Alcohol has long been recognised as a carcinogenic substance, yet there is now ‘strong evidence’ that it causes seven cancers and potentially even more, according to a new study.
Jennie Connor, a researcher from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand, scoured through a plethora of pre-existing studies regarding alcohol and cancer, hoping to highlight alcohol’s malevolent role by ruling out other factors.
The author notes that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites constitute up to 5.8 percent of cancer deaths worldwide. This means that in 2012, for example, around half a million people died through alcohol-induced cancers.
Dr Connor insist that although the link between alcohol and cancer is not news, she wanted to ‘clarify the strength of the evidence’ in an ‘accessible way.’
‘Currently, alcohol’s causal role is perceived to be more complex than tobacco‘s, and the solution suggested by the smoking analogy — that we should all reduce and eventually give up drinking alcohol — is widely unacceptable,’ writes Dr Connor.
Treatment for cancer is proving to be more successful year on year, but as these studies highlight, prevention should be considered a priority.
Image credit: Alex Ranaldi
A simple breath test could help predict whether people with gut problems are at high risk of developing stomach cancer.
Scientists are hoping that the early study could develop to save thousands of lives, including many of the 7,300 people diagnosed with stomach cancer in the UK each year.
The test works by detecting chemical compounds in the breath of people in an attempt to distinguish unique ‘breath prints’ in those with risky pre-cancerous changes.
Experts say if proven in large trials, it could spot patients on the brink of cancer so they can be treated earlier.
Symptoms of stomach cancer are often mistaken for other complaints and there is no effective early screening test, so is often write my essay diagnosed when it is too late for treatment to be effective.
The new test developed by Israeli scientists senses tiny changes in the level of organic compounds in exhaled breath which signal that stomach cancer is present.
More research is required to validate the test, and research involving thousands of European patients is now underway.
Image credit: Filip Bunkens
A research group in Japan has carried out a study which suggests that roundworms can be used to accurately detect cancers in patients through odours in their urine.
The nematodes (or roundworms) used in the study were attracted to the urine of cancer patients and avoided the urine of the healthy candidates taking part. Their behaviour provides a more useful method of detection than that afforded by dogs which have also been used in cancer detection. The dog’s ability to concentrate on the task affects the accuracy of diagnosis; an issue avoided through the use of nematodes.
The researchers were able to identify five cancer-positive patients who were not recognized as such when their urine was obtained.
The group is now working to produce a screening device incorporating this method to be put to use commercially as early as 2019. The test is painless and would allow for urine samples to be taken at home and then along to a testing site. A patient’s results could then be obtained within ninety minutes in a process which would save time and reduce medical costs.
The nematodes detected cancers at an earlier stage than conventional testing, allowing for the possibility of earlier screenings and diagnosis in the future. Earlier treatment for those testing positive could also be achieved. With the sensitivity of the test placed at 95.8% (higher than tumour-marker diagnosis tests conducted using blood samples) more accurate results may be attained.
Although this method of testing cannot detect which type of cancer a person is suffering from, researchers have succeeded in developing nematodes to react in different ways to specific cancers.
Image credit: John Donges
The underground naked mole rat has been found to produce a hybrid protein that prevents tumour growth. The discovery was made by scientists at the University of Rochester in New York.
The protein is associated with a cluster of genes (called a locus) that is also found in humans and mice. It is the job of that locus to encode several cancer-fighting proteins. The locus found in naked mole rats encodes a total of four cancer-fighting proteins, while the human and mouse version encodes only three.
Despite their names, naked mole rats are neither moles nor rats (nor are they totally hairless). These remarkable creatures are more closely related to porcupines and guinea pigs. They are subterranean rodents that have never been known to get cancer despite having a 30-year lifespan.
Naked mole rats live in the horn of Africa and are native to Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. They’re not blind, yet their eyes are very small and naked mole rats will often close them when they run through the tunnels.
The findings by Seuanov and Gorbunova research team have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In an effort to determine whether the effective protein is also found in mice and humans, the researchers tried to screen mouse and human cells and tissues for the protein hybrid, but were unsuccessful. “While our work doesn’t eliminate the possibility that the protein exists under some conditions in mice and humans, the results suggest that it’s highly unlikely,” said Gorbunova.
Tests have shown that the protein can prevent human cells from turning cancerous, and researchers hope to use it develop new treatments in the future for patients with cancer.
Image credit: Jedimentat44
The AstraZeneca drug MEDI4736 was revealed on Wednesday night as a “new great white hope” in the fight against cancer as it took centre stage in the British company’s battle against Pfizer‘s planned £63bn takeover.
It is this drug, developed in Cambridge and Maryland, that AstraZeneca chief executive, Pascal Soriot, was referring to when he warned MPs that an aggressive cost-cutting transaction could delay development and cost lives.
AstraZeneca’s head drug developer, Briggs Morrison, believes the drug could “hold the potential to shape the future of cancer treatment” and rake in annual sales of up to £3.9bn.
MEDI4736 works by stripping cancer cells of their “stealth cloak” so that the patient’s immune system can detect and kill tumours, and could replace chemotherapy in some cases.
Excellent news – stem cells have been turned into cancer-killing immune cells, giving hope to those suffering from cancer, as this could allow mass production of treatment in those cases where immune therapy works.
Our immune systems not only fight off invaders that arrive from outside the body, but they are also able to identify cells that have gone bad inside our bodies, too.
The immune system, however, has its limits, and although cancer cells are similar to ‘normal’ ones, some evolve ways to avoid detection, and can even use the immune system’s own signals to tamp down its activity.
A number of researchers have been looking for ways to re-establish the immune system’s superiority, boosting it in a way that it once again clears out cancer cells. One option for doing so has been to simply boost the cells that already recognise a tumour by isolating them and growing them in large numbers in culture.
Researchers have figured out a way of taking stem cells, converting them into immune cells, and directing them to attack one type of cancer. Thought not all types of cancer are likely to be vulnerable to this attack, techniques like these may ultimately help control the ones that the immune system does attack.