Notable News Archives

September 2021 Notable News

A big yellow duck is raising awareness by having an adventure, researchers are becoming more aware of how cholesterol might affect cancer, and quitting smoking is always a good idea. A better breast cancer treatment and vaccines could be on the way for cancer patients, and fruit flies may be the key to longer lifespans.

Fruit Flies and Cancer

Researchers are learning a new anti-cancer strategy from studying fruit flies, reports technologynetworks.com. The research shows that, rather than trying to destroy tumors, treatments that attack destructive cancer chemicals could lead to improved health and survival rates. Researchers discovered that the tumors in fruit flies release a chemical, called interleukin-6 (IL-6), that weakens the barrier between the brain and the bloodstream and allows the bloodstream and brain environments to mix. The same chemical was found in mice and researchers were able to extend the lifespan of both the mice and the fruit flies by blocking the IL-6 impact on the blood-brain barrier. If researchers are able to find a drug that blocks the effect of IL-6 on the blood-brain barrier, it could potentially prolong the lives of cancer patients. Learn more about the fruit fly research here.

COVID-19 Booster Shot for Blood Cancer Patients

Some blood cancer patients could benefit from a Covid-19 booster shot, reports usnews.com. A study showed that more than half of the patients with B-cell blood cancers, who did not make antibodies after the first two Covid-19 vaccine shots, had a better result in making antibodies after the third booster shot. Blood cancer patients with questions about covid-19 vaccinations should consult their doctors. Get more information here.

Cancer Vaccines

Researchers have found some promising results studying the use of cancer vaccines, reports news.mit.edu. Experimental studies have helped to identify cancer proteins that, when vaccinated against, can potentially increase the body’s own immune response by waking up T cells to target the proteins. Over the past decade, scientists have been exploring cancer vaccines as a way for the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Learn more here

Breast Cancer Treatment

There is good news in breast cancer treatment, reports abcnews.go.com. New data shows that the drug ENHERTU worked better than the current treatment for HER-2 positive breast cancer, which is currently incurable. ENHERTU was more successful at reducing tumor size and keeping the patient alive longer. The results suggest that ENHERTU could become a first-line treatment for breast cancer and researchers are investigating to see if they have similar results using ENHERTU to treat other cancers such as stomach and lung cancers. Read more here

Lung Cancer and Smoking

It’s never too late to quit smoking, says cancer.gov. A new study shows that quitting smoking after being diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer could help people live longer and could also delay a return of the cancer. In the study, the people who quit smoking lived a median of 22 months longer than those who did not quit. Learn more about the findings here

There is also new information from cancer.gov about lung cancer among people with no history of smoking. A study has found that most of the tumors are caused by the mutations of natural processes in the body. The study also identified three subtypes of cancers among never smokers. The findings could help researchers develop better treatments for these types of lung cancer. Learn more here.

High Cholesterol and Cancer

Scientists are beginning to understand why there may be a link between high cholesterol and cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. Researchers have found that high cholesterol levels may help make cancer cells resistant to death. Using cell lines and mice models, researchers found that exposure to a derivative of cholesterol, known as 27HC, led to the growth of tumors and prevented the process of natural cell death in cancer cells. Understanding the link between cholesterol and cancer could lead to creating better cancer treatments. Find more information here.

Mr. Vanderquack

There are many ways to spread cancer awareness, but perhaps none more fun than a 20-inch duck in a Jeep traveling the country. The duck, Mr. Vanderquack, has a GPS tracker and is traveling to all 50 states in an effort to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Cancer Research, says wate.com. Thousands of Jeep owners have volunteered to drive Mr. Vanderquack around the country where he will visit over 650 cities. Mr. Vanderquack’s journey began in early September and is expected to take three months. You can follow the journey and sign up for email updates at mrvanderquack.com or on Instagram @mrvanderquack. Mr. Vanderquack’s adventure has already raised more than $20,000. Get more information here

August 2021 Notable News

The news this month is a little nutty! Actually, it’s a little peanutty! It turns out that eating peanuts could cause cancer to spread but drinking milk could save young people from developing colon cancer. Widowers are more likely to have advanced prostate cancer, and having a positive attitude isn’t necessarily a requirement for surviving cancer. All that and a glimpse into the state of cancer rates across the globe.

Global State of Cancer

A chart detailing the cancer survival, incidence, and death rates of several countries provides information about the global state of cancer, says medicalnewstoday.com. The lowest cancer rates were found in India, which also had the lowest cancer death rates. Doctors in India believe that prevention and education, service delivery, and research should all be equal in cancer care. The United States has the highest cancer rate, but possibly because of the screening tests that detect cancer earlier and more successfully than in other countries. However, the US also has a prevalence of cancer risk factors, such as obesity, that could be contributing to the high incidence of cancer. China has the highest cancer mortality rate. Learn more about the state of cancer in other countries here.

Potential Cause of Metastasis

A recent study shows that cancer patients who eat a lot of peanuts could have an increased risk of metastasis, reports sciencedaily.com. The study showed that, after eating peanuts, a carbohydrate-binding protein called peanut agglutinin (PNA) enters the blood stream. The PNA interacts with blood vascular wall cells which then leads to the production of cytokines, molecules that are known to cause cancer to spread. Another study showed that PNA binds to a sugar chain that is associated with cancer cells and that it could lead to the cancer cells being stickier and easier to attach to blood vessels. While more research needs to be done, patients may want to use caution when it comes to eating large quantities of peanuts. Find more information

here.

Vitamin D Benefits

Vitamin D could help younger adults protect themselves against colon cancer, reports usnews.com. Researchers have learned that the overall incidences of colon cancer are decreasing, but among younger adults, colon cancer is on the rise. The increase in cases seems to be linked with a decline in eating foods full of vitamin D, such as fish, mushrooms, eggs, and milk. The study found that young people could reduce their risk of getting colon cancer at an early age by about 50 percent if they consumed 300 IU of vitamin D each day, which is the equivalent of about three glasses of milk. The study is the first to make the connection between vitamin D levels and the rising rates of colon cancer in the younger population. Read more about the connection here.

Widowers and Prostate Cancer

Researchers found that widowers are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, reports medicalxpress.com. Widowers tend to be diagnosed later than married men or men in a relationship, when the cancer has reached advanced stages and has spread into other areas of the body. Studies have shown that people living with a partner have a healthier lifestyle and are more likely to be encouraged to see a doctor when symptoms appear. For better health outcomes, widowers can turn to family and friends for support and be sure to have regular medical checkups. Learn more here.

Power of Positivity

Some people say that the secret to beating cancer is all about having a positive attitude, but as 20-year cancer survivor Caitlin Flanagan points out in theatlantic.com, sometimes it’s hard to feel positive about a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Read this great piece about why the power of positive thinking may not be a requirement to survive cancer here.


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July 2021 Notable News

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a sunscreen recall, but that may not be the only common household product that could contain cancer-causing chemicals. New research has found a clue to understanding metastasis and hope for treating pancreatic cancer, and it’s time for Americans to admit that consuming alcohol is putting them at greater risk for developing several types of cancer.

Even though fewer than one in three Americans equate drinking alcohol with getting cancer, a recent study links alcohol consumption to more than 740,000 new cases of cancer, reports advisory.com. The three most common alcohol-related cancers are esophageal, liver and breast, but the study also found that mouth, larynx, colon, and rectum cancers are related to alcohol consumption. Cancer risk increased with the amount of alcohol consumed, but even moderate drinking (two or fewer drinks per day) was linked to 14 percent of the alcohol-related cancers. Men may have a higher risk factor as they made up 75 percent of the cancer cases related to alcohol. There are several reasons alcohol consumption is linked to cancer including the way alcohol breaks down in the body. Ethanol, which is the alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor, breaks down into a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde. Other factors are alcohol’s ability to increase hormone levels and to hinder nutrient absorption by the body. Learn more about the link between alcohol consumption and cancer here and here.

