23 June 2022
Cancer remains concerning to the MHMS and to many suffering from cancer in the Solomon Islands
I bring the following stories about the development and treatment of cancer to the attention of the MHMS, the National Referral Hospital (NRH), oncologist and medical doctors in the Solomon Islands and, of course, to all readers of my letters having an interest in health topics of ongoing concern at home.
Breast cancer ‘spreads while you sleep’
By Sarah Knapton
Breast cancer spreads while people sleep, scientists have discovered in a breakthrough that could lead to night-time biopsies and treatments.
Researchers in Switzerland made the discovery while working late in their laboratories and noticed that cancer cells which break away from the original tumour and travel elsewhere ramp up activity during the sleep phase of affected individuals.
Until now, little attention has been paid to whether cancer acts differently depending on the time of day or night, with scientists assuming that tumours release metastasising – or spreading – cells continuously.
But the findings suggest they operate on a circadian rhythm, controlled by night-time hormones such as melatonin, which aids their spread.
Cells that leave the tumour at night also divide more quickly and therefore have a higher potential to spread, compared with circulating cells that leave the tumour during the day.
Researchers believe the findings could significantly change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated in the future.
Nicola Aceto, an associate professor of molecular oncology at ETH Zurich, who led the study, said: “Some of my colleagues work early in the morning or late in the evening and sometimes they’ll also analyse blood at unusual hours.
“They found that when the affected person is asleep, the tumour awakens. In our view, these findings may indicate the need for healthcare professionals to systematically record the time at which they perform biopsies.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Britain, accounting for 15 per cent of all new cases, with around 55,900 people diagnosed with the condition each year.
‘Controlled by hormones such as melatonin’
Screening programmes have helped improve survival rates in recent years, with 85 per cent of women still alive five years after diagnosis.
Researchers studied the tumour activity of 30 breast cancer patients as well as corroborating their findings in mice.
They found that tumours generated more circulating cells during the hours of sleep. The findings also help explain why circulating tumour cells are higher in mice than humans during the day, because the animals are nocturnal.
Zoi Diamantopoulou, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich, said: “Our research shows that the escape of circulating cancer cells from the original tumour is controlled by hormones such as melatonin, which determine our rhythms of day and night.”
The team wants to investigate how the findings can be incorporated into existing cancer treatments to optimise therapies.
As part of further studies with patients, Prof Aceto wants to investigate whether different types of cancer behave similarly and determine whether existing therapies could be more successful if patients are treated at different times.
The results were published in the journal Nature.
Duke researchers’ vaccine for metastatic breast cancer moves to clinical trials
By Teddy Rosenbluth
Sandra Hartman has endured an onerous course of treatments for her stage four breast cancer — six months of chemotherapy, a mixture of pills and infusions that required her to get a tube implanted under her skin, giving doctors perpetual access to her veins.
Comparatively, her most recent treatment venture was comically easy.
“You just go in and it’s just a shot,” she said. “You get side effects from most cancer drugs, but I didn’t get any side effects from the vaccine.”
Hartman was one of the first participants in an ongoing clinical trial out of Duke University Medical Center that is testing the efficacy of a breast cancer vaccine that uses mRNA, pieces of genetic material that tell the body how to make proteins. Unlike many existing treatments for metastatic breast cancer that indiscriminately kill cancer and non-cancer cells alike, the vaccine expertly identifies cancer and teaches the immune system to fight it.
Zachary Hartman, a Duke researcher involved with the trial who is also Sandra’s son, said oncology has long relied on a brute force approach to rid the body of cancer. During chemotherapy, for example, the body is flooded with poison with the hopes that rapidly dividing cancer cells will die off before the rest of them do.
“That’s sort of been the backbone for oncology for 50 years,” he said.
The vaccine’s specificity could both make treatments more effective at keeping the body cancer-free and reduce side effects.
“I think we can all envision a world where these kinds of approaches would be more effective and have less side effects than chemotherapy,” he said.
His lab developed a vaccine for women who have tested positive for HER2 proteins, which are present in about a fifth of women with breast cancer.
On the surface of Sandra’s cancer cells, there are hundreds of thousands of HER2 proteins that tell her cancer to rapidly grow. These proteins make the cancer particularly aggressive — but they also provide a landmark that medications can use to identify which cells are cancerous.
