Notable News Archives

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.

Notable News: May 2020

Just in time for summer, there are a couple of compelling reminders of why we should all be exercising more. There’s also a new map for breast cancer, and a new vaccine that we’ve all been hoping for. No, not the one for Covid-19, but this one is equally important. Oh, and, speaking of infectious diseases, new research shows that getting an infectious disease could very possibly lead to cancer.

Researchers have found a link between infectious diseases and the development of cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. In a study that looked at data from more than 50,000 people over a period of seven years, researchers determined that people who had had an infectious disease, such as influenza, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, and hepatitis, had a higher risk of developing a later cancer. In addition, different infections were linked to different forms of cancer. For example, people who had pneumonia were more likely to later develop stomach cancer. More research needs to be done to fully understand the connection but, knowing that there is a link between some diseases and future cancer occurrence could help in developing better cancer screenings and diagnostic testing. It could also help us all work harder at staying as healthy as possible. Learn more here.

Like it or not, a great way to actively try to stay healthy is through exercise. Research continues to show that exercise is beneficial for cancer treatment and prevention. More specifically, a new study shows that exercise may help prevent liver cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. This is particularly good news because liver cancer is on the rise and it is deadly. The general five-year survival rate is 18 percent. Men are at a higher risk of developing liver cancer, and it is the fastest growing cause of cancer death for men in the United States. The study, performed on mice, found that exercise reduced the occurrence of liver cancer. While all the mice in the study were obese, only 15 percent of the mice who exercised developed liver cancer. Of the mice that didn’t exercise, 64 percent developed liver cancer. In addition to establishing the link between exercise and liver health, the researchers also discovered molecular reasons why exercise may prevent liver cancer. They found that exercise switched off a stress-activated protein that has been found to support tumor development and turned on a gene that has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Hop on the treadmill and learn more about the study here.

Exercise can not only prevent cancer, it can also increase your chance of survival. A new study shows that exercise increases the length of survival for women with high-risk breast cancers, reports cancer.gov. High-risk breast cancers are more likely to recur or spread, but the study showed that women who were physically active were more likely to live longer and were less likely to have their cancer recur. While those who exercised the most and the most often showed a greater reduction in rates of recurrence and chance of death, there were positive outcomes for those who exercised during any stage of their diagnosis and treatment. Learn more about the positive effect exercise can have on breast cancer survival rates here.

There’s encouraging news in breast cancer prevention as well. A new guide has been developed to show how environmental toxins can lead to breast cancer, reports medicalxpress.com. Since only five to ten percent of breast cancers are a result of high-risk, inherited gene mutations, researchers wanted to better understand the role toxic chemicals play in the development of breast cancer. Using radiation exposure as a model, researchers identified the sequential biological changes that occur through exposure to toxic chemicals. The information was used to create a map highlighting the various ways toxins can lead to breast cancer. Researchers hope their map will be used in the development and regulation of chemicals. Knowing which chemicals can trigger breast cancer could help in reducing the number of breast cancer cases. More information can be found here.

Of course, the ultimate form of cancer prevention might be a vaccine and researchers are getting closer to making that a reality. A new and promising cancer vaccine has been developed, reports techtimes.com and medicalxpress.com. The vaccine was developed using microcapsules and when the vaccine is injected, the microcapsules, which have a self-healing component, activate the immune system, and inhibit tumor development. The vaccine showed effectiveness against different types of tumors including melanoma, breast cancer, and lymphoma. More information about how the vaccine was developed and how it works in the body can be found here and here.

It’s nice to know that the scientists are out there doing the research and working on creating important vaccines that give us hope for a healthier tomorrow, but it’s also nice to know that simply by taking a walk or a run or a bike ride and by washing our hands or wearing a mask or keeping our distance, we are all taking important steps toward being empowered patients today.

Notable News – April 2020

The novel coronavirus continues to dominate the news and affect just about everyone, but it’s not the only news this month. There’s a newly approved drug to treat breast cancer, some pretty cool bacteria in your gut, and a potential way to turn off cancer. We’ll get to all the good stuff but, we can’t ignore the coronavirus because it’s changing the way we treat cancer, so let’s start there.

