Galleri cancer test: an exciting new test for cancer

Galleri test is a new type of blood test for cancer. The test promises to revolutionise cancer diagnosis.

Trials have started in UK to see how well the test works in real world.

Within a few years, we should be able to see early results.

Just because a cancer can be diagnosed early, it does not automatically mean that it will make patients live longer.

Let’s say, a person is diagnosed with a serious cancer at age of 60 yrs and dies of cancer at age of 65 yrs.

Any test that detects the cancer early ( before the age of 60) should make this person live longer than 65 years.

If the test , for example, detects the cancer at the age of 55 instead of 60, but the person still dies of cancer at 65, then it is a worthless test.

Hopefully, the trial will thoroughly analyse the outcome to see whether the test is of overall benefit.

References

Galleri™ Test

NHS launches world first trial for new cancer test. 13 September 2021

BBC news. Galleri cancer test: What is it and who can get it? 13 Sept 2021

Disclaimer: Please note – This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog are NOT, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice. The blog is NOT previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed, in any way, by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog likely represents some of the author’s personal views held at the time of drafting the blog and MAY CHANGE overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light.

A new blood test for cancer

Cancer cells can float in a person’s blood. But finding them, in the past, used to be like “looking for a needle in a haystack”.

But new smart technology promises to detect these cancer cells easily and much early before a person develops symptoms. Detection of cancer cells at an early stage may be helpful for some patients.

A recently published study in the journal “Annals of Oncology” reports exciting results.

A Californian company called Grail has developed a blood test which seems to have a high degree of accuracy for detection of multiple cancers.

Times newspaper reports that “The NHS will begin a pilot scheme of the test with 140,000 people this year. If that is successful it will be used for millions of patients by 2025”

A word of caution though.

Just because something could be diagnosed early does not always mean that it is a good thing.

The most important thing is whether the early diagnosis can lead to better cure rates and a better quality of life.

If a test detects a cancer early but has no meaningful effect on quantity or quality of life, then it is not a good thing.

For example. Up to 80% of men have prostate cancer which can now be detected by a simple blood test called PSA. There is a good reason why we are NOT using the simple PSA test in every 80 year old.

Most 80 year old men die WITH prostate cancer rather than DUE to prostate cancer.

So why diagnose a cancer that is not causing symptoms if it is not going to make person live longer !

REFERENCES

Times. New blood test, created by Californian company Grail, detects cancers among over-50s. Kat Lay, Health Editor. Friday June 25 2021, 12.01am, The Times.

Clinical validation of a targeted methylation-based multi-cancer early detection test using an independent validation set. E A Klein et al. Ann Oncol. 2021.

Guardian. Blood test that finds 50 types of cancer is accurate enough to be rolled out.
Diagnostic tool being piloted by NHS England shows ‘impressive results’ in spotting tumours in early stages
Blood tests’ development could help the NHS further.
Nadeem Badshah and agency
Fri 25 Jun 2021 06.00 BST

Daily Mail. NHS trials ‘holy grail’ blood test that can spot 50 kinds of cancer: Ground-breaking check that can accurately detect two thirds of deadly cancers early in healthy people could save thousands of lives a year. By Victoria Allen Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail
00:00, 25 Jun 2021 , updated 10:04, 25 Jun 2021

NHS. Should I have a PSA test?

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Is drinking alcohol within guideline amount safe ?

No !

It would be a shock for many to hear that “No amount of alcohol is absolutely safe”.

A team at Imperial College London analysed MRI scans of heart, brain and liver of people who drink alcohol. They found that higher alcohol consumption was related to smaller brain, weaker heart and fatty liver.

They reported that “there is no ‘safe threshold’ below which there were no toxic effects of alcohol.

Previously other studies have also reported that there is no safe limit for alcohol!

In 2018, a Lancet study reported that the risk of death and risk of cancers increased substantially with increasing levels of alcohol consumption; and there was no safe limit below which there was no risk.

The message is “Avoid alcohol”

If you can’t, then atleast drink as little as possible.

References:

Alcohol consumption in the general population is associated with structural changes in multiple organ systems. Evangelos Evangelou, Hideaki Suzuki, Wenjia Bai, Raha Pazoki, He Gao, Paul M Matthews MD, PhD, Paul Elliott. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.65325

Does Drinking Within Low-Risk Guidelines Prevent Harm? Implications for High-Income Countries Using the International Model of Alcohol Harms and Policies
Adam Sherk et al. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2020 May

Lancet. GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators
Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.
Lancet. 2018; (published online Aug 23.)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Can Vitamins and anti-oxidants increase the risk of breast cancer coming back?

