Posted by: alisalliance | June 8, 2015

Take Precautions During Cancer Treatment in Warmer Weather


Source: National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Warm weather beckons most people to spend more time outdoors. But, whether you are on a much-needed vacation or just enjoying the summer months, if you or someone you love is living with cancer, heat, sun, and outside activities can present certain challenges. With planning and proper precautions, however, you can still enjoy outdoor fun on warm, sunny days.

Sun Exposure
Certain forms of chemotherapy can make patients more sensitive to the sun. A classic example is 5-fluorouracil, says Michael Naughton, MD, Assistant Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Even if you are not receiving this form of chemotherapy, though, you may more sensitive to the sun.

Planning ahead can make your time outdoors safer and more enjoyable:

  • Try to limit your sun exposure between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, which is when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply it often, especially after sweating or swimming. It is also a good idea to ask a doctor to recommend a sunscreen for sensitive skin if your skin is irritated anywhere from radiation therapy.
  • Dress for sun protection, and bring portable shade such as an umbrella if possible.
  • Protect your head. If you’ve lost your hair due to chemo, wear a hat.
  • If you have undergone radiation, know the boundaries of where you were exposed. This area will be the most sensitive to sunburn, especially during the first year after treatment.
  • Keep any surgical scars covered from the sun. “Surgical scars may be especially sensitive to sun damage,” says Dr. Naughton. If you can’t keep them covered by clothes (or a hat), apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, generously and frequently.

Dr. Naughton also cautions, “Patients should also remember that clothes, especially light T-shirts, do not offer complete protection, and sunscreen should still be worn.”

Summer and Entertaining
Picnics, pools, and parties are abundant during warmer weather. Picnics and other outdoor parties can be a great chance to visit with friends and family, but your body’s reaction to treatments or medications may present challenges when you are not at your own home.

If you are going to an outdoor party or picnic:

  • Call ahead to make sure that shade is available, or bring your own, and stay in the shade as much as possible. Take breaks from the heat and seek air conditioning, especially if you start to feel overheated.
  • Wear lighter colors and fabrics and loosely fitting clothing.
  • Heat can cause or worsen hot flashes. Drink cold beverages and also seek shade and indoors when possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid too much alcohol. Try drinking sports drinks like Gatorade or even Pedialyte to replenish your body’s electrolytes.
  • Cancer patients may have changes in taste, as well as changes in digestion, says Dr. Naughton. Be prepared for problems such as acid reflux, nausea, and diarrhea by talking to your doctor about what you can do before the party.
  • Be careful of picnic fare. Terri Ades, RN, MS, ACON, Director of Cancer Information with the American Cancer Society, says specifically that low white cell counts from cancer treatment can make a person more susceptible to food-borne bacteria. Make sure food is well-chilled and not left out in the heat.
  • After swimming in a pool, wash off the chlorine right away so that it doesn’t dry and irritate your skin.
  • If you have a low white blood cell count, you should avoid public pools and beaches to reduce your risk for infection from water-borne bacteria.

Indulging in warm-weather treats such as ice pops, watermelon, and lemonade can help you stay cool, but Dr. Naughton also says people with cancer, especially those who received more intense therapies, such as stem cell transplants, need to take precautions in terms of fresh fruits and raw vegetables. Because you are at higher risk for infection, fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly and all bruised or broken areas removed before eating. Fruits that grow on vines, such as grapes and berries, should be avoided because mold and bacteria can collect around the stem and cause infection.

Heat can worsen cancer-related fatigue. “Most patients with fatigue, despite the cause, will find symptoms more pronounced in extreme levels of heat,” says Monique Williams, adult nurse practitioner at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor. She recommends several strategies to combat fatigue in warm weather:

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Keep fluids on-hand.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Listen to your body. Rest if you feel tired.
  • Try to stay in an air-conditioned space or limit the amount of time you are exposed to heat.
  • Dress appropriately in lightweight clothing.
  • If you have any symptoms such as muscle cramps, trouble breathing, confusion, fever, seizures, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical care immediately.
  • Exercise can help combat fatigue, but recognize your limits. You may not be up to the same strength and activity level that you were used to. Swimming is a good source of light exercise that will keep you cool, help reduce strain on joints, and soothe aching muscles.

