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Event report from Ed Goodall

Event Report: How is research in Ireland addressing the challenges of bowel cancer?

Professor Annette Byrne, Head of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RSCI) Precision Cancer Medicine Group and Coordinator of the EC funded multi-million Euro Colorectal Cancer Research Programme COLOSSUS hosted and chaired an event at RCSI on the 30th April 2019 in Dublin.   The meeting provided a fitting finale to Bowel Cancer Awareness Month throughout Europe.  She welcomed a packed audience and introduced three keynote speakers.

Dr Sandra Van Schaeybroeck from Queen’s University, Belfast, the Coordinator of the MErCuRIC Project, gave a comprehensive and enthralling lecture which summarised the aetiology of bowel cancer and provided current statistics on its prevalence in Europe and throughout the world.  She elaborated on current treatment options and new clinical approaches to the four stages of the disease.  The importance of early screening was emphasised given the lower survival rates from the more advanced stages, particularly Stage 4 where the cancer has spread to major organs such as the liver.  For example, 6 out of 10 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women over 50 years of age were screened routinely using the newest techniques.  Additionally, the removal of precancerous polyps reduced the probability of contracting colon cancer by 70%.

A major research challenge internationally has been to improve the survival outcome of stage 4 patients with genetic aberrations in KRAS/BRAF genes.  These patients are often resistant to historical chemotherapy options.  The MErCuRIC study, a major European collaboration between several countries, including the UK, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Czech Republic and Ireland, is investigating a unique combination therapy of immunotherapy and chemotherapy in order to treat patients with the above aberrations.  The project is now in Phase 2 and 82 patients have been recruited.

The next speaker, Dr Ian Miller (RCSI), delineated exciting new research work in their laboratories where there has been a particular focus on new developments in the search for more sensitive and specific biomarkers in order to predict particular types of colorectal cancer.  This lecture complemented the work of the previous speaker in stressing the importance of more precise identification of biomarkers which had the potential to pinpoint more effective therapies for the treatment and control of bowel cancer.

The final speaker, Dr Orla Casey (Cancer Trials Ireland), detailed the comprehensive programme of research which they had supported in recent years.  Additional to a large number of major clinical trials, there had been considerable effort expended on translational studies typified, for example, by the COLOSSUS study outlined by the Chairperson, Professor Annette Byrne, at the beginning of the session.  Biobank studies were continuing to prove of extreme value in making the most effective and efficient use of large datasets that were already available from patients.

The event, organised by Danielle Nicholson of Pintail Limited with assistance from Dr Alice O’Farrell (RCSI), was a major success and captivated a very attentive audience of health professionals and patients.  Dr Ed Goodall of Digestive Cancers Europe (DiCE) and the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Forum (NICRF) Patient Advocacy Representative commented, ‘The event did indeed provide a fitting finale to Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.  For Health Authorities the message was clear and explicit.  Instigate screening programmes for all male and females over 50 years of age and back them up with comprehensive awareness campaigns for potential patients.  Secondly, support the exciting research being conducted in our major universities prevent, diagnose and treat more effectively the various types and stages of colorectal cancer’.

COLOSSUS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No.754923. MErCuRIC is funded by the European Community’s Framework Seven (FP7) under contract #602901. The materials presented and views expressed are the responsibility of the authors only. The EU Commission takes no responsibility for any use of the information set out.

Click here to read the full report from Colossus.

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Can Dogs Detect Cancer?

It might sound like something from a science fiction novel but there is now strong scientific evidence to show that our dogs can actually detect human cancers. This fantastic ability is now being honed by dog trainers and clinical researchers with the hope that this will enable cancers to be discovered in the early stages, meaning they can be more successfully treated.

Even before the scientific studies began in earnest there was an increasing number of anecdotal reports from owners that their dogs alerted them to their cancer. The dogs would begin displaying unusual behaviour around their owners because they were able to detect cancer through their sense of smell. At first, these reports were often poo-pooed as being flights of fancy but as the reports increased it meant that more official studies began being conducted to establish what truth there was behind these claims.

Dogs have a VERY good sense of smell

You are probably already aware that dogs have a truly amazing sense of smell. With 25 times as many smell receptors than us humans, their sense of smell is at least 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than our own!

Whilst the human brain is largely controlled by the visual cortex (the outer layer of the cerebrum), a dog’s brain is governed mostly by their olfactory (smell) cortex. Their olfactory cortex is at least 40 times larger than ours.

It can be hard to wrap your head around just how powerful their sense of smell really is but, to give it some context, it is claimed that a dog can detect the smell of a single drop of blood in an Olympic sized swimming pool. This is why they are already used very successfully as part of search and rescue teams and as drug and bomb detection dogs for the police.

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How I defeated colon cancer: The real story of a survivor

Have you or someone close to you been diagnosed with cancer?

Are you preparing for a long hard fight?

It can be devastating news, hearing that you are suffering from cancer. The range of emotions you will feel at such a time will be wide and varied, but this sort of news is not the gloomy outlook it once was. In today’s world there are many ways to tackle cancer and inside the pages of this book you can learn things like:

- Using emotions and feelings in the fight
- Chemotherapy
- Surgery
- How to use diet to best effect
- Alternative treatments
- How to act and think during dark moments
- And much more…

Click here to read the book on

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Doctor, I've been on the internet again

I sat grim-faced in the examining room, waiting for my doctor so I could tell her my bad news.

"What's wrong?" my doctor, Milissa Cooper, asked, pulling a stool up close so we were knee-to-knee.

"I have colon cancer," I told her, as gently as I could. I won't go into the gory details, but I had all the symptoms.

"And how do you know this?" she asked.

"," I said matter-of-factly.

Did she just roll her eyes at me? I thought she'd be devastated.

I apparently wasn't the first patient she'd seen who had come up with an alarming self-diagnosis on the Internet. I probably wasn't even the first one she'd seen that day.

Over the past 15 years, Dr. Cooper has seen an increase in patients who come in with reams of research they have pulled off the Internet.

She remembers what it was like in medical school, where students diagnosed themselves with the diseases they studied. She admires her patients' desire for knowledge and takes their concerns seriously but worries they cause themselves undue anxiety.

OK, so it's more likely I have gastroenteritis or a bug, but I was imagining me with a colostomy bag instead of picking up a case of Activia.

The official term for this is “cyberchondria,” coined in 2000 to describe otherwise rational Internet users tapping out symptoms and latching on to the worst possible diagnosis.

Every headache is a potential aneurysm. Thirsty? I'm diabetic.

Dr. Cooper gave me probiotics, which helped, and ran some tests (all negative). She suggested I lay off WebMD.

Here are the new rules: I can use the Internet to clarify what my doctor tells me and to help me ask smart questions, but I can't make my own diagnosis.

At least not until I finish medical school.

Click here to read the original article sourced from EU AZ Central.

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We Support World Cancer Day 2019!

4th February 2019 is World Cancer Day

Each year on 4 February, World Cancer Day empowers all of us across the world to show support, raise our collective voice, take personal action and press our governments to do more. World Cancer Day is the only day on the global health calendar where we can all unite and rally under the one banner of cancer in a positive and inspiring way.

Click here to find out more about WCD, download information sheets and share your support!

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