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  • The link between air pollution and cancer - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    exposed to air pollution the IARC evaluation considered the evidence from studies on animals and cells in the lab This type of evidence isn t enough by itself to prove a link but taken together with studies in people it helps strengthen the case Taking all this evidence into account and with the above limitations in mind IARC now believes outdoor air pollution should be considered a cancer causing substance a carcinogen How big is the risk But the chance of any one person in the UK developing lung cancer specifically due to air pollution is pretty small As with most cancer risk factors the risk is higher the more someone is exposed to the substance Air pollution is a complicated mixture that can contain many components and different people will have been exposed to different amounts depending on their lifestyle But it s unlikely that in the UK many people would be exposed to high enough levels to make any noticeable difference to their risk of lung cancer It s important that people keep the risk from air pollution in perspective Although air pollution increases the risk of developing lung cancer by a small amount other things have a much bigger effect on our risk particularly smoking How does the risk compare with smoking Being a smoker poses a much bigger risk to health than air pollution Long term smokers can have 20 times the risk of lung cancer compared to people who have never smoked And research has shown that more than eight out of 10 lung cancers in the UK are caused by smoking If you smoke tobacco will have a much bigger impact on your risk of cancer than air pollution will And the best thing you can do for your health is to quit studies have shown that even long term smokers who quit in their 60s gain valuable years of life What about things like obesity alcohol and diet On an individual level the chance of developing lung cancer due to air pollution is pretty small But small effects over large populations matter In other words because air pollution potentially affects all of us it is an important cause of lung cancer across the whole population And air pollution has also been linked to heart disease as well as asthma attacks and other lung conditions The WHO s major Global Burden of Disease project last year published an analysis of the most important risk factors that contribute to disease around the world This includes cancer as well as conditions like heart disease and diabetes The position in the list reflects both how much something increases the risk of disease and also how many people are affected For the area of Western Europe tobacco unsurprisingly topped the list as the biggest contributor to disease in the region And air pollution came in at number 11 Between tobacco and air pollution the WHO list several key factors related to lifestyle that we know increase the risk of cancer High body mass indexes BMIs alcohol and low physical activity respectively rank 3rd 4th and 5th as causes of disease within Western Europe So although air pollution can increase the risk of cancer and other diseases overall sticking to a healthy lifestyle is still an important part of reducing the risk of cancer And importantly our lifestyles are within our own control And we wouldn t want worries about air pollution to put people off walking and cycling A really important way we can help cut the risk from air pollution is to create less of it People choosing to use their cars less often could make a big difference to levels of air pollution And as we ve already mentioned being active is also a great way to improve your health and reduce your risk of cancer Some studies have found that when they modeled the effects of more people in a city choosing active transport options like walking and cycling overall people s health improved How can we tackle air pollution Air pollution is one of the classic problems of public health according to Dr Dana Loomis of IARC speaking at the press conference Tackling air pollution requires leadership and action at both national and local level But there are some things we can try ourselves to reduce the levels of air pollution we re exposed to In general if you re walking running or cycling try to choose a route that uses smaller less busy roads For some areas the Walkit website has a low pollution option Apart from anything else your walk is likely to be a more pleasant experience on quieter streets This announcement should act as a stepping stone for national and even international action to address air pollution We want the government and other relevant authorities to introduce measures to reduce air pollution to levels within EU limits to protect people s health Reference Images courtesy of Tony Oxborrow via Flickr Share this article More on this topic Tags Cancer in the news Causes of cancer Chemicals Environment and pollution Lung cancer Comments Click here to cancel reply vinsensia makrina February 3 2014 of course air pollution although if you were true scientists and not now just a disgraceful propaganda organisation Fake Charity you would have written the same sentences in opposition to the smoking ban It s a shame you didn t provide the claimed relative risk from air pollution I suspect it might be greater than the relative risk of 1 2 you claimed for 4 hours a day exposure to passive smoking And now you want ecigs regulated out of existence I guess they are competition for you as they are going to prevent more cases of lung cancer than you have a hope in hell of curing in the next thousand years What a disgrace your organisation has become Helen December 8 2013 I m a 45 year old woman when diagnosed with terminal lung cancer I

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2013/10/18/the-link-between-air-pollution-and-cancer/ (2016-02-11)
