New insight into how cancer spreads

Engineers have offered new insight into how cancer cells move based on their ability to sense their environment. The discovery could have a major impact on therapies to prevent the spread of cancer. | Via ScienceDaily

Researchers have found that cells have the ability to sense the stiffness of their environment and their ability to move is dependent upon that environment. These environments range from stiff (bone tissue) to soft (fatty tissue) with a medium stiffness (muscle tissue).

David Odde, a University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor and Masonic Cancer Center researcher who led the study said “If we can trick cancer cells into believing it is not a good environment for migration, we can prevent the cancer cells from spreading.” The findings have been published in the Journal, Nature Communications

Full story at ScienceDaily

Journal reference: Benjamin L. Bangasser et al.  Shifting the optimal stiffness for cell migration. Nature Communications, 2017; 8

 

Discovery in fight against bowel cancer

New research has discovered how a genomic approach to understanding bowel (colorectal) cancer could improve the prognosis and quality of life for patients.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with 41,200 people newly diagnosed each year. A number of treatment options are available but mortality rates remain high, with bowel cancer the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the University of Leeds have made a significant advance in the treatment of bowel cancer. The study, which has been published in the journal Nature Communications, has shown how defining precise gene signatures within bowel cancer cells can allow us to develop novel prognostic and predictive markers for bowel cancer and help to drive personalised medicine approaches.

Full story via ScienceDaily

Link to the research:  Dunne, P.D. et al. Cancer-cell intrinsic gene expression signatures overcome intratumoural heterogeneity bias in colorectal cancer patient classification. Nature Communications, 2017

Cheap blood test could boost prostate cancer treatment

A cheap genetic test costing less than £50 has been developed that could help target treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer and help offset side effects from ineffective treatments | OnMedica

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Cancer researchers across Europe, including doctors from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, analysed blood from 265 men with the disease and found those with multiple copies of a particular gene did not respond to abiraterone and enzalutamide – drugs commonly used to treat advanced cases.

About 46,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK every year, one in four of them at an advanced stage. For the study,* published in the journal Annals of Oncology, scientists took blood samples from patients taking part in three different clinical trials.

The team says that more trials are needed but they hope the test could prevent thousands of men undergoing unnecessary treatment and allow more personalised care. The drugs abiraterone and enzalutamide are given to men whose cancer is no longer responding to traditional hormone therapy and has started to spread.

Read the full commentary via OnMedica here

Read the full original research article here

Big data advances breast cancer research by ‘decades’

Big data has brought forward breast cancer research forward by ‘decades’, experts say.

data

Scientists have created a ‘map’ linking the shape of breast cancer cells to genes turned on and off, and matched it to real disease outcomes, which could one day help doctors select treatments, according to a study  published in Genome Research.

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, used large sets of data to map out a network of links between cell shape and genes.

By analysing cell shape in millions of images of more than 300,000 breast cancer cells, and data for more than 28,000 different genes, researchers found that cell shape changes, which can be caused by physical pressures on the tumour, are converted into changes in gene activity.

When they then used their maps to analyse thousands of samples taken from women who took part in the Cancer Research UK funded METABRIC study, the researchers discovered that these changes are linked to clinical outcomes for patients.

Read more at OnMedica

Full reference: Heba Z. Sailem & Chris Bakal Identification of clinically predictive metagenes that encode components of a network coupling cell shape to transcription by image-omics
Genome Research. 2017. 27: 196-207

Treatment targeted at underlying disease versus palliative care in terminally ill patients

Reljic, T. et al. BMJ Open. 7:e014661

Objective: To assess the efficacy of active treatment targeted at underlying disease (TTD)/potentially curative treatments versus palliative care (PC) in improving overall survival (OS) in terminally ill patients.

Results: Initial search identified 8252 citations of which 10 RCTs (15 comparisons, 1549 patients) met inclusion criteria. All RCTs included patients with cancer. OS was reported in 7 RCTs (8 comparisons, 1158 patients). The pooled results showed no statistically significant difference in OS between TTD and PC (HR (95% CI) 0.85 (0.71 to 1.02)). The heterogeneity between pooled studies was high (I2=62.1%). Overall rates of adverse events were higher in the TTD arm.

Conclusions: Our systematic review of available RCTs in patients with terminal illness due to cancer shows that TTD compared with PC did not demonstrably impact OS and is associated with increased toxicity. The results provide assurance to physicians, patients and family that the patients’ survival will not be compromised by referral to hospice with focus on PC.

Read the full article here

Nivolumab for Recurrent Squamous-Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck

Ferris, R.L. New England Journal of Medicine. Published online: 9 October 2016

N0009269 Cancer of the tongue

Image source: Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Image shows photomicrograph of squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.

Background: Patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck after platinum chemotherapy have a very poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options. Nivolumab, an anti–programmed death 1 (PD-1) monoclonal antibody, was assessed as treatment for this condition.

Methods: In this randomized, open-label, phase 3 trial, we assigned, in a 2:1 ratio, 361 patients with recurrent squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck whose disease had progressed within 6 months after platinum-based chemotherapy to receive nivolumab (at a dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight) every 2 weeks or standard, single-agent systemic therapy (methotrexate, docetaxel, or cetuximab). The primary end point was overall survival. Additional end points included progression-free survival, rate of objective response, safety, and patient-reported quality of life.

Results: The median overall survival was 7.5 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.5 to 9.1) in the nivolumab group versus 5.1 months (95% CI, 4.0 to 6.0) in the group that received standard therapy. Overall survival was significantly longer with nivolumab than with standard therapy (hazard ratio for death, 0.70; 97.73% CI, 0.51 to 0.96; P=0.01), and the estimates of the 1-year survival rate were approximately 19 percentage points higher with nivolumab than with standard therapy (36.0% vs. 16.6%). The median progression-free survival was 2.0 months (95% CI, 1.9 to 2.1) with nivolumab versus 2.3 months (95% CI, 1.9 to 3.1) with standard therapy (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.70 to 1.13; P=0.32). The rate of progression-free survival at 6 months was 19.7% with nivolumab versus 9.9% with standard therapy. The response rate was 13.3% in the nivolumab group versus 5.8% in the standard-therapy group. Treatment-related adverse events of grade 3 or 4 occurred in 13.1% of the patients in the nivolumab group versus 35.1% of those in the standard-therapy group. Physical, role, and social functioning was stable in the nivolumab group, whereas it was meaningfully worse in the standard-therapy group.

Conclusions: Among patients with platinum-refractory, recurrent squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck, treatment with nivolumab resulted in longer overall survival than treatment with standard, single-agent therapy.

Read the full article here