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.

 

Colon cancer: Could yogurt prevent precancerous growths?

4 days 22 hours ago
A new study has found that men who eat yogurt regularly have a lower risk of abnormal growths in the bowel, or adenomas, which can precede colon cancer.

NHS to ‘fast track’ new personalised cancer medicines – but it’s not ready quite yet

5 days 8 hours ago

Science blog

The NHS in England is gearing up to review “revolutionary” cancer drugs that could “treat a wide range of cancers,” according to headlines today.

This new breed of cancer drug was singled out by the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, in a speech to health leaders. They’re exciting because, unlike most cancer drugs, they’re designed to target specific changes in cancer cells’ DNA, rather than where the cancer is growing in the body. This means that patients with various different cancer types may be able to benefit from the drugs.

“It’s moving away from dividing up patients by disease type to looking for common molecular or genetic features within the tumours,” says Dr Matthew Krebs, an expert in precision medicine at the University of Manchester.

But while these drugs might become an important option for some patients, the genetic variations targeted are a lot less common than the headlines suggest.

And there’s plenty of work for the NHS to do before patients see the benefits of these new ‘tumour agnostic’ medicines – which is why Stevens announced that the NHS will be working with drug manufacturers in the coming months to get the NHS ready.

Why are these drugs special?

Drugs that target particular changes inside or on the surface of cancer cells aren’t new. And many are already used on the NHS to treat various cancers, the most famous being the breast cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin).

Like other targeted drugs, those named in today’s news – larotrectinib and entrectinib – take aim at cancer cells that carry a genetic change which can accelerate cancer growth. In the case of these drugs, that genetic change is called a NTRK fusion.

But unlike other targeted drugs, these precision treatments have been developed to target the fault regardless of where in the body the cancer is growing.

“The concept is that it doesn’t matter where the cancer develops, whether it’s in the bowel, breast, lung or a rarer cancer type – if you share the same underlying genetic abnormality then trials have shown you can get a response to this drug regardless of where the cancer is,” says Krebs.

These so-called ‘tissue agnostic’ drugs are being developed against several genetic abnormalities found in a range of cancers, but most of these are still in clinical trials. The furthest along are drugs targeting the NTRK fusion found in some cancers.

Who could benefit from these new drugs?

“If we put the TRK fusion in context it’s actually very rare,” says Krebs.

Less than 1 in 100 patients with more common cancer types will have the genetic alteration that might be targeted by the new drugs, he says. But there are some rare cancers, like a subtype of salivary gland cancer and certain children’s cancers, where almost all patients have the genetic change.

“For these rare cancers the drugs could have a very significant impact, because there aren’t many good existing therapies,” says Krebs.

Three quarters of the 55 patients taking larotrectinib as part of a trial spanning 17 cancers responded to the experimental drug, according to results published in 2018. Seven patients saw their cancer disappear completely and 34 patients’ cancers shrank after treatment. Updated results were presented at a recent cancer conference, with data from more patients showing a similar effect. But it’s not yet clear if some of these responses will turn in to long-term survival.

And in results presented at another recent cancer conference, 6 in 10 of the 54 adult cancers treated with entrectinib responded, with responses lasting an average of 10 months.

But as with lots of targeted drug treatments, the cancers can find a way to dodge the drug’s effects.

“We’ve seen some very good responses, but the treatments don’t work indefinitely, eventually the cancer develops resistance,” says Krebs. Drug companies are now developing new treatments that target these resistance mechanisms, with some already in clinical trials.

Finally, most side effects seen in trials were mild. Krebs says that although there are some side effects, “generally people tolerate the treatment very well”.

When will the drugs be available?

While exciting, today’s announcement doesn’t alter the fact that these drugs remain a long way off being routinely available for NHS patients.

Both larotrectinib and entrectinib are yet to be assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to determine if they offer enough value for money to be made available on the NHS. And as with any new treatment, the NHS will need to agree a price for both drugs. 