Yes, Dietary supplements can be harmful.

Vitamins and Minerals are absolutely essential nutrients for a Healthy body and a Healthy mind. Anyone not eating a healthy balanced should look what nutrients they might be missing.

But on the other hand, taking too much of vitamins and minerals, when they are not needed, could be harmful to the body.

There is widespread use of dietary supplements during cancer treatment, in the hope they can reduce side effects but many do not think about the disadvantages.

An American study of Breast cancer patients undergoing Chemotherapy looked at the effect of taking dietary supplements such as anti-oxidants, iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Breast cancer patients who took the dietary supplements during chemotherapy were found be harmed by them. They had a higher chance of cancer coming back compared to people who did not take these supplements. The supplements also increased risk of death in those the supplements.

Beware supplements when used improperly, can be harmful.

Dietary Supplement Use During Chemotherapy and Survival Outcomes of Patients With Breast Cancer Enrolled in a Cooperative Group Clinical Trial (SWOG S0221)

, PhD1; , PhD2; , PhD1; 1; , PhD, RD1; , PhD3; , MD1; , PhD, EdD1; , PhD4; , MD5; , PhD3; , MD6; , MD7; , MD8; , MD9; , MD10; , MD11; , MD12; , MD6; and , MD13

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in cancer patients having immunotherapy?

Yes, Pfizer vaccine is safe.

A recent study published in the esteemed Lancet Oncology Journal shows that the vaccine is well tolerated in patients having immunotherapy.

Unlike cancer chemotherapy, immunotherapy works differently. It works by releasing the in-built brakes holding down the immune system thereby boosting the body’s immune system against cancer.

There has been some theoretical concerns whether this might lead to COVID vaccine causing more side effects.

Reassuringly, the Vaccine side effects were NO different from those seen in people not having immunotherapy. The Vaccine also did NOT increase the immunotherapy side effects.

Immunotherapy is increasingly used widely in treatment of cancer are often better tolerated than chemotherapy.

So the study is good news for tens of thousands of patients on immunotherapy and any cancer patient who has hesitated before, should seriously consider having the vaccine now

COVID infection could be very nasty in cancer patients and all evidence points to the benefits of vaccine far outweighing any risks from the Vaccine.

References

Short-term safety of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in patients with cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors
The Lancet Oncology. Published: April 1, 2021
Barliz Waissengrin et al. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00155-8

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Anything potentially good from this COVID-19 pandemic?

It might seem foolish to ask the question “Anything good from this COVID-19 pandemic?” when so many people across the world has been so badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There is some truth in the proverb that “every dark cloud has a silver lining” and no matter how bad the current pandemic is now, human spirit and endeavour would get something positive out of it.

One possible good thing that has come out of the pandemic is the “mRNA technology”.

Of the three vaccines so far, two of them the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are based on RNA technology.

The successful use of RNA technology for Coronavirus Vaccines would hopefully enable the versatile RNA technology to be further developed and successfully used a cancer treatment in near future.

Further clinical trials in cancer patients would be done to provide proof of their potential.

References:

Bloomberg. Technology & Ideas. mRNA Vaccines Could Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow.
The best news about the mRNA shots from BioNTech and Moderna is that the same technique could also defeat many other diseases.

MSKCC. In a Twist, Scientists Find Cancer Drivers Hiding in RNA, Not DNA.

Jerusalem Post Health & Science. Israeli scientists use mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology to fight cancer. By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN NOVEMBER 24, 2020 20:08

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine safe for use in patients having chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

Yes, the available indirect evidence indicates that the anticipated benefits overweigh the potential risks.

Cancer patients, particularly those on chemotherapy have compromised immune systems and hence more vulnerable to COVID-19 Coronavirus complications.

The guidelines indicate that anticipated benefits of vaccine are greater than unknown risks from the Coronavirus vaccines.

The Vaccine trials deliberately included lot of healthy people. Very few people with cancer, particularly cancer patients on active treatment, were included in the COVID-19 trials. So there is not much direct evidence regarding efficacy and safety of Vaccines in cancer patients. But indirect evidence significantly favours Coronavirus vaccination in cancer patients.

Flu vaccines are regularly used in cancer patients without any major side effects specific to cancer patients. No increase in incidence or severity of drug side effects were seen in immunotherapy patients having flu vaccines.

