Can You Ask A Pig If His Glass Is Half Full?

Babe may be the most famous sensitive pig in the world but new research from Newcastle University suggests he is by no means the only one.

Experts from the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development have shown for the first time that a pig’s mood mirrors how content he is, highlighting that pigs are capable of complex emotions which are directly influenced by their living conditions.

Led by Dr Catherine Douglas, the team has employed a technique to ‘ask’ pigs if they are feeling optimistic or pessimistic about life as a result of the way in which they live.

In an experiment reminiscent of Pavlov’s dogs, the Newcastle team taught the pigs to associate a note on a glockenspiel with a treat – an apple – and a dog training ‘clicker’ with something unpleasant – in this case rustling a plastic bag.

The next step was to place half the pigs in an enriched environment – more space, freedom to roam in straw and play with ‘pig’ toys – while the other half were placed in a smaller, boring environment – no straw and only one non-interactive toy.

The team then played an ambiguous noise – a squeak – and studied how the pigs responded. Dr Douglas said the results were compelling.

“We found that almost without exception, the pigs in the enriched environment were optimistic about what this new noise could mean and approached expecting to get the treat,” she said. “In contrast, the pigs in the boring environment were pessimistic about this new strange noise and, fearing it might be the mildly unpleasant plastic bag, did not approach for a treat.

“It’s a response we see all the time in humans where how we are feeling affects our judgement of ambiguous events. For example, if you’re having a bad day -feeling stressed and low – and you’re presented with an ambiguous cue such as your boss calling you into their office, the first thing that goes through your head is what have I done wrong? We call this a negative cognitive bias. But on a good day you greet the same ambiguous event far more positively, you might strut in expecting a slap on the back and a pay rise.

“This ‘glass half empty versus glass half full’ interpretation of life reflects our complex emotional states, and our study shows that we can get the same information from pigs. We can use this technique to finally answer important questions about animal welfare in relation to a range of farm environments, for pigs and potentially other farm animals.”

The research, funded by Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) was presented at the organisation’s annual conference in York last month.

Quality of life of our farm animals is becoming increasingly important to consumers, scientists and government and the study is part of ongoing research at Newcastle to further our understanding of animal welfare and improve the lives of farmed stock.

Sandra Edwards, professor of agriculture at Newcastle University and one of the UK’s leading experts in pig welfare, said the next step would be to refine and further validate the methodology so it could be used to help scientists determine what is really important to the pig for its well-being.

“Historically, animal welfare research looked only at alleviating suffering. Now the UK industry itself is going beyond a minimum standard and funding research to explore measuring, and then promoting, quality of life,” she explained.

“Although techniques exist to measure stress, in the past we haven’t been able to directly ask a pig if it is happy or not. Instead we have assessed production systems based purely on human perceptions and our best interpretations of behaviour.

“Our research, for the first time, provides an insight into pigs’ subjective emotional state and this will help scientists and farmers to continue to improve the lives of their pigs in the future.”

Source:
Professor Sandra Edwards

Newcastle University

Our Lungs Are ‘Innately Prone’ To Silicosis And Related Diseases According To New Discovery

For the nearly 2 million U.S. workers exposed to silica dust each year, a new discovery may help prevent or treat the development of chronic lung diseases related to this exposure. In the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology scientists from Montana and Texas use mice to show for the first time that the part of our immune system responsible for keeping airways clean and free of contaminants (innate immunity) can cause inflammation and symptoms of disease. This study is significant because it is generally believed that reducing chronic inflammation will improve the quality of life for patients.

“Some of the most difficult lung diseases to treat are those that involve chronic inflammation and exposure to harmful particulates,” said Celine A. Beamer, Ph.D., a researcher from University of Montana, Center for Environmental Health Sciences who was involved in the work. “Hopefully, the information from this study will move us a step closer to curbing dangerous airway and lung inflammation.”