Added to this, neither drug has received the European licence needed before they can be looked at by NICE.

And crucially, even if the drugs are approved, their unusual nature could also cause challenges for the NHS in getting them to patients.

Challenges for the NHS

The clinical trials for these drugs have shown their effectiveness in patients with some cancer types, but that doesn’t mean the drugs won’t be effective in any others. Equally, the drugs haven’t been effective against all the cancer types they’ve been tested in. So NICE will need to work with the NHS to identify the right patients to receive the medicines.

There are a number of other questions that haven’t been resolved by clinical trials so far either.

Because the trials included patients who had already received varying numbers of other treatments, NICE can’t yet be sure how soon in a patient’s care the drugs should be considered, and where the drugs will provide the best value.

The trials also haven’t been running for long enough to give data on long-term outcomes, like how long patients taking the drugs live.

Another challenge is the availability of genetic testing. As these drugs target a particular genetic fault, patients’ tumours will need to be tested to determine if they could benefit from the treatment.

This adds an extra layer of complexity for the NHS. It will need to ensure doctors routinely test for the NTRK variation in everyone who could benefit, and that this test is available across the whole country.

Preparations are already underway to offer NTRK testing for patients diagnosed with some cancers, such as salivary gland cancer. But the test isn’t yet widely available and – depending on which cancer types the drug is ultimately approved for – the test may need to be expanded to more patients.

Planning is key. So it’s encouraging that the NHS is acknowledging these challenges and considering how to overcome them. This approach should prevent delays in tumour agnostic drugs reaching the small number of patients that could benefit, if and when they’re approved by NICE.

Duncan Sim is a policy advisor at Cancer Research UK

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NICE U-turn opens up new treatment option for some adults with leukaemia

5 days 9 hours ago

News report

Patients living with a specific type of leukaemia will have access to a new immunotherapy treatment on the NHS in England.

Blinatumomab (Blincyto) – a drug used to treat adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia  – has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for some patients, after being initially rejected for use in a larger group of patients in March 2019 due to a lack of evidence. 

It will be available for patients in England who may still have a small number of cancer cells in their body after treatment, but not enough to be picked up in standard tests.

Patients in Wales and Northern Ireland should also now be able to access the drugs.

Currently these people are treated with continued chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant, if possible, or a stem cell transplant without chemotherapy.

Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK’s policy manager, said the announcement was “very welcome news”.

“It’s great that NICE, NHS England and the manufacturer have been able to work together to overcome the challenges that meant the treatment was initially not recommended back in March.”

Why the U-turn?

NICE based their decisions on the evidence from two clinical trials.

In its provisional decision, NICE said the patients who took part in the trials did not accurately reflect those who would be receiving the drug on the NHS, so it couldn’t verify the benefits of blinatumomab.

The NICE committee said the cost effectiveness of the drug could not be measured.

Since this original decision, the manufacturer submitted new information on the studies’ overall survival results and safety. It also updated its estimates of how much it would cost to treat patients with blinatumomab rather than other treatments. This reduced uncertainty over the treatment’s benefits and value for money.

Harnessing the power of the immune system

Blinatumomab has been recommended for treating a specific type of leukaemia called Philadelphia negative leukaemia. It works by bringing leukaemia cells into close contact with immune cells, allowing the immune system to more effectively kill them.

“Clinicians and patients told NICE current treatments can have serious side effects,” said Gray. “So this is a positive step because this treatment could offer a better quality of life, as well as reducing the chance their cancer comes back.” 

In one trial involving 405 patients, blinatumomab significantly increased survival compared to standard chemotherapy. Patients using blinatumomab lived for 7.7 months on average after treatment, compared to four months for patients given chemotherapy. 

Severe side effects were reported in 9 in 10 patients in both groups, with the most common being low white blood cell count and infection.

The other, smaller trial only included 20 people taking blinatumomab. After following patients for 6 years, around half the patients were still alive and their disease had not come back.

