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We are gaining ground against cancer

Feb 14 2018

New mum's crippling stomach pains were actually 'deadliest form of cancer'

A new mum who suffered crippling stomach pains just weeks after giving birth was horrified to discover she actually had the 'deadliest form of cancer'.

Amy Blackrock, 28, was terrified for her two young children’s futures after falling ill with pancreatic cancer - which kills four in five sufferers within a year.

She was diagnosed just weeks after giving birth to her second daughter Annabelle in January last year and needed chemotherapy and two life-saving operations.

One year on, Amy is now in recovery and has shared her story to raise awareness of a cancer.

The mum, from Kirkby, said: “I was feeding Annabelle at 5am in the morning, and was vomiting with really bad pains in my abdomen - worse than childbirth.

“I couldn’t breathe and they put me on morphine in intensive care in hospital.

“I had the illness again five weeks later, and my skin started turning yellow with jaundice.

“They thought a growth on my pancreas was a cyst but it turned out to be a cancerous tumour seven centimetres long and five centimetres wide.

“I had a sense it might be cancer, but I felt like my whole world would fell apart when I found out.

“I kept looking at my children, thinking - am I going to be here to see them grow up?

“Nothing matters apart from getting through it, you start only caring about your kids, family and life.

“I saw the diagnosis on the notes the doctor had left by my bed before they came in to tell me. There’s no good way to find out, but that wasn’t the best way to hear it.

Amy, who also has son Jack, said she felt lucky to have survived “the worst form of cancer you can get”, with the lack of symptoms in its early stages making it a hard disease to diagnose until it is often too late.

She told the Liverpool Echo: “I’m a bit of a freak case. I’m the oldest by about 30 years at my clinic, and they think I’m one of the youngest in the world.

“It’s really bizarre to face your mortality at 28. But I was lucky it hadn’t spread despite its size.

“My kids are the reason I could keep going, and my partner, who has given up work for now to look after me.”

Her partner Anthony Seddon, 31, proposed to Amy just before her operation, saying he wanted to her to go in knowing she would come out and get married.

The journalist and PR professional admitted: “I was absolutely delighted - but I thought he was joking at first.”

The surgery to remove the tumour saw Amy left with only half her pancreas and with no gall bladder.

She suffered a “life-threatening bleed” shortly afterwards at home when an artery burst, but pulled through and praised pancreatic specialists at the Royal.

She added: “The operation was completely successful, and I’m now in remission, and currently cancer-free.

“At the moment I can’t digest food as well as other people - so I have to take tablets every time I eat. I lost about three-and-a-half stone from the damage to the tumour and chemo, but I’ve but some back on.

“I wore a wig though, as it was my safety blanket.

“I still have some chemotherapy - one last burst. I lost a lot of my hair from the treatment, and it came back really thick and curly. I look like a ketwig.

“But I’m hoping to go back to work soon, and I’m getting back to normal.”

The causes of pancreatic cancer are not widely understood, but illnesses like pancreatitis, diabetes and stomach ulcers can increase the risk.

It mainly affects people older than 50, and one in three cases is linked to smoking.

Symptoms include pain in the stomach or back area which may come and go, unexpected weight loss, jaundice, bowel changes, fever, indigestion and blood clots.

But NHS chiefs say these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions, and suggest contacting your GP if concerned or the symptoms start suddenly.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK.

Feb 11th 2018

A model has warned people about the dangers of using sunbeds after being forced to have several moles removed.

Ella Ravenscroft is a 20-year-old model and high-definition brow technician from Manchester who’s signed with Nemesis Model Agency.

She believed using sunbeds was harmless… until moles appeared on her body as a result.

Ravenscroft has now had to have her moles surgically removed, which has left scars all over her body.

Sunbeds emit ultraviolet rays that can drastically increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

According to the NHS, sunbeds can give out ultraviolet rays that are stronger than those emitted by the sun during the hottest time of the day.

Ravenscroft has shared her story on Facebook in order to spread the message that using sunbeds is extremely inadvisable. 

“Girls/boys this is why it’s really important NOT to use the sunbeds, I had two tiny moles on my tummy that have grown due to using sunbeds!” she wrote.

“Never thought this would happen as I didn’t realise it was possible but they’ve now had to be replaced by scars.

“Just want to make people more aware how dangerous they are as you don’t think something as little as a mole could cause cancer.”

Ravenscroft has had to have several moles removed, including two on her stomach, one on her back and one below her breast.

“If your moles feel itchy or grow make sure to get them checked out!” Ravenscroft advised.

“Better to be safe than sorry.”

One of the main causes for melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer, is excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, which means that sunbeds pose a great risk.

If you develop a new mole or spot an area of your skin changing, it’s worth visiting a doctor to get checked.

Cancer Research UK also advises going to see a medical professional if you notice a mole that’s enlarging, irregularly shaped, changing colour, asymmetrical, itchy, bleeding or inflamed.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded from a number of studies that using sunbeds can increase your risk of melanoma by as much as 16 to 20 per cent.

Feb 9th 2018

'Should I stop eating asparagus to stop cancer's spread?'

An amino acid found in asparagus could be responsible for the spread of breast cancer, according to a new study. So should you stop eating it? 

Scientists discovered that restricting an amino acid called asparagine stopped cancer cells from invading other parts of the body in mice. 

Amino acids are the building blocks that cells use to make proteins. The body can make asparagine, however it’s also found in high concentrations in foods like asparagus, seafood, soy, dairy and poultry products.

Despite the startling findings, researchers and breast cancer experts agree that people with cancer and the general public should not stop eating asparagus or other products rich in asparagine. 

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said in a statement: “On current evidence, we don’t recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors.”

How does cancer spread?

The place where a cancer starts in the body is called the primary cancer or primary site, according to Cancer Research UK. Cells from the primary site may break away and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. There they can start to grow into new tumours. This is known as metastases or secondary cancer.

Most breast cancer patients do not die from their primary tumour, but from the spread of cancer to the lungs, brain, bones or other organs. Currently, around 11,500 women die from breast cancer each year in the UK. Finding ways to stop this from happening is therefore fundamental to increasing survival. 

How did researchers stop it from spreading?

Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute did two things: they put the put the mice on a low-asparagine diet and were able to block the body’s production of asparagine with a drug called L-asparaginase. 

Both of these changes greatly reduced breast cancer’s ability to spread.

Interesting, the drug L-asparaginase is already used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is dependent on asparagine. Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said in response to the study: “It’s possible that in future, this drug could be repurposed to help treat breast cancer patients. The next step in the research would be to understand how this translates from the lab to patients and which patients are most likely to benefit from any potential treatment.”

Could this apply to other types of cancer?

Researchers examined data from breast cancer patients, which showed the greater the ability of breast cancer cells to make asparagine, the more likely the disease was to spread. In several other cancer types, increased ability of tumour cells to make asparagine was found to be associated with reduced survival.

In future, the scientists believe that alongside conventional treatments like chemotherapy, breast cancer patients could be given a diet in hospital that restricts asparagine to help stop the disease spreading and improve outcomes. However more research needs to be done to confirm this. 

They said their findings could also have implications for other cancer types, including kidney, and head and neck cancers.

So should you give up asparagus?

In short, no. Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head nurse, said: “At the moment, there is no evidence that restricting certain foods can help fight cancer, so it’s important for patients to speak to their doctor before making any changes to their diet while having treatment.”

While asparagine is investigated further by scientists, Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, encourages cancer patients to follow a healthy and varied diet rich in fruit, vegetables and pulses, and limited in processed meat and high fat or sugar foods. 

This, she said, will “help give them the best chance of survival”.

Feb 1st 2018

‘Life-changing’ breast cancer drugs given final go-ahead for routine NHS use

A ‘life-changing’ drug for breast cancer patients has been given the final go-ahead for routine NHS use in England.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) issued its final decision recommending Perjeta, also known as pertuzumab, for some women with breast cancer.

Nice has recommended the drug for use for women who have HER2-positive breast cancer which has returned to the breast but is inoperable, or where it has spread to other parts of the body.

When combined with other medication, users have been shown to survive for 16 months longer than those only using the current standard pills.

Around 53,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK, and up to 25% of cases have HER2-positive disease.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “This is the best news patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and their doctors could have hoped for.

“Perjeta is a truly life-changing drug and we are absolutely delighted and relieved that Nice has finally been able to recommend it for routine NHS use in England.

“Perjeta’s benefits are extraordinary, offering women with incurable metastatic breast cancer over four-and-a-half years to live - nearly 16 precious extra months with their loved ones compared to existing treatments.”

The drug could previously only be accessed through applications to the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Manufacturer Roche said the move ends years of uncertainty over how the treatment would be funded in the long term.

General manager Richard Erwin said: “These are positive examples of how solutions can be reached when all parties show flexibility.

Jan 23rd 2018

Six early signs of cervical cancer to look out for, according to a doctor

In the UK, up to nine women per day are diagnosed with cervical cancer. On average, a third of these women lose their lives to the disease. 

This type of cancer is most common for women under 35, but luckily is can be prevented and effectively treated with regular smear tests available to women over 25 as well as HPV vaccinations.

This week it’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week so the Standard spoke to Dr. Jan Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer at MEDIGO to find out more about detecting early signs.

What are the earliest signs of cervical cancer?

During the early stages of cervical cancer, you may not see any symptoms at all. 

Dr Schaefer explained: “The first to appear are typically unusual discharge or bleeding. As the cancer progresses, some other subtle signs might include constipation, blood in the urine, loss of appetite or fatigue. However, it is important to note that these signs alone are not indicative of cancer but, if they are, they won’t be warning signs but symptoms of the cancer progressing.

“This is why it is so important to attend your screenings regularly. In the UK, screenings are routinely offered to women from the age of 25 and repeated every three years.”

Below are six subtle symptoms of cervical cancer.

1. Vaginal discharge that is unusual in terms of smell, colour or amount

2. Abnormal bleeding between periods

3. Bleeding after intercourse

4. Increased menstrual bleeding

5. Pelvic pain

6. Pain during intercourse

While these symptoms don’t necessarily point to cervical cancer, they are reason enough to see your GP.

What should you do if you think you have cervical cancer?

The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with your GP. 

Dr Schaefer said: “The GP can then conduct a screening, which means that any cell changes can be caught before they become cancerous, or at the earliest stages.

“In the UK, the NHS offers cervical screening for women aged between 25 and 49 every three years, while women aged between 50 and 64 can be screened every five years. Those aged over 65 who have been screened in the past no longer need to be screened.

“A pap screening allows the doctor to test for any cell changes and deal with potential cancerous cells before they become cancerous, while an HPV test screens for the most common risk factor for cervical cancer, HPV. This is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cell changes and eventually to cancer. An HPV test can also be used in cases where a pap screening is inconclusive.”

Is there any way to prevent cervical cancer?

While there is no way to completely prevent cervical cancer, there are some things you can do to decrease your chances of developing it.

“Girls between the ages of 12-13 are offered the cervical cancer vaccination, which protects against four types of HPV,” Dr Schaefer said. “While the vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you will never develop the cancer, it does reduce the risks. 

“Practising safe sex can also decrease your chances of developing cervical cancer, as HPV, spread through sex and sexual contact, is linked to cervical cancer. Lastly, smoking can increase your risks of developing cervical cancer, for smokers are less able to rid the body of the HPV infection.”

If you think you might have symptoms relating to cervical cancer, make an appointment with your GP

Jan 22nd 2018

'Embarrassed' women avoiding smear tests due to body fears

Young women are not attending smear tests because they are embarrassed about their bodies, a cancer charity has warned.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said it was concerned that body image issues, including the perception of what is "normal," could be putting women's lives in danger.

One in four eligible women (aged 25-64) do not attend smear tests, the charity warned as it emerged figures shot up to one in three among 25-29 year olds.

It is even as high as one in two in some areas of the UK.

The charity conducted a survey which found that more than a third of women (35 per cent) are failing to get tested because of their body shape, while 34 per cent were worried about the appearance of their vulva.

Concerns over smelling "normal" (38 per cent) was also a factor.

A poll of women aged between 25 and 35 also found a third (31 per cent) admitted they would not go if they had not waxed or shaved their bikini area.

But despite low screening attendance, almost every woman (94 per cent) said they would have a free test to prevent cancer if one was available.

The charity is releasing the data at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and as it launches its smear test campaign #SmearForSmear.

It is also concerned that not enough is being done to increase attendance, with a third of local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups in England not having done so in the last year.

Lindsay was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 29 after ignoring invitations for a smear test.

She said: "I was too busy with a baby and a small child, working, and I didn't like the thought of having to get naked in front of anyone I didn't know.

"I don't want other women to have to go through what I experienced, diagnosis and treatment was awful.

"I needed a radical hysterectomy and still struggle with some side effects of treatment today.

"Please don't put off your smear test, the alternative is so much worse."

The charity's chief executive, Robert Music, said: "Smear tests prevent 75 per cent of cervical cancers so it is a big worry that so many young women, those who are most at risk of the disease, are unaware of the importance of attending.

"It is of further concern that body worries are contributing to non-attendance.

"Please don't let unhappiness or uncertainty about your body stop you from attending what could be a life-saving test.

"Nurses are professionals who carry out millions of tests every year, they can play a big part in ensuring women are comfortable."

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, yet the poll of 2,017 women found three out of five (61 per cent) were unaware they were in the most at-risk age group for the disease.

Just under 1,000 women die from cervical cancer every year in the UK.

Jan 19th 2018

Doctors take 'critical' step towards universal blood test for cancer

A newly developed single blood test has the potential to change the way doctors screen for cancer, researchers have said.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in the US have developed a test that screens for eight common forms of cancer and helps identify the location of the disease.

The test, called CancerSEEK, looks for mutations in 16 genes and evaluates the levels of eight proteins usually released by cancer sufferers.

The researchers said overall the test's ability to find cancers was successful 70% of the time - and ranged from a high of 98% for ovarian cancer to a low of 33% for breast cancer.

Nickolas Papadopoulos, senior author and professor of oncology and pathology, said: "The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer, and it is based on the same rationale for using combinations of drugs to treat cancers."

Cristian Tomasetti, associate professor of oncology and biostatistics, said the test is unique because it looks for both mutated DNA and proteins.

He said: "A novelty of our classification method is that it combines the probability of observing various DNA mutations together with the levels of several proteins in order to make the final call."

The test was evaluated on 1,005 patients with cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colorectum, lung or breast.

Professor of oncology Bert Vogelstein said that although the test does not spot every cancer, it identifies many cancers that would likely otherwise go undetected.

He said it could be a great step towards early detection of the disease and ultimately save lives.

"Many of the most promising cancer treatments we have today only benefit a small minority of cancer patients, and we consider them major breakthroughs. If we are going to make progress in early cancer detection, we have to begin looking at it in a more realistic way, recognising that no test will detect all cancers," he said.

"This test represents the next step in changing the focus of cancer research from late-stage disease to early disease, which I believe will be critical to reducing cancer deaths in the long term."

Jan 13th 2018

‘What is cancer?’: Answering the most Googled health question of 2017

With more information at our fingertips today than our brains can possibly process, it’s no surprise that many of us consult “Dr Google” about our ailments. And according to experts from Google, the health question people in the UK asked most in 2017 was: What is cancer?

Cancer rates continue to climb. Today 1 in 2 of us in the UK will be diagnosed at some point in our lives. So it makes sense that people want to know more about a topic that will undoubtedly touch all of us in one way or another. And although the internet can be a useful source of information, if people have symptoms they’re worried about then they should visit their GP for advice. But with the internet being so easily accessible, it’s no surprise that people are also seeking answers online.

So what were people presented with when they tapped those three words into their keyboards? A staggering 26,000,000 results. That’s an overwhelming amount of information.

Thankfully, those asking the question don’t have to browse far to find decent answers. Cancer Research UK sits among the top results, with a website dedicated to bringing readers the most accurate and up to date evidence-based information on the subject, from trials and treatments to pages sorting fact from fiction.

When it comes to health, gathering information from reliable, easy to understand sources such as this is critical. Choices regarding health and medicine can have profound impacts on a person’s life and wellbeing. So these decisions should be based on the best available evidence. Unfortunately, there are far too many websites that don’t offer this. 

