Red Meat and Cancer Risk

Red meat cancer risk

Red meat cancer risk

A number of studies have suggested that red meat can play a role in the development of certain cancers. The largest study to provide evidence of the red meat-cancer link involved 478,000 men and women in Europe. It found that eating more than 5 ounces of red meat per day could raise your colon cancer risk by approximately a third, when compared to those who ate the least red meat.

The consumption of chicken did not appear to alter the colon cancer risk and eating fish actually lowered colon cancer risk.

The other substantial study involved nearly 150,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 74. It found that a diet heavy in red and processed meats increased cancer risk of the colon and rectum. Eating fish and poultry appeared to protect individuals from these forms of cancer. Other studies have sugested that red meat can increase colon cancer risk by between 20% and 28%.

Red meat consumption is also believed to increase the risk of other cancers, including breast, prostate, lung and ovarian cancers.

Why does red meat increase cancer risk?

The conventional thought in recent years was that the act of grilling red meat created various carcinogens. However, new research at UC San Diego has highlighted at alternative theory. Researchers believe that the risk of cancer is increased because red meat contains a substance that is not found in the human body. This substance (called Neu5Gc), increases inflammation which can result in higher cancer risk.

Researchers established the interactions of this chemical by using mice, genetically engineered to not produce it internally. When this foreign chemical integrated with tissue, it triggered a reaction from the immune system and increased inflammation.

Interestingly, the inflammation and cancer risk from this chemical only occurs in humans, which is why researchers had to use genetically modified mice in their tests.

The inflammation from this chemical may also help other forms of cancer take hold within the body. For example, a smoker might be at greater risk of getting lung cancer if they eat a lot of red meat.

Researchers don’t suggest we should stop eating red meat, but simply eat it in moderation. It contains high levels of iron and protein, which benefit the human body. The senior author of the paper, Dr Varki, suggests that red meat consumption for people under 40 years of age is less of a problem. As people get older and their cancer risk increases, the inflammation presents a large threat.

If you decide to continue eating meat, researchers suggest having 3-4 ounce servings 1-3 times a week should present no substantial increase in cancer risk. Interestingly, the lead researcher only eats chicken and fish!

Neu5Gc is a type sugar molecule, referred to as a sialic acid. Researchers believe that sialic acids can affect many parts of the body, causing inflammation, altering brain development and affecting the immune system. It is believed that some diseases make use of sialic acids to hide themselves from the immune system.

The reason that fish and chicken do not carry the same inflammation risk, is that for the most part, they do not carry nonhuman sialic acids like Neu5Gc. The fish that do carry it, carry small amounts. Fish in particular carries properties than can reduce cancer risk, like high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.

The next step is to find a medication which is capable of helping the body deal with the chemical and prevent the inflammation. These research findings could eventually help lower cancer rates in countries where red meat consumption is very high — like the United States.

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.

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.

Scientists Discover Hidden DNA That Causes Cancer

Genetic Basis for Cancer

Genetic Basis for Cancer

Researchers in the United Kingdom have found a number of “blind spots” in human DNA which are capable of hiding cancer causing genes.   The research has been published in the journal cancer research.

The team discovered that by looking at the genetic origins of cancer, they could find more genes that triggered and developed the disease.  Some genetic faults are difficult for gene-reading technology to understand, so researchers needed to fine tune the genes to examine.

One of the advantages of knowing which genes can cause cancer is earlier testing.  In the future we may be able to perform genetic tests that identify which cancers you are at risk of getting.  The tests may become very precise and be able to determine with great certainty if you are going to get a specific cancer.

The research team compared  two massive gene databases which recorded genes found in cancer cells.  This was compared to all of the genes in the human body to find potential cancer links.  In many cases the link was not obvious and they had to look for genes that concealed the role of other genes.

Understanding the genetic foundation behind cancer is one of the most exciting areas of research because it affects diagnosis and potential treatment methods.

FDA Approves Ovarian Cancer Drug “Avastin”

Avastin Receives FDA Approval for Ovarian Cancer

Avastin Receives FDA Approval for Ovarian Cancer

Drugmaker Roche has notified the public that the FDA has approved Avastin as a treatment for Ovarian cancer.

