Tag Archive for: Notable News

May 2022 Notable News

This month brings exciting and new information to help with the fight on cancer. As technology improves, knowledge gathered about cancer changes how the medical community views and approaches cancer treatment. Early screening is the key to dramatically reduce colon and rectal cancers in women. There is also a rise in esophageal cancers in middle aged adults, early screening plays a key role in patient outcome.

New Evidence Shows Cancer is not as Heritable as Once Thought

Scientists have found that cause of cancer is not primarily genetic as once thought. There are three causes of cancer: genetic (genome), environmental (exposome), and metabolic (metabolome). As cancer develops and spreads in the body, it creates its own environment and introduces certain metabolites. It becomes a self-fueled disease, reports MedicalXpress.com . Looking at how the cancer grows and survives in the body offers another more specific avenue of treatment for physicians to offer their patients. Simple changes to a patient’s metabolism and lifestyle can change the internal environment and prevent the cancer from growing. Scientists looking at all three causes of cancer opens more options for cancer prevention and treatment. Find more information here.

Starting Colon, Rectal Cancer Screening Earlier Reduces Risk in Women, Study Finds

Starting colon and rectal cancer screening at ages 45 to 49 has resulted in about a 50% reduction in cases of the disease diagnosed in women ages 45 to 60, compared with starting screening at ages 50 to 54 reports, UPINews.comColon and rectal cancers are the third deadliest cancers and there has been rising rates among younger people. In response to the rising rates of occurrence, earlier screening has been encouraged by physicians. The standard procedure for screening is a colonoscopy. During the colonoscopy, the doctor can identify and remove cancerous tumors at an earlier stage and remove polyps that could become cancerous. Find more information here.

Alarming Rise Found in Esophageal Cancer and Barrett’s Esophagus in Middle-Aged Adults

Adults ages 45 to 64 experienced a nearly doubled rate of esophageal cancer and a 50 percent increase in the precancerous condition Barrett’s esophagus between 2012 and 2019 reports MedicalXpress.com . This information has prompted doctors and scientists to look at the causes of this rise, is it due to an increase in screening or is it an actual rise in cancer. Doctors use endoscopy to guide a small camera down the patient’s esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Esophageal cancer is usually detected in later stages due to minimal symptoms in the early stages. People with elevated risk factors such as chronic acid reflux, male gender, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, and Barrett’s esophagus need to get earlier screening. Early screening is the best tool in prevention, often the endoscopy can be done at the same time as the colonoscopy. Find more information here.

March 2022 Notable News

With all the research done in the field of oncology, we are still learning about the negative impact the pandemic has had on cancer patients. Covid has taken a toll on everyone, but it has hit cancer patients especially hard. March also brings some positive news, an exciting discovery that could lead to important advances in pancreatic cancer treatments. Finally, man’s best friend is also contributing to cancer prevention and cancer screening.

Covid’s Effects on Cancer Care

Cancer patients are more prone to severe coronavirus disease, some do not respond as well to COVID-19 vaccines, and they face delays in diagnosis and treatment due to the pandemic reports CancerHealth.com . During the pandemic and quarantine, people missed screening opportunities, and this is causing an increase in later stage cancer diagnosis. Patients with lung cancers and blood cancers are at a higher risk of having a more severe case of Covid and do not respond well to the vaccine. Cancer patients also face delays in needed treatments during the pandemic. Another negative impact of Covid is the toll it takes on a patient’s mental health due to isolation and financial stress. Racial minorities and people with lower incomes have been hit the hardest during the pandemic. Finally, cancer research has been negatively affected due to labs closing and clinical trials getting delayed. As a nation, we need to look at the toll Covid has taken on the field of oncology and make changes to lessen the impact of a pandemic in the future. Find more information here.

Molecule Discovered that Can Kill Pancreatic Cancer

A research team led by scientists at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has discovered a molecule that inhibits the growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells through the iron metabolism pathway reports MedicalXpress.com . This molecule works on iron metabolism to kill the cancer cells and proteins that cause cancer growth. A door has now opened for development of a new pancreatic cancer treatment. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells have mutations that make it difficult to treat with chemotherapy. This molecule causes ferroptosis, cell death triggered by iron, in PDAC which can lead to new and effective treatments. Find more information here.

Dogs Help Sniff Out Cancer

Cancer cells give off a specific odor—traces of which can be detected by dogs through human urine, breath, skin, sweat, and feces, reports HealthDigest.com . Dogs can smell this odor before the cancer spreads, allowing for early detection. Currently, there is an eight month long intensive training for detection dogs. The canine scent detection will be used as a screening tool. Research is being done as to what biologic compounds the dogs smell and then screening tests can be created based on those compounds. Find more information here.