To make this discovery, scientists treated two groups of mice with silica, a common mineral often found in sand or quartz, and then measured for the development of silicosis. The first group consisted of normal mice with a normal immune system, while the second group included mice with an inactive adaptive immune system. The normal mice developed silicosis as expected, but the disease was even more prevalent in the mice without the adaptive immune system. Silicosis is a chronic lung disease caused by breathing in dust containing silica, often setting the stage for tuberculosis.

“The lungs are very complex and delicate organs, and many different kinds of chronic inflammation in the respiratory tract can lead to difficulty with normal daily activities,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “For many people, chronic inflammation is a problem that leads to the destruction of this tissue. This study gives us a much better understanding of how this inflammation occurs, and as a result, new avenues for stopping it.”

Details:
Celine A. Beamer, Christopher T. Migliaccio, Forrest Jessop, Melanie Trapkus, Dorothy Yuan, and Andrij Holian. Innate immune processes are sufficient for driving silicosis in mice. Journal of Leukocyte Biology. 2010; 88:547-557 doi:10.1189/jlb.0210108

Source:
Cody Mooneyhan
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

African Children Need Free Insecticide-treated Bed Nets

Experts have today called for international agencies to provide insecticide-treated bed nets for all children in Africa as the most equitable way of tackling malaria. Their call is supported by new research co-funded by the Wellcome Trust showing how successful a scheme run by the Kenyan government has been at distributing the nets.

Over a million children die from malaria in Africa each year. Scientists have known for over 15 years that sleeping under a mosquito net treated with insecticide can halve the number of episodes of malaria and save lives. However, successful and equitable distribution of the nets has been difficult — by the end of 2004, only 7% of children in rural Kenya were reported to sleeping under the nets and only 3% among the poorest sectors of these communities.

“Even when the price of a treated net is heavily subsidised and made more accessible through clinics, parents have to choose between school fees and food or a net,” explains Professor Bob Snow from the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust (KEMRI-WT) Research Programme in Kenya, who led the research. “The result is that few children are protected. Those who can afford to protect their children tend to benefit most, but not those who can’t.”

In 2006 the Kenyan government initiated a programme to provide 3.4 million treated nets free to as many young children as possible in only two weeks. The nets were distributed at clinics, schools, vaccination points and by Ministry of Health staff walking from house-to-house . In this short period of time, coverage rose to two-thirds of all children sleeping under a treated net, with no difference between children from rich or poor homes. The results of the study to evaluate the initiative are published today in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.

However, despite the success of the Kenyan government’s programme, Dr Abdisalan Mohamed Noor, lead author of the study, warns against complacency.

“We’ve shown what can be achieved with the right strategy, but one in three children are still unprotected, and every year 1.5 million children are born in Kenya who require new treated nets,” says Dr Noor from KEMRI-WT and the University of Oxford. “The momentum started in 2006 must continue and not be seen as a one off success.”

The researchers believe that the findings should prompt international aid agencies to revisit their distribution policies to make the nets more widely accessible.

“For a decade now, we have been asking the international agencies to recognise the importance of treated nets in child survival programmes,” says Professor Snow. “We would never expect countries or African families to pay for measles vaccination. Why then ask them to pay for an intervention that saves more lives in Africa each year””

###

Source: Craig Brierley

Wellcome Trust

NeoPharm Submits Application For A Multicenter, Open-Label, Phase II Study Of LE-DT For Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer

NeoPharm, Inc. (NASDAQ: NEOL) announced that it has submitted a Phase II protocol to the FDA for the study of liposome entrapped docetaxel (LE-DT), a novel, proprietary liposomal delivery system of docetaxel, the active ingredient of Taxotere®, in hormone refractory metastatic prostate cancer patients.

“The preliminary results from our Phase I trial, which has not yet concluded, have been encouraging. As a result, we plan to evaluate the efficacy of LE-DT in prostate cancer patients who have failed radiation and hormonal treatment and we have submitted a Phase II protocol for such a study to the FDA,” commented Mr. Laurence Birch, President and Chief Executive Officer of NeoPharm Inc. “While FDA approval is needed before commencing patient enrollment, we believe this submission is yet another example of our commitment to progressing our drug product candidates through development.”

