Colon Cancer Awareness Month Finishes

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

We have just reached the end of march, which signifies the end to colon cancer awareness month. Colon cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the developed world and claims more than 50’000 lives per year.

The key to surviving colon cancer is to catch it in the early stages of development. Thanks to improving treatment technologies, stage 1 colon cancer has survival rates as high as 90%. Unfortunately many people don’t have regular checkups and notice symptoms, so find themselves with stage 2 or stage 3 upon diagnosis.

Colon Cancer Screening is crucial to avoid death from colon cancer, but there are also some simple lifestyle choices that greatly reduce the risk of colon cancer:

Eat a Healthy Diet Containing Fiber

The best way to avoid colon cancer is to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside fiber rich foods like oats, wholemeal pasta and wholemeal bread. By eating a diverse range of foods, you help your body remain naturally resistant to colon cancer.

Don’t Use Tobacco

Tobacco use increases the likelihood that you will get colon cancer.  If you are a smoker, quitting could add years to your lifespan and greatly improve the quality of your life.

Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obese people are much more likely to get colon cancer than fit people.  By simply getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day you can greatly reduce your colon cancer risk.

 

Most People Still Don’t Understand What Causes Cancer

Americans Don't Know Cancer Risks

Americans Don’t Know Cancer Risks

A new survey published by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) suggests that most Americans don’t understand what causes cancer. Most Americans blame things like genetically modified foods, stress and food additives for causing cancer and don’t understand the steps they can take to minimize cancer risk.

Instead of worrying about food additives and GMOs potentially causing cancer, Americans should be looking at:

  • A lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco consumption
  • Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals at work
  • Obesity
  • Poor quality diets

The survey was conducted by the AICR to mark world cancer day (February 4).

The survey revealed that many Americans think the things that cause cancer are beyond their control — genetics, family history. However, cancers cause by genetics only account for 1 in 5 cancers. Most are related to chemical exposure and lifestyle habits.

According to the survey most people believed genetics played a much more important role in determining if they would cancer than anything else. The reality is that exercise and diet play a far more important role in preventing cancer.

The AICR wants to stress that Americans should focus on the lifestyle factors that they can control, instead of the less common genetic factors.

Cancer remains the second highest cause of death globally. In the past few decades, cancer death rates have declined thanks to improved medical technologies and medicines. Unfortunately the growing obesity epidemic has seen the rates of some cancers increase in developed countries.

New Research Helps Understand Lung Cancer Progression

Lung Cancer Protein TIAM1

Lung Cancer Protein TIAM1

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer in both men and women. With many Americans having a long history of smoking cigarettes that is unlikely to change soon. A staggering 159,260 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2014, which is approximately 27% of all cancer deaths. Over 400,000 Americans are currently battling lung cancer.

Unfortunately lung cancer is both prevalent and extremely dangerous, remaining one of the most deadly forms of the disease. The amount of damage that lung cancer has caused our society is massive and it is expected to continue for many years because of cigarette usage. Surprisingly, cigarette usage is increasing in many parts of the world!

Thankfully, some new research will help specialists understand how lung cancer spreads, potentially leading to new treatments. Researchers found that lung cancer cells had severed proteins, which helped them separate and proliferate through the body. While cells do normally separate, cancer cells are especially prone to cell separation.

By understanding how these proteins work, researchers believe they may be able to prevent cancer cells from metastasizing. One protein link which is important in the functioning of lung cancer is TIAM1. TIAM1 helps determine how strong the links are between cancer cells in the lungs.

Lead researcher Dr. Angeliki Malliri explains: “This important research shows for the first time how lung cancer cells sever ties with their neighbors and start to spread around the body, by hijacking the cells’ recycling process and sending it into overdrive. Targeting this flaw could help stop lung cancer from spreading,”

If drugs can be developed to change the way specific proteins function, researchers may develop drugs that completely stop lung cancer from spreading. If the research comes to fruition, it could save millions of lives.

Lifestyle Factors Increasingly to Blame for Cancer

Excessive Eating and Cancer

Excessive Eating and Cancer

New figures from Cancer UK have revealed how many cancers are a result of lifestyle factors. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that as many as 4 in 10 cancers are a result of lifestyle choices. Cancers in more than 600,000 people could be avoided if people were healthier and avoided behaviours that increase cancer risk.

Smoking is the most prevalent lifestyle choice that increases cancer risk. The obesity epidemic and unhealthy eating is also largely responsible for the number of cancers within the UK.

Excessive alcohol consumption is also known to increase risk and can increase cancer risk from tobacco consumption.

Researchers recommend that people maintain healthy weight, stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption and take part in regular exercise. Moderating sun exposure is also a good idea for reducing cancer risk.