How Cancer Patients Can Beat the Heat
If you are being treated for cancer, you are more vulnerable to heat-related problems than you were before treatment. Make every effort to stay cool, and understand that the combination of sunlight, heat, and medications may cause photosensitivity reactions to occur quickly, possibly more quickly than you expect. Being aware of your medications and having a plan in place in case of emergency, whether you are at home or are traveling, can make the warm weather most enjoyable.


Source: NCCN

Posted by: alisalliance | June 7, 2015

June is National Dairy Month – Dairy Health Benefits

shutterstock_178802588So you know that dairy foods are number one for bones and teeth. But did you know having enough milk, yogurt and cheese can be good for your heart, blood pressure and weight?

Milk, cheese and yogurt are naturally full of important nutrients such as calcium and protein. The unique package of vitamins and minerals they provide means these dairy foods have some pretty important health benefits!

In fact, studies show that consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and colorectal cancer – some of the main causes of death in the World. Dairy consumption is also associated with a healthy weight and has been shown to play an important role in sport and exercise performance.

Because of these great health benefits, it is recommended that we include milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat) every day as part of a balanced diet.

In addition to these health benefits, milk and milk products taste good, are convenient, are affordable and most importantly provide three of the four nutrients that are often deficient in Americans’ diets: calcium, vitamin D and potassium. For that reason, the USDA recommends that adults consume three servings per day.

Pouring a glass of milk with meals, adding cheese to salads and sandwiches, and snacking on yogurt are easy ways to satisfy these recommendations and create healthy eating habits for the whole family.

Posted by: alisalliance | June 7, 2015

Physical Activity Benefits Lung Cancer Patients, Survivors

shutterstock_198678062Author: Murry W. Wynes, PhD.

Exercise and physical activity should be considered as therapeutic options for lung cancer as they have been shown to reduce symptoms, increase exercise tolerance, improve quality of life, and potentially reduce length of hospital stay and complications following surgery for lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States with an estimated 160,000 deaths each year and worldwide there are 1.4 million deaths. In the last two decades lung cancer therapy has improved, but the overall 5-year survival rate is still quite low at 17%. Lung cancer patients experience many debilitating symptoms including difficulty breathing, cough, fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain. A third of long term survivors, those 5 years from diagnosis, experience reduced quality of life and report lower physical and health scores compared to healthy patients – given the incidence of lung cancer and the associated costs. An inexpensive and relatively easy cancer therapy to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life, like physical activity, could be beneficial, especially for therapy, but clinicians underutilize exercise as a therapy, in part due to the lack of evidence-based consensus as to how and when to implement increasing physical activity.

Dr. Gerard A. Silvestri, Dr. Brett Bade, and colleagues at Medical University of South Carolina have reviewed the safety, benefits, and application of increasing physical activity and exercise in lung cancer with the goal to summarize the effect on improved lung cancer outcomes. Their results are published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

The authors found that most lung cancer patients (regardless of stage) want physical activity advice directly from a physician at a cancer center before cancer treatment and exercise guidance may increase compliance with a dedicated program.

Physical activity reduces risk of cancer development in multiple cancer types including lung. Large trials showed exercise’s association with reduced all-cause mortality and that self-reported moderately vigorous physical activity led to lower risk of all-cause and cancer-specific mortality. Multiple trials have shown that increased activity reduces symptom burden and that exercise interventions may have beneficial effects on quality of life, physical function, social function, and fatigue.

Perioperative exercise in lung cancer patients appears to be safe with improvement in operability, operative risk, post-operative complications, as well as increase exercise capacity. Preoperative interventions may be more beneficial than post. Non-surgical advanced-stage lung cancer patients may benefit from increased physical activity by improving exercise tolerance and symptom burden, though the location, duration, and intensity to be recommended is not clear.

Chronically-ill cancer patients have different exercise limitations than their healthy counterparts and other concurrent diseases and high symptom burden adds challenges in how best to study and implement physical activity programs in lung cancer patients. Low-intensity regimens such as daily walking or step-counting may provide a safe mechanism to increase physical activity while identifying an individual patient’s activity limits. Both supervised and self-directed programs have potential benefit, though how to choose one versus the other is not yet clear.

The same benefits of increased activity observed in lung cancer patients, especially improved symptoms and quality of life, appear to apply to lung cancer survivors as well.