The new drug is designed to work in conjunction with chemotherapy in recurrent cases where there is resistance to platinum-based chemotherapy. The drug has already been approved for Glioblastoma (GBM), Metastatic Colorectal Cancer (mCRC), Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and Metastatic Kidney Cancer (mRCC).

Avastin is a angiogenesis inhibitor, that slows the growth of new blood vessels. It blocks angiogenesis by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), which is a chemical signal used by cancer to help the disease spread.

The drug was first approved in 2004 by the FDA for metastatic colon cancer. In the past Roche also tried to have the drug approved for breast cancer, but it was shown to be ineffective in trials.

The drug is a big money maker for Roche, having netted them a whopping $6.25 billion in 2013.

Side Effects
The drug carries a number of serious side effects that cancer patients must be aware of.

Some of the more serious ones are:

  • GI perforation (a hole that develops in your stomach or intestine)
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • .

  • Serious bleeding
  • (This includes vomiting or coughing up blood; bleeding in the stomach, brain, or spinal cord; nosebleeds; and vaginal bleeding)

Other side effects can include severely high blood pressure, kidney problems, infusion reactions, stroke, heart problems, nervous system problems and vision problems.

The drug carries some serious side effects, but is an important part of the cancer treatment regime for many people.

Survival Rates Increasing with Targeted Molecular Therapy

James Lagno Cancer Genomics Treatment

James Lagno Cancer Genomics Treatment

ABC news have posted a story about a man named James Lango, who was diagnosed with a number of cancers, but has survived longer than expected thanks to an experimental cancer treatment. “Molecular targeted therapy” was used on Lagno, with new varieties of drugs tailored specifically to target the type of cancer he has.

Lagno had a combination of cancers including late stage lung cancer, thyroid cancer and brain lesions. The survival rate for late stage lung cancer alone is very low, so doctors had given him a year at the most.

A biopsy of one of the tumors in James’ lungs found a rare mutation responsible for the cancer. Using the DNA from that mutation, a drug was developed that specifically targeted it. The drugs target specific proteins that are used by this particular cancer mutation.

Lagno still has tumors, but they have not grown or spread, because the cancer lacks the proteins required to help it spread. He has survived for three year so far, when doctors expected one year at the most thanks to the treatent.

The drug in question is “Ceritinib”. It has recently been approved by the FDA. It is one of a wave of new drugs coming onto the market that are designed to target specific cancers based upon their DNA and the proteins they use to spread through the body.

The FDA are also streamlining their approvals process so many of the high specialized DNA targeted cancer drugs are getting to market quickly. Great news for cancer sufferers.

What is Cancer Genomics?




To understand what the term Cancer Genomics actually means first requires you to understand what Genomics are. To put it as simply as possible, genomics refers to a discipline in genetics that uses DNA sequencing, recombinant DNA and bioinformatics to analyze, sequence and assemble the function and structure of genomes. Genomes are a “complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism”.

People in this field are busy with genetic mapping of the human body, looking at interactions within the genome and complex interactions between genomes. They examine concepts like heterosis (which deals with breeding), epistasis (“modifier” genes) and pleiotropy (when one gene affects several seemingly unrelated traits). To put it in simple terms they are trying to understand how genes interact, how genomes function and what specific genes control within the human body.

Cancer Genomics (Oncogenomics)

Cancer Genomics is a new sub-field of genomics that applies cutting edge technology to look into genes associated with cancer. The term “Cancer Genomics” means the same thing as “Oncogenomics”. Researchers in this field have found that cancer is a genetic disease caused by accumulations of mutations in the DNA. That mutation leads to cancer cells proliferating and spreading throughout the body.

Cancer Genomics largely seeks to find genes that can allow cancer to proliferate, called oncogenes, and to find treatments that suppress those genes. It also seeks to find the genes that are capable of suppressing tumors and harness their ability. Cancer genomics research aims to find new forms of diagnosis, treatments and cancer prediction technologies from the understand of those types of genes.

In tumor cells, the oncogenes are mutated and expressed at high levels. While normal cells undergo a scheduled death within the body, activated oncogenes cause those cells to survive and proliferate. Cancer can be established within the body by gene mutations or environmental factors and then the oncogenes play a crucial role in spreading that infection.

