revolutionise treatment” for bladder cancer and reduce the risk of it recurring. Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK and affects around 10,000 new people every year. At present, treatments are either invasive, or cause toxic side effects. Moreover, constant, costly monitoring is required to ensure the cancer has not returned. Bladder cancer costs the NHS more per patient than any other cancer because of its high rate of recurrence.
A leading UK cancer charity has warned that obesity now causes more cases of four common cancers than smoking. According to Cancer Research UK, bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers are more likely to be caused by being overweight than by smoking tobacco. The warning is particularly concerning as obese people outnumber smokers by two to one in the UK, which means millions of people are at risk of developing any of these cancers simply because they are overweight. Despite the fact that smoking remains the number one preventable cause of cancer in the UK and causes more cases of cancer than being overweight each year (54,300 vs. 22,800), for the four cancers previously mentioned, obesity causes more. However, Cancer Research UK’s latest billboard campaign highlighting the risks associated with being overweight has been accused of fat-shaming. And it’s not the first time the charity has been picked up for this either. Nevertheless, the charity remains adamant that outlining the risks of being overweight when it comes to cancer is an important step. Speaking about the Cancer Research UK warning, the British Medical Association said: “While we are very much aware of the health risks associated with smoking, less effort has been thrown behind tackling obesity, which is now a major cause of cancer.”
Hundreds of men in the UK are trialling a new prostate cancer screening scan to see if it could eventually be offered on the NHS. Right now, there is no routine prostate cancer screening performed in the UK. Blood tests and biopsies are the most reliable ways to determine if a man has prostate cancer. The new test involves a non-invasive MRI scan that checks the inside of the body for any abnormal growths. It will be a few years yet before we know if the new scan is better than the current blood tests, scientists say, but NHS England is, nevertheless, hailing the breakthrough as a “potentially exciting development”. In the UK alone, prostate cancer claims the lives of around 11,800 men every year. It usually develops slowly, so there are often no associated signs or symptoms for many years. Prostate cancer treatment depends on its development. Doctors may suggest to monitor the situation first, while surgery and radiotherapy will be advised for others. Speaking about the new test, Karen Stalbow, from Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This trial could provide an exciting step towards our ambition for a national screening programme that enables men to get the early prostate cancer diagnosis that can save more lives.”
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.