A healthy protein in a once-overlooked tiny cell component called an intracellular nanovesicle (INV) may be a clue in explaining how it’s possible for some cancers to metastasize and form secondary tumors, reports medicalxpress.com. The protein, named Tumor Protein D54 (TPD54), is involved in the movement of cells. Researchers found that when higher levels of TPD54 were present cell movement increased, and when there was less TPD54 the cells moved less. Increased levels of the protein are associated with some breast cancers that tend to metastasize indicating that TPD54 plays a role in movement of the cancer cells. However, targeting TPD54 to treat cancer is not ideal as the protein is important for a number of normal cell processes including wound healing and immune response. The discovery of the TPD54 role in cell movement along with more study of the INVs and their function as couriers within a cell, could lead to further understanding of metastasis of cancer cells. Find more information here.

A clinical trial for a new pancreatic cancer treatment is showing positive results, reports biospace.com. The ongoing trial is being conducted by Lantern Pharma for the drug candidate LP-184. So far, the preclinical data showed that pancreatic tumors in mouse models shrank with a promising 90 percent efficacy over eight weeks. In comparison, a control group of untreated mice showed tumor growth over the same period. In addition, researchers saw a significant reduction of cancer cells and cancer cell growth in other models. Further study of LP-184 is planned. Learn more here.

Exposure to household chemicals could increase the risk for breast cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com and studyfinds.org. Researchers say there could be as many as 300 toxic chemicals in common household items such as processed foods, make up, hair products, and furniture. Many household items contain chemicals known as endocrine disrupting inhibitors, and researchers say we should be concerned about our exposure to these chemicals which can alter the hormones that affect breast cancer. While the impact of many of the chemicals is still unknown, there is evidence that some of the chemicals make cells in breast tissue produce more estrogen and progesterone, which both have a known link to breast cancer. Learn more here and here.

Neutrogena, Aveeno, and CVS Health have voluntarily recalled some of their sunscreens or after sun products, reports cnn.com. The sunscreens were found to have been contaminated with benzene, a chemical that increases the risk of developing leukemia and other blood disorders. The recalled products are all batches or lots of Neutrogena Beach Defense aerosol, Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol, Neutrogena Invisible Daily defense aerosol, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer aerosol, and Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol. All recalled Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreens can be found here, and customers can request a refund by completing the form here, or calling 1-800-458-1673. CVS also stopped selling CVS Health After Sun Aloe Vera and CVS Health After Sun Aloe Vera Spray after the Neutrogena and Aveeno products were recalled. Experts say the recall is not a reason for people to stop using sunscreen as the majority of sunscreens on the market do not contain benzene and successfully protect against skin cancers. An independent lab tested sunscreens and found that most of them did not contain benzene. Learn more about the recalled products and benzene here.


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Notable News June 2021

You might want to put on a fresh pot of coffee for this one. Lemon Frost geckos, genetically engineered mice, and American Lobsters have a lot to teach us about cancer; it looks like it’s past time to cut down on the amount of red meat we eat; there could be a new treatment for metastatic prostate cancer; and there are some clinical trials under way for cancer vaccines using the same technology as the Covid-19 vaccines. We’ll be hearing a lot about mRNA in the coming years.

The mRNA vaccine technology used to create the Covid-19 vaccines is the result of nearly two decades of research by scientists in many fields, including cancer, and now researchers are hoping to apply the technology to cancer vaccines, reports medicalxpress.com. The mRNA technology is flexible and versatile, and that makes it ideal for treating many diseases. For example, in Covid-19 vaccines, the mRNA works as a protective measure fighting off invading cells, but as a cancer vaccine, mRNA works more as a treatment. It works by motivating T cells to kill cancer cells, similar to how immunotherapy works. Like immunotherapy, the mRNA vaccines would need to be personalized to each patient, and that could be a challenge in the development of the vaccines. Despite any challenges, clinical trials for mRNA cancer vaccines are already underway. Learn more about the exciting technology here.

In addition to the prospect of new vaccines, there could be a breakthrough in treating prostate cancer, reports Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at mskcc.org. A therapy called Lu-PSMA-617 has been developed to attach to and kill the cancer cell using radiation. The treatment works on cancer cells that have been resistant to other therapies, as is often the case in prostate cancer after it has spread. Lu-PSMA-617 recently received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which will help speed up the development and review of the therapy. Learn more about the promising treatment here.

What we eat and drink continues to affect our cancer risk. Researchers may have identified the connection between diets rich in red meat and colorectal cancer, reports medicalxpress.com. While experts have long advised against eating red meat to prevent colorectal cancer, there was no definite proof of a connection between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer. However, researchers have now discovered that there are specific patterns of DNA damage, called alkylation, caused by eating a lot of red meat. Learn more about the findings here.

While you are avoiding red meat, you can fill up on coffee. Drinking three to four cups of coffee a day could reduce your risk of liver cancer and other liver diseases, reports usatoday.com. The authors of a study in the United Kingdom say that they can’t definitively prove that coffee lowers the risk of liver disease, but there was a noticeable reduction in liver-related disease among coffee drinkers. Researchers advised that people should follow healthy practices like eating well and exercising in addition to drinking coffee. Also, don’t overdo it. The study found that any more than three to four cups a day did not provide additional benefits. Learn more here.

We continue to have a lot to learn from the animal kingdom. A gecko named Mr. Frosty could be the key to finding treatment for skin cancer, reports sciencenews.org. Mr. Frosty is a Lemon Frost gecko, a type particularly prone to tumors. Researchers collected DNA from Mr. Frosty and many other lizards and were able to use the data to link tumor growth to a gene called SPINT1. The gene has also been linked to melanoma in humans, which could mean that Lemon Frost geckos could be used to research treatments for skin cancer. Learn more about Mr. Frosty here.

Genetically engineered mice provide a great research model for humans. Scientists have developed a new technique to determine which cancer research models are the most similar to cancer cells that grow in humans, reports sciencedaily.com, and the most similar are genetically engineered mice and 3D balls of human tissue called tumoroids. The technique, called CancerCellNet, is computer based and compares RNA sequences of a research model with data from a cancer genome atlas to determine how well the two match. The mice and the tumoroids were the closest match in four out of every five tumor types tested. Researchers found that human cancer cells grown in culture dishes are the least similar. Learn more here.

Lobsters seem to age better than anything on the planet. Scientists are studying lobsters to see if their longevity and ability to stay mostly cancer free can provide answers for humans about aging and disease prevention, reports sciencemag.org. Lobsters live up to 100 years in the wild, do not lose strength or fertility with age, and they very rarely get cancer. While the complete set of lobster genes is so long that researchers are still uncovering it, they are hopeful that more research could provide insight into how lobsters stay cancer free and how humans may be able to benefit from the information. Learn more here.


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May 2021 Notable News

The new magic number for colorectal screenings is 45 not 50, parking fees are affecting cancer care, and there are a lot of promising developments regarding potential vaccines, lung cancer treatments and breast cancer screenings, but all the advances in cancer care are not equally available to everyone, and a cancer alliance has issued a call to action.

The disparities in cancer care are profound and widespread, says the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) in a statement posted by journalofclinicalpathways.com. The COA statement notes that an estimated 34 percent of cancer deaths among adults between the ages of 25 to 74 could be prevented if socioeconomic disparities were eliminated. People in groups defined by such things as race and ethnicity, disability, gender identity, income, education, national origin, and geographic location are likely to experience disparities in access to screening, access to care, and ability to pay for care. Read the full COA statement and their call to action here.

