Tag Archive for: pancreatic cancer

October 2023 Notable News

This month, education and research come together to treat cancer. The three hardest to detect cancers are broken down into the most common symptoms to watch out for. Scientific research has found that a strand of RNA may be the key to using our own immune system to treat cancer. A new immunotherapy has been created to use two mechanisms to enhance our own immune system to kill cancer.

The 3 Most “Undetectable” Cancers Revealed- and How to Spot Them Before it’s Too Late

Other forms of the disease can form and grow undetected for 10 years or more as one study found, making treatment that much more difficult. It’s not that these cancers have no symptoms at all, rather the initial symptoms are similar to that of other less serious health conditions reports The US Sun. The earlier cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcome. The three cancers discussed in this article are bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer. Signs of bowel cancer include blood in stool or changes to bowel movements such as diarrhea or constipation. Some other signs of this cancer are sudden weight loss and abdominal or rectal pain. There are very few early signs in bowel cancer. In pancreatic cancer there is a very high mortality rate. Signs of pancreatic cancer are abdominal pain, back pain, weight loss, changes in bowel movements, vomiting, and jaundice. Ovarian cancer is a very common cancer and early detection is extremely important for survival. Most symptoms of ovarian cancer show in later stages due to it spreading. Signs to watch for are changes in bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhea. Click here for the full story.

Scientists Discover a Small Strand of RNA to be Key to Fighting Cancer with Our Immune System

A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has shown how a single, small strand of microRNA, known as let-7, governs the ability of T cells to recognize and remember tumor cells. This cellular memory is the basis for how vaccines work. Boosting cellular memory to recognize tumors could help improve cancer therapies reports Goodnews Network. T cells get activated when a pathogen like a virus enters the body. The T cells then become killer cells to get rid of the pathogen. Most T cells die off, but some remain to be turned on later if that pathogen is reintroduced into the body. These memory cells live for a long time. This is how vaccines work. A small amount of pathogen is injected causing this mechanism to occur. Cancer causes the T cells to turn off before they can attack the cancer cells or create a memory of the cells. This allows the cancer cells to metastasize. Scientists are hoping that this new knowledge can lead to developing better immunotherapy treatments for cancer. Click here for the full story.

Double Trouble for Cancer Tumors: The Dual-Action Immunotherapy Breakthrough

Cancer immunotherapy drugs called PD-1 inhibitors are widely used to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer, but many patients either don’t respond or develop resistance to them. A new small molecule drug candidate being tested in an early-stage clinical trial aims to improve patient responses to immunotherapy reports SciTech Daily. This drug uses two mechanisms to slow the growth of tumors and increase patient survival. The small molecule drug increases immune sensitivity and immune cell activity. It blocks certain proteins, thereby making T cells and natural killer cells more effective at killing the tumor. At the same time, it makes the tumor more susceptible to the attack. Scientists hope by studying signal pathways they can find more advances for immunotherapy resistant cancers. Click here for the full story.

May 2023 Digital Health Round Up

Every month there is new technology developed that helps doctors treat cancer. Scientists have developed a sophisticated oxygen-eating battery that successfully helped treat cancer in trials. A hollow seed armed with immunotherapy has been successful in treating pancreatic cancer in mice trials. A new powerful microscope at a university is helping scientists to see cancer react with radiation at a cellular level. 

An Oxygen-Eating Battery Implant Cures 90 Percent of Cancer in Mice 

They have developed an implantable battery system that can identify low-oxygen environments in the human body that support tumor activity the battery system includes a self-charging saltwater battery and an anticancer drug called tirapazamine (TPZ) reports Interesting Engineering. This implant attacks cancer cells in the environment in which they grow, an environment lacking in oxygen. This battery implant regulates the low oxygen tumor conditions.

The drug TPZ only targets cells in this environment so no healthy cells are harmed. Researchers found that the volume of cancerous tumor decreased using this method. Another important finding was that there were no side effects such as weight loss or hair loss that typically occurs with chemotherapy. The battery implant creates a hypoxic environment making the TPZ work better. If this works as well in human trials, cancer patients won’t have the common painful side effects of chemotherapy. Click here for more information. 

Hollow “Seed” Shrinks cancerous Tumors From the Inside 

Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, but it’s also notoriously difficult to detect and treat. As a result, more than 80% of patients diagnosed with the most common form of pancreatic cancer -pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC)- die within the first year after diagnosis, and fewer than 10% live for five or more years after reports Freethink. Doctors use monoclonal antibodies (mABS), which bind to cancer cells to either kill the cells or help the immune system fight the cancer.

These antibodies are given IV and circulate throughout the body. The mABS do not go straight to the pancreas, they are in the bloodstream, and this is what causes side effects. A nanofluidic drug-eluting seed or NDES is a device made of stainless steel that releases the monoclonal antibodies at the cancer site over 2 weeks period. Releasing it directly at the pancreas reduces side effects and allows for a smaller dose. Researchers have found promising results in mice trials. Click here for more information. 

