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

Photo by brotiN biswaS from Pexels

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.

 

Can Cell Phone Radiation Damage Your DNA?

5 days 17 hours ago
Do mobile phones cause brain tumors? Whenever a trillion-dollar industry is involved—whether it’s Big Food, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, or Big Telecom—there’s so much money […]

“I think the sky’s the limit”: Funky Pigeon on raising £250K and what’s next for our partnership

1 week ago

Philanthropy and partnerships

Since 2017, we’ve worked in partnership with Funky Pigeon – a household name for online cards, gifts and all things personalised – to raise funds for our life-saving research. In the last four years, they’ve raised an amazing £250k for CRUK through their pennies in the basket scheme, which allows customers to donate a few pence with their online order. To celebrate this fantastic milestone, we spoke to Funky Pigeon’s founder and managing director, Richard Pepper, to hear about social responsibility and the exciting future of our partnership.   

What does social responsibility mean to you?  

I think all businesses need to have some form of social responsibility. All businesses take from society so it’s important to be giving something back too. For us, it’s not just about supporting charities like CRUK, but looking at the paper we buy and the way we operate – we do a lot of work to make things as sustainable as possible.  

Why did Funky Pigeon choose to partner with us?  

When we had our third son, my wife had breast cancer. That was 34 years ago and I’m pleased to say she’s now very healthy. I think most people know someone close to them who has experienced cancer and, for me, Cancer Research UK is the number one charity to support because I think you’re going to come up with a cure one day.  

£250,000 raised is a fantastic achievement, what do you think has made our partnership so successful?  

It was actually our parent company WHSmith that first engaged with CRUK and asked if we could do something at Funky Pigeon. I was first approached about pennies in the basket. We’re selling to families, children buying for their parents and people buying for their partners. This is an easy way for us to help them support our partnership. We’re hugely proud that we’ve raised £250,000 and it’s going up all the time. But we want to do more, and we think we can do more.  

For me, Cancer Research UK is the number one charity to support because I think you’re going to come up with a cure one day.  

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Funky Pigeon?  

It’s definitely been a challenge, but the team at Funky Pigeon are amazing. They love what they do and have worked tirelessly to get things sorted so that we’re now in a position to launch a new range of cards for CRUK, which we’re really excited about! 

Can you tell us more about how Funky Pigeon are developing new ways for customers to support our work? 

To start with, we’re going to launch a range of 24 cards, including birthday cards and sympathy cards, as well as mindfulness and ‘thinking of you’ cards for anyone affected by cancer. The great thing about this range is that we’re going to give 30% of the revenue to CRUK. Further down the line, we’re going to bring in an accompanying range of gifts including keyrings, notebooks, mugs and coasters. For those gifts we’re going to give 20% of the revenue to CRUK.  

What are your hopes for the future of CRUK and more particularly the future of the partnership?  

I hope that this partnership continues for a long time. I think the sky’s the limit and we can grow together. We might have raised £250,000, but in the next two to three years I’d like to see that hit £1m – that would be a great number to achieve.  We’re an innovative company coming up with ideas all the time. We’ll be looking for more ways we can work together to raise more funds so that you can carry on doing the amazing work that you do.  

A huge thank you to the staff and customers of Funky Pigeon for their continued support! 

Edward Bowers is senior partnership relations executive at Cancer Research UK 

Find out more about partnerships at Cancer Research UK 

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An unexpected find: clues about the genetics of children’s cancer found in the placenta

1 week ago

Science blog

It has long been understood that the placenta is a very different organ to the rest of the body.

But no-one knew quite how different. Last month, a fascinating piece of research shed light on the unique genetic structure of the placenta, revealing a level of detail that’s never before been seen.

Researchers based at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge have produced the first high resolution map of the genetic architecture of the placenta, publishing their findings in Nature. To their surprise, the team discovered that the genetic structure of the placenta contains similar DNA faults (mutations) to those frequently seen in children’s cancers.

But the placenta still functions entirely as it should.

“What we found completely blew our socks off.” – Dr Sam Behjati

Dr Sam Behjati is one of the lead researchers involved in the project. Behjati is a paediatrician scientist who has recently been funded as part of the Cancer Research UK–Children with Cancer UK Innovation Awards. He spoke to us about what the latest results could mean for the future of children and young people’s cancer research.

Retracing steps to the first cell division

In the earliest days of pregnancy, a fertilized egg will embed itself into the wall of the uterus and begin dividing from one cell into many. Cells will begin to specialise into various cell types – a process known as differentiation – to create the foetus, with some splitting off to form the placenta.

