According to the saying, we’re best advised to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. But if they’re bringing round something for dinner, it might be worth taking this advice with a pinch of salt. A new study published in the British Journal of Cancer provides strong evidence that cancer is less common amongst people who eat ‘Mediterranean’ diets.
This research comes from a Greek research team working as part of the EPIC study, the largest study on diet and cancer ever undertaken. EPIC looks at the diets of half a million people from 10 different European countries (we’re funding the two UK centres in Oxford and Norfolk), and the Greek arm alone includes over 25,000 people. Continue reading
Quitting is hard but worth it
We normally avoid the first-person singular on this blog – Kat, Ed and I are writing on behalf of Cancer Research UK, and it’s not the place for personal rambles. But in this case we thought we’d make an exception.
Because, to misappropriate a phrase, there’s no ‘I’ in cancer, but there is a ‘me’ in smokefree (sort of), and July 1st is not only the one-year anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places – it’s also my one-year anniversary as a non-smoker.
Yes, a year ago I stubbed out my last cigarette. It was the fourth time I’d tried giving up, and I was fed up of being part of the 70 percent of smokers who want to quit.
Happily, I’m still off the fags a year later – and the fact that the UK’s now completely smokefree is a big part of the reason why.
Here’s a guest post from Dr Jo Peak, one of the Science Information team at Cancer Research UK, about an interesting paper published recently.
Why is it so difficult to ‘cure cancer’?
We often describe people who have been successfully treated for cancer as being ‘in remission’ – but not ‘cured’. This is because, sadly, cancer can come back. These relapses seem to be down to a few stray cancer cells that are left behind after treatment, which start to multiply again. This can occur many years after the initial treatment.
At the moment, doctors remain cautious in telling people that they are truly ‘cured’ of cancer, as it’s virtually impossible to be 100 per cent sure every single cancer cell has been killed off.
In recent years, researchers have begun to solve this difficult problem by showing that not all cancer cells are equal – preventing cancer’s return seems to be a case of targeting the right ones. Now researchers led by Dr Pandolfi at Harvard Medical School have discovered another piece in the puzzle.
We’ve blogged before about the discovery of new prostate cancer genes. And indeed, gene-hunting is such an exciting and busy area of science that it’s likely to feature in the news more and more often. But what, you may wonder, is the point of these studies?
It’s common knowledge that a person’s risk of cancer is affected by the genes they inherit.. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that our genes also affect the way we react to things in our environment like tobacco or alcohol. The big idea is that knowing how these genes work together, and which particular genes a person carries, will allow doctors to personalise prevention advice, screening and treatment options.
This era of personalised medicine is still a while away but the first steps towards it could be taken very soon. Paul Pharoah, one of our scientists at the University of Cambridge, has suggested how our expanding knowledge of breast cancer genes could be used in practical ways to improve early diagnosis for women at high risk of the disease.
Few issues are as emotive as that of childhood cancer. It affects around 1,500 children under the age of 15 every year, and – thanks to research – most children are now cured. But there is understandable concern among parents as to possible causes. Could we be unwittingly be risking our children’s health by giving them plastic bottles, or failing to buy them organic veg?
It’s been hard to miss the recent media coverage of the result of a clinical trial by researchers in America, reporting that a man with advanced melanoma (a form of skin cancer) has been successfully treated using his own immune cells.
The story’s been spread by headlines such as “Man beats skin cancer after being treated with five billion clones of his own immune cells”
“Clone cell cancer ‘cure’ hailed” and “Cancer ‘cured‘ by cell clones” . Cancer Research UK’s team of spokespeople have also been busy doing radio and TV interviews, explaining the science behind the story.
But what have the researchers actually done – and is it really a “breakthrough” and a “cure” for melanoma?
Every single person with cancer has an individual experience and a story to tell but, statistically speaking, one is not enough. In order to study the impact of cancer, and measure improvements in treatment and survival, researchers need to collect information from as many people as possible.
Now a new initiative – the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) – has been set up to do this on an unprecedented scale.