PRESS RELEASE – GENE ‘SWITCHES’ COULD PREDICT WHEN BREAST CANCERS WILL SPREAD TO THE BRAIN

SCIENTISTS have found a pattern of genetic ‘switches’ – chemical marks that turn genes on or off – that is linked to breast cancer’s spread to the brain, according to research* presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Wednesday).

The researchers, based at the University of Wolverhampton, studied 24 breast cancers that had spread to the brain, along with samples from the original breast tumour, and found a handful of genes with faulty switches.

Crucially, two of the genetic switches became faulty early on in the development of breast cancer, suggesting they may be an early warning signal for tumours that will spread to the brain. The scientists are now working to develop a blood test that might be able to detect these signals at an early stage, before the disease has spread.

Up to 30 per cent of breast cancers will eventually spread to the brain, often many years after the first tumour was treated. Tackling secondary brain tumours with radiotherapy and surgery has limited success, with most women surviving just seven months after the brain metastasis has been diagnosed.

By comparing chemical switches, known as DNA methylation, between the original breast cancer and the secondary brain tumour the researchers were able to narrow down from 120 potential candidates to find  a ‘signature’ for cancers that had spread.

Study author Dr Mark Morris, based at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “Each year the number of women whose breast cancer spreads to the brain is increasing. While we know many of the genetic changes behind breast cancer, we know very little about why the disease can spread to the brain.

“By identifying the genes that are switched off or on in breast cancers before they spread to the brain we hope to be able to develop a blood test to spot this change. There’s also potential for our findings to be used as a starting point to develop treatments that might prevent the spread.”

Each year almost 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and around 11,600 die from the disease.

Dr Abeer Shaaban, Chair of the NCRI Breast Clinical Studies Group (Translational, Pathology and Functional Imaging Subgroup), said: “Tackling the problem of brain metastases is one of the greatest challenges facing breast cancer researchers. This is an intriguing new angle to explore which underlines the importance of understanding how genes are controlled as cancer grows and spreads.  We’re understanding more and more about cancer’s biology and this is opening exciting new avenues of research that could lead to new tests and treatments.”

 


 ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Simon Shears on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059


 

 

Notes to editors

* http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/B175.html and http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/B253.html

 

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit ncri.org.uk

 

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit ncri.org.uk

PRESS RELEASE – TRIAL RESULTS REVEAL FIRST TARGETED TREATMENT TO BOOST SURVIVAL FOR OESOPHAGEAL CANCER

PATIENTS with a specific type of oesophageal cancer survived longer when they were given the latest lung cancer drug, according to trial results being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference today (Wednesday).*

Up to one in six patients with oesophageal cancer were found to have EGFR duplication in their tumour cells and taking the drug gefitinib, which targets this fault, boosted their survival by up to six months, and sometimes beyond.

This is the first treatment for advanced oesophageal cancer shown to improve survival in patients whose initial course of chemotherapy treatment has failed. It is also the first time a targeted treatment of any kind has proved effective in this disease, although chemotherapy and some targeted drugs have shown benefit in the second line treatment of other cancers of the digestive system including stomach cancer.

The trial – called ‘TRANS-COG’ – looked for extra copies of a gene called EGFR in tumour samples from 295 deceased oesophageal cancer patients who had received either gefitinib or placebo as part of the COG trial.**

Of the 48 patients who had extra EGFR copies in their tumour cells, 13 per cent of those who had gefitinib survived for at least a year, while none of the patients who received a placebo survived that long.***

Giving gefitinib to patients who didn’t have extra EGFR copies made no difference to how long they survived. This suggests that EGFR testing could identify a subgroup of oesophageal patients who may benefit from gefitinib.

Dr Russell Petty, a medical oncologist from the University of Aberdeen, who is presenting the data, said: “This is exciting news in our field. It’s the first time any drug has shown survival benefit for oesophageal patients who have stopped responding to their initial treatment. To date there’s been disappointingly little progress in treating this cancer type, which kills nearly 8,000 people a year and sadly is often diagnosed late making it difficult to treat successfully.

“It’s thought that up to 16 per cent of oesophageal cancer patients could benefit from gefitinib, providing valuable extra months of life to people who would otherwise have had very few options available to them.”

