Archive | January, 2013

Looking forward!

31 Jan

Cancer will no longer be ‘a death sentence’: DNA-based treatment to  transform lives within 10 years, say scientists

  • Scientists  ‘close to radical technique to develop personalised  treatments’
  • Want to  sequence DNA of tumours in patients to deliver tailored  treatment
  • Could help  patients to carry on for a decade in relatively good health
  • Hopes that  cancer could become a chronic disease rather than a killer
  • It would  pave way for radical forms of diagnosis, surveillance and  therapy

Cancer will become a manageable condition  rather than a death sentence within a decade, experts boldly predicted  yesterday.

Scientists believe they are close to rolling  out a radical technique that allows them to develop extremely personalised  cancer treatments, that will substantially increase life expectancy.

They think within five to ten years they will  be able to sequence the DNA of tumours in every cancer patient – allowing  doctors to deliver a highly tailored treatment.

Mammogram: Scientists believe they are close to rolling  out a radical technique that allows them to develop extremely personalised  cancer treatments, that will substantially increase life expectancy
The work, due to start at the £3million  Tumour Profiling Unit in London this year, is expected to pave the way for  radical forms of diagnosis, surveillance and therapy.

Doctors think closely examining the genetic  make-up of every individual tumour will revolutionise the effectiveness of the  treatments at their disposal.

They say the technique could substantially  increase life expectancy, allowing terminally-ill patients to live for a decade  or more in good health.

For example, one patient at the Royal Marsden  in Chelsea has been taking the breast cancer drug Herceptin for a decade,  although this is considered an exceptional case.

Professor Alan Ashworth, chief executive of  the Institute of Cancer Research, which is running the project, said: ‘None of  this is science fiction.

‘One would think in five or ten years this  will be absolutely routine practice for every cancer patient, and that’s what  we’re aiming to bring about.

‘We should be aspiring to cure cancer, but  for people with advanced disease, it will be a question of managing them better  so they survive for much longer – for many years.

‘Cancer often appears in people who are old,  and if we can keep them alive long enough for them to die of something else,  then we are turning cancer into a chronic disease.’

Genetic profiling of cancer is already being  investigated at several laboratories around the world, but the new unit will  pioneer its use, he said.

For example, patients with advanced breast cancer are tested to determine if  their tumours have a particular type of the HER2 gene, responsible for 20 per  cent of cases.

Skin cancer patients with a particular type  of melanoma may also be prescribed the life-prolonging drug Vemurafenib.

Scientists: Currently, all cancer drugs go through a  process that ends with a big trial involving several thousand patients. Such  trials are designed to look for small success rates across large population  (file picture)

Professor Ashworth’s  team will use the techniques to track cancers as they progress, mutate and  develop resistance to drugs.

At the moment, tumour DNA has to be profile  using an invasive biopsy. But the scientists now hope to develop a blood test to  identify DNA floating around the body from tumours instead.

They hope the programme will shed light on  currently intractable problems such as so-called ‘unknown primaries’ – cancers  of unknown origin that account for one in 20 cancers.

It may also start to reshape the way trials  of cancer treatments are conducted. Currently, all cancer drugs go through a  process that ends with a big trial involving several thousand  patients.

‘None of this is science  fiction. One would think in five or ten years this will be absolutely routine  practice for every cancer patient, and that’s what we’re aiming to bring  about’

Professor Alan  Ashworth, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research

Such trials are designed to look for small  success rates across large population. But they often lead to drugs being  marketed that only benefit a minority of the patients who take them.

For example, only one in ten women given  chemotherapy for breast cancer actually responds to the treatment.

In future, big trials could be replaced by  smaller studies providing much more meaningful results.

Each would recruit a few hundred patients  whose genetic make-up is likely to suit the treatment being tested.

Professor Ashworth said: ‘Basically, the way  we’re developing drugs for cancer is now failing big time. Certainly, the idea  of developing old-fashioned chemotherapy is going out the window.

‘Let’s design the trials for success rather  than failure.’

