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Cancer

We are gaining ground against cancer

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

https://www.facebook.com/UpworthyVideo/videos/985073051597242/

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

https://www.facebook.com/upworthyVideo/viveos/850987081672507/

https://www.facebook.com/Upworthy/videos/1380807465293441/

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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