International alliance sets bold research ambition to detect the (almost) undetectable

Cancer Research UK| October  2019 | International alliance sets bold research ambition to detect the (almost) undetectable

Developing radical new strategies and technologies to detect cancer at its earliest stage is the bold ambition of a new transatlantic research alliance, announced today by Cancer Research UK and partners.

Cancer Research UK is setting out a bold ambition to jump-start this under-explored field of research, collaborating with teams of scientists from across the UK and the US.

The International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED) is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the OHSU Knight Cancer InstituteUCL and the University of Manchester.

Scientists in the Alliance will work together at the forefront of technological innovation to translate research into realistic ways to improve cancer diagnosis, which can be implemented into health systems. Potential areas of research include: ​

  • Developing new improved imaging techniques and robotics, to detect early tumours and pre-cancerous lesions
  • Increasing understanding of how the environment surrounding a tumour influences cancer development
  • Developing less invasive and simpler detection techniques such as blood, breath and urine tests, which can monitor patients who are at a higher risk of certain cancers
  • Searching for early stress signals sent out from tumours or surrounding damaged tissue as a new indication of cancer
  • Looking for early signs of cancer in surrounding tissue and fluids to help diagnose hard to reach tumours
  • Harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence and big data to look for signs of cancer that are undetectable to humans.

As part of the Cancer Research UK’s early detection strategy, the charity will invest an essential cash injection of up to £40 million over the next five years into ACED. Stanford University and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will also significantly invest in the Alliance, taking the total potential contributions to more than £55 million (Source: Cancer Research UK).

Full details of the project are available from Cancer Research UK

See also:

BMJ New UK and US research alliance aims to detect cancer earlier and improve screening

Targeted breast cancer treatment approved for NHS use in England

Cancer Research UK | October 2019 | Targeted breast cancer treatment approved for NHS use in England

A new treatment for early stage breast cancer will be made available for certain patients on the NHS in England.

Following the recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), neratinib (Nerlynx) will be offered as an extended treatment for breast cancer patients who’ve had another targeted treatment, trastuzumab (Herceptin), within the last year.

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The new treatment is said to “significantly reduce the proportion of breast cancer relapses”, according to short-term trial data.

Neratinib blocks the cancer growth by interfering with chemical signals sent between cells.

It’s recommended for use for patients whose cancer tests positive for hormone receptors and a molecule called HER2. The treatment will only be available to adults who’ve been treated with trastuzumab within the last year, and where trastuzumab was used after initial treatment to help stop their cancer coming back.

This is the first treatment available for patients who have previously taken trastuzumab that maintain the intended effect of that treatment (adjuvant therapy).

Further criteria which patients will have to meet in order to access the drug include:

  • Trastuzumab is the only treatment they’ve taken that targets the molecule HER2
  • If trastuzumab was given before surgery, there were still signs of cancer in the tissue samples removed during surgery (Source: Cancer Research UK)

Read the press release from Cancer Research UK

Full details available from NICE 

Cancer Research UK funding tops half a billion pounds

Cancer Research UK raised £540m in fundraising income in the last financial year, an increase of 2 per cent over the previous year, in one of its most successful fundraising years so far.

This increase was in part thanks to more money raised from legacy donations, Race for Life and Stand Up To Cancer, which all raised more than the previous year.  And an additional £2m was raised via Facebook charitable giving, an innovative new fundraising platform that launched towards the end of the year.

Total income for the year was £672m, an increase of 6% on the previous year, which includes fundraising income as well as £125m income from charitable activities – the largest amount ever received, which will be reinvested in research.

Key achievements outlined in Cancer Research UK’s annual report and accounts,  include:

  • Securing a strong commitment to early cancer diagnosis in the NHS Long Term Plan.
  • Three new international Grand Challenge teams awarded £20m each over the next five years, to solve long-standing mysteries in cancer research
  • Launching the Cancer Research UK City of London Centre, a £14m investment to create a world-leading cancer therapeutics research hub.
  • Launching a new Brain Tumour Award funding scheme, to accelerate progress in research on brain tumours.

Full press release at Cancer Research UK

Cervical Cancer statistics

Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that in 2015 there were around 2,500 new cases, and nearly 700 deaths attributable to cervical cancer, in England. The overall age standardised incidence rate has been declining since the 1990s, however incidence is increasing in younger women.

Cervical cancer is 99.8% preventable through the cervical screening and the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programmes. A cervical screen collects cells from the cervix to be tested for abnormalities. In 2019, primary HPV testing will also be introduced as part of the screening process.