Irene Black’s late husband, Roy, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in January 2011 aged 78, after having problems swallowing and later being rushed into A&E for an emergency endoscopy. He was given an intense course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, but unfortunately the cancer stopped responding and the family were told it was incurable. It was then that Roy decided to join the trial.

Irene said: “There is no doubt in my mind that, if it wasn’t for the trial, Roy wouldn’t have been with us for so long. He managed to get back to his bingo, which he loved, surrounded by friends and we booked a four night holiday on the west coast at Fort William. I will always treasure that holiday – if it wasn’t for the trial we may not have had the special time together at the end.

“It’s comforting to know that the trial Roy took part in when he was alive may help patients with this devastating type of cancer live longer in the future.”

Professor Matt Seymour, NCRI’s clinical research director said: “Although the survival benefit for these patients was relatively modest, this trial is an important step forwards for a type of cancer where progress in treatment has fallen behind other cancers in recent decades. While there has been some success in treating other cancers of the digestive system, oesophageal cancer remains extremely difficult to treat, with only 13 per cent of patients surviving five years or more. It will be interesting to see whether this drug, if properly targeted at the right patients, could offer similar benefits to those with earlier stage disease and also whether other drugs that target EGFR could prove to be even more effective.”

The TRANS-COG trial was funded by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office, the Cameron Clinical Academic Fellowship and the Grampian Gastro-oesophageal Cancer Research Fund (GASTROCAN).


ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Ailsa Stevens in the NCRI press office on 0151 0151 707 4642/3/4/5
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


 

Notes to editor

* Petty R. et al, Epidermal growth factor receptor copy number gain (EGFR CNG) and response to gefitinib in oesophageal cancer (OC): Results of a biomarker analysis of a phase III trial of gefitinib versus placebo (TRANS-COG).

Conference abstract: http://conference.ncri.org.uk/epidermal-growth-factor-receptor-copy-number-gain-egfr-cng-and-response-to-gefitinib-in-oesophageal-cancer-oc-results-of-a-biomarker-analysis-of-a-phase-iii-trial-of-gefitinib-versus-placebo-tra/

** About the COG trial

The COG trial (Cancer Oesophagus Gefitinib) was a randomised phase III trial involving 450 people with oesophageal cancer whose tumours had become resistant to conventional treatment. The trial results showed that oesophageal cancer took longer to start growing again in people taking gefitinib, but overall there was no survival benefit from receiving the drug.

The TRANS-COG trial was later set up to see whether the number of EGFR copies in patients’ tumour cells was linked to how well they did on gefitinib treatment.

See: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/trials/a-trial-looking-at-gefitinib-for-people-with-advanced-cancer-of-the-foodpipe-cog-trial

*** Table 1: Survival for gefitinib and placebo in patients with normal and higher levels of the EGFR gene in their tumour.

Elevated EGFR 3 months 6 months 9 months 12 months
Gefitinib 79% 38% 27% 13%
Placebo 64% 14% 5% 0%

 

Normal EGFR* 3 months 6 months 9 months 12 months
Gefitinib 61% 33% 16% 7%
Placebo 45% 29% 22% 14%

*NOTE: It was not possible to say whether or not the difference in survival between the Gefitinib and placebo groups occurred due to chance in patients with normal EGFR levels (i.e. not significant).

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research. For more information visit ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit ncri.org.uk

PRESS RELEASE – SCIENTISTS UNCOVER POTENTIAL DRUG TO TACKLE ‘UNDRUGGABLE’ FAULT IN THIRD OF CANCERS

SCIENTISTS have found a possible way to halt one of the most common faults in many types of cancer, according to research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Wednesday).

A team of scientists* at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Germany has uncovered a new strategy and new potential drug to target an important signalling protein in cells called Ras, which is faulty in a third of cancers.

When the Ras protein travels from the centre of a cell to the cell membrane, it becomes  ‘switched on’ and sends signals which tell cells to grow and divide. Faulty versions of this protein cause too many  of these signals to be produced – leading to cancer.

Scientists have been attempting for decades to target Ras, but with little success. The reason the protein is so difficult to target is because it lacks an obvious spot on its surface that potential drug molecules can fit into in order to switch it off,  like a key closing a lock.