The cancer vaccine creates copies of the HER2 proteins and itself to teach the immune system it should view those proteins as a threat.
“It’s like you’re teaching your immune system to fight off the cancer and that’s really the best chance, I think, of eliminating it for good,” he said. “You root it out everywhere and then you have this active surveillance system within your body to keep it in check.”
Studies have shown the vaccine to be effective at killing breast cancer cells in mice, but it’s too early in clinical trials to know how effective the treatment will be in humans
About half of the participants will receive the vaccine alone while the other half will receive it in conjunction with an antibody drug that bolsters the immune reaction to cancer cells.
Though it’s still early in the clinical trials, Hartman said the side effects from this vaccine have been negligible compared to other treatment options.
“They’re way safer than a lot of cancer drugs,” he said. “It’s kind of like the side effects from a COVID vaccine — maybe you feel a little fatigued the next day or you get a fever.”
There is still a long way to go before the vaccine is approved for clinical use. Researchers would still have to show extensive evidence that the vaccine is effective and safe through at least one more clinical trial. In order for the vaccines to be used as a first defense against metastatic breast cancer, even more rigorous trials would need to be conducted to show that it is more effective than existing treatments like chemotherapy.
Source Duke University Medical Centre (USA)
New antibody therapies fight cancer, drum up investment
By Marie-Morgane LE MOEL
Antibody therapies are offering promising treatment breakthroughs for cancer and other illnesses, generating greater investor interest more than 20 years after they were first commercialised.
Antibodies are proteins that recognise foreign substances, known as antigens, attaching themselves to them to alert the rest of the human immune system.
In 1975, scientists Georges Koehler and Cesar Milstein discovered how to produce them in a laboratory, which later earned them a Nobel Prize for medicine. Dozens of synthetic antibodies have since been developed.
New antibody treatments to be used with chemotherapy have arrived on the scene in recent years.
Most recently, a clinical trial of an antibody developed by pharmaceutical groups Daiichi Sankyo and AstraZeneca caught the attention of leading cancer specialists gathered at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual congress in Chicago this month.
The treatment, Enhertu, was already authorised for breast cancer patients who had large amounts of a protein called HER2.
The antibody also performed well in patients with smaller quantities of the protein -- increasing the number of people who could benefit.
The antibody latches onto the surface of a cancer cell whose receptors no longer work and the cell then "digests" the receptors to recycle them, activating the chemotherapy, explained cancer specialist William Jacot.
"We hadn't seen such progress, in terms of survival, with a chemotherapy treatment for dozens of years," said Jacot, a professor at the Montpellier Cancer Institute in southern France.
Although antibody therapy technology has a complex production process, it is less difficult to implement than new treatments using cellular therapy.
Antibodies can be used in different ways to fight cancer. They can target and destroy the proteins necessary to produce cancer cells or act to regulate the immune response.
French biotech firm Inatherys is in the first stage of clinical trials of an antibody treatment for leukaemia, its boss Pierre Launay said.
He said the company's antibody will be designed act as a "guided missile" and target a receptor that lets iron enter cancer cells, which need the substance.
The antibody will then release a poison within the cell to destroy it.
Some antibody treatments are being used preventively while others are treatments. For example, AstraZeneca's Evusheld antibody treatment is used preventively to ward off Covid-19, while Xevudy by British company GSK is used as a treatment.
Treatments are also being developed for inflammatory diseases, which are also a major killer.
- Booming market -
The promising announcements have triggered interest beyond the scientific community and a flood of investment. French biotech firm ImCheck Therapeutics recently raised almost 100 million euros ($106 million) for an antibody treatment in development.
Pharmaceutical giants are also prepared to spend big to ensure they do not miss out. French company Sanofi bought Belgian biotech firm Ablynx and its mini antibodies, nanobodies, for almost four billion euros in 2018.
Dupixent, Sanofi's flagship immunotherapy antibody medication, earned more than five billion euros for the pharma giant last year, and Keytruda, an oncological treatment by US firm MSD, generated more than $17 billion in 2021.
According to predictions by the research firm Market Data Forecast, the market could grow to reach $249 billion in three years' time.
Source – Yahoo News.