Processed food also increases the risk of cancer, with researchers indicating almost 150,000 cancer cases were a result of unhealthy eating. Obesity contributed to nearly 90,000 cases of cancer.

Researchers encourage people to take a hard look at their lifestyle choices. To maintain good health and lead a long life, they recommend limiting excess and getting healthy.

Immune System Boosting Drug to Work With Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

A number of new drugs have shown the ability to boost the immune system to help it fight cancer. Some of the drugs simply help the immune system detect and kill cancer cells. They do this by disabling the mechanisms cancer cells use to remain hidden.

One such drug is Nivolumab. There is a protein called programmed cell death 1 (PD-1), that helps the immune system understand which cells should die. Another molecule can attach itself to PD-1 to form PD-L1, which tells the immune system to not attack a cell. This prevents the immune system from going overboard and killing too many cells. The problem is the fact that cancer cells are smart enough to product their own PD-L1 protein and avoid detection by the immune system. The drug stops cancer cells from creating PD-L proteins, which helps the immune system notice and attack the cancerous cells.

Trials have seen some great results with Nivolumab, particularly in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other lymphatic system cancers. The drugs are especially useful for shrinking the size of tumors, as the immune system starts to recognize the cancerous cells and pull them away from the tumor mass. Researchers expect these kinds of drugs to be particularly effective at beating cancers affecting the blood and bone marrow.

A drug called pembrolizumab is another (PD-1) receptor inhibitor, showing promising results. A small study showed that the drug shrank tumors in 66% of the sample group.

These results should be looked at with some caution though, because they are phase one trial results. The research has only used small groups of test subjects so far.

According to Cancer.gov, there are 185,793 people living with Hodgkin Lymphoma in the United States. The five year survival rate is 85.3% (based on 2004-2010 figures).

There are some serious side effects with drugs that inhibit PD-1. 22% of the people involved in the nivolumab trial had a serious side effect. That can include inflammation of internal organs like the colon, lung and pancreas.

If the trials continue to go well, we will see these drugs in the market within a couple of years.

Researchers Make Breakthrough Discovery for Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer

A new study published recently has found an antibody capable of blocking a protein that helps cancer cells evade detection by the immune system. The paper suggests that antibody MPDL3280A blocks protein PD-L1, which was allowing cancer cells to avoid destruction by the immune system.

68 patients with advanced bladder cancer who had failed other treatments participated in the research program. 30 of those patients had tumors which contained the PD-L1 protein. They were given a drug containing the MPDL3280A antibody. Within twelve weeks of treatment, of those 30, 52% saw their tumors shrink in size. In two of the patients, the cancer was completely eradicated! Of the remaining 38 patients who did not have the PD-L1 protein in their tumors, 11% still saw some positive effect from the drug.

The antibody has received “breakthrough therapy” designation status by the FDA, which speeds up it’s approval process.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 74,690 cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in 2014, with 15,580 deaths from the disease this year. The research is very exciting because bladder cancer usually carries a very poor prognosis.

Repurposing Drugs for use in Oncology

Cimetidine to help fight cancer

Cimetidine to help fight cancer

A new research paper has looked at commonly used drugs that can be repurposed to help fight cancer. One example is the common used indigestion medicine cimetidine, which can help treat colorectal cancer.

Medical professionals already know cimetidine is safe, from various trials and many years of use. Therefore, it can be easily combined with other cancer treatments. Cimetidine reduces digestion by blocking histamine receptors in the gut, which reduces the production of gastric acid. It turns out that the drug can also block histamine receptors in cancer cells, which helps the immune system defend against them.

Cimetidine may have a beneficial effect in treating colorectal cancer, renal cancer and melanoma.

The researchers found that:

Based on the evidence presented, it is proposed that cimetidine would synergise with a range of other drugs, including existing chemotherapeutics, and that further exploration of the potential of cimetidine as an anti-cancer therapeutic is warranted. Furthermore, there is compelling evidence that cimetidine administration during the peri-operative period may provide a survival benefit in some cancers. A number of possible combinations with other drugs are discussed in the supplementary material accompanying this paper.

Reducing Cancer Risk

One of the most common drugs that can be repurposed to help avoid cancer may be aspirin. There is a growing body of research that aspirin can reduce pancreatic cancer risk and improve colorectal cancer prognosis.

Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO)

ReDO is a project that has been looking at ways common drugs may be used to help improve cancer treatments.