But now the researchers have shown that instead of directly targeting  the faulty protein itself they can stop it moving to the surface of the cell by blocking another protein which transports Ras  – preventing it from triggering cancer in the first place.

By targeting a link in the chain reaction that switches on the Ras protein, the scientists have opened opportunities to develop new treatments in the future.

Dr Herbert Waldmann at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, said: “We’ve been scratching our heads for decades to find a solution to one of the oldest conundrums in cancer research. And we’re excited to discover that it’s actually possible to completely bypass this cancer-causing protein rather than attack it directly.

“We’re making new improvements on compounds for potential drugs, although the challenge still lies in developing a treatment that exploits this discovery without ruining the workings of healthy cells.”

Professor Matt Seymour, NCRI’s clinical research director said: “This is an exciting approach to targeting one of the most common faults in cancer, which could lead to a new way of treating the disease. The research is still at a very early stage and it will be years before it can benefit patients but it is a key step forward in the field.”

 


ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Stephanie McClellan on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059


 

Notes to editors

*The research was funded by the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Germany.

Abstract to the research: http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/para16.html

 

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit ncri.org.uk

 

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit ncri.org.uk

PRESS-RELEASE – HALF OF SMOKERS USING LIVERPOOL STOP SMOKING SERVICES USED E-CIGS

Over half the smokers using the Liverpool Stop Smoking Service have tried electronic cigarettes (51.3 per cent). Of these, nearly half had used them within the past month and are considered current users (45.5 per cent).

The data* – presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Tuesday) – also highlights that smokers are more likely to try e-cigarettes if they feel more confident that the products are safer than tobacco smoking.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool quizzed more than 320 smokers from the Roy Castle FagEnds study to understand the number of people who used e-cigarettes and what smokers thought about the products.

Smokers appear undecided towards e-cigarettes, possibly due to the widely documented uncertainties about safety and effectiveness in helping smokers to successfully break their addiction. Some also viewed using e-cigarettes as an extension of smoking and perceived them as an inferior tool for helping to quit smoking.

Generally e-cigarettes were viewed indifferently. But 20 of the smokers interviewed by phone viewed e-cigarettes negatively. Additionally, some participants were misinformed of or misunderstood the risks associated with e-cigarettes.

Frances Sherratt, lead author from the University of Liverpool, said: “Our results show that electronic cigarettes are commonly used by smokers wanting to quit and seek help through the Stop Smoking Services. Many smokers also viewed e-cigarettes negatively or indifferently as a way to stop smoking. This study highlights the need for better education regarding e-cigarettes, to enable smokers to make balanced, informed smoking cessation treatment decisions to help them quit.”

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation who helped fund the research, said: “While the research suggests that a high proportion of smokers try e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting, it also shows that many recognise their effectiveness is limited compared to more conventional, proven techniques.

“Lingering issues around their safety and long-term health impact also continue to affect public opinion. People are more likely to be successful with the tailored, one-to-one support of a quit smoking professional and this seems to have been understood by the majority of those surveyed.”

Dr Karen Kennedy, Director of the NCRI, said: “This research provides an interesting insight into how many, and why, smokers use e-cigarettes. Tobacco is the single biggest cause of preventable cancer deaths, so understanding how smokers can be better helped in breaking the addiction is extremely valuable in reducing cancer deaths.”


 

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Paul Thorne on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5
or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


 

Notes to editor:

* Sherratt F. et al, Examining electronic cigarette use within a UK Stop Smoking Service Conference abstract: http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/A146.html

The researchers would like to acknowledge Liverpool Primary Care Trust / Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for their support with this study.

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

 

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk.

PRESS RELEASE – SWALLOWING A SPONGE ON A STRING COULD REPLACE ENDOSCOPY AS PRE-CANCER TEST

SWALLOWING a sponge on a string could replace traditional endoscopy as an equally effective but less invasive way of diagnosing a condition that can be a forerunner of oesophageal cancer.

The results of a Cancer Research UK trial involving more than 1,000 people are being presented today (Tuesday) at the National Cancer Research Institute’s annual conference in Liverpool.