Cancer care disparity is also evident in states where fewer people qualify for Medicaid, where, due to lower income eligibility limits, cancer patients have shorter long-term survival rates, reports cancernetwork.com. Medicaid eligibility is not the same in every state. Some states set Medicaid eligibility incomes higher than others, meaning that in order to qualify for Medicaid, income levels have to be at or below the income eligibility level set by each specific state. Texas, for example, has a low income eligibility requirement, so fewer people qualify for Medicaid. A recent study showed that in areas where Medicaid eligibility limits are the lowest, the length of survival was shorter than in the states with high eligibility limits. The study assessed the relationship between state Medicaid income eligibility limits and long-term survival of cancer patients by using the data of 1.5 million adults from the National Cancer Database who were newly diagnosed with 17 common cancers. Researchers noted the study highlights the critical need for equitable care because people who are uninsured are less likely to have regular screenings and are unlikely to start or complete cancer care. Learn more here.

Believe it or not, parking might be affecting quality of cancer care. As pbs.org reports, high parking fees are weighing heavily on many cancer patients and their caregivers, and the negative effects of the cost of parking for cancer treatments are gaining attention from oncology researchers and hospital administrators. Some of the best cancer treatment centers are located where parking is a premium and patients can end up paying up to $40 a day in parking fees. It’s an additional, out-of-pocket expense that no one expects when they get a cancer diagnosis, and it can really add up. A study revealed that some patients pay $1,680 in parking fees during cancer treatment. One patient revealed that he opted not to participate in a clinical trial because he couldn’t afford the cost of parking. Read more about this hot topic here.

While the inequities in care are discouraging, the advances in screenings and treatments continue to be encouraging. There is new hope for people with early-stage lung cancer in the form of an immunotherapy drug, says webmd.com. The drug, an immune checkpoint inhibitor called atezolizumab, is the first to significantly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence or death in people with stage 11 or 111A non-small cell lung cancer. The risk is reduced by 34 percent compared to a 16 percent reduction from currently used chemotherapy. While the findings are promising, the drug can have some serious, life-threatening side effects. Find more information here.

An updated breast cancer screening may be on the way with the development of a new biosensor to help detect early-stage breast, reports medicalxpress.com. The biosensor, developed in Spain, helps detect cancer through a blood test, and it is easy to use, inexpensive, and yields results in 30 to 60 minutes. Learn more about how the biosensor test works here.

The screening methods for colorectal cancer remain the same, but the timeline is changing. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and experts are now recommending that routine screening start five years earlier, reports npr.org. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer panel of national experts, now says that screening should begin at age 45 instead of age 50. The recommendation is expected to save lives and give more people access to the screening tests. Learn more here.

The earlier screenings combined with a potential vaccine could put us on the right path to knocking colorectal cancer out of its third-place ranking for cancer deaths. Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center are using the mRNA technology that was used to create the COVID-19 vaccines to create a vaccine for stage two and stage three colon cancers, reports KHOU 11 News Houston, khou.com. Originally developed many years ago to treat cancer, mRNA vaccines can be personalized to each patient, and through clinical trials this summer, researchers will test if the vaccines can eradicate microscopic cancer cells left behind in colon cancer patients who have had tumors surgically removed. Eradicating the remaining cancer cells will prohibit the cancer from returning. Researchers say the vaccines can be applied to other cancers as well. Watch the KHOU 11 report and learn more about how the mRNA vaccines work here.

There has been a drop in cervical cancers thanks to screening and the HPV vaccine, but other cancers caused by the human papillomavirus are on the rise, reports apnews.com. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus and while most infections have no symptoms and go away without treatment, each year about 35,900 of the infections develop into cancer. It can take decades for an HPV infection to develop into cancer, which might explain the rise in some cancers. Experts say that the cancers we’re seeing now could be a result of the sexual practices of Baby Boomers in the late 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Oral and throat cancers have increased the most in men, and anal cancer and a rare rectal cancer have increased the most in women. Young women, who would have been the first to get the HPV vaccine when it made its debut in 2006, saw the biggest drop in cervical cancer cases. Find more information here.

April 2021 Notable News

Eating mushrooms, lowering your BMI, personalized vaccines, a rare plant compound, and targeted treatments are all ways to treat or prevent cancer, which is a good thing, because it looks like cancer alters your cardiovascular health, and the entire cancer landscape is going to change in the next 20 years, so the more mushrooms you can eat, the better.

People seem to either love or hate mushrooms. A 2019 survey puts mushrooms on the top ten list of the most hated vegetables, but now their popularity is on the rise, and with good reason. Those little fungi could reduce your cancer risk, reports psu.edu. A study from Penn State University showed that people who eat a lot of mushrooms, about 1/8th to 1/4th cup daily, had a 45 percent lower cancer risk than those who did not eat mushrooms. All mushrooms are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, so any variety provides the cancer preventing benefits. Mushrooms are also the highest dietary source of a unique cell-protecting antioxidant called ergothioneine. Learn more about the study here, and for an interesting and deep dive all about mushrooms, check out this article at civileats.com.

Mushrooms are low in calories and high in protein so they are a great dietary addition if you are trying to lower your BMI, which you may want to consider if you’ve had breast cancer. A new study shows that women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of being diagnosed with a second cancer if their weight increases, reports breastcancer.org. The study found that women who had an increased body mass index (BMI) after breast cancer treatment also had a seven percent greater risk of a second primary cancer, a 13 percent greater risk of an obesity related cancer, an 11 percent greater risk of a second breast cancer, and a 15 percent greater risk of a second estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer. The 13 types of cancer linked to being overweight and obese include multiple myeloma, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, and uterine cancer. Find more about the study and the other cancers linked to obesity here.

Researchers are finding better and better ways to treat cancers and early trials are proving that a personalized cancer vaccine is possible, says webmd.com. A personalized vaccine called PGV-001 was developed with custom peptides, which are types of amino acids. The vaccine was given to 13 patients who had a high risk of cancer recurrence after initial treatments. The types of cancers the patients had were head and neck cancer, multiple myeloma, lung cancer, breast cancer, and bladder cancer. Eleven of the 13 patients received all ten doses of the vaccine. Half of the patients experienced mild adverse effects, including reactions at the injection site and low-grade fever, and after about two years, four of the patients had no evidence of cancer and had received no further treatment. Four other patients were receiving other types of treatments, and three of the patients have died. Two of the patients could no longer be contacted for the study. Researchers are hopeful that personalized vaccines to treat a variety of tumor types is a viable option. Read more here.

Being able to keep cancer from spreading could make treatments more effective, and researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have figured out a way to do it, reports mit.edu. Researchers set out to understand the physical changes that occur in a cancer cell when they metastasize, and were able to measure the properties of aggressive, metastatic tumor cells as they passed through the lining of the blood cells. The study shows that tumor cells actually become softer, which allows them to squeeze through the wall of blood vessels and spread. Researchers still don’t know what causes the cells to soften but believe that the development and use of drugs to prevent the cancer cells from softening could stop or slow down metastasis. See how they made their discovery here.

Not to be outdone by MIT, researchers at Purdue University have turned to the plant world in search of cancer treatment and have discovered that a rare compound in a plant could help treat many cancers, reports purdue.edu. A chemist from Purdue University studied a compound called curcusone D, which proved very effective at stopping cancer cells, and found a way to recreate it in the lab. The compound fights a cancer protein called BRAT1 which was believed to be “undruggable”. BRAT1 is found in many cancers including breast, brain, colorectal, prostate, lung, and liver cancers, and curcusone D is the first BRAT1 inhibitor. The plant, Jatropha curcas, or the purging nut, is native to North America, and is known for its medicinal properties, but only produces a small amount of the compound. The lab-created version of the compound can be produced in large amounts and is also effective at killing cancer cells and stopping their migration. Learn more about the curcusone D research here.