The authors conclude “clinicians should (at minimum) consider physical activity early, counsel against inactivity, and encourage physical activity in all stages of lung cancer patients and lung cancer survivors. This review shows uniform recognition that exercise and physical activity are safe for those with lung cancer, patients are requesting increased activity counseling, and multiple studies and reviews show potential clinical benefit in quality of life, exercise tolerance, and post-operative complications. Further, we know that inactivity in cancer patients is associated with worse outcomes.” However, “there are still large gaps in the published literature to be addressed and these could be filled with large definitive prospective trials that evaluate the benefit of exercise in lung cancer patients.”


Source: International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer

Posted by: alisalliance | June 7, 2015

New Blood Test can Predict Future Breast Cancer


Research: Faculty of Science – University of Copenhagen

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is one of the most common cancer in women both in the developed and less developed world, and in the long term the scientists hope that the new method will lead to better prevention and early treatment of the disease.

“The method is better than mammography, which can only be used when the disease has already occurred. It is not perfect, but it is truly amazing that we can predict breast cancer years into the future,” said Rasmus Bro, a professor of chemometrics in the Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen. He stressed the method has been tested and validated only for a single population (cohort) and needs to be validated more widely before it can be used practically.

A new way of detecting diseases
Nevertheless, the method could create a paradigm shift in early diagnosis of breast cancer as well as other diseases.

“The potential is that we can detect a disease like breast cancer much earlier than today. This is important as it is easier to treat if you discover it early. In the long term, it will probably also be possible to use similar models to predict other diseases,” said Lars Ove Dragsted, a professor of biomedicine in the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

The method has been developed in cooperation with the Danish Cancer Society and the study was recently published in Metabolomics.

Food science showed the way
The researchers’ approach to developing the method was adopted from food science, where it is used for control of complex industrial processes. Basically, it involves handling and analyzing huge amounts of biological data in a holistic and explorative way. The researchers analyzed all compounds a blood sample contains instead of — as is often done in health and medical science — examining what a single biomarker means in relation to a specific disease.

“When a huge amount of relevant measurements from many individuals is used to assess health risks — here breast cancer — it creates very high quality information. The more measurements our analyses contain, the better the model handles complex problems,” continued Professor Rasmus Bro.

The model does not reveal anything about the importance of the single biomarkers in relation to breast cancer, but it does reveal the importance of a set of biomarkers and their interactions.
“No single part of the pattern is actually necessary nor sufficient. It is the whole pattern that predicts the cancer,” said Professor Dragsted.

A metabolic blood profile describes the amounts of all compounds (metabolites) in our blood. The scientists measured metabolic blood profiles for this project. When you are in a precancerous state, the pattern for how certain metabolites are processed apparently changes.

While a mammography can detect newly developed breast cancer with a sensitivity of 75 per cent, the new metabolic blood profile is able to predict the likelihood of a woman developing breast cancer within the next two to five years with a sensitivity of 80 per cent.

Based on population study
The research is based on a population study of 57,000 people followed by the Danish Cancer Society over 20 years. The participants were first examined in 1994-96, during which time their weight and other measurements were recorded and they answered a questionnaire. They also provided a blood sample that was stored in liquid nitrogen.

The scientists used the 20-year-old blood samples and other available data from 400 women who were healthy when they were first examined but who were diagnosed with breast cancer two to seven years after providing the first sample, and from 400 women who did not develop breast cancer.
The method was also used to test a different data-set of women examined in 1997. Predictions based on the new set of data matched the first data-set, which indicates the validity of the model.


Source: Faculty of Science – University of Copenhagen

Posted by: alisalliance | May 14, 2015

Our Top Hats and Tea Cups Event was a HUGE Success!

Top Hats and Tea Cups eventWe are excited about and appreciate the support we received from our recent Top Hats and Tea Cups event. From our sharp-witted emcees and powerful keynote speaker, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, M.D., to the beautiful display of hats from our cancer survivor models, this event was a great success, raising nearly $20,000.

We need your help to achieve the goal of growing our online, geographically searchable database of resources and support for cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Whether you’re in the initial phase of shock, in the battle, or handling the aftermath of cancer, our resources take out the stress of searching multiple places and thousands of online listings.

Top Hats event

Tops Hats

Top Hats and Tea Cups

Visit our Facebook page to find more photos of the Tea event.

