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Study reveals: Your immune system can warn that your cancer's returning

by , 19 November 2013

The cancer fight has just gotten a major boost. New research shows that an alarm signal from the immune system offers an ‘invaluable' early warning of returning cancer. Read on to find out why this is good news when it comes to cancer prevention…

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year 7.6 million people die from cancer worldwide.

Hopefully the fact that scientists have found a way of knowing when a cancer is about to recur will help reduce these numbers. This means doctors will have a way to attack a tumour before it begins to spread.

Breast cancer is especially prone to making an unwelcome comeback. Nearly a quarter of women with the disease will experience it a second time within ten years, Herald Scotland reports.

Scientists find a way of knowing when a cancer is about to recur

In the Herald Scotland report, Lead scientist Professor Alan Melcher, from the University of Leeds, says: “The ability to predict when a patient's cancer will come back would be an invaluable tool in treating the disease, allowing doctors to treat the recurrence rapidly and effectively before it takes hold. But we now need to find a way of using this knowledge to develop a test for patients whose cancer could take several years to reappear.”

The main cause of cancer recurrence is small groups of tumour cells that lie dormant, only to re-awaken once they have learned to evade the immune system.

The report explains that for the purposes of the study, researchers used mice. They looked for early signs of an immune response triggered by a dormant cancer waking up. They found that detecting the signal made it possible to predict accurately when a cancer was about to return.

The scientists also discovered it was possible to force a cancer out of its slumber prematurely. The immune system’s defences could track down the cancer cells and wipe them out.

The findings published in the journal Nature Medicine are certainly good news considering that World Health Organisation projects that, without immediate action, the global number of deaths from cancer will increase by nearly 80% by 2030.

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