Researchers are also getting closer to finding better treatment for hard-to-treat cancers. Early studies in Japan show that there may be a way to make pancreatic cancer more responsive to chemotherapy, says eurekalert.org. The researchers discovered that targeting a gene regulator called TUG1 could interrupt its activity which helps make pancreatic cells resistant to chemotherapy. The team plans to further test their strategy. Learn more here.

Having cancer is already linked to a greater risk of heart issues, but new research shows that some types of cancer may actually alter the heart, says medicalxpress.com. The study found that people with cancer had reduced volume of the left ventricle and their hearts pumped less blood per heartbeat. Their hearts also showed signs of elevated strain and inflammation. Until now, the research has looked at how treatments like chemotherapy are detrimental to the heart, but this study shows that cancer itself can affect heart health. Questions like how cancer causes the changes to the heart and how long the changes might last after treatment still need to be answered. Learn more here.

The cancer landscape is changing and will look very different by 2040, reports ajmc.com. A new study shows that there will be more cases of melanoma and there will be more deaths from pancreatic and liver cancers. By 2040 breast cancer, melanoma, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer will have the highest number of cases in that order.

While breast cancer will lead in number of cases, it will cause fewer deaths. Prostate cancer, which is currently one of the most common cancers, will move to 14th place. Lung cancer will continue to be the leading cause of cancer deaths, followed by pancreatic, liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer, which will move down from the number three spot to the fifth spot. The future cancer landscape study was done so that plans could be made to fund research, provide healthcare, and inform policy making. Learn more about what cancer will look like in 2040 and how it was determined here.

Notable News March 2021

While we’ve heard a lot about the vaccine for Covid-19, vaccines for cancer have been in development behind the scenes, and they show a lot of promise. Traditional treatments, like surgery, are still helpful as well, and early screenings are key to better survival rates. However, cancer survivors need to pay attention to their hearts, and young men need to be aware of any changes to their skin.

Melanoma is on the rise among younger men, and doctors aren’t quite sure why, reports menshealth.com. It is the fifth most common cancer for men and one of the top three among young adults. Research shows that young, non-Hispanic white men make up more than 60 percent of melanoma-related deaths. Doctors have some theories about why younger men are particularly at risk for melanoma, but the reasons aren’t entirely clear. One theory is that men could be biologically prone to developing melanoma because of their sex hormones. It’s thought that testosterone may cause melanoma to spread quickly and grow faster. Learn more here.

Cancer survivors have a higher risk of heart disease, reports pharmacytimes.com. A new study shows that 35 percent of Americans who have had cancer have an elevated risk of heart disease, compared to 23 percent of those who have never had cancer. Some of the treatments that cancer patients receive, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can affect cardiovascular health, and researchers hope that more attention will be paid to those risk factors. Read more here.

There are new lung cancer screening guidelines that increase the recommended number of people who get yearly CT scans for lung cancer, including more African Americans and women, reports nytimes.com. The new guidelines, which were previously established based on data for white males, reduce the age and smoking history requirements, and now include people, aged 50 to 80, who have smoked at least a pack a day for 20 years or more, and who still smoke or quit within the past 15 years. The goal is to detect lung cancer early in people who are at high risk due to smoking. By reducing the age and smoking history requirements for screening, more women and African Americans will likely benefit from the new guidelines as they tend to develop cancer earlier and from less tobacco exposure than white males. CT scans can reduce cancer death risk by 20 to 25 percent. Learn more here.

A Global Breast Cancer Initiative was introduced this month by the World Health Organization, says www.who.int. The initiative seeks to reduce global breast cancer mortality by 2.5 percent each year until 2040. Breast cancer has surpassed lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. Survival rates have increased in high-income countries, but in low-income countries less progress has been made. To implement the initiative, global partners will use strategic programs that include health promotion, timely diagnosis, and comprehensive treatment and supportive care. Read more about the global initiative here.

Researchers have developed a vaccine that uses tumor cells in a patient to train the immune system to find and kill cancer, reports news.uchicago.edu. The vaccine is injected into the skin and has shown that it stopped melanoma tumor growth in mice. The vaccine is a new, and potentially safer and less expensive, way of using immunotherapy to treat cancers. It works as a therapeutic vaccine, activating the immune system to kill cancer cells. Researchers are planning to test the method on breast and colon cancers, as well as other types of cancers, and eventually plan clinical trials. Learn more here.

A Phase 1 trial is showing incredible promise for a brain tumor vaccine, reports newatlas.com. Research shows that the vaccine is safe and that it triggers an immune system response that slows tumor progression. The vaccine targets a gene mutation common in gliomas, which are a hard-to-treat type of brain cancer. The trial showed that 93 percent of patients had a positive response to the vaccine, and no tumor growth was seen in 82 percent of patients after three years. While the results are promising, researchers are cautious and say larger studies need to be done. A Phase 2 trial is being planned. Find more information here.

New treatments are exciting, but some traditional treatments might need more consideration in some cancers. Surgery, after chemotherapy, increases lifespan of pancreatic cancer patients, reports eurekalert.org. A new study shows that stage II pancreatic cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy and then surgery to remove the cancerous area, live almost twice as long as patients treated only with chemotherapy. The data also shows that patients live longer even if the cancerous area isn’t completely removed. The study reveals that surgery is helpful in treating more pancreatic cancer patients than was previously believed. Learn more here.

February 2021 Notable News

February may be the shortest month, but it is definitely not short on news, and it is full of surprises. From green tea to feces, and genetic testing to fertility, this month has it all and then some. There’s a lot of information to learn, but there are also answers to some pressing questions that many cancer patients have been asking.

Covid-19 Vaccines

Questions about the Covid-19 vaccines are on the minds of many cancer patients these days, and now the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions can be found at cancer.gov. The questions include why cancer patients are considered a high priority group for the vaccine, which cancer patients should not get the vaccine, and how effective the vaccine is in people with cancer. Answered by Steven Pergam, M.D. with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the answers provide the latest recommendations regarding the Covid-19 vaccines and cancer patients. Find out more here.

Cancer and Fertility

For younger patients with cancer, fertility can be a concern, and many are relying on non-profit organizations to help them, reports apnews.com. Cancer treatments such as radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy can negatively affect fertility so many patients look into fertility preservation options, but the procedures can cost $15,000 or more. Further, very few states mandate that insurance companies cover fertility preservation costs for patients who will likely become infertile from medical treatments, so coverage is often denied, and many patients end up taking on exorbitant debt to pay for the treatments themselves. However, there are now non-profit organizations that will help pay at least some of the costs of fertility preservation procedures for women with cancer. Advocates say these organizations, often funded on small donations, offer a lifeline to young cancer patients, but that the situation is not ideal. They say a change in the system, creating a federal mandate for fertility protection, is the ultimate goal. Learn more here.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer in women is now the most diagnosed cancer in the world, reports cnn.com. Making up 11.7 percent of all new cancer cases, breast cancer in women has surpassed lung cancer as the most diagnosed cancer. However, lung cancer continues to be the leader in the number of cancer deaths. The increase in breast cancer is likely related to risk factors including excess body weight, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption. Find more information here.

Neuroblastoma

Researchers are closer to understanding neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer most often found in young children, reports sciencedaily.com. A study showed that the levels of a chromosome instability gene called USP24 were low in children whose neuroblastoma tumors were extremely aggressive. They also found that USP24 plays a role in protecting cells during cell division. Learn more about the study findings here.

