A Major Immunotherapy Breakthrough

Scientists have heralded a “breakthrough” in cancer treatment after deciphering the genetic code of thousands of tumours providing a road map for more effective treatment and new drug development.

A groundbreaking international collaboration has shown how tumours in different parts of the body, which have previously been treated as separate diseases, have molecular similarities which could render them vulnerable to drugs already on the market.

The research redefines cancer types beyond terms such as breast and bowel, which are descriptions only of where the cancer first arose. Instead, the newly uncovered molecular makeup of cancers could lead to “drastic changes” in how the best drugs for patients are chosen.

Doctors told The Independent it could change the “traditional” method of treatment based on the location of tumours and allow clinical trials to “identify patients most likely to benefit” from experimental drugs.

Science news in pictures

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Science news in pictures

  • 1/23 New human organ discovered that was previously missed by scientists

    Layers long thought to be dense, connective tissue are actually a series of fluid-filled compartments researchers have termed the “interstitium”. These compartments are found beneath the skin, as well as lining the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles, and join together to form a network supported by a mesh of strong, flexible proteins


  • 2/23 Previously unknown society lived in Amazon rainforest before Europeans arrived, say archaeologists

    Working in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team led by archaeologists at the University of Exeter unearthed hundreds of villages hidden in the depths of the rainforest. These excavations included evidence of fortifications and mysterious earthworks called geoglyphs

    José Iriarte

  • 3/23 One in 10 people have traces of cocaine or heroin on fingerprints, study finds

    More than one in 10 people were found to have traces of class A drugs on their fingers by scientists developing a new fingerprint-based drug test. Using sensitive analysis of the chemical composition of sweat, researchers were able to tell the difference between those who had been directly exposed to heroin and cocaine, and those who had encountered it indirectly.


  • 4/23 Nasa releases stunning images of Jupiter's great red spot

    The storm bigger than the Earth, has been swhirling for 350 years. The image's colours have been enhanced after it was sent back to Earth.

    Pictures by: Tom Momary

  • 5/23 A 3D reconstruction of an African grey parrot post euthanasia

    Included in Wellcome Image Awards, this 3D image of an African grey parrot shows the highly intricate system of blood vessels.

    Scott Birch. Wellcome Images

  • 6/23 Baby Hawaiian bobtail squid

    Another Wellcome Images Award winner, this time of baby Hawaiian bobtail squid. The black ink sac and light organ in the centre of the squid’s mantle cavity can be clearly seen.

    Macroscopic Solutions. Wellcome Images

  • 7/23 Skeletons of 5,000-year-old Chinese ‘giants’ discovered by archaeologists

    The people are thought to have been unusually tall and strong. The tallest of the skeletons uncovered measured at 1.9m


  • 8/23 Nasa discovers 75,000 mile-wide hole in the Sun

    Sunspots are caused by interactions with the Sun’s magnetic field and are cooler areas on the star’s surface.


  • 9/23 View(active tab) Apple News Breaking news email Edit Revisions Workflow Clear Cache NewsScience 132 million-year-old dinosaur fossil found at factory in Surrey

    Paleontologists Sarah Moore and Jamie Jordan believe they have discovered a Iguanodon dinosaur, a herbivore that was around three metres tall and 10 metres long

    Cambridge Photographers/Wienerberger

  • 10/23 Discovering life on Mars is less likely as researchers find toxic chemicals on its surface

    The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars

    Getty Images

  • 11/23 The Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest in the United States and third largest in the world, is seen in Yellowstone National Park.

    The park is famous for its geothermal activity – which includes its spectacular, flowing springs as well as the famous "Old Faithful" geyser that sprays water out every hour or so.

    REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

  • 12/23 An iris clip fitted onto the eye

    This images is apart of the Wellcome Images Awards and shows how an artificial intraocular lens is fitted onto the eye. Used for conditions such as myopia and cataracts.