Posted by: alisalliance | May 14, 2015

7 Health Benefits of Broccoli

BroccoliBroccoli is known to be hearty and tasty vegetable which is rich in dozens of nutrients. It is said to pack the most nutritional punch of any vegetable.

Here are some of the benefits of broccoli:

1.Cancer prevention: Broccoli shares these cancer fighting, immune boosting properties with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

2. Cholesterol reduction: Like many whole foods, broccoli is packed with soluble fiber that draws cholesterol out of your body.

3. Reducing allergic reaction and inflammation: Research has shown the ability of kaempferol to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body. Broccoli even has significant amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which are well know as an anti-inflammatory.

4. Powerful antioxidant: Of all the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli stands out as the most concentrated source of vitamin C, plus the flavonoids necessary for vitamin C to recycle effectively. Also concentrated in broccoli are the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, other powerful antioxidants.

5. Bone health: Broccoli contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, both of which are important for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.

6. Heart health: The anti-inflammatory properties of sulforaphane, one of the isothiocyanates (ITCs) in broccoli, may be able to prevent (or even reverse) some of the damage to blood vessel linings that can be caused by inflammation due to chronic blood sugar problems.

7. Diet aid: Broccoli is a good carb and is high in fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Furthermore, a cup of broccoli has as much protein as a cup of rice or corn with half the calories.

Posted by: alisalliance | April 8, 2015

13 Reasons Tea Is Good for You

shutterstock_192530555Put down those saucer cups and get chugging — tea is officially awesome for your health. But before loading up on Red Zinger, make sure that your “tea” is actually tea. Real tea is derived from a particular plant (Camellia sinensis) and includes only four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong. Anything else (like herbal “tea”) is an infusion of a different plant and isn’t technically tea.

But what real tea lacks in variety, it makes up for with some serious health benefits. Researchers attribute tea’s health properties to polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) and phytochemicals. Though most studies have focused on the better-known green and black teas, white and oolong also bring benefits to the table. Read on to find out why coffee’s little cousin rocks your health.

  • Tea can boost exercise endurance. Scientists have found that the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which accounts for improved muscle endurance.
  • Drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack. Tea might also help protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.
  • The antioxidants in tea might help protect against a boatload of cancers, including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers. But don’t rely solely on tea to keep a healthy body — tea is not a miracle cure, after all. While more studies than not suggest that tea has cancer-fighting benefits, the current research is mixed.
  • Tea helps fight free radicals. Tea is high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (“ORAC” to its friends), which is a fancy way of saying that it helps destroy free radicals (which can damage DNA) in the body. While our bodies are designed to fight free radicals on their own, they’re not 100 percent effective — and since damage from these radical oxygen ninjas has been linked to cancer, heart disease and neurological degeneration, we’ll take all the help we can get.
  • Tea is hydrating to the body (even despite the caffeine!).
  • Drinking tea is linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. When considered with other factors like smoking, physical activity, age and body mass index, regular tea drinking was associated with a lowered risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.
  • Tea might provide protection from ultraviolet rays. We know it’s important to limit exposure to UV rays, and we all know what it’s like to feel the burn. The good news is that green tea may act as a back-up sunscreen.
  • Tea could keep waist circumference in check. In one study, participants who regularly consumed hot tea had lower waist circumference and lower BMI than non-consuming participants. Scientists speculate that regular tea drinking lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome (which increases the risk of diabetes, artery disease and stroke), although it’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation.
  • Regular tea drinking might also counteract some of the negative effects of smoking and might even lessen the risk of lung cancer (good news, obviously, but not a justification for cigs).
  • Tea could be beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that compounds in green tea could help diabetics’ better process sugars.
  • Tea can help the body recover from radiation. One study found that tea helped protect against cellular degeneration upon exposure to radiation, while another found that tea can help skin bounce back postexposure.
  • Green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength.
  • Tea might be an effective agent in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases, especially degenerative diseases (think Alzheimer’s). While many factors influence brain health, polyphenols in green tea may help maintain the parts of the brain that regulate learning and memory.

Though most research on tea is highly positive, it’s not all definitive — so keep these caveats in mind before stocking up on gallons of the stuff:

1. Keep it cool. Repeatedly drinking hot beverages may boost the risk of esophageal cancer. Give tea several minutes to cool off before sipping.