Search the internet for long enough and soon you’ll be enveloped in conspiracy theories and quack ideas about the supposed causes of and cures for cancer. These can look very convincing at first glance, too. For example, some websites claim that cancer is a disease caused by eating an overly ‘acidic’ diet, and therefore eating what’s claimed to be healthier so-called ‘alkaline’ foods can cure people.

This unfounded idea, alongside many others, has been thoroughly debunked.

So, what really is cancer?

The word ‘cancer’ may be singular, but it reflects much more than just one disease. More accurately, it’s a term spanning hundreds of diseases. They all share a fundamental characteristic though: rogue cells growing out of control, overcrowding healthy tissues. Another defining feature is that cancers are caused by faulty DNA, allowing cells’ control systems to go haywire and permit this unregulated division.

While different types of cancer may share similarities, research is showing that each person’s individual cancer is unique and presents its own set of challenges. That’s why it’s extremely unlikely that there will be one single cure against all cancers. This means researchers have their work cut out to thwart these diseases. But that isn’t reason to give up hope. Far from it.

Thanks to research, many cancers can already be cured. Testicular cancer for example is very sensitive to chemotherapy drugs, and most cases can be cured.

Today, survival for testicular cancer is as high as 98%, and that’s just one example among many others.

More research will give us a greater chance of developing new ways to treat and cure more people’s cancer. And also a greater understanding of cancer in all its forms. So while we may have a textbook definition of cancer, there is much still to be learned about this complex disease. That’s why Cancer Research UK exists, and why we won’t stop until we reach the day that all cancers can be cured.

If anyone has questions about cancer they can call our dedicated nurses helpline, free phone 0808 800 4040, or email sciencesurgery@cancer.org.uk

Jan 8th 2018

Women who work nights are more at risk of cancer - and it's higher for nurses

Women who work nights are more at risk of cancer than those who do days, a study claims.

Researchers looking at reviews done exclusively on women found skin cancer cases up by almost half in those who did the shifts long-term.

They found cases of breast cancer up by a third, and stomach cancer by nearly a fifth.

For nurses the increase was even worse, with cases of breast cancer 58% higher than in those who only worked days.

And lung cancer cases in night-shift nurses were higher by a quarter.

Assistant professor Xuelei Ma said: “Our study indicates night shift work serves as a risk factor for common cancers in women. The research, at Sichuan University in China, used data from 61 different studies covering nearly four million people across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

“Long-term night shift workers should have regular physical examinations and cancer screenings.”

She said the increased risk in nurses could be down to more intensive shifts – or because nurses are more likely to seek check-ups.

Prof Ma also revealed the increased breast cancer risk across all professions was only found in North America and Europe.

She said: “We were surprised. It’s possible women in these locations have higher sex hormone levels.”

Jan 6th 2018

This virus could effectively treat brain tumours and cancer

Scientists have found that a naturally occurring virus could be used to treat people with aggressive brain tumours by drastically boosting the immune system.

The study, which has been published in Science Translational Medicine, found that reovirus was able to cross the blood-brain barrier where it would then replicate and kill the cancerous cells.

Up to now, scientists believed it would be impossible for a virus to cross through the blood-brain barrier, making it significantly more difficult to administer the virus as a form of treatment.

However the results of the study have shown that the virus can be administered through a simple intravenous drip and can then travel up to the brain.

In addition to attacking the cancer cells the team also found that the virus was able to ‘switch-on’ the body’s immune system which could then attack the cancer.

This second point is significant.

'Our immune systems aren’t very good at ‘seeing’ cancers ― partly because cancer cells look like our body’s own cells, and partly because cancers are good at telling immune cells to turn a blind eye. But the immune system is very good at seeing viruses.' explains Co-lead author Alan Melcher, Professor of Translational Immunotherapy at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

'In our study, we were able to show that reovirus could infect cancer cells in the brain. And, importantly, brain tumours infected with reovirus became much more visible to the immune system.'

The study itself involved nine patients. Each of them had cancers that had either spread to the brain from other parts of the body or were gliomas, a type of brain cancer that’s very difficult to treat.

All nine were due to have their tumours removed surgically, however in the days leading up to the operation they were given the virus through a drip.

After the surgery they looked at tissue samples from the nine patients and then samples from other patients who had had the surgery but not the virus drip.

Despite it being such a small sample, the results of the study were so conclusive that a clinical trial is already underway.

'Now we know we can get reovirus across the blood-brain barrier, we have begun clinical studies to see just how effective this viral immunotherapy can be at extending and improving the lives of patients with brain tumours, who currently have very limited treatment options available to them.' explains Professor Melcher.

Leading the clinical trial is Susan Short, Professor of Clinical Oncology at the University of Leeds. She said: 

'Brain cancer is a devastating disease. For a long time, there have not been many new developments that we could offer patients but the research that is happening at the University Leeds and elsewhere is beginning to offer a new approach.'

Jan 4th 2018 1st item

Eating bacon and sausages increases the risk of breast cancer in older women, a study has found.

Scientists discovered the strongest evidence yet that there is a connection between processed meats and breast cancer. They said that the food could account for 1 in 6 cases of the disease.

Middle aged women who eat more than 9g of sausages and bacon per day were approximately 20 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who avoid processed meats.

In younger women, there was no connection found between the meats and breast cancer.

The World Health Organisation already classifies salted, cured and fermented meats as being a leading cause of bowel cancer.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow analysed more than 260,000 middle-aged British women for the study and found that processed meats could have been behind hundreds of avoidable cases of breast cancer per year.

The findings which were published in the European Journal of Cancer, showed that women who ate small portions of processed meats infrequently were still 15 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow, told The Sun: “My public health advice for women would be: if you’re particularly concerned about breast cancer, then it might be another incentive to improve your quality of diet by eating less processed meats.”

Dr Jasmine Just from Cancer Research UK said that the study does not conclusively suggest a link between processed meats and breast cancer as it “didn’t take into account other important factors that affect breast cancer risk like screening and family history.”

However, she said: “The best ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer are to keep a healthy weight, cut down on alcohol and be physically active.

"Eating a lot of processed meat does increase the risk of bowel cancer though, so while the odd salami sandwich won’t do much harm, it’s still a good idea to cut down where you can.”

Jan 4th 2018 2nd item

Link between drinking and cancer proved by scientists

Drinking causes cancer by permanently damaging genes, according to new research. 

Scientists have shown for the first time how alcohol breaks up the DNA in the blood's stem cells - changing its sequence.

The breakthrough finally explains the link between booze and seven types of tumour - including those of the mouth and throat, liver, colon, bowel and breast.

It has been estimated almost six percent of all cancer deaths worldwide could be attributed to alcohol.

Even light drinking can slightly raise a woman's risk of breast cancer. Heavy drinkers face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers.

But scientists have remained unsure exactly why - until now.

Previous research looking at the precise ways in which alcohol causes cancer has been done in cells grown in the lab.

But the latest study published in Nature used mice to show how alcohol exposure leads to irreperable genetic damage.

A team at the MRC (Medical Research Council) Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, gave diluted alcohol - chemically known as ethanol - to mice.

They then combined a technique called chromosome analysis - which provides a "birds eye view" of genetic information - with DNA sequencing to examine the damage caused by acetaldehyde.

This is a toxic chemical produced in the liver when alcohol is broken down.

The researchers found it can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells - altering their sequences within cells for good and rearranging whole stands, or chromosomes.

They said it is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within healthy stem cells is damaged because when they become faulty it can give rise to cancer.

Blood stem cells make lots of different blood cells which all play a specific and vital part in keeping our blood healthy.

Dec 27th 2017 Paterson

Deborah Douglas, who helps run the Breast Friends support group, said: “For me the big thing now is how many other people were affected. We want those facts – we want those figures.”

Douglas, who was “mutilated” by Paterson in a mastectomy operation, said she did not think the inquiry would uncover significant new information as it had no powers to compel people to give evidence. But she said it could provide a “step forward” if full statistics on patient numbers, both those still alive and those who had since died, came out as a result.

“The NHS have got some figures now. They have got the mastectomy figures,” she said. “In the private sector we haven’t got any figures. We haven’t got the data for those patients that were involved. What we have got is a promise that we will have those figures. And that would be a step forward.”

Reviews were carried out by Spire in 2014 and Heft in 2013, with the NHS hospital trust saying it had reviewed or cross-checked nearly 24,500 patient records to assess whether Paterson was involved in their care.

Douglas said she had regular communication from former patients of Paterson who had not been contacted by the NHS or Spire. “He was a general surgeon as well as a breast cancer surgeon. How many people out there, with wide local excisions, had recurrences and had secondary cancer?”

Heft said it had not contacted all patients who had had other breast operations by the surgeon, but in 2011 and again in 2016-17 it had reviewed samples of those who had had other breast cancer operations and “no concerns were identified”.

The trust said: “A review of the deceased patients cannot repair any damage that has already been caused, nor is it likely to inform the trust of anything that it is not already aware of or provide any tangible benefit to the survivors in this cohort.

“It is reasonable to assume there were similar deficiencies in the treatment of the deceased patients, which may have impacted adversely on their period of life without disease and their survival.”

During a seven-week trial this year, jurors heard that the surgeon had carried out “extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason” on 10 patients between 1997 and 2011.

The court was told that Paterson regularly “miscoded” procedures, charging for more expensive treatment. He was accused of carrying out the often pointless surgery for “obscure motives”, which may have included a desire to earn extra money.

For several years before the trial, concerns had been raised about his practice of carrying out what he called “cleavage-saving mastectomies”, a controversial operation that left breast tissue behind for cosmetic reasons after the removal of cancerous cells. This method meant that the chances of a relapse within five years doubled.

Dec 26th 2017

A new and more effective way of detecting cancer in the human body has been developed from CONKERS. 

Researchers have shown that cancer imaging can be simplified by a process utilising molecules derived from horse chestnuts.

Researchers developed a radiation responsive esculin-derived molecular gel, that is both bright and fluorescent, to enhance image mapping for cancer imaging.

Esculin, or sculin, is a chemical that naturally occurs in the horse chestnut, a plant extract. It is beneficial to circulatory health.

Researchers explained that a challenge currently in cancer imaging is that optical imaging often produces light that is typically low in intensity.

The gel has been developed to address the problem.

Dr Jan Grimm, of Sloan Kettering Institute in the US who worked on the project, added: "The possibility of developing a topical application from the gel makes this innovation an attractive potential improvement to current techniques of cancer imaging."

Study leader Professor George John, of The City College of New York and a Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry, said his research is rooted in the idea that innovation can be inspired by nature to develop economical and green technologies for a sustainable future.

Prof John added: "Tailoring bio-based materials to synthesise thixotropic thermo-reversible hydrogels offers image-aiding systems which are not only functional but also potentially economical, safe, and environmentally friendly."

Dec 21st 2017

Dr Andy Zamar is a Medical Director and Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre.

A staggering one in two people in the UK will get cancer at some point in their lives so it's little wonder there is a tremendous focus on support for cancer patients once they have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment. But what about afterwards? What happens when a patient has been given the all-clear from cancer?

I know from my own personal experience as a psychiatrist that those who have had cancer and have recovered, can suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the traumatic nature of the experience and its impact on them and their loved ones.

PTSD symptoms have been found in 80% of women after breast cancer diagnosis according to recent research. That's why I believe it's time to acknowledge that those who have been diagnosed with cancer should be screened for PTSD as a matter of course. 

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health problem that can occur when someone has witnessed, experienced or even learned about a life-threatening or traumatic event occurring to themselves or a loved one.

It affects people of all ages, and between 25-30% of those experiencing a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Although many people associate it with war, this condition is also seen in patients who have suffered serious illnesses, like cancer, and can occur any time during or after treatment – weeks, months, even years later.

Whilst cancer itself does not cause PTSD, it may trigger the condition. The life-threatening nature of cancer means that people are not only frightened about what is going to happen to them but also about the unknown. When faced with a cancer diagnosis our first thought focusses on the medical aspect of the disease: How severe, what treatments are available and the prognosis. The psychological aspect of the disease can be a secondary concern. I would encourage all of us to recognise that the impact of cancer is psychological as well as physical.

I would also advise we pay attention to the mental health aspects of those sufferers who have had a cancer diagnosis and those who have had successful treatment but still live with worry or fear. Anyone diagnosed with cancer may feel apprehensive because they don't know how they are going to get on with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery – or if these treatments will improve their condition. Even though these are all things that are explained to patients with cancer, living with it is very different to hearing about it.

PTSD can be triggered by any cancer or treatment related to a traumatic event like having lost a breast, a testicle, or having colostomy or tracheostomy. These significant changes mean adjusting to a more challenging lifestyle and can affect confidence, self-esteem, daily routine – every aspect of life. PTSD can have a significant impact on daily life and adjusting to these changes is what can trigger PTSD. The sudden removal of encouragement from the support network after someone has been given the all clear from cancer, could also act as a trigger.

Those suffering with it often experience depressive symptoms like low self-esteem and confidence issues, and can become irritable. When reminded of the traumatic event – perhaps at their annual post-cancer check-up – they may feel anxious and upset, physically tense, sweat more, and even try to avoid their check-ups and further treatments in some cases.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD can include nightmares and disturbing flashbacks. The person may jump when they hear a noise, actively avoid reminders, feel withdrawn and isolate themselves – both physically and emotionally. PTSD is often misdiagnosed as depression because it is common for patients to also experience depressive symptoms which can be extensive. It is often this that is picked up on by healthcare providers.

It is important to screen for the presence of PTSD in the cancer survivor population, particularly those with depressive symptoms. 

Treatment for PTSD

The National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE), the body that provides guidelines for recognition and treatment of medical, surgical and psychiatric conditions in the UK, advises not to use antidepressants for treatment of PTSD unless there are significant depressive symptoms – which often there are. In this instance, depression should be treated first, and once the depressive symptoms are managed then PTSD can be treated.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) may be the most appropriate treatment for depressive symptoms for various reasons. Antidepressants have many side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and achieve full recovery in around 30% of cases only. Those who do not find antidepressants helpful will often find it difficult to come off the medication. rTMS is an effective, drug-free, non-invasive and pain-free treatment for depression. rTMS uses magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain that regulate mood. Side effects are minimal and treatment results are also impressive. Of 44 centres in the US and Australia that have published rTMS treatment results for treatment-resistant depression, the remission rate is 29%. At The London Psychiatry Centre, the remission rate is more than 60%.

Once the depression has improved, there are two options for treatment of PTSD, which are both equally effective. The first is trauma-focussed CBT (TF-CBT), which helps patients to identify and cope with thoughts, behaviours and emotions. The second isEye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), a highly regarded treatment which helps to change the way the traumatic memories are reacted to despite them remaining stored in the brain, thus making them easier to manage.

If you are concerned you may be experiencing PTSD post-cancer, such as irritability, despondency, feeling ashamed or isolated, having trouble sleeping, getting upset by reminders or get unduly tense or worried around your annual cancer check-up, visit your GP or a mental health professional.

For more information on rTMS visit www.psychiatrycentre.co.uk.

Dec 17th 2017

Chemotherapy has a lot of terrible side effects and that's partly because the drugs being used to fight cancer also attack healthy cells. Figuring out a way to deliver drugs to tumors without affecting healthy tissue is a challenge and a problem that researchers are trying to solve. One group working on this problem, New Scientist reports, is a team at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden and in a recent study, they showed that sperm could be turned into an effective drug delivery tool.

Sperm offer quite a lot of benefits when it comes to delivering drugs. They're naturally mobile, they can encase the drug so that it doesn't get diluted by body fluids or leak out and they protect the drug from enzy

they showed that sperm could be turned into an effective drug delivery tool.

Sperm offer quite a lot of benefits when it comes to delivering drugs. They're naturally mobile, they can encase the drug so that it doesn't get diluted by body fluids or leak out and they protect the drug from enzymes that can break them down. They also don't cause immune responses like other other cell types -- bacteria, for example -- and they don't duplicate and form unwanted colonies.

The researchers first showed that just soaking sperm in a drug, in this case a cancer treatment called doxorubicin, will allow sperm to take that drug up and store it inside of themselves. And when those drug-loaded sperm were turned on a type of experimental tumor, they caused a nearly 90 percent reduction in living cancer cells after just 72 hours. Further, the researchers attached tiny, iron-coated hats onto the sperm cells that allowed the cells to be guided by a magnet, which let the researchers control their direction and steer them to a tumor. When the cells bumped into the tumor, the prongs of the hat spread open, releasing the sperm and allowing it to penetrate the tumor. The researchers showed that the sperm were better at fighting the cancer cells than just soaking the tumor in the drug because the sperm could get inside of the cells and deliver the drug deeper than a drug bath could alone.