Dr. Aquilur Rahman, Chief Scientific Adviser of NeoPharm commented, “We are pleased with the ongoing results from our Phase I trial of LE-DT. To that end, this open-label, Phase II study is designed to determine the antitumor effect on serum Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels, disease response, progression free survival, and quality of life in patients with metastatic prostate cancer. We anticipate enrolling 40 patients in this Phase II trial at three locations”.

About NeoPharm, Inc.

NeoPharm, Inc., based in Lake Bluff, Illinois, is a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the research, development and commercialization of new and innovative cancer and other drugs for therapeutic applications. Additional information, including ongoing clinical trials, can be obtained by visiting NeoPharm’s Web site at NeoPharm.

Forward Looking Statements

This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Company has tried to identify such forward-looking statements by use of such words as “expects,” “intends,” “projects,” “hopes,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “could,” “may,” “evidences” and “estimates,” and other similar expressions, but these words are not the exclusive means of identifying such statements. Such statements include, but are not limited to, any statements relating to the Company’s drug development programs, the initiation, progress, and outcomes of clinical trials of the Company’s drug product candidates including, but not limited to LE-DT, and any other statements that are not historical facts. Such statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, but not limited to, risks and uncertainties relating to difficulties or delays that may arise in the development, testing, regulatory approval, production, and marketing of the Company’s drug and non-drug compounds, including, but not limited to, LE-DT, the Company’s possible need to reduce its funding of certain of its development projects in order to conserve its cash resources, the ability of the Company to procure additional future sources of financing, unexpected adverse side effects or inadequate therapeutic efficacy of the Company’s drug product candidates, including, but not limited to, LE-DT, that could slow or prevent products coming to market, uncertainty regarding the Company’s ability to commercialize any of its drug product candidates, including, but not limited to, LE-DT, and other risks detailed from time to time in filings the Company makes with the Securities and Exchange Commission including its annual report on Form 10-K for the calendar year ended December 31, 2007, as subsequently updated by the Company in its quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. Such statements are based on management’s current expectations, but actual results may differ materially due to various factors, including those risks and uncertainties mentioned or referred to in this press release. Accordingly, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements as a prediction of actual future results.

NeoPharm, Inc.

View drug information on Taxotere.

Chewing Gum Helps Treat Hyperphosphatemia In Kidney Disease Patients

Chewing gum made with a phosphate-binding ingredient can help treat high phosphate levels in dialysis patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to a study appearing in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). The results suggest that this simple measure could maintain proper phosphate levels and help prevent cardiovascular disease in these patients.

Hyperphosphatemia (high levels of phosphate in the blood) commonly occurs in CKD patients on dialysis. Even when patients take medications to reduce phosphate acquired through their diet, about half of them cannot reduce phosphate to recommended levels.

Because patients with hyperphosphatemia also have high levels of phosphate in their saliva, researchers tested whether there might be a benefit to binding salivary phosphate during periods of fasting, in addition to using phosphate binders with meals. Vincenzo Savica, MD, of the University of Messina, and Lorenzo A. CalГІ MD, PhD, of the University of Padova, Italy and their colleagues recruited 13 dialysis patients with high blood phosphate levels to chew 20 mg of phosphate-binding chewing gum twice daily for two weeks between meals, in addition to their prescribed phosphate-binding regimen.

Dr. Savica and Dr. CalГІ’s team found that salivary phosphate and blood phosphate levels significantly decreased during the first week of chewing, and by the end of two weeks, salivary phosphate decreased 55% and blood phosphate decreased 31% from levels measured at the start of the study. Salivary phosphate returned to its original level by day 15 after discontinuing the chewing gum, whereas blood phosphate took 30 days to return to its original value.

While these observations are preliminary and require confirmation in a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study with more participants, the findings indicate that this chewing regimen might help control phosphate levels in patients with CKD. “Adding salivary phosphate binding to traditional phosphate binders could be a useful approach for improving treatment of hyperphosphatemia in hemodialysis patients,” the authors concluded.

