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.

 

Science Snaps: seeing the effects of proteins we know nothing about

14 hours 58 minutes ago

Science blog

Anh Hoang Le, a PhD student at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, studies two proteins that we know curiously little about: CYRI-A and CYRI-B.

“We have some hints that they might be involved in cancer, and it’s my teams’ job to find out if it’s true.”

Le has been growing batches of cancer cells in the lab that have one key difference: some can produce the CYRI proteins, while others can’t. He then looks for differences between the cells using tools similar to microscopes.

And so far, the most striking of these has been changes in cell shape, which can have an important effect on how the cell behaves.

“I have four different stains on these cells so you can see four different things. The nucleus is the round blue balls in the middle of each cell, which contains DNA. The cytoskeleton, which essentially is the skeleton of the cell, is in magenta. The yellow is a protein called ArpC2, and the green is a protein called integrin,” he explains.

The molecules aren’t usually those colours. Le sticks a different fluorescent dye to each molecule to make them glow. It’s a standard technique in cell biology if you want to look at things inside a cell. And it produces some beautiful images while you’re at it.

Supporting roles – integrin and ArpC2

The image on the left is a regular cancer cell. Whereas the cell on the right is a cancer cell that has had the proteins CYRI-A and CYRI-B removed. The cell’s shape has changed dramatically and a protein called integrin (green) changes location inside the cell. A molecule called ArpC2 (yellow) becomes concentrated around the edges of the cell, meaning the cell may be more likely to move. Image credit: Anh Hoang Le, CRUK Beatson Institute.

Integrin, in green, has multiple jobs. But one of its most important roles is sticking the cell to its surroundings, like an anchor. It’s known to be key in deciding the shape of the cell. And it’s been linked to the spread of cancer cells around the body.

In an earlier experiment, Le found that when he removed the CYRI proteins from cells, they became stickier. But they also moved faster than cells with the CYRI proteins. As integrin is known to be involved in both these processes, Le decided to look at the location and amount of integrin inside the cells.

The image above shows a regular cancer cell on the left, and one that been engineered so it doesn’t produce the CYRI proteins, on the right.

“When I removed the proteins from the cell, it changes shape. And you can see that when they are present, the integrin is very spread inside the cell. But without, you can suddenly see all of those green stripes that align with the cell. So without the CYRI proteins, integrin is more prominent and is perhaps helping the cell to move.”

Another protein called ArpC2, marked yellow in the image, is also important in cell movement. The protein collects at the edges of the cell when it wants to move, which is what happens in cells without the CYRI proteins.

Overall, Le thinks CYRI-A and CYRI-B may be changing the distribution of integrin and ArpC2 inside cells, which leads to the change in shape. And this could trigger cancer cells to move.

Shaping up nicely

Again, The image on the left is a regular cancer cell. The cell on the right has had the CYRI proteins removed. The cell has changed shape and integrin (green) is aligned throughout the cell, while ArpC2 (yellow) are concentrated around the edge of the cell. Image Credit: Anh Hoang Le, CRUK Beatson Institute.

The shape of a cell is important because it indicates what the cell may be likely to do, whether that be multiply, move or die.

“The cell with the proteins has very spiky protrusions,” says Le. “Those spikes are called filopodia, which we think are for the cell to sense its environment.”

Cancer cells without the CYRI proteins have less obvious protrusions. In the right-hand image above, they’re the small bumps around the edge of the cell. “We call that lamellipodia, which we think is more for a cell to ‘crawl’,” says Le.

Le’s lab research suggests that if cancer cells lose the ability to make the CYRI proteins they may be more likely to move, which could be linked to cancer spread (metastasis). But it’s early days.

“There is a lot of debate,” warns Le. “So it is difficult to firmly say that if you have more lamellipodia the cell is going to metastasise, because inside the actual cancer there are a lot of interactions and factors that we don’t have enough knowledge about yet.”

According to Le, which structures are important for cancer to progress may actually differ depending on the cancer type.

For now, Le’s work is helping uncover the roles of these mysterious proteins in cancer. And he’s produced some great images along the way.

“My favourite? I think it’s the ‘fan-shaped’ one. Because, compared to the spiky one, it gives you a striking look at how different the cell shape is when the proteins are not there.”