Dec 3rd 2017

Health officials have become increasingly alarmed at campaigns aimed at blocking the take-up of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which protects women against cervical cancer.

Three leading nations have now seen major reductions in the take-up of the vaccine and a growing number of doctors fear its use could be blocked elsewhere, despite its capacity to provide protection against a condition that kills hundreds of thousands of women a year.

Last week, doctors and health officials gathered in Dublin – centre of one of the most vociferous anti-vaccine campaigns – to discuss future tactics. Many believe the use of social media has added new impetus to anti-vaccine campaigners’ protests, and that this factor has been closely involved in the success of the attacks that have been made on immunisation programmes.

“Whenever a new vaccine is introduced, there is always a group of people who say it is unsafe,” said Professor Margaret Stanley of Cambridge University. “But the HPV vaccine seems to raise extraordinary levels of hostility.”

Japan, Ireland and Denmark have already witnessed sustained campaigns that have seen take-up rates plummet. (UK take-up rates are high.) In each case, the vaccine – which scientists insist is safe – has been linked to alleged cases of seizures, walking problems, and neurological issues. Photographs have been exchanged and video clips uploaded to YouTube.

“The vaccine is given at the age of 13 when young people are highly emotional and react to events very strongly,” said Stanley. “In addition, some parents feel they might be encouraging promiscuity by allowing their daughters to be vaccinated against a virus that spreads through sexual contact. Add to this the use of social media and you have quite an explosive mixture.”

The controversy about the HPV vaccine was also raised last week when doctor Riko Muranaka – who has stood up to intimidation from anti-vaccine groups in Japan – was awarded the international John Maddox prize for promoting science in the public interest. In Japan, parents have posted videos of their children online, claiming symptoms of seizures and walking problems were caused by the HPV jab. Japan’s health ministry could find no evidence the vaccine was to blame, but take-up rates have plunged from more than 70% to less than 1%.

“With this vaccine we could prevent many deaths from cervical cancer in Japan, but we are not taking the opportunity,” Muranaka said.

Delegates in Dublin outlined one possible solution that has been adopted in Austria, where doctors now give the HPV vaccine to both girls and boys (who will gain protection against a form of throat cancer in later life). Crucially, the jab is also given at an earlier age: around nine. “The apparent link with alleged promiscuity is not perceived to be so strong at this age and the timing also comes when children tend to be less emotional,” said Stanley. “Giving the vaccine a few years earlier than at present could be very effective.”

Responding quickly to claims of links between outbreaks of ill-health and vaccination is also extremely important, said Heidi Larson, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “England reached 87% full-dose coverage in 2014, having averted a potential public public confidence crisis in 2009 when a 14-year-old girl died after being vaccinated. Health officials expressed concern, promptly investigated the girl’s death and found it unrelated to the vaccine.”

For their part, scientists insist that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective. It protects against the two strains of the human papilloma virus that are most commonly linked to cervical cancer, and which account for more than 80% of cases. “Globally there are around 528,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 266,000 deaths linked to human papilloma virus a year,” said Larson. “The HPV vaccine has the potential to eradicate the vast majority of these.”

This point was emphasised by Prof Helen Bedford of University College London, who said that although the HPV vaccine had only been in use for around a decade, its benefit were already being observed: “Impressive data are already accumulating to show the impact of the vaccine in reducing HPV infections and pre-cancerous cervical lesions.”

In 20 years, that reduction should be mirrored in a corresponding drop in deaths from cervical cancer, added Stanley. “Given that cervical cancer often kills women who are relatively young – sometimes in their 20s or 30s – the benefits of this vaccine are particularly sharp.”

Nov 31st 2017 Treatment Item 1 of 2

Drug-delivering nanoparticles seek and destroy elusive cancer stem cells

Champaign, IL | Posted on November 28th, 2017

In a study led by Dipanjan Pan, an Illinois professor of bioengineering, researchers designed nanoparticles that specifically bind to a protein that marks the surface of breast cancer stem cells. Encapsulated in the particles is the drug niclosamide – a drug commonly prescribed around the world to treat tapeworm infections, but in cancer stem cells it turns off key gene pathways that give the cells the stemlike properties that enable them to grow and spread.

“It is critical to administer treatments for already-developed tumors; however, long-term survival and not allowing it to come back are equally important,” Pan said. “We want to destroy the cells that are hidden in the tissue and cause the cancer to come back or spread to other parts of the body.”

Cancer stem cells represent a tiny fraction of cells in a tumor, but it only takes one or two to seed a new tumor, Pan said. The challenge for physicians and researchers is not only finding these cells, but treating them. Pan’s group created nanoparticles that target a protein called CD44, which only appears on the surface of cancer stem cells, and tested them on breast cancer tumors in cell cultures and in live mice.

“I call them ‘GPS-enabled nanoparticles,’ because they seek out only the cells that have cancer stem cell properties. Then they latch onto the cells and deliver the drug,” said Pan, also a faculty member of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of delivering cancer stem-cell-targeted therapy with a nanoparticle.”

The researchers used the nanoparticles to deliver niclosamide, which is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, an index of the safest and most effective drugs in the world. Pan’s group previously found that niclosamide works on a particular gene-regulation pathway in cancer stem cells.

In the new study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, the cancer stem cells lost their stemlike properties after treatment with the niclosamide-bearing targeted nanoparticles, making them less able to cause the cancer to recur or metastasize. The researchers also saw a significant decrease in overall cancer cell growth, both in the cell cultures and in the mice. 

By using an already-approved drug and easy-to-manufacture nanoparticles, Pan hopes that this system can become an accessible and cost-efficient treatment to prevent cancer recurrence in patients

“We purposely used an extremely inexpensive drug. It’s generic and we can mass produce it on a very large scale,” Pan said. “The nanoparticles are a polymer that we can make on a large scale – it’s highly defined and consistent, so we know exactly what we are delivering. The rest of the process is just self-assembly.”

“This work also is important to future researchers working in the field of cancer stem cells,” said postdoctoral researcher Santosh Misra, the first author of the study. “We described and confirmed the proteins and genes responsible for vital processes in these cells, and that is opening up new avenues to make better therapies.”

The researchers are working to create a combination therapy that can deliver drugs for the primary cancer, such as traditional chemotherapies, as well as targeted agents that can treat cancer stem cells. They are also testing the nanoparticle drug-delivery system in large animal models to bring it a step closer to the clinic. 

The National Institutes of Health and the University of Illinois supported this work.


Nov 31st 2017 Lung Cancer item 2

Lung cancer is often associated with smokers, but in reality it doesn't discriminate - experts are seeing the numbers of diagnosed non-smokers rising. It is the most common cancer in the world, and in the UK it's the leading cause of cancer deaths for both sexes.

Because of the stigma surrounding lung cancer there are a lot of misconceptions about the condition. This Lung Cancer Awareness Month Dr Tom Newsom-Davis, Consultant Medical Oncologist, and Mr Eric Lim, Consultant Thoracic Surgeon, both from HCA Healthcare UK, set the record straight about the disease.

1. It's not just a smokers' disease

It's widely understood that lifestyle choices can affect or increase the chances of developing cancer, for example eating certain foods, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol, and smoking. Lung cancer in particular has, for many years, been associated with smoking, and people diagnosed with the condition are often seen to have 'brought it upon themselves'.

While there is strong evidence that smokers and ex-smokers have an increased risk of getting lung cancer, it is not the only cause. Every year, one out of every seven people

diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.

EL: "We identified that the frequency of non-smoking lung cancer has doubled in the last seven years. As a surgeon, a third of my work is now on non-smokers, and I can only see this number rising."

Daniel Cohen's wife Katie – a fit, healthy 32-year-old who had never smoked - was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2015. Talking about her experience, he comments: "When she told people about her diagnosis, one of the first questions she was always asked was 'Did you smoke?' Or loosely translated, 'was it your fault?' It's the shame and guilt that people make you feel when you have no reason to. There's still a huge stigma attached to the disease and this needs to change. There needs to be more education about it."

TND: "For such a long time there was so much embarrassment and prejudice surrounding lung cancer – and this stopped people getting their symptoms checked. Treatment is most effective when lung cancer is detected early so it is really important to visit a GP or doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have any symptoms of lung cancer.

2. Get it diagnosed quickly

EL: "As with most cancers, the quicker you can confirm a diagnosis the better, as it opens up more treatment options, including the possibility of surgery. Currently,

approximately 20 per cent of patients are diagnosed with early stage disease and are able to have surgery, while 80 per cent are identified too late. We need to increase the number of people who are able to have the surgery.

"There have been a lot of improvements and changes in lung cancer treatments over the past few years. As a surgeon, one of the most important advances for patients that I treat has been key-hole surgery. This type of surgery now enables us to operate using just a single 3cm cut in the chest, which some studies shown to be less painful with and helps patients to recover quicker. Many of my patients who have this type of surgery can be out of hospital within just two days.

"I'm currently undertaking a NIHR funded UK multicentre trial to evaluate the benefits of keyhole surgery versus open surgery and early findings have indicated that it is a procedure of interest to both patients and clinicians alike."


3. Treatments are improving

TND: "Over the past five years treatments for lung cancer have advanced radically, and they are now improving outcomes for patients across the UK. For example, there is targeted radiotherapy, which can pick out individual areas of the cancer and target them more accurately than could be done previously.

"Other developments have allowed us to identify specific mistakes in the DNA of the cancer cell, called mutations, which have caused the tumour. Sometimes we can even detect these mutations from a simple blood test. We now have a number of drugs that target these mutations and which are usually more effective than traditional treatments such as chemotherapy.

"There has also been a huge step forward in immunotherapy. This uses a person's own immune system to attack the cancer and can be very effective for those with advanced stages of disease. At HCA UK we have been treating suitable patients with immunotherapy since it was approved by the FDA in 2015, and are now the biggest private facility offering this treatment.

"While immunotherapy and other targeted drug treatments are not curative, they are very effective for treating lung cancer. Thanks to these improvements in care, there are patients we diagnosed three, four, five years ago with advanced lung cancer who are still here and still doing well. It is time to get over the old, nihilistic, view of lung cancer and instead see this as a treatable disease."

Daniel Cohen adds: "Thanks to these new treatments my wife Katie and I had more time together. The chemotherapy had terrible side effects and eventually stopped working, but immunotherapy drug Nivolumab allowed us to go on holiday together and let her live her life for longer. It's time we wouldn't have had together otherwise and I am grateful for every minute."

4. More women die of lung cancer than any other

While a lot of attention is often given to breast and ovarian cancers in women, it is not commonly known that 44 women die of lung cancer in the UK every day - more than both cancers combined. In addition, young women are also more likely to die of lung cancer than young men.

EL: "We have seen a growth in women being diagnosed with lung cancer, and it has now overtaken breast cancer as the biggest killer for women. It's difficult to say why this is, however we don't think this is due to environmental factors as it would affect both men and women. Cooking fumes and aerosols have been considered but more research needs to be done to identify any potential carcinogens women are exposed to, or if there is a differential effect of day-to-day carcinogens in women."

5. Screening is key to early detection of lung cancer

EL: "Early detection by CT screening has been demonstrated to improve lung cancer survival by 20%. The current accepted method is through CT screening, however there's no national screening programme available, and non-smokers will never be screened. Most diagnoses are picked up through incidental scans or once symptoms have become advanced.

"At HCA UK, screening is undertaken using a low-radiation CT scan, which provides more accurate images than a chest x-ray, and can help to identify early signs of the disease. It's recommended that those over 50 who currently smoke or who have a heavy smoking history undertake screening. Additionally it's recommended that people who have worked in a role where they may have had exposure to respiratory carcinogens such as asbestos, or who have a strong family history of lung cancer get screened too."

TND: "The most common, symptoms of lung cancer include cough, chest pain, persistent chest infections and coughing up blood. As with other cancers we should also look out for unexplained weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite. If you have any concerns about any of these symptoms visit your GP as soon as possible."

Daniel comments: "Early screening is so important. The journey from our first GP visit with a persistent cough to diagnosis took five months, and by that stage the lung cancer was advanced. This is a huge discrepancy. We were luckier than most as we were given more time by the immunotherapy treatment but this won't be the case for everyone."

What's next?

Jane Lynch, Cancer Lead Nurse says: "Lung cancer is a challenging disease to manage as it is often diagnosed at a later stage when curative treatment is not an option. However, with a skilled holistic nursing support team and expert medical intervention we are helping people with this cancer live longer, and with an improved quality of life."

Nov 15th 2017

A compound in dark chocolate and red wine could help rejuvenate cells, according to a scientific breakthrough.

Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Brighton have made the sizeable breakthrough on ageing and discovered a way to rejuvenate inactive senescent cells.

They found that they could make the cells both look and behave like younger cells.

The researchers applied compounds called reversatrol analogues, which are chemicals based on a substance naturally found in red wine, dark chocolate, red grapes and blueberries, to cells in culture.

Previous research by the University of Exeter had found that a class of genes called splicing factors are progressively switched off as we age.

But the new study found that applying the reversatrol analogues to the cells caused splicing factors to be switched back on.

Within hours of treatment, older cells had started to divide and had longer telomeres, which are the ‘caps’ on the chromosomes which shorten as we age.

The researchers hope that the breakthrough could lead to therapies that help people age better and without many of degenerative problems people encounter as we get older.

One of the reasons we become more susceptible to disease as we age is that our tissues accumulate senescent cells which are alive but do not grow or function as they should.

Splicing factors ensure genes function as they should, but as we get older they start to work less efficiently or not at all, which restricts the ability of cells to respond to challenges in their environment.

Senescent cells, which can be found in most organs from older people, also have fewer splicing factors, the researchers explain.

Professor Lorna Harries, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter, said: “This is a first step in trying to make people live normal lifespans, but with health for their entire life.

“Our data suggests that using chemicals to switch back on the major class of genes that are switched off as we age might provide a means to restore function to old cells.”

Harries went on to explain that the research proves that the cells can be treated to regain some features of youth.

Dr Eva Latorre, Research Associate at the University of Exeter, who carried out the experiments was surprised by the extent and rapidity of the changes in the cells.

“When I saw some of the cells in the culture dish rejuvenating I couldn’t believe it. These old cells were looking like young cells. It was like magic,” she said.

“I repeated the experiments several times and in each case the cells rejuvenated. I am very excited by the implications and potential for this research.”

Sept 28th 2017

"The plane had just landed when I felt the rush of blood. I stood up from my seat, and a heavy and immediate bleed soaked my trousers. They were covered in it, right down to the knees, and I was shrouded with embarrassment. Young and humiliated - I was only 22 at the time - I stood in the passport queue for 40 minutes with my coat tied around my waist, contemplating what had happened.

When I was finally able to retreat to a toilet, where I threw my trousers in the bin, I cried. I hadn’t been sexually active for several months but the bleed was so heavy the only explanation I could come up with was that I had been unknowingly pregnant with my ex-boyfriend’s child, and had suffered a miscarriage. In that moment, I was devastated. I was still heartbroken over the relationship, and it felt gut-wrenching to stand there, alone and covered in your own blood, wondering if you’d just lost a baby you never even knew you had.

At no point did the incident make me think about cancer, although it wasn’t the first time I’d had issues with bleeding. Months before, I’d gone to the GP after noticing I’d been bleeding during sex. I was examined and found to have an eroded cervix, which can happen to women with high levels of oestrogen over a prolonged length of time. They assumed this was to do with being on the pill, but on reflection it must have been linked to the fibroid the doctors believed they had discovered in my uterus a year earlier. A fibroid is a very common, benign, and usually harmless lump of tissue, and although it was slightly surprising because usually women over 30 get them, I wasn’t concerned about it. I'm generally not much of a worrier, and tend to underplay health issues.

My periods had grown slightly heavier in the lead up to the incident on the plane, but it wasn’t until that happened that I felt compelled to go back to the doctor. They confirmed I hadn’t miscarried, but refused to re-scan me to check everything was okay with my fibroid. Because I was young, I got the feeling they thought there wasn’t much reason to worry too extensively about my gynaecological health, and instead they put my heavy bleed down to stress. I told them I hadn’t been stressed. Now I was stressed, because I wanted answers and I wasn’t getting them.

