It’s hard to make sense of all the cancer research out there: a phantasmagoria of hopeful reports full of scientific jargon. Some themes come through: how scientists might be able to tackle cancer at its very heart inside our genes and the way our immune system can be switched on to recognise cancer cells and attack them. And then there are the superfoods that might contain cancer-fighting properties. The latest: the red onion.
(Note: The usual Weekly Wednesday writer is absent this week.This week’s stories are about cancer in general)
Meanwhile, consider this:
New technology dives deep into the cancer genome
A blood test for cancer?
In a study of 124 patients with advanced breast, lung, and prostate cancers, a new, high-intensity genomic sequencing approach detected circulating tumor DNA at a high rate. In 89% of patients, at least one genetic change detected in the tumor was also detected in the blood. Overall, 627 (73%) genetic changes found in tumor samples were also found in blood samples with this approach.
The study will be featured in a press briefing and presented at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.
This innovative approach -- using high-intensity sequencing to detect cancer from circulating tumor DNA in the bloodstream -- heralds the development of future tests for early cancer detection.
The high-intensity sequencing approach used in this study has a unique combination of breadth and depth. It scans a very broad area of the genome (508 genes and more than two million base pairs or letters of the genome, i.e. A, T, C, and G) with high accuracy (each region of the genome is sequenced or "read" 60,000 times), yielding about 100 times more data than other sequencing approaches. This enormous amount of data will be instrumental in developing a blood test to detect cancer early.
How killer cells take out tumors
Our immune system has killer cells that can be encouraged to fight cancer.
The use of immunotherapy to treat cancer is celebrating its first successes -- but there are still many knowledge gaps in the underlying mechanisms of action. In a study of mice with soft tissue tumors, researchers have now shown how endogenous (within the body) killer cells track down the tumors with the help of dormant viruses.
The promising drug is known as F8-TNF. When injected into the bloodstream, it lures killer cells from the body's immune system towards sarcomas. The killer cells then destroy the tumours. Researchers from ETH Zurich, led by Professor Dario Neri at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, developed F8-TNF four years ago. Since then, they have been able to show that it can completely cure sarcomas in mice when combined with a chemotherapeutic agent. Such an effective treatment cannot be achieved by chemotherapy alone or with other therapeutic approaches. Now, a drug closely related to F8-TNF is being tested as part of clinical trials in humans.
Red onions pack a cancer-fighting punch, study reveals
The next time you walk down the produce aisle of your grocery store, you may want to reach for red onions if you are looking to fight off cancer.
In the first study to examine how effective Ontario-grown onions are at killing cancer cells, U of G researchers have found that not all onions are created equal.
Engineering professor Suresh Neethirajan and PhD student Abdulmonem Murayyan tested five onion types grown in Ontario and discovered the Ruby Ring onion variety came out on top.
Onions as a superfood are still not well known. But they contain one of the highest concentrations of quercetin, a type of flavonoid, and Ontario onions boasts particularly high levels of the compound compared to some parts of the world.
The Guelph study revealed that the red onion not only has high levels of quercetin, but also high amounts of anthocyanin, which enriches the scavenging properties of quercetin molecules, said Murayyan, study's lead author.
"Anthocyanin is instrumental in providing colour to fruits and vegetables so it makes sense that the red onions, which are darkest in colour, would have the most cancer-fighting power."
And here’s a late-breaking story. It looks as if these new techniques work on blood cancers first and solid tumours after much more research
Doctors reprogram patients’ own cells into cancer assassins
SEATTLE (AP) — Ken Shefveland’s body was swollen with cancer, treatment after treatment failing until doctors gambled on a radical approach: They removed some of his immune cells, engineered them into cancer assassins and unleashed them into his bloodstream.
Immune therapy is the hottest trend in cancer care and this is its next frontier — creating “living drugs” that grow inside the body into an army that seeks and destroys tumors.
Looking in the mirror, Shefveland saw “the cancer was just melting away.” A month later doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center couldn’t find any signs of lymphoma in the Vancouver, Washington, man’s body.