Study Reveals Why Some Cancers Spread To The Spine

Cancers can vary considerably in the way they are diagnosed, treated and at what point their effects become noticeable to a person and they may need to contact an oncologist for private treatment.

Some types of cancer can be easier to spot early than others. A lump on the breast or prostate, for example, can be felt, which leads to a screening and tests, and if diagnosed as cancer it can be treated with as little discomfort and distress as possible.

By contrast, a cancer that either starts in or has spread to the spinal cord can be debilitating, as the tumour pushes on the vertebrae that make up the spine as well as the nerve roots, which can be intensely painful or even lead to disability.

Researchers have asked for a long time why bone cancers are more likely to spread to the spine rather than other bones such as those on the arms and legs, and according to a study led by Weill Cornell Medicine research staff, there may be a reason for this biological tendency.


Stem Cells, Proteins And Cancer

Dr Matthew Greenblatt, senior author of the study, noted that the stem cells that make up the various bones in our body are quite different and allow both bone and cartilage to develop and grow in different ways.

The team started by isolating skeletal stem cells from different bones in lab mice, then analysed the genetic activity to see if they could find if there were any distinct patterns or markers that were associated with vertebrae rather than other bones.

During that experiment, they found a more accurate definition for skeletal stem cells and could exclude cells that had been included in the old definition but were not stem cells at all.

Next, they found that different bones have different genetic activity, identifying the markers for vertebral stem cells and proving that they could be used to make bones in the spine.

Finally, they sought to disprove a traditional theory surrounding why spinal tumours are more common, which suggested that the cause was blood flow, which would deliver cells, including cancerous ones, more easily to the spinal column near the centre of the circulatory system compared to longer bones on the limbs that are further away.

They managed to not only prove that this was not the cause but also found what they believed to be the cause, a protein known as MFGE8.

MFGE8 is secreted by all bone stem cells but is produced in much higher amounts by vertebral stem cells compared to long bone cells, which may signpost a solution to reducing the risk of spinal cancers and cancer cells spreading to the spine.

If there is a way to block MFGE8 and there are no other complications or implications for doing so, there is therefore a way to potentially lower the risk of contracting a particularly painful type of cancer.

The team is exploring how their findings relate not only to cancer treatment but spinal orthopaedics in general

What Are The Treatment Options Available For Kidney Cancer?

After getting the difficult diagnosis of cancer, the first question most patients ask is what their treatment options are. 

This will depend on many factors, including the type of cancer, and how advanced it is. 

When it comes to kidney cancer, patients who have stage one or two are most likely to be booked in for surgery.

This is the most assured way of removing the tumour from the body, as surgeons will extract it, and any surrounding tissue that could be infected.

Though surgery is invasive, doctors will try to leave as much of the kidney as possible, so the organ can continue to function post-surgery. 

However, if the tumour is bigger than 7 cm, they often decide to remove the entire kidney, as this will give the patient the best chance of fighting the cancer. 

Some people cannot have surgery for their kidney cancer, including those who are not fit enough, have medical problems, or have an early-stage cancer. 

In these cases, they could undergo radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which uses radio waves to remove the cancer cells.

Another option is cryotherapy, freezing the cancer cells instead, and thereby killing them. 

Those with stage three kidney cancer could opt for the surgery in certain circumstances. 

Alternatively, they could have systemic therapy, taking medication to target the cancer cells. This is administered either through a drip or as a tablet. 

If given kidney cancer treatment promptly, the chances of beating it dramatically increase. 

According to Cancer Research UK, 85 per cent of those with stage one cancer survive for more than five years following their diagnosis. The figure is still very high for stage two and three patients at 75 per cent.

Why Are Some Types Of Cancer Harder To Treat Than Others?

Over the past few decades, private oncology has taken immense strides forward in cancer diagnosis and treatment, saving countless lives in the process and, in far more cases than in the past, turning a diagnosis many people dread into something that requires much less invasive treatment.

Far more people are treated for cancer than ever before, but one aspect of this is that certain types of cancers are much easier to treat with very common, low risk and highly effective pathways to remission, whilst others are particularly aggressive and difficult to fully eradicate.

The concern is such that the UK Government have unveiled a £2m scheme to fund four projects to help cure hard-to-treat cancers that often spread exceptionally quickly, including brain, lung and oesophagal cancers.

However, what is it that makes some cancers more difficult to detect early, difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat than others?


Genetic Diversity

The first and biggest answer is the simple fact that there are hundreds of types of cancers and every single one of them manifests uniquely in each patient.

Mapping the cancer of one person could become the sole project of an entire laboratory, and up until the rise of machine learning in drug development, it was effectively unfeasible for personalised treatments to be created for every person’s cancer.

What also needs to be considered is that this diversity is not only between different instances of the same cancer but also for the same person over time.

