How big data is being mobilised in the fight against leukaemia

In a project funded by Bloodwise and the Scottish Cancer Foundation, we have created LEUKomics. This online data portal brings together a wealth of CML gene expression data from specialised laboratories across the globe | Lorna Jackson & Lisa Hopcroft for The Conversation

Leucemia mieloide cronica (LMC)

Image source: Paulo Henrique Orlandi Mourao – Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Our intention is to eliminate the bottleneck surrounding big data analysis in CML. Each dataset is subjected to manual quality checks, and all the necessary computational processing to extract information on gene expression. This enables immediate access to and interpretation of data that previously would not have been easily accessible to academics or clinicians without training in specialised computational approaches.

Consolidating these data into a single resource also allows large-scale, computationally-intensive research efforts by bioinformaticians (specialists in the analysis of big data in biology). From a computational perspective, the fact that CML is caused by a single mutation makes it an attractive disease model for cancer stem cells. However, existing datasets tend to have small sample numbers, which can limit their potential.

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Targeted Therapy in Thyroid Cancer

Valerio, L. et al. Clinical Oncology | Published online: 18 March 2017

Image shows photomicrograph (magnification X25, H & E stain) showing degenerating papillae in papillary carcinoma of the thyroid.

Thyroid cancer typically has a good outcome following standard treatments, which include surgery, radioactive iodine ablation for differentiated tumours and treatment with thyrotropine hormone-suppressive levothyroxine. Thyroid cancers that persist or recur following these therapies have a poorer prognosis. Cytotoxic chemotherapy or external beam radiotherapy has a low efficacy in these patients. ‘Target therapy’ with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) represent an important therapeutic option for the treatment of advanced cases of radioiodine refractory (RAI-R) differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) and possibly for cases of poorly differentiated (PDTC) and anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC).

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Individualised mindfulness-based stress reduction for head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy

Pollard, A. et al. (2017) European Journal of Cancer Care. 26(2)

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Image source: mindfulness – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

People with head and neck cancer (HNC) experience elevated symptom toxicity and co-morbidity as a result of treatment, which is associated with poorer psychosocial and quality-of-life (QoL) outcomes.

This Phase I study examined whether an individualised mindfulness-based stress reduction (IMBSR) programme could be successfully used with HNC patients undergoing curative treatment.

After controlling for pre-intervention mindfulness, there was an association between higher post-intervention mindfulness and lower psychological distress and higher total, social and emotional QoL. This study offers important preliminary evidence than an IMBSR intervention can be administered to HNC patients during active cancer treatment. A randomised controlled trial is warranted to confirm these findings.

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Cost-effectiveness of an exercise programme for patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy

May, A.M. et al. (2017) BMJ Open. 7:e012187

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Image source: Sancho McCann – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Objective: Meta-analyses show that exercise interventions during cancer treatment reduce cancer-related fatigue. However, little is known about the cost-effectiveness of such interventions. Here we aim to assess the cost-effectiveness of the 18-week physical activity during cancer treatment (PACT) intervention for patients with breast and colon cancer. The PACT trial showed beneficial effects for fatigue and physical fitness.

 

Results: For colon cancer, the cost-effectiveness analysis showed beneficial effects of the exercise intervention with incremental costs savings of €4321 and QALY improvements of 0.03. 100% of bootstrap simulations indicated that the intervention is dominant (ie, cheaper and more effective). For breast cancer, the results did not indicate that the exercise intervention was cost-effective. Incremental costs were €2912, and the incremental effect was 0.01 QALY. At a Dutch threshold value of €20 000 per QALY, the probability that the intervention is cost-effective was 2%.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the 18-week exercise programme was cost-effective for colon cancer, but not for breast cancer.

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Developing a model for embedded palliative care in a cancer clinic

DeSanto-Madeya, S. et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care | Published Online: 03 March 2017.

Objectives: Describe the development and key features of a model for embedded palliative care (PC) for patients with advanced kidney cancer or melanoma seen in a cancer clinic.

Conclusions: The initial phase demonstrated acceptability and feasibility of a model for embedded PC for patients and the oncology team. Establishment of specific eligibility criteria and screening to identify eligible patients in the model phase led to an increased uptake of PC for patients with advanced kidney cancer and melanoma in a cancer clinic.

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Comparison of Pharmaceutical, Psychological, and Exercise Treatments for Cancer-Related Fatigue

Mustian, K.M. et al. JAMA Oncology | Published online: 2 March 2017

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Question: Which of the 4 most commonly recommended treatments for cancer-related-fatigue—exercise, psychological, the combination of exercise and psychological, and pharmaceutical—is the most effective?

Findings: This meta-analysis of 113 unique studies (11 525 unique participants) found that exercise and psychological interventions and the combination of both reduce cancer-related fatigue during and after cancer treatment. Reduction was not due to time, attention, or education. In contrast, pharmaceutical interventions do not improve cancer-related fatigue to the same magnitude.

Meaning: Clinicians should prescribe exercise and/or psychological interventions as first-line treatments for cancer-related fatigue.

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Sexual well-being in cancer and palliative care

Gleeson, A.et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care | Published Online: 2 March 2017

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Objectives: The aims of this study were twofold. First, to determine the current practice of healthcare professionals (HCPs) working with cancer and palliative care patients in primary and secondary care settings in relation to sexual well-being. Second, to determine the education requirements of HCPs regarding the management of sexual well-being concerns of cancer/palliative care patients.

 

Conclusions: This survey identified that sexual well-being in cancer and palliative care patients is not routinely assessed with the majority of respondents stating that further support and training would be beneficial. The results of this questionnaire will be used to inform and develop sexual well-being training for HCPs working with cancer and palliative care patients.

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