Cancer Research


Image: Peter Hermes Furian

In 1971 Richard Nixon declared “War on Cancer” with the signing of the National Cancer Act. Significant progress has been made in the intervening 44 years – and Europe has been at the forefront of many of the advances.

But on February 4, World Cancer Day, it is worth asking whether we are winning the war on a disease which affects more than 22m people annually?

First, the good news – more people are surviving cancer than are dying of the disease. The recent European Cancer Registry shows that in Europe there were almost 16m cancer survivors in 2012.

In the last 40 years, health care has improved a great deal and we are living longer than ever. But the downside to longevity is more time for mutations to occur, and that means cancer.

A new forecast in the British Journal of Cancer has an alarming finding - that half of people in the United Kingdom will get cancer - but it makes sense. The good news is that in the last 40 years, cancer survival has doubled and half of cancer survivors now live more than 10 years.
By inserting a specific strain of bacteria into the microenvironment of aggressive ovarian cancer, researchers transformed the behavior of tumor cells from suppression to immunostimulation - they attack themselves.

Tumors protect themselves from attack by the immune system by generating an immunosuppressive microenvironment.  By introducing an attenuated and safe form of the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), created by Aduro Biotech Inc., they found that the attenuated bacteria is taken up by the immunosuppressive cells and transforms them from cells that protect the tumor into cells that attack the tumor 
Inhibiting the action of a particular enzyme called polymerase theta, or PolQ, dramatically slows the growth of tumor cells tied to BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations which, in turn, are closely tied to breast and ovarian cancers, according to a new paper. 

There are ways non-scientists can assess if the research underlying big claims about cancer cures stack up. Rafael Anderson Gonzales Mendoza/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By Nial Wheate, University of Sydney

By Katy Bell, University of Sydney; Alexandra Barratt, University of Sydney, and Andrew Hayen, UNSW Australia

Cancer screening is beneficial when it’s able to prevent people dying from cancer. And it should clearly be adopted where there’s evidence showing this. But using cancer survival rates to promote screening, as is often done, is misleading.

An analysis of Danish women of reproductive age suggests that long-term use of hormonal contraceptives is associated with an increased risk of brain tumors.

 Hormonal contraceptives, commonly called "the pill" in oral contraceptive, contain female sex hormones and are commonly referenced as the foundation of the "sexual revolution" in the 1960s because widespread usage has given women all over the world control over childbearing.
We've all seen athletes on the sidelines of a football game with a mask over their mouths inhaling oxygen. It may seem odd that anyone stands around for 60 seconds, moves for 10 and then has to go sit on a bunch with an oxygen tank but oxygen is life, and the belief is greater oxygen in the blood will mean greater athletic performance.

It may also mean more lung cancer, is it said. Why? People at higher elevations get less respiratory cancer than people at lower ones, for other cancers it is no different. Is that just epidemiology scrambling for curves to match again or is there something to it? Will boosting metabolism that way also boost the rates of cancer?

Many cancer survivors face physical and mental challenges, such as sexual dysfunction or anxiety about getting cancer again or financial hardships, even decades after the treatment is ended.  

Finding ways to help will become increasingly important because more cancer patients are living many years after treatment. The number of U.S. survivors is expected to top 19 million by 2024. While most survivors do well after treatment, some experience continuing problems that can significantly impair their quality of life well beyond the 5-year survival milestone. The problems and challenges can vary by the type of cancer patients had and the treatments they received.