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.


Replacing 'beef with chicken' could reduce breast cancer risk

6 days 18 hours ago
The role of nutrition in cancer is a hot topic. A new study concludes that red meat increases the risk of breast cancer, but poultry may reduce risk.

News digest – personalised breast cancer blood test, AI funding boost, ‘calorie tax’ and burgers

1 week ago

Science blog

Highly sensitive blood test could improve breast cancer treatment

We teamed up with scientists in the US to put a new personalised breast cancer blood test through its paces. The Mail Online reports our study’s results, which showed the test could pick up early breast cancer. Once fully developed, the highly sensitive blood test could give doctors a new way to monitor the disease and even help some women avoid unnecessary surgery. Our press release has the details.

Some women with breast cancer could one day avoid unnecessary surgery, thanks to a new, highly sensitive blood test to monitor the disease.

— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) August 8, 2019

Johnson pledges £250 million for NHS AI lab

The Guardian reports the Prime Minister’s latest funding announcement, a £250 million investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to help the NHS test how it could use AI technology in more ways. AI is already being used in some hospitals, and the NHS is testing whether it could be used to help with breast screening. Some organisations however, have pointed out the potential challenges that might come with this financial boost. They say out dated NHS IT systems may not be compatible with the new technology and that there may be difficulty in recruiting data scientists to work in these new labs.

UK to ease visa restriction for top scientists

Boris Johnson also announced his intentions to make the immigration system easier for scientists and their families after Brexit. The Guardian covered Johnson’s suggestions for a “fast-track” visa route for exceptional scientists and proposals that could mean those hoping to immigrate to pursue their scientific career would not need an offer of employment before entering the UK.

Increased bowel cancer screening rates in Scotland thanks to new test

The introduction of a simpler bowel cancer screening test in Scotland has led to a significant increase in those taking part in the programme. For the first time, more than 60% of those eligible to take the test have used it, with the greatest rise in those living in deprived areas. Read BBC Scotland’s article for more info.

Cadbury’s to reduce calories in kids treats

One of the UK’s most popular chocolate brands says it will reduce the size of the chocolate bars they market to kids. The Independent reports that Cadbury’s move is intending to bring the confectionery in line with Public Health England’s advice that snacks and treats from children should contain no more than 100 calories.

Hormone injections show promise in helping people lose weight

People with obesity are sometimes offered gastric bypass surgery. One of the ways this operation can help people lose weight is by changing the balance of hormones in the body that affect food digestion. Now scientists in London have developed a hormone injection that could mimic some of the effects of this major surgical procedure. The results of the very small study, reported by the Telegraph, showed that people given the injection over four weeks lost weight, but not as much as those who had the procedure.

Government should introduce ‘calorie tax’, says health campaigners

Two health campaign groups are urging the government to introduce a ‘calorie tax’ on foods loaded with fat and sugar, says the Independent. Action on Sugar and Action on Salt say that charging the food industry for making unhealthy products would force them to improve the nutritional quality of their goods.

Lung cancer immunotherapy combo added to Cancer Drugs Fund

An immunotherapy drug combo has been recommended as a treatment for some patients with lung cancer on the NHS in England. Our report covers the decision, which will give some patients access to a combo that’s been shown to improve survival in people with squamous non small cell lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It will be available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) while more data is collected on its long-term benefits. However, a targeted drug with potential to slow the progress of ovarian cancer has been rejected.

Makeup of bacteria in pancreatic tumours linked to survival

Researchers in the US have uncovered a link between the number of different types of bacteria found in people’s pancreatic tumours and how long they live. Their early animal studies also suggest that it might be possible to change the composition of bacteria to improve survival, but as we explain in this report, there’s still a lot of work to do in the hunt for new treatments.

And finally

According to a new study covered by The Sun, swapping beef burgers for chicken burgers could reduce a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. The US study followed 42,000 people and found that those who ate red meat were more likely to develop breast cancer compared to those who ate poultry. But the study only looked at people with a family history of breast cancer, which may already put them at a higher risk. More research is needed in a wider range of people before we can say for certain that there is a link between breast cancer and consuming red meat.


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Advanced ovarian cancer drug gets initial ‘no’ for NHS in England

1 week 1 day ago

News report

A targeted drug with potential to slow the progress of ovarian cancer has been rejected for use on the NHS in England. 

In making its provisional decision on rucaparib (Rubraca), the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) cited a lack of evidence over the treatment’s impact on survival.

“NICE felt there wasn’t enough evidence to be confident about the drug’s long-term benefits, and that the benefit it gave wasn’t enough to justify its cost,” said Rose Gray, policy manager at Cancer Research UK.

