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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 2018

Here we are on the cusp of another trip around the sun, and we have the opportunity to look forward to what the new year may bring. According to cancer.gov and cdc.gov, statistics found here and here, are encouraging when it comes to cancer survival rates. The number of cancer survivors in the United States is expected to reach 20.3 million by 2026. That’s good news for the 38.4 percent of men and women in the US that will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lifetimes. Of course, surviving cancer can be costly. Expenditures for cancer care, which were $147.3 billion in 2017, are expected to increase in the coming years thanks to factors such as a population that is aging and new and costlier treatments which are implemented as standards of care. While cancer care is expensive, it seems to be effective. The overall cancer death rate has been steadily declining in the US since the 1990s. In fact, from 1991 to 2015, the overall cancer death rate fell 26 percent. According to cdc.gov, by 2020 the cancer death rates are expected to drop the most for prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, female breast cancer, oral cancers, cervical cancers, and melanoma. With the death rate falling and the survivor rate increasing it’s clear that, over the past several years, progress has been made to effectively prevent and treat the disease. Fortunately, it looks like 2019 will follow that trend.

There are two promising cancer treatment developments this month, reports medicalnewstoday.com. The first one helps prevent the spread of cancer after surgery. A spray-on gel being developed could help stop the recurrence and spread of cancer tumors after surgery when it is applied to the surgery site. The gel is full of drugs that activate the immune system to prevent the return of the cancer. Testing done on mice has been promising. It prevented the recurrence of cancer at the surgery site and prevented tumors from forming in other areas of the body. You can find more details about the promising gel here.

The second development is an exciting combination of medications that may prevent tumor growth. A couple of years ago, researchers in Switzerland figured out that by combining metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, with syrosingopine, a blood pressure drug, they could prevent cancer tumors from growing. The combination of the two drugs kills the cancer cells by cutting off their energy supply. You can learn more about how this dynamic drug duo works together to sock it to cancer here.

There’s also good news regarding breast cancer this month, reports standard.co.uk. This is really good news because it gives hope to women with one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. There aren’t many treatment options for triple negative breast cancer, but targeted antibody therapies might change that. Triple negative breast cancer does not respond to hormone treatment so patients have to be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The targeted antibody therapy would activate the patient’s immune system to fight the tumor. More about this exciting and developing treatment can be found here.

Of course, the best news of all comes when the cancer is no longer detectable, and that’s exactly what happened for a Texas girl this month, reports abc7chicago.com. The 11 year old had a rare and inoperable brain tumor, and she went through weeks of radiation. The radiation can stabilize or shrink the tumor and is the only course of treatment, but there is no cure. Inexplicably, the girl’s scans revealed that the tumor was no longer visible. While doctors call this case extraordinary, they say the long-term prognosis has not changed, and the tumor will likely grow back. In the mean time, the family says they prayed for a miracle and got it. More about this remarkable story, and a video, can be found here.

As we ring in 2019, let’s hope for more encouraging research and remarkable stories, and a day when all cancers disappear.

Notable News: March 2018

Medicare-eligible cancer patients just got more access to genetic testing according to reuters.com. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will now pay for some genetic tests in order to help get patients the drugs most likely to benefit them. The coverage means that a patient’s test sample could be screened for all known gene mutations and potential treatments. Results can also be used to determine if a patient is eligible for clinical trials. Several in vitro diagnostic tests are covered and some future tests that gain approval by the Food and Drug Administration will be covered as well. Patients will also be covered for repeat testing of a new primary cancer diagnosis. More information about the coverage and genetic testing for medicare patients can be found here.
Vitamin D may protect against some cancers, reports sciencedaily.com. An international study conducted in Japan that followed more than 30,000 male and female participants for an average of 16 years found that higher levels of vitamin D were related to about a 20 percent reduction in cancer for both men and women. The study also showed a 30 to 50 percent reduction in liver cancer, mostly in men. The authors of the study say their findings support the theory that vitamin D protects against cancer, but they also note that more studies are needed to determine the optimum level of vitamin D to prevent cancer. You can find more details about this promising study here.
A diabetes drug may be able to stop the progression and spread of pancreatic cancer, says medicalnewstoday.com. The study, by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, is not the first to find metformin as a possible treatment for cancer, but it is the first to pinpoint why. The drug has an effect on the signaling of what is called the REarranged during Transfection (RET) cell and by targeting it with metformin it appears to prevent the progression of pancreatic cancer. The studies on metformin and the treatment of cancer have created interest in also using metformin as a potential in preventing cancer, especially in those who are at high risk. The scientists who conducted the Rutgers study say further studies need to be done to determine exactly how metformin affects RET signaling in pancreatic cancer. Learn more here.
Researchers may have found a better way to predict the effectiveness of drugs in cancer patients, reports cnbc.com. The researchers took biopsies from colorectal cancer patients and created what they are calling microtumors. They then treated the micro tumors with drugs and observed how well they worked. The method proved much faster than the previous method of growing cancer in mice which typically takes six to eight months. The micro tumors grow in six to eight weeks. The microtumor method is also less expensive and was more effective in predicting how well drugs will treat an individual’s cancer. The microtumor option will help doctors prescribe the best drug for their patients and according to the lead doctor of the study, patients are already in trials for the new process. More information about the microtumors and how they will help patients can be found here.