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 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...