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  • Diesel emissions – an emerging public health issue? - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    stats a complex picture As it stands about nine in every 10 lung cancers in the UK are linked to smoking And lung cancer is the 2 nd most common cancer in the UK after breast cancer And if you take out every case of cancer any type not just lung in the UK thought to be due to smoking lung cancer drops from 2 nd most common to 12 th But that still means lung cancer would affect some 6 260 people every year in the UK still a significant public health issue especially given the poor survival in lung cancer overall compared with other cancers Thanks to continued action against tobacco the country s overall lung cancer rates are on the way down But in the lung cancer type most common in non smokers adenocarcinoma the number of cases seems to be on the up But this is just indirect evidence that there may be something going on Is there any evidence that lung cancer in non smokers is on the rise Unfortunately it s really tricky to tell particularly since even non smokers are exposed to second hand smoke much more so in the past than today thanks to the public smoking ban So while the trends in lung adenocarcinoma don t constitute proof that lung cancer caused by factors other than smoking is on the increase it does point to something underpinning these long term trends that we do need to understand What about pollution levels It s here that things get a bit tricky Most of the data available tends to suggest that like lung cancer rates air pollution levels are generally falling too But this too could hide a number of other trends The nasties in diesel emissions are thought to be microscopic particles known as PM2 5 and proper UK records for these only began to be collected in 2010 This is far too short a time to confidently link pollution rates with lung cancer rates Again there s a real lack of good quality data to rely on What about biology Professor David Phillips quietly optimistic of progress in finding causes of lung cancer in non smokers Of course the answer to unknowns and uncertainty is research both to fill the gaps in the data and also on the underlying biology of lung cancer in non smokers This is something the authors of the editorial urgently call for and it s here that thanks to recent advances in DNA analysis some real progress is on the horizon Professor David Phillips is Cancer Research UK s expert in carcinogenesis and he s currently involved in a project called the Collaboration on Mutational Signatures or COMSIG funded by the Wellcome Trust Phillips s team is blasting lab grown cells with a range of cancer causing chemicals allowing them to grow then working with experts at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to map out their entire genomes looking for the fingerprints of damage from each

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/11/24/diesel-emissions-an-emerging-public-health-issue/ (2016-02-11)
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  • The biggest cancer science stories of 2015 - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    tried January Simple urine test for pancreatic cancer Not just yet August No HRT isn t harmless there are risks as well as benefits October Processed meat and cancer what you need to know October Have researchers really discovered a new miracle drug to cure nine in 10 cancers Not quite but the research is fascinating October Tumour evolution Our researchers showed that the more genetic mistakes an oesophageal tumour contains the more aggressive it s likely to be They also showed that drugs like cisplatin the standard treatment for oesophageal cancer were less likely to work when the tumour had lots of mistakes In the future the findings could allow doctors to better tailor oesophageal cancer treatment by identifying patients who are more or less likely to respond to drugs like cisplatin And as Emma points out Knowing when to stop giving drugs is as important as working out which one to give in the first place The same research team led by Professor Charlie Swanton also began penning the first pages of an evolutionary rule book for cancer We blogged about their fascinating research which is changing the way scientists think about tackling cancer Liquid biopsies We helped tell the story of how 10 millilitres of blood goes on a journey in Manchester that could help our scientists understand how lung cancers become resistant to treatment Watch the video below for the full story Watch the video on YouTube Many cancers don t respond well to treatment or become resistant to treatment says Emma Having potential insight into these changes through liquid biopsies could support earlier transition to another drug prior to resistance The Grand Challenge In October we launched the Grand Challenge a 100m scheme tackling some of the biggest hurdles and challenges in understanding preventing and treating cancer You can read about the seven challenges and what answering them could mean for patients in our Grand Challenge blog series The Grand Challenge is really thinking outside the box with regard to the way science is funded says Emma This gives an amazing opportunity to bring together researchers who have expertise in many different disciplines and allow them to address some of the fundamental issues in cancer biology and treatment The year immunotherapy hit the big time In science terms 2015 was the year of immunotherapy It was the year that saw designer immune cells hit the headlines as well as a whole host of immunotherapy drugs A lot of the stories came from the American Society of Clinical Oncology ASCO conference which we covered in this blog post Immunotherapy has held great potential for a number of years and to see that potential now being realised is extremely exciting says Emma The development of new immunotherapy drugs such as nivolumab represents a new way in which we can treat certain types of cancer such as lung cancer which sadly have few new treatment options Here s a selection of the biggest immunotherapy stories of 2015 We

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/12/22/the-biggest-cancer-science-stories-of-2015/ (2016-02-11)