“Magdelena Zernicka-Goetz, an eminent embryologist, first put out this idea in 2005 that when the egg divides, one cell makes most of the embryo and the other cell makes most as a placenta,” explains Behjati. “And so we were interested in that very first cell division, and whether it’s got something to do with the ability of the fertilised egg to get rid of genetically abnormal cells.”

The team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute retraced the evolution of cells back to the very first cell divisions of the fertilised egg. They read the entire DNA sequence, using a technique called whole genome sequencing, of cells from 42 different placentas, with samples taken from distinct areas of each placenta.

What they found was something that has never been seen before.

The ‘wild west’ of the human genome

“What we found completely blew our socks off,” says Behjati.

“We sequenced a pea sized chunk of placenta, and found it has the genetic structure similar to a tumour. And then we took another chunk from a different area of the placenta, and it’s structured like another, independent tumour.”

What the team discovered is that if a cell has a mutation, for example, an abnormal number of chromosomes, it gets pushed to the outside of the embryo, and ends up in the placenta. “The placenta is kind of the ‘wild west’ of the human genome, it genuinely does not seem to care how riddled with mutations it is,” says Behjati.

The team also found that, when you looked at the DNA of cells in different parts of the placenta, they all looked different, forming distinct clusters of cells. This process is very similar to the formation of a cancer, which often begins with changes in a single cell.

The next step was for the team to analyse the mutations in more detail.

In a number of the biopsies, they came across a few very specific mutations that are known to be the drivers of a number of children’s cancers.

“The mutation signature that we saw in the placenta cells is one of childhood cancer, specifically of neuroblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma, which has never been seen in normal tissue before. It was completely unexpected,” explains Behjati.

Back to cancer

The results of the study have wide-ranging implications, as the Sanger Institute explains. But what does all this mean for the future of children’s cancer research?

“The reason I study mutations in normal tissue is because mutations are the cause of cancer. Therefore, we need to understand a lot about mutations in order to understand cancer,” explains Behjati.

He adds that it was surprising that you can get an organ that contains many cancer mutations, but that functions entirely as it’s supposed to.

“Really what we need to get down to is that a childhood cancer and a human placental tissue have got the same genetic defects, yet one is a cancer and the other is not.

“We are getting closer and closer to pinning down what the difference is. Initially we thought the difference was just the mutations. But it is now clear the difference isn’t just the mutations, it’s something else, plus the mutations.”

Professor Christine Harrison is part of another team who has recently received an Innovation Award, looking into the role of aneuploidy to treat children’s cancers in the development of childhood cancers and how it may be exploited to improve treatment.

Aneuploidy is when a cell has one or more extra or missing chromosomes. Aneuploidies are often found in the cancer cells of children and young people with different types of cancer, and was also seen in the genetic structure of the placenta.

https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/CYP-Innovation-Awards_edited.mp4

 

“This fascinating research by Dr Behjati and his team has discovered approximately half of the placental samples studied showed evidence of chromosomal gains and losses (aneuploidies). These findings are unique for non-cancerous human tissue, specifically the changes in aneuploidy,” explains Harrison.

Harrison adds that the results from this paper could have implications for the future of chromosome and childhood cancer research.

“Some of the genetic changes reported here are prevalent in childhood cancer, in particular the aneuploidies.” She adds that studying the changes seen in the placenta in larger studies may help to provide clues about the development of certain cancers, particularly those that arise in very young children, and provide information towards how these cancers may be prevented.

Lilly

The post An unexpected find: clues about the genetics of children’s cancer found in the placenta first appeared on Cancer Research UK - Science blog.

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Is Cocamidopropyl Betaine in Toothpaste Better Than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

1 week ago
For those with recurrent canker sores, is it better to use a toothpaste with SLS, CAPB, or no foaming agents at all? Sodium lauryl sulfate […]

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) in Toothpaste Safe?

1 week 5 days ago
Just because the sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste doesn’t cause cancer doesn’t mean it can’t cause problems. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a common detergent […]

New link between high testosterone in men and increased risk of melanoma

1 week 6 days ago

News report

A new link between higher levels of testosterone in the blood and increased risk of melanoma skin cancer in men has been found, according to a study funded by Cancer Research UK.

This is the first time a link between testosterone and skin cancer has been seen.

The research conducted by Oxford University scientists was published in the International Journal of Cancer. While the findings will need to be confirmed in similar studies, experts say the link could be used to identify men who are at a particularly high risk of skin cancer in the future. 

