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November 5, 2013

Genomics News
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» Prostate cancer aggression test ‘may avoid needless ops’

According to the BBC Health News today, a prostate cancer test, which predicts how aggressive a tumour is, could spare men unnecessary operations, researchers suggest. Early data, presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference, suggests a genetic test can tell … Continue reading

August 3, 2010

Genomics News
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» A new approach to cancer treatment

A ‘completely different approach’ to cancer treatment BBC news by Alex Hudson

“Up until very recently, all patients with breast cancer were basically given the same therapy.

“We now clearly know that’s not the right way to do things.”

Professor Peter Rigby, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, believes that recently the way treatments for cancer are being researched has completely changed.

And this, he thinks, is because of great strides made on how scientists are able to understand the genetic code.

In 2003, the Human Genome Project succeeded in sequencing the human genome to 99.9% accuracy, allowing scientists to “read” human DNA. Since then, researchers have been using this so-called roadmap to find a correlation between certain genomes and cancer.

This means that, in theory at least, cancer could be treated on a molecular level rather than using current therapies – such as chemotherapy or surgery – which damage many healthy cells along with those which are cancerous.

The full story can be found here

December 10, 2009

Welsh Institue of Health and Social Care Blog
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» A plea for patient-centredness

I was recently engaged in a study to assess the information and service needs of people with serious mental health problems, when a young woman told me:

"When I am ill, I want to be sure that I receive the best treatment available; 
  when I am better, I just want to get on with my life."

At the time, this statement provided justification for Hafal’s approach to collecting ‘evidence’, which is to record statements in a book, as their members make them. When the appropriate consultation paper is published, the comments are available for use. It avoids the need for Hafal to consult its members when they are either too ill to comment or well enough not to be interested. We can all learn from this approach when seeking appropriate, accessible and timely methods of consultation.

However, this comment has also a deeper personal meaning for me, whose quite well-developed cancer was discovered by chance and not through screening. How many of us, when we are ill, can really be sure that we receive the best treatment available? And what do we mean by the ‘best’? Is it the treatment that produces the best long term outcomes, or the treatment that has the least limiting side effects and allows us to get on with our lives most easily? I went through the cancer treatment with the distinct impression that there were two battles going on – my Oncologist was fighting my cancer, while I was fighting to retain the comfortable, pain-free life I once knew – this was never a subject we talked about. The NHS ‘system’ is like a sausage machine, seeking to respond to the needs of the whole population, but insufficiently seamless or adaptable to the needs of any one individual – and the ‘fit’ to one’s personal needs is often very poor.

The other lesson from all this, one which I plan to do something about, is that if you want to be sure of receiving the best treatment available and achieving the best quality of life afterwards you need first class information, advice and support. I was extremely fortunate in being ‘information literate’, in being able to ask the right people relevant questions, in having sympathetic and supportive practitioners with whom I could communicate, in having knowledgeable friends and associates, and being able to afford commercially provided treatment and equipment. However, for those people, who do not have the energy, motivation, or means, this is simply not available – and often people are left in a state of depression and morbidity, regular visitors to their GP and an ongoing burden on the NHS. It could be so different.

I was so pleased to hear of the initiative of Macmillan Cancer Support, which is working with Rhondda Cynon Taff libraries to provide appropriate information in libraries and train its library staff in dealing sympathetically with enquirers. Macmillan is hoping to spread similar initiatives to other parts of Wales, part of a strategy which I hope will lead to better understanding of and responsiveness to the information needs of patients and those of us living with the legacy of treatment and wanting to get on with our lives.

I would like to know of any other initiatives in this area – please post on the blog.

Written by Katherine Hughes, WIHSC Associate

November 23, 2009

Genomics News
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» Genetic clue to glioma brain cancer growth

Scientists have pinpointed a mutated gene as key to the development of some types of glioma brain tumour report BBC’s health news today. The mutation leads to hugely increased levels of a chemical in the brain, which seems to feed the cancer. The Nature study suggests that detecting higher levels of the chemical could provide doctors with a useful diagnostic tool. It also raises hopes that blocking production of the chemical might prevent the cancer getting worse.

People with particular brain tumours, such as lower-grade gliomas, often carry a mutated version of a gene that controls production of an enzyme called IDH1. The latest study shows that these mutations change the way the enzyme works and result in the build-up of high levels of a chemical called 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG) in the brain. Researchers found malignant glioma samples with IDH1 mutations had 100 times more 2HG than similar samples from patients without the mutation. They said measuring 2HG levels could be used to help identify patients with IDH1 mutant brain tumours.

Writing in the journal, the researchers said: “This will be important for prognosis as patients with IDH1 mutations live longer than patients with gliomas characterised by other mutations. “In addition, patients with lower-grade gliomas may benefit by the therapeutic inhibition of 2HG production.”

Dr Laura Bell, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: “This study has brought exciting new information to light which could eventually help doctors understand more about how certain brain tumours are likely to progress – and how best to treat them. “But there is still some way to go before this new information could be used to help treat people with cancer.”

October 14, 2009

Genomics News
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» Some cancer cells may pass from mother to unborn child

Net Doctor News

Scientists have discovered that certain cancer cells are able to cross the placenta and pass from a mother to her unborn child. The advance helps to explain a number of cases in which a mother and her child have developed the same form of leukaemia or melanoma.

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) investigated a mother-infant pair and found that both patients’ leukaemia cells carried an identical mutated cancer gene called BCR-ABL1. However, the infant did not inherit this gene, showing that the disease could not have developed in isolation. The cancer cells were able to survive in the child because they lacked certain molecules that would have made brought them to the attention of her immune system.

Lead researcher Professor Mel Greaves, whose team collaborated with scientists in Japan, commented: ‘It appears that in this and, we presume, other cases of mother to offspring cancer, the maternal cancer cells did cross the placenta into the developing foetus and succeeded in implanting because they were invisible to the immune system.’ However, the professor emphasised that this occurrence is ‘exceedingly rare’ and that the chances of a pregnant woman with cancer passing the disease on to their child are ‘remote’.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, described the research as ‘really important’. He advised: ‘Women needing cancer treatment around the time of having a baby who are worried about this research should speak to the specialists looking after them for advice.’

August 14, 2009

Genomics News
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» Cancer gene complexity revealed

Recent news from the BBC website reports that scientists have shown just how mind-bogglingly complex are the genetics underpinning the development of cancer . For the second time, a team from Washington University has decoded the complete DNA of a patient with a form of leukaemia. The study, which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that the suite of key genetic mutations they found were completely different from those uncovered following analysis of their first patient last year. The latest study does reveal some potentially significant findings. One of the new mutations found in the second patient was also found in samples taken from 15 other patients with the same disease, acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). The same mutation is also thought to play a role in the development of a type of brain tumour called a glioma. A second new mutation was also found in another AML patient. By using a state-of-art gene sequencing technique, the Washington team became the first to decode the entire genome of a cancer patient last year. Once they have the full menu of DNA from cancer cells, the researchers can compare it with DNA from healthy cells to pinpoint genetic mutations which probably play a key role in the development of the disease. The hope is that armed with this information, scientists will be able to develop new drugs to target cancer.

May 5, 2009

Genomics News
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» Baby born free of the breast cancer gene

The first baby in the UK tested before implantation for a genetic form of breast cancer has been born. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/health/7819651.stm