The weeks rolled on, and my periods became unmanageably heavy. I was having to set alarms during the night to change my sanitary wear, I was unable to exercise during my week-long period, and it was beginning to rule my life. In January 2016 I started to feel dizzy, light headed and tired. My words started to jumble, and I was unable to keep my eyes open by 2pm. I went to my GP and found I was severely anaemic. My doctor finally ordered scans, and by this point they confirmed I now had two fibroids, which needed removing.

I was finally getting taken seriously, and surgery was ordered. It took 8 months for the procedure to get booked in, but when it eventually came around, I didn’t for one moment expect they’d find what they did.

After removing what they’d previously assumed was a fibroid, doctors realised what I actually had was an extremely rare uterine tumour. Actually, I had two. And although they’d managed to remove one, the other was embedded deep in the wall of my womb, and wasn’t removable by surgery. I would need a complete hysterectomy, which would leave me infertile at the age of 24.

I couldn’t believe I had cancer. Apart from bleeding, I generally was fit and healthy. I ate well and exercised 5 or 6 times a week. I had abs and could hold my body weight like it was nothing. How could I, me, have cancer?

When I found out, my mind went into a weird place. It was like I was there, hearing what they were saying, but at the same time I wasn't present. I was numb and distant. But the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks when my clinical nurse specialist told me I would need a hysterectomy. All I'd ever wanted was children - lots of children, I wanted a busy house full of noise and chaos - but in that moment, I suddenly realised everything I'd ever wanted for myself and my future had been taken away. I came out of blurry shock mode and into the room, and I cried. I didn't really know what to do from there.

Following my diagnosis, I spent hours on end in waiting rooms and I couldn’t help but notice I was the youngest person there by decades. The only young women around me were going to the women's hospital because they were pregnant. I’d sit there, watching pregnant women come in with their toddlers, full of excitement and expectation, and my heart would break every time. I wished they could understand from my perspective how lucky they are. Having children seems like the most natural thing in the world, and that makes it easy to take it for granted.

I still have ovaries - my womb and cervix were removed in the hysterectomy I had earlier this year - which means when my time comes I could technically use a surrogate and IVF to have a family. But thinking about the future is a difficult task. I don't ever think ahead anymore. I don't even think ahead to next month; just the next immediate task or day of relevance.

I don't know what’s in store for me, and I don't even know what I want it to be anymore, because any conceivable life for me is now a plan B. The permanence and loss of control is unIike anything I've ever had to face before, and it's smothering. I guess ignoring the future and keeping my mind on the present helps me put off my pain. It will come one day and I can't ignore it forever, but for now I've had enough to deal with and I’m just trying to be happy.

I’ll let future Lydia worry about being infertile. I've lost two years of my life to this illness, feeling miserable and tired and unable to do the things I want to do. It's time for me to make up for that and enjoy a few more years of my twenties before I face the struggle of working out how I'm going to be a mum, and the difficulty I'll have to face to make it happen."

In the UK 53 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer each day, and 21 will die. Not all of them are of menopausal age. Grace is a charity dedicated to supporting women with gynaecological cancers by raising awareness, funding research and providing local hospitals with vital surgical equipment.


Stomach pains are common, meaning everything from menstrual cramps to uncomfortable bloating, but for 46-year-old Carla Bradbury they were a sign of something more serious – cervical cancer.

'I was given a Sodastream for my birthday and thought that my stomach pains were coming from having too much fizzy water, so I didn't go to the doctors straight away,' she says. 'I also experienced spotting between periods – which I thought was down to hormones.'

After Carla's stomach pains got gradually worse, she went to see the GP who examined her and gave her a smear test. The smear came back with an abnormal result, which led to further investigations.

Abnormal smear test result

'One of the gynaecologists I saw put it down to endometriosis. I was going to have further tests, but in the meantime, they found out what it really was – and it was cancer,' she says.

An MRI confirmed Carla had cancer at Stage 3B, meaning the cancer had spread from the cervix into the structures around it.

'My lowest point was when I read a report that said there was a 50% chance of long-term control – meaning I had a 50/50 chance of survival,' says Carla.

'Because my tumour was so big (I later found out it was the size of a large plum) and the way it was attached to my pelvic wall, they couldn't operate on it.

'Instead, I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which thankfully treated it.'

The importance of smear tests

Five years on from diagnosis, Carla is now days away to be given the all clear. And has an important message for other women.

Like so many, Carla hadn't been keeping up with her smear tests – and she's urging other women not to do the same.

'I did get regular letters to come for a smear test, but for me it was just finding the time to book in and make the appointment,' she says. 'But now I see how important it is.'

Cervical screening saves thousands of lives each year

Every year in the UK, 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, yet over one in four women are still choosing to avoid their smear test.

Unfortunately, there aren't always obvious signs of cervical cancer in the early stages, and for many women an abnormal result from a routine smear is the first sign that something's off.

'Cervical screening saves thousands of lives each year by detecting changes in the cervix before they develop into cancer,' says Sophie Lowes, health information officer at Cancer Research UK. 'Women aged 25-64, who are registered with a GP, are automatically invited for screening.'

Challenge of a lifetime

Carla now describes herself as being in a better place than she ever was. She says: 'I've always been quite positive and had a happy outlook on life – but I'd say even more so now.

'My cancer came as a total shock, but it has made me stronger and I'm not scared of anything anymore.

'When you've faced the fear that you may not be here tomorrow, you just live for today. If you have cancer like I did, you've got the opportunity to work out what's really important. Although it's a terrible thing, there are people that suffer a lot worse.'

After losing two friends to cancer this year, one whom she went through treatment with, Carla is now preparing to take part in Stand Up To Cancer's Great Canoe Challenge, where she'll paddle an incredible marathon distance every day for five days to raise awareness and funds.

'Preparing to take on the challenge made me think about when I was going through treatment. I was so weak, I couldn't exercise, I couldn't even stand up in the shower. Reflecting back made me realise how far I've come.'

If you experience any unusual or persistent bleeding or pain, it's a good idea to visit your GP. Chances are it won't be cancer but, if it is, getting diagnosed and treated early can make a real difference.

Sept 22nd 2017

Blood cancer is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, and our third biggest cancer killer, and yet misunderstandings about the signs and symptoms of this cancer exist. We've spoken to the experts to explain the symptoms of blood cancer, diagnosis and how to improve awareness.

The symptoms

The Make Blood Cancer Visible survey, launched this September for Blood Cancer Awareness Month, finds that nearly a third of people wrongly believe headaches, nausea and double vision might be signs of blood cancer, which they are not.

The most common signs are fatigue, fever or night sweats, bone and joint pain, swollen glands, bruising and unusual bleeding.

Moreover, a second survey (Blood cancer: What you need to know CARE patient survey) reveals that 80% of patients admit they didn't expect their symptoms to be blood cancer, prior to diagnosis. Indeed, a third had never heard of their specific condition and knew nothing about it.

Boost up your awareness about blood cancer

Last year, the former Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg's son Antonio, now 15, was diagnosed with the same condition as Ellie. He visited his GP with a painless lump on the side of his neck, and fortunately his GP sent him for scans and a biopsy. This quick assessment improved Antonio's chances, and like Ellie, he too is now in remission.

While cancer is relatively rare in young people, each year blood cancer is diagnosed in around 1,100 people up to the age of 24 in the UK, and someone is diagnosed with blood cancer (or a related disorder) every 14 minutes.

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for cancers affecting the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system (the vessels that transport white blood cells throughout the body). There are 137 types of blood cancer, the main three being: leukaemia (the uncontrolled growth of undeveloped white blood cells), lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) and myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow).

These different subtypes typically affect people at different ages, but lymphomas (including Hodgkin's lymphoma, as experienced by Ellie), are the third most common type of childhood cancer, while acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is one of the few forms of cancer that is more common in children than in adults.

Diana Jupp, Chief Executive of Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research) saya: "Despite 230,000 people being affected by blood cancer across the UK, it is still a much-misunderstood and little-known disease area. We know that low awareness can lead to late diagnosis and can make it hard for people to find the information and support they need, leading to a greater sense of isolation." She hopes the campaign will change that by helping to raise awareness and make blood cancer 'visible'.

Diagnosis and treatment of blood cancer

More importantly, perhaps it will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Currently most patients are treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs, but new therapies are starting to emerge.

"Many different types of treatment are becoming available due to recent advances in our understanding of blood cancers. These include treatments that control or mimic the immune system, and treatments that are targeted for the characteristics of the cancer cell," says consultant haematologist, Dr Jane Stevens, a Bloodwise Trustee.

"Over 8 in 10 survive blood cancers such as Hodgkin lymphoma and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. People should seek medical advice if their symptoms are unexplainable, unusual and persistent – in other words, they have been experienced for more than two weeks or if there is unexplained weight loss. The fatigue experienced is usually disabling and not helped by sleep or resting. Symptoms will feel more intense than a usual cold or flu and will not normally respond to antibiotics."

A National Cancer Patient Experience survey shows that blood cancer patients generally have to see their GP more times before finally being diagnosed, which may be due to the symptoms being 'vague'. However, diagnosis can be made through a simple blood test.

Ellie's blood cancer story

Ellie Philpotts, 21, from Kidderminster, is typical in this respect. When, at the age of 14, she began to suffer breathlessness, cancer couldn't be further from her mind.

"It started small-scale - I felt a little more fatigued than normal, but soon it escalated. Walking up the road to school was a massive struggle, I was breathless, had drenching night-sweats and a lump in my neck."

She knew something was amiss, but suspected 'flu, a winter virus or glandular fever.' Her GP referred her to hospital for scans and a biopsy, which revealed Hodgkin's Lymphoma - a type of blood cancer that mostly affects young people.

By now 15 and in Year 10 of her GCSEs, the diagnosis came as a huge shock.

"I went to the GP expecting the problem to be much less serious. I was aware of how it might affect other areas of my life, such as my education and future ambitions, but at the same time I was also a little relieved that my illness now had a name, meaning I could get on with treatment and the recovery process."

Four months of chemo ensued, during which time Ellie pressed on with her studies.

"I was determined to keep up-to-date with my education, as I felt I still had an element of control over this area of my life. Of course, sometimes it wasn't possible for me to make it to school, but I took revision books to chemo sessions, and saw an in-hospital tutor during my early days on the ward. This gave me a focus and something else to dedicate my energies to alongside treatment."

Battling hair loss, nausea and tiredness (the side-effects of chemo), Ellie 'powered through', bolstered by the opportunity to connect with other young people in her situation.

"I tried to remember my end goal. My protocol [treatment] finished in the May, and I sat some GCSE exams during that month and June. I tried to stick to a routine as best as I could. It was also beneficial connecting with others in similar situations, through charities and the hospital itself. Meeting teenagers who'd also been diagnosed with cancer inspired me and made me feel more positive and less alone."

Her hard work paid off, and Ellie, recently graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism, Media and English Literature. She has been in remission since 2011, and believes her timely diagnosis made all the difference.

Ellie, who is currently job-hunting, is spending time volunteering to help raise awareness.

"My biggest message to others going through what I went through, is hope. It might not always seem it, but things can get better. You're definitely not alone - there are a range of incredible support systems throughout the country, and that means opportunities to try new experiences or give back, so aim to say, 'yes' to things if you get the chance."

If you need support or information about blood cancer, head to Bloodwise or Anthony Nolan.

Sept 17th 2017

Around 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer every year. Colon and rectal cancers are striking adults at younger and younger ages, and millennials born starting in 1990 and have more than twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer than those born in 1950. “Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers,” according to Edward L. Giovanucci, MD, ScD, in a press release by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

An exciting new report by the AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) yields some good news: “There is a lot people can do to dramatically lower their risk.” The findings are “robust and clear,” Dr. Giovanucci says: “Diet and lifestyle have a major role in colorectal cancer.”

Specifically, the report demonstrates that eating whole grains daily reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by a whopping 17 percent. This adds to previous scientific evidence that foods containing fiber decrease the risk of this particular cancer. The report consisted of a comprehensive analysis of 99 existing scientific studies, including data on 29 million people, of whom over a quarter of a million had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

So what exactly qualifies as whole grains?

Our colorectal cancer expert, Darrell Gray, MD, MPH, of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not directly involved in the study but who specializes in gastroenterology and colorectal cancers, explained to Reader’s Digest that whole grains include both the grain’s bran and germ.” The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber. The germ is the part of the grain that has the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats. “The whole grain is a rich source of phytochemicals and antioxidants that have anticancer properties,” Dr. Gray explains. Further making sense of the connection between eating whole grains and reducing cancer risk, he adds that “whole grains are thought to exert beneficial effects in colorectal cancer prevention by lowering fasting insulin levels.”

How much do we have to eat in order to see these amazing benefits?

According to the study, three servings of whole grains per day (a total of 90 grams) is the magic number associated with the 17 percent decreased cancer risk. The Whole Grains Council, a not-for-profit consumer advocacy group, states that a single serving of whole grain is equal to a 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, oatmeal, or other whole grain, or a cup of whole grain cereal. Dr. Gray suggests bran-flake cereal, but there are many other options. For foods that contain not only whole grain but also other ingredients (for example, whole grain crackers, granola bars, bread, and muffins), you’ll have to eat a larger amount to get the optimal dose of whole grain.

In addition to eating whole grains daily, the report warns against these habits, which can raise your risk of colorectal cancer:

Eating lots of red meat such as beef or pork (more than 500 grams, or a little over 1 pound, cooked, per week)

Eating hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats on a regular basis (these are the among the foods cancer docs never eat)

Being overweight or obese

Consuming two or more daily alcoholic drinks (30 grams of alcohol), such as wine or beer

In addition, the report states that people who are more physically active (at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day) have a lower risk of colon (but not rectal) cancer compared to those who do very little physical activity. It also found limited evidence that eating fish and foods containing vitamin C (such as oranges, strawberries, and spinach) can lower the risk of colorectal cancer, in spite of some claims otherwise.

“All of this points to the power of a plant-based diet,” says Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR Director of Nutrition Programs. “Replacing some of your refined grains with whole grains and eating mostly plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and beans, will give you a diet packed with cancer-protective compounds and help you manage your weight, which is so important to lowering risk.”

“When it comes to cancer there are no guarantees,” she adds, “but it’s clear now that there are choices you can make and steps you can take to lower your risk of colorectal and other cancers.”

Sept 15 2017

When you think about breast cancer, what do you think of? A young woman with nipple discharge? Probably not. And that's because we often associate a lump as a sign of breast cancer, as well as assuming it only affects older women.

But what about the other symptoms? There are plenty of indicators you might have breast cancer that you're not familiar with, so breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! is helping us all out by shining the light on the lesser known signs and symptoms...

1. Changes in skin texture (e.g puckering/dimpling)

This is why it is so important to feel AND look at your boobs. Dimpling and puckering of the skin can look similar to orange peel.

2. Lumps and thickening

Some boobs are naturally lumpy and this can be perfectly normal. The key is to get to know how your boobs feel, so you would notice if any new lumps appear or if your boob starts to feel thicker in one area compared to the rest.

3. Swelling in your armpit or around collar bone

It is important to check not just your boob but your upper chest and armpit too, as these areas also contain breast tissue.

4. Constant, unusual pain in your breast or armpit

Some breast pain can be perfectly normal, especially around your period. But keep an eye out for any unexplained pain in your breast or your armpit that’s there all or almost all of the time.

5. Nipple discharge

This is liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing it.

6. A sudden change in size or shape

Most women may naturally have one boob bigger than the other or experience their boobs gradually changing as they get older. Many changes are perfectly normal, however if you notice a sudden, unusual change in size or shape then get it checked out.

7. Nipple inversion and changes in direction

All this means is your nipple has become pulled into the boob or looks different to usual. This could be a change in its position or shape. That’s why it's important to pay special attention to your nipple during your regular checks.

8. A rash or crusting of the nipple or surrounding area

There are many reasons why your skin could become irritated, especially if you are breast feeding, but if you notice any redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple or any crusting of the nipple, make sure you get it checked out by your doctor.