Largest study of its kind to date

Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 16,200 people diagnosed each year. And in the last decade the number of cases in men have increased by almost half (47%).

“We already knew men diagnosed with melanoma have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer and vice versa, which was a clue that there may be a common biological or behavioural cause," said Dr Eleanor Watts, lead author of the study. "And it looks like this link might be the hormone, testosterone."

The study analysed UK Biobank data on testosterone from around 182,000 men and 122,000 postmenopausal women.

The researchers’ findings also supported previously known links between testosterone and prostate cancer in men, and breast and endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women. But, because it’s hard to calculate how long people spend in the sun, more research will be needed to determine if this new link is biological or if men with higher testosterone spend more time in the sun.

“The next step will be to see whether this link is seen in other studies, and if it is, to look more closely at why testosterone might be related to the risk of melanoma developing in men,” said Watts. 

And it will also be crucial to replicate this study using blood samples from people of different ethnicities to see if risk estimates are generalisable as samples from the UK Biobank are predominantly from people of white European ancestry.

But, if there is a direct link, this could be used to identify men who are at a particularly high risk, leading to targeted interventions. And could also inform public health advice and clinical practice. 

Enjoying the sun safely

Almost 9 in 10 (86%) of skin cancer cases in the UK are caused by exposure to sun or use of sunbeds. The risk of developing melanoma is around 3 times higher in people who have had sunburn just once every 2 years, compared with people who have never been sunburned. It doesn’t need to peel – sunburn includes reddening of the skin, or skin that feels irritated, tender or itchy.

Tips on sun safety and symptoms of melanoma
In the UK, the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm from mid-March to mid-October.
Think about protecting your skin:

1. Spend more time in the shade. 
2. Cover up with clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and UV protective sunglasses. 
3. And use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars. Use it generously, reapply regularly and use in combination with shade and clothing. 

Symptoms of melanoma skin cancer can include: 
• A change in a patch of skin or a nail 
• A new growth or sore that won’t heal 
• A spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts 
• A mole or growth that bleeds, oozes, crusts or scabs 
• Any other changes that aren’t normal for you 

If something doesn’t look or feel quite right, even if it’s not on this list, talk to your doctor.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said while further research is still needed, studies like this could shift our fundamental understanding of skin cancer and help identify people who are at increased risk. 

“In the meantime, with lockdown rules starting to lift and the promise of more time outside with friends and family, we should all continue to stay safe in the sun especially if you burn easily. Spending time in the shade, covering up with clothing, and using plenty of sunscreen all help to protect our skin. It’s still very important that anyone who has noticed any unusual change on their skin, gets in touch with their GP. And if it’s tricky getting an appointment, do keep trying.” 

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‘A significant step forwards’ – treating patients with advanced biliary tract cancers

2 weeks ago

Science blog

Medical research very rarely has a single end point. There is often no final answer, or silver bullet, the science just continues to evolve, and with it, there will always be more to do, understand and investigate.

But sometimes it reaches a tipping point, where the knowledge that’s been built up actually alters medical practice.

10 years ago, a team of our investigators published the results of a clinical trial that changed the way biliary tract cancer is treated. The Advanced Biliary tract Cancer (ABC)-02 trial was the biggest trial of its kind, showing an improvement in survival from a new combination of drugs – gemcitabine and cisplatin, compared to gemcitabine on its own.

To this day, that same combination of chemotherapy is offered as an initial therapy option for people with biliary tract cancers worldwide. But over a decade on from the publication of the initial trial, a follow up study, ABC-06, is pushing the research even further, searching for chemotherapy options for people with advanced biliary tract cancer, who are no longer benefitting from this initial treatment.

And once again, the results from the latest trial have led to a change in practice, providing a new, widely accepted standard of care for patients with advanced biliary tract cancer.

We spoke to Dr Angela Lamarca and Prof Juan W Valle, lead authors on the latest paper, published in The Lancet Oncology about the next steps for the community of researchers dedicated to biliary tract cancers, and its impact for patients.

An option for advanced biliary tract cancers

“Biliary tract cancers are quite rare,” says Lamarca, “and the problem is that for many years, since the publication of ABC–02, there has been a general lack of new chemotherapy options changing practice.”

But that’s changing.

What is biliary tract cancer?

Biliary tract cancer includes bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), gallbladder cancer, and ampulla of Vater cancer. These cancer types are extremely rare – there are around 1,100 new gallbladder cancer cases and around 1,200 new biliary tract cancer cases in the UK each year.

