News from Around the Globe

Research is constant.  Every day we are learning more about how to fight cancer in all of its forms.  Here are the latest news articles from some of the leading cancer organizations.  Check back often to stay up to date.

news from around the world

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Stronger Than Cancer has shared these news articles for information purposes only.  It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 

Carving out a research niche in early detection: Charlie Massie, Career Development Fellow

16 hours 43 minutes ago

Research Feature

Dr Charlie Massie is a Junior Group Leader in the Early Detection Programme at the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Centre and a CRUK Career Development Fellowship (CDF) holder. He is using his bioinformatics and cancer genomics experience to develop tests that will distinguish at an early stage potentially lethal prostate cancer and benign or indolent lesions. 

Charlie is at the ‘Establishing independence’ stage in our Competency Framework for Fellowships, and here he explains how he demonstrated in his application the skills and experience we expect of researchers at this point in their careers. He also tells us how our CDF puts him in an excellent position to move from translational research to prospective clinical trials and ultimately clinical implementation.

Career stage: establishing independence

I’d been working for a couple of years on circulating tumour DNA in an excellent research group led by Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld at the CRUK Cambridge Institute. I continued to be involved in DNA methylation analysis within the UK Prostate International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) working group. I was developing project ideas that pulled these two strands of work together and realised that the only way to implement them was to move on to the next stage of my research career and set up my own independent research programme.  

After talking to the CRUK Research Careers team, I applied for a CDF. I originally thought I might not be suitable for the CDF as I’d had a couple of periods of medical leave, which meant several years had elapsed since I’d completed my PhD. Instead I found that CRUK is really flexible and supports researchers to apply for the right fellowship for their career stage.

CRUK is looking for a few things in a potential fellow: your track record, your plans, your research environment and your skills in areas such as scientific development, leadership and communication.

Research experience: developing my own research ideas

While working in the Rosenfeld group, I became interested in testing whether DNA methylation analysis could be applied to circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in blood and urine to detect prostate cancer. I had a strong desire to follow through with this research idea, which I believed had potential as a non-invasive method to detect potentially lethal forms of prostate cancer at an early stage. I was drawn to CRUK as a funder because it prioritises translating discovery studies into clinical practice, and that's where I see my future career. 

When I applied for the CDF, I was fortunate enough to have been part of some interesting collaborations and projects that had generated several outputs, such as papers from the work I did as part of the UK Prostate ICGC working group and reviews on ctDNA. I had taken on teaching roles in postgraduate courses and given talks at international symposia. This helped me gain experience in presenting in front of different audiences, including lay communities, postgraduate students and specialists at conferences. 

Future research ambitions: developing a low-cost, minimally invasive liquid biopsy test

In the future, we’d like to be able to stratify patients with prostate cancer non-invasively according to their disease risk. This would inform treatment decisions and minimise the use of invasive procedures for men with low-risk disease. This is important because currently we, in the healthcare sector, are doing a very poor job working out which men have high-risk prostate cancer.

Our approach is to use information from large-scale genomic studies, such as the CRUK-funded ICGC prostate cancer study, to design highly sensitive, multi-parameter assays to profile blood and urine samples. 

My long-term vision is to validate our diagnostic methods in a clinical trial – something I’m exploring in collaboration with the CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme, led by Dr Sarah Bohndiek and Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald.

I’m fortunate to have mentors around me, like Rebecca, who are fantastic role models and who gave me the intellectual freedom to explore and develop my own ideas. Rebecca has identified a set of markers for oesophageal cancer and completed early-stage diagnostic trials, and this is somewhere I hope we can get to in the next 5–10 years for prostate cancer. Taking advice from someone who’s been there and done it has been extremely useful in helping me avoid some pitfalls and work towards my future goals. 

Skills: honing leadership and communication skills

Being given more academic freedom and responsibility by my group leader, Dr Rosenfeld, allowed me to hone my leadership and team skills. I was able to demonstrate this in my application by showing evidence of formal and informal supervision of PhD students as well as teaching responsibilities. In addition, I made sure I took the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Group Leader Management Course, where I learned essential management and supervision skills. 

I had also been given the opportunity to present at the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) annual meeting, which was a great experience. Since then, I’ve also participated in public outreach and given talks at CRUK events. Seeing the enthusiasm in patients and donor groups after sharing our research and the direction it’s heading in was a humbling experience.