2. The studies seem convincing, but a rat does not a human make. Chemicals in tea may react differently in the lab than they do in the human body. Tannins (and the other good stuff in green tea) may not be bioavailable for humans, meaning tea might not always benefit human health to the same degree as in lab studies suggest.

3. All tea drinks are not created equal. The body’s access to the good stuff in tea might be determined by the tea variety, canning and processing, and the way it was brewed.

The takeaway: at the very least, tea should be safe to consume — just not in excessive amounts. So brew up a batch of the good stuff — hot or cold — and enjoy.

Do you drink tea regularly? Have you noticed any health benefits? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted by: alisalliance | April 8, 2015

Meet David Cowan

DJC M_C PromoPic2011David Cowan was born in upstate New York. His service in the United States Marine Corps, with two meritorious promotions shows he is a natural leader, managing through complex challenges and guiding others to do the same. Gaining a BA degree from the University of Colorado, he has established and operated diverse businesses, and a non-profit. David is a perpetual risk-taker who commits to endeavors which resonate with passion and serve a greater good.

For more than 10 years David has operated a videography and photography company in which he markets and sells products and services for web- and cloud-based videos, and for TV broadcasts. As an avid scuba diver, scuba instructor and champion of the ocean, his products include underwater ocean videos used in restaurants, assisted care facilities, for those with autism, for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, and more.

After becoming the primary caregiver to his wife, Alison Arnesen Cowan, until her passing, David now leads a non-profit, Ali’s Alliance, her namesake. This organization provides free, online support and resources for cancer patients and their caregivers. He developed the concept for this non-profit, leads its Board, and has been instrumental in its growth, management and fundraising efforts. Volunteers, staff and the Board are inspired and encouraged by David’s leadership and enthusiasm.

Posted by: alisalliance | April 8, 2015

Three simple things shown to help heal cancer

shutterstock_104697023With all of the funds raised from various charitable events geared towards snuffing out cancer, and the industry using this money to try desperately to find that “elusive” cancer cure, it may seem counter-intuitive that there are simple solutions to heal cancer.

In fact, while the cancer industry looks for that special plant and patent so they can charge ludicrous sums of money for your “cure”, you could be sitting at home doing a combination of these three things for dollars a day. Combined with the right diet, it just may be the simple answer you have been looking for.

Juice fasting

The purpose of juice fasting is to give our digestive system a rest so that extra energy can be used to rid ourselves of diseased tissues, excess nutrients, and accumulated wastes and toxins. It also creates an environment for the body to heal and regenerate different areas of the body, including the immune system.

One particular study conducted on the effects of fasting patients showed that those who included fasting in their therapy had fewer side effects from chemotherapy, and it slowed down the growth of tumors and even eliminated the threat of cancer in some patients. As noted by Research Professor Valter Longo, University of Southern California:

“What we are seeing is that the cancer cell tries to compensate the lack of all these things missing in the blood after fasting. It may be trying to replace them, but it can’t. The cell is, in fact, committing cellular suicide.”

These researchers also noted that fasting essentially “flips a regenerative switch,” which prompts stem cells to create new white blood cells, which in turn begins to regenerate the entire immune system. They also found that prolonged fasting reduces the enzyme PKA, which is linked to a hormone which increases cancer and tumor growth.

Maybe it’s time to dust off the juicer and get those green veggies, herbs, and low sugar fruits in liquid form.

Cannabis oil

Ever since the mid 70’s, medical scientists have been aware of the beneficial effects of cannabinoid compounds on cancerous cells. Thanks to modern science we can now get a glimpse into how it works, even though it is being largely suppressed by mainstream media and the cancer industry.

Laboratory tests conducted in 2008 by a team of scientists and later published in The Journal Of Clinical Investigation showed that the active ingredient in marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, can be used as a cure for brain cancer by inducing human glioma cell death through stimulation of autophagy. The study also concluded that by the same biochemical process THC could destroy multiple types of cancers. Other studies have also shown that cannabinoids may do their work by various mechanisms including inhibiting cell growth, inducing cell death, and slowing tumor metastasis.

The best part is that the cannabinoids are incredibly efficient, targeting and destroying only cancerous cells, while not affecting healthy, normal cells. They also help with pain-modulation and are very anti-inflammatory. This makes chemotherapy and other cancer drugs look archaic and barbaric, considering their well-known side effects.