NICE will review its decision in September – before which Gray urges further exploration of how to make the drug available to patients.

Post-chemotherapy option

Rucaparib kills cancer cells by blocking the activity of a molecule called PARP, which helps repair damage to DNA.

The drug would be used as a maintenance treatment for adults with ovarian cancer. It would be offered to patients whose disease has already responded to platinum-based chemotherapy, preventing patients having to wait until their cancer relapses before additional treatment is offered. 

Rucaparib would be used to help extend the time before the disease comes back and delay the need for further platinum-based chemotherapy. Importantly, this could reduce the chance that patients’ cancers develop resistance to platinum-based treatment, after which there are few options available.

As well as advanced ovarian cancer, the decision will also impact some patients with gynaecological cancers of the fallopian tube and the tissue layer covering the stomach (peritoneum).

Gray said the decision would be disappointing for people affected by these types of cancers. “Clinical trial evidence suggests rucaparib could give patients more time before their disease gets worse and delay the need for further treatment.”

Uncertainty and cost 

Clinical trial results suggests rucaparib extends the time before cancer progresses to 10.8 months, compared with 5.4 months with routine care.

But as long-term data from the trial are not yet available, too much uncertainty remains over exactly how much longer people may live after taking rucaparib.

In addition to this lack of information, cost-effectiveness estimates were higher than NICE typically considers acceptable. 

“NICE will review this decision next month, and we urge them, NHS England and the manufacturer to work together in that time to explore how the drug can be made available to NHS patients,” Gray added.

NICE decisions are usually adopted in Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Decisions about what drugs the NHS should fund in Scotland are made separately by the Scottish Medicines Consortium. 

Not the only targeted drug  

Rucaparib isn’t the only PARP inhibitor that’s been tested for adults with ovarian and gynaecological cancers. 

Another drug, niraparib, which works in a similar way to rucaparib is available through the Cancer Drugs Fund for some patients who have had two or more previous courses of platinum-based chemotherapy. If approved, rucaparib could be an additional option for this group of patients. 

And a third PARP inhibitor, olaparib, is currently available for patients who carry a fault in one of their BRCA genes and who’ve received three or more rounds of platinum-based chemotherapy, a decision that’s currently being reviewed by NICE.

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Makeup of bacteria in pancreatic tumours linked to survival

1 week 1 day ago

News report

Scientists in the US have uncovered a link between the number of different types of bacteria found in the tumours of people with pancreatic cancer and how long they live.  

Using patient tumour samples, scientists at The University of Texas have shown that the more diverse the bacterial population in a pancreatic tumour, the better a patient’s prognosis. 

The researchers, who published their work in Cell, also showed that transferring the bacteria from long-term survivors to mice with the disease could alter the types of bacteria found in the tumour.  

The procedure, called a Faecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT), encouraged the mice’s immune systems to attack the disease.  

Professor Phillip Quirke, a Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge medical scientist who studies bacteria and its relationship with cancer, called the study “fascinating”. Quirke said that this is the first sign that the bacteria in our bodies may help a patient’s immune system tackle their cancer.  

Survival similarities 

The team studied samples from patients across two independent hospitals, one at MD Anderson in Texas and one at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, to see if the types of bacteria found in a tumour had any impact on survival. Each group included both long and short-term survivors of pancreatic cancer.  

The 22 long-term survivors from MD Anderson Hospital lived for 10 years on average. Whereas the short-term survivors lived an average of 1.6 years after diagnosis.  

Clinicians at the Johns Hopkins Hospital had 15 patients that survived their cancer for 10 years or longer and 10 patients surviving less than 5 years. 

By sequencing the genes of the different types of bacteria present in each tumour, they concluded that those with a high level of bacterial diversity in their tumours survived for 9.66 years on average, and those with low diversity 1.66 years. 

They also showed that more immune cells flooded into tumours with more diverse bacteria, suggesting the bacteria can play an important role in helping the immune system fight cancer. 

These patterns occurred regardless of other factors, such as previous therapies taken by the patients and antibiotic use. 

Quirke said this study suggests that the bacterial content of a person’s pancreatic cancer may be a better predictor of how long they will live than the genetic faults fuelling the disease.   

The team also identified three specific species of bacteria that could be associated with long-term pancreatic cancer survival. But Quirke said that further work is needed in a larger and more diverse group of patients before their importance can fully be confirmed. 

More work needed to find new treatment options 

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly hard-to-treat disease and survival is devastatingly low. The study authors say these new findings open up interesting avenues to explore in the hunt for future pancreatic cancer treatments.   