Fecal Transplant to Treat Cancer

Cancer researchers will look just about anywhere to find better treatments, including in fecal matter. A new study shows that patients with cancer that don’t respond to immunotherapy drugs, can benefit from an adjustment to the gut microbiome through a fecal transplant, reports cancer.gov. In the study, some patients with advanced melanoma who did not respond to immunotherapy, did respond after a fecal transplant from a patient who had responded to the immunotherapy. The study shows that altering the gut microbiome can improve a patient’s response to certain types of therapy. More research is needed to determine which microorganisms are involved in creating the response to the immunotherapy, but the findings could lead to better ways to treat patients who don’t initially respond to treatments. Learn more about the study and its results here.

Urine Testing to Detect Cancer

A study shows that DNA fragments found in urine can indicate whether a person has cancer, reports sciencedaily.com. Scientists say there is a lot more research to be done between this new discovery and using urine samples to detect cancer, but the discovery is encouraging. Further research could potentially lead to early, noninvasive detection of cancer. Learn more here.

Genetic Testing

While a consumer-based genetic test might be great for identifying common traits, it is not as reliable in identifying diseases, reports cnn.com. The single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) test is used by consumer DNA and ancestry companies to detect traits people share, such as eye color and height, but when it comes to identifying rare disease-causing mutations, the SNP test wasn’t very reliable. Researchers found the SNP test to perform so poorly in detecting genetic variants for disease that they recommend the results never be used to guide a patient’s medical care. In fact, people who have relied on the SNP test results have endured invasive and unnecessary procedures based on false positive results. Learn more here, and if you think you are at risk for cancer, consult your doctor for proper screening.

Benefits of Green Tea

There is good news for tea lovers. Drinking green tea may be able to prevent the development of cancer, reports goodnewsnetwork.org. An antioxidant in the tea increases the level of a gene called p53, which is known as the “Guardian of the Genome” because it can repair DNA damage and destroy cancer cells. Scientists are hoping to be able to make a drug that would mimic the effects the antioxidant in green tea has on p53. Learn more here.

Benefits of Exercise

It doesn’t matter how hard you exercise as long as you exercise. Physical activity during cancer treatment is known to be beneficial for physical and mental health and may even reduce some of the side effects from treatment, but a new study shows that the intensity of the training does not seem to matter, reports sciencedaily.com. The study followed 577 breast, prostate or colorectal patients, ages 30 to 84, who were randomly assigned either high or low to moderate training programs. While there were some differences in the results, the researchers concluded that the intensity of exercise didn’t differ in a clinically relevant way. Learn more about the study findings here.

Cancer-Related Suicides Decreases

A new study shows that the suicide rate related to cancer has decreased in the United States between 1999 and 2018, reports cancer.gov. Researchers were prompted to examine the cancer-related suicide rates by advances in palliative and supportive care, hospice, and mental healthcare, as well as easier access to resources, but the study cannot make a direct link between improved care and the incidence of cancer-related suicides. While the decreased number of incidences is good news, cancer patients remain in a high-risk group for suicide, and there is now greater focus on screening those who may be depressed. The National Cancer Institute is funding research to develop technology for screening and treatment of depression during oncology office visits. Learn more here, and if you, or someone you know, is in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to anyone. All calls are confidential. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line, a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

January 2021 Notable News

What do cancer cells and bears have in common? How is artificial intelligence changing cancer? How do ovarian cancer cells survive in hostile environments? Can CML patients stop taking their medication? Why are cancer death rates continuing to decline? What should cancer patients know about the Covid-19 vaccines? There are a lot of questions to answer this month. Fortunately, we have the answers.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Some of the most pressing questions cancer patients have are about the Covid-19 vaccines. Some of the answers can be found at curetoday.com, which has put together a list of some things you should know. There are currently two Covid-19 vaccines available in the United States. They were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late 2020. The two vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna both require two doses, and both have an over 90 percent efficacy rate after both doses are administered. Both vaccines trigger the immune system to react defensively to the SARS-CoV-2 virus without causing the virus. There are common side effects seen as a result of the vaccines that include tiredness, pain at the injection site, headache, muscle ache, and fever. The side effects can last for several days or a week. While cancer patients should discuss the vaccine options with their doctors, it’s important to note that getting the vaccine should not affect most cancer treatments. Find the complete comparison of the two vaccines, which includes an explanation of how each vaccine works and the common side effects specific to each vaccine, here. There is also a helpful and easy-to-read infographic.

Declining Cancer Death Rates

There’s no question that declining death rates are good news. As of 2018, cancer death rates are continuing to decline in the United States, reports abcnews.go.com. The rate has been falling since 1991, and from 2017 to 2018, it fell 2.4 percent. In the past five years, almost half of the decline in cancer deaths was attributed to lung cancer. With fewer people smoking, the rates of lung cancer illness and death have declined, and due to better treatments and diagnostics, people with lung cancer are living longer. While cancer remains the second leading cause of death, it’s encouraging that the death rates are continuing to decline. Learn more here.

CML News

A question CML patients could be asking their doctors is whether or not they can stop taking their medication. Some chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients may not have to, reports cancer.gov. The tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) CML patients take to make the disease manageable are taken every day and they come with some disruptive side effects, which affect the quality of life for patients. However, a new clinical study shows that patients who were in remission for at least two years, and stopped using nilotinib, imatinib, and two other TKIs, had an improved quality of life, and about two thirds of the patients remained in remission three years after stopping treatment. Find more information about the study results and which patients could be eligible to stop taking their CML medications here.

Ovarian Cancer

Researchers have long been questioning how ovarian cancer cells survive in hostile environments, but now have an understanding of how ovarian cancer cells survive and grow in the fluid of the abdomen, which should be a hostile environment of low nutrients and oxygen, reports eurekalert.org. The study looked at the structures inside the cells during different stages of ovarian cancer and found that one of the structures, the mitochondria, changed shape and function in the peritoneal cavity, the space in the abdomen that contains the intestines, liver, and stomach, which made it possible for aggressive cancer cells to flourish. Knowing how the cells are able to survive and thrive in the abdomen could help develop better treatments for the disease that may prevent the spread of cells from the original tumor to the peritoneal cavity. When ovarian cancer cells spread through the peritoneal cavity, a patient’s survival rate is just 30 percent. Learn more about the findings here.

AI Being Used in Cancer Care

Some researchers are answering the question of how artificial intelligence will play a role in the future of treating cancer. A new telescope developed at Rice University could be a game changer for cancer surgeries, says texasmonthly.com. Using artificial intelligence, it can take a lot of the guess work out of analyzing tissue and could save valuable time during surgeries. Find out how here.

Artificial intelligence is also being used to develop a technique to diagnose prostate cancer, reports phys.org. The technique is almost 100 percent accurate and can diagnose prostate cancer from urine within 20 minutes. This new technique is less invasive and much more accurate than current prostate cancer testing. Learn more about the development of the new technique here.

Cell Hibernation

Finally, who isn’t asking what bears and cancer cells have in common? It’s hibernation, of course! Cancer cells can go into a type of hibernation as a means of surviving chemotherapy, reports scitechdaily.com. Research shows that cancer cells have the ability to become sluggish and enter a slow-dividing state of rest to protect themselves when threatened by chemotherapy or other targeted therapies. They hibernate, just like bears, until the threat is gone, and they can resume their normal state of growth. The information helps look at chemotherapy-resistant cancers and how to better treat them. The study also showed that cancer regrowth can be prevented when therapies target cancer cells in their slow-dividing state of rest. Learn more about hibernating cancer cells here.

