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  1. Female lung cancer hits record levels

    Lung cancer cases among UK women have reached a record high, according to figures published today.

    Cases reached 20,000 a year in 2012 for the first time since records began, reports Cancer Research UK today (1 July). This represents a 22% rise among women over the last two decades, with lung cancer now affecting 65 in every 100,000 UK women.

    The rate for men is higher, at around 24,000 per year, but falling.

    Experts led by Professor Caroline Dive of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, UK, say this reflects patterns in smoking behaviour - men's smoking peaked in the 1940s, and women's in the 1970s. They add that "much more needs to be done to tackle the poor long-term survival from this disease".

    Cancer Research UK has doubled its spending on lung cancer research in the last year, and widened research topics to include methods of studying the disease after it has spread, by isolating tumour cells in the blood.

    "It really is devastating to see that the number of women diagnosed with lung cancer continues to climb," commented Professor Dive. "We also know survival remains poor and one of the problems is that lung cancer tends to be diagnosed at a late stage when it has already spread. Cancer is very difficult to treat once it has spread around the body.

    "It is very challenging to biopsy lung cancer and very hard for the patient too. The new technique we're testing uses magnets to capture rogue cancer cells in patients' blood and could be a more effective form of biopsy, providing vital information on the biology of the disease. And, ultimately, this could lead to better ways to treat patients."

  2. Sanitation not meeting Millennium Goal

    Inadequate sanitation around the world will undermine the benefits of widespread efforts to improve drinking water sources, health experts warn today.

    The report, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment, was written by experts from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF and released yesterday (30 June). It focuses on the progress made to date on the Millennium Development Goals of access to drinking water and sanitation.

    It states that, while access to improved drinking water sources has been "a major achievement for countries and the international community", one in three people globally, that is 2.4 billion people, are still without sanitation facilities. With only 68% of the world population using an improved sanitation facility, the rate remains 9% below the Millennium Development Goal of 77%.

    Progress on sanitation "has been hampered by inadequate investments in behaviour change campaigns, lack of affordable products for the poor, and social norms which accept or even encourage open defecation", the report states.

    Sanjay Wijesekera, of UNICEF, says: "What the data really show is the need to focus on inequalities as the only way to achieve sustainable progress. The global model so far has been that the wealthiest move ahead first, and only when they have access do the poorest start catching up. If we are to reach universal access to sanitation by 2030, we need to ensure the poorest start making progress right away."

    Dr Maria Neira, of the World Health Organisation, added: "Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases. To benefit human health it is vital to further accelerate progress on sanitation, particularly in rural and underserved areas."


  3. Energy food fuelling obesity

    The global rise in obesity is being fuelled by increasing access to "food energy", according to a new analysis.

    The study argues it is access to cheap food rather than inactivity that is the key factor in obesity rates.

    A new study by researchers in New Zealand and the US looked at the food energy supply and obesity rates in 69 countries, of which 24 were high income, 27 middle income and 18 low-income.

    Food energy supply is estimated based on local production, country-wide stocks and imports versus exports, agricultural use for livestock, seed and some components of waste.

    This showed that, between 1971 and 2010, average body weight and food energy supply both rose in 56 of these countries. For 45 of the countries, an increase in available calories was "enough or more than enough" to explain the rise in the population's body weight.

    Details of the study appear in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization today (1 July).

    Lead author, Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere, of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, said: "We know that other factors have also changed over these decades such as increased urbanisation, car dependence and sedentary occupations, which are also contributing to the global obesity epidemic."

    She added: "However, our study shows that oversupply of available calories is a likely driver of overconsumption of those calories and can readily explain the weight gain seen in most countries."

    The study found "strikingly high" average increases in food energy supply in some countries. In Canada, for example, food energy supply increased by 559 calories per person per day.

    Dr Vandevijvere says: "Much of the increase in available calories over the decades has come from ultra-processed food products, which are highly palatable, relatively inexpensive and widely advertised, making overconsumption of calories very easy."

    Vandevijvere, S. et al. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 1 July 2015

  4. Enzyme discovery on cancer growth

    Discoveries about an enzyme linked to cancer could aid the development of drugs to restrict cancer growth, Danish researchers have reported.

    The enzyme, ADAM17, encourages call growth. ADAM17 has been the focus of much previous work, with researchers aiming to find a way of restricting it. A range of drugs have been tested for their effects on ADAM17, with varying degrees of success, but have tended to cause severe side effects.

    Now, Dr Sarah Dombernowsky and her colleagues at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, have located a mechanism that regulates ADAM17. Dr Dombernowsky says: "ADAM17 is very important to the growth of cancer tumours. It functions as a molecular pair of scissors, separating molecules from the cell's surface which then increases cell growth. The problem being that in cancer cells this growth is over-activated and so the cancer tumour grows rapidly and uncontrollably.

    "We have discovered that the protein PACS-2 plays a big part in the transportation of ADAM17 in cells. ADAM17 moves in and out of the cell, but it has to remain on the surface to be able to cut off molecules and thus further growth. We have showed that without the PACS-2, ADAM17 returns less regularly to the surface; it's broken down instead."

    Full details of the work were published on 25 June in the journal Nature Communications. Dr Dombernowsky adds: "There have been attempts at developing a pill to inhibit ADAM17, only the patients became ill due to side effects, because other, similar enzymes were also affected. But if you inhibit PACS-2, you can, in principle, obstruct only ADAM17, which would enable us to inhibit the growth of the cancer tumour."

    Animal experiments are currently underway on the effect of inhibiting ADAM17.

    Dombernowsky, S. L. et al. The sorting protein PACS-2 promotes ErbB signalling by regulating recycling of the metalloproteinase ADAM17. Nature Communications 25 June 2015 doi: 10.1038/ncomms8518


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