While there is some evidence that our social distancing efforts are helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has plagued the globe for the better part of 2020, the threat of Covid-19 is still very real, and it is affecting how cancer patients are being treated, reports fredhutch.org. Many patients are finding that their treatments are being delayed, rescheduled, or put off altogether. The idea is to protect cancer patients, who are at higher risk for complications from Covid-19, from contracting the virus. That means keeping them out of emergency rooms and treatments centers. In addition, medical resources such as ventilators, masks, and gowns, and even time in the operating room, are in short supply so patients with less aggressive cancers may find that their surgeries are being delayed in order to lessen the burden on the supply. For many patients, the delay or change in treatment is safe, but for some patients, a delay in treatment could decrease their survival rate. Determining how to treat cancer patients during this global pandemic is difficult for doctors because the risks and the stakes are so high. Fortunately, adjustments are being made to cancer treatment guidelines so patients can continue to be safely treated. Wider usage of telehealth and drugs that can boost white blood cell counts during chemo, and screening patients for symptoms before allowing them into treatment centers are among the new procedures. Learn more about how Covid-19 is affecting how cancer is being treated here.

Another result of Covid-19 is the early release of a drug to treat breast cancers. This month, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Tukysa, or tucatinib, to be used in combination with chemotherapy to fight aggressive forms of breast cancer, reports geekwire.com. “We recognize that patients with cancer constitute a vulnerable population at risk of contracting the coronavirus disease,” Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Oncologic Diseases in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, stated in a news release from the FDA. “In this critical time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to patients with cancer and doing everything we can to expedite oncology product development. Tukysa was approved four months prior to the FDA goal date, providing an example of this commitment and showing how our regular work in reviewing treatments for patients with cancer is moving forward without delay.” The drug will be used to treat adult patients with HER2 positive breast cancer that cannot be surgically removed and that has metastasized. HER2 positive breast cancer metastasizes to the brain in more than 25 percent of patients. Tucatinib targets the HER2 receptor and is taken as a daily pill. The drug costs an average of $111,000 per patient. More information can be found here and you can read the FDA’s news release about tucatinib here.

Thinking about the coronavirus might have everyone feeling a little bit queasy, but this news about gut bacteria might make you feel better. The communities of bacteria that live in your gut, the gut microbiota, might help treat cancer, says medicalnewstoday.com. A new study has shown that certain gut bacteria called Bifidobacterium can get inside tumors in the gut, activate the immune system, and improve the effectiveness of a cancer treating immunotherapy called CD47 blockade immunotherapy. The study performed on mice showed that the treatment worked better for mice with high levels of Bifidobacterium than it did for the mice without. This research could provide insight into why some patients respond better to immunotherapy than others and could lead to more effective immunotherapy treatments. Find more information about the study here.

We may all be wishing for an off switch for the coronavirus right now, but there may actually be one for cancer. Researchers have found a specific site where they can potentially stop the growth of many types of cancer, reports medicalxpress.com. For some time, scientists have known about molecules that interact with tumor suppressor proteins, called PP2A. The PP2A proteins act as an off switch for cancer and stop its growth. However, scientists didn’t know where the molecules interacted with the PP2A proteins, so they couldn’t use the information to make cancer-treating drugs. Using cryo-electron microscopy to get 3D images of where the molecule is bound to the PP2A proteins they could see how the different parts of the protein were brought together. The new information is a step toward developing drugs that could activate these tumor suppressor proteins. PP2A proteins may also be helpful in treating cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases like heart failure and Alzheimer’s. Get more information here.

Hopefully, the coronavirus off switch will be developed soon, but in the meantime, stay safe and stay tuned next month for more Notable News.

Notable News January 2020

From our own immune systems to turmeric, researchers are searching just about everywhere to help put a stop to cancer. The possibilities are endless and the advancements are remarkable. A new treatment or a cure could be anywhere. And, acupuncture can help, too!

It turns out that acupuncture could be the solution to a particularly troublesome and painful side effect from chemotherapy, reports bbc.com. In a patient study, acupuncture was found to relieve chemotherapy neuropathy, which is nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet, that causes tingling, numbness, and other symptoms. More severe cases can be very painful and affect a patient’s quality of life. The three year study of 120 patients showed that, with regular acupuncture treatment, patients found relief from the pain of neuropathy. Learn more here.