Much like how the common cold adapts so often that there can’t be a vaccine for it, cancers adapt to treatments, which is why oncology treatments are often so intense to ensure that every last cancerous cell is eradicated so it cannot come back.


Speed Of Progression

Time is the most important weapon in the battle against cancer; the more time you have, the easier the cancer will be to treat and the less harm it will be able to cause.

A lot of the time, with regular screening and detection efforts, cancers can be caught quickly enough that they will not have time to progress into a more advanced form that can cause significant health damage, but some rare cancers are the exception to this.

Certain types of thankfully quite rare cancer start to grow and spread exponentially, making them much harder to treat and requiring more aggressive forms of treatment that can have consequences in the short term.


The Nature Of Mutation

Most diseases that the body deals with involve foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria that the body’s immune system is well developed to handle. This is why a lot of illnesses largely go away on their own as long as your immune system is strong enough.

But cancer is a mutation of cells native to our bodies, which means that a lot of cancerous cells are hard to distinguish from healthy cells, making it difficult for cancer treatments to find a way to target cancerous cells without damaging healthy cells as well.

However, as more advances are found and greater knowledge about how cancers function is learned, more targeted, personalised treatments will become available.

What Does Getting The ‘All-Clear’ In Cancer Really Mean?

When you have been diagnosed with cancer, you will hear a lot of terminology that you will probably not be familiar with. One term you would have, undoubtedly, heard before though is ‘getting the all clear’. 

However, do you really understand what it means?

Hearing your oncologist say those words will come as a huge relief to any cancer patient, as you are likely to assume they are saying you have beaten the disease and regained full health.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to ensure someone is completely cured of their cancer, as there is always the chance it could return. 

Doctors instead will typically say patients are in remission or have the ‘all clear’ when signs of their cancer have been reduced or disappeared entirely. 

The National Cancer Institute explains: “If you remain in complete remission for five years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured.”

However, it is possible that some cancer cells remain in the body even several years after intense treatment. 

These cells could potentially multiply in the future, causing the cancer to return. The majority that do come back do so within five years. 

Therefore, the longer a patient has been in remission, the better chance they have of the cancer not returning. 

In order to reduce the risk of this happening, patients will continue to be monitored for years. They will undertake tests and scans periodically to check whether the cancer has returned, while their symptoms will also be assessed. 

Therefore, the term ‘all clear’ simply means there are no signs of cancer at the moment. 

Cancer sufferers who have undergone lots of therapies and possibly even surgery to remove traces of cancer from their body might feel frustrated to find out the ‘all clear’ is not as definite as they may have presumed. 

However, being in remission means the treatment has been successful and there is a high chance of a long future ahead.

Why MRI Scans Can Find Cancers Blood Tests Cannot

Whilst available through private oncology for many years, the use of magnetic resonance imaging machines to screen people for cancer varies considerably depending on the type and is often not used to detect common types such as prostate cancer.

However, a study into the use of MRI scans compared to the standard prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test found that the former managed to detect cancers that had the potential to be missed by a PSA test alone.


The Complexities Of Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Unlike cervical, breast and bowel cancer, prostate cancer is not subject to a national screening programme, due to the controversies surrounding the PSA test.

The biomarker it relies on can sometimes appear at benchmark levels (defined in the study as 3ng/ml) in people who do not have cancer or otherwise have tumours that do not require treatment.

This would lead to a false positive and the potential unnecessary use of biopsies and other invasive treatments as part of further diagnostic investigations

By contrast, there is also the potential for someone with healthy levels of PSA to have cancer, which means it could potentially be missed whilst it is easier and safer to treat.

The REIMAGINE study, funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council, tested 303 men between the ages of 50 and 75 who either have concerns about or symptoms possibly connected to prostate cancer and thus would be eligible for one of several tests suggested by their GP.

The aim is to determine how well MRI scans work at diagnosing prostate cancer compared to a PSA test, and the results were somewhat surprising.

Of the men studied, 48 (16 per cent) had a positive MRI screening, but half of these had a lower PSA level than the benchmark, meaning that they would have cancer but be shown test results that demonstrated the opposite.

The study also found that less than one per cent were over-diagnosed, but wider studies such as the LIMIT trial would need to be taken to confirm this trend.

Prostate cancer is very treatable when caught early and anything that can help people get the treatment they need sooner is essential to save lives.

Why You Should Be Wary Of Liquorice Pancreatic Cancer Study

In recent weeks several news reports have reported on how a compound commonly found in liquorice has been linked to lower survival rates in cancer cells and improved effectiveness of other cancer drugs, suggesting the potential for the compound to be part of cancer treatments in the future.

Whilst a lot of the research surrounding isoliquiritigenin (ISL) is promising with regard to its potential use in chemotherapy treatment, it is important to understand the context and avoid any reports that directly connect liquorice to better pancreatic cancer outcomes.

