Recent Strides in Cancer Research - Funding the Future


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Even for a novice like me, the conference held in Mumbai in late February was a great learning experience since it had a stellar line-up of international speakers. Cancer continues to be a major scourge of mankind. In , the world saw As many as 28 million people were living with cancer.

Given the poor detection abilities of developing countries, this number is likely to be a gross underestimate. In India, we have about a million new cancer patients every year, but only , patients get their first treatment. So, as many as , patients are not getting treated.

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  • The state of cancer research and the future of innovation.
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As many as 30 countries do not have even basic radiotherapy treatment centres. My overall takeaway was that, like in many other fields of science and technology, we made great strides in cancer treatment in the 20th century. Getting surgery right and radiotherapy were the most significant advances.

Chemotherapy has made a difference but the jury is split on whether the toll it extracts in terms of loss of quality of life due to its toxic effects is commensurate with the benefits it offers in terms of extended longevity. But momentous recent developments like the unravelling of the human gene, and the resultant new approaches such as personalized medicine and targeted therapies have not resulted in the advances that were hoped for. At least, not so far. Here, there is considerable divergence between the experts. At this point of time, personalized and targeted medicines seem to be more hype than reality.

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Combination therapies hold promise but there seem to be huge toxicity issues. New radiation therapies such as conformal radiotherapy and charged particle radiotherapy appear to offer only marginal improvements in efficacy, but at huge cost. This appears to be part of a broad trend. For some years now, the frequency of discovery of breakthrough drugs has declined. In a thought-provoking talk, Jan Vijg of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, US, showed, using data on inventions across domains, that this is not an isolated phenomenon—the age of major technological progress that started with the industrial revolution is now over.

The latter is based on a societal view of cells. While SMT is based on an assumption that the default state of a cell is quiescent and cancer is therefore a deviation from this default state, TOFT sees the default state of the cell as proliferation with variation and motility. The talk by Sonnenschein, and another by Michael Baum of University College London on fractal geometries and their utility in understanding the underlying mechanisms of cancer, raised the hope that fundamental advances in cancer could happen in the near future. It was good to see this interest in theory—in many fields, the data revolution has led to a mad rush to find patterns in data without much concern for the underlying causal links.

Both pharmaceutical and device companies came in for a lot of criticism during the conference. Blocking the escape routes: Scientists find new genetic fault behind ovarian cancer. From One-eyed lambs to target skin cancer drugs. Building tumours in the lab — a how to guide. The findings could be used to improve treatments, and in turn survival for the disease, something which is urgently needed.

The trial will run in the UK and in India, open in more than centres across the UK and recruit 11, patients. In the future, the findings could allow doctors to better tailor oesophageal cancer treatment by identifying patients who are more or less likely to respond to drugs like cisplatin. You can read about the seven challenges and what answering them could mean for patients in our Grand Challenge blog series. They found that turning on the progesterone receptor re-programmes the effects of oestrogen on breast cancer cells, slowing down their growth.

These are just the highlights from - read more on our blog. New figures released this year show that death rates for breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancer combined have fallen by almost a third in the last 20 years , thanks to research. Thousands of people help our research by playing the revolutionary smartphone game, Genes in Space, analysing DNA from real cancer samples.

Within a month, this huge team of Citizen Scientists processed more than 40 miles of DNA data , which would have taken our scientists more than half a year. Several studies from our researchers shed light on how melanoma skin cancer spreads through the body , pointing towards new avenues for future therapies. Our scientists discover an unexpected connection between a rare medical condition — Stone Man syndrome , where muscle turns to bone — and a deadly type of childhood brain tumour known as DIPG.

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Our research history

Our researchers shed light on the genetic changes underpinning the rare type of cancer that killed Bob Marley. The National Lung Matrix trial launches, testing personalised therapies for lung cancer. We unveil our new five-year strategy to beat cancer sooner.

Future Focus: Ovarian Cancer Research in 2018 and Beyond

We team up with the Royal Marsden hospital to train GPs to spot cancer earlier. Lung cancer campaign could save lives. DNA untwister is a new tumour suppressor. A major trial funded by Cancer Research UK shows that adding chemo to radiotherapy can halve the risk of bladder cancer coming back after treatment, changing the way that people with the disease are treated.