Of course, chemotherapy and its side effects might eventually fade into the past. It’s looking more and more like a cure to cancer might very well be inside each of us. Scientists have found a T-cell in our immune systems that can check the body for cancer cells, attack and kill them, and leave the healthy cells alone, reports BBC.com. The discovery was made by British scientists while they were analyzing blood for immune cells that could fight bacteria, says theblaze.com. Instead, they discovered a T-cell that can attack many different cancers, including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney, and cervical cancers. The study findings suggest that one therapy could be developed to treat all cancers, which is different than the current and very specific immunotherapies. Treatment would involve taking a blood sample from the patient, extracting, modifying, and producing more of the T-cells, and then putting the newly modified T-cells back in the patient to seek out and destroy the cancerous cells. So far the research has been tested on animals and is not yet ready for human testing, but the researchers hope to be able to test the treatment in patients by the end of the year. You can learn more here, and here, and even more here.

Also new in cancer treatment is a medication providing hope for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients, notes cancer.gov. The drug, CC-486, is a pill that patients can take at home (as opposed to AML therapy, azacitidine, which is an injection or infusion that is given at the doctor’s office or hospital), and it is the first AML maintenance therapy that extends remission and shows an increase in patient survival. CC-486 was tested in a clinical trial of almost 500 AML patients, age 55 or older. The study found that the patients who took CC-486 survived 10 months longer than those who did not take it, and the pill also extended how long the patients stayed in remission. More studies of CC-486 are being done to determine how it might best be used to transform the treatment of AML in the future. Find out more here.

While new therapies are being discovered, there are also some new cancer fighting drugs that aren’t so new at all, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers discovered about 50 already-existing drugs, used to treat conditions such as diabetes, inflammation, and high cholesterol, that also have cancer fighting properties. To identify which already circulating medications might be able to be used to treat cancer, researchers used a drug hub that contains more than 6,000 drugs which are FDA-approved or proven safe through clinical trials. The findings determined that the medications killed cancer cells in ways that most cancer drugs typically don’t. Existing cancer drugs tend to block proteins to be effective against the cancer cells, but the non-oncology drugs that were tested worked against the cancer cells by activating or stabilizing proteins. The researchers are continuing to analyze their data and have shared it openly with the rest of the scientific community. Find more information here.

Some other potential cancer fighters that already exist include salt, turmeric, and bitter melon, reports medicalnewstoday.com. Information about a new study where salt has been successfully used to kill cancer cells can be found here. Between 1924 and 2018 there have been 12,595 papers studying the healing properties of turmeric and 37 percent of those have focused on cancer. Learn more about whether or not turmeric is a viable option for treating cancer here. There is also a study that shows that bitter melon, a traditional Indian remedy, might be effective in preventing the spread of cancer. Read more about that study here.

Whether the study is about immunotherapy or salt, all the research suggests the same thing: until we can put a stop to cancer, researchers will never stop searching for a cure.

Notable News: December 2019

While 2019 is nearing its end, there are all kinds of new beginnings in cancer research. Scientists are finding new and exciting discoveries that could lead to fine-tuned cancer treatments specific to each person, each type of cancer, and each response the body has to treatment. Using tropical flowers, mitochondria, and an off switch for cells, researchers keep finding new paths to treatment for even the most difficult and deadly cancers. Of course, that doesn’t mean we need to forget about prevention; there continues to be new information about how our lifestyles could affect our cancer risk, right down to our hair color.

A trip to the hair salon might mean an increased cancer risk, reports ecowatch.com. A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that permanent hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners might put women at an increased risk for cancer. The study found that women who used permanent hair color were nine percent more likely to get breast cancer. Black women, though less likely to use hair dye, had the most notable risk. They showed a 45 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women who used hair straighteners had an 18 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Frequency of use posed a problem, too. Hair products can contain more than 5,000 chemicals, including formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. This study’s findings aren’t enough to draw a definitive link between the hair products and breast cancer, and no warnings have been issued about using hair products, but the findings do indicate that more research needs to be done to determine whether or not there is a connection. Read more about this study here.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just switch off a cell to prevent tumors from growing and spreading? It might be possible, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers have discovered what could be a new cancer immunotherapy treatment for patients who haven’t responded to other types of immunotherapy. The study, done on mice, shows that many tumors display the molecule MR1, which keeps the body from fighting the cancer cells. Researchers found that when they gave the mice an antibody that blocked the MR1 cell, cancer fighting cells could come in to slow cancer growth and prevent it from spreading. With this new information, doctors would be able to screen patients to see if they have the MR1 cell, and determine if they would respond to the potential new immunotherapy. Researchers now want to apply what they’ve learned to human tumors. You can learn more about the findings here.