The study authors declare CM&D Pharma Limited, UK as a financial interest, for their supply of the experimental chewing gum.

The article, entitled “Salivary Phosphate-Binding Chewing Gum Reduces Hyperphosphatemia in Dialysis Patients,” is currently online and will appear in the March 2009 print issue of JASN, doi 10.1681/ASN.2008020130.

Founded in 1966, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) is the world’s largest professional society devoted to the study of kidney disease. Comprised of 11,000 physicians and scientists, ASN continues to promote expert patient care, to advance medical research, and to educate the renal community. ASN also informs policymakers about issues of importance to kidney doctors and their patients. ASN funds research, and through its world-renowned meetings and first-class publications, disseminates information and educational tools that empower physicians.

American Society of Nephrology (ASN)
1725 I St. NW, Ste. 510
Washington
DC 20006
United States
asn-online

DNA Damage From Environmental Exposures May Occur In As Little As Three Days

Exposure to particulate matter has been recognized as a contributing factor to lung cancer development for some time, but a new study indicates inhalation of certain particulates can actually cause some genes to become reprogrammed, affecting both the development and the outcome of cancers and other diseases.

The research was presented on Sunday, May 17, at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

“Recently, changes in gene programming due to a chemical transformation called methylation have been found in the blood and tissues of lung cancer patients,” said investigator Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of applied biotechnology at the University of Milan. “We aimed at investigating whether exposure to particulate matter induced changes in DNA methylation in blood from healthy subjects who were exposed to high levels of particulate matter in a foundry facility.”

Researchers enrolled 63 healthy subjects who worked in a foundry near Milan, Italy. Blood DNA samples were collected on the morning of the first day of the work week, and again after three days of work. Comparing these samples revealed that significant changes had occurred in four genes associated with tumor suppression.

“The changes were detectable after only three days of exposure to particulate matter, indicating that environmental factors need little time to cause gene reprogramming which is potentially associated with disease outcomes,” Dr. Baccarelli said.

“As several of the effects of particulate matter in foundries are similar to those found after exposure to ambient air pollution, our results open new hypotheses about how air pollutants modify human health,” he added. “The changes in DNA methylation we observed are reversible and some of them are currently being used as targets of cancer drugs.”

Dr. Baccarelli said the study results indicate that early interventions might be designed which would reverse gene programming to normal levels, reducing the health risks of exposure.

“We need to evaluate how the changes in gene reprogramming we observed are related to cancer risk,” he said. “Down the road, it will be particularly important not only to show that these changes are associated with increased risk of cancer or other environmentally-induced diseases, but that, if we were able to prevent or revert them, these risks could be eliminated.”

Session # A45: “Genetic Basis for Environmental and Occupational Respiratory Diseases”

Abstract # 2589: “Effects of Particulate Matter Exposure on p16, p53, APC and RASSF1A Promoter Methylation”

Source:
Keely Savoie

American Thoracic Society

Cordis Demonstrates Commitment To Advancing Therapies For Below-The-Knee Vascular Disease

Cordis Corporation is pleased to announce the launch of SLEEK® OTW Catheter, a new .014″ Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty (PTA) Balloon Catheter designed to help physicians save limbs and enhance patients’ lives. This new PTA Balloon was first launched at LINC (Leipzig Interventional Course, Leipzig, Germany) and ISET (International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy, Miami, Florida) earlier this year.

Lower limb amputation is a last resort for many patients with end-stage peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also known as critical limb ischemia. It is estimated that as many as 160,000 lower limbs are amputated every year in the U.S. and 60-70 percent of these amputations are performed as the first-line therapy. These lower-limb amputations come with a mortality rate of as much as 70% at five years.1 Cordis Corporation’s SLEEK® OTW Catheter is the latest technology designed to restore blood flow to the lower limbs, which helps physicians save limbs and enhance patients’ lives.