The trial invited more than 600 patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus – a condition that can sometimes lead to oesophageal cancer – to swallow the Cytosponge and to undergo an endoscopy. Almost 500 more people with symptoms like reflux and persistent heartburn did the same tests.
The Cytosponge proved to be a very accurate way of diagnosing Barrett’s Oesophagus. More than 94 per cent of people swallowed the sponge and reported no serious side effects. Patients who were not sedated for endoscopy were more likely to rate the Cytosponge as a preferable experience.
Lead author Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, based at the MRC Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge, said: “The Cytosponge test is safe, acceptable and has very good accuracy for diagnosing Barrett’s Oesophagus. It should be considered as an alternative to endoscopy for diagnosing the condition and could possibly be used as a screening test in primary care.”

Barrett’s Oesophagus is caused by acid coming back up the food pipe from the stomach – known as acid reflux – which can cause symptoms like indigestion and heartburn.

Over time people with these symptoms may develop changes in the cells that line the oesophagus. These cells can become cancerous and so patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus are tested every couple of years.

Barrett’s Oesophagus is usually diagnosed by having a biopsy during an endoscopy. This can be uncomfortable and carries some risks – and it’s not always practical for everyone who has symptoms like reflux and heartburn.

Oesophageal cancer is the thirteenth most common cancer in the UK. Around 5,600 men develop the disease each year compared with 2,750 women. And each year around 5,200 men and 2,460 women die from the disease.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “These results are very encouraging and it will be good news if such a simple and cheap test can replace endoscopy for Barrett’s oesophagus.

“Death rates are unacceptably high in oesophageal cancer so early diagnosis is vital. Tackling oesophageal cancer is a priority for Cancer Research UK and research such as this will help doctors to diagnose people who are at risk quickly and easily.”


 

ENDS
For press enquiries contact the NCRI press office on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5,
or out of hours contact the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


 

Notes to editors
Read the full abstract – http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/clinicalshowcase04.html

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research. The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines. The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

PRESS RELEASE – PATIENTS WITH EMERGENCY-DIAGNOSED LUNG CANCER REPORT BARRIERS TO SEEING THEIR GP

MANY patients whose lung cancer is diagnosed as an emergency in hospital reported difficulties in previously seeing their GP, according to research* presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Tuesday).

The study, carried out by researchers from the London Cancer Alliance (LCA)** and King’s College London ***, investigated around 130 patients**** who were diagnosed with lung cancer after attending as an emergency at one of seven hospitals in south and west London.

Overall, nearly half of the patients reported that something had put them off going to the doctor, including difficulty making an appointment, not being able to see their usual doctor, not having confidence in the GP, and fear of what the doctor might find. About a fifth of all patients (18 per cent) said they had not realised that their symptoms were serious.

A fifth of all patients – who tended to be older, poorer and more fearful of what the doctor might find – delayed going to their doctor with their symptoms for more than 12 weeks.

Three-quarters of the patients had consulted their GP about their symptoms, and one fifth had seen a GP at least three times. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the patients had already been referred for hospital visits by a GP but many were admitted to hospital before the appointment because they were so unwell.

Lead study author Dr Thomas Newsom-Davis, LCA Acute Oncology Services pathway chair and consultant medical oncologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said: “These findings show that we need to work together to improve patient education, ensure that those with possible lung cancer can easily make an appointment to see their GP, and that patients are quickly seen in specialist lung cancer clinics.”

“It’s important to pilot ways of ensuring that patients with possible symptoms of cancer can be seen in hospital before they get so ill that they are admitted as an emergency, for example, rapid-access diagnostic clinics.”

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. Around 43,500 people are diagnosed each year in the UK with around 35,400 UK deaths from lung cancer annually. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing up blood. Almost 40 per cent of patients with lung cancer in England are diagnosed as an emergency in hospital, and have poorer chances of survival.

Dr Robert Rintoul, Chair of NCRI’s Lung (Screening and Early Diagnosis) Clinical Studies Subgroup, said: “If lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, patients have a much higher chance of surviving the disease. Therefore it’s vital that patients recognise possible symptoms early on and are able to get them checked out quickly.

“This study provides valuable information to suggest ways to help ensure that far fewer patients have an emergency diagnosis of lung cancer, when their disease is likely to be more advanced and treatment is less likely to be successful.”