Ethan

Reference

Fort et. al. (2018). Fam49/CYRI interacts with Rac1 and locally suppresses protrusions. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41556-018-0198-9

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News digest – brain tumour awards, CAR T cell therapy, NHS ‘fast-tracking’ drugs and NICE decisions

2 days 20 hours ago

Science blog

Boosting brain tumour research

A year on from the death of Baroness Tessa Jowell, the former Labour cabinet minister diagnosed with glioblastoma who campaigned for funding and support for brain tumours, 3 newly-funded brain tumour research teams have been assembled. Brain tumour survival has remained dismally low for years and our Brain Tumour Awards, in collaboration with The Brain Tumour Charity, will provide £18 million to the three teams. The Times explored one of these teams’ goals of delivering potential new drugs to the brain using nanotechnology.

For a complete look at what the teams have planned, check out our blog post.

CAR T cell therapy on the NHS

The BBC spoke to Mike Simpson, who says his lymphoma is ‘on the run’ thanks to a new personalised immunotherapy treatment. CAR-T cell therapy trains the patient’s own immune cells to recognise and destroy cancer cells. The treatment has been approved on the NHS for certain blood cancers but, according to Simpson – who became one of the first NHS patients to receive CAR T treatment after his cancer came back after chemo – the side effects can be worse than chemotherapy.

NHS to ‘fast track’ personalised cancer medicines

Various news outlets, including The Times and The Sun, are talking about new “revolutionary” cancer drugs. Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said that he wants to ‘fast track’ a particular new breed of personalised cancer medicines known as ‘tumour-agnostic’. The theory is that these drugs can target any type of cancer as long as it carries a particular faulty gene. But the gene fault in question is rare, and clinical trials have so far only seen benefits in patients with rare cancer types. So, what happens next? The drugs are awaiting review by the National Institute of health and Care Excellence (NICE) and still need a European licence, so there is still a way to go before they are made available on the NHS.

Our blog post aims to provide some context to this week’s punchy headlines.

New treatment option on the NHS for some adults with leukaemia

In PharmaTimes this week, NICE approved the drug blinatumomab (Blincyto), meaning it will now be available on the NHS in England, Northern Ireland and Wales for patients with a particular type of leukaemia. Our news report has all the details on how the drug works, and why NICE chose to reverse an initial rejection.

Cancer not talked about enough in BAME communities

Bamidele Adenipekun, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, has been sharing her experiences with the BBC. She says that cancer and other illnesses are not talked about in some ethnic minority communities “due to fear”, which can lead to women feeling “isolated”. More research is needed to understand why for some people cancer remains taboo.

NHS still laboured by old tech

It’s not a new story: the NHS can fall short in the technology department. A new survey asked IT-related health sector workers about their experiences, and over one third said that they have asked for faster systems. Just over a third of those surveyed thought that NHS budgets were holding back tech upgrades. PharmaTimes has the details.

Women’s alcohol awareness and Scotland’s alcohol sales

Only one in five women surveyed at a selection of breast clinics knew that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, according to the BBC. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with 8% of cases linked to alcohol. The researchers in the study suggested using breast clinics and screening appointments as an opportunity to increase awareness about the link between alcohol and cancer, but more research is needed to see whether it would actually help reduce cancer risk.

In other alcohol related news, sales have fallen to their lowest on record in Scotland, according to the Mail Online. But the rate of deaths from alcohol-specific causes in both men and women has risen since 2012.

Fighting misinformation in science

Science is no stranger to misinformation, but there could be a way to combat it. Reported in an excellent article by Vox, a study found that when a press release exaggerated results, the news that covers that story would exaggerate too. The conclusion was that a potential method to combat misinformation could start with the Universities that put out the press releases.

And finally

A new study, reported in the Telegraph, found that men who eat two or more weekly servings of yoghurt could be less likely to develop growths which can lead to bowel cancer than those who never eat yoghurt. But this study wasn’t conclusive, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the effect of one food in our diet. The things we eat can affect our gut health and the bacteria in our gut, but it’s too early to say whether eating more yoghurt could reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

Our blog post looks at the exciting research that one of our teams is doing into the gut microbiome.

Ethan

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Intermittent fasting: How I got started

3 days 15 hours ago
Accompany our Research Editor as she recalls the highs and lows of her first month of reducing her calories to 800 on 2 days per week.

Study ties unhealthy gums to liver cancer risk

4 days 14 hours ago
A large study finds that people with unhealthy gums and teeth have a higher risk of liver cancer, which kills nearly 32,000 people per year in the U.S.