Another treatment-related discovery is that there might be an alarm at the molecular level that serves as an alert when cancers have become resistant to treatment, reports sciencedaily.com. Mitochondria, which are present in most cells, can sense DNA stress which can indicate when cancer cells have developed resistance to chemotherapy, researchers found. The findings could lead to new cancer treatments that would prevent chemotherapy resistance, making it more effective. See the details about this discovery here.

Also from sciencedaily.com, we’ve learned that a tropical flower might hold the answer to treating pancreatic cancer. The plant, Uvaria Grandiflora, grows in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and its flower contains a chemical that researchers have used as a model to create three new molecules which they hope could treat pancreatic cancer. All three of the molecules have shown that they kill pancreatic cancer cells in a Petri dish, and while the potential drug trials are more than five years away, these molecules could become new drugs for treating pancreatic cancer that would be more effective and less toxic than current treatments. You can find more information here.

As you say goodbye to 2019, we hope you will continue to say hello to Patient Empowerment Network. We will continue to provide you the latest in cancer research news as we continue in our mission to empower patients, family members, and caregivers in innovative ways. We’re particularly proud of our digital sherpa™ program, which you can learn more about at voice.ons.org. Learn how the sherpas are used to enhance the experience of patients and nurses as told by Regina White, RN, MS, OCN at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Check it out here.

Happy, Healthy, New Year to all!

Notable News July 2019

So much for the dog days of Summer. July was a super active Notable News month full of information. There are risks and recalls to be aware of, along with some very encouraging news about exciting new research and treatments. So, while you may not want to hear that you should probably consider getting a colonoscopy ASAP, you’ll be relieved to learn that some cancers may have much less invasive diagnostic tools on the horizon. Oh, and there are a couple links to some really interesting (although alarming) longer reads; just in case you’re embracing the dog days, and need some reading material, this summer.

Increased Cancer Risk

Colon cancer is on the rise for people younger than 50, reports cbsnews.com. The rate has increased over the past decade from 10 percent of all cases to about 12 percent. While there is no concrete explanation as to why colon cancer is increasing among the younger age group, one possibility is that it is linked to modern diets and the gut microbiome. Conversely, colon cancer rates are declining among those 50 and older, largely because of colonoscopy screenings which detect polyps before they become cancerous. Find out more below.

Breast implants that have been linked to cancer are being recalled, according to nytimes.com. The textured implants were banned in Europe late last year and are now being recalled in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The implants are linked to anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. It is a rare cancer of the immune system that develops in the tissue around the implant. Removing the implant and scar tissue around it is effective in curing the cancer in most cases, but if it is not found early it can spread and be deadly. Symptoms are swelling and fluid around the implant, and patients should have symptoms checked by their doctor. More information about the implants can be found below.

There is a link between radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment and cancer deaths, says cancer.gov. RAI has been commonly used to treat hyperthyroidism since the 1940s. An association between the dose of RAI treatment and long-term risk of death from cancers, including breast cancer, has been found in a study led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute. More research is needed to better understand the risks and the benefits of the treatments, but in the meantime, the information will help patients discuss hyperthyroid treatment options with their doctors. More information about the research can be found below.

Treatment and Detection

Immunotherapy may work in treating brain cancer, says medicalxpress.com. Researchers have found a way to make the CAR T immune therapy more effective against glioblastoma, the most common and most deadly form of brain cancer. Previous research showed that not all of the tumors could be targeted by the T cells. So, in order to more strategically target the tumors, researchers used a bi-specific T-cell engager, or “BiTE”, that makes it possible for CAR T cancer-killing cells to be sent to specific targets, making the treatment more effective. Learn more about the complicated, but promising, process below.

There may be a better, non-invasive way to detect bladder cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. Researchers in Spain have proposed using electronic tongues. The devices can detect or “taste” soluble compounds by using software and sensors. The tongues, used to analyze food, water, wine, and explosives, can also be used to detect diseases by testing samples of biofluid. Using the tongues to test urine samples could be an easy and inexpensive way to detect bladder cancer in the early stages. Learn more about the proposed tongue testing below.

Researchers may have found a new way to treat ovarian cancer, according to medicalnewstoday.com. Researchers have identified an enzyme known as IDH1 that encourages the growth of high-grade serous ovarian cancer, the most common form of ovarian cancer. The cancer is difficult to detect in early stages and hard to treat because it often develops a resistance to chemotherapy. Researchers found that when they blocked the IDH1 enzyme, the cancer cells were unable to divide and grow. The research also suggests that blocking the enzyme works on the cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body as well as where the cancer originated. More information about this encouraging research can be found below.