    Cambridge University Hospitals NHS FT. Wellcome Images

  • 13/23 The Syrian civil war has caused the first ever withdrawal from the 'doomsday bank'

    Researchers in the Middle East have asked for seeds including those of wheat, barley and grasses, all of which are chosen because especially resistant to dry conditions. It is the first withdrawal from the bank, which was built in 2008. Those researchers would normally request the seeds from a bank in Aleppo. But that centre has been damaged by the war — while some of its functions continue, and its cold storage still works, it has been unable to provide the seeds that are needed by the rest of the Middle East, as it once did.

  • 14/23 Scientists find exactly what human corpses smell like

    New research has become the first to isolate the particular scent of human death, describing the various chemicals that are emitted by corpses in an attempt to help find them in the future. The researchers hope that the findings are the first step towards working on a synthetic smell that could train cadaver dogs to be able to more accurately find human bodies, or to eventually developing electronic devices that can look for the scent themselves.

  • 15/23 Black hole captured eating a star then vomiting it back out

    Astronomers have captured a black hole eating a star and then sicking a bit of it back up for the first time ever. The scientists tracked a star about as big as our sun as it was pulled from its normal path and into that of a supermassive black hole before being eaten up. They then saw a high-speed flare get thrust out, escaping from the rim of the black hole. Scientists have seen black holes killing and swallowing stars. And the jets have been seen before.But a new study shows the first time that they have captured the hot flare that comes out just afterwards. And the flare and then swallowed star have not been linked together before

  • 16/23 Dog-sized horned dinosaur fossil found shows east-west evolutionary divide in North America

    A British scientist has uncovered the fossil of a dog-sized horned dinosaur that roamed eastern North America up to 100 million years ago. The fragment of jaw bone provides evidence of an east-west divide in the evolution of dinosaurs on the North American continent. During the Late Cretaceous period, 66 to 100 million years ago, the land mass was split into two continents by a shallow sea. This sea, the Western Interior Seaway, ran from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Dinosaurs living in the western continent, called Laramidia, were similar to those found in Asia

  • 17/23 'Male and female brains' aren't real

    Brains cannot be categorised into female and male, according to the first study to look at sex differences in the whole brain. Specific parts of the brain do show sex differences, but individual brains rarely have all “male” traits or all “female” traits. Some characteristics are more common in women, while some are more common in men, and some are common in both men and women, according to the study

  • 18/23 Life on Earth appeared hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought

    Life may have come to earth 4.1 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than we knew. The discovery, made using graphite that was trapped in ancient crystals, could mean that life began "almost instantaneously" after the Earth was formed. The researchers behind it have described the discovery as “a potentially transformational scientific advance”. Previously, life on Earth was understood to have begun when the inner solar system was hit by a massive bombardment from space, which also formed the moon's craters

  • 19/23 Nasa confirms Mars water discovery

    Nasa has announced that it has found evidence of flowing water on Mars. Scientists have long speculated that Recurring Slope Lineae — or dark patches — on Mars were made up of briny water but the new findings prove that those patches are caused by liquid water, which it has established by finding hydrated salts.

  • 20/23 Earth could be at risk of meteor impacts

    Earth could be in danger as our galaxy throws out comets that could hurtle towards us and wipe us out, scientists have warned. Scientists have previously presumed that we are in a relatively safe period for meteor impacts, which are linked with the journey of our sun and its planets, including Earth, through the Milky Way. But some orbits might be more upset than we know, and there is evidence of recent activity, which could mean that we are passing through another meteor shower. Showers of meteors periodically pass through the area where the Earth is, as gravitational disturbances upset the Oort Cloud, which is a shell of icy objects on the edge of the solar system. They happen on a 26-million year cycle, scientists have said, which coincide with mass extinctions over the last 260-million years