Coffee enema

The Gerson Therapy explains that caffeine and palmitates work together to stimulate and cleanse the liver and the blood. This caffeine exposure causes the liver’s portal vein and bile ducts to expand which increases the release of diluted toxic bile. The enema fluid triggers peristaltic action and the effective removal of wastes from the body.

Palmitates in the coffee stimulate and increase the production of the liver enzymes glutathione-S-transferase (GST), which help remove free radicals and cancer cells from the bloodstream and help detoxify the liver. As a result, the liver becomes less congested with debris, which allows it to do a more effective job in filtering out other bodily toxins.

Of course, the positive effects of these therapies will be partly determined by your ability to consume a clean, nutritious, and anti-cancer diet and maintain a healthy and upbeat demeanor as well. You can do that by using these Top 8 Foods and Herbs For Healing Cancer , and by learning how to Naturally Avoid and Eliminate Cancer. And see these Foods, Vitamins, and Herbs That Kill Cancer.

Posted by: alisalliance | April 8, 2015

New role uncovered for ‘oldest’ tumor suppressor gene

shutterstock_178384271The retinoblastoma gene is so called because mutations to it cause a rare children’s eye cancer of the same name, and is known to play a central role in stopping healthy cells from dividing uncontrollably.

Now the new study — jointly led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and UCL (University College London) — has found that the gene also has another important function, in helping to ‘glue’ severed strands of DNA back together.

The research suggests that existing drugs that exploit the weaknesses of some cancers in repairing their DNA could be effective against tumors with mutations to the retinoblastoma gene.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, was funded by a range of organizations including Cancer Research UK, Worldwide Cancer Research, the Wellcome Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) itself.

Researchers found that mutations to the retinoblastoma gene or RB1 — which are found in many cancers — prevent the effective fixing of broken DNA strands. This results in chromosome abnormalities which can lead to the development of tumors and drive cancers to evolve into more aggressive forms.

Numerous common cancer types have RB1 mutations, including hard-to-treat cancers such as triple-negative breast cancer, small cell lung cancer, glioblastoma, and aggressive types of prostate cancer.

Researchers deleted the RB1 gene from lab-grown human and mouse cancer cells, and looked at a variety of measures that indicate defective DNA repair. They found substantially more double-stranded DNA breaks and chromosome abnormalities in cells that lacked RB1 than those where the gene was functional.

In another experiment, the researchers demonstrated that the RB1 protein attaches to two other protein called XRCC5 and XRCC6, forming a cluster of molecules that mend broken strands of DNA.

RB1 was first discovered in the 1980s and has long been known to have an important role in controlling cell division. It was discovered through studies of the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma, which in around half of cases is caused by inherited mutations to the RB1 gene.

Dr Paul Huang, Team Leader in Cancer Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“The retinoblastoma gene was one of the first cancer genes to be discovered and is one of the best known of all, so it’s very exciting to have been able to identify a completely new function for it. The retinoblastoma gene is famous for helping control cell division, but we found that it has another important job in gluing broken strands of DNA back together. Our research could have real implications for cancer patients, because drugs that exploit weaknesses in DNA repair already exist, and there is now a rationale for testing them against cancers with retinoblastoma gene mutations.”

Professor Sibylle Mittnacht, Leader of the Cancer Cell Signalling team and Professor of Cancer Biology at the UCL Cancer Institute, said:

“We are very excited about this new discovery. The retinoblastoma gene is mutated in many important cancers such as lung and breast. Our work demonstrates that these mutations cause the cancers’ DNA to become defective. Because of this these cancers may evolve to more aggressive and therapy resistant forms. At the same time this discovery points to new and more effective ways in which these cancers can be treated.”

Dr Kat Arney, science communications manager at Cancer Research UK, said:

“Faulty DNA repair pathways are the Achilles’ heel of cancer, and drugs that target alternative DNA repair ‘toolkits’ such as RB1 could be powerful potential treatments for people with cancer. Cancer Research UK scientists are at the forefront of developing these types of treatments, and we hope to see this new discovery translated into benefits for patients in the future.”

Dr Helen Rippon, Head of Research at Worldwide Cancer Research, said:

“Just like it would be impossible for a mechanic to fix a car without knowing how it worked; scientists can’t find new treatments for cancer without understanding the broken genes. Researching the nuts and bolts of cancer biology is crucial if we are to bring a brighter future for people diagnosed with the disease, and we are delighted to have helped fund this important study.”

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