One of the complications of pancreatic cancer is that its symptoms can be hard to spot until a later stage, when jaundice, fatigue, unintentional weight loss and stomach pains become impossible to confuse with other conditions.

As a result, it is often diagnosed at a later stage than other conditions, and therefore ways to improve the efficacy of treatment are exceptionally welcome.

The study found that the compound reduced tumours in laboratory mice at a rate comparable to gemcitabine, a chemotherapy drug used to treat pancreatic and bladder cancer, with fewer side effects such as weight loss and lower red and white blood cell count.

More studies and tests are needed to determine its safety and efficacy as a cancer drug in humans, but initial reports are promising.

Where people need to be wary, however, is conflating the effects of ISL in controlled concentrations with the consumption of liquorice, which can exacerbate the effects of kidney disease and high blood pressure, as well as lower potassium levels.

It is perfectly safe in small amounts, but if consumed to excess it can have particularly unpleasant side effects, especially when consumed over a long time. 

As well as this, most products sold as liquorice are typically flavoured with aniseed oil, which tastes very similar. Neither aniseed oil nor liquorice will provide any meaningful effect in preventing cancer.

What Factors Can Increase The Risk Of Bladder Cancer?

While there are no definite causes of cancer, it can develop for many reasons, a lot of which are unknown, there are several factors which may increase your risk of developing it. For bladder cancer in particular, there are some additional risks.

Smoking cigarettes is something which can increase your risk of bladder cancer. While this may be shocking, as most people would assume smoking would affect the lungs and respiratory system, it can actually cause cancer in many other areas.

The carcinogenic chemicals within tobacco are filtered from the blood by your kidneys which means they end up in your urine, which is stored in the bladder until you go to the bathroom. Over time, repeated exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer to develop.

This is more likely to be a risk for heavy and frequent smokers however not smoking entirely is the best way to prevent bladder cancer from occurring as a result of smoking.

Bladder cancer can also be hereditary. If you have close family members who have suffered from bladder cancer you may be at an increased risk of developing it than someone with no family history of it.

This is because there are several genes which can be passed on to children which are faulty, which may increase the risk of developing cancer.

If you suffer from frequent or persistent UTIs and kidney or bladder stones, there may be a risk of developing bladder cancer. While the UTIs may not be the cause of bladder cancer, they can be a symptom of a type of cancer which may develop.

Your gender and age may also be a risk factor. Men over the age of 40 are more at risk of developing bladder cancer than any other group. Men in general are more at risk of developing this cancer.

New Discovery Could Lead To Early Ovarian Cancer Diagnoses

Patients presenting with signs of ovarian cancer could be diagnosed sooner, as a recent study has identified proteins scientists were previously unaware of. 

Nagoya University in Japan has found three membrane proteins in ovarian cancer, which can be detected when blood, urine or saliva is tested, Medical News Today reported.

Their findings, which were published in Science Advances, could make it easier for ovarian cancer to be diagnosed earlier. 

Research information lead at Cancer Research UK Dr Samuel Godfrey was also involved in the groundbreaking study. 

He explained: “Researchers explored whether ‘tiny bubbles’ that come from ovarian cancer cells could act as warning signals for the disease, and their results suggest this approach could be worth exploring further.”

Currently, only one biomarker, Cancer Antigen 125 (CA125), can be used to detect ovarian cancer. However, this is not often the first indication of a diagnosis. 

Doctors typically use CT scans, laparoscopies, and transvaginal ultrasounds to detect growths in the area. If there are any, a biopsy is carried out on the tumour to determine whether it is cancerous. 

Therefore, the recent research, which could offer a diagnosis with a simple blood test, would be a significant step forward in the care of patients. 

Despite this promise, Dr Godfrey recognised the study needs to be expanded on. 

“We need to see more research into diagnostic tools like this because, if they work, they could make big changes to how we treat a variety of cancer types,” he stated. 

If ovarian cancer can be detected sooner, this would also substantially improve patients’ prognosis. 

According to Cancer Research UK, ovarian cancer patients have a 35 per cent chance of surviving ten years or longer. However, earlier diagnosis could dramatically improve this.

It is hoped the mortality rate for ovarian cancer in the UK will fall 15 per cent by 2038-2040. 

More than one in ten ovarian cancer cases are preventable, with obesity, smoking and even workplace exposures increasing the risk of developing the condition. 

Other risk factors include having a family history of ovarian cancer, taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), having endometriosis or diabetes, using talcum powder, and not breastfeeding. 

Due to the difficulty detecting ovarian cancer, it is important to go to the doctors if you start to experience any symptoms.

These include having a loss of appetite, persistent pain in the abdomen that does not seem to improve, bloating, needing to wee more frequently, a loss of appetite, feeling full quickly, unexplained tiredness, weight loss, or changes in bowel habits. 