New SEISMIC Facility Could Improve Our Understanding of Infectious Diseases, Aging, and Cancers 

The University of Surrey’s SEISMIC facility will offer scientists access to technology that enables them to pick up single cells or even parts of cells and measure the spatial position of biomarkers like proteins, metabolites and lipids reports News Medical & Life Sciences. This Research Center has an ion beam center, environmental flow laboratory, and a proton beam. 

These advanced microscopes allow scientists to follow biomarkers throughout the cell. This information will help them see how cancer affects cells. This technology allows scientists to see how cells communicate under certain conditions. They can observe the interaction between cancer cells and radiation. The University is allowing researchers and academics that are funded for cancer research to use this advanced technology. Click here for more information.

Pancreatic Cancer Patient Profile: Marissa Smith

Marissa Smith’s pancreatic cancer journey is anything but typical. For starters, she was 38 years old and working as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse when she was diagnosed. She then found out that her cancer involved a neuroendocrine tumor on her pancreas, which is unusual when adenocarcinoma is more common with the pancreas. But even if her story is unusual, Marissa is happy to share her cancer story in case others can benefit from what she learned during her journey.

When Marissa reflects about the beginning of her cancer story, the first symptom she experienced was a sour stomach. “Nothing was helping. I decided to eat, and that made me feel worse. I had pain in my upper abdomen, chills, and sweating. My friends who were nurse practitioners thought that my symptoms sounded like gallstones.” Married with two young children, she and her husband didn’t have any family who lived in their area, so all four of them had to go to the Emergency Room. They were fortunate to have friends who could take their kids to stay with them for the night.  

Marissa’s journey progressed pretty rapidly from there. She received an ultrasound, a CT scan, and then was informed there was a tumor with well-defined edges on her pancreas. The community hospital then sent her to a hospital in the city to get a biopsy of the tumor. A week later, she met with the surgical oncologist to find out the type of tumor and her treatment plan. “It was a golf ball-sized pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. He said it was very slow-growing and that I’d probably had it for a long period of time. So I might have passed a gallstone, and it’s quite likely that my tumor was found out of sheer luck.” Her doctor suggested the Whipple procedure to remove the head of her pancreas, part of her stomach, part of her small bowel, gallbladder, and bile duct. She also received a PET scan prior to surgery to confirm there weren’t any additional tumors. 

Following Marissa’s surgery, her recovery also wasn’t typical. “I had what we call ‘nurse curse,’ which is every complication that’s imaginable. My stomach was getting very bloated, and I was in pain. Pancreatic fluid was leaking into my abdomen.” She had multiple scans and tests and two procedures where they removed the fluid from her abdomen and then analyzed the fluid. Her hemoglobin level dropped, her care team had to reinstall a tube, and she experienced a gastrointestinal (GI) bleed. After the GI bleed, Marissa received a blood transfusion, and her team later informed her that they almost had to put her in the intensive care unit. “Then when I was eating after I got home, and my nurse practitioner friend could see that my food was coming back out of my drain that they put in. The connection between the stomach and my small bowel was leaking.” Her care team wanted to pull her drain out and send her home, but Marissa insisted on staying for observation for 24 hours with all the complications that she’d already experienced.

Reflecting back on her recovery, Marissa says, “I feel I was fortunate to be in good physical condition just prior to my diagnosis. I lost a lot of muscle mass while I was in the hospital, but I would have had a more difficult time if I had been in worse physical condition before my diagnosis.” 

Marissa got involved with patient advocacy groups after she completed treatment and returned to work. She didn’t do online research after her diagnosis, since her doctor was pretty straightforward with her treatment plan. The COVID-19 pandemic began right after she returned to work, so unfortunately there were no in-person support groups.  

Throughout the process, there were many lessons learned that she wants to share. “Educating yourself is so important. Trust your doctors. Understand what they’re saying or ask questions if you don’t understand. I think your outlook is very important. Understand what your goals are for your life and how you want to live your life.” Patients and their loved ones need to weigh the different factors and goals for during and after treatment. Some patients might choose quality over quantity in their cancer journey, and it’s a personal decision for each person.

Marissa was in awe of her husband and kids. “My kids have been amazing. My team thought I’d be in the hospital for a week for treatment, but it ended up being a month. I went in before Thanksgiving and didn’t come home until just before Christmas.” She returned to work in February, and then the COVID-19 pandemic started. “Our kids were in preschool and 1st grade at that time. That was a horrible year for everyone, but our kids were just incredible. My family is awesome.” At the time, Marissa was in a doctoral program, working a weekend night shift, and hybrid homeschooling our kids. In early 2021, she took a leave of absence from school, went down to two 12-hour night shifts, and was with their kids for their remote school time in the hybrid model. “I ended up working