October research round-up

research Nov 01, 2018

One of the things I love about my job as a university lecturer is being able to indulge my curiosity and geek out on the latest advances in the field of cancer research.

At the beginning of October, I set up a new alert on my PubMed account for “cancer” and “cancer and exercise”. Over the course of this one month alone there have been 8,342 new articles published! That’s a staggering number of papers, and obviously I’ve not read all of them (!), but I did have a skim through the first few hundred titles each week and picked out a handful that caught my eye.

I thought I’d give you a little summary here, but caveat that with the fact that this is completely biased according to what find interesting, and is not necessarily the best of the new research to have come out!

You can download the audio here:

Ibuprofen and a mouse model of post-partum breast cancer

In the first week of October, I was drawn to an article that described a mouse model of post-partum breast cancer where ibuprofen was able to slow tumor growth and brought more immune cells to the edges of the tumor. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer within 5 years of having a baby are more likely to have a more metastatic cancer and overall have a poorer survival rate. When the baby is weaned off breastmilk, the mammary glands shrink back to their pre-pregnancy size and stop secreting milk. This process – called involution – is thought to promote breast cancer growth in some women. In this study in mice, the authors showed promising results for using ibuprofen as a chemoprevention strategy, which boosted anti-tumor immunity in the local microenvironment and reduced overall tumor growth.

Effects of high levels of sugar on endometrial cancer cell lines

The next article to catch my eye the following week appealed to my inner cell signaling geek! And given the hot topic of sugar feeding cancer and all the controversies surrounding that I was especially drawn to this one. This study used endometrial cancer cell lines to demonstrate that high levels of glucose (i.e. sugar!) promoted cancer progression by increasing the expression of genes involved in the uptake of sugar into cells. Sugar also increased the expression of the estrogen receptor on the surface of the cells, which serves in a way to promote cell growth and division, invasion and transformation.

Exercise reduces the numbers of circulating tumor cells in colon cancer patients

Given my research interests in exercise and cancer, in the third week of October I found myself naturally drawn to a paper that detailed a study in colon cancer patients where exercise was found to reduce the number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in patients’ blood. CTCs are thought to be a potential source of metastasizing tumors and their detection is used to predict secondary disease recurrence. So, why does exercise reduce the numbers of CTCs in the blood? Well, it is likely due to shearing stress forces on the CTCs themselves as blood pumps through the system more vigorously, which may slow the growth and cause damage to the CTCs, reducing their survival.

Milk and soybean consumption linked with benign uterine tumor

The last paper to catch my attention, especially in light of my recent post on diet and cancer, was a study that showed a correlation between frequent milk and soybean consumption and higher risk of uterine leiomyoma – a common, but benign, tumor in the female reproductive system. This benign tumor increases in incidence with age and is dependent on estrogen for its growth. Milk and soybean products are rich in plant-based estrogens, and therefore logically are associated with the development of uterine leiomyoma. This study also highlighted an increased risk of uterine leiomyoma with frequent oral contraceptive use.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it drives research forward!

I once heard a saying that I loved:

“Follow the crumbs of curiosity and your right path with unfold.”

So, that’s where my curiosity has taken me this month!

For the month of November I’m taking part in Cancer Research UK’s #VegPledge challenge and going vegetarian for a month (I may even build up to a week of veganism for the last week of November – I guess it depends how much I can cope without my morning cup of tea – I take it pretty milky!). If anyone fancies joining me, then tag me on social media (@essentialcancereducation on Facebook and Instagram, @mhairimorris on Twitter, and Mhairi (“Vari”) Morris on LinkedIn) and use the hashtag: #VegPledge.

One more thing!

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  1. Pennock et al., 2018
  2. Gu et al., 2018
  3. Brown et al., 2018
  4. Mei et al., 2018

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