  • 21/23 Genetically-engineered, extra-muscular dogs

    Chinese scientists have created genetically-engineered, extra-muscular dogs, after editing the genes of the animals for the first time. The scientists create beagles that have double the amount of muscle mass by deleting a certain gene, reports the MIT Technology Review. The mutant dogs have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications”, Liangxue Lai, one of the researchers on the project. Now the team hope to go on to create other modified dogs, including those that are engineered to have human diseases like muscular dystrophy or Parkinson’s. Since dogs’ anatomy is similar to those of humans’, intentionally creating dogs with certain human genetic traits could allow scientists to further understand how they occur

  • 22/23 Researchers discover 'lost world' of arctic dinosaurs

    Scientists say that the new dinosaur, known as Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, “challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur’s physiology”. Florida State University professor of biological science Greg Erickson said: “It creates this natural question. How did they survive up here?”

  • 23/23 A team of filmmakers in the US have made the first ever scale model of the Solar System in a Nevada desert

    Illustrations of the Earth and moon show the two to be quite close together, Mr Overstreet said. This is inaccurate, the reason being that these images are not to scale.

The Cancer Genome Atlas is the largest project of its kind and contains the genetic information for every cell of tumours taken from more than 11,000 patients, across 33 different types of cancer.

Comparing this new data with information on treatments licensed for use in other cancers, the authors showed that 50 per cent of these 11,000 tumours were had potentially effective treatments already out there.

The project also traced these tumours back to mutations in 300 different genes, including well studied types like the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, where mutations significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.

It also found that around 8 per cent of the cancer-causing mutations were inherited from parental DNA, rather than mutations caused by things like sun damage or smoking.

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Genome revolution targets treatments for common cancers

The authors compare their work to the conclusion of the human genome project, which first transcribed every line of our DNA and introduced the prospect of medicine personalised to each person.

“In effect, biomedical science is now graduating from studying the tumour in isolation to assessing it within its larger environmental context. The findings described here suggest drastic changes in clinical practice and drug development,” they write in a summary.

While this work itself doesn’t immediately mean new cancer treatments, it can be built on by other teams in drug development and clinical trials.

“Just knowing what the cancer genes are, that’s important because now we can develop a cancer panel for screening”  Dr Li Ding, one of the project’s major authors and associate professor of medicine and director of computational biology in oncology at Washington University, told The Independent.

Screening for the BRCA genes already takes place and can be used to help women choose the best treatment options.

In 2013 actress Angelina Jolie opted for a preventative double mastectomy after finding out she carried a mutation that meant she stood an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.

“All those are important breakthroughs, but the most important thing we get is knowing what to do next,” Dr Li added.

With this in-depth understanding, treatment can be guided by the similarities in different cancer types, such as tumours of the cells lining the lung, bladder and head which had been previously been treated as separate diseases.

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“Studying their molecular features, we now know such cancers are closely related,” said Dr Li. “Cancers originating in, for example, cells that line various organs are similarly closely related, regardless of their location.”

The project, launched in 2005, has reported its findings in a series of 27 papers, eight of which are published in the journal >Cell today, signalling a new chapter in our understanding.

Insights about how one type of cancer relates to another form of the disease can have real clinical implications,” said Dr Josh Stuart, professor of biomolecular engineering at University of California Santa Cruz and one of the major contributors to the molecular analysis strand of the project.

“In some cases, we can borrow clinical practices from better-known diseases and apply them to cancers for which treatment options are less well defined.

“The milestone we hit with this paper is finally being able to stand back and look at the big picture.”

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The secret of teaching the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells

Independent researchers said the work opened up “new possibilities” but should be tested on patients.

“By revealing the molecular groups that cancers tend to fall into, this research opens up new possibilities for patients who would traditionally be treated based on where in the body their cancer is,” said Dr Justine Alford from Cancer Research UK.

“Identifying patients most likely to benefit from a particular treatment could also help improve clinical trials.

“The real test now will be to put this knowledge into practice and find out if this way of treating patients helps save more lives.”

Source : https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/cancer-gene-tumour-treatment-immunotherapy-cure-breakthrough-map-a8290881.html