"Results of the FMT experiments represent a significant therapeutic opportunity to improve pancreatic cancer treatment by altering the tumour immune microenvironment," said senior author Florencia McAllister, assistant professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention at MD Anderson. "There is promise here but we have a lot of work ahead." 

Whilst underlining that a lot more work is needed, McAllister said the results of the experiments in mice “represent a significant therapeutic opportunity to improve pancreatic cancer treatment by altering the tumour immune microenvironment.” 

Quirke added that “progress has been very slow in pancreatic cancer research so any increase in our understanding of the disease is very positive.  

“Next, the researchers need to confirm the link between bacterial diversity and survival in larger groups of patients, as well as patients who live in other countries. It would also be interesting to see if this link could be shown to have the same effects on other tumour types,” he added. 

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What to know about the link between diet and cancer

1 week 1 day ago
A person’s diet may affect their risk of developing cancer in several ways. Some diets may also help prevent cancer, or help a person recover. Learn more here.

Lung cancer immunotherapy combo added to Cancer Drugs Fund

1 week 2 days ago

News report

Combining an immunotherapy drug, which stimulates the immune system to target lung cancer cells, with chemotherapy has been recommended as a treatment for some patients with lung cancer on the NHS in England.

Cancer Research UK says the decision to approve the pembrolizumab (Keytruda) combination for some adults with a type of untreated non small cell lung cancer is a “welcome step forward”.

The treatment combo, which has been shown to improve survival in patients with squamous non small cell lung cancer that has spread to other part of the body, will now be available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF)

Rose Gray, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, says the decision is “great news” for people affected by this form of the disease. 

“Clinical trial evidence suggests using pembrolizumab in this way could extend patients’ lives compared to existing treatments, and because it’s been recommended for the Cancer Drugs Fund, patients will be able to access the drug while more evidence is gathered to confirm its long-term benefits.”

Around 7,500 people in England are diagnosed with this type of lung cancer year. And around 1,700 may be eligible for the pembrolizumab combination, according to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Adding a valuable new treatment option

Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy treatment that aims to boost the immune system’s ability to recognise and kill cancer cells. It works by blocking a molecule often found on cancer cells – called PD-L1 – from interacting with immune cells.

Currently, patients with untreated squamous non small cell lung cancer that’s spread are offered either pembrolizumab on its own, or platinum-based chemotherapy. Which treatment is offered depends on the levels of PD-L1 found in their tumour.

Only patients whose cancer has high levels of the PD-L1 molecule (over 50% of cancer cells) are offered pembrolizumab treatment on its own. But the latest decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) gives patients whose tumours have lower levels of PD-L1 the option of having immunotherapy treatment, in combination with the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel

“Patients told NICE this new treatment option is important as it could offer some people an alternative to chemotherapy,” said Gray. 

It also provides an extra treatment option even where immunotherapy is already available. Clinicians told NICE that while most patients with high levels of PD-L1 will likely continue to receive pembrolizumab on its own to reduce side effects, having the combination as an option will be helpful where a more urgent response is needed. 

Trial results suggest pembrolizumab combination improves overall survival compared to standard chemotherapy (15.9 months vs. 11.3 months) – but so far patients have not been followed up for long enough for NICE to be certain of the long-term clinical benefits. 

Severe side effects were found in around 7 in 10 people in both the chemotherapy and pembolizumab combination treatment groups. The most common side effects in both groups were low iron levels, hair loss and low levels of a certain type of immune cell, called neutropenia. 

The trial did not compare the pembrolizumab combination with pembrolizumab treatment on its own, so NICE compared the two treatments indirectly using the data available. 

“The committee heard from the patient experts that people with squamous non small cell lung cancer often have a poor quality of life, and that treatments that have the potential to extend life would be of great importance,” said Meindert Boysen, director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation.

More long-term data needed

In making its decision, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said the uncertainty around clinical benefits means the combination treatment cannot be recommended for routine use, until more data is collected on the long-term benefits.

If the extra data shows pembrolizumab combination treatment offered a significant survival benefit compared to existing treatments, NICE said the combo would likely be a cost-effective use of NHS budgets. It therefore recommended adding the combination to the Cancer Drugs Fund, while long-term data is collected.

The recommendation for the CDF in England – likely to be followed in Wales and Northern Ireland – is made on the basis that pembrolizumab is stopped at two years of uninterrupted treatment, or earlier if the disease progresses. The two-year stopping rule is consistent with the clinical trial and previous NICE guidance for immunotherapies.

Decisions over which drugs should be funded by the NHS in Scotland are made separately by the Scottish Medicines Consortium

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The Answer to a Colon Cancer Mystery

1 week 2 days ago
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the world. Thankfully, the good bacteria in our gut take the fiber we […]