The SLEEK® OTW Catheter has a unique balance of excellent pushability with a small crossing profile that helps physicians reach small arteries below-the-knee and into the foot to restore blood flow to the lower limb. A broad portfolio of sizes is also offered with PTA balloon diameters of 1.25mm to 5.0mm and lengths up to 220mm that allow physicians to treat diffuse disease with fewer inflations. With the SLEEK® OTW Catheter, physicians can treat complex below-the-knee disease with confidence.

“The SLEEK® OTW Catheter offers our most advanced technology designed to treat challenging below the knee disease,” said Campbell Rogers, MD, Chief Scientific Officer, Global Head R&D. “This addition to our Lower Extremity product portfolio underscores our commitment to providing solutions that help save limbs and improve the quality of life for patients with advanced peripheral vascular disease.”

Source:

Cordis Endovascular

Cordis Corporation

Japan: Pfizer To Launch Champix(R) The First Prescription Oral Smoking Cessation Aid In The Country

Pfizer Inc announced that on May 8, 2008, it will launch Champix® Tablet 0.5mg/1mg (varenicline tartrate), a novel smoking cessation aid for smokers with nicotine dependence in Japan, which has one of the highest rates of smoking among developed nations.

Champix was developed as the first non-nicotine drug designed for smoking cessation in the United States and will be the first oral smoking cessation aid available in Japan.

“Pfizer is delighted to be able to provide patients and physicians in Japan with Champix, a breakthrough medicine for smoking cessation that has helped millions of smokers who want to quit,” said Jeff Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. “Furthermore, we are gratified that health authorities in Japan recognize the benefits of therapies such as Champix that address a major unmet medical need.”

Champix’s approval in Japan was based on a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in Japanese smokers who wanted to quit smoking. The primary endpoint, the percentage of subjects who did not smoke at all during the four consecutive weeks between Week 9 and Week 12 was 65.4 percent (85/130 cases) in the Champix 1mg twice-daily group and 39.5 percent (51/129 cases) in the placebo group, a statistically significant difference between the two groups. The most common side effects of Champix were nausea, headache, and constipation, but most of them were mild.

“Smoking is a chronic, relapsing medical condition and one of the leading causes of preventable disease, death and disability in the world,” said Hiromitsu Iwasaki, president and chief executive officer of Pfizer Japan. “Champix represents a major clinical advance for smoking cessation which we hope, together with counseling, will help patients end their addiction to the nicotine in tobacco.”

With the launch of Champix, Pfizer Japan will introduce a website for patients with nicotine dependence called “SUGU KIN-EN (Smoking Cessation Now) at www.sugu-kinen.jp” as of May 8, 2008. This website provides easy-to-understand guidance on smoking cessation and treatment options. The website also offers a list of medical institutions that provide smoking cessation treatment throughout Japan.

Pfizer Japan

Night Home Hemodialysis Shown To Be As Good As Transplant In Treating Kidney Failure

For the first time, it has been shown that patients who receive night home hemodialysis live just as long as those who receive kidney transplants from deceased donors.

In a study entitled, “Survival among nocturnal home hemodialysis patients compared to kidney transplant recipients,” published in the international September issue of Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, a total of 1,239 patients were followed for up to 12 years. Night home hemodialysis patients were compared to patients who received either a deceased donor kidney transplant or a living donor kidney transplant. The study found that the survival between night home dialysis patients and those who received kidney transplants from deceased donors was comparable, while the survival of the patients who received a transplant from a living kidney donor was better than both the other groups.

These results suggest that night home hemodialysis, an intensive dialysis of six to eight hour sessions for up to seven times a week, may be a “bridge to transplant” or a “suitable alternative” to transplant should a patient be too high risk for a transplant or not be able to get a living or deceased donor as the organ shortage continues. Night home hemodialysis patients were from the Toronto General and Humber River Regional Hospitals, both hospitals together representing the largest and longest established group of such patients world-wide.

“This study allows me to actually answer what my patients have been asking me for over a decade: ‘What does night home hemodialysis mean for my life span?’ I can now tell them that this specific dialysis option is as good as getting a transplant from a deceased donor,” says Dr. Christopher Chan, Medical Director of Home Hemodialysis at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, the R. Fraser Elliott Chair in Home Dialysis and Associate Professor, University of Toronto.