The research has been made possible by the  rapid reduction in the cost of genetic sequencing.

It took a decade of work and around £2billion  to produce the first draft of the human genome, or genetic code, in 2000.

(I had to make sure this week’s news (above) in the Daily Mail made it on to my blog…..I’ll be back tomorrow with more!)

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Remembering Ann

25 Jan

ann at Taj MahalWell here we go again – a New Year!  As much as part of me would like to pull the covers over my head and sleep the world and all it’s woes away; there is the bigger part of me that simply needs to keep moving – mind , body and spirit, and to truly give thanks for this gift of life.

When I last left off with the blog, all was well, for the most part.  Christmas was looming, and in my Dec 5th blog, I gave thanks that the friend in the USA who had gone missing, causing us all much anguish, had, we heard been located in Mexico.  Turning my attention to other matters I rested assured that I would here from said friend, Ann Johansen in the following few days, but as time went on I began to feel the same unease as that felt when I first heard she was missing.  Ann is a very social person and always in touch with friends and family, so I was not alone in my worries for her.  Since my blog is immediately posted on Facebook, I kept going back and forth to Ann’s FB page hoping to see her smiling face telling us all about her latest adventures in Mexico.  It was late into the night then, a few  days later when I came across some newly posted messages on her site.  They were in Norwegian, her native tongue so I could not understand what they were saying, but there was no mistaking the common theme therein with the letters – R.I.P !  The alarm bells were slow to go off at first as I thought-‘ gosh one of Ann’s Norwegian buddys must have died!’……so it wasn’t until I scrolled down to the English messages that the terrible truth was revealed.  The  ‘rest-in-peace’ wishes were indeed for Ann!  She never did get to Mexico….far from it.  Without going into too many details, my dear friend Ann, shortly after her 63rd birthday had been found dead in her bedroom, having suffered a stroke or heart attack.  The sad facts surrounding the case are still much of a mystery, and I have spent the last weeks thinking of her almost every day.  We had known each other for over 40 years and since I have not been back to the USA in 3 years, we had not seen each other since her 60th birthday, but she phoned me often over the years, and there was always the promise of the next birthday celebration.  Ann was a big fan of my artwork, always purchasing my chalices and touchstones to give as presents.  I remember she ordered a dozen saying ‘forever young’, and passed them out to friends…..demanding that we took the message to heart.  Funny thing is…….I paint angels and always put the message ‘Angels watching over’, but a few months ago I changed the message to say ‘An angel watches over.’  Writing it the other day I couldn’t help but see it in a different light- ‘Ann angel watches over’…….

Our friendship began in Spain and continued on in California…..Ann was one of a kind and I must tell you that I still can hear that deep chuckle of laughter she had and feel her warmth for the people around her…..

Ann  was truly a ‘people person’, and was always ready to share views on many different subjects…….travel, politics, geography, spirituality….nutrients….the list goes on…and if conversation ran out there was always her famous foot and back massages.  So many times Ann arranged to meet at her favourite Glen Ivy hot springs for a rejuvenating day lolling about in mud and therapeutic waters…..Ann was at home in the healing waters and wanted us all to feel good…..isn’t that right? I can still remember the veritable abundance of goods and sundry in the back of her car.  One could never leave empty -handed after a meeting with Ann.  Silk scarves, creams and lotions,vitamins, food…..magazine’s…….information…..fotos….tales of her many journeys throughout the globe…..Always dressed in her bright colours, always smiling – Ann seemed to offer us the chance to escape for a little while and share special moments that are all too rare in our busy worlds….

And so after all the shock and tears of the last few weeks,  now as I seek to find ways to keep Ann’s ‘eternally youthful spirit ‘ alive inside my memories …..I come to accept that I have a certain duty to the memory of my friend to ‘keep that thread of light going’, if you will….                

Stay in the Spirit………as she was so fond of saying……

Especially now as human life is at it’s most fragile wherever it be around the globe…

Be of the earth yes……and ……

                                    stay in the spirit

 And you shall be forever young dear friend…