Aggressive cancers in ‘evolutionary arms race’ with the immune system

Aggressive and highly-mutated cancers are engaged in an “evolutionary arms race” with the immune system, new research suggests. Gullet and stomach cancers with faults in their systems for repairing DNA build up huge numbers of genetic mutations which make them resistant to treatments like chemotherapy. But these numerous mutations mean they appear foreign to the immune system, leaving them vulnerable to attack, and susceptible to new immunotherapies.

Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR), found that these “hyper-mutant” tumours rapidly evolve strategies to disguise themselves from the immune system and evade attack. They hope that in the future, the findings could help optimise treatment with immunotherapy, and other drugs such as chemotherapy.

Dr Marco Gerlinger, team Leader in translational oncogenomics at the ICR, said: “Our new study has shown that in highly mutated tumours, cancer and the immune system are engaged in an evolutionary arms race in which they continually find new ways to outflank one another.

Watching hyper-mutated tumours and immune cells co-evolve in such detail has shown that the immune system can keep up with changes in cancer, where current cancer therapies can become resistant – and that we could use immunotherapies to shift the balance of this arms race, extending patients’ lives.

“Next, we plan to study the evolutionary link between hyper-mutant tumours and the immune system as part of a new clinical trial looking at the possible benefit of immunotherapy in bowel cancer.

The study has been published in Nature Communications.

Source: https://www.sciencefocus.com/

Air Pollution Triggers 500,000 Premature Deaths In Europe Every Year

A team at King’s College London looked at data from London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. They calculated days with above average pollution levels would see an extra 124 cardiac arrests over the yearNHS England boss Simon Stevens said it was evidence of “a health emergency“. The figure is based on ambulance call data and does not count heart attacks suffered by patients already in hospital. It points to significant short-term health risks caused by air pollution, on top of contributing to almost 500,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.

On days with high pollution levels, across the nine cities in total, they calculated that there would be a total of 231 additional hospital admissions for stroke, with an extra 193 children and adults taken to hospital for asthma treatment. Dr Heather Walton, of King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group, said air pollution reduction policies concentrated in the main on effects connected to life expectancy. “However, health studies show clear links with a much wider range of health effects,” she added.

In London, high-pollution days would see an extra 87 cardiac arrests per year, an extra 144 strokes, and 74 children and 33 adults ending up in hospital with asthma-related issues. In Birmingham the figure would be 12 more out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 27 additional admissions for stroke and 26 more for asthma. Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton would see between two and six more out-of-hospital heart attacks and up to 14 extra hospital admissions for both stroke and asthma. Only in Derby would there be no apparent increase.

Among the long-term risks associated with high pollution levels are stunted lung growth and low birth weight. The King’s College research also suggests cutting air pollution by a fifth would decrease incidents of lung cancer by between 5% and 7% across the nine cities surveyed. Mr Stevens said: “It’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency. “Since these avoidable deaths are happening now – not in 2025 or 2050 – together we need to act now.”

The figures were published ahead of Wednesday’s International Clean Air Summit hosted by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the UK100 network of local government leaders.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/