It’s primary pbjectives are:

– Identify the most promising drugs for further clinical investigation
– Review and bring to the attention of clinical investigators the data for these drugs
– Document on how these drugs can be combined with existing therapies, or with other repurposed drugs
– Develop clinical trials to provide positive or negative evidence of efficacy
– Where necessary, suggest areas where further pre-clinical work is necessary

By finding commonly used drugs that have a beneficial effect in the fight against cancer, the research group also helps provide low cost treatments and preventatives against cancer.

Link Between Cancer and Obesity Examined

Obesity and Cancer

Obesity and Cancer

A new study has reaffirmed the link between obesity and cancer.

The study, published in the Lancet Journal, reaffirms that a high body-mass index of 25 kg/m2 or greater is associated with increased risk of cancer. Researchers believe that in 2012 nearly 500,000 cases of cancer were attributable to high BMI around the world. The vast majority of these obesity related cancers occur in the United States and Europe, because of the higher levels of obesity found in those locations.

Women were more likely to be affected by cancer relating to obesity, particularly breast cancer. The most common forms of cancer caused by obesity were corpus uteri, postmenopausal breast, and colon cancers. These forms accounted for 63·6% of cancers and are attributable to high BMI.

The research looked at cancer rates in over 184 countries and found that obesity was associated with 5.4 percent of cancer in women and 1.9 percent in men during 2012. Those percentages are higher in developed countries with excess weight causing 8 percent of cancers in women and 3 percent in men.

The cancer rates were lowest in parts of Africa, due to lower calorie intake.

According to the researchers:

These findings emphasise the need for a global effort to abate the increasing numbers of people with high BMI. Assuming that the association between high BMI and cancer is causal, the continuation of current patterns of population weight gain will lead to continuing increases in the future burden of cancer.

NVIDIA Grants $400,000 to Two Cancer Research Teams

nividia cancer research

nividia cancer research

NVIDIA is not the first company you think of when talking about cancer research. The company makes computer hardware and software that powers visual computing (what you see on the screen of your computer). But NVIDIA has done some great work in philanthropy, including recently providing grants to researchers working in the field of cancer research.

NVIDIA has given $200,000 to each of the research groups, who are using high end computer hardware to examine the genome and uncover how cancer works. One of the research teams is examining the genome data of thousands of cancer patients to uncover any common genomic patterns. The other group is examining how they can use home computers to crunch numbers and lead to new breast cancer treatments.

Because of the high volumes of data involved in analyzing the human genomes and the genomic data of cancer patients, high end computing power is required. NVIDIA hope that the grants will encourage technological specialists to enter the field of medical research with innovative approaches.

Once the genetic patterns that cause cancer are identified, it opens up a number of options for early diagnosis and treatment. Some new drugs work with a patient’s individual genomic data to switch off certain genes. Being able to process that genomic data faster will also help reduce the cost of those drugs.

The research teams are also looking for genetic similarities between various forms of cancer. By identifying similarities, they may find a central genetic marker that indicates cancer risk. The similarities can help in the development of gene therapies.

Learn more about the research funding at the NVIDIA blog.

FDA Warning About Device Capable of Spreading Cancer

FDA Warns of Laparoscopic power morcellator

FDA Warns of Laparoscopic power morcellator

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken action to stop the use of a gynecological device that can spread pre-existing cancer in women.  Laparoscopic power morcellators are used in the removal of the uterus, or to remove fibroids.

The device is used to destroy fibroids, which are then removed by key hole surgery.  There is no way to know if the fibroids contain cancer cells. If they do, the destruction process may released some of those cells, allowing cancer to spread to other organs.

This can lead to more dangerous forms of cancer developing, which cannot be treated as easily.

In a press release,William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said: “Updating the device label with a boxed warning and contraindications will provide clinicians and patients with critical information about the risk of spreading cancerous tissue when these procedures are performed.”

The FDA was made aware of the flaw with this device by surgeon Hooman Noorchashm.  Dr Noorchashm’s wife, Amy Reed, had the procedure as a part of her hysterectomy and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  The use of the device had spread cancer cells throughout her body.  Thankfully Amy is currently in full remission.

Whilst Dr Noorchashm was arguing for a complete ban on the device, the FDA was chosen to add a compulsory warning to the device.  The warning indicates that the device may spread cancer cells throughout the body.

The FDA chose to only use a warning because younger women may still safely use the device in their procedures.  That is due to the fact younger women are much less likely to have cancer cells in regions that can be spread.  If the device is not used, fertility can be affected.

Some hospitals have already stopped using the device, well aware of the risk before the FDA decision.  One of the companies that manufacture the device has also pulled it off the market, a sure sign that the risk of the procedure is well known.

So while this device might still play a role in certain surgeries, for older women with a higher chance of cancer, it is too risky.