Researchers find ‘alarm’ that gives warning of recurring cancer
Sunday 17 November 2013
An alarm signal from the immune system offers an “invaluable” early warning of returning cancer, research has shown.
Scientists hope the discovery will make it possible to catch recurring cancers before they take hold, increasing patients’ survival chances.
The same team found that rousing sleeping cancers could weaken them and ultimately lead to their destruction by the body's own defences.
Often cancers are successfully treated only to return years later. Breast cancer is especially prone to making an unwelcome comeback - nearly a quarter of women with the disease will experience it a second time within 10 years.
Knowing when a cancer is about to recur would give doctors a valuable head start, allowing them to attack a tumour before it begins to spread.
The main cause of cancer recurrence is small groups of tumour cells that hide away lying dormant, only to re-awaken once they have learned to evade the immune system.
In a study of mice, researchers looked for early signs of an immune response triggered by a dormant cancer waking up. They found that detecting the signal made it possible to predict accurately when a cancer was about to return.
Lead scientist Professor Alan Melcher, from the University of Leeds, said: "The ability to predict when a patient's cancer will come back would be an invaluable tool in treating the disease, allowing doctors to treat the recurrence rapidly and effectively before it takes hold. But we now need to find a way of using this knowledge to develop a test for patients whose cancer could take several years to reappear."
In a surprising twist, the scientists also learned it was possible to force a cancer out of its slumber prematurely. The immune system's defences could then be used to track down the cancer cells and wipe them out.
During the experiments, this approach cured up to 100% of the mice that would otherwise have relapsed. The findings are reported in the journal Nature Medicine.
- 1 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 2 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 3 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 4 News agency criticised for describing Amal Clooney as 'actor's wife' in coverage of human rights trial
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Turkey duped the US, and Isis reaps rewards
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...
£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...
£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...