On balance, Vaccination is most likely to be of utmost benefit for most advanced cancer patients on active treatment.

References:

ESMO STATEMENTS FOR VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19 IN PATIENTS WITH CANCER.

Guidance: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination information
for public health professionals. (UK),

Cochrane: Influenza (flu) vaccination for preventing influenza in adults with cancer

Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Cancer Patients Receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Curtis R Chong et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2020.

ESMO: CANCER PATIENT MANAGEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

Kuderer NM Choueiri TK Shah DP et al.
Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer (CCC19): a cohort study. Lancet. 2020; 395: 1907-1918

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Cancer and COVID-19

Cancer patients, as expected, did badly during the 1st wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that Cancers had – higher rates of Hospitalisation, higher risk of Complications and increased risk of Death.

Elderly cancer patients on the whole did very badly but surprisingly cancer patients under age of 50 did far worse than their peers without cancer.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can Hair dyes cause cancer?

Yes, there is a possible increased risk of some types of skin and breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer.

Permanent hair dyes are widely used. A recent study published in BMJ suggests that use of Hair dyes might be risky.

This large study from United States enrolled 117 200 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women reported on personal use of permanent hair dyes, and were followed for 36 years. So overall it is a high quality observational study.

Read the full paper and Caveats at the BMJ website.

References

Personal use of permanent hair dyes and cancer risk and mortality in US women: prospective cohort study

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2942 (Published 02 September 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2942

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Does alcohol increase of breast cancer?

Yes, Alcohol does substantially increase the risk of Breast cancer.

Very few people seem to be aware of the risks.

Previously it was thought that heavy drinking is responsible for harmful cancer effects.

But studies from U.K and U.S.A have subsequently shown that even light to moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer.

A very large study involving more than 1,250,000 middle-aged women in the United Kingdom ( enrolled in the Million Women Study) showed that “Low to moderate alcohol consumption” in women increases the risk of breast cancer and certain other cancers.

In a study involving more than 88,000 women from United States, also showed that light to moderate drinking increases the risk of breast cancer.

So keep counting the alcohol units during the festive time.

References

1. U.K. Study: Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women.

2. U.S.A study. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4238 (Published 18 August 2015). Cite this as: BMJ.2015;351:h4238

3. Telegraph. Drinking alcohol raises risk of cancer by snapping DNA, scientists find.

4. Telegraph U.K. Just one in five women at risk of breast cancer know alcohol increases the danger.

What’s in a name?

awareness cancer design pink Photo by Miguel on Pexels.com

The word cancer is a dreaded one. Not without a good reason. Cancer is the number one killer. Even when someone has a good outcome, the cancer journey is torture. Emotional turmoil is immeasurably horrendous.

But many people would be surprised to hear that there exists a category of low risk cancers. “Low-risk Cancers are cancers which usually don’t kill; These Cancers are found either incidentally on scans performed for some other reasons or found as part of routine cancer screening.”

Because they are not deadly, Should the patients diagnosed with low-risk cancers be spared the dreaded label of cancer?

Should low-risk cancers be labelled something else and the word cancer used only for the “serious” high-risk cancers ?

Personally, I do not agree with renaming of the low risk cancers..Others disagree

Joint the debate at the BMJ.

Submit your views through rapid response

Reference: 
Should we rename low risk cancers? BMJ

several assorted color tags Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Can milk cause cancer?

blur calcium close up dairy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A vegan group’s recent advertisement claimed that “cow’s milk contains 35 hormones, including oestrogen … some of these are linked to cancer”.

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in U.K banned the vegan group’s advert  as it found the groups claims misleading.

Does the evidence stack up?

First of all, I have to emphasize that “Human Mothers milk” is the best nutrition a new born baby can have…even though it might have various natural hormones.

But “mass produced diary milk” is a different matter.

A large observational study from ” Central Sweden”  found that “High milk intake was associated with higher risk of death and higher fracture incidence in women”. The paper was published in the prestigious BMJ journal in 2014. I suspect the substances used in mass production of diary milk might be the culprit rather than natural milk itself.

So the jury is out on this question. In the mean time, moderation is the key as Cows’ milk does contain many beneficial substances.  Switching to sugary, fizzy drinks or other artifically produed milk alternatives is not sensible either.

Related Links

Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies

BMJ Letter: S Sundar. Milk and mortality: the potential effects of modern milk production

Telegraph: Vegan group’s advert wrongly linking cow’s milk to cancer is banned.

Independent: Vegan group’s advert wrongly linking cow’s milk to cancer gets UK ban