December 2020 Notable News

This month there is a lot of promising news giving hope to the possibility of a brighter, better new year. A better understanding of why humans are prone to advanced cancers and more knowledge about obesity as a risk factor, coupled with advances in targeted therapies and combinations of medications to better treat myeloid leukemias, breast cancer, and get the immune cells involved are all helping to bring about better treatments and outcomes for cancer patients. However, the technology used to create the vaccine for the novel coronavirus Covid-19, that dominated the year and changed the world for us all, just may be the biggest game changer of all. It could revolutionize the way we treat cancers and many other diseases.

The Covid-19 vaccines use a technology that could lead to managing other diseases, like cancer and heart disease, reports bloomberg.com. The technology, called mRNA therapeutics, uses messenger RNA in the vaccines to turn the body’s immune system into a factory with the healthy cells producing viral proteins that create a strong immune response. The approach has never-before been used outside of clinical experiments, and many researchers are stunned by how well it works. Cancer researchers have been studying the technology for 20 years, and the vaccine was able to be created so quickly due to what they knew from working on developing cancer vaccines. These vaccines could lead to a whole new field of medicine, with mRNA drugs for treating cancer expected to be approved in two or three years. It’s possible all infectious disease vaccines will use the technology in the next ten to 20 years, as the method is faster and cheaper than current options. The hope is to use mRNA to create flu vaccines, heart failure treatments, an HIV vaccine, and much more. Learn more about the exciting mRNA possibilities here.

When compared to our closest cousin, the chimpanzee, humans have a high risk of developing advanced cancers, and researchers now think they know why, says sciencedaily.com. New research shows that there is an evolutionary genetic mutation that is unique to humans. The SIGLEC12 gene was eliminated by the body because it lost its ability to distinguish between self and invading microbes. However, it’s not completely gone from the population, and it can be a problem for the 30 percent of people who still produce SIGLEC12 proteins. Those people, when compared to people who don’t produce the proteins, are at more than twice the risk of developing an advanced cancer during their lifetimes. Researchers are hoping to use the information to help determine who is most likely to get advanced cancers, and have developed a simple urine test to detect the proteins. Learn more about this evolutionary snafu here.

In another story about cancer risk from sciencedaily.com, researchers better understand the relationship between obesity and cancer. Obesity is linked to increased risk for more than a dozen types of cancer, as well as a worse prognosis and chance of survival. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered that obesity provides the right environment for cancer cells to take fuel away from cancer-fighting T cells. Cancer cells respond to increased fat availability by reprograming themselves to eat fat molecules and thus deprive T cells of fuel. Get more information here.

When it comes to treating cancer, better therapies are discovered all the time, and now researchers have found a new class of targeted cancer drugs that may effectively treat some common types of leukemia, reports medicalxpress.com. The drugs target and eliminate leukemia cells with TET2 mutations, which are one of the most common mutations found in myeloid leukemias. The findings show that a synthetic molecule called TETi76 can target and kill cancer cells in both early and fully developed phases of leukemia and may be more effective than current targeted therapies. Find out more here.

Speaking of more effective treatments, it turns out that some women with breast cancer might not have to undergo chemotherapy for treatment, reports nih.gov. Initial results from a clinical trial show that postmenopausal women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER 2)-negative breast cancer that has spread to one to three lymph nodes and has a low risk of recurrence won’t benefit from adding chemotherapy to hormone therapy. The trial also showed that premenopausal women with the same HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer characteristics did benefit from chemotherapy. The trial was made up of more than 9,000 women who were monitored for an average of five years and will continue to be followed, so more insights about breast cancer are expected to come out of the trial. Get more information about the trial here.

Another advancement in breast cancer treatment was reported by cancernetwork.com. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved margetuximab-cmkb (Margenza) in combination with chemotherapy to treat patients with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer who have received 2 or more prior anti-HER2 regimens. A study showed a 24 percent reduction in the risk of disease progression or death. More information is available here.

Immunotherapies have helped change the way many cancers are treated, and the process is still evolving. Researchers at Purdue University have created a new immunotherapy treatment, reports purdue.edu. The new treatment focuses on the immune system and has been shown to work in six different tumor types by reprograming the immune cells within the tumor to kill the tumor rather than giving it the chance to grow. The technique could be used to treat many types of cancers because the nonmalignant immune cells that are in the different types of tumors tend to be similar. Folate, a type of vitamin B, is used to deliver the anti-cancer drugs to the cells. The new therapy could be available within ten years. Learn more about the new therapy here.

Immunotherapies used to treat advanced cancers don’t always work for everyone, but now researchers have found that two cholesterol lowering drugs might improve the effectiveness of these therapies, reports cancer.gov. Studies show that when evolocumb (Repatha) and alirocumab (Praluent) are used on their own and in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors, they slowed the growth of tumors. The drugs, approved by the FDA since 2015 are considered safe, can be taken at home, and are less expensive than many cancer therapies. Learn more here.

November 2020 Notable News

If you or someone in your life has been affected by cancer, you probably know that cancer isn’t fair, but the evidence is mounting that, when it comes to cancer diagnosis and treatment, cancer may be particularly unfair to those who are of lower income or who are minorities. This month there is also evidence that vitamin D could help lower cancer risk if you have the right BMI, a popular gameshow host made us all very aware of pancreatic cancer during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month, and WHO has launched big plans to eliminate cervical cancer.

Poverty and Cancer

Poverty is known to put people at a higher risk of dying from cancer, and in a new study, the National Cancer Institute took a closer look at the relationship between poverty and cancer deaths, reports cancer.gov. The study revealed that people in the United States, who live in counties with persistent poverty, have a higher risk of dying from cancer. Counties with persistent poverty are identified by the US census as having had 20 percent or more of the population living below the federal poverty level from 1980 to the present day. Twelve percent of the counties in the US are considered persistent poverty counties, and many of them are in the southeastern part of the country. The counties are mainly rural and have a high percentage of Black and Hispanic residents. Between 2007 and 2011, cancer deaths were higher in counties with persistent poverty. The study specifically showed an increased risk of dying from lung, colorectal, stomach, and liver cancers. The findings reveal the widespread need to address the disparities among those living in poverty who are diagnosed with, and are at risk of, developing cancer. More information can be found here.

Inequities in Lung Cancer

Another report reveals further inequities when it comes to lung cancer treatment and survival rates. Black Americans, and in particular Black males, are more likely to get lung cancer and less likely to survive it, reports healthline.com. When Black Americans are diagnosed, the cancer is more likely to be in a later stage and to have spread to other parts of the body, making it harder to treat. No matter when they are diagnosed, Black Americans tend to have worse outcomes. Past studies have shown that Black patients are 66 percent less likely than white patients to get quality treatment for lung cancer. Many factors are involved, but there is research that shows that bias and racism in the healthcare system affects the quality of care given to racial and ethnic minorities. Learn more about the healthcare disparity affecting Black Americans and what can be done about it here.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D may reduce your risk of cancer, but only if you are at a healthy weight, reports medicalxpress.com. People who live near the equator, where they have a high exposure to vitamin D-producing sunlight, have lower incidence of and lower death rates from some cancers. However, clinical trial results have not shown vitamin D to have much effect on cancer, despite the fact that vitamin D deficiency is present in 72 percent of cancer patients. A study known as the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL), which ended in 2018, found that vitamin D did not reduce cancer. However, researchers are analyzing the VITAL data again and think they have found the link between vitamin D and a reduction in cancer risk. The connection seems to be body mass. Researchers found, that when vitamin D supplements were used, the overall risk reduction for advanced cancer was 17 percent. However, the risk reduction increased to 38 percent in study participants with a normal body mass index. Find out more about vitamin D and cancer here.