January 2022 Notable News

January offers hope. This year is starting with many new and exciting advances in the areas of cancer diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. A simple blood test has been found to detect if a patient has cancer and if it has metastasized in the body. There are now new clues as to how ovarian cancer begins and therefore might be prevented. Cancers have been found to be sorted by immune archetypes to make more precise immunotherapies to treat the cancer. It is encouraging to see the results of the prevention efforts, there is new research to show that the HPV cancer vaccine is saving lives.

Blood Test for Cancer Detection

A University of Oxford study outlines a new type of blood test that can be used to detect a range of cancers and whether these cancers have spread (metastasized) in the body, reports MedicalXpress.com. This blood test can be helpful in finding and staging cancer in the future for patients with non-specific symptoms that concern the provider. This is the first simple blood test to find metastatic cancer without any prior knowledge of the cancer type. A different technique is used with this blood test, it uses magnetic fields and radio waves to profile metabolites from the cancer tumors in the blood. Early diagnosis of cancer offers a better prognosis for patients, this blood test is easily, quickly, and affordably done by a primary doctor. Find more information here.

Clues into Ovarian Cancer

In a new study, scientists used stem cells created from the blood samples of women with BRCA mutations and ovarian cancer to fashion a model of fallopian tube tissue. There, they found first hints of ovarian cancer in the fallopian tube tissue, reports U.S.News.com. The hope is that by studying this tissue, they can predict ovarian cancer many years in advance of it developing. Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths for women due in part to the subtlety of the symptoms. Women with BRCA-1 mutations have a much higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. If scientists can find the abnormalities in the fallopian tube tissue, they may be able to stop the cancer. Using this fallopian tissue, they may be able to test which drug is most effective on the cancer without having to expose the patient to the drug first. The findings of this study may allow doctors to have early detection of ovarian cancer and have more effective treatments for the patient. Find more information here.

Sorting Cancers to Develop Precision Treatments

Using data from over 300 patient tumors, researchers have described 12 classes of ‘immune archetypes’ to classify cancer tumors, reports Sciencedaily.com. This study showed that cancers from different parts of the body respond similarly immunologically. Tumors are made up of immune cells that are supposed to fight the cancer cells, but with cancer cells, they overpower the body’s immune cells and take over. These ‘immune archetypes’ allow for doctors to personalize each patient’s cancer immunotherapy. This information helps researchers explain why immunotherapy works for some patients and not others. These archetypes increase information needed by physicians to appropriately treat the cancer tumors with the right immunotherapy, thereby significantly improving patient outcomes. Find more information here.

HPV Vaccine Saves Lives

New data confirms that the vaccine is already saving lives. The number of cervical cancer cases and deaths among American women dropped after the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, according to a November 2021 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports mskcc.org. While this study speaks for itself, there are still many people afraid to get this vaccine for their children. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection with very severe consequences to the body. There is an increase in throat and neck cancer caused by HPV, this has greatly affected both men and women. Physicians want to emphasize that this vaccine does not promote sexual activity, this vaccine saves lives. This simple vaccine can save the lives of many people and prevent cancer caused by HPV from ever occurring. Find more information here.

December 2021 Notable News

If you are like pretty much everyone in the world, you are tired of hearing about viruses, but there is a type of virus that you’ll be glad to learn about. You’ll also be glad to learn that blood tests are detecting cancer, immune cells are communicating with each other, and researchers are taking steps to reduce disparities in healthcare. You may not care to learn that there is yet another link between obesity and cancer, but there is, and that probably doesn’t come as a surprise at this point.

A study in Australia shows that obesity could lead to 10,000 cases of thyroid cancer in the next ten years, reports medicalxpress.com. The study found that one in five future thyroid cancers in the future will be linked to obesity levels today. The study shows the importance of preventing obesity in order to prevent cancer. The findings are especially troubling because the occurrence of obesity has doubled in Australia over the last 20 years. Obesity has been called a causal risk factor for thyroid cancer. Learn more about the study here.

Researchers have developed a new tool for determining the risk of breast cancer in black women in the United States, reports cancer.gov. Black women are usually younger when diagnosed and are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive or advanced forms of breast cancer. Black women are also more likely to die from breast cancer. The tool, called the Black Women’s Health Study Breast Cancer Risk Calculator, is an online questionnaire that uses information about a woman’s medical, reproductive, and family history. The new screening tool is a step toward reducing the disparities in care for black women. Learn more about the risk calculator here.

Scientists have discovered how immune system cells communicate with each other to identify and eliminate tumors, reports sciencedaily.com. The information could help improve the number of patients who are able to benefit from immune therapies and could lead to the development of vaccines that could increase the survival rate for several cancers. Learn more about the findings and how the cells communicate with each other here.

A California company has developed a simple blood test that could detect up to 50 different kinds of cancer, reports webmd.com. The test, called Galleri, can even reportedly detect pancreatic, ovarian, and esophageal cancers, which are generally hard-to-detect. The test detects whether cancer signals were or were not detected and could lead to early detection of cancers. The test does not diagnose cancer and is not meant to replace regular recommended screenings but could help detect cancers that don’t have screening tests. The test doesn’t have full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval yet, and it’s meant for people at high risk for cancer. Patients can expect to pay $950 for the test which isn’t covered by insurance. Learn more about the Galleri test here.