Looking to the future: innovating through collaborations

Two years into my fellowship, I’ve realised that while it is relatively easy to come up with a research proposal with a clearly defined timeline, things might be very different in reality. The first year was tough because we had to get everything going, but we’re making good progress now and beginning to deliver on our proposed research plan on the molecular stratification of early-stage prostate cancer. I’ve learnt a lot about making critical decisions and prioritising what is most time-sensitive to my research. 

Since my fellowship, I’ve also secured a CRUK Early Detection Innovation Award. I am working with a team of engineers to develop a proof-of-concept idea for enriching ctDNA samples to improve the sensitivity and specificity of a liquid biopsy diagnostic test for prostate cancer. It’s been very exciting to brainstorm innovative ideas with people from different backgrounds to tackle challenging clinical questions in early detection of cancer. 

My CRUK fellowship is an important step towards addressing unanswered questions in the diagnosis of early-stage cancer, so I’m very grateful to have received CRUK’s support.

Career profile: Dr. Charles Massie

2017–2023: CRUK Career Development Fellow, Group Leader, Early Detection Programme, CRUK Cambridge Centre

2015–2017: Senior Research Associate, Molecular and Computational Diagnostics, CRUK Cambridge Institute

2013–2014: Bioinformatics Research Associate, CRUK Cambridge Institute, CRUK and University of Cambridge

2010–2013: Research Associate, Haematology, University of Cambridge

2005–2010: Research Associate, Urology, University of Cambridge

2005: PhD in oncology, University of Cambridge

2000–2001: Research Assistant, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Oncology Unit, Edinburgh University

2000: BSc in Biological Sciences, Institute of Life and Earth Sciences, Heriot Watt University

 

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"If my energy ever flags, Mick’s there as living proof": Jill May on raising a million for cancer research

19 hours 28 minutes ago

Philanthropy and partnerships

When former investment banker turned director Jill May started fundraising for CRUK in 2012, there was no way of knowing that her husband would be diagnosed with cancer just a year later. Almost seven years on, Jill has raised £1.25m towards our work through her unflinching dedication to the cause and a talent for mobilising her network. Joanna Lewin spoke with Jill to dig deeper into this remarkable fundraising success 

On getting involved in philanthropy

In 2011, I sat next to a lady called Polly Wood at a dinner. She sat on Cancer Research UK’s National Events Committee and she was very persuasive. I found myself committing to organising the 2012 CRUK Carol Concert at St Paul’s Cathedral – with 2,500 people attending. That was my first foray into large-scale fundraising and we raised several hundred thousand pounds. I found that it was hard persuading large corporates to give money to medical research, so it was important to focus on my own contacts and friends.

Then, in 2013, my husband Mick was diagnosed with an aggressive and incurable lung cancer. Six years after the initial diagnosis, he’s still here. It underscored the critical importance of what CRUK does. Mick has benefited from several CRUK-funded clinical trials and it has made us realise how lucky we are. That has driven me to focus further on philanthropy.

On hosting fundraisers

You get a huge buzz when you put on an event and it’s successful. The satisfaction of pulling off something very beautiful like a carol concert at St Paul’s Cathedral is fantastic. It’s been a privilege to be associated with these wonderful events on behalf of CRUK and fascinating to get to know a top charity from the inside.

It can also be stressful at times, but fundraising and events have now become a part of my life. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of CRUK’s scientific experts, as well as brilliant emerging scientists. That insight has been phenomenal. Mick and I both feel we’ve learnt so much more about the disease. We’re impressed by the charity’s global reach and reassured by the experts being so well-connected to other scientists, receiving and sharing intelligence around the world. After all, cancer is a global battle.

On cancer as a cause

Having exhausted conventional treatments, Mick and I are now very much looking at the new waves of thinking. My major focus is to help prolong the lives of people with the hardest-to-treat cancers, for whom an extra few years of life is unimaginably important. That message sometimes gets forgotten. Finding ways to help people with terminal cancer live an extended, high-quality life may not sound as appealing as finding cures, but it’s just as vital.

I have other charitable interests but for the time being, my loyalty is with research into cancer. I’m enjoying the fact that I understand so much more about the challenge. The more you read and understand, the more you realise how critical this endeavour has become. And if my energy ever flags, Mick’s there as living proof. It’s a remarkable thing to be able to help change the future. I’ve been heartened by the many breakthroughs and focused on the fact that there’s so much more to do. For example, it’s crucial that drugs are moved quickly through the trial stage and made available to people who don’t enjoy the advantages of living in London and having access to the best thinking and treatments.

