Tag Archive for: cancer screenings

May 2021 Notable News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 – October 2019

Boo! It’s October, the month of all things frightful, tricks and treats, and dressing up in superhero costume. In the news this month, there’s a super scary shortage of medication that could be a nightmare for some kids, researchers may have some tricks up their sleeves to combat chemo brain, a former NFL player is treating women to cancer screenings, and a superhero alliance has formed to take on cancer at the earliest stages. So, grab your pumpkin spice latte and read on!

The International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection formed this month, reports nature.com, and joins research teams from the United States and the United Kingdom. Just as the name implies, the group is focused on diagnosing and treating cancer in the early stages. Stanford University, Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester, and University College London make up the alliance. Advances in cancer research and imaging have made early cancer detection more possible and the alliance hopes that they can further develop testing to be more accurate, helping to improve cancer treatment and survival rates. Find out more about the newly formed alliance here.

Another superhero to many is a former NFL player who knows just how devastating breast cancer can be. Each year more than 42,000 women and men die from the disease. Helping to limit the number of breast cancer deaths is DeAngelo Williams, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams has sponsored over 500 mammograms since 2015, reports today.com. He lost his mother and four aunts to the disease and says he covers the cost of screenings in their honor. Williams has a nonprofit organization that pays for mammograms at hospitals in cities in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Learn more here.

What’s not being provided this month is the proper supply of a crucial cancer drug. The truly frightening shortage of a cancer medication is keeping some kids from getting the doses they need, reports abcnews.go.com. Vincristine is a chemotherapy medication used to treat childhood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. It is a low-cost, generic medication that is now having to be rationed by doctors. As of July 2019, Pfizer is the only supplier of vincristine in the United States and has reported a shortage due to manufacturing delays. Teva Pharmaceuticals stopped supplying the drug in July. This type of drug shortage can be a matter of life or death to a child with cancer, but to the pharmaceutical companies, it may be about profitability. Drugs like vincristine don’t have a large profit margin so the companies don’t feel compelled to keep producing them. Pfizer is hustling to increase production and the FDA expects the vincristine supply to recover by January 2020, but in the meantime, there is no equivalent drug available. Learn more about the drug shortage and the children it is effecting here.

The good news is that there is no short supply of hope when great research is being done. For patients who feel like zombies thanks to chemo brain, there’s new hope for a solution in the future, reports medicalxpress.com. Scientists have discovered that there may be a link between the brain fog known as chemo brain and how harsh chemotherapy can be on the digestive system. Using mice for testing, researchers are investigating whether or not the changes to the gut microbiome during chemotherapy are causing cognitive issues. The hope is that, if there is a connection, patients could be treated with prebiotics, probiotics, and diet to help prevent chemo brain. There’s much more to be done, but the theory is promising. Learn more here.