CoppaFeel! holds an annual festival, Festifeel, curated by Fearne Cotton and hosted by Lauren Laverne, which will take place on October 14th at House of Vans, Waterloo in London. For tickets, please click here or go on the DICE app.

Here's what CoppaFeel's founder, Kris Hallenga, had to say about the festival:

"Festifeel raises a heck of a lot of money and awareness too - otheriwse we wouldn’t keep doing it. It’s a great way to make a noise about what we do, about what we can achieve and that our work must continue. Every penny raised is ploughed back into running and developing our education programmes - so that might be making sure we can keep sending monthly texts to 40,000 people reminding people to check their boobs (you can sign up for that here), sending a Boobette into a school or training more students to be boob advocates on campuses up and down the country."

Related: Drug Shows Promise As New Treatment For Breast Cancer (provided by Wochit News)

Sept 14th 2017

Women with excess abdominal fat are at greater risk of cancer, a new study has found.

Researchers revealed that those with apple-shaped figures were more than 50 per cent more likely to develop lung and bowel tumours.

Something they say is down to an increase in insulin, which is known to disrupt hormone production, while excess body fat increase chronic inflammation

Starting in 1999, 5,855 postmenopausal women with an average of 71 had their body fat scanned and were categorised as having either high or low abdominal fat ratios.

After 12 years of additional scans, the results found that women carrying fat around their abdomens were over 50 per cent more likely to develop lung or gastrointestinal cancers.

The data recorded a total of 811 cancers with 293 breast and ovarian cancers, 345 lung and gastrointestinal (GI) cancers and 173 other cancers.

BMI and fat percentage did not present a heightened tumour risk.

“In women, it is known that menopause initiates a shift of body fat toward higher level of abdominal adiposity, which may mediate obesity-related cancer risk,” said study author Line Mærsk Staunstrup from Nordic Bioscience and ProScion in Denmark.

“Elderly women should be especially aware of their lifestyle when they approach the pre-menopause age.

“Avoiding central obesity may confer the best protection.”

Commenting on the findings, Dr Andrea De Censi, from Galleria Hospital in Genova, Italy added, “'While obesity has previously been linked to cancer risk, the link to lung cancer is new and intriguing.

“Increases in insulin result in fat accumulation that is specifically visceral and abdominal.

“Insulin also has detrimental effects on hormone production, and adipose cells in fat tissue increase chronic inflammation throughout the body, another risk factor for several cancers.

“These data open the door for clinicians to initiate a number of interventions in obese patients.

“In addition to fat loss with diet and exercise, there may be a potential role for a diabetes drug, such as metformin, which can lower insulin effects and contribute to cancer prevention.”

Sept 9th 2017

The alcohol industry is misleading consumers with distorted and distracting health messages that downplay any related risk of cancer, researchers claim.

The industry is using “denying, distortion and distraction” strategies to minimise evidence in activities that have parallels with those of the tobacco industry, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) with Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet.

Researchers analysed information relating to cancer on the websites and documents of almost 30 alcohol industry organisations between September and December last year, finding that most showed “some sort of distortion or misrepresentation” of evidence.

 — LSHTM press (@LSHTMpress) September 8, 2017

The industry most commonly presented the relationship between alcohol and cancer as highly complex, implying there was no evidence of a consistent or independent link, the study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, found.

Other tactics included denying that any relationship existed or claiming that there was no risk for light or moderate drinking, as well as presenting alcohol as just one risk among many.

The researchers said one of their most important findings was that the industry appeared to specifically omit or misrepresent evidence on breast and colorectal cancer, possibly because they were among the most common cancers.

They urged policymakers and public health bodies to reconsider their relationship with the industry, which is involved in developing alcohol policy and disseminating health messages to the public in many countries, in light of the findings.

  LSHTM press (@LSHTMpress) September 8, 2017

Alcohol consumption is an established risk factor for a range of cancers, including oral cavity, liver, breast and colorectal cancers, and accounts for about 4% of new cancer cases annually in the UK.

There is limited evidence that alcohol consumption protects against some cancers, such as renal and ovarian cancers, but in 2016 the UK’s Committee on Carcinogenicity concluded that the evidence is inconsistent, and the increased risk of other cancers as a result of drinking alcohol outweighs any possible decreased risk.

The authors said it was important to highlight that those who drink within the recommended guidelines – not more than 14 units a week for both men and women – “shouldn’t be too concerned when it comes to cancer”.

Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health at the LSHTM and the study’s lead author, said: “The weight of scientific evidence is clear – drinking alcohol increases the risk of some of the most common forms of cancer, including several common cancers.

 — IAS (@InstAlcStud) September 8, 2017

“Public awareness of this risk is low, and it has been argued that greater public awareness, particularly of the risk of breast cancer, poses a significant threat to the alcohol industry.

“Our analysis suggests that the major global alcohol producers may attempt to mitigate this by disseminating misleading information about cancer through their ‘responsible drinking’ bodies.”

He added: “Existing evidence of strategies employed by the alcohol industry suggests that this may not be a matter of simple error.

“This has obvious parallels with the global tobacco industry’s decades-long campaign to mislead the public about the risk of cancer, which also used front organisations and corporate social activities.”

Institute of Alcohol Studies chief executive Katherine Brown said: “This report shows that, like the tobacco industry before them, alcohol companies are misleading consumers about the evidence linking their products to cancer.

“We cannot rely on a profit-driven industry to promote public health. Consumers have a right to know the truth about alcohol and cancer, so they can make fully informed decisions about their drinking.”

Sept 8th 2017

When it comes to treating cancer, surgeons want to get rid of as much cancerous tissue as possible during tumor removal. Now a new technology—the size of a pen—is attempting to make that easier by distinguishing between tumors and healthy tissue in just 10 seconds.

The MasSpec Pen is a real-time diagnostic tool created by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers report that their handheld device (which is not yet FDA-approved) uses tiny droplets of water to analyze human tissue samples for cancer with 96% accuracy.

“It’s a gentle, simple chemical process,” says study author Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at UT Austin. “It’s highly specific and highly sensitive. The fact that it’s non-destructive brings a new approach to cancer diagnosis.”

Getting rid of all cancerous tissue while also preventing any harm to healthy tissue is a delicate process. When operating on a woman with breast cancer, for example, a doctor needs to remove the tumor and other affected tissues while maintaining the rest of the breast. Currently there are other tools available to surgeons for tissue diagnosis, but many use gases or solvents that can be harmful for the human body. In 2016, researchers in Massachusetts reported that they developed a probe that can find and light up cancer cells, making them easier for surgeons to see. But other methods currently available to surgeons today are slower than the MasSpec Pen, the study authors say, in some cases by 30 minutes or more.

Human cells produce a variety of small molecules, and cancer creates a unique set of them that can be used for pattern identification. The MasSpec Pen produces a small drop of water that extracts molecules from a person’s cells during surgery. Through machine learning, the MasSpec Pen is able to determine what molecular fingerprint is normal and what is cancer, Eberlin says.

In the study, the researchers tested 253 human tissue samples from lung, ovary, thyroid and breast cancer tumors and compared them to samples of healthy tissues. The device was 96% accurate at identifying cancerous tissues. The researchers also tested the MasSpec Pen in live mice with tumors and found that the device was able to identify the presence of cancer without harming healthy surrounding tissues. The device can also identify different subtypes of lung and thyroid cancer, and the team hopes to make it more specified for other types of cancer, too.

The researchers say they need to continue validating their work and that they plan to start clinical testing in humans in 2018. Until then, it’s unclear how exactly the device will work when integrated into surgery. While the pen-sized device that the surgeon would use is small, the device is connected to a large mass spectrometer, which helps the process of analyzing individual molecules. That large machine would need to be wheeled in and out of a surgery room for each procedure. The pen is disposable, so surgeons would replace it with each surgery.

“This is a good example of a tool that empowers our transition to precision medicine where the treatment can be done with much higher levels of confidence,” says study author Thomas Milner, professor of biomedical engineering in UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering. “Treatment can be planned and given where the outcomes are known. This is one tool along that path.”


Aug 28th 2017

A new drug that could help reduce the risk of heart attacks and cut cancer deaths has been hailed as an "exciting" breakthrough.

Canakinumab, an anti-inflammatory, was used in a trial involving more than 10,000 patients, all of whom have had a heart attack but had not been diagnosed with cancer.

They were treated with the drug, which is given by injection, once every three months and monitored for up to four years.

The study showed a 15% reduction in the risk of heart attacks and strokes and the number of cancer deaths cut by half.

One of the researchers, Dr Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said the findings have "far-reaching implications".

He said: "For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk.

"It tells us that by leveraging an entirely new way to treat patients - targeting inflammation - we may be able to significantly improve outcomes for certain very high-risk populations."

The benefits seen in the patients were "above and beyond" those seen in patients who just took statins, the hospital said.

Dr Ridker said: "In my lifetime, I've gotten to see three broad eras of preventative cardiology.

"In the first, we recognised the importance of diet, exercise and smoking cessation. In the second, we saw the tremendous value of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins. Now, we're cracking the door open on the third era.

"This is very exciting."

Regarding the cancer findings, Dr Ridker said more research was needed but there was the "possibility of slowing the progression of certain cancers".

Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, said: "Although this trial provides compelling evidence that targeting inflammation has efficacy in preventing recurrent cardiovascular events, we look forward to findings from additional trials, such as the NHLBI-funded Cardiovascular Inflammation Reduction Trial, to further refine the best therapeutic strategies for preventing cardiovascular disease."

Aug 24th 2017

A woman has shared a warning in which she claims that finding a black line down your nail could be a sign of cancer

According to Jean Skinner, who claims to be a beauty technician from Uckfield, East Sussex, a client came in asking for a nail colour dark enough to cover the black line on her nail.

Skinner urged her to visit the doctor about it, and she claims the woman then found out she had melanoma.

Writing on Facebook, Skinner describes the client as having “a straight dark vertical stripe down her nail,” which, she says, many people had told her was due to lack of calcium, hereditary or a blood blister.

“This is melanoma!!!” Skinner wrote. “I did not want to frighten her but I told her she needed to see her doctor immediately! She called me today to tell me that yes it was a very aggressive melanoma that has already spread to her lymph nodes!! Her prognosis is not good!”

Skinner is now urging people to pay attention to abnormalities in their nail beds, even though, she points out, “odd changes in your nails can very likely be nothing to worry about.”

The Facebook post has been widely shared, with people commenting on how scary the warning is.

But according to official NHS guidelines, “dark stripes running down the nails (linear melanonychia) are fairly common in black people over 20 years of age, and in most cases it's perfectly normal.”

They do advise, however, that dark stripes on nails shouldn't be ignored because they could in fact be a sign of subungal melanoma, a form of skin cancer that affects the nail bed. If you find a dark line, you should see your doctor to check it isn’t melanoma.

“Subungual melanoma usually only affects one nail,” the NHS explains. “It will also cause the stripe to change in appearance – for example, it may become wider or darker over time and the pigmentation may also affect the surrounding skin (the nail fold).”

Melanoma makes up four per cent of total cancers in the UK and it has become 119 per cent more common since the early 1990s, according to Cancer Research UK.

Symptoms can occur in various places of the body, including under fingernails, between your toes or on your scalp.

“Symptoms of melanoma under your nails include dark areas or marks,” Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia, told 7 News.

“Elsewhere on your skin, as well as keeping an eye out for new moles or spots, look for moles or spots that change colour, have a variety of colours, are getting bigger or have an uneven border or develop a lump within them.”

Aug 15th 2017

New low-cost cancer blood test could transform how cancer is monitored

Researchers from Stanford University have described a test that has the possibility to 'transform' a cancer diagnosis through detecting genetic mutations in miniscule amounts of DNA released from cancer cells in to someone's blood.

The report in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, describes how the cancer test – called a single colour digital PCR – only needs a fraction of a tube of blood and can detect at least three mutation-bearing molecules in a single reaction. It is thought the test is highly sensitive and has the potential for personalisation, meaning it could recognise mutations unique to individual cancers.

Lead investigator Hanlee P. Ji, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University and Senior Associate Director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center explained:

"For monitoring patient tumors, only a handful of blood tests are available which are limited to only several types of cancers. Nearly all cancer patients require monitoring by whole body imaging, which can be costly, complex, and time-consuming. In contrast, molecular tests like the one we have developed will enable patients to be monitored at every visit, and thus have the potential for quickly tracking cancer growth and spread. Moreover, the test's rapid turnaround and relatively low cost, especially compared to next-generation DNA sequencing, provide a potential opportunity for universal monitoring of more patients than is currently done."

The report explains the test was used to analyse samples from six patients, five of which were previously diagnosed with bowel cancer and one with cholangiocarcinoma – a bile duct cancer.

After customised mutation detection assays (an assay is an investigative, analytic procedure in laboratory medicine) researchers identified tumour-derived circulating DNA in three of the patients. In one of the patients, the assay showed the presence of three different mutations. The three patients whose samples didn't show elevated cancer DNA, were undergoing active treatment at the time, Medical Xpress report.

Lead author Christina Wood Bouwens said of the test:

"This test is simple enough to set up and analyze without extensive training, and therefore, it can be implemented by anyone, making it highly accessible to any laboratory. It has been truly motivating to work with a technology that will help transform the way that we monitor and treat individuals with cancer. I am excited to share our findings with the cancer research community."

Aug 3rd 2017

A sunscreen that uses DNA to act as a 'second skin' is on the horizon, potentially offering better protection from ultraviolet light throughout the day without the laborious task of constant re-application.

Scientists in the US used DNA samples taken from salmon to develop a product which gets better at shielding the skin from harmful UV exposure the longer it is in direct sunlight. It also helps lock in the moisture beneath the skin's surface – promising a longer-lasting tan.

The concept

Instead of damaging our own skin's DNA (resulting in sunburn), the UV light instead only affects the alternative applied layer of salmon DNA. Dr Guy German, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Binghampton university, where the research was conducted, explained: "We thought, let's flip it. What happens instead if we actually used DNA as a sacrificial layer? So instead of damaging DNA within the skin, we damage a layer on top of the skin."

In tests, the research team found that the thin, optically transparent crystalline DNA films that they had developed became better at absorbing UV light the more they were exposed to it. German added: "If you translate that, it means to me that if you use this as a topical cream or sunscreen, the longer that you stay out on the beach, the better it gets at being a sunscreen."

As it stands, current sunscreens need to be applied roughly 30 minutes before sun exposure and then reapplied every couple of hours throughout the day – unless you go swimming or sweat profusely, in which case you need to reapply more often. However, the development of this DNA film means that a single application would suffice for beachgoers, holidaymakers or anyone who spends a significant amount of time in the sun.

Other uses

The potential of DNA films isn't just limited to sunscreen. The moisture-locking properties of such a product promises a potential treatment or prevention method for dry, flaky or pigmented skin, as well as injuries. Commenting on the versatility of the material, German said: "Not only do we think this might have applications for sunscreen and moisturisers directly, but if it's optically transparent and prevents tissue damage from the sun and it's good at keeping the skin hydrated, we think this might be potentially exploitable as a wound covering for extreme environments."

For now, however, the research is still in the early stages, and a lot more tests will have to be done before anything of this kind appears on the market. So, as far as summer 2017 is concerned, keep applying that sun lotion.

July 27th 2017

When a shop assistant told Jenny Murphy her beloved son Billy had "freaky" and "scary eyes" the young mum was shocked at his obvious cruelty.

The mum-of-five had taken her seven-month-old tot toy shopping and soon found herself walking out of the store upset.

She left without complaining, not wanting to cause a fuss for fear of ruining a much-needed family holiday .

For months Jenny had been concerned about Billy as he appeared to have little strength as he walked, and had been vomiting all his milk as they attempted to get him onto solid food.

But doctors dismissed her worries, and said it was just a problem with weaning.

The shop worker's cruel comment about Billy stuck in Jenny's mind and it was not until she mentioned it to a health visitor that the jibe ended up saving the tot's life, as he was finally diagnosed with a lethal brain tumour.

“Over the past few weeks, we’d noticed he looked like he was staring, but I never dreamt it could be a sign of anything sinister," said Jenny, 37.

The family had been out Christmas shopping when a male shop assistant started looking awkwardly at Billy.

Jenny said: “He just stared and then blurted out: 'Your baby’s eyes are freaking me out! They’re scary'.

