Alcohol Linked To Seven Cancer Types

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

Arthritis Drug Restores Skin Colour in Vitiligo Patient

Dermatologists from the Yale School of Medicine have successfully used tofacitinib, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, to reduce the effects of vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a disease which causes skin to lose its pigmentation and is commonly treated through the use of steroid creams and light therapy. These however, do not offer consistent results and so the improvements seen through the use of tofacitinib could represent a breakthrough in vitiligo treatment.

Assistant Professor of dermatology Brett King who headed the research first explored the benefits offered by the Janus kinase inhibitor (a drug which obstructs the activity of Janus kinase enzymes) to those suffering from alopecia before considering its potential as a treatment for the skin disease.

He investigated the drug’s effectiveness by trialing tofacitinib on a 53 year old woman who was experiencing the effects of vitiligo as large white patches extended over her face, hands and body.  Prior to the use of tofacitinib the area of skin affected was increasing however after two months of treatment the patient was able to observe re-pigmentation in the problem areas. Following five months of medication the white patches covering the face and hands had disappeared, leaving only a few small, white spots elsewhere on the body.

Knowledge of the way the disease affects the body combined with the researcher’s familiarity with how this already FDA approved drug works, has prompted confidence in tofacitinib’s future use as a popular treatment. This is further supported by the absence of any harmful side effects over the course of the study. Though additional research will be needed to confirm the drug’s safety, moving forward Professor King hopes to conduct a clinical trial using tofacitinib, or similar medicines such as ruxolitinib, to establish whether a JAK inhibitor could provide a successful remedy for those suffering with vitiligo.

Image credit: Nadine Mitchell

 

Tapeworm Drug Effectively Treats MRSA Superbug

A study carried out by researchers at Brown University has indicated that niclosamide, a drug used to treat tapeworm, and the closely related oxycloxanide, a veterinary parasite drug, could be used to successfully treat strains of the superbug MRSA.

During the study the drugs suppressed the growth of MRSA cultures in laboratory dishes and preserved the life of nematode worms infected with the bacteria. Ninety percent of MRSA-infected worms survived and large zones of growth inhibition in MRSA culture covering the petri dish plate was cleared. Both were also found to be as effective at lower concentrations as vancomycin, the drug currently used as a last resort treatment against the superbug.

Oxyclozanide was discovered to be the more effective of the two in killing the MRSA bacteria. Niclosamide, on the other hand, successfully curbed MRSA growth however it did not completely eradicate it. Moving forward experiments on rodents are now being planned.

Potential issues have been highlighted concerning the rapid way nicolsamide is cleared from the body and the poor job it performs in working its way out of the bloodstream and into tissues. However, it has been suggested that this rapid clearance may not reduce performance and could in fact be an advantage as the toxicity of the drug may be reduced.

With noclosamide already FDA approved and featured on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, there are strong motivations for investigating its use as a boost to the immune system in those that have essay writing uk contracted MRSA. The less toxic oxycozanide could present an even more promising treatment should it be approved for human consumption. As oxycozanide targets the cell membrane rather than metabolic pathways, it could help prevent MRSA developing resistance to the drug.

Image credit: FWC Fish & Wildlife Research Institute

The Worms Detecting Cancer…

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

Red Wine & Chocolate – ‘No Health Benefits’

A new study has cast doubt upon the health benefits of the antioxidant, resveratrol, found in dark chocolate and red wine.

Resveratrol has no significant impact on life-span, heart disease or cancer, say scientists. It cannot explain the “French Paradox” – the low incidence of heart disease suffered by people in France despite a diet laden with cholesterol and saturated fat, they believe.

The lead researcher of the study, Professor Richard Semba, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, said ‘the story of resveratrol turns out to be another case where you get a lot of hype about health benefits that doesn’t stand the test of time’.

However, some animal studies have suggested that in high doses the compound may have benefits like reducing inflammation.

A belief of the health benefits of resveratrol has led to a plethora of supplements containing the compound.

Australia Aims to Benefit Health, Physics & the Environment…

ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation) and Monash University in Australia have collaborated to fund important new projects that will use state-of-the-art equipment to benefit the environment, human health and physics.

With the hope of bringing together some of the nation’s most intelligent minds and best scientific infrastructure, the projects will include:

  • Understanding radiation damage in next generation nuclear materials
  • Investigating new targeted cancer treatments
  • Creating new methods for imaging matter at the atomic scale
  • Investigating the nature of chemical bonds using complementary X-ray and electron diffraction
  • Using feathers from migratory birds as markers for environmental health
  • Predicting the likelihood of algal blooms
  • Understanding how water is stored in river banks