Believe it or not, some viruses can help to fight diseases like cancer, reports sciencedaily.com. Oncolytic viruses are able to target and destroy cancer cells all while leaving healthy cells alone. Viruses outnumber all other life forms combined, and they infect every form of cellular life. The oncolytic viruses are known as specialists in that they are selective in the type of organisms they infect, and because they kill cancer cells and don’t harm normal cells, they could provide a key to new cancer therapies. Learn more about the potential cancer fighting viruses here.

Let’s hope that in 2022 the viruses that are making headlines are the cancer-fighting kind. Wishing you health, peace and hope in 2022 and beyond. Happy New Year.

October 2021 Notable News

It’s important to keep things in perspective, especially when there is a lot of information coming at you, and there is a lot of information this month. From unwarranted vaccine concerns and real concerns about fighter pilots to potential new therapies involving CBD oil, anti-nausea meds and immunotherapies, it’s a lot to take in. The most important take away is to make sure you exercise and make sure you know your cancer risks and when you should get your screenings.

Breast Cancer Screening

Black women may want to consider starting mammograms at age 40 rather than age 50, says sciencedaily.com. New information shows that breast cancer deaths in black women could be reduced by 57 percent when screening is done every other year beginning at age 40. The study was done as part of an effort to develop equitable health recommendations for black women who tend to have higher rates of aggressive cancers at younger ages than white women. Learn more here.

Preventing Cancer with Activity

Americans could be preventing more than 46,000 cancer cases each year, reports medicalxpress.com. New data shows that physical inactivity, especially in women, led to three percent of all cancer cases in adults aged 30 and older. While meeting the recommended guidelines of five hours per week of moderate intensity activity could prevent those cancer cases, researchers note that there are often obstacles in the way of people meeting exercise requirements such as access to safe places to exercise, childcare costs, and long working hours. Learn more here.

Immunotherapy

Researchers may have discovered a new way for immunotherapies to be used against more cancers, reports mit.edu. With the new method, researchers remove tumor cells from the body and treat them with chemotherapy. They then put the cells back in the tumor and administer drugs that activate T cells. That combination seems to be the trick to awaken the immune system. Researchers found that cells that were injured by the chemotherapy were more successful at triggering the immune system than dead cells were. Learn more about this promising new immunotherapy method here.

Dexamethasone Benefits

An anti-nausea drug could be the key to better short-term survival for patients who have surgery for some types of cancer, reports usnews.com. Researchers found that patients who received dexamethasone were about one-third less likely to die in the 90 days following their surgery. In order to prove the findings, clinical trials will need to be done. Learn more about dexamethasone and it’s potential to increase patient survival here.

Lung Cancer and CBD

A case study reported in medicalnewstoday.com showed that a lung cancer patient who took CBD oil showed a reduction in her tumor. CBD oil is a concentrated extract of cannabis leaves or flowers which is often used by cancer patients to treat pain, and the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting. The female patient, located in the United Kingdom, was in her 80s and smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a week before and after her diagnosis, and did not change her diet or lifestyle while she was being monitored. During a two-and-a-half-year period, her scans showed a progressive decrease in her tumor. Learn more about the case study here.

HPV Vaccine

Parents are expressing concerns about the safety of the HPV vaccines despite 15 years of evidence that they are safe and effective, reports cancer.gov. The HPV vaccine protects against cancers caused by the human papillomavirus and is recommend for 11- and 12-year-olds, but the study shows that the number of parents who declined the vaccine for their children due to safety concerns nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018. However, during the same time period the reports of serious complications from the vaccine were rare. Researchers suspect that social media use is a factor in the increased doubts about the vaccines. Find our more here.

Fighter Pilots and Cancer

United States Air Force Fighter Pilots and crew members are more likely to get some cancers than other members of the Air Force, reports defenseone.com. A comprehensive study among pilots and crew of fighter aircraft found that they were 29 percent more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer, 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, and 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Researchers are encouraging fighter aviators to discuss the study and their potential cancer risks with their care providers. Get more information about the study here.

Check out nwaonline.com for a really nicely written perspective about celebrating anniversaries from a ten-year cancer survivor here.

September 2021 Notable News

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

Fruit Flies and Cancer

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

COVID-19 Booster Shot for Blood Cancer Patients

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

Cancer Vaccines

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

Breast Cancer Treatment

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

Lung Cancer and Smoking

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

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

High Cholesterol and Cancer

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

Mr. Vanderquack

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

August 2021 Notable News

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

Global State of Cancer

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

Potential Cause of Metastasis

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

here.

Vitamin D Benefits

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

Widowers and Prostate Cancer

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

Power of Positivity

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


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July 2021 Notable News

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Notable News June 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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April 2021 Notable News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.