Cancer Watch - Issue 1 2005

Originally published in Issue 1 2005 icon

Cancer Watch eye

New Theory Of Cancer

Stems cells are "parent" cells. They differentiate to become any and all of the 200 or more different types of cell in the body. From eyes, to toes and nerves to skin.

Professor Timothy Wang and his team at Columbia University reported in Science (Nov 2004) that genetic changes in these stems cells prevent their differentiation. So they remain fast growing cells that do not die, and can develop into cancers.

However, when studying stomach cancer, Wang discovered that the actual problem was not gastric stem cells but bone marrow cells, which normally circulate freely around the body dealing with and healing inflammation and injury. This theory would mean the orthodox textbooks on the causes of cancer would need re-writing.

Interestingly, in studies with mice, the bone marrow cells were attracted to a location suffering from inflammation (Ed: See this issue’s Hot Gossip).

Red Alert For Shoppers?

The Food Standards Agency (the Government watchdog on food) is proposing a traffic light scheme for foods, with red, amber and green symbols relating to fat, sugar and salt content.

Apparently consumers want help and symbols on packs went down well in research.

Predictably the food manufacturers were less than excited and dubbed these proposals misleading.

The Government wants some form of labelling to start in 2006.

(Ed: The crucial issue is which ingredients will be highlighted. Salt, saturated fat, sugar - but what about dairy, aspartame or yeasts? Who will decide and where do we draw the line?).

The EU Go Nuts For Christmas

As some people may have realised, there were few Brazil nuts in their shells available in UK shops at Christmas 2004. The EU decided that every imported batch must be tested for aflatoxins, a carcinogenic fungal contaminant.

Predictably UK supermarkets simply could not be bothered to fund the tests, so that was the end of Brazil nuts in shells for this Christmas. Surprisingly nuts grown in France, like walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts were not included in the EU directive.

A Power Cable Study Suppressed?

According to a team of scientists from Oxford, who studied 35,000 children diagnosed with cancer over a 33 year period (the UK’s biggest ever such study), power cables are definitely linked with cancers, particularly leukaemia.

Children living within 100 yards of overhead cables were especially vulnerable.

The research findings were apparently presented to the Department of Health three years ago but the results have not surfaced and are still yet to be officially published.

Tamoxifen Link To Stroke Risk

In a study published in The Journal of Neurology, Dr Cheryl Bushnell of Dukes University Medical Center in North Carolina reviewed nine previous studies and concluded that a woman’s absolute risk of an ischemic stroke almost doubles (from 3.9 per 1000 to 7.1 per 1000) over a five year period if she is taking Tamoxifen.

The risk of any kind of stroke was 10.6 per 1000 over the five year period. Tamoxifen is currently taken by 20,000 women in the UK.

Treatment For Anaemia Improves Survival By 51 Per Cent

Results from a newly published class review of epoetins (alfa and beta epoetin), confirmed their effect with cancer related anaemia and showed significant overall survival benefits.

The results, published by The Cochrane Collaboration, are particularly striking in patients with solid tumours (e.g. breast, lung and bowel) where risk of death decreased by 51 per cent in those patients whose anaemia was managed by epoetins whilst on chemotherapy.

In a second study - in fact, a review of nine studies presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (31st October) - epoetin beta was shown to reduce the risk of tumour progression in patients with anaemia.

Nineteen studies including 2865 randomised patients were reviewed. Chris Poole, senior lecturer in Medical Oncology at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital described this as a genuinely exciting advance.

Tarceva Lung Cancer Trial

Tarceva is a drug that targets a molecule with a key role in the growth and extended life span of cancer cells. Researchers at more than 70 centres across the UK will test the drug.

Chief Investigator at UCL Hospital, Dr Siow Ming Lee said, "Conventional chemotherapy is of limited use against advanced lung cancer. Tumour cells quickly become resistant to treatment, while chemotherapy doesn’t properly distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy ones and has too many side effects for many very ill patients to cope with."

Tarceva targets a molecule called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), which normally instructs cancer cells to grow and divide, and is particularly concentrated in some lung cancers. Over 660 patients are required for the trials

Macmillan Carers’ Handbook

Macmillan Cancer Relief have launched a book written by carers for carers called, "Hello and How are You?"

The handbook contains information like, where to find cancer information and support; how to get the best from your healthcare team; how caring for someone can affect your relationship; coping with bereavement and more.

The handbook is available free on 0808 808 2020 or email [email protected].

Large Scale Study On BRCA1 And BRCA2

Families with these two genes mutated are high risk for breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and stomach cancers according to a study published in The Annals of Oncology. The data used reviewed 948,000 Swedish families since 1931.