“There’s quite a lot of research looking into biliary tract cancers right now, with a lot of it focusing on precision medicine and new targeted treatments.” Lamarca explains that the focus on precision medicine is because researchers have identified a proportion of patients with specific mutations in their cancers that can be treated successfully with new therapies.

It’s an exciting avenue, but it’s not for everyone, “the problem is that, in reality, precision medicine is only applicable to a small proportion of all patients diagnosed with biliary tract cancer”.

The UK-led Advanced Biliary Cancer working group team wanted to take a different approach and designed the ABC-06 clinical trial (led by Professor Juan W Valle), focusing on people whose cancer had progressed despite initial treatment with chemotherapy, where new treatment options are desperately needed.

So Valle and the rest of the team set out to establish whether an existing chemotherapy, known as FOLFOX, could be an effective option for this group.

“FOLFOX is a very well-known type of combination chemotherapy, which has been used in oncology for many, many years,” says Valle. “We just didn’t really know whether it was effective in this setting.”

But thanks to the ABC-06 trial, part funded by Cancer Research UK and Stand Up To Cancer, now they do. Based on their findings, there’s evidence to suggest that second-line chemotherapy could be of value for this group of patients.

What did the trial entail?

To get the numbers needed for the trial, the team went nationwide, collecting data from 20 centres across the country. 162 people took part, all of whom had already been treated with gemcitabine and cisplatin, and whose cancer had grown despite that chemotherapy.

“We recruited a total of 162 patients, 81 patients in each of the 2 groups,” explains Lamarca. One group was treated with FOLFOX, and the other with the standard of care in the UK for someone who’s already had treatment at the time when the study was running, something known as active symptom control (without chemotherapy).

Lamarca says that although the active symptom control group didn’t have chemotherapy, that doesn’t mean they didn’t receive any care. “We were doing monthly reviews and every patient, even if they were feeling well, would come into the clinic. In doing that, we were able to identify early some of the cancer-related complications and proactively manage them.”

People on both arms of the trial were followed for a total of 12 months. And after 5 years of recruitment, the results are in.

Taking a closer look at the results

“The interpretation of the results is quite complex,” Valle comments. “But the main finding to focus on is that overall survival was improved by the use of FOLFOX.”

The reason the results are difficult to analyse Valle explains, is that the average overall survival for people on active symptom control was 5.3 months, compared to 6.2 months in the group that also had FOLFOX.

But while that difference doesn’t seem huge, the number of people alive one year after starting treatment doubled in the group taking FOLFOX.

Over half (51%) of people taking FOLFOX were alive at the 6-month follow up, compared with 36% of those on active symptom control alone. And a year after follow-up, 26% of people taking FOLFOX were alive, compared with 11% of those in the control arm.

Lamarca says it’s an important reminder to not just focus on the median (average) overall survival, but to also look at overall survival rates over time.

“And they’re telling you that a proportion of patients will benefit in the longer term and will still be alive at 6 months and 12 months in the (FOLFOX) chemotherapy arm, than in the in the active symptom control arm.”

For Lamarca and her team, their next challenge is to understand exactly why some patients respond so well to the chemotherapy, while others don’t.

A significant step forwards

Lamarca is optimistic about the results and the real-life impact for patients with ABC. “FOLFOX has moved from being a “possibility” mentioned by some guidelines, but without really very strong evidence, to being a worldwide accepted standard of care treatment with high-level evidence provided by the ABC-06 study, and is now being considered as a definitive option of second line treatment.”

But while there is lots to be hopeful for, Valle remains cautious that there’s still more work to do, “we still need to look for better options of chemotherapy”.

Valle adds that although the results have allowed oncologists to have an informed conversation with their patients, with facts and figures that we previously didn’t have, the decision to take FOLFOX as a second treatment is ultimately up to the patient.

Lamarca says, “there will still be patients who may still not want treatment, because of the toxicity and the additional number of visits to hospital; because of the limited improvement in overall survival, they may they say that it’s not for them.

“But at least now we have the information for us to support our patients making that decision.”

The results from ABC-06 have proved that although FOLFOX is not the answer for all patients, it’s progress.

“It may just be a step forward,” Lamarca concludes. “And while we still need to improve the benefit that the patients get from chemotherapy in this setting, it’s still a critical step in the right direction.”

Lilly

The post ‘A significant step forwards’ – treating patients with advanced biliary tract cancers first appeared on Cancer Research UK - Science blog.

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