 ENDS

For press enquiries contact the NCRI press office on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5,
or out of hours contact the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


Notes to editors

* ‘What explains diagnosis of lung cancer as an emergency?’ – Lindsay Forbes et al.

** The London Cancer Alliance was established in 2011 as the integrated cancer system across west and south London. The LCA works collaboratively with 15 NHS member organisations, as well as two academic health science centres and the voluntary sector. It provides comprehensive, integrated cancer patient pathways and services to drive improvements in patient outcomes and experience.

*** The study was part-funded by the London Cancer Alliance, the Department of Health, NHS England, and the Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening, and Early Diagnosis which receives funding from the Department of Health Policy Research Programme. It is a collaboration between researchers from seven institutions (Queen Mary University of London, UCL, King’s College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Hull York Medical School, Durham University and Peninsula Medical School).

****The study looked at 133 patients whose lung cancer was diagnosed as part of an acute (unplanned) hospital attendance.

 

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

 

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

PRESS RELEASE – SEA SPONGE DRUG COULD BOOST ADVANCED BREAST CANCER SURVIVAL BY FIVE EXTRA MONTHS

THE cancer drug eribulin, originally developed from sea sponges, could give women with advanced triple negative breast cancer an average of five extra months of life, according to research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Monday).

Researchers led by Professor Chris Twelves, based at the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, looked at two major clinical trials of more than 1,800 women with breast cancer that had started to spread to other parts of the body. The phase III trials – the final stage of testing before deciding whether a drug can be prescribed to patients – compared the survival of women treated with eribulin* to those given standard treatment.

The two studies showed an overall improvement in survival of more than two months for women treated with eribulin**. The most significant improvement was seen in women with the advanced triple negative form of breast cancer, where there are limited treatment options; these women’s survival improved by nearly five months. There was also a survival boost of more than two months for women with the HER2 negative form of breast cancer***.

Cancer spreading to other organs – called metastasis – is responsible for around 90 per cent of all cancer deaths. And, when patients with breast cancer are diagnosed after the disease has started to spread, 10-year survival is around one in 10, compared to nearly nine in 10 for those diagnosed at the earliest stage.

Study author, Professor Chris Twelves, said: “Our results show a substantial improvement in survival for women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer, and a more modest, but significant, benefit for those with HER2 negative breast cancers.

“Eribulin has previously been offered to women who’ve already been through several lines of chemotherapy. But the European Union has recently approved eribulin for patients who have received less treatment for their breast cancer, which means we hope to give more patients another treatment option in the not-too-distant future.”

“Despite advances in the diagnosis and treatment of women with breast cancer, more than 11,600 women still die from invasive breast cancer each year in the UK. New and better treatments are needed for people fighting the disease.”

Eribulin works by stopping the cancer cells from separating into two new cells. It is a type of drug called a microtubule inhibitor. Eribulin was originally developed from a sea sponge called Halichondria okadai but is now made in the laboratory.

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: “These results are encouraging and may offer valuable extra time to patients whose cancers have stopped responding to conventional treatments and have few options left. Advanced breast cancer can be very difficult to treat so these results take us a small, important step in the right direction.

“Although eribulin isn’t a cure, it’s an extra treatment option for patients with advanced breast cancer, which can be priceless to them and their families.”


ENDS

 For media enquiries please contact Greg Jones on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on07050 264 059


Notes to Editors:

Read the full abstract – http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/A036.html

*Eribulin (also called eribulin mesylate or Halaven) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat advanced breast cancer. It is usually given to people who have already had at least two other courses of chemotherapy. Eribulin works by stopping (inhibiting) the cancer cells from separating into two new cells. It is a type of drug called a microtubule inhibitor.

** Overall survival for women treated with eribulin was 15.2 months, compared to 12.8 months for women given standard therapies. Women with HER+ breast cancer saw no statistically significant improvement.

*** HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor. It is a protein found in small amounts on some normal cells, including breast cells, stomach cells and bladder cells. It is one of the proteins involved in cell growth. Some cancers have cells with large amounts of this protein and they are called HER2 positive. These cancers can be treated with drugs that target the HER2 protein. If a cancer does not have large amounts of the HER2 protein it is called HER2 negative.

