Latest cancer news and developments

The medical world is continuously working on ways to improve treatment for and prevention of cancer. Make sure you visit this page regularly for a list of the latest articles discussing these advancements.

1. A class of drugs has been developed called PARP inhibitors that target cancers caused by BRCA mutations. These drugs have shown promise in clinical trials treating breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. PARP inhibitors work by preventing the PARP protein from repairing damaged DNA in tumour cells. (BRCA1 and 2 gene tests indicate breast cancer susceptibility.)

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2. Data from Cancer Research UK suggests that when cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, the average survival of patients for 10 years after diagnosis is three times higher compared with later stage diagnosis. (This is applicable to eight of the common cancers).

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3. Approval has been granted for the use of an immunotherapy drug in the treatment of advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Opdivo (nivolumab) was first approved for use in treating advanced melanoma, with recent clinical trials showing high promise for its use in NSCLC treatment. It is the first immunotherapy approved for this indication.

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4. Research into the use of cannabis for cancer treatment and alleviation of drug therapy symptoms continues, with researchers suggesting that a combination of cannabinoids and chemotherapy drugs possibly proving to be a more effective approach. Patients should be aware that cannabis may promote unhealthy cell division in certain cancers.

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5. Research with fluorescent fish has helped researchers better understand the movements and ‘habits’ of melanoma cells. Melanoma is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, as these cells typically can spread quickly around the body. Research has revealed that the slower moving cells may ‘hitch’ a ride with faster moving ones. Researchers believe that by tracking these cells, new ways of targeting them can be found.

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6. New research by a student at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that organ transplant recipients are twice as likely to develop melanoma as those who have not received transplants. The findings, reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, suggest that the immunosuppressive medication may make transplant patients more susceptible to later-stage cancers.

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7. Scientists at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando, Florida, have found a novel approach for therapeutic pancreatic cancer intervention. By introducing a protein called E47, pancreatic cancer cells can be coaxed to revert back toward normal cellular behaviour. The protein binds to specific DNA sequences and controls genes involved in growth and differentiation. The research provides new hope for a treatment approach for what is commonly known as ‘the silent cancer’.

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8. Nanotechnology, the branch of technology that deals with dimensions of less than 100 nanometres (one billionth of a metre), and especially with the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules, is offering cancer researchers a golden bullet. Research is underway to use this technology to detect cancer-related molecules, provide targeted and selective chemotherapies to abnormal cells, and assist with the surgical removal of tumours.

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For more information

CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA: visit www.choc.org.za or call (011) 326-1717

The South African Childhood Cancer Study Group: www.saccsg.co.za

Cancer Association of South Africa: www.cansa.org.za (CANSA offers support to parents of children who have been diagnosed with cancer. Email [email protected] to find out more about their TLC Support Groups.)

Read More: Cancer Super Section