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  • ‘Thank you for teaching me new stuff’ – Oscar’s story: the sequel - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    Thank you for teaching me new stuff Oscar s story the sequel Thank you for teaching me new stuff Oscar s story the sequel Category Science blog December 11 2015 Aine McCarthy Even in this digital era we still get sent lots of letters from members of the public And in March this year we got one that really warmed our hearts Oscar Sawyers a very clever eight year old boy wrote to tell us about his idea about how we could tackle cancer As we wrote at the time Oscar s idea was to take some DNA from an animal that has slow dividing cells and put it into a human with cancer then these cells will slow down so it can be cured And although this isn t quite going to lead to a cure for cancer we were so impressed with Oscar that we wanted to hear more of his ideas and encourage him to stay interested in science So we invited him to visit the Cancer Research UK headquarters in London to talk to us about what first sparked his interest in science and what he wants to do when he grows up Let s talk science In August Oscar and his mum came to our London office where Oscar who wore his Cancer Research UK lab coat for the day met staff from the science communications team and talked all things science To say we were impressed with Oscar s knowledge and understanding of biology and cancer is an understatement After this Oscar had a chat with Dr Alan Worsley one of our senior science communications officers They discussed things like what is cancer and why do treatments make you lose your hair You can watch their chat below He climbs mountains too During his visit Oscar told us of his plans to raise funds for Cancer Research UK by climbing Pen y Fan in Wales So we were delighted when a few weeks ago we received another letter below from Oscar informing us that not only had he completed his climb but he had raised an incredible 1 000 for Cancer Research UK Impressively the total was nearly four times what Oscar had aimed to raise or as he put it it was 382 of my goal Oscar at the top of Pen y Falls Dear Aine Sam Dr Alan and Amy Thank you for inviting me to the Angel building for the talk and coming to my school to talk to most of the school I liked it when loads of people came just to hear me talk about my idea of curing or slowing down cancer Thank you for teaching me about new stuff that I never knew as well as telling me about the world of microscope use I am fundraising for you as well I am going to climb Pen y Fan in my half term holiday So far I have raised more than 600 and thank you I am

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/12/11/thank-you-for-teaching-me-new-stuff-oscars-story-the-sequel/ (2016-02-11)
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  • Our milestones: How anastrozole became a number one hit - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    way to a new aromatase inhibitor anastrozole often known by its brand name Arimidex Anastrozole was more potent than 4 OHA but just as important it could be taken as a tablet rather than an injection So the next step was to put anastrozole to the test in a clinical trial But this time things were a little different As well as proving it worked researchers also had to prove it was better than a drug already being given to patients tamoxifen Because when it came to breast cancer treatment in the mid 90s tamoxifen was the number one hit Professor Jack Cuzcik Since UK approval in the 1970s tamoxifen has been used to treat and save the lives of thousands of women with ER positive breast cancer Unlike aromatase inhibitors which stop oestrogen being made tamoxifen stops breast cancer cells being able to use the hormone Like most drugs tamoxifen has side effects including hot flushes headaches and most seriously a slightly increased risk of developing womb cancer This means the risks need to be balanced against the benefits for each woman But based on the clear improvements in survival seen in women taking tamoxifen from the mid 90s it was the drug used to treat most women pre and postmenopausal with ER positive breast cancer either alone or in combination with chemotherapy But could anastrozole be a better treatment than tamoxifen for postmenopausal women with breast cancer Only a clinical trial would tell A question of ethics So Cancer Research UK helped set up and support the Arimidex Tamoxifen Alone or in Combination or ATAC for short clinical trial The trial had two main aims to find out whether Anastrozole was as good as or better than tamoxifen as a treatment for breast cancer in postmenopausal women and whether A combination of anastrozole and tamoxifen was better than either drug on their own To find the answer the trial randomly assigned more than 9 000 postmenopausal women to one of three treatments Anastrozole on its own Tamoxifen on its own Anastrozole and tamoxifen together While this might seem a straightforward logical way to carry out the trial at the time not everyone thought so In particular there were concerns about how ethical it was to deny the women in the anastrozole only group tamoxifen when it was known to work Professor Cuzick remembers When we were planning the trial there were very strong concerns from ethical committees and doctors about giving some women neither drug or anastrozole on its own and deny them tamoxifen when we knew it worked so well We were in agreement that it absolutely wasn t appropriate to include a group that didn t receive either drug but everyone involved in running the trial was adamant that there should be an anastrozole only group Their determination paid off Thankfully in the end and despite their concerns we convinced the committees that we needed to do the three group trial and include an anastrozole only

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/10/30/our-milestones-how-anastrozole-became-a-number-one-hit/ (2016-02-11)