Triple negative breast cancers are cancers that don’t have receptors for oestrogen, progesterone or Her2. Only around 15 out of every 100 breast cancers (15%) are triple negative.

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

PRESS RELEASE – KEEPING ACTIVE IN MIDDLE AGE MAY HELP CUT BREAST CANCER RISK, STUDY SHOWS

POSTMENOPAUSAL WOMEN who do the highest amount of vigorous exercise could be around a fifth less likely to develop breast cancer than those who put their feet up, according to new findings being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference today (Monday)*.

The study also showed that women with the most body fat were 55 per cent more likely to develop the disease than the leanest. But being physically active still seemed to help lower breast cancer risk regardless of how fat or thin the women were.

The findings are based on a study of nearly 126,000 postmenopausal women whose body fat percentage and self-reported physical activity, plus a number of other lifestyle factors, were recorded as part of UK Biobank – a database of medical information and samples for researchers studying how human disease develops.

Around 1,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the follow-up period of around three years, allowing the researchers to study the impact of lifestyle factors on them developing the disease over a relatively short time.

Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK scientist from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, led the study in collaboration with PhD student Wenji Guo.

He said: “We’ve known for some time that exercise may help to reduce breast cancer risk after the menopause, but what’s really interesting about this study is that this does not appear to be solely due to the most active women being slimmer, suggesting that there may be some more direct benefits of exercise for women of all sizes.

“We don’t yet know exactly how physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, beyond helping to maintain a healthy weight, but some small studies suggest that it could be linked to the impact on hormone levels in the body.”

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “This study confirms that the benefits of staying active go beyond just burning calories, sending a clear message to all women about the importance of being physically active throughout life.

“Resources like UK Biobank are providing scientists with greater insights into how our lifestyle choices affect our body’s inner workings, helping us to improve and tailor the advice we can offer people to help them reduce their risk of cancer.”


ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Simon Shears in the NCRI press office on 0151 707 4642/3/4/5
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


 

Notes to editors

* Wenji Guo, Gillian Reeves and Tim Key, Body fat percentage, physical activity and breast cancer risk in 126,000 postmenopausal women in UK Biobank.

Conference abstract: http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/LB023.html

In the study, women in the bottom physical activity quartile didn’t do any vigorous physical activity, such as running or any activity that made them out of breath, although they may have done some walking and moderate physical activity.

Those in the top physical activity quartile did an average of at least 15 minutes of vigorous activity every day, such as running, with many doing up to 35 minutes a day, in addition to walking and moderate activity.

 About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. Its role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

 

PRESS RELEASE – ‘INVISIBLE TATTOOS’ COULD IMPROVE BODY CONFIDENCE AFTER BREAST CANCER RADIOTHERAPY

INVISIBLE TATTOOS could replace the permanent dark ink tattoos used to ensure that breast cancer patients having radiotherapy are treated in exactly the same spot during each session, according to results from a pilot study to be presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference today (Sunday).*

Research suggests that the permanent pin prick marks made on the skin of women having radiotherapy reminds them of their diagnosis for years to come, reducing body confidence and self-esteem.

It’s also more difficult to spot these tattoos in dark-skinned women, potentially leading to inconsistencies in the area being treated.
The NIHR-funded researchers, based at The Royal Marsden hospital in London, asked 42 breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy to rate how they felt about their body, before the treatment and one month later.

Half the women were offered fluorescent tattoos, only visible under UV light, while the other half had conventional dark ink tattoos.
The researchers found that 56 per cent of the women who had fluorescent tattoos felt better about their bodies one month after treatment, compared to only 14 per cent among those who received black ink tattoos.

Using fluorescent tattoos also made no difference to the accuracy of treatment and took only slightly longer to carry out, compared to conventional dark ink tattoos.

Steven Landeg, a senior radiographer from the Royal Marsden, who is presenting the data, said: “These findings suggest that offering fluorescent radiotherapy tattoos as an alternative to dark ink ones could help ameliorate the negative feelings some women feel towards their bodies after treatment. It’s important to remember that body image is subjective and dark ink radiotherapy tattoos will affect patients differently, but we hope that these results will go some way towards making this a viable option for radiotherapy patients in the future.”