On how to succeed as an events fundraiser

I suggest crafting an event theme that’s likely to have broad appeal. If you focus on one type of cancer, it rules out a lot of philanthropists who may not have an interest or knowledge of that specific kind. Broader themes – liquid biopsies, immunotherapy, personalised medicine – are really engaging. Regardless of this, I’ve had most success when an ordinary person has brought the message home by telling their story. I’m certainly more likely to take out my cheque book if someone stands up and tells me what a difference the charity’s work has made to their lives.

On the future

I would love to say we’re on a trajectory that means cancer will be a thing of the past in say 15 or 20 years’ time. But it’s a marathon – the disease is clever and multifaceted. There’s clearly potential for real breakthroughs but much more research is needed. Immunotherapy, for example, works for some but not others. We don’t understand why the drug Mick takes, Vismodegib, works for him but might not for someone else. There’s so much complexity but we’re moving forward at pace. We need to continue to give it our full focus, collaborate globally and broaden access to drugs.

I became involved with CRUK because I thought it would be interesting. In fact, it was not only fascinating and complex but also pivotally important. Then Mick became my living proof that I need to keep doing this.

Jill’s next fundraising event is a dinner at the Bank of England attended by the Governor, Mark Carney

Joanna Lewin is philanthropy and partnerships communications manager and editor at CRUK

 

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Targeted breast cancer treatment approved for NHS use in England

19 hours 43 minutes ago

News report

A new treatment for early stage breast cancer will be made available for certain patients on the NHS in England.

Following the recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), neratinib (Nerlynx) will be offered as an extended treatment for breast cancer patients who’ve had another targeted treatment, trastuzumab (Herceptin), within the last year.

The new treatment is said to “significantly reduce the proportion of breast cancer relapses", according to short-term trial data.

A new targeted option

Neratinib blocks the cancer growth by interfering with chemical signals sent between cells.

It’s recommended for use for patients whose cancer tests positive for hormone receptors and a molecule called HER2. The treatment will only be available to adults who’ve been treated with trastuzumab within the last year, and where trastuzumab was used after initial treatment to help stop their cancer coming back.

This is the first treatment available for patients who have previously taken trastuzumab that maintain the intended effect of that treatment (adjuvant therapy).

Further criteria which patients will have to meet in order to access the drug include:

  • Trastuzumab is the only treatment they’ve taken that targets the molecule HER2
  • If trastuzumab was given before surgery, there were still signs of cancer in the tissue samples removed during surgery.
Reducing relapse

Evidence from the ExteNET trial shows neratinib lengthens the time before someone’s cancer comes back.

During trials, half of the 2816 patients who received treatment were allocated to 1 year treatment with neratinib, after chemotherapy and trastuzumab, while the other half were allocated to a dummy drug (placebo).

Of the women allocated to neratinib treatment, 90 in 100 were estimated to be disease-free at the five-year follow up, compared to 88 in 100 women allocated to the placebo group.

Side effects of neratinib include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue among others. Clinical experts reported that hospital visits may be required to treat diarrhoea.

Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK’s policy manager said: “It’s good to hear that neratinib will now be available for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Clinical trial results showed using the drug in this way reduced the chance of the disease coming back, but it’s still too early to tell for sure whether this means those patients will live longer.”

It’s not known if neratinib increases the overall length of survival because the final trial results are not yet available.

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Cancer Research UK and Nitto ATP Finals team up to help beat cancer

20 hours 28 minutes ago

Press release

The ATP and Cancer Research UK have today announced a new partnership for the final two editions of the Nitto ATP Finals in London (2019-2020) before the season finale moves to Turin, Italy in 2021.

“Our partnership with the Nitto ATP Finals is really exciting, and we are delighted they’ve chosen to work with us for the next two years. We’re excited to be able to reach tennis fans at the season finale to spread awareness about the causes of cancer and to help raise money to fund more cancer research.” - Caro Evans, director of partnerships at Cancer Research UK

The partnership will see the world’s best eight qualified tennis players and doubles teams come together at the ATP’s prestigious season-ending tournament on a mission to help Cancer Research UK raise money to fund research into beating all 200 types of cancer affecting men, women and children.

To kick start the fundraising, the Nitto ATP Finals has given customers the opportunity to donate to Cancer Research UK when they buy their tickets. Throughout the eight-day tournament, set to take place this year from 10 – 17 November at The O2 in London, short films about Cancer Research UK’s work, including  players and supporters, will be broadcast.  Spectators will be encouraged to support by text-to-donate or via bucket collections, with all money raised via the partnership helping to fund life-saving cancer research.

The Nitto ATP Finals and Cancer Research UK will also be working together to show attendees at the tournament how 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented with Cancer Research UK nurses and volunteers on hand at the tournament to answer questions.  Making changes such as stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight, being more active, drinking less alcohol and enjoying the sun safely will all help to reduce risk of cancer.