We make a crucial connection between cancer and inflammation , taking an important step forward in understanding how the two are linked. Stratified Medicine Programme launches, testing tailored treatments for cancer. Our campaigners help push through sunbed law. New ovarian cancer gene found. Potential childhood leukaemia treatment discovered. Our trial shows that a new drug combination can increase survival from gall bladder and bile duct cancers, highlighting the importance of research into these less common diseases.

Liver surgery boosts bowel cancer survival. Fewer, larger doses of radiotherapy better for breast cancer.

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We show that a more targeted radiotherapy technique, called IMRT , can treat head and neck cancer with fewer side effects. Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, our researchers spy on moving cancer cells and identify possible targets for new treatments. Our scientists make an important step forward in understanding the link between the female sex hormone oestrogen and cancer. Old drug could have new tricks for hereditary bowel cancer.

New route to leukaemia discovered. Our scientists track down genes linked to three types of childhood brain tumour — meningioma , ependymoma and pilocytic astrocytoma. Our researchers figure out why some breast cancers become resistant to the drug tamoxifen, paving the way for more effective long-term treatments in the future. This underpins the development of new cancer drugs that are now being tested in clinical trials.

We have shown through research that providing additional support to vulnerable patients and to their physicians, to provide education, support, and address the unique barriers they face, we can provide all patients the best care and best hope for a cure. Still, cancer remains a massive health problem that researchers across the United States and elsewhere are working tirelessly to solve. Our new Cambridge Research Institute is opened by the Queen. How does it relate to "cancer burden? Cancer Care 10 Years From Now. Fewer, larger doses of radiotherapy better for breast cancer.

Viruses in disguise could fight ovarian cancer. Faster chemo increases survival from neuroblastoma. Thousands of our supporters get involved in the successful campaign to bring in smoke-free legislation, which comes into effect in the UK in — a move that will prevent thousands of premature deaths over the next decade. Our researchers help to run one of the largest ever clinical trials testing the benefits of chemotherapy for bowel cancer.

The trial showed for the first time that chemotherapy could help to improve survival for people whose cancer was less advanced, and changed the way that patients are treated. Working together with the Brain Tumour Charity, our clinical trial shows that using chemotherapy to delay or avoid radiotherapy in children under three with ependymoma reduces the risk of health problems later in life. We show that white blood cell donations could be used to treat transplant patients who develop particular cancers related to virus infection.

Our research history | Cancer Research UK

Our new Cambridge Research Institute is opened by the Queen. I maging technique could tell if treatment works within days. Unstable chromosomes are key to drug resistance. We develop a way to identify groups of people with a higher risk of bowel cancer due to genetic variations.

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This could lead to new measures, such as more targeted screening, to prevent the disease for thousands of people in the future. We show that a revolutionary way to read mammograms with the help of a computer could free up time for hundreds of medical experts and speed the breast screening process. Our researchers unravel the three-dimensional structure of a protein called Hsp90 , which is important in many types of cancer.

Scientists are now developing and testing new cancer treatments based on this discovery.

We discover how a faulty gene leads to kidney cancer , paving the way for future treatments for the disease. Rogue gene linked to breast and childhood cancer link. Overcoming chemotherapy resistance in lung cancer. These treatments are now being tested in clinical trials with promising results, and could potentially treat other types of cancer too.

Our scientists discover that s creening could reduce bowel cancer rates by up to 80 per cent in people with a moderate family history of the disease. We show that technique called sentinel node biopsy can reduce the side effects of breast cancer surgery.

Together we will beat cancer

This is now the preferred way of finding out whether breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Our scientists discover a test that can help doctors identify children who need more intensive treatment for medulloblastoma , the most common type of childhood brain tumour. Virus tricks harnessed to target cells.

Bladder cancer treatment test. We show that giving pancreatic cancer patients chemotherapy along with surgery can treble survival, changing the way that patients are treated.