The 34th COSA ASM offered a series of stimulating and exciting presentations from international and national experts covering the many disciplines of oncology research and clinical practice. The conference was held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on November 14-16, 2007. Some of the presentations that took place are summarised here.
Gene discovery could improve brain cancer treatmentEvery brain tumour is different, yet patients all get the “standard” treatment, with limited success. In a world leading study, Australian researchers have found a series of genes that will help guide neuro-oncologists to tailor treatments for brain cancer patients, potentially extending survival and improving quality of life.Possible new gene link to endometrial cancer New research is indicating that those with a significant family history of breast or ovarian cancer may also have an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer. Women who carry a BRCA gene mutation have up to a 60 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 40 per cent risk of developing ovarian cancer. But a new study by the Queensland Institute of Medical Research is indicating that some endometrial cancers may be also caused by the BRCA gene abnormalities.ABC breast cancer clusterDespite detailed investigations over two years, the cause of the ABC breast cancer cluster in Brisbane remains unclear. But could more have been done? Head of the investigation and one of Australia’s leading authorities on environmental carcinogens, Professor Bruce Armstrong, reviews the findings and explores what else might have been done to explain the increased risk.Parental attitudes to cervical cancer vaccine The invention of the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine by Australia’s Professor Ian Frazer was heralded with worldwide acclaim. However, when the vaccine was introduced, claims were raised in the media that it would encourage promiscuity among adolescents. So what do parents really think? University of Adelaide researchers conducted a householder survey to find out. Also, hear the latest from Professor Frazer on the vaccine’s efficacy in older women and where the focus will be following implementation of the vaccine program.Researchers determine risk of secondary cancersIn the most comprehensive Australian study undertaken, researchers in Victoria have determined the risk of cancer patients developing second primary cancers. Examining data from more than 230,000 cancer diagnoses over 22 years, the researchers found the cumulative risk for a second cancer 15 years after diagnosis of the first primary was 12 per cent for males and 10 per cent for females. The overall relative risk of a second cancer was higher for females than males. Younger males had higher relative risk than younger females, while older females had higher relative risk.Gene syndrome behind a significant number of endometrial cancers New research has found that one in five endometrial cancers amongst younger Australian women may be caused by a specific inherited genetic syndrome. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research is one of the first Australian studies to reveal such a high frequency of endometrial cancers in women suspected to have Lynch Syndrome. World first research points to bone marrow as source of cells stimulating cancer growthIn a world first, researchers from Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have shown in a human trial that cells responsible for stimulating cancer growth are derived from bone marrow. In the study of patients undergoing a bone marrow transplant, the researchers were able to observe cells, thought to be fibroblasts, being “recruited in” from the bone marrow to support growth of the cancer. Previously, it was thought the cells resided in tissue around the tumour and were corrupted by the advancing cancer. Additional research is planned to confirm the nature of the cells. Longer term, the researchers believe that if the mechanism can be controlled or regulated, there is potential to reduce or even stop cancer growth in its tracks.New research shows bladder cancer survival lower for women New research shows that women with bladder cancer are more likely to die of the disease than men. In one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, the Cancer Institute NSW has analysed bladder cancer cases in New South Wales from 1980 to 2003. When looking at the survival of patients with bladder cancer, women had significantly poorer survival with a 16 per cent greater likelihood of dying compared to men. Drug trial unexpectedly extends survivalResearchers have been surprised by the results of a breast cancer trial comparing two drug regimes, a tablet only treatment versus tablets and injections. While the tablet treatment (capecitabine) was expected to be better tolerated than the standard combination of tablets and injections CMF (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and fluorouracil), there was an unexpected benefit with capecitabine extending survival. The typical woman in the CMF group lived 18 months while the typical woman in the capecitabine group lived 22 months. Those on capecitabine experienced less severe side-effects, with better physical well-being and mood and less trouble with hair loss, but had more trouble with rashes and sore hands and feet.Study reveals longer radiation treatment reduces brain tumour growthNew results from the largest randomised brain cancer trial in Australia have found that longer courses of radiation treatment are more effective in reducing the growth of tumours, without disadvantaging quality of life. The study at St George Hospital in Sydney involved 113 patients with secondary cancer cerebral metastases and compared short and longer courses of radiation treatments. It found that the longer course of radiation treatment was more effective in reducing tumour growth than the shorter course. While the study didn’t address life-expectancy, other international studies have shown that reducing the growth of brain tumours increased patient life expectancy.See www.cosa.org.au for ongoing info.(Source: Clinical Oncological Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting November 2007 : Cancer Council of Australia : November 2007)