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How vitamin D helps fight treatment-resistant cancer

5 days 13 hours ago
Two active forms of vitamin D can kill treatment-resistant cancer cells by blocking a way that the cells pump out chemotherapy drugs, a new study shows.

Tesco launches Dance Beats fundraiser with three leading UK health charities

5 days 16 hours ago

Press release

Tesco has launched a major national fundraising campaign to support the life-changing work of its three national health charity partners - Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK. It follows last year’s announcement of a five-year partnership between Tesco and the three charities - Little Helps for Healthier Living.

The major new fundraiser will run for three days of epic dance marathon fundraising events in thousands of Tesco stores across the country on the 18th,19th and 20th of July.

Dance Beats will then conclude with an ambitious GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® attempt at Wembley stadium on the 19th and 20th of July where thousands of Tesco colleagues and members of the public will come together to complete a 30-hour dance marathon relay.

The Dance Beats Super Group, fronted by professional dancers Oti Mabuse and Kimberly Wyatt, pop star Aston Merrygold; and former The Saturdays singer Una Healy, helped kick off the campaign with a spectacular flash mob performance.

Tesco and the UK’s three biggest health charities are calling on the public to get behind Dance Beats in one of four ways:

  • SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL STORE: Head down to your local Tesco store and support fundraising events on 18th,19th and 20th July
  • JOIN US AT WEMBLEY: Apply for tickets to participate in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® attempt at Wembley stadium on 19th and 20th July
  • SHOW US YOUR MOVES: Check out Tesco social channels from the end of June and have a go at performing one of the signature Dance Beats moves. For every dance move you upload Tesco will donate £10 to the Dance Beats campaign up to a maximum of £100,000
  • CREATE YOUR OWN EVENT: Download the Dance Beats fundraising guide and create your own community dance event

To find out more information, apply for tickets to the world record attempt and download the Dance Beats fundraising guide visit www.Tesco.com/DanceBeats

Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive, said: “Cancer, heart and circulatory diseases and diabetes touch almost every family in the UK, which is why in our centenary year we’re launching Dance Beats to support the important work of our three health charity partners. Our colleagues and customers continuously go to amazing lengths to raise millions for charity and we hope Dance Beats will be a great way to fundraise and have some fun through dancing.”

The Dance Beats fundraiser kicked off in spectacular style with a flash mob performance in Osterley, West London. Shoppers were delighted as the Dance Beats Super Group –including celebrities, Tesco colleagues and charity supporters - performed the Dance Beats routine.

Oti Mabuse, star of Strictly Come Dancing and The Greatest Dancer, said: “Being part of the Dance Beats campaign gives me an opportunity to not only support three wonderful charities but also share my love for dance and the health benefits a good dance session can provide.”

Oti Mabuse is joined in the Dance Beats Super Group by fellow professional dancer and TV personality Kimberly Wyatt, pop star Aston Merrygold, former The Saturdays singer Una Healy, and The Greatest Dancer finalists Harry Smallman and Eleiyah Navis. The group also includes Tesco colleagues as well as inspiring representatives from Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK chief executive, Simon Gillespie, British Heart Foundation chief executive, and Chris Askew, Diabetes UK chief executive, jointly commented: “It's so exciting to be part of Dance Beats, Tesco’s new fundraising campaign. Collectively, Dance Beats will support the vital work of the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK. Money raised from the events will help fund pioneering research to improve the lives of those affected by heart and circulatory diseases, cancer and diabetes.”

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Are dogs better at detecting cancer 'than advanced technology?'

5 days 19 hours ago
In a new study, beagles were able to detect the presence of cancer with extremely high accuracy. Could their 'sniff skills' lead to novel screening tests?

Is decaf coffee harmful to health?

6 days 8 hours ago
Decaffeinated coffee, or decaf, is similar to regular coffee but contains very little caffeine. Research suggests that drinking decaf is not harmful and may share some of the health benefits of regular coffee. Learn more here.