Evelyn Weatherall, 62, Surrey, had six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy, after being diagnosed with breast cancer following routine mammography through the UK’s breast screening programme.

She said: “I’d asked if I could be part of any kind of clinical trial during my treatment because I’d read about how successful they were proving to be. My doctors told me about the invisible tattoos they were pioneering at The Royal Marsden hospital and I was more than happy to take part. I had lost my hair during chemotherapy and felt that I didn’t want another visible reminder of my cancer.

“I think I was one of the first to undergo this procedure and it really worked. There wasn’t a mark on my skin after the radiotherapy planning. I was going to a wedding soon afterwards and knew I’d be able to wear an outfit that didn’t make me feel self-conscious.
“It’s wonderful to think that I may have been a part of something that could become standard in the future.”

Professor Matt Seymour, NCRI’s clinical research director said: “With more than half of all cancer patients now surviving 10 years and beyond, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to reduce the long term impact of treatment on patients, including cosmetic changes.”
The study was funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).


 ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Ailsa Stevens in the NCRI press office on 020 3469 8300
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


 

Notes to editors
* Landeg S. et al, Breast Radiotherapy: Invisible Tattoos for External References
Conference abstract: http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/B291.html

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. It’s role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

About the NIHR
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).

PRESS RELEASE – STEP TOWARDS BLOOD TEST FOR MANY CANCER TYPES

SCIENTISTS have identified more than 800 markers in the blood of cancer patients that could help lead to a single blood test for early detection of many types of cancer in future, according to research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Sunday).

This is the first time that cancer-specific blood markers have been comprehensively reviewed and identified for further clinical development. This study, by the UK Early Cancer Detection Consortium*, funded by Cancer Research UK, has analysed 19,000 scientific papers and found more than 800 biomarkers.

The aim of this research is to develop a screening test from a single blood sample for multiple cancer types. All cancers produce markers in the blood, so it could be feasible to develop a general screening test for many different forms of the disease.
In the UK, survival rates for cancer are lower than in some other western countries, part of which may be related to late diagnosis. But developing more ways to spot cancers earlier, including research into new screening technologies such as this, could help give more options for curative treatment, and save more lives in the future.

In the UK, cancer is most often detected after patients present symptoms to their doctor, with a small proportion being detected through any of the three national screening programmes for breast, bowel, and cervical cancer. This study could open the way for less invasive, new screening tests that could detect more cancers, possibly including some rare types, at an early stage when they are more likely to be treatable.

Cancer Research UK is committed to early diagnosis of cancer, importantly reducing late diagnosis and improving patients’ chances of surviving long term.

Study author Professor Ian Cree, a Cancer Research UK funded scientist at the University of Warwick and University Hospital in Coventry, said: “This is a new approach to early detection and the first time such a systematic review has been done. A single blood-based screening test would be a game changer for early detection of cancer which could help make it a curable disease for many more patients. We believe that we’ve identified all the relevant biomarkers; the next step is working out which ones work the best for spotting cancers.”
The identified biomarkers will be reviewed and categorised before they are developed further in clinical laboratory studies.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “This is an innovative and promising new approach. And although in its early stages, it shows how our increased understanding of cancers’ ‘markers’ and new technologies are combining to offer new opportunities to detect cancer sooner. Diagnosing cancer at an early stage generally means more effective treatment and that translates into better survival. Our goal over the next 20 years is that three in four cancer patients will survive at least ten years after their diagnosis.”


 ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Stephanie McClellan on 020 3469 8300
or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


 

Notes to editors
*The Early Cancer Detection Consortium unites expertise from various disciplines including more than 20 universities, hospitals and commercial partners.
Abstract to the research: http://conference.ncri.org.uk/abstracts/2014/abstracts/LB003.html

About the NCRI

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is a UK-wide partnership between the government, charity and industry. It’s role is to promote cooperation in cancer research.
  • NCRI Partners are: the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care (Research & Development Office); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus; Welsh Government (National Institute for Social Care and Health Research); Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly the Association for International Cancer Research); Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • For more information visit www.ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference is the UK’s major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.
  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The tenth NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 2–5 November 2014 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
    Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
  • For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.