"I was shocked and couldn’t believe he’d say something so cruel about my baby. Craig and I just looked at each other lost for words. Isla and Poppy were with us, too and we didn’t want to spoil a family day out."

Jenny lives in the Wirral, Merseyside with partner Craig Moss, 31, who is Billy and three-year- old Isla’s dad, as well as Molly, 17, Jake, 13, and Poppy, nine from her ex-husband.

At the time Billy had been looking downwards and you could see the whites of his eyes, but his family never thought this could be an indication of a life threatening tumour that gave him just a one in four chance of survival.

When her health visitor came round a few days later, Jenny showed her Billy’s eyes.

“She took one look at him and said he had ‘sunset’ eyes, which was a sign of build-up of fluid on the brain,” added Jenny.

“Then she told me I needed to get it checked out urgently.”

The health visitor rang the Wirral’s Arrowe Park hospital, who said to bring Billy in.

Later that day, Billy had a CT scan which revealed he had a “mass” on his brain and he was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. An MRI scan at the hospital confirmed the devastating news that Billy - at just seven months old - had a brain tumour.

“I felt numb,” said Jenny.

“I think we were in shock. I even asked if we could take Billy home before his operation.”

Jenny then remembered some of the previous warning signs that she had been told to ignore.

A few months before Billy had been difficult to wake up at home. They called for an ambulance and he was checked out at hospital.

“But he was fine by then and we came home. I thought nothing of it,” said Jenny.

"Then in the November, I mentioned to a health visitor Billy didn’t seem to have much strength in his legs, she told me not to worry as his sister Isla had been weak for a while, so it might be a family trait.”

Later that month, they started weaning Billy and he vomited whole bottles up as soon as he drank them.

Jenny added: "Craig took him to the local walk in centre. They said his sickness was down to weaning and told us to lay off it for a week. That just didn’t ring true with me – it was my fifth time weaning a baby and I knew what I was doing by then. But the vomiting only lasted 24 hours.

“When we were told our beautiful boy had a brain tumour, those other symptoms flashed through my mind.”

Six days after his devastating diagnosis, on December 16, 2015, Billy had a five-hour operation.

Surgeons were able to remove the whole tumour and a biopsy revealed it was cancerous – a grade three choroid plexus carcinoma.

“He came home on Christmas Eve, but it wasn’t much of a first Christmas for him as he was poorly after surgery,” said Jenny.

On December 30, he started six months’ chemotherapy and was only given a 25 per cent chance of survival.

But Billy amazed everyone with his recovery.

“He is a remarkable little boy – despite being in pain after surgery, he never stopped smiling,” added Jenny.

“We count our blessings he made such a good recovery as so many children with brain tumours have far more problems and disabilities caused by their tumours and surgery."

Billy has been able to play with his brothers and sisters after successfully undergoing his

“A key part of that is to make sure more parents and healthcare professionals are aware of the warning signs of a brain tumour in children.

“It is devastating to be told your child has a brain tumour and we so grateful to Billy’s family for sharing his story to help us raise awareness and thrilled he is doing so well.”

World Aquatics Championships gold medallist, Tom Daley, who lost his dad, Rob, to a brain tumour in 2011, presented BBC 1 Lifeline appeal on Sunday to fund world-first research to analyse the symptoms.

“We’ve noticed he’s got a few concentration problems and he’s got a slight gait to his walk at times, which may be side effects, so we’ll keep an eye on that,” said Jenny.

“But generally, he’s had a remarkable recovery and is thriving. He’s mad about Peppa Pig and loves his food. He’s talking and being the little lively boy that he should be."

The family are backing The Brain Tumour Charity's HeadSmart campaign and their bid for a National Lottery Award.

Hayley Epps, campaign manager for The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Brain tumours kill more children and people under 40 in the UK than any other form of cancer.

“HeadSmart has two aims: to save lives and reduce long-term disability by bringing down diagnosis times.

 “The kids all absolutely adore their little brother,” said Jenny.

“And Molly is like a second mum to him, I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

In November last year, the family were treated to a visit to the X Factor studios in London, arranged by The Brain Tumour Charity, which supports the family. They met Simon Cowell and other judges Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne, as well as the contestants, including 2016 winner Matt Terry and controversial Honey G.

But Billy blanked Simon Cowell as he refused to high five him and blurted out “Oh no!” as he listened to Honey G at the sound check.

Now Billy's last four-monthly scan has come back clear and he’s looking forward to starting nursery in September.

July 27th 2017

A brave mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer just days ago has shared an intimate photo to warn others about unfamiliar symptoms of the disease.

While most of us associate a lump, swelling or a change in size or shape with breast cancer, it doesn’t always present itself that way.

This was the case for Sherrie Rhodes, a mother-of-three whose diagnosis started with a dimple.

After seeing a post on Facebook that named dimples as a sign of breast cancer, Rhodes decided to visist her GP upon discovering two dents in the side of her right breast, the Hull Daily Mail reports.

She was then referred to a breast clinic where she was given the devastating news that she had breast cancer on Monday.

But despite the shock, Rhodes knew that she had to warn other women and took to Facebook to share a picture of the dimples.

“Yesterday I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” the brave mum wrote.

“It came as a total shock as this dimpling (in the pic) is the only symptom I had. I wasn't too worried as there was no lump or anything. Unfortunately it came back as breast cancer.

“Please check your breast regularly and don't ignore anything that is different. If I hadn't seen a post like this previously I wouldn't have known that this dimpling was a sign of cancer. Please share and raise awareness.”

The Facebook post has since been shared more than 400 times with an abundance of women praising her for raising awareness while others have also come forward saying that they had no idea dimples were an indication of breast cancer.

“Yesterday I touched my breasts for the first time in years and it was because I saw this heartbreaking status from my friend Sherrie,” one person wrote.

“Thank you Sherrie for raising awareness so soon after your diagnosis. You've already inspired me more than you know.”

“Early detection means better treatment outcomes. Well done Sherrie,” another said.

Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include a lump or area of thickened tissue in a breast; a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts; discharge from a nipple; a lump or swelling in an armpit; dimpling on the skin of the breast; a rash on or around a nipple; or a change in the appearance of a nipple, such as becoming sunken.

July 8th 2017

Each year, over 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK – one in eight worldwide. The good news, though, is that survival rates from this terrible disease are continuing to creep up, meaning that the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have a fighting chance of survival.

But breast cancer recovery is about more than just surviving, it's about thriving; reconnecting with your body, celebrating what it can do and watching it flourish as you return to full health – factors that can be enhanced through exercise. So, for those of you who are looking to get moving again post-cancer, no matter where you are in your journey, we got in touch with Rachel Rawson, Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, for some expert advice.

The benefits

Regular physical activity can help maintain or improve both physical and mental health during and after treatment, Rachel says. Here's how:

"For individuals who are undergoing chemo or other forms of therapy, it's worth noting that exercise can help avoid or reduce some side effects of cancer treatment. There is good evidence that it can help with fatigue and the management of lymphedema, but also weight gain and osteoporosis."

However, Rachel cautions that exercising during and after treatment for breast cancer can sometimes be difficult, as some side effects – such as fatigue or feeling sick – can get in the way. However, even doing a small amount of activity has benefits.

"If a person is new to exercise or is trying out a new form of exercise then starting slowly and building up activity gradually is advised. Checking with a health care professional first may also helpful in making the decision about which exercise is best."

Maintaining some form of physical activity can also improve long-term health, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes – and there is also some evidence to suggest that exercise may reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

"It can also help with your mental wellbeing by reducing anxiety, stress, depression and improving your overall mood. In addition, exercise can prevent or reduce the loss of muscle tone and aerobic fitness that can happen during treatment."

What to do

The key to exercise is finding something that you enjoy and that you can easily introduce into your day or week. For example, if you enjoy walking, try to increase the amount of time you walk for and the number of times you walk each day. You could also try increasing your pace as your energy returns. A pedometer (or phone app) can help you monitor your progress.

Rachel adds: "If you drive to work or the shops, park your car a little further away and walk the rest, or get off the bus a stop earlier than you need to and walk. Even something as simple as energetic housework can help increase your daily activity levels."

Other small changes that can make a big difference include using the stairs instead of talking the lift, sitting less and standing more, for example when talking on the phone.

Set goals

"Setting realistic goals and keeping a record of how much activity you do may also help you stay motivated," says Rachel. "For some people a goal is key to starting to exercise. It gives a sense of achievement and friends and family can join in."

If you, a family member or friend are up for a challenge in the name of defeating cancer, why not use a charity event as your ultimate exercise goal? Breast Cancer Care has loads of fundraising events that you can get involved in, such as the Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon which is taking place this weekend - look out for team NetDoctor on the way round!

"Exercise really does help in so many different ways but one of the good things about it is that it can be a way to connect with people. Joining walking groups, learning to dance or going to a local gym can all be ways that a person can meet others so that it's a social event. Equally, exercising alone can be just as beneficial and can give time for reflection or working towards new goals."

July 8th 2017

Hasini Jayatilaka was a sophomore at the Johns Hopkins University working in a lab studying cancer cells when she noticed that when the cells become too densely packed, some would break off and start spreading.

She wasn't sure what to make of it, until she attended an academic conference and heard a speaker talking about bacterial cells behaving the same way. Yet when she went through the academic literature to see if anyone had written about similar behavior in cancer cells, she found nothing.

Seven years later, the theory Jayatilaka developed early in college is now a bona fide discovery that offers significant promise for cancer treatment.

Jayatilaka and a team at Johns Hopkins discovered the biochemical mechanism that tells cancer cells to break off from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body, a process called metastasis. Some 90 percent of cancer deaths are caused when cancer metastasizes. The team also found that two existing, FDA-approved drugs can slow metastasis significantly.

"A female patient with breast cancer doesn't succumb to the disease just because she has a mass on her breast; she succumbs to the disease because [when] it spreads either to the lungs, the liver, the brain, it becomes untreatable," said Jayatilaka, who earned her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering this spring in addition to her earlier undergraduate degree at Hopkins.

"There are really no therapeutics out there right now that directly target the spread of cancer. So what we came up with through our studies was this drug cocktail that could potentially inhibit the spread of cancer."

The study was published online May 26 in the journal Nature Communications. The next step for the team is to test the effectiveness of the drugs in human subjects.

Typically, cancer research and treatment has focused on shrinking the primary tumor through chemotherapy or other methods. But, the team said, by attacking the deadly process of metastasis, more patients could survive.

"It's not this primary tumor that's going to kill you typically," said Denis Wirtz, Johns Hopkins' vice provost for research and director of its Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, who was a senior author on the paper.

Jayatilaka began by studying how cancer cells behave and communicate with each other, using a three-dimensional model that mimics human tissue rather than looking at them in a petri dish. Many researchers believe metastasis happens after the primary tumor reaches a certain size, but Jayatilaka found it was the tumor's density that determined when it would metastasize.

"If you look at the human population, once we become too dense in an area, we move out to the suburbs or wherever, and we decide to set up shop there," Jayatilaka said. "I think the cancer cells are doing the same thing."

When the tumor reaches a certain density, the study found, it releases two proteins called Interleukin 6 and Interleukin 8, signaling to cancer cells that things had grown too crowded and it was time to break off and head into other parts of the body.

Previously, Wirtz said, the act of a tumor growing and the act of cancer cells spreading were thought to be very separate activities, because that's how it appeared by studying cancer cells in a petri dish, rather than the 3-D model the Hopkins team used. Many researchers study only cancer cell growth or its spread, and don't communicate with each other often, he said.

Once the cancer cells start to sense the presence of too many other cancer cells around them, they start secreting the Interleukin proteins, Wirtz said. If those proteins are added to a tumor that hasn't yet metastasized, that process would begin, he said.

The team then tested two drugs known to work on the Interleukin receptors to see if they would block or slow metastasis in mice. They found that using the two drugs together would block the signals from the Interleukin proteins that told the cancer cells to break off and spread, slowing — though not completely stopping — metastasis.


The drugs the team used were Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated for cancer treatment.

The drugs bind to the Interleukin receptors and block their signals, slowing metastasis.

Though metastasis was not completely stopped, Jayatilaka said, the mice given the drug cocktail fared well and survived through the experiment. She said adding another, yet-to-be-determined drug or tweaking the dose might stop metastasis entirely.

Contrary to the hair loss, nausea and other negative side effects patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer, Wirtz said the side effects from the drugs used in the study would be minimal.

Anirban Maitra, co-director of a pancreatic cancer research center at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, cautioned that clinical trials in humans are needed to prove the theory.

"There's a risk that something that looks so great in an animal model won't pan out in a human," he said.

But Maitra said the study looked promising, in particular because the researchers had used drugs already on the market. It can take a decade to identify a drug that would perform similarly and get it approved, and many similar observations don't advance because of the time and expense it can take to get drug approval, he said.

Muhammad Zaman, a professor and cancer expert at Boston University, called the Hopkins discovery "exciting."

"This paper gives you a very specific target to design drugs against," he said. "That's really quite spectacular from the point of view of drug design and creating therapies."

Zaman said it was important for cancer researchers to use engineering to better understand cancer, as the Hopkins team did.

"This really brings cancer and engineering together in a very unique way, and it really takes an approach that is quantitative and rigorous," he said. "We have to think of cancer as a complex system, not just a disease."

Wirtz predicted a future where cancer would be fought with a mix of chemotherapy to shrink the primary tumor and drug cocktails like the one the Hopkins team developed to ensure it would not metastasize. He compared such a treatment to how HIV/AIDS is treated today.

"We're not going to cure cancer with one therapy or even two therapies; it's going to be drug cocktails," Wirtz said. "That's what saved the day with HIV/AIDS."

Immunotherapy, which uses the body's immune system to fight cancer, also could play a role in a combined method, Wirtz added.

"We're, in research, sometimes incentivized to look at one pathway at a time, one type of cancer at a time," Wirtz said. "I think oncology has started realizing we're going to need more than one approach."

June 15th 2017

A woman has shared a photo of her breast in the hope it’ll educate others of the warning signs of inflammatory breast cancer. 

Jennifer Cordts noticed a red rash on her left breast in 2015. After a mammogram came back all clear, she didn’t think anything of it.

“I was told, crazy enough, that my bra was too small,” she told WFAA Dallas.

But when the rash didn’t disappear, Cordts started Googling her symptoms and inflammatory breast cancer came up. 

“It was late at night, everybody was asleep, and I was terrified. I just had a bad feeling,” she recalled.

One year after she first noticed the rash, a biopsy confirmed the worst - Cordts had stage four inflammatory breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer that grows along the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Cancer cells may not form a lump, but they do block the vessels.

Symptoms of the disease include: redness, swelling or pain in the breast; the breast feeling hot to touch; skin of the breast looking pitted (like orange peel); ridges or raised marks on the skin of the breast and pain in, or discharge from, the nipple.

Discussing the day she was diagnosed, Cordts revealed: “I remember him [the doctor] saying ‘inflammatory breast cancer’ and all I could think about was what I’d Googled.

“Because what I’d Googled said that everybody dies, nobody survives.

“I knew my fate right then.”

Cordts has been given three to five years to live. She is also receiving treatment to slow down the growth of her cancer.

The mum-of-two is now making as many memories as she can with her family.

She has spoken out about her diagnosis in the hope that it will prompt others to get a faster diagnosis if they spot any unusual symptoms.

She said: “I really want someone to go, ‘oh my gosh I have redness in my breast, I better push past the mammogram and ask for more tests’.”

Related: Cancer myths debunked

April 27th 2017

A young dad who had never taken a sick day in his life, died after a tragic battle with bowel cancer .

John Hewitt, just 34, ran tough mudders, played football and cycled regularly.

He was described by his wife Katie as the "healthiest person" she'd ever met and had never needed to stay off work due to illness.

The couple, from Bristol, thought little of his change in bowel movements and a slight bleed due to his active lifestyle and healthy past.

But as pregnant Katie went for her 12 weeks scan on their unborn baby, John was given the devastating test results that confirmed he had bowel cancer .

Their first child was only a year old.

Speaking about the heartache of losing her husband, Katie, 32, said: "We had one week of feeling like we had everything we could have ever wanted before we were told his diagnosis.

“That was before we found out it was terminal, so things quickly became a lot a worse, reports the Bristol Post .

"'Devastating' doesn't even come close in describing the way we both felt. It was the most unimaginable news and something we, of course, weren't prepared for.