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Most cases of cervical cancer are linked to HPV and the vaccine, currently offered by the NHS for free to girls aged 12 and 13 in UK schools, protects against the most of the virus strains responsible. The national HPV vaccination programme has successfully reduced infections of HPV type 16/18 in 16-21 year old women by 80%.

Full detail at Cancer Research UK

Campaigns

Clinical trial launches to develop breath test for multiple cancers

Cancer Research UK | January 2019 |Clinical trial launches to develop breath test for multiple cancers

A breath test that has the potential to identify cancers is being trialled by Cancer Research. The trial is a collaboration between CRUK and Owlstone Medical to test their breathalyzer Breath Biopsy® technology which will be the first to test across multiple cancer types.  

This cancer breath test has the  potential to provide a non-invasive look into what’s happening in the body and could help to find cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be effective.  The researchers in the trial will collect samples from 1,500 people, during a ten minute test, this will also include breath samples from healthy people to act as trial controls, to analyse volatile orgnaic compounds (VOCs) in the breath to see if they can detect signals of different cancer types. The study will begin with people with suspected oesophageal and stomach cancers, before expanding to include prostate, kidney, bladder, liver and pancreatic cancers over the next few months.

The trial is recruiting patients to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge who have been referred from their GP with these specific types of suspected cancer.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead trial investigator at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre said: “Through this clinical trial we hope to find signatures in breath needed to detect cancers earlier – it’s the crucial next step in developing this technology. Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy® technology is the first to test across multiple cancer types, potentially paving the way for a universal breath test.”

Recognising the importance of early detection in improving cancer survival, Cancer Research UK has made research into this area one of its top priorities and will invest more than £20 million a year in early detection research by 2019 (Source: Cancer Research UK).

Read the press release in its entirety at Cancer Research UK

In the news:

BBC News Is a breath test key to detecting cancer?

Securing a cancer workforce for the best outcomes

Cancer Research UK|November 2018 |Securing a cancer workforce for the best outcomes: the future demand for cancer workforce in England

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has published Securing a cancer workforce for the best outcomes: the future demand for cancer workforce in England, this document comes in response 

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Image source: cancerresearchuk.org

To successfully anticipate workforce needs in cancer, it is essential to consider both how
many patients are expected to be diagnosed and treated in the future, and the likely areas in which cancer services will change. As such CRUK wanted to explore the future demand for staff in more depth, to demonstrate how this approach could be taken in a long-term plan for the workforce. CRUK  wanted this to highlight the scale of increase required to meet the future needs of cancer patients, as well as consider what impact potential changes in services could have on staffing requirements in the NHS. CRUK commissioned 2020 Delivery to develop the model that we used to generate these estimates (Source: CRUK). 

The document argues that:

  • A demand-led approach is needed;
  • staff numbers may need to double to meet demand;
  • changes in the NHS will need even more staff;
  • a long term plan for the workforce (is needed)

Read the full publication at CRUK

Obesity set to become the biggest preventable cause of cancer for females

Cancer Research UK |September 2018| When could overweight and obesity overtake smoking as the biggest cause of cancer in the UK?  

Cancer Research UK report that overweight and obesity are on track to overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women in around a quarter of a century, if current trends continue as projected. 

 

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Image source: cancerresearchuk.org

The study is the first attempt to quantify and compare the future smoking- and overweight and obesity attributable cancer burdens.  Cancer Research UK projects that smoking and overweight and obesity could cause 20,000 more cancer cases by 2035 than the 75000 cases in 2015.  In seventeen years’ time  one-tenth of cancers in women (around 25,000 cases) could be caused by smoking and just less than one-tenth (around 23,000 cases)  attributed to excess weight.

 

 

 

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said:

“Obesity is a huge public health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done. The UK Government must build on the lessons of smoking prevention to reduce the number of weight-related cancers by making it easier to keep a healthy weight and protect children, as those who are overweight are five times more likely to be so as an adult.

The report has been released to coincide with the launch of the charity’s UK-wide campaign to increase awareness that obesity is a cause of cancer (Source: Cancer Research UK).

Cancer Research UK [Press release] Obesity could overtake smoking as biggest preventable cause of cancer in women

Cancer Research UK  [Report] When could overweight and obesity overtake smoking as the biggest cause of cancer in the UK?   

See also: OnMedica Obesity as cause of cancer set to overtake smoking