Men dangerously unaware of family link to prostate cancer

Two-thirds of men with a family history of prostate cancer are dangerously unaware of their increased risk of the disease and half of all UK men don’t know that a family link makes you two-and-a-half times more likely to get it, according to new research by Prostate Cancer UK.

It’s prompted urgent calls from the charity for men and their families to have a potentially life-saving talk about the disease with their relatives and doctor. Especially since an accompanying study  showed that only 1-in-10 GPs are likely to always ask a man whether any close relatives have had the disease. Although where men did take the lead and initiate a discussion with their doctor, it found their experiences were overwhelmingly positive.

NICE: All patients with colorectal cancer should be tested for genetic condition

Everyone who has colorectal cancer diagnosed should be tested for an inherited genetic condition called Lynch syndrome, new guidance states | BMJ

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends microsatellite instability testing or immunohistochemistry to detect abnormalities that may indicate the syndrome.

Lynch syndrome, the most common cause of hereditary bowel cancer, has also been linked to an increased risk of developing other cancers including womb, ovarian, and stomach. People with the condition who develop colorectal cancer generally do so at a younger age, usually 40-50.

Testing for the condition helps to identify whether the patient’s family are also at increased risk of cancer so that they can be monitored more closely if needed, says NICE. Where these tests show that a person has a risk of the syndrome, the guidance recommends further tests to confirm the diagnosis. Because it is an inherited condition, a positive test can also lead to testing of family members.

Diagnosing Lynch syndrome may also help with the choice of treatment for colorectal cancer—for example, to direct chemotherapy or surgery.

Read the full overview here

Read the full guidance recommendations here

NICE: Women with family history of breast cancer should take pill

Hundreds of thousands of healthy women should take pills to cut their risk of breast cancer, says NHS watchdog NICE | BBC News

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The draft guidelines for England say women predisposed to breast cancer because of a strong family history of the disease need this protection.

There are now three drugs to choose from – tamoxifen, raloxifene and, for the first time, anastrozole. Anastrozole is cheaper than the other two and, for some women, has fewer side-effects and is more effective.

Read the full news story here

Read the NICE draft guidelines here

From Krebs to clinic: glutamine metabolism to cancer therapy

Altman, B.J. et al. Nature Reviews Cancer. 16. pp. 619–634

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Image source: Altman, B.J. et al.

The resurgence of research into cancer metabolism has recently broadened interests beyond glucose and the Warburg effect to other nutrients, including glutamine. Because oncogenic alterations of metabolism render cancer cells addicted to nutrients, pathways involved in glycolysis or glutaminolysis could be exploited for therapeutic purposes. In this Review, we provide an updated overview of glutamine metabolism and its involvement in tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo, and explore the recent potential applications of basic science discoveries in the clinical setting.

Read the abstract here

New research gives deeper understanding of why some breast cancers are hard to treat

Scientists have unearthed crucial new genetic information about how breast cancer develops and the genetic changes which can be linked to survival. via Science Daily

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image of breast cancer cells. image source: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images//CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The Cancer Research UK funded researchers, from the University of Cambridge, analysed tumour samples from the METABRIC study — which revealed breast cancer can be classified as 10 different diseases — to get a deeper understanding of the genetic faults of these 10 subtypes.

They found 40 mutated genes that cause breast cancer to progress. Only a fraction of these genes were previously known to be involved in breast cancer development. They also discovered that one of the more commonly mutated genes, called PIK3CA, is linked to lower chances of survival for three of the 10 breast cancer subgroups. Crucially, this might help explain why drugs targeting PIK3CA work for some women but not for others.

And the researchers think the results could in the future help find drugs to target these genetic faults, stopping the disease from progressing. The research could also provide vital information to help design breast cancer trials and improved tests for the disease.

Full reference: Pereira et al., The somatic mutation profile of 2,433 breast cancers refines their genomic and transcriptomic landscapes. Nature Communications, 2016.

Cancer Research UK press release: New research gives deeper understanding of why some breast cancers are hard to treat

Cancer tumour genetics reveal possible treatment revolution

Ian Sample. The Guardian Healthcare. Published online: 4th March 2016.

A landmark discovery into the genetic makeup of tumours has the potential to open a new front in the war on cancer, delivering potent therapies that are tailored to individual patients, scientists have said.

The breakthrough comes from research into the genetic complexity of lung and skin cancers which found that even as tumours grow and spread around the body, they carry with them a number of biological “flags” that the immune system can be primed to attack.

Because the flags, which appear as surface proteins, are found only on cancer cells, they provide what scientists described as “exquisite targets” for new therapies that draw on the power of the immune system to combat cancer.

Treatments that harness the immune system have shown great promise against some forms of cancer, such as melanoma, but they do not work in everyone. One approach releases the brakes on the immune system, unleashing the full force of killer T cells, which are otherwise dampened down by cancer cells. But to work, the patient’s immune system must first recognise the cancer as the enemy.

Read the full news article here