Why do women face higher heart disease risk after breast cancer?

4 days 15 hours ago
New research confirms that women who have undergone breast cancer therapy are more at risk of cardiovascular disease, and it also shows why this may be.

Sign Up for My Webinar on Intermittent Fasting

4 days 18 hours ago
Some of the most common questions I receive are about ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting, so I’ve done a deep dive into the research on […]

Opinion: ‘New brain tumour research projects reflect Tessa Jowell’s legacy’

4 days 19 hours ago

Science blog

The word ‘legacy’ is often overused, but not about the late Baroness Tessa Jowell. I only worked with her briefly, during a stint as a Parliamentary researcher in the mid-90s but, as for practically everyone who met her, her warmth, her commitment to collaboration, and her determination to tackle seemingly immovable obstacles, left a lasting impression on me.


Baroness Tessa Jowell. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

They were qualities that helped her achieve so much in her life and career. Sure Start and the Olympic bid were merely the culmination of a life that saw her ceaselessly champion the less fortunate and underprivileged, first as a social worker, then as a politician.

In January 2018, in the late stages of treatment for an incurable brain tumour, she rose in the House of Lords to highlight the need to break down barriers preventing more research into her condition. Few will forget the steely passion with which she spoke. “For what would every cancer patient want?” she asked. “To know that the best, the latest science was being used – wherever in the world it was developed, whoever began it.”

Last week, I had the privilege – as chief executive of Cancer Research UK – to announce three new multimillion pound projects inspired, in part, by Tessa’s legacy. It gave me cause to reflect on how these projects came into being, how they exemplify the qualities that Tessa sought to champion – and how they drive me in leading one of the UK’s largest charities.

Breaking down barriers

Tessa was a change-maker, and knew first-hand that complex problems rarely have simple solutions. In the field of cancer research, there are few problems more challenging than brain tumours.

The brain’s incredible complexity allows you to read these words, to love, to hope and to mourn. Tumours that affect the brain are diseases – plural, there are more than 130 different types – arise in the organ that carries our very self. This complexity means that advances in understanding how the brain develops – and how cancers start and grow – have lagged behind advances elsewhere. A particular challenge is that brain itself is wrapped in a complex layer called the blood-brain barrier – any drugs that are to effectively treat brain tumours need to cross it. But all too often, brain tumour drugs are ‘repurposed’ from other fields of medicine – even modern targeted drugs. Finding new ways forward literally means working across barriers.

Bringing people together

Tessa was also a convener, and these projects are, on every level, collaborative. They bring together researchers from across the UK with those in Canada and the United States, with skills ranging from basic laboratory biology to chemical engineering and data science. And they’re funded thanks to a partnership between two medical research charities – ourselves and The Brain Tumour Charity.

They’re the culmination of a journey that started several years ago, when we made a commitment to boost funding into several of the hardest-to-treat cancers – brain tumours among them. Medical research isn’t simply a matter of pouring more money into a given area – to make a difference, funders like Cancer Research UK rely on a vibrant research community to bring forward cutting-edge ideas. But compared to other forms of cancer, the field of brain tumour research lacked such a network. So we set out to create one.

In bringing together cancer researchers, neuro-oncologists, surgeons, patients and funders, we helped map out the biggest challenges in brain tumour research – and made a commitment last year to fund research teams who could help solve them. I hope Tessa would have been proud of the outcome. They certainly inspired an overwhelming sense of hope and progress when announced at an event in the House of Lords last week. It was heartening to hear people from across the political spectrum commit to future progress, and to help people affected by this awful disease.

An inspiration

On a personal level, as a woman leading a complex medical research charity, I look back on Tessa’s career, leadership and legacy, and draw further inspiration. Fundamentally, charities exist to provide funding to overcome barriers. But they are also there to bring people together, to define a shared mission, and to act as vehicles for change. There are more than 200 forms of cancer, each posing a unique challenge – both to the medical and scientific community as they strive for future progress, but above all for people affected by them.

Tessa’s daughter Jess Mills’ words rung true at the event: “It is up to all of us here to ensure we are never deterred by a sense of the impossible, but inspired by it”. It’s an inspiration that must keep us moving forward, together, because there is still so much more to do, for all people affected by cancer.

Michelle Mitchell is chief executive of Cancer Research UK

Read more about the three teams funded through our Brain Tumour Awards.

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