There’s a lot to learn this month. Cancer researchers have been busy as bees developing innovative treatments, creating new diagnostic blood tests, and uncovering new information to protect patients. However, it is actual bees that just may save the day.
Prostate Cancer Awareness
Before we get to the bees, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that September is prostate cancer awareness month. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men and while most men who get prostate cancer won’t die from it, it can be a serious disease. Fortunately, over the summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two drugs to treat patients whose prostate cancer has metastasized or stopped responding to treatment, says cancer.gov. The drugs, olaparib and rucaparib, are targeted therapies taken as pills. The drugs work by blocking the activity of a protein known as PARP and have proven effective in treating advanced cases of prostate cancer and increasing survival rates. You can learn more about the drugs here and here.
Another thing to be aware of this month is that not all cancer screenings are necessary, especially among older adults, reports healthline.com. When you reach a certain age, screenings are no longer recommended. For example, you may not need colorectal screenings after age 75, cervical cancer screenings after age 65, and breast cancer screenings after age 74. Once you have aged out of the recommended timelines, screenings can pose a risk of over-diagnosis, which is when asymptomatic cancer that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and not caused a problem is diagnosed and treated unnecessarily leading to a reduced quality of life with little to no benefit. Researchers found that 73 percent of women were over screened for breast cancer, 45 percent were over screened for cervical cancer and 59 percent of men and 56 percent of women were over screened for colorectal cancer. Older adults should talk to their doctors about whether cancer screenings are right for them. You can read more here.
Of course, when it comes to diagnosing some cancers, such as lung and pancreatic cancer, the more screening the better and researchers are finding new ways to make diagnosis easier. A blood test for lung cancer was developed by Resolution Bioscience and will be offered by LabCorp, according to fiercebiotech.com. The test searches for non-small cell lung cancer and is being studied in an ongoing trial. Learn more about the blood test here.
Cancer Testing and Treatment
Researchers are also using a blood test to check for pancreatic cancer and may have found a way to detect it early when it is treatable, reports technologynetworks.com. Using biological information found in the bloodstream researchers can determine whether the pancreas is healthy or shows signs of cancer. Because symptoms for pancreatic cancer don’t often appear until the disease has progressed it is often detected late and when treatment is less effective. Find more information about this new promising testing here.
If all this testing does result in a cancer diagnosis, it’s encouraging to know that new, more effective treatments are being discovered all the time. Researchers have now found a way to make cancer cells self-destruct, reports phys.org. They have developed a new approach that turns a nanoparticle into what they are calling a Trojan horse. The nanoparticle is coated with an amino acid that cancer cells need to survive and grow. Thanks to the coating, the nanoparticle can get into the cancer cells where it stimulates a reactive molecule that causes the cells to destroy themselves but doesn’t affect the healthy cells. The process has been successful in lab experiments and in reducing tumor growth in mice. Scientists are working to make the process more refined to target specific cancer types. Find out more here.
Finally, here’s what all the buzz is about. It turns out that honeybee venom can be used to treat cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. Melittin, a molecule found in the honeybee venom, not only puts the sting in a bee sting, but it also wipes out cancer. Scientists do not fully understand how it works, but they have found that melittin is toxic to tumors in melanoma, lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. Researchers are also studying how melittin affects breast cancers and have found that melittin kills the cancers cells of two of the most aggressive and hard to treat breast cancers – triple negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer. The melittin worked on the cancer cells quickly, within 60 minutes, and without harming normal cells. Interestingly, the venom from bumblebees, which does not contain melittin, did not kill the cancer cells. Learn more about how bee venom affects cancer here.
Jennifer Lessinger is a professional writer and editor who learned the value of patient empowerment during her struggle with a hard-to-diagnose and complex endocrine disorder.