Urine test could lead to better treatment of bladder cancer

Researchers at the University of Birmingham believe that a simple urine test could help to guide clinicians in the treatment of bladder cancer patients. Being able to reliably identify those patients with the most aggressive cancers early via urine tests, and expediting aggressive therapeutic strategies, may significantly improve outcomes. The scientists believe that the validation of two urinary biomarkers could spell a new way of tailoring treatment. Patient management has changed little over the last three decades, so it is hoped that this research, published in British Journal of Cancer, will prove to be a step forward for the field with a view to providing improved care for each patient.

Link to the research: Bryan, R.T et al. Protein shedding in urothelial bladder cancer: prognostic implications of soluble urinary EGFR and EpCAM.  British Journal of Cancer Advance online Feb 2015

Statin Use Associated With Reduced Risk of Liver Cancer Among Those in the UK

In a nested-case control study of individuals living in the UK, a part of the world with a relatively low incidence of liver cancer, statin use is associated with a decreased risk of liver cancer, according to a new study published February. Data from the United Kingdom’s Clinical Practice Research Database was analysed and included 1195 liver cancer cases diagnosed between 1988 and 2011 and 4640 control patients. They found statin use was associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer overall. This relationship was strongest among current users. The authors conclude, “the results of the current study suggest that use of statins among persons at high risk of developing liver cancer, even in low-risk settings, may have a net cancer protective effect.”

Link to the research:. Mcglynn, K. A. et al. Statin Use and Risk of Primary Liver Cancer in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. February 2015

Pancreatic cancer has four distinct types

Researchers have found that pancreatic cancer can be split into four unique types, a discovery that could be used to improve treatments for the disease, according to a study published in Nature. The four subgroups were classified as having DNA that was stable, locally rearranged, scattered and unstable. The international team of scientists, including Cancer Research UK researchers, found that these four types were created when large chunks of DNA are shuffled around. The team also identified the genes that could be damaged in this way.

Link to the research: Waddell, N. et al, ‘Whole Genomes Redefine the Mutational Landscape of Pancreatic Cancer’. Nature, 2015.

Study confirms long-term benefits of melanoma immunotherapy

A long-term follow up of people on an international clinical trial has confirmed the benefit of immunotherapy for certain patients with advanced (stage 3 or 4) melanoma. More than 18 per cent of patients were still alive five years after being treated with ipilimumab (Yervoy) in combination with a chemotherapy drug called dacarbazine. This compared to fewer than nine per cent who were treated with chemo alone. Ipilimumab is one of a new class of cancer treatments that target the immune system, and works by homing in on a molecule found on immune cells called CTLA-4.

Link to the research: Maio M. (2015). Five-Year Survival Rates for Treatment-Naive Patients With Advanced Melanoma Who Received Ipilimumab Plus Dacarbazine in a Phase III Trial Journal of Clinical Oncology

More than a third of people with abnormal results drop out of bowel cancer screening

Almost 40 per cent of people who have abnormal results from bowel cancer screening tests and are referred for further investigation ignore their next screening invitation two years later, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

In contrast, just 13 per cent of those who had a normal result did not continue with screening. The Research looked at almost 40,000 people’s behaviour to find out if their experience of bowel cancer screening affected the likelihood of doing the same test two years later.

Link to the research: Lo et al. Predictors of repeat participation in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme. British Journal of Cancer.

New health care delivery model for prostate cancer care results in better patient outcomes

A comprehensive, population-based regional health care management program for men with prostate cancer has led to improved outcomes, according to a study. “While prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men, providing high quality care for men living with prostate cancer presents a challenge,” said the study’s lead author. “Increased survival rates have made prostate cancer similar to other chronic conditions, which means we need ongoing management strategies that span the natural history and clinical course of the disease.”

Link to the research: Loo, R.K. et al The Continuum of Prostate Cancer Care: An Integrated Population Based Model of Health Care Delivery. Urology Practice, 2015; 2 (2)

‘Targeted’ biopsy could better identify aggressive prostate cancers

An experimental biopsy procedure appears to be more effective than the current tests in identifying ‘high-risk’ prostate cancers, according to a US clinical trial. If confirmed in larger studies, the results could lead to fewer men subsequently having more invasive tests that they may not need. ‘Targeted’ biopsies use a combination of ultrasound and MRI scans to try to ensure a more accurate sample, compared with the current biopsy method.

Link to the research: Siddiqui, M., et al. (2015). Comparison of MR/Ultrasound Fusion–Guided Biopsy With Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy for the Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer JAMA, 313 (4)

Women back idea of more breast screens for those at high risk of cancer

Most women (85 per cent) would back the idea of more frequent breast screening if they are at higher genetic risk of developing breast cancer, according to research published today by The Breast. Fewer women (60 per cent) would be happy to be screened less often if they were found to be at lower risk. More than 940 women from across the UK were asked for their views on the possibility of tailoring breast screening to people’s genetic risk in a study funded by Cancer Research UK and The Eve Appeal. Two-thirds (66 per cent) supported the idea of adjusting the frequency of screening on the basis of risk.

Link to the research: Susanne F Meisel et al – Adjusting the frequency of mammography screening on the basis of genetic risk: Attitudes among women in the UK. Breast. 2015 Feb [Epub ahead of print]

‘Liquid biopsies’ could help spot genetic faults in lung cancer

Blood samples could offer an alternative to tumour biopsies in lung cancer patients, according to European researchers. Experts believe the findings could aid future research by overcoming the difficulty of accessing some tumour samples.

The researchers analysed blood samples from patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer and looked for ‘circulating free DNA’ – bits of DNA shed from tumour cells that can be isolated from the blood. They found that the tumour DNA present in blood samples could be used to identify different types of tumour-causing genetic faults in a gene called EGFR.

Link to the research: Karachaliou N. et al. (2015). Association of EGFR L858R Mutation in Circulating Free DNA With Survival in the EURTAC Trial, JAMA Oncology.

Majority of public unaware of alcohol’s link with cancer

More than half of the British public are unaware of the link between alcohol consumption and cancer, according to a survey from the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA). The UK- wide poll found that just 47 per cent of people were aware of any connection between alcohol and the disease. But an overwhelming majority (83 per cent) would back further nutritional and health information on alcohol labelling.

The results from the survey of 3077 people showed that nine in 10 (91 per cent) think that clarifying the health impacts of alcohol is important. But when challenged over their current knowledge, just under one in three (31 per cent) of people successfully acknowledged the links between alcohol and breast cancer. This stretched to half of people being aware of the links in relation to mouth or throat cancer.

The AHA is calling for health labelling to be made a legal requirement for alcohol products. Its campaign is pushing for every alcohol product to clearly describe its nutritional, calorie and alcohol content as well as make it clear through labelling that the safest option for pregnant women is to avoid alcohol consumption entirely.