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

November is the month dedicated to pancreatic cancer awareness, and despite losing popular “Jeopardy!” host, Alex Trebek, to the disease early in the month, the outlook on pancreatic cancer is improving, reports medicalxpress.com. The improved outlook is a result of advances in screening, early detection for high-risk people, and treatment. Advances in MRI technology are used for screening and detection, and improvements in chemotherapy have increased the chance of removing tumors. A diabetes diagnosis can also help find the cancer early, while it is still curable. In this small number of cases, the diabetes diagnosis is unexpected and is actually being caused by the cancer. Researchers continue to focus on early diagnosis, and there have been promising advances in that as well, including a potential stool test like the Cologuard test that is used to screen for colon cancer. Trebek, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer on November 8, was able to posthumously address his audience on World Pancreatic Cancer Day, November 19. He described the disease as terrible and urged people to see their doctors if they experienced symptoms. Per mayoclinic.org, pancreatic cancer symptoms include abdominal pain that radiates to your back, loss of appetite or unintended weight loss, yellowing of skin and whites of your eyes (jaundice), light-colored stools, dark-colored urine, itchy skin, new diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that’s becoming more difficult to control, blood clots, and fatigue. Learn more about the positive developments for pancreatic cancer here. See Alex Trebek’s posthumous message on World Pancreatic Cancer Day here. See the Mayo Clinic’s list of pancreatic cancer symptoms here.

Cervical Cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched its strategy to eliminate cervical cancer, reports who.int. WHO hopes with vaccination, screening, and treatment, more than 40 percent of new cases and 5 million deaths will be reduced by 2050. This is the first time that 194 countries will come together with a commitment to eliminate cancer. Cervical cancer is preventable, and it is curable if detected early and treated properly. However, for women, it is the fourth most common cancer in the world. If no changes are made to address cervical cancer, the number of new cases is expected to increase from 570,000 to 700,000 each year, and the number of deaths may increase from 311,000 to 400,000 each year. Find more information about the WHO strategy to eliminate cervical cancer here.

Notable News: October 2020

Researchers have been studying cancer for a long time, and now there is a timeline listing some of the most important milestones over the past 250 years. It’s exciting to think that some of the latest discoveries, involving a plant virus, extra DNA in cancer cells, the best time of day to exercise, and who isn’t getting enough breast cancer screenings, could one day be added to the timeline.

Timeline of Cancer Research

The National Cancer Institute, cancer.gov, has put together the timeline of cancer research to highlight some of the most critical milestones during the past 250 years. The timeline begins in 1775, when the first clear link between environmental exposure and cancer was documented. Percival Pott connected the exposure to chimney soot and the occurrence of squamous cell carcinoma in the scrotum of chimney sweeps. Also of note, the first mastectomy to treat breast cancer was done in 1882, and the link between cancer and inflammation was first observed in 1863. In 1903, radiation was used to cure cancer for the first time. It was used to successfully treat two patients with the skin cancer basal cell carcinoma. The Pap Smear test was invented in 1928, and in 1937, the National Cancer Institute was established through legislation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1941, hormonal therapies to treat prostate cancer were discovered and are still used to this day. The timeline includes critical discoveries and advances in treatment through 2020 and can be found here.

Plant Virus

A plant virus could be a new source for cancer treatment, reports wired.com. The treatment is based on the cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) that infects cowpea plants, a variety of which are the source for black-eyed peas. The virus doesn’t reproduce in mammals like it does in plants, but it does prompt the immune system to respond, which makes researchers hopeful that it could treat a lot of cancers. The body doesn’t always recognize cancerous cells when they appear, but the virus will hopefully help the body’s immune systems recognize the cancer cells and attack them. The study is now being done in dogs that have a common type of oral cancer. When the virus is injected into the cancerous cells in the dogs, their immune systems recognize it as foreign and attack the virus while also attacking the cancerous cells. So far CPMV has proven more effective than other viruses at triggering the immune system response. Learn more about CPMV and how it could one day be used to treat cancer in humans here.

ecDNA Linked to Tumor Growth

Some extra DNA floating around in cancer cells could teach us a lot about tumor growth and drug resistance, reports cen.acs.org. Decades ago, scientists noticed round circle pieces of DNA floating around in cancer cells, and even though that’s not normal, the pieces were mostly ignored. That changed over the past ten years as scientists have been taking a closer look at the extra DNA, now called extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA). In addition to learning that ecDNA are linked to tumor growth and drug resistance, scientists have found evidence that they exist in at least 15 percent of tumors. They appear to be more common in breast, cervical, and esophageal cancers, and a hard-to-treat brain tumor called glioblastoma. Researchers also found that people with ecDNA in their tumors have lower five-year survival rates. Researchers are now hoping to learn more about ecDNA and hope it is the key to effectively treating some hard to treat cancers like glioblastoma. Read more here.

Exercise Early to Prevent Cancer

By now we have probably all heard that exercise helps reduce cancer risk, but the time of day you exercise may be important as well, reports medicalnewstoday.com. New research indicates that people who exercise between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. are less likely to get cancer than people who exercise later in the day. The effect exercise has on circadian rhythm and production of melatonin may be part of the reason the timing matters because both have been shown to have links to a person’s risk of developing cancer. Researchers found that exercising between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. had the best effect on reducing breast and prostate cancers. While the study results couldn’t be confirmed with certainty, it might be worth adjusting your workout time. Learn more about the study here.

Breast Cancer Screenings

Screenings have proven to be important in treating cancer, but not everyone is getting the screenings they need. Women in the United States who speak only Spanish are 27 percent less likely to get breast cancer screenings, reports medicalnewstoday.com. A new study, based on data from the 2015 National Health Survey, led researchers to estimate that 450,000 women aged 40-75 had never gotten a mammogram. The consequences of not being screened can be life threatening, as breast cancer often has no symptoms, and the chances of surviving are greater when the cancer is detected early. One of the reasons researchers found that the Spanish only speakers weren’t getting screened is because they may consider themselves at low risk. Breast cancer does affect fewer Hispanic women than non-Hispanic white women, but it is still the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women. Find more information about the study and recommended screening guidelines here.

While much of October is spent raising awareness about breast cancer screenings, sometimes it’s important to look at some of the other aspects of a cancer diagnosis, such as the financial implications. After a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent MRSA infections, a finance and credit card expert learned a lot about medical debt, and she shares her story and tips for how to manage medical bills here. It’s an interesting and informative must read for those with medical debt.

Whether or not any of these studies will end up on future versions of the NCI milestone timeline remains to be seen. In the meantime, if they help any one person survive cancer, that feels monumental enough.

September 2020 Notable News

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.

Cancer Screenings

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.

Honeybee Venom

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.

Notable News July 2020

It seems like everyone is talking about the Broadway musical Hamilton this month, so let’s take a cue from A.Ham himself and rise up because sitting is proving, yet again, to not be so good for us. Also, not good yet again? Covid-19. It’s especially not good for people with cancer. What is good? Advances in cancer treatment and a blood test that delivers super early cancer detection.

PanSeer

PanSeer is a non-invasive blood test that can detect five types of cancer up to four years earlier than current methods of diagnosis, reports theguardian.com. The blood test is not a cancer predictor, but instead is finding cancers before they cause symptoms or are detected through other screening methods. The test is not able to indicate the type of cancer a patient has, but, with further research, shows promise for early, non-invasive diagnosis. You can learn more here and here.