Since research in the area began, dozens of oncogenes have been identified as playing a role in proliferating cancer within the human body. Some cancer drugs that have already been released actually target the proteins encoded by oncogenes. Some of the drugs that have been released in recent years such as Gleevec, Herceptin and Avastin have been developed with the help of insights from the field Cancer Genomics.

There are a number of research organisations like the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute who are exploring the human genome in depth to find new forms of diagnosis and treatments for cancer.

The main target for the institute:

The Cancer Genome Project is using the human genome sequence and high-throughput mutation detection techniques to identify somatically acquired sequence variants/mutations and hence identify genes critical to the development of human cancers. This initiative will ultimately provide the paradigm for the detection of germline mutations in non-neoplastic human genetic diseases through genome-wide mutation detection approaches.

There are now many databases available for cancer researchers who collect and share data on the role of specific genes in cancer. The Cancer Genome Project is only one of those organisations and seeks to map out all the somatic intragenic mutations in cancer. They look at genes, mutations and tumors to gain an understanding of how the interactions are playing out.

Another project is the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project which has collated a great of information on the cancer genome, transcriptome, and proteome. The Progenetix database is another oncogenomic reference database, collecting cytogenetic and molecular-cytogenetic tumor data. This data will eventually be used to identify which form of mutation a patient may have, how their genes are interacting and how to fight the cancer.

Personalized Cancer Treatment

In addition to looking at the underlying genetic causes of cancer, oncogenomics also looks into the development of personaliazed cancer treatments. Because cancer develops due to a series of mutations in the DNA, different kinds of mutations exist for different people. Two people with the same form of cancer will have different DNA mutations because their genetic makeup is different.

Researchers realized that identifying those specific gene mutations and targeting them will lead to more efficient forms of cancer treatment. Because the human genome project has been complete and sequencing technologies have advanced, it has allowed doctors in this field to dig deeper into the relationships between genes, oncogenes and cancer.

With the large amount of research currently being carried out on cancer genomes, and the completion of the genome database it has been predicted that these cancer-causing mutations, rearrangements, will be cataloged and characterized within the next decade. At that point doctors will be able to understand how your cancer is propagating at a genetic level.

That makes a for a very exciting time within the cancer community and the hope that someday soon, these advanced treatments will lead to a cure for cancer.

Aspirin May Help Colon Cancer Prognosis

Aspirin and Colon Cancer

Aspirin and Colon Cancer

According to a new study, the prognosis of patients with colon cancer may be improved by simply consuming aspirin!

The research looked at close to 1000 patients with colon cancer over a number of years and determined that of those who took aspirin regularly, 37.9% died compared to 48.5% for people who did not consume aspirin regularly. The study tracked patients for between 4 and 10 years.

The catch was that the benefit was only seen in patients with a certain type of tumor. The tumor in question produces a HLA class I antigen protein which is involved in the immune systems response to cancer cells. Researchers don’t yet understand the full interaction between this type of tumor, the protein and the immune system so more research is needed.

One of the researchers, Gerrit Jan Liefers, said of the results: “If our results are confirmed by others and aspirin is studied as a treatment in a proper phase three randomized trial, then we would have a valid new anti-cancer treatment that is both safe and cheap”. The research was carried out by the University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

This is especially exciting because most cancer treatments are very expensive, and aspirin is one of the cheapest pharmaceuticals you can purchase. According to Dr Liefers, “In a world were new targeted therapies usually cost thousands of dollars and most have serious side effects, this would mean great progress”

Colon cancer is still one of the most common forms of cancer in the world and it is responsible for over 50’000 deaths each year in the United States. Over 140’000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the United States as well, so any progress in the treatment of this disease is of huge importance.

Researchers are now looking to understand the link between aspirin and colon cancer, because it’s not immediately clear why this effect exists. They speculate that the aspirin is hampering the ability of cancer cells from the tumors to circulate through the body and develop into new growths.

Researchers urge caution to people who currently have colon cancer, because random drug trials need to take place before we know for certain that the link exists between aspirin and colon cancer mitigation.

That being said, for most people there is no harm in taking aspirin so there is in effect “nothing to lose” by taking it if you have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Of course consult your doctor before changing or adding medications, because various drugs can interact in sometimes unpredictable ways.

Experimental Brain Tumor Drug Available

New Brain Cancer Drugs

New Brain Cancer Drugs

In a new development, Germany has allowed the sale of an experimental brain cancer drug from Biotherapeutics Inc. The United States biotech company has received a special exemption which allows it to sell the drug for 5 years despite the fact it has not finished clinical trials.