The study also showed that in families with bilateral breast cancer or two breast cancers, at least one of them under the age of 50, showed increased risk of prostate and primary liver cancers.

Smoking Ban Extended

The Government has now proposed a ban on smoking in enclosed public places. However, this doesn’t go far enough for Macmillan or the population at large. A survey conducted by the charity showed that 93 per cent want an outright ban on public smoking.

More Serious Research Needed

Profess Leslie Walker of Cancer Research UK has carried out trials over the last 25 years to show how the quality of life can be improved by therapies such as relaxation therapy, hypnotherapy and guided imagery. Now he is studying reflexology and scalp massage and wants more serious research on the whole subject. (Ed: Hear, Hear!)

"Relaxation techniques involve muscular exercises. Some patients like to imagine a battle scene between the cancer and the drug treatment; others prefer to imagine a healing process like a white light promoting well being and a return to health."

Protective Gene Against Lung Cancer

Very little is known about the molecular basis of lung cancer. However Cancer Research scientists have now found that a gene (the LIMDI gene) was reduced in all of the lung cancer samples analysed.

LIMDI is located on a part of Chromosome 3 called 3p21, long suspected to be a home to important tumour suppressor genes. It is missing in many types of cancer.

Results Of Flaxseed Study

Lignans, derived from plants, have long had epidemiological studies and biochemical studies confirming their benefits. Flaxseed, which is the richest source of these lignans, has already been shown to have anti-tumour effect.

At the San Antonio Breast Symposium (2000) in a controlled placebo study, flaxseed was confirmed in its action against breast cancer tumours. The tests were amongst post-menopausal women and results were deemed comparable to Tamoxifen.

Blocking The Cancer Spread Enzyme

A study by Copenhagen University, published in the International Journal of Cancer, confirmed that cancer cannot spread unless a specific enzyme uPA was present.

However the body does not need this enzyme to function normally. Six mice out of seven, where uPA was blocked, showed a response.

The next step is clinical trials and Dr Torben Skovsgaard and his team are highly hopeful they can show that cancer spread can be blocked by blocking the uPA enzymes. Cancer Research urged caution, especially as normally the lead time from laboratory to clinical trials is long.

Sound Waves To Treat Prostate Cancer

A trial involving 150 men in the UK is just about to start, using sound waves to melt away prostate cancer. The treatment uses high intensity focused ultrasound and is claimed to be as effective as conventional surgery or radiotherapy, but with far less risk of incontinence or impotence.

Indeed research has already taken place in Japan on early and medium stage prostate cancer. This recorded a 70 per cent cancer free patient list after five years. (Ed: five year survival in UK is 43 per cent). The treatment is cheaper and less invasive than current treatments and it can be over in approximately three hours under a local or regional anaesthetic.

Only 22 per cent of men in the Japanese research complained of sexual dysfunction, whereas orthodox treatment can leave two thirds of men with problems.

The sound waves heat the tissue to 90C destroying the cancer tissue almost instantly.

The trial will take place in Oxford and London.

Drinka Pinta Milk - And Risk Cancer?

As we have repeatedly told our readers: The white stuff isn’t necessarily the right stuff.

Now Swedish researchers, publishing in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have tracked 61,000 women between the ages of 38 and 76, for a period of 13 years. Their conclusions? Women who consumed a lot of dairy products had a significantly higher risk of ovarian cancer. Those drinking more than a pint of milk a day had double the risk. It has long been known that cow’s milk can contain high levels of pesticides and hormones. Another possible risk factor is Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF1) which in the early 1990’s was linked to hormonally driven cancers like breast, prostate and ovarian by US scientists.

Cervical Cancer Vaccine A Step Nearer

Four years after receiving Merck’s vaccine, 94 per cent of the 755 women tested were protected from the HPV virus that caused most cervical cancers, and none had developed pre-cancerous conditions. US FDA approval will be sought next year.

This study was funded by Merck and led by the University of Washington. A previous study showed that HPV-16 (which accounts for half of all cervical cancers) infections were completely prevented in 768 women who had received the Merck vaccine 18 months earlier. All women were in the 18-23 age group.

A spokesman described the results as extremely important. This would be the second anti-cancer vaccine on the market. The other - the hepatitis B vaccine - has dramatically reduced the number of infections that progress to liver cancer.

The vaccine has also been shown to be effective in preventing genital warts. A large scale study is looking at the effectiveness for men, who can be unsuspecting carriers of HPV.