Until this study, there has been no long-term data on night home hemodialysis patient survival, or on how this type of treatment compares to transplantation. In the study, night home hemodialysis patients’ data was carefully matched with deceased and living donor kidney transplantation mortality data from the U.S. Renal Data System on characteristics such as age, race, diabetic status and duration of treatment with conventional in-centre dialysis prior to treatment.

The proportion of deaths in each group was then measured, with final figures of 14.7% for night home hemodialysis patients; 14.3% for patients with transplants from deceased donors; and 8.5% for patients with transplants from living donors.

These results diverge from the evidence to date that dialysis is inferior to transplantation, pointed out Dr. Chan, adding that there is much benefit to be gained by long, frequent dialysis.

Florence Tewogbade, 27, has been on home hemodialysis since April 2008, after trying conventional dialysis. “It has changed my life,” she said. “I can now work, go to school, look forward to a future and be self-reliant.” Florence was on the transplant waiting list in 2004, but her living donor was found to be ineligible.

Florence says that she would have had to wait about 10 years for a kidney from a deceased donor because of her specific risk factors for receiving a transplant. “I always thought that transplant was the only option, so I didn’t consider home hemodialysis,” she said. “I thought I couldn’t do it. But here I am, doing it, and living a normal life.”

Other researchers involved in the study include Robert Pauly, University of Alberta Hospital, John Gill and Caren Rose, St. Paul’s Hospital, UBC, Reem Asad, TGH, Anne Cherry, UHN, Andreas Pierratos, Humber River Regional Hospital.

This study did not require any external funding.

Kidney Facts:

– Shortage of organs and tissues remains a concern for Canada, and our national donation rates lag far behind many countries; in fact, we have one of the lowest donation rates among developed
countries at 14 donors per million people, while Spain, for e.g., has a rate of 35 donors per million

– Of the 4,195 Canadians on the waiting list for a transplant as of December 31, 2007, 2,963 (71%) were waiting for a kidney

– At any point in time, there are more than 1,000 patients waiting for a kidney transplant in Ontario (more than any other organ)

– In the GTA, adults usually wait 4 – 10 years, depending on the blood group, for a kidney to become available, and about 2% of people on the waiting list die waiting for a kidney each year

– The number of patients being treated for end-stage kidney failure in Ontario climbed by nearly 20% in five years from 15.4 people per 100,000 in 1995 to 19.3 per 100,000 in 2000

– Each day, an average of three Ontarians learn that their kidneys have failed and their survival depends on dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant

– Currently, there are more than 10,000 Ontarians being treated for chronic kidney disease
– The number of new patients increases by 10-15%

– Reasons for this growth include an aging population and an increasing number of people with diabetes and diabetes complications

About Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network

Toronto General Hospital is a partner in the University Health Network, along with the Toronto Western Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital. These research hospitals are affiliated with the University of Toronto. The scope of research at Toronto General Hospital has made this institution a national and international resource for education and patient care, and a leader in diabetes, transplantation, cardiology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases and genomic medicine. The night home hemodialysis program at Toronto General Hospital began in 1999. It now has ninety-five (95) patients, making it one of the largest such programs in the world.

Source: University Health Network (UHN)

Postponing Surgery Reduces Long Term Side Effects For Children With Kidney Cancer

Children given chemotherapy before surgery to treat the most common form of childhood kidney cancer, called Wilms’ tumour, require less treatment and experience fewer long term side effects than if they have immediate surgery, according to trial results revealed at today’s NCRI Cancer Conference and published in the European Journal of Cancer*.

The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG)**, funded by Cancer Research UK, undertook a ten-year trial involving 205 patients with newly diagnosed Wilms’ tumours. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either immediate surgery or six weeks pre-operative chemotherapy and then surgery. Depending on the size of their tumours and how much they had grown, all children on the trial were given chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both after their surgery to kill off any remaining cancer cells.