Biotherapeutics also has the ability to apply for a 5 year extension at the end of the trial period. The shares for the biotech company have risen sharply on the stock exchange in response to the news.

The company had been touting the results of it’s cancer drug “DCVax-L” in a number of patients in clinical trials. The drug will be made available in Germany in out patient clinics and hospitals for any patient with cancer that began in the brain. That is despite the fact that the drug has only been tested on people with the sever Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) form of the disease.

This is the first time that Germany has allowed a drug to be released in this fashion, so presumably academics have seen some very good outcomes from it’s use. This step by Germany may also lead to other countries in the European Union making promising cancer drugs available quickly, including DCVax-L.

The European Union looks favorably upon quick release of new drugs which have not yet won marketing approval, as a way to encourage biotech companies to set up there.

In early tests, patients taking DCVax-L lived 2.5 times as long as most patients undertaking standard treatment. Standard treatment for brain tumors includes surgery, Temodar chemotherapy and radiation.

Late stage trial data for DCVax-L had been delayed which was a cause of some concern for investors, but this news from Germany has made them very happy. In Germany there are more than 3000 cases of the aggressive Glioblastoma multiforme tumors each year and around 4000 lower grade tumors that might benefit from the new drug.

The company are ramping up for full production of the drug, which should be on sale within a few months in Germany.

The new drug could be a massive windfall with over a billion worth of sales potential in the EU and the United States if it is given full approval. The only thing which might get in the way of cancer patients accessing the drug now is the cost – it will most likely cost more than $70’000 per year for the drug.

However when traditional approaches saw most patients surviving around 14 months, patients on DCVax-L plus the standard treatment survived up to 3 years in the early trials without serious side effects. Analysts warn that the early trials consisted of only a small group of 20 patients.

The drug works by making the body’s immune system track down and kill cancer cells. The immune system’s dendritic cells are controlled and they make antibodies using other cells to agressively kill cancer cells.

A patient’s immature dendritic cells are taken from the blood and mixed with dozens of antigens from brain tumor tissue of the patient obtained in surgery. Then it is purified and injected back into the body as a drug. An exciting new approach to cancer treatment and one of the new forms of drugs that will hopefully improve survival rates in years to come.

New Immune System Anti-Cancer Drugs Taking Off

Cancer Drugs Immunotherapy

Cancer Drugs Immunotherapy

New anti-cancer drugs that boost the immune system to fight cancer could be very effective for patients and very profitable for drug manufacturers with potential for $35 billion in sales annually. Analysts at Citigroup have looked at the new immunotherapy drugs that are currently in clinical trials and determined that they will be high popular – and profitable.

Companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche Holding have been running the trials and are seeing very positive results from the new immunotherapy medications.

One of the analysts declared: “We believe this market will generate sales of up to $35 billion (a year) over the next 10 years and be used in some way in the management of up to 60 percent of all cancers”. They may be used in conjunction with existing radiological or chemotherapy regimes, with less side effects than existing drugs.

If their estimate is correct, that would see immunotherapy drugs making more money than other hugely popular drugs that address high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Scientists have been researching for many years to find a way to get the bodies immune system to become more active in fighting off tumor cells. The new drugs turn the “brakes off” the immune system and remove any impediments that it might have to aggressively attacking cancer cells. With the brakes off the immune system goes into overdrive working in conjunction with any other cancer treatment to attack cancer cells.

The two drugs undergoing the clinical trial are Bristol-Myers Squibb’s nivolumab and Roche’s MPDL3280A. Both appear to work well against a variety of cancers, according to preliminary results, exciting the cancer community. More details of the drugs will be released in Chicago next month.

While Chemotherapy and traditional cancer drugs are already effective at shrinking tumors, the effect is usually shot term. These new immunotherapy drugs hope to give a longer lasting effect with less side effects than traditional treatment. The immune system is reset, and freed up to go after the cancer cells.

Some researchers are suggesting that cancer could become a chronic disease, manageable with the right medication, and mortality rates could be slashed.

The drugs could also be on the market much sooner than expected, with recent changes to the U.S Food and Drug Administration allowing speedy approval of innovative drugs that can save lives.