Photodynamic Therapies

Also showing promise is research regarding skin cancer treatments that could be used to treat other types of cancer, reports medicalxpress.com. Photodynamic therapies (PDT) which use light to treat skin cancers by destroying cancerous and precancerous cells could possibly be used to treat other types of cancers thanks to the development of silica nanocapsules that can be used to convert near-infrared light to visible light. Right now, PDT only works if the tumors are on or under the skin because it works with visible light to activate medications that are injected into unhealthy tissue. However, since near-infrared light can get deeper into the tissues and then be converted into visible light by the silica nanocapsules, the treatment becomes more versatile. Learn more about the process here.

Good Diet Improves Treatment

Speaking of versatile, changing your diet could really help during breast cancer treatment, says cancernetwork.com. Recently reported study findings show that a fasting mimicking diet is safe and effective during chemotherapy in women with early breast cancer. The diet appears to have a positive effect on how well the cancer treatment works, and also reduces the side effects caused by the treatment. Basically, the research found that when fasting, there were less nutrients and insulin for the healthy cells to address, indicating the body should conserve energy and put healthy cells into maintenance mode. Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells, so instead of attacking the less-active healthy cells, it would easily find the malignant cells which don’t pick up on body signals and continue to divide despite the fast. Fasting mimicking diets are low-calorie, low-protein, low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet plans that trick your body into thinking it is fasting. You can learn more about fasting mimicking diets and breast cancer treatments here and here.

Cancer and COVID-19

The sooner we can get a treatment for Covid-19, the better, but in the meantime, cancer patients need to be especially diligent about avoiding the virus. The longer you have had cancer, the higher your risk of a severe Covid-19 infection, says technologynetworks.com. Research has found that people who were diagnosed with cancer 2 years or more ago are more likely to have a severe Covid-19 infection. While there are not a lot of studies regarding cancer patients and Covid-19, one study of 156 cancer patients with confirmed Covid-19 infection showed that 22 percent of the patients died from the infection, and those who had been diagnosed two years or more prior to infection were at a higher risk of dying. Symptoms of Covid-19 can mimic cancer symptoms or the affects of cancer treatments, so it can be hard to diagnose Covid-19 in cancer patients, which could result in more severe infections or higher death rates. Learn more about the study here.

Activity Decreases Cancer Risk

Avoiding exposure to the coronavirus may keep some of us out of the gym, but we still need to get moving, otherwise we increase our risk of dying from cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. In a study where patient activity level was tracked through hip monitors, researchers found that the amount of time people are sedentary puts them at a higher risk for dying from cancer. Researchers also found that being physically active for 30 minutes a day decreased the risk of dying from cancer. Vigorous exercise decreased the risk 31 percent and light exercise decreased the risk 8 percent. The increased activity doesn’t have to be all at once, either. It can be as simple as standing for five minutes every hour while you are at work. Instead of thinking you must get out there and exercise for thirty minutes at a time, think, ‘sit less, move more,’ throughout your day. Find more information here.

June 2020 Notable News

It’s officially summer so grab a cup of coffee and soak up some vitamin D because this month we learn that both of those things can help prevent cancer. We also learn about the recall of a popular drug and the approval of some others. In addition, there’s a new blood test to diagnose liver cancer and some tips on how to recognize skin cancer. Finally, research shows that COVID-19 remains a very real threat, especially for cancer patients.

Vitamin D and Coffee Benefits

With so much going on, your vitamin D status may not be on your mind, but you might want to give it some thought, reports sciencedaily.com. It turns out that a good vitamin D status is good for cancer prevention and prognosis, especially for colon and blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Conversely, a low vitamin D status often correlates with higher incidence of cancer and lower survival rates. You can learn more about vitamin D and cancer here.

While you’re out soaking up the vitamin D from the sun’s rays, you might want to bring your favorite cup of coffee because there’s evidence that coffee could reduce the risk of cancer, reports dailycoffeenews.com. The news comes from an update in the diet activity guidelines from the American Cancer Society. It’s not known how or why coffee seems to help prevent several types of cancers, but there’s been a decade of research that supports the claim. In addition to coffee, the American Cancer Society recommends following a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that diet and exercise lifestyle choices are connected to 18 percent of all cancer cases in the United States. Learn more about coffee and cancer here.

Take a Look at Your Skin

All this talk about sun exposure makes it a good time to think about skin cancer. Especially since there’s room for improvement in skin cancer survival rates, says consumerreports.org. Getting to know your own skin could be the key to survival. A Consumer Reports survey found that only 52 percent of Americans have their skin regularly checked by a doctor. There’s debate about whether or not everyone should see a dermatologist every year, but early detection of skin cancer makes a big difference. When skin cancer is found early treatment is relatively non-invasive and early stage melanoma has a 98 percent survival rate. So, whether you see a doctor or not, you should perform monthly skin checks of your own. Get familiar with the moles and marks on your skin and look for any that don’t seem to fit in. If you find something that looks irregular, let your doctor know. Learn more and find examples of what skin cancer looks like here.

Metformin Hydrochloride Recall

While you’re checking your skin, you might also need to check your list of medications. A popular diabetes drug has been recalled due to cancer risk, reports webmd.com. All lots of metformin hydrochloride extended release 500 mg tablets were recalled due to the possibility that they contained high levels of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) which is a chemical thought to cause cancer. A test by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found higher than allowed levels of NDMA in one lot of metformin. Get more information about the recall here.

FDA Expands Indication for Gardasil 9

The FDA has given accelerated approval for the use of a vaccine to prevent head and neck cancers, reports statnews.com. The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil 9, is recommended for both males and females ages 9 through 45 to prevent several cancers. However, the vaccine was not previously recommended as prevention for head and neck cancers even though they are commonly caused by HPV in the United States. The hope is that, by including head and neck cancers in the list of cancers the vaccine prevents, it will raise awareness for and help prevent the occurrence of these types of cancers. Find more about Gardasil here.

Good News for Thyroid and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The FDA has also given accelerated approval for a drug to treat thyroid and lung cancer, says cancer.gov. The drug selpercatinib (Retevmo) will treat people with thyroid or non-small cell lung cancer with tumors that have a gene alteration called RET. The drug blocks the RET proteins and was shown to shrink tumors. Selpercatinib has fewer side effects than older RET blocking drugs. Accelerated approval means that, although the drug has not gone through all required levels of testing, it can be approved for use, but testing must continue while the product is on the market. The process is only used for drugs that treat serious or life-threatening diseases without better treatment options. Learn more about the accelerated approval of selpercatinib here.

Combatting Nausea

There’s another drug of note this month giving hope to advanced cancer patients who have nausea and vomiting, says cancer.gov. In a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute the drug olanzapine (Zyprexa) was found to reduce nausea and vomiting in advanced cancer patients. Olanzapine is an antipsychotic medication mainly used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and has also been used off-label to prevent nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. Learn more here.

Detecting Liver Cancer

The National Cancer Institute was also involved in a study where a blood test has been developed to determine which people are most likely to develop liver cancer, says cancer.gov. The simple blood test is used to check for exposure to certain viruses that lead to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) which is the most common form of liver cancer. The test could help lead to early diagnosis and treatment. Most patients with HCC are diagnosed when the cancer is advanced and incurable, but when caught early the prognosis is much better. With HCC on the rise in the US, a test that could help with early detection is welcome news. Learn more about the testing here.

COVID-19 Update

The not-so-welcome news continues about the novel coronavirus. There are some new studies that emphasize the danger of the coronavirus for cancer patients, reports apnews.com. The studies showed that current and former cancer patients who developed COVID-19 were more likely to die within a month than people without cancer. One study showed that 13 percent of cancer patients with COVID-19 died. Another study found the death rate to be 28 percent. The studies are a reminder of how critical it is for cancer patients to do all they can to follow safety guidelines so they can avoid contracting the virus. Find out more here.