Overall survival between the two groups was the same, but the researchers found that giving six weeks pre-operative chemotherapy enabled easier removal of tumours. Also, 20 per cent fewer children needed radiotherapy or the powerful chemotherapy drug doxorubicin after their surgery, minimising their risk of long-term side effects. The results of this trial are strong enough to conclude that pre-operative chemotherapy should be become standard for the treatment of Wilms’ tumours throughout the UK.

Around 78 children in the UK are diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour each year and it is the most common type of kidney cancer that children can get. Wilms’ tumours are most likely to occur in children under five – they can appear in older children and adults but this is rare. Wilms’ tumour is one of the most curable childhood cancers with nine out of ten children being cured in the long term.

The purpose of this trial was to see if doctors could avoid giving children radiotherapy and the powerful chemotherapy doxorubicin if they did not need it. Giving radiotherapy to the kidneys of young children can be damaging because the kidneys are situated close to the spine and the effects of the radiotherapy can stunt growth and sometimes lead to spinal deformities. Doxorubicin is used to treat children with more advanced tumours, but it may cause heart problems later in life.

Study author Dr Christopher Mitchell, from the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital, said: “Deciding what is the best way to treat Wilms’ tumours has been under debate for many years and this study was the first time that the two treatment methods were compared in a randomised clinical trial. We were able to identify a group of patients who could benefit from a reduction in treatment without compromising their survival chances. For some children with advanced tumours, delaying their surgery reduced the size of their tumours enough to prevent them needing intensive treatment after surgery. This improvement in quality of life for patients is significant and we hope children diagnosed with Wilms’ tumours in the future will benefit from our findings.”

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical trials, said: “These are significant results that have led to a change in the way children in the UK are treated for this disease. As more children survive this type of cancer, anything that adds to our understanding of how to reduce the long-term side effects of the treatment is important work.”

*Immediate nephrectomy versus pre-operative chemotherapy in the management of non-metastatic Wilms’ Tumour; Results of a Randomised Trial (UKW3) by the UK Children’s Cancer Study Group. Christopher Mitchell et al. (2006). European Journal of Cancer.

This study was supported by a grant to the UK Children’s Cancer Study Group from Cancer Research UK. Wilms’ tumours

Wilms’ tumours, also known as nephroblastomas, are a type of kidney cancer that affects children. Kidney cancer in children is rare but this is the most common type they can get. More than 9 out of 10 kidney cancers (95 per cent) found in children are Wilms’ tumours. Wilms’ tumours usually only affect one kidney (unilateral) but in about 7 out of every 100 children (7 per cent) it can affect both (bilateral).

**The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group

Cancer Research UK is the major funding provider of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (formally the UK Children’s Cancer Study Group) and funds the UK clinical trials work of the group via its coordinating centre in Leicester and 22 paediatric centres throughout the British Isles.

The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group is the national professional body responsible for the organisation, treatment and management of virtually all children with cancer in the UK. The group is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading childhood cancer clinical trial groups and over the past five years there has been significant progress and success in its trials, resulting in improvements in survival.

Cancer Research UK is the largest supporter of research into children’s cancer in the UK. The charity is committed to improving survival and quality of life for every child with cancer.

Cancer Research UK

– Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.

– Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.

– Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.

– Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.

– Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

– For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit our website.

About the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI)

The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) was established in April 2001. It is a partnership between government, the voluntary sector and the private sector, with the primary mission of maximising patient benefit that accrues from cancer research in the UK through coordination of effort and joint planning towards an integrated national strategy for cancer research. Click here to visit the NCRI website.

The NCRI consists of: The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); The Association for International Cancer Research; The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia Research Fund; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie Cancer Care; The Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services Research & Development Office; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Executive Health Department; Tenovus; Wales Office of Research and Development for Health & Social Care; Wellcome Trust; and Yorkshire Cancer Research. AstraZeneca is the gold sponsor for the NCRI Cancer Conference 2006.

Cancer Research UK
NCRI