Cancer-Causing Toxins

If you’ve never heard of ethylene oxide, you might want to consider reading the article ‘Residents Unaware of Cancer-Causing Toxins in Air’ from webmd.com. Ethylene oxide is an invisible chemical with no noticeable odor. It is used to sterilize medical equipment and make antifreeze, and it is on the EPA’s list of chemicals that definitely cause cancer. It is also an airborne toxin in areas that have been flagged as high-cancer risk, but many of the residents of those areas have no idea they are being exposed.

Another article worth reading this month can be found at huffpost.com. A new plastics plant is planning to come to an area in the middle of Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”, and the residents, tired of cancer-causing chemical pollutants, are fighting back. Read about their path to empowerment below.


Resource Links:

cbsnews.com

Colon Cancer Study Finds Colon Cancer Rates Rising for Patients Under 50

nytimes.com

Breast Implants Linked to Rare Cancer Are Recalled Worldwide

cancer.gov

NCI study finds long-term increased risk of cancer death following common treatment for hyperthyroidism

medicalxpress.com

Immune therapy takes a ‘BiTE’ out of brain cancer

medicalnewstoday.com

‘Electronic tongues’ may help diagnose early stage bladder cancer

Could targeting this enzyme halt ovarian cancer?

webmd.com

Residents Unaware of Cancer-Causing Toxin in Air

huffpost.com

A Community In America’s ‘Cancer Alley’ Fights For Its Life Against A Plastics Plant

Notable News – June 2019

It’s official! The nation’s cancer mortality rate continues to decline, says cancer.gov. The finding was revealed in this year’s annual report regarding the status of cancer in the country. The report shows that cancer death rates have continued to decline in men, women, and children from 1999 to 2016. Specifically, lung, bladder, and larynx cancers are decreasing, which is attributed to the decline in tobacco use. Conversely, cancers related to obesity are increasing. The highest overall cancer incidence rates occurred in black men and white women. The lowest rates were among Asian/Pacific Islander men and women. In addition, researchers looked specifically at cancer trends among those aged 20 to 49. In this group women had higher cancer and death rates than men, which is the opposite of the data among all age groups. Breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and melanoma were identified as the most common cancers on the rise among 20 to 49 year old women. The report, published last month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is put together by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the North American Association of Central Registries (NAACCR). Find more detailed information about the annual report here.

The decline in cancer deaths just may have a lot to do with the amazing strides being made in understanding cancer and its risk factors, ways to diagnose it, and ways to treat it. Researchers at Yale have made a discovery about how metastasis, the spread of cancer, occurs on the molecular level that could lead to new ways of treating cancer, reports medicalexpress.com. While the study focused on renal cancer, understanding metastasis on the molecular level could lead to new testing and treatment for all types of cancer. Find more information about the study and the metastasis process here.

It’s important to know if you are at risk for certain cancers and having children through IVF may be one of them, reports thesun.co.uk. A 21-year study analyzing over 600,000 Danish women suggests that women who have had children using IVF are more likely to develop breast cancer. In addition, women who had their first child through IVF when they were 40 or older, were 65 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women of the same age who conceived naturally. The drugs given to women during IVF to stimulate the ovaries may be the culprit. They increase levels of estrogen, a known factor in the occurrence of breast cancer. Make sure you are staying on top of your breast cancer screenings if you had children using IVF, and learn more about the study here.

Also reported by thesun.co.uk, is good news about early detection, specifically for prostate cancer. Scientists have developed a simple urine test that could show signs of prostate cancer five years early. The test, which could be available in as few as five years, looks for changes in specific genes. If the changes are noted, further testing is done. The process would mean that some men would not have to have invasive testing procedures and others would know of their prostate cancer risk earlier. Learn more about the promising new test here.

Finally, of interest this month is an article by theatlantic.com regarding the two technologies that are changing the future of cancer treatment, and the way in which oncologists are looking at treating the disease. The article points to immunotherapy and CAR T-cell therapy as kindler, gentler approaches to cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, which is the most successful treatment to date, as the article points out, can make the treatment process brutal. Oncologists are turning to the new therapies to treat cancer without the harsh side effects that come with chemo. The article is a quick read and it provides hope for anyone who is or may be affected by cancer. That means all of us. Check it out here.