Caro Evans, director of partnerships at Cancer Research UK said: “Our partnership with the Nitto ATP Finals is really exciting, and we are delighted they’ve chosen to work with us for the next two years. We’re excited to be able to reach tennis fans at the season finale to spread awareness about the causes of cancer and to help raise money to fund more cancer research. With many of the biggest tennis stars in the world, we are aiming to highlight small things all of us can do to help prevent cancer, including keeping an active and healthy lifestyle.  All money raised through the partnership will go towards our life-saving work to beat cancer.”

Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President said: “We’ve all been affected by cancer in some way, shape or form, so we’re delighted to welcome Cancer Research UK on board as our charity partner at our season finale.  The aim of the partnership is to help raise as much awareness and money as possible for the incredible life-saving work Cancer Research UK carries out.”

Featuring only the world’s best eight qualified singles players and doubles teams of the season, this year’s Nitto ATP Finals looks set to provide a thrilling finale to the men’s professional tennis season, giving tennis fans in the UK an unmissable opportunity to watch the world’s best players go head-to-head as they battle for the last title of the season.

To purchase tickets to the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, visit: www.NittoATPFinals.com/ticket

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Tennis aces Greg Rusedski and Ross Hutchins serve up a treasure hunt in Cancer Research UK shops

20 hours 28 minutes ago

Press release

Greg Rusedski, former British no 1 player and Ross Hutchins, former no 3 doubles player volunteered at one of Cancer Research UK’s high street shops to launch the two-year partnership between leading cancer charity, Cancer Research UK and the world prestigious Nitto ATP Finals.

“The effects of cancer are unfortunately so widespread, so it’s great to work with Cancer Research UK and the Nitto ATP Finals to raise as much awareness and money as possible for the incredible life-saving work Cancer Research UK carries out.” Greg Rusedski, former British no 1 player and former ATP ranked world no 4

Greg and Ross donated some of their own clothes and volunteered their time serving customers.  They also announced the launch of a treasure hunt in the charity’s London shops with a treasure trove of money-can’t-buy tennis prizes from the world’s best male tennis players including signed items from many of the world’s top ATP players.  The prizes will be hidden in Cancer Research UK’s shops in London and on the charity’s eBay shop over the next four weeks.  Eagle-eyed shoppers will have the chance to get their hands on the prizes, with all proceeds from the sale going to the charity. 

Greg Rusedski, former British no 1 player and former ATP ranked world no 4, said: “The effects of cancer are unfortunately so widespread, so it’s great to work with Cancer Research UK and the Nitto ATP Finals to raise as much awareness and money as possible for the incredible life-saving work Cancer Research UK carries out.  One simple way to support the charity would be to come down to the charity’s London shops and see if you can find and buy one of the amazing tennis prizes.”

Ross Hutchins, former British no 3 doubles player and ATP’s Chief Player Officer, said: “As a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I am acutely aware of the importance of the work that Cancer Research UK does in raising money to fund research into beating all 200 types of cancer affecting men, women and children.  As well as raising money to help beat this disease, this partnership will highlight the small changes all of us can make to help prevent cancer.”

The partnership will see the world’s best eight qualified tennis players and doubles teams come together at the ATP’s season finale from 10 – 17 November at The O2 on a mission to help Cancer Research UK show how 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented.  Making changes such as stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight, being more active, drinking less alcohol and enjoying the sun safely will all help to reduce risk of cancer.

Featuring only the world’s best eight qualified singles players and doubles teams of the season this year’s Nitto ATP Finals looks set to provide a thrilling finale to the men’s professional tennis season, giving tennis fans in the UK an unmissable opportunity to watch the world’s best players go head-to-head as they battle for the last title of the season.

Don’t miss your chance to see the world’s best players at The O2, secure your seat today at: www.NittoATPFinals.com/tickets.

The money-can’t buy prizes will be found in these Cancer Research UK shops around London or on the charity’s eBay shop from Friday 18 October – Sunday 10 November. Keen treasure hunters are advised to seek out @CRUKshops on Instagram to get involved.

  • Islington
  • Chiswick 392
  • Marylebone
  • Ealing Broadway
  • Bromley
  • Wimbledon Village
  • Lewisham
  • eBay
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Last Day to Register for Fasting and Cancer Webinar

1 day 2 hours ago
Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for the final webinar in my 3-webinar series on fasting, that will take place on October 25 […]

Improving cancer screening: what does the latest review recommend?