“He had one year with our second child before he died – not nearly enough time.

“During that time his condition became progressively worse and he became very unwell.”

John, who worked as engineer, continued to receive palliative chemotherapy in an attempt to slow down the progression the disease but his tumour was too aggressive and he did not respond to treatment and died on New Year’s Eve.

Katie said: “We were a young couple, we’d only been married for four years and we had two babies .

"St Peter’s Hospice was so respectful of this and special little touches, like allowing me to stay overnight and moving our beds together, so that we could sleep next to each other, made our last days together that little bit easier.

“It was moments like that which meant so much and which we wouldn’t have been able to share in a hospital.

“His dying wish was for me to raise money for the hospice. Unfortunately we wont be the last couple who need to use the hospice.

“It’s such an amazing service and it’s offered for free, which is so important.

"When you’re in your 30s, you don’t expect to be involved with a hospice. We didn’t envisage our lives taking this course.

"However the hospice ended up being the best place.

"What we didn’t realise initially about St Peter’s Hospice, is that it’s not just about death.

"They helped manage John’s symptoms and made him more comfortable from as early as four months before his death.

"It was obviously still awful and the worst thing imaginable, but we would have been lost without the help of the hospice and I know I’d still be struggling more now without the bereavement support.”

Katie hopes to create a lasting legacy for John by raising £19,000 for the charity - which would pay for one day of treatment at the hospice.

And to help her reach the goal, Katie and group of friends, including one of John’s sisters, Anne Mark, will be taking part in Bristol’s 10k challenge in 11 days' time

Katie said: “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. I’ve never run 10k before in my life.

"We’re all training as much as we can around childcare but none of us are doing it for a good time, it’s about raising money for St Peter’s Hospice.”

The Great Bristol 10k is taking place on Sunday May 7 and registration is still open for those who would like to sign up in aid of the hospice.

The charity is also inviting people to come along and support their runners on the day.

Dubbed “Cheer Champions” these supporters would represent St Peter’s Hospice and cheer the runners on. They will receive a branded St Peter’s Hospice t-shirt to wear on the day.

March 23rd 2017

Former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Luke Perry suffered a health scare in 2015 when his doctor found precancerous growths during a routine colonoscopy.


The actor, now 50, promptly had the growths removed, but he was lucky medics made the discovery in his colon before they developed into colorectal cancer - and now he is using his experience to urge others to get tested on a regular basis.

"Right now, there are 23 million Americans who haven't been screened who need to be screened," he told Fox News. "If I had waited, it could have been a whole different scenario."

Colorectal cancer is typically associated with people over 55, but researchers at the American Cancer Society recently discovered that millennials now face double the risk of developing the illness compared to the baby boomer generation, which refers to people born between 1946 and 1964.

Perry has since joined forces with bosses at advocacy group Fight Colorectal Cancer to support its Strong Arm Selfie national campaign, which encourages social media users to share a snap of themselves flexing a bicep and using the hashtag "#StrongArmSelfie". Pharmaceutical executives at Bayer Healthcare have pledged to donate $1 (£0.80) to the charity for every photo shared.

The actor's close call with cancer emerges weeks after his former Beverly Hills, 90210 co-star Shannen Doherty completed chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2015.

March 22nd 2017

Women who have taken the contraceptive pill are protected from some types of cancer for as long as 30 years, according to new research.

Those who have used the pill are less likely to have bowel cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer than women who had never taken it, a study at the University of Aberdeen found.

Researchers also looked at the risk of all types of cancer in women who have taken the pill during their reproductive years and found it does not lead to new cancer risks later in life.

The results are the latest published from the longest-running study in the world into the effects of taking the contraceptive pill.

Established by the Royal College of General Practitioners' in 1968, the Oral Contraception Study was set up to look at the long-term health effects of oral contraceptives.

The latest study, led by Dr Lisa Iversen, relates to 46,000 women followed for up to 44 years.

Dr Iversen, research fellow in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences at the university, said: "Because the study has been going for such a long time we are able to look at the very long-term effects, if there are any, associated with the pill.

"What we found from looking at up to 44 years' worth of data was that having ever used the pill, women are less likely to get colorectal, endometrial and ovarian cancer.

"So, the protective benefits from using the pill during their reproductive years are lasting for at least 30 years after women have stopped using the pill.

"We were also interested in what the overall balance of all types of cancer is amongst women who have used the pill as they enter the later stages of their life.

"We did not find any evidence of new cancer risks appearing later in life as women get older.

"These results from the longest-running study in the world into oral contraceptive use are reassuring.

"Specifically, pill users don't have an overall increased risk of cancer over their lifetime and that the protective effects of some specific cancers last for at least 30 years. "

The study, which has received funding from bodies including the Medical Research Council, Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the British Heart Foundation, published its latest findings in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Dec 31st 2016

Thousands of women may be needlessly having their breasts removed to prevent cancer because of the ‘Angelina Jolie’ effect, researchers have warned.

Around 4,000 women in Britain a year now opt for a double mastectomy in the belief that it will prevent cancer returning in the healthy breast, a figure that has increased since actress Jolie publicly announced she had the procedure in 2013.

Yet there is no evidence that it prevents cancer from spreading in women who do not have an underlying risk of cancer, as Jolie has.

A new survey by researchers in America found that when women are not advised by their physicians one in five will opt for a double mastectomy.

The procedure can lead to major complications - including depression, and breast cancer specialist Dr Reshma Jagsi urged surgeons to advise patients not to have the operations when they did not need them.

Dr Jagsi, of Michigan University, said: "When patients do not perceive a surgeon's recommendation against it, even patients without a high genetic risk for a second primary breast cancer choose a double mastectomy at an alarmingly high rate.

"Our findings should motivate surgeons to broach these difficult conversations with their patients, to make their recommendations clear, and to promote patients' peace of mind by emphasising how other treatments complement surgery to reduce the risk of both tumor recurrence and subsequent cancer development.

"These findings should also motivate efforts to inform and support surgeons in this challenging communication context.”

Jolie had both her breasts removed after being told she had an 87 per cent risk of developing breast cancer due to a defective BRCA1 gene and family history.

Her mother, maternal grandmother and aunt all died from breast or ovarian cancer in their late 40s or in their 50s. The actress later also had her ovaries removed.

Other stars who have undergone it include X-Factor judge Sharon Osbourne and Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women with more than 50,000 being diagnosed in the UK each year.

Many women opt for the surgery not only for peace of mind, but because they feel they would look out of balance with one breast - although there has been an increase in the amount of plastic surgery done to reconstruct breasts following the operation.

The researchers carried out the study because little is known about treatment decision making or physician interactions in diverse patient populations.

They questioned 2,402 patients who underwent recent treatment for breast cancer to evaluate motivations, knowledge and decisions as well as the impact of surgeon recommendations.

They found that fewer than four-in-ten women knew that a double mastectomy does not improve survival for all women with breast cancer.

The research was published in JAMA Surgery.

23rd Dec 2016

Bursting cancer cells


22nd Oct

A research team of Naraesuan University has successfully extracted chemicals from the latex of Rak plant (Calotropis gigantea) which are capable of inhibiting the function of a protein which is essential for the growth of cancerous cells, said Dr Supawadee Pahera, a lecturer at the faculty of pharmacy of the university.

She added that the chemicals were found to be capable of resisting H1N1 flu virus in the early stage of infection and stopping enzyme which causes tissue inflammation.

Dr Supawadee said that this research work would pave the way for the search of new medicines for the treatment of certain ailments.

The research work has been patented and also published in three international academic publications, she said, adding that the university recently signed an MOU for research cooperation with Macau University of Science and Technology in search of an anti-cancer medicine and anti-flu virus.

The research work on latex of the Rak plant has won the Macau Scientific and Technological R&D Post-graduates Award 2016.

Sep 13th 2016

Failure of cancer surgery to intraoperatively detect and eliminate microscopic residual disease (MRD) causes lethal recurrence and metastases, and the removal of important normal tissues causes excessive morbidity. Here, we show that a plasmonic nanobubble (PNB), a non-stationary laser pulse-activated nanoevent, intraoperatively detects and eliminates MRD in the surgical bed. PNBs were generated in vivo in head and neck cancer cells by systemically targeting tumours with gold colloids and locally applying near-infrared, low-energy short laser pulses, and were simultaneously detected with an acoustic probe. In mouse models, between 3 and 30 residual cancer cells and MRD (undetectable with current methods) were non-invasively detected up to 4 mm deep in the surgical bed within 1 ms. In resectable MRD, PNB-guided surgery prevented local recurrence and delivered 100% tumour-free survival. In unresectable MRD, PNB nanosurgery improved survival twofold compared with standard surgery. Our results show that PNB-guided surgery and nanosurgery can rapidly and precisely detect and remove MRD in simple intraoperative procedures.

August 29th



Aug 18th

A new cancer research breakthrough has recently been developed thanks to researchers from McGill University, Université de Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal. The new nanorobots can travel down the bloodstream to administer drugs precisely by targeting a tumor’s cancer cells. This is the best way to inject medication since the integrity of the healthy tissues and organs won’t be jeopardized. This means that the dosage of the drug could be reduced, which is significant because the drug is very toxic for humans.

According to Professor Sylvain Martel, director and the head of the research team at Polytechnique Montréal Nanorobotics Laboratory and the holder of the Medical Nanorobotics Canada Research Chair, these nanorobotic agents hold no less than 100 million bacteria, which are flagellated and self-propelled. These bacteria are full of drugs and take a direct path from the injection site to the part of the body that needs to be cured. The propelling force of the drug is strong enough to enter the tumors deeply and to travel efficiently.

When the nanorobotic agents enter a specific tumor they can automatically detect the tumor areas that have been depleted of oxygen, which are called hypoxic zones, in order to deliver the medicine to them. Tumor cells that are rapidly proliferative create a hypoxic zone by substantially consuming oxygen. Up until now these hypoxic zones have been resistant to the majority of therapy methods including radiotherapy. It is difficult to access these tumors even with a small blood cell path because physiological complex microenvironments need to be crossed. For this reason, Prof. Martel along with his team of researchers decided to use nanotechnology to see results.

There are 2 natural systems that the bacteria rely on for movement. They are drawn towards a magnetic field through the synthesis created by a magnetic nanoparticles chain and they are able to get to the active regions in the tumor and remain there with an oxygen concentration measuring sensor. When these 2 systems of transportation are used together and when the bacteria are exposed to a magnetic field that is computer-controlled, these bacteria are able to replicate perfectly these task-oriented artificialnanorobots.
Prof. Martel goes on to say that more advanced intervention methods and engineering concepts will be created as a result of the innovative use of these nanorobots. As well, the synthesis of new transportation methods for diagnosing, imaging and therapeutic agents can be further researched. Chemotherapy is a toxic form of therapy for the human body and as a result of the research the side effects could be eliminated while the therapeutic effectiveness is increased by using nanorobots to directly transport the drugs to the targeted area.

The research paper has been published in the journal of Nature Nanotechnology in a study titled “Magneto-aerotactic bacteria deliver drug-containing nanoliposomes to tumour hypoxic regions.” The research marks the results of the study done on mice and shows how they successfully directed nanorobotic agents into colorectal tumors.


Aug 1st

Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas said: “What we are seeing is that a lot of people are coming in and out of treatment, so all of that does put pressure on the NHS.”

Around 625,000 people in the UK are estimated to be facing poor health or disability after treatment.

With the numbers living with cancer in the UK set to rise from 2.5 million to four million by 2030, more will need support.

Mrs Thomas said the challenge for medical professionals is to “keep up to speed” with the potential side-effects as new treatments emerge.

July 27th

Tattoos can cause cancer and mutations - and one colour is potentially more toxic than others, according to scientists.

Research by the European Chemicals Agency to be published imminently is investigating possible risks associated with being inked.

The agency said: “Many reports show significant concerns for public health stemming from the composition of inks used for tattooing.

“The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic effects.

Inks are not currently regulated in the EU. If any particular chemicals are found to be harmful as thought, they will be banned.

An agency spokesman said : "If it is found that a restriction is needed, a formal proposal to restrict the substances will be submitted within one year to initiate the process."

Red ink has been linked to dermatitis - swelling and soreness - due to it containing mercury sulphide while.

Meanwhile red, blue, green and purple ones are more likely to cause granulomas – little ridges of bumps on the skin.

The public will be asked to contribute to the research. The NHS has also warned of the dangers of ‘black’ or ‘neutral’ henna.

Different to authentic henna, which is orange in colour, this darker substance it may contain levels of a chemical dye ‘so powerful and toxic that it is illegal to use it on the skin’.

The NHS warned: “If you see a shop or stall offering to paint black tattoos onto your skin, don’t be tempted to get one. It could leave you scarred for life and put you at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.”

Anyone suffering an allergic reaction should contact a doctor as soon as possible.

July 24th

A new study suggests that alcohol is a direct cause of cancer in several areas of the body.

The study, published Thursday in the scientific journal Addiction, consists of a major review of 10 years’ worth of studies from several organizations, including the World Cancer Research Fund, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

And its conclusions are dire. 

Nearly 6 percent of cancer deaths worldwide can be linked to alcohol, including in people who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol, the study concludes. “From a public health perspective, alcohol is estimated to have caused approximately half a million deaths from cancer in 2012,” wrote study author Jennie Connor, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The study determined that there is a strong link between alcohol consumption and cancer in specific areas of the body, such as the liver, colon, esophagus and female breast. There are also causal contributions in other areas such as the prostate, pancreas and skin. 

How alcohol causes cancer is not deeply understood, according to the study, but it is thought to depend on the “target organ.” For example, cancers of the throat, mouth and liver can be largely attributed to a carcinogenic compound called acetaldehyde. Salivary acetaldehyde levels have been found to reach high levels when drinking.

Breast tissue is another area that seems to be particularly susceptible to alcohol.

Connor noted the United Kingdom’s Million Women Cohort study, which found that women who drank 70 to 140 grams of alcohol per week experienced a 13 percent increase in breast cancer and a 5 percent increase in total cancer compared to those who drank less than 20 grams per week.

Unfortunately, the amount you drink might not matter all that much. While heavy drinkers have a higher risk of liver, colon and laryngeal cancer than light drinkers, all drinkers have the same risk of mouth, esophagus, breast and pharynx cancer.

Connor also acknowledges that some of the studies she reviewed show that those who drink light to moderate of alcohol have a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease than abstainers.

But many epidemiologists agree that research confirms alcohol actually causes cancer, Connor wrote, while the relationship between drinking and heart disease is not as conclusive.

For example, other lifestyle factors beyond alcohol consumption ― such as a person’s healthy behavior and demographic conditions ― typically put abstainers at a higher risk than those who moderately drink. Connor cites a 2005 study that showed 27 out of 30 risk factors for cardiovascular disease were more prevalent in abstainers than moderate drinkers. 

“Promotion of health benefits from drinking at moderate levels is seen increasingly as disingenuous or irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers,” she wrote in the study.  

 As a solution to alcohol-attributed cancer, Connor suggests everyone should reduce their alcohol consumption, not just heavy drinkers. 

“Population-wide reduction in alcohol consumption will have an important effect on the incidence of [cancer], while targeting the heaviest drinkers alone has limited potential,” she wrote in the study. 

However, most people today are hesitant to adapt to the facts. While the majority of the population readily accepts that smoking causes lung cancer, “alcohol’s causal role is perceived to be more complex than tobacco’s,” 

July 14th

About 1.7 million people in England could be living with undiagnosed lung cancer, lung disease or heart disease, which are among the country’s biggest killers, a government agency has warned.

Public Health England (PHE) is urging anyone with a persistent cough, or who gets breathless doing everyday tasks that never previously troubled them, to see their GP in case they have one of the conditions.

Launching its latest “Be Clear on Cancer” campaign on Thursday, it said that the conditions together kill more than 100,000 people a year, but finding them early makes them more treatable.

PHE estimates that there are about 80,000 undiagnosed cases of lung cancer, 1 million cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis – and 600,000 undiagnosed cases of coronary heart disease.


Prof Kevin Fenton, PHE national director for health and wellbeing, said: “The estimated number of people with undiagnosed lung cancer, lung disease or heart disease is deeply concerning. If diagnosed early, these diseases can be managed and treated successfully. This campaign will help people recognise the symptoms and encourage them to seek help, potentially saving lives from what are three of the biggest causes of death in England.”