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  • Have researchers really discovered a ‘new miracle drug to cure nine in 10 cancers’? No, but the research is fascinating - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    The researchers based at the University of Copenhagen had originally been trying to develop a vaccine to prevent pregnant women becoming infected with malaria because they re particularly prone to the disease The malaria parasite infects pregnant women by producing a molecule called VAR2CSA which binds to another molecule found on the surface of the placenta called chondroitin sulphate So to try to prevent this the researchers had developed a modified artificial form of VAR2CSA that could stick to the cells of the placenta protecting them from infection with malaria But the study behind today s headlines showed something unexpected it turns out that cancer cells also produce molecules on their surface that are extremely similar to the chondroitin sulphate found on the placenta So the researchers wondered if tweaking their experimental malaria drug might turn it into something that could kill cancer cells To test this they further modified their VAR2CSA protein so that it contained a cancer killing toxin and added this to cancer cells grown in the lab They also tested the vaccine by treating mice with prostate cancer melanoma and a type of lymphoma Their experiments showed that the VAR2CSA was able to stick to and kill the cancer cells but left healthy cells alone It s exciting stuff But did this research show that this modified malaria vaccine could be a cure for nine in 10 cancers The short answer is no We think this press release might be where that misleading figure came from Not nine in 10 What the researchers actually showed was that in the group of cancer cells they studied which didn t include all types of cancer the majority 95 per cent of them also produced chondroitin sulphate on their surface This means that their experimental VAR2CSA based molecule could potentially be used to target these cancers in the future But not without a lot more research And the study was done in mice meaning before it can be used to treat cancer in people we need to understand more about it and whether it s safe to be used in humans This would also require larger studies to see if the vaccine kills cancer cells in the same way in people while leaving healthy cells alone and to work out which patients with which cancers could benefit So while this certainly is exciting research that could one day help cancer patients in the future at the moment it is definitely not a miracle drug that will cure nine out of 10 cancers Áine Reference Salanti A et al 2015 Targeting Human Cancer by a Glycosaminoglycan Binding Malaria Protein Cancer Cell 28 4 500 514 DOI 10 1016 j ccell 2015 09 003 Share this article More on this topic Tags Biomarker research Cancer biology Cancer in the news Research and trials Comments Click here to cancel reply Tell us what you think Required Name Email will not be shown Required Website Read our comment policy Submit Comment Vivianne Muniz

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/10/14/have-researchers-really-discovered-a-new-miracle-drug-to-cure-nine-in-10-cancers-no-but-the-research-is-fascinating/ (2016-02-11)
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  • The five faces of prostate cancer? - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    then analysed the levels of thousands of mRNAs in these same samples Next they compared the two sets of results Could they find regions of genetic disruption that by altering gene activity the level at which they are switched on or off could be driving the growth of tumours The answer was yes they spotted around 1 000 genes where changes in the copy number that is they were deleted or repeated also changed gene activity The researchers then homed in on 100 genes with the greatest change compared with healthy samples and which seemed to be crucial to prostate cancer growth and looked to see how their activities varied across the 156 men They found that by using this group of 100 genes or gene signature prostate cancer patients who d had surgery to remove their prostate could be divided into five distinct sub groups One group had lots of DNA deletions and consequently low activity of certain genes Another had high amounts of DNA repetition which resulted in increased activity of specific genes Two more groups had very few copy number alterations or changes in activity The fifth and final group had some but not too many copy number alterations To confirm their findings the researchers performed the same analysis on another group of 103 men who d had surgery in Sweden Confirming their findings they identified the same set of 100 genes in these men and confirmed that they could also be divided into five groups based on this gene signature These are exciting results it s the first time anyone had shown that prostate cancer could be grouped in this way So But do men with different gene signatures actually have different forms of prostate cancer To find out the researchers decided to see how the men fared after treatment and whether that was related to which of the five groups they belonged to Specifically they wanted to see if the cancer was more likely to come back in one group of men compared with another Again the answer was yes Among the Cambridge men when the researchers compared the number in each group who s cancer came backafter surgery they found that men in groups with greater numbers of gene changes were more likely to relapse compared with patients who had fewer changes The researchers checked their findings in the Swedish group those with higher levels of genetic alterations were also more likely to relapse after surgery This says Lamb could one day help doctors tailor treatments for men with prostate cancer The idea is that these gene signatures could be used alongside other clinical tests like the Gleason score and PSA test to give doctors a more accurate idea of how men will do after an operation to remove their prostate Lamb says By combining the molecular information provided by this gene signature with existing clinical information doctors might be able to identify those most at risk of relapse and treat them accordingly For

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/07/30/the-many-faces-of-prostate-cancer/ (2016-02-11)
