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Research news digest

24 January 2014

Toronto -

As we move into the new year, here are highlights of late-breaking cancer research news from 2013.

Location, location, location

A study of tobacco outlets in Ontario found that they are more likely to be located in neighbourhoods where more people live on limited incomes. The study also found that most outlets are within walking distance of a school.

A greater number of tobacco outlets in these areas means a greater likelihood that the stores will sell to underage youth in lower socio-economic areas and near schools. The level of accessibility in these areas also contributes to the perception that tobacco use remains a social norm and increases the likelihood of starting to use tobacco products. It also increases the difficulty of making the decision to quit.

The findings are consistent with studies across North America that have found a relationship between socio-economic status and the availability of tobacco products.

Tobacco causes about 85% of lung cancer cases. Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in Canada. And tobacco is still readily available. In Ontario, over 11,000 outlets sell cigarettes, representing one outlet per 1,000 smokers.

The researchers recommend that policy reforms are urgently needed to reduce tobacco retail density in vulnerable neighbourhoods and retail availability in general.

The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Brain cancer study selected as one of 2013’s top clinical advances

Each year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology identifies the most important clinical advances of the past 12 months. A collaborative study involving the NCIC Clinical Trials Group (NCIC CTG) was listed among the top advances of 2013. The NCIC CTG is one of the national research programs of the Canadian Cancer Society.

The clinical trial examined the benefit of adding radiation therapy to standard chemotherapy to treat a fast-growing type of brain tumour – anaplastic oligodendroglioma (AO). The trial found that the combined treatment delays tumour growth and extends survival, although the greatest benefit may be limited to a group of patients with a specific genetic mutation. The findings are expected to change the standard of care for AO patients who have the genetic mutation.

Read the American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Advances 2013 report.

Complex cell communication interrupts Hippo tumour suppressor

The intricate communication between cells and their environment plays a key role in determining how aggressively cancers spread and how well they respond to treatment. In lab experiments, a research team from the BC Cancer Agency studied Hippo, an important tumour suppressor pathway, which has been shown to be inactive in human breast, prostate and colon cancer. The researchers found that an enzyme called ILK (integrin-linked kinase) can affect Hippo’s tumour-suppressing powers, and inhibiting ILK can suppress tumour growth. The researchers say that the finding demonstrates that ILK could be a target for new cancer treatments.

The study was published in Nature Communications.