The campaign is aimed at men and women aged 50 and over, who are most at risk. It says that a persistent cough or shortness of breath mowing the lawn, vacuuming or doing other tasks that did not used to prove difficult could be a sign of lung cancer or other lung disease. Breathlessness could be a sign of heart disease as well.

Coronary heart disease is the single biggest cause of death in England, accounting for more than 56,000 deaths every year, and lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer, causing around 28,400 deaths a year. COPD is the cause of a further 24,000 deaths.

Public health minister Jane Ellisonsaid: “Sadly, diagnosis often comes too late, which can have a devastating impact on those living with any of these conditions, as well as those close to them. The more people we can encourage to get their symptoms checked, the more likely they are to be diagnosed earlier and treated successfully.”

Around 36,500 people in England are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. There are currently approximately one million people who have been diagnosed with COPD and around 1.8 million who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

July 10th

Breast Cancer one of the worst being Triple negative breast cancer has shown excellent results when treated with a cocktail of two approved drugs.
Using Pemetrexed and sorafenib together causes cancer cells to eat themselves from the inside out
Reports the journal Oncotarget

June 10th

EHA 2016: Restoring effective anti-tumour response in Hodgkin lymphoma with nivolumab

Adding to a growing list of disease applications, nivolumab is efficacious against primary Hodgkin lymphoma.

This is according to research presented at the European Haematology Association 21st congress in Copenhagen

Hodgkin lymphoma typically affects young men and women in their 30s.

Although it is highly curable with the current combination of chemo and radiation therapy, approximately 20% of patients will not be cured with first line regimens.

May 20th

New penis

BOSTON (AP) — A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help accident victims and some of the many U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs.

In a case that represents the latest frontier in the growing field of reconstructive transplants, Thomas Manning of Halifax, Massachusetts, is faring well after the 15-hour operation last week, Massachusetts General Hospital said Monday.

His doctors said they are cautiously optimistic that Manning eventually will be able to urinate normally and function sexually again for the first time since aggressive penile cancer led to the amputation of the former bank courier's genitals in 2012. They said his psychological state will play a big role in his recovery.

"Emotionally he's doing amazing. I'm really impressed with how he's handling things. He's just a positive person," Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, who was among the lead surgeons on a team of more than 50, said at a news conference. "He wants to be whole again. He does not want to be in the shadows."

Manning, who is single and has no children, did not appear at the news conference but said in a statement: "Today I begin a new chapter filled with personal hope and hope for others who have suffered genital injuries. In sharing this success with all of you, it is my hope we can usher in a bright future for this type of transplantation."

The identity of the deceased donor was not released.

The operation is highly experimental — only one other patient, in South Africa, has a transplanted penis. But four additional hospitals around the country have permission from the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's transplant system, to attempt the delicate surgery.

The loss of a penis, whether from cancer, accident or war injury, is emotionally traumatic, affecting urination, sexual intimacy and the ability to conceive a child. Many patients suffer in silence because of the stigma their injuries sometimes carry; Cetrulo said many become isolated and despondent.

Unlike traditional life-saving transplants of hearts, kidneys or livers, reconstructive transplants are done to improve quality of life. And while a penis transplant may sound radical, it follows transplants of faces, hands and even the uterus.

"This is a logical next step," said Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

His hospital is preparing for a penis transplant in a wounded veteran soon, and Lee said this new field is important for "people who want to feel whole again after the loss of important body parts."

Still, candidates face some serious risks: rejection of the tissue, and side effects from the anti-rejection drugs that must be taken for life. Doctors are working to reduce the medication needed.

Penis transplants have generated intense interest among veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, but they will require more extensive surgery since their injuries, often from roadside bombs, tend to be more extensive, with damage to blood vessels, nerves and pelvic tissue that also will need repair, Lee noted.

The Department of Defense Trauma Registry has recorded 1,367 male service members who survived with genitourinary injuries between 2001 and 2013. It's not clear how many victims lost all or part of the penis.

A man in China received a penis transplant in 2005. But doctors said he asked them to remove his new organ two weeks later because he and his wife were having psychological problems.

In December 2014, a 21-year-old man in South Africa whose penis had been amputated following complications from circumcision in his late teens received a transplant.

Dr. Andre van der Merwe of the University of Stellenbosch told The Associated Press that the man is healthy, has normal sexual function and was able to conceive, although the baby was stillborn. But his recovery was difficult, with blood clots and infections, the doctor said.

For congenital abnormalities or transgender surgery, doctors can fashion the form of a penis from a patient's own skin, using implants to achieve erection. But transplanting a functional penis requires connecting tiny blood vessels and nerves.

A bigger challenge than the surgery itself is finding donor organs.

"People are still reluctant to donate," van der Merwe said. "There are huge psychological issues about donating your relative's penis."

In the U.S., people or their families who agree to donate organs such as the heart or lung must be asked separately about also donating a penis, hand or other body part, said Dr. Scott Levin, a hand transplant surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania and vice chairman of UNOS' committee on reconstructive transplants.

In Boston, Cetrulo said the transplanted penis has good blood flow and so far shows no signs of rejection. He said that Manning should be released from the hospital soon, and that the surgery had three aims: ensuring the transplanted penis looks natural, is capable of normal urination — which he hopes will resume in a few weeks — and eventually normal sexual function.

May 13th

The news on cancer just gets better and better. I remember 35 years ago wondering when a cure would come – then 25 years ago thinking a cure could be 10 to 15 years away.

And now we live in an age when a cure is just around the corner. British scientists claim they’re on the brink of being able to treat cancer, and possibly even cure it, with a single jab. It’s taking personalised cancer treatment to new levels.

A Cancer Research UK spokesman said that if this treatment lives up to its promise, “it could prove a revolutionary way to treat or even cure cancer”.

Cancer claims more than 160,000 lives a year in the UK and even the newest wonder drugs give many patients only a few extra years of life.

With existing drugs focusing on just one type of cancer, a medicine that initially helps will stop working if the cancer mutates.

Some immunotherapies – treatments that use the immune system and its white blood cells to beat cancer – are already available and are producing some stunning results, although they don’t work for everyone.

Experts from University College , London, are studying how a tumour grows and mutates over time.

The study leader, Professor Charles Swanton, said: “This takes personalised medicine to its limit, where each patient would get a unique, bespoke treatment.

“It offers the hope that we might just be able to turn the tide against advanced cancer. In a few years, we will be using immunotherapy for cancer just as much as chemotherapy today.

“I’ll be disappointed if we haven’t treated a patient within two years. If this doesn’t work, I’ll probably hang up my hat and do something else.”

Crucially, the UCL researchers have found a way of identifying the mutations found on every cancer cell in a tumour that allows them to escape treatment and regrow.

They’ve also discovered that some lung cancer patients have disease-fighting white blood cells that are a perfect match for these mutations. So these cells could be taken from patients, grown in the lab and then put back to kill every cell of the cancer.

It would also be possible to create a vaccine in the form of a drug that commands the immune system to fight the cancer. It could even be a single jab.

Professor Peter Johnson of Cancer Research UK said: “This fascinating research gives us vital clues about how to specifically tailor treatment for a patient using their immune system. It will impinge in a huge way on how we treat cancer in the future.”

May 10th

Aspirin for cancer

Scientists made the discovery after looking through a huge number of studies that looked at bowel, breast and prostate cancers.

Taking a low-dose medication alongside normal treatment appears to reduce the likelihood of dying from cancer by 15 per cent to 20 per cent, according to the new study.

Professor Peter Elwood, from the University of Cardiff, who led the research published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, said: "There is a growing body of evidence that taking aspirin is of significant benefit in reducing some cancers.

"Whilst we know a low dose of aspirin has been shown to reduce the incidence of cancer, its role in the treatment of cancer remains uncertain. As a result, we set out to conduct a systematic search of all the scientific literature."

The team pooled together data from five randomised trials and 42 observational studies.

As well as improving survival, aspirin appeared to reduce the risk of cancer spreading.

Although a known risk associated with taking aspirin is bleeding in the gut, the researchers found no evidence of this being serious or life-threatening.

The study highlights the need for trials to establish whether low-dose aspirin really should be considered an additional treatment for cancer, said the researchers.

Professor Elwood added: "While there is a desperate need for more detailed research to verify our review and to obtain evidence on less common cancers, we'd urge patients diagnosed with cancer to speak to their doctor about our findings so they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they should take a low-dose aspirin as part of their cancer treatment."

Studies of six other cancers also suggested an aspirin benefit, but in these cases patient numbers were too low to allow confident interpretation of the data

May 9th 2016

A ‘neutron bomb’ antibody, which kills Cancer cells but leaves healthy ones unscathed, could be used to treat the disease.  Researchers have developed an antibody from the body’s own immune system that homes in on cancer cells.  The antibody targets a natural defence mechanism that cancer tumours exploit.  Special proteins guard the surface of cells to prevent the body’s own immune system attacking them.  Researchers say they are “excited” by the findings, which could provide a whole new way of treating cancer. 

In a study published in  cell reports, researchers developed and tested the cancer-fighting antibody.  The human-derived antibody dismantles a specific part of the cancer cell’s defence system, before launching an attack.  Scientists began their research after observing that some lung cancer patients have early-stage tumours that never progress to advanced stages.  The patients with the slower-progressing tumours had antibodies against a specific protein, called complement factor H, or CFH, which protects cells from an immune system attack.  CFH prevents an important immune system response from activating. It does this by preventing a deposit of complement C3b protein on the cell surface.  When complement C3b reaches the cell, it can cause the membrane to deteriorate and, ultimately, the cell to die.  After identifying the antibody for CFH, researchers from Duke university North Carolina, then sought to find a way of producing antibodies that recognised the same part of the CFH as the autoantibodies made by the early-stage cancer patients.  The researchers then pooled the white blood cells from the CFH antibody-producing cancer patients, before isolating and cloning the antibody genes from single immune cells.  These mature antibodies recognised the same region of CFH targeted by the original patient’s immune systems, so healthy cells were left unharmed.  The team went on to test the new treatment on multiple cancer cell lines, including lung, gastric and breast cancers, both in lab dishes and on living mice.  Author Dr Edward Patz, from Duke University, said: “This is the first completely human-derived antibody developed as an anti-cancer therapy, which is very different from other immunotherapy approaches. “We believe it might be this additional cellular response that could potentially have the most profound impact on cancer outcomes long-term.”  While researchers say further tests are needed, the team are excited about the new findings.  Dr Patz added: “This could represent a whole new approach to treating cancer, and it’s exciting because the antibody selectively kills tumour cells, so we don’t have significant side effects to achieve tumour control.  “We believe we can modulate the immune response and let the body’s own immune system take over to either kill the tumour or keep it from growing.” 

Update 19.04.2016

More than half of all British people ignore "red flag" symptoms that may show they have cancer, studies have revealed - so what are the dangers and how do you recognise them?

Some of the potential early warning signs of cancer include:

  1. A persistent cough or hoarseness, a lump, diarrhoea or constipation
  2. Unexplained weight loss or a sore that does not heal
  3. Blood in vomit, urine or faeces, bleeding between periods
  4. A feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet are other signs
  5. Moles with an irregular shape or jagged edges should be checked by a GP.

Patient surveys have shown people may be in danger of ignoring some of the hidden signs of cancer out of fear that they're wasting their doctor's time.

More than 50 per cent of British people had experienced at least one "red flag" symptom – such as a persistent cough, a sore that doesn't heal or a lump – but only two per cent thought cancer could be the cause, Cancer Research has found.

Some people said they failed to see a doctor because they were worried that their GP would view it as trivial , while others said they feared a cancer diagnosis or believed in maintaining a "stiff upper lip".

Others reported feeling a lack of confidence in the health system or assumed their symptoms were down to ageing.

And many believed their symptoms would simply go away of their own accord, according to the survey of more than 1,700 people over the age of 50.

Dr Richard Roope, of Cancer Research UK, told The Independent: “The advice we give is: if in doubt, check it out – this would not be wasting your GP’s time.

“Often your symptoms won’t be caused by cancer, but if they are, the quicker the diagnosis, the better the outcome.”

The most common cancers are prostate cancer, breast cancer, bowel and lung cancer - but the UK’s cancer survival rates lag behind the European average and delays in diagnosing the disease are believed to be a major factor.

February 4 2016 was World Cancer Day, a campaign which started in 2000 to promote research, improve treatment and raise awareness of the devastating disease which affects 14.1m people across the world each year.

I'm sure it was a great success but don't let that put you off doing your best to make next year even better.

Thanks to scientists working under the auspices of the World Health Organization, you can be fairly sure your toothbrush won't give you cancer. Over four decades, a WHO research agency has assessed 989 substances and activities, ranging from arsenic to hairdressing, and found only one was "probably not" likely to cause cancer in humans. It was an ingredient in nylon used in stretchy yoga pants and toothbrush bristles.

All the other 988 substances, however, pose some level of risk or need further research, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the WHO. Some things in IARC's top category of carcinogens are pretty obvious nasties, such as plutonium, mustard gas and smoking tobacco. Others are more surprising: Also ranked as "Group 1 Carcinogens" are wood dust and Chinese salted fish.

IARC has said that working as a painter causes cancer, using a mobile phone possibly does, and working shifts as a pilot or a nurse, for example - is "probably carcinogenic." Last October, it ranked processed meats in its top category of known carcinogens, alongside plutonium.

The findings have caused consternation, not least for non-scientists puzzled by what IARC's rankings mean.

As a global authority on cancer - a disease that kills more than 8 million people a year worldwide, with more than 14 million new cases appearing annually - IARC has enormous influence and commands much respect, even among its critics. Yet experts from academia, industry and public health say IARC confuses the public and policymakers. Some critics say the way IARC considers and communicates whether substances are carcinogenic is flawed and needs reform.

Even the WHO, which oversees IARC, was caught off guard by the agency's announcement that red and processed meat should be classified respectively as probable and known carcinogens. The WHO's official spokesman, Gregory Hartl, issued a statement saying WHO's Geneva headquarters had been flooded with queries and requests for clarification. IARC's ruling did not mean people should stop eating meat, he said.

Asked about the relationship between IARC and the WHO, Hartl told Reuters: "WHO works closely and continually with IARC to improve the way the two bodies collaborate and communicate on the knowledge of potential and real hazards and risks to the public."

At stake are judgments that can affect the lives of millions of people and the economic activities of states and multinational companies. IARC's rulings influence many things, from whether chemicals are licensed for use in industry to whether consumers choose or spurn certain products or lifestyles.

But its methods are poorly understood and do not serve the public well, according to Bob Tarone, a statistician formerly at America's National Cancer Institute and now Biostatistics Director at the International Epidemiology Institute. He said of the way IARC works: "It's not good for science, it's not good for regulatory agencies. And for people? Well, they are just being confused."

Paolo Boffetta worked at IARC for 19 years, rising to become head of the genetics and epidemiology team, and describes himself as "still a strong supporter" of the agency. Nevertheless, Boffetta, now at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the United States, said IARC's approach sometimes lacks "scientific rigour" because its judgments can involve experts reviewing their own research or that of colleagues.

Some institutions have also clashed with IARC. The agency is currently embroiled in an acrimonious dispute with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) over glyphosate, an ingredient of widely-used pesticides. IARC says glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic." EFSA says it isn't. The glyphosate row has thrown up concerns about potential conflicts of interest at IARC: It involves an adviser to the agency who is closely linked to the Environmental Defense Fund, a U.S. campaign group opposed to pesticides. (See ).

In the face of its critics, IARC steadfastly defends its methods and aims. "This is really the strongest possible process," Kurt Straif, the head of IARC's classification programme, told Reuters when asked about the way his agency evaluates possible causes of cancer.

IARC's director, Chris Wild, has also defended the agency against criticism in scientific journals. In a letter to one of the journals, he said the scientists involved in its classification decisions "are motivated by a desire to improve public health by identifying the causes of human cancer and thereby contributing to disease prevention."

Richard Sullivan, a professor of cancer policy and global health at King's College London, says any confusion is due to a widespread misunderstanding of IARC's role.

"IARC is purely there to do the science. And the science is absolutely fine," he told Reuters. "But there is a disjunction between the pure science and the policy and public health messaging. That's where problems arise."

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