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Immune therapy holds key to bladder cancer

A multi-centre phase I study using an investigational drug for advanced bladder cancer patients who did not respond to other treatments has shown promising results in patients with certain tumour types, researchers report.

Yale Cancer Centre played a key role in the study, the results of which were presented on Saturday, May 31 at the 2014 annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

The trial included 68 people with previously treated advanced bladder cancer, including 30 patients identified as PD-L1 positive. PD-L1 is a protein expressed by many tumor types that can render the cancer invulnerable to immune attack.

The patients in the study were treated with MPDL3280A, a drug being developed by Genentech, a member of the Roche group.

At six weeks, the objective response rate (ORR) was 43per cent; at 12 weeks, the ORR was 52per cent in patients with PD-L1-positive tumors.

A complete response — one showing no evidence of tumours — was seen in 7per cent of PD-L1 patients. In patients with PD-L1-negative tumors, the response rate was 11per cent.

Yale Cancer Centre enrolled 12 of the 68 patients on the trial at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.

Tailored diet may help lose more weight: Study

A gene-based diet, customised according to a person’s metabolism, can help people lose up to three times more weight, a new study has found.The finding is based on the premise that different people digest fat and carbohydrate differently, and have different in-built appetite controls and muscle activity.

Weight loss can be increased by pinpointing those differences and adjusting the intake of the food metabolised least effectively, ‘The Times’ reported.

Researchers at the University of Trieste, in Italy, divided 200 overweight people into two groups for the experiment. A standard diet plan was defined for both groups, taking away 600 calories from their usual energy needs.

DNA from the test group was analysed for 19 genes known to impact on different metabolic areas and taste preferences, and diets were adjusted according to this genetic profile.

People who struggled to digest fats, for example, were given less fat in their diet without varying the overall amount of calories they ate, the report said.

Follow-up checks took place every six months over two years and showed weight loss over time with both groups sticking to their diet in a similar way.

However, those in the test group on the gene diet lost a third more weight than the control group. A genetic diet may be more effective than a standard calorie control diet, scientists concluded.

25 pc smokers with gene defect to develop lung cancer

25 percent of smokers who carry a defect in the BRCA2 gene would be developing lung cancer at some point in their lifetime, a large-scale, international study reveals. The defect in BRCA2 - best known for its role in breast cancer - increases the risk of developing lung cancer by about 1.8 times.

The researchers, led by a team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, compared the DNA of 11,348 Europeans with lung cancer and 15,861 without the disease, looking for differences at specific points in their DNA. The team was mainly funded by the US National Institute of Health, with additional support from Cancer Research UK.

The link between lung cancer and defective BRCA2 – known to increase the risk of breast, ovarian and other cancers – was particularly strong in patients with the most common lung cancer sub-type, called squamous cell lung cancer.

The researchers also found an association between squamous cell lung cancer and a defect in a second gene, CHEK2, which normally prevents cells from dividing when they have suffered damage to their DNA.

The results suggest that in the future, patients with squamous cell lung cancer could benefit from drugs specifically designed to be effective in cancers with BRCA mutations.

A family of drugs called PARP inhibitors have shown success in clinical trials in breast and ovarian cancer patients with BRCA mutations, although it is not known whether they could be effective in lung cancer.

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