2 days 1 hour ago

Science blog

Screening people for cancer saves thousands of lives every year. And these programmes will play a vital role in achieving NHS England’s ambition to diagnose 3 in 4 cancers early by 2028.

But there’s room for improvement.

After a difficult period for cancer screening programmes in England, former National Cancer Director Sir Mike Richards was tasked with reviewing the programmes in 2018. And the findings have been published today.

Many newspapers picked up on recommendations to make screening ‘fit with busy lives’, which could involve offering cancer screening during lunch breaks and on weekends.

But the review also includes vital, but perhaps less headline-grabbing recommendations aimed at making sure cancer screening programmes are managed and delivered in the best possible way for people across the country.

Here’s a run-down of some of the key findings and what they could mean for screening.

Who’s responsible for cancer screening?

The short answer is, it’s complicated. At the minute, no single organisation is responsible for delivering cancer screening in England – responsibility is shared by NHS England and Public Health England.

And while both organisations have important roles in the running of screening programmes, the division has created confusion and contributed to delays in new tests being introduced.

This has been particularly evident in the bowel cancer screening programme and the introduction of a new, more sensitive test: the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). The UK National Screening Committee recommended that FIT replace the old test back in November 2015, but it’s only just been introduced in June this year – more than a year later than planned.

And delays like this make a difference, because FIT isn’t just a more sensitive test, it’s easier for people to do. We’ve estimated that for every month the introduction of FIT was delayed in England, 26,000 extra people didn’t take part in the programme.

To avoid delays like these, something has to change. It needs to be much clearer who’s accountable for cancer screening and there must be more transparency around how they’re managed.

Richards’ review recommends reuniting responsibility for screening programmes under one organisation. And as screening is delivered by the health service, the only feasible recommendation is for that organisation to be NHS England and Improvement.

While there’s a lot that still needs to be worked out, having one organisation responsible for screening should mean people will benefit from new technologies like FIT earlier.

Looking to the future

Screening is becoming more intelligent and sophisticated as our knowledge and technology improve. Which means we can be more targeted in the way we screen.

But at the moment, decisions about how to improve or introduce new targeted programmes are made separately to those for our national cancer screening programmes. Which means no single body has oversight for all the changes that could be made to screening offered in the NHS.

What’s targeted screening?

Targeted screening programmes aim to identify people who may be at higher risk of developing certain diseases based on their genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors, as well as their previous screening results.

This information will be used to tailor screening for those who have a higher risk of developing cancer.

And with an increasing number of targeted screening programmes on the horizon, this makes for a complex and unclear decision-making process.

Richards wants this to change. His review recommends a single advisory body that would make recommendations for both population and targeted screening. This would mean targeted screening is given the same weight as population-based screening, and it would get national funding.

The recommendation should help to guarantee fair access to screening across the country and provide greater quality assurance to targeted programmes, which would be a big step in the right direction.

Improving IT

A number of screening errors made headlines in 2018, and most were due to IT system failures. But it’s not just errors that Richards is worried about – the current IT system isn’t flexible enough to cope with changes aimed at making screening more sophisticated.

And it’s holding programmes back.

Take cervical screening for example. Right now, NHS England isn’t able to change how often women who test negative for the human papillomavirus (HPV) are invited for screening. And one of the main reasons is because the IT system can’t support the shift.

It’s not the first time the IT system has been criticised, the Department of Health and Social Care called it “not fit for purpose” back in 2011. But Richards’ review outlines what should happen next.

Richards has recommended that the organisation responsible for digital transformation in the NHS (NHSX) map out how a new IT system would be delivered.

One thing is clear – a change to the IT system couldn’t come soon enough.

What next?

Right now, Richards’ review is just a set of recommendations. And it’s not entirely clear what happens next.

But with around 11.5 million people invited to take part in cancer screening in England each year, it’s crucial that NHS England acts swiftly.

We’re asking the Government to formally respond to the review’s findings and recommendations. And NHS England will need to set clear timelines for when they will act on the recommendations. And how.

And while these recommendations should help to make screening more flexible and future-proof, they rely on having enough NHS staff in place. Unless the Government provides long-term funding for vital NHS cancer staff, our screening services won’t be fit for the future.

Corrie Drumm is a policy advisor at Cancer Research UK 

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Sir Mike Richards was asked to review screening programmes in England, but several of the recommendations will be of interest to other nations.

The recommendation to establish a single advisory body to consider both population and targeted screening is relevant because the National Screening Committee looks at screening across the UK. At the moment it’s not clear if the recommended single advisory body will be UK wide or England only.

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