GPs then might refer you for further tests, conduct an internal examination to see if the ovaries and womb feel normal, or organise a blood test to detect CA125. 

Women who want to see a specialist at their first appointment should book an appointment with a private oncology clinic. Call us today to see when we can fit you in.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer can have many different signs and symptoms. If you notice any symptoms or have a reason for concern, it is always best that you seek the help and advice of a doctor so they can refer you for the correct tests.

Catching cancer as early as possible increases the likelihood of it being treatable and therefore increases your chances of recovering from it. It is important that you do not ignore any worrying signs, even if they are only minor or don’t seem important.

There are many symptoms of kidney cancer, however often they are not obvious straight away and therefore kidney cancer is most often found and diagnosed when testing for other health issues.

Some of the symptoms of kidney cancer, however, do present and can be easily identified. These include:

Blood in your urine, which is often identified as it gives the urine a slight pink tinge. This is sometimes not visible and can only be shown via tests.

A lump or swelling in the back, neck or below the ribcage. While these can be sore or tender, in some cases they may not be felt at all unless specifically searched for.

Pain in the mid-abdomen between the chest and waist. This may be mistaken as a pulled muscle or something else which does not seem serious, however, pain which does not go away should always be checked.

A sudden loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss are symptoms of many types of cancer, including kidney cancer and should never be ignored. If you are losing significant amounts of weight without there being a reason, you should always seek advice from your doctor.

Extreme fatigue is another symptom which may be mistaken for other illnesses, however, this is also something which should be treated regardless of the reasons it is happening.

Another symptom is a high temperature which does not seem to drop or regulate at any point and remains consistently high. This indicates your body is trying to fight off infection or disease and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Linked to this, excessive sweating during the daytime or night-time can also be a symptom of kidney cancer and should also be seen too if you begin to experience this.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important that you seek the help of a doctor and have them checked by your GP.

While they are not definitive signs of cancer, they can still be linked to various health issues which should still be treated and addressed. It is important that they are checked however, catching cancer early makes it much more treatable and manageable.

If you’re concerned or are experiencing any of the symptoms above and they have started suddenly and in an extreme or unmanageable way, booking an emergency doctor appointment or seeking advice from 111 is advised as they can be signs of a kidney infection, which can be serious.

For private kidney cancer treatment, contact Sheffield Oncology today.

Study Shows Losing Y Chromosome Could Trigger Bladder Cancer

A recent study has shown a link between losing Y chromosomes and developing bladder cancer in men. 

The findings, which were published in the journal Nature, revealed that as men age, they begin to lose Y chromosomes in their cells, and this could make them weaker against certain cancers. 

According to the study, which involved laboratory mice, bladder cancer was able to evade the immune system of those who had a lower level of Y chromosome. 

Dr Dan Theodorescu, physician and director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, said: “It’s the first demonstration that losing Y chromosomes makes the cancer more aggressive.”

The researchers found the tumour cells in the mice that lacked Y chromosomes were twice as aggressive as those that did not. 

Although losing Y chromosomes due to age has been linked with heart disease and Alzheimer’s in the past, this is the first time a study has been able to prove its connection with an increased risk of bladder cancer. 

As the cancer cells are able to escape the body’s immune system, they can grow much more quickly.

This research could also help scientists come up with a treatment, such as by boosting the immune system of those at higher risk. 

They can do this through checkpoint inhibitors. These can revive T-cells, which are weakened by Y chromosome loss. 

The T-cells are important at helping to fight off cancer cells, so giving them a boost means they are better able to attack the tumour. 

However, this response depends on the type of cancer, according to oncologist specialist in bladder cancers Dr Jeanny Aragon-Ching. 

Speaking with Live Science, the scientist said Y chromosome loss is not always bad for a patient. 

For instance, researchers for another study found a decline in Y chromosomes could make colorectal tumours less aggressive. 

The HSJ recently noted that treatments to bladder cancer need to be more specific, as there is currently too much variation. 

At a recent roundtable event, which was funded by Bristol Myers Squibb, the panellists agreed the current pathway for treatment was “often inefficient”. 

The article stated this can lead to a “slow diagnosis of MIBC [muscle-invasive and metastatic bladder cancer] – a condition in which speed is particularly important, as delays to treatment are associated with worse outcomes”. 

As there is a huge list of people waiting to hear about their diagnosis, doctors often have to rush the diagnostics, and this can take the focus off determining the right level of care depending on the level of risk.

“It may be more appropriate to use more time discussing the more complex cases,” the HSJ stated. 

According to Cancer Research, around 80 per cent of people survive bladder cancer for five or more years if they are diagnosed at stage one. 

In comparison, this falls to ten per cent when diagnosed at stage four when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body or the lymph nodes.

To get an early diagnosis and improve life expectancy, contact leading Sheffield bladder cancer oncologists today.