Tracking tumours with blood samples

This week, a couple of new studies (which can be found here and here) showed that we can track changes in a tumour through blood samples alone. To understand the importance of this it is worth knowing that chemotherapy is going through a radical change at the moment.

Vacutainer_blood_bottlesThe last few years have seen the introduction of a new generation of cancer drugs. These are targeted therapies, ones that are targeted not only towards a specific cancer but also towards specific sub-types of that cancer, based on the mutations that they have in their DNA. Not only are these chemotherapies more effective, but they should also cause fewer side effects than ones used in the past. Continue reading

The cost of a cancer breakthrough

MelanomaA new combination of drugs marketed by Bristol-Meyer Squibb has been hailed as a breakthrough in cancer treatment. Almost every media outlet carried a story about the results of a trial that were announced at a conference in Chicago yesterday, with the usual hype. The results are quite remarkable. 58% of metastatic melanoma patients treated with this new drug combination saw their tumours shrink, with the tumours stable or shrinking for a median of 11.5 months. This is amazing when you consider that metastatic melanoma was thought to be largely incurable as recently as 5 years ago.

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Vaccinating ourselves against cancer

Several news outlets carried a story this week regarding very promising results of cancer vaccines trials. This was a very small trial (on just three patients) who had an aggressive and late-stage skin cancer known as melanoma. In all three patients the cancers stopped growing, and they were alive and well at the time of publication. In spite of the low number of patients, this study provides a tantalising glimpse of a brand new form of cancer therapy.

Cancer vaccines
How cancer vaccines work

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