AACR meeting 2016

BidenAM_AACR2016The American Association for Research on Cancer (AACR) annual meeting took place last week in New Orleans, involving close to 20,000 participants covering academia, government organisations, charities and private industry. Quite a few Epicentre colleagues were at the AACR this year, and had some interesting post-meeting thoughts. For those who have participated in previous AACR meetings, they can be over-whelming with multiple sessions crossing diverse subjects from latest developments in immunotherapy, basic biology, genetics and treatments. Some of the areas of most interest to Epicentre tend not to be the most prominent, although there were numerous poster sessions on epidemiology, prevention and early detection. As always, the chance meetings that take place around these posters tend to result in the most fruitful discussions, and even plant the seed for future collaborations.

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New cancer ‘moonshot’ by President Obama, and Illumina takes up early detection of cancer

BruceFingerhood_MoonThis week saw the last of the State of the Union addresses by President Obama, and those of us at EPICentre were gladdened by the priority he gave to cancer. In stirring words he talked of ‘For the loved ones we have all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all’. The details of the initiative are not clear, although it will be led by vice-president Joe Biden who last year lost his son to a brain cancer. A statement from his office indicates how he intends to proceed, including discussions with international cancer experts at the Economic Forum in Davos next week. While political involvement at such a level can only be a good thing for the cancer community, we hope that the essential role of prevention and early detection will be given equal priority to the important role of delivering and improving treatments. As we have argued in the past, we are not going to treat our way out of the cancer problem. Read more ›

Bad luck and cancer risk


Those of us at Epicentre have long appreciated that bad luck plays a part in the risk of getting a cancer. This conclusion seems to be unavoidable once it is understood that a cancer results from a series of genetic mutations or other deleterious genomic events that occur over time within a single cell lineage, including previous normal progenitor or stem cells. The chance of such a series of events occurring in one cell lineage is extremely small, although the number of cells in any organ is extremely large.

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Colorectal cancer survival: what is the role of diet?

ColoursOfHealth_AlexProimosDiet is thought to play a key role in cancer susceptibility, with more than half of colorectal cancers (CRC) thought to be potentially preventable through changes in lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity; however, the subsequent role of diet on CRC survival is unclear. With an estimated 244,000 CRC survivors in the United Kingdom alone, this is an urgent area of research. Scientific research has helped to identify some of the specific ways through which diet might be related to development of CRC. For example, dietary fibre helps maintain bowel regularity, thus possibly reducing exposure to potentially cancer-causing compounds in bodily waste. It is possible that dietary habits after CRC diagnosis may also be related to health outcomes, such as a recurrence of the cancer; however, there has been relatively little research undertaken on this topic.  Read more ›

Height and cancer: Is there a link?

Kanaka Menehune_WaikikiLast month, the press was awash with news that taller people have a higher risk of developing cancer. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm presented results from an analysis of more than 5 million Swedes in which they found that for every 10cm extra height when fully grown, the risk of cancer was increased by 18% in women and 10% in men. In particular, taller women had a 20% higher risk of breast cancer while taller men and women had a 30% higher risk of skin cancer. These results are generally consistent with findings from previous studies that have investigated the potential link between height and cancer. For example, the U.K Million Women’s Study found that for every 10cm greater height, a woman’s risk of developing any cancer increased by 16%. In that study, a statistically significant link was found between height and higher risks for cancers of the colorectum, breast, uterus, kidney, ovary, central nervous system and for lymphomas. As someone who is 1.93m tall, should I be worried that I am at higher risk of developing certain cancers? Read more ›