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  • Proton beam therapy: where are we now? - Cancer Research UK - Science blog
    the art high energy proton beam facilities in the UK by 2018 one at the Christie Hospital in Manchester the other at UCL Hospital in London at a total cost of 250 million There are also plans to build a research focused proton beam centre in a new institute at Oxford University a major investment being supported by the Government and Cancer Research UK among others From 2018 the first cancer patients treated at the new NHS facilities will be those for whom current evidence already recommends proton beam therapy children with several specific types of cancer some adults with rare cancers particularly where tumours have developed near the brain base of the skull or spine This is good news especially for young children and their families as it avoids the disruption and stress of international travel But could more patients benefit That s something we need to find out and the UK centres will lead to more clinical trials testing the treatment s effectiveness in different groups of patients But even at full capacity there will still be a limit on the number of patients the centres treat So which patients should be the first to join these trials UK experts are discussing these questions to decide where the priorities lie Another crucial question is whether some patients shouldn t be treated with proton beam therapy because conventional radiotherapy may be just as or even more effective for their type of cancer Proton therapy won t be suitable for everyone and it won t replace conventional radiotherapy But alongside the National Proton Beam Therapy Programme a few private companies have also announced plans for proton beam facilities in the UK and are saying that NHS patients will be able to use these as early as 2016 How do these compare to the publicly funded machines What about private centres Proton therapy is suitable for treating certain childhood cancers In March Proton Partners International Limited a private company announced plans to build three centres in London Cardiff and Newcastle for nearly 100 million The company claims the facilities will be ready as early as 2016 and that they ll treat both NHS and private patients Two other companies are planning centres in London s Harley Street and Moorgate opening from 2017 This might seem like good news increasing the UK s capacity for treating patients with proton therapy But there are reasons to be cautious about these headline grabbing announcements Firstly we don t know whether nor how many NHS patients will be able to use the private centres nor whether the NHS will be able to afford the amount companies want to charge Secondly if NHS patients are treated at private centres it s vital that the treatment they get is as high a standard as the government funded centres Yet according to NHS experts quoted in the Daily Mail the proposed designs for the private centres seem to have less functionality than the NHS facilities And thirdly it s vital that proton therapy is smoothly integrated into patients overall care Cancer treatment is often complex and is best provided in a hospital where different expert teams such as diagnostic labs imaging specialists surgeons oncologists and of course radiologists can work together seamlessly Proton beam therapy is no different it needs to be given by teams of experts who understand all of the patient s needs The current overseas programme relies on good relationships and trust between doctors in the UK and at US and Swiss proton beam therapy centres If patients are able to use private proton beam centres around the UK there would need to be a similar situation in place to ensure all aspects of their care remain a top priority We re also worried that patients treated privately might miss out on the opportunity to take part in clinical trials slowing down vital research on proton beam therapy Not putting patients first Our final concern is over the alignment of motives Ultimately private companies aim to make a profit so who they decide to treat can be influenced by this as much as with scientific evidence of benefit One of the companies has already said they believe that as many as 10 per cent of patients who currently receive radiotherapy should get proton beam therapy This is well above the NHS s estimates and there s no evidence to back this up One particular point of contention is around prostate cancer A spokesperson for Proton Partners International Limited recently told the BBC that he thought proton therapy might benefit 30 per cent of prostate cancer patients But studies from the US have suggested that proton beam therapy is no better at treating prostate cancer nor does it reduce the common side effects like incontinence and erectile dysfunction Despite this according to the American Cancer Society the number of US prostate cancer patients receiving proton beam therapy has shot up as proton facilities become more widely available Ultimately if private centres start offering proton beam therapy to a wider group of patients even those who won t necessarily benefit from it there needs to be extreme care not to fuel the perception of an unfair two tiered health system in the UK NHS patients must not be made to feel that they are being denied a treatment that is marketed as being better nor that they need to part with large sums of money to have the best chances of surviving What s the bottom line Proton beam therapy is particularly useful for certain tumours of the brain and nervous system While there are certain patients who can and should benefit from proton beam therapy headlines about privately owned centres making the treatment accessible to hundreds more NHS patients are a little premature As is often the case the devil is in the detail and a lot of important details are still unknown such as whether the facilities will be ready on schedule provide treatment of

    Original URL path: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/07/16/proton-beam-therapy-where-are-we-now/ (2016-02-11)
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