Additional Tests For Breast Cancer

The European Commission has approved the use of additional diagnostic tests for determining the HER2 status of metastatic breast cancer patients. HER2 patients suffer a very aggressive cancer and Trastuzumab or Herceptin is the only targeted treatment available. Experts stated that this would improve the chances of a breast cancer being correctly classified and treated appropriately.

Does Surgery Increase Cancer Risk?

An Italian study has suggested that surgery may increase the risk of cancer recurring. The researchers studied 1173 women who underwent mastectomy, but no other treatment, at the Milan Cancer Institute between 1964 and 1980. 368 women had a relapse, and pre-menopausal women were much more likely to experience a relapse within 10 months of the surgery. Node negative tumours were not affected, and size of tumour seemed unimportant.

They concluded that surgery is generally beneficial and can cure some patients. But they suggest that for some women it may change the conditions and microscopic clusters of tumour cells and encourage them to grow and develop their own blood supply. Drugs that restricted tumour blood supply might help. (Dr Romano Demicheli - Breast Cancer Research).

White Bread Bad, Apples Good

French scientists at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Strasbourg reporting at the American Association for Cancer Research in Seattle have shown that procyanidins in apples help prevent changes that can lead to colon cancers. Apples also contain antioxidant polyphenols.

In another study at the same conference American researchers have shown that people who eat three or more servings of vegetables a day - not including potatoes - had a 40 per cent reduced risk of colon cancer.

Finally, in a third study, the incidence of eating white refined bread and colon cancer were found to be statistically linked.

Health Claims Stick To Teflon

Environmentalists have called for the withdrawal of a chemical which is the key ingredient in the manufacture of Teflon.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) is a chemical invented prior to 1981 before testing was invented. The chemical is made by DuPont who recently agreed to settle out of court in a lawsuit brought by residents around their West Virginia Plant. The lawsuit claimed PFOA had contaminated local water supplies and led to all manner of health problems including genetic deformities. Friends of the Earth claim PFOA leads to birth defects.

Last year the British Government called for a sister chemical, PFOS, to be withdrawn. However PFOA has had nowhere like the volume of testing on it that PFOS had.

Prostate Cancer; New Hopes

Two studies in The New England Journal of Medicine claim Taxotere (docetaxel) could prolong life by a couple of months in men with advance prostate cancer. Nausea and hair loss were common side effects. Professor Malcolm Mason from Cancer Research UK said that, "This is the first time chemotherapy has been shown to lengthen the lives of prostate cancer patients."

(Ed: Everyone is getting very excited, but the thinking seems a little muddled as yet. Anti-oestrogen drugs have been shown previously to have an effect).

Petrol Station Risk For Children

The French Institute of Health and Medical Research have reviewed 280 cases of childhood leukaemia and found a four-fold risk amongst children living near petrol stations. The risk was even greater for acute nonlymphoblastic leukaemia. The longer a child lived in the proximity, the greater the risk.

Melanoma Vaccine To Stop Spread?

The National Academy of Sciences Journal reports that scientists have invented a vaccine (NY-ESO-VISCOMATRIX), which can be given to cancer patients at three monthly intervals.

The aim is to boost the immune system and stop recurrence and spread. Scientists in Melbourne claim 14 out of 19 patients were cancer-free two years on. Only melanoma has been tackled so far.

Can Your Body Reverse A Cancer?

The answer is yes, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In cloning experiments involving melanoma they concluded that whilst the body could not re-alter damaged DNA, it could turn off the effects. Thus malignancy was not the inevitable effect of a cancer cell.

Chaparral - A Native Therapy?

Chaparral, an evergreen desert shrub, long used by native Americans to treat everything from colds to cancer has now been shown by the Medical University of South Carolina to, indeed, have the ability to shrink some tumours. In the 50’s to 70’s, Chaparral tea was used as an anti-cancer drink but the FDA warned people off it, claiming possible liver and kidney damage.

This latest research used injectable refined extracts of Chaparral injected into patients with head and neck cancers that had not responded to previous treatments. No negative effect with either liver or kidneys was seen.

"Clinical trials of M4N (a refined extract taken from Chaparral) will be important", said a spokesman at Cancer Research UK.

New Bowel Cancer Test

Researchers at Giessen University in Germany have developed a test which monitors M2-PK enzyme levels.

This enzyme "leaks" from cancerous tissue into the bowel, and can be measured in the faeces.

Cancer Drugs and Heart Problems

The M D Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has just run an important newsline stating that cancer drugs can cause heart damage. According to MDA some doctors do not know about these problems, whilst others do not protect their patients fully.

Make sure you ask before you take any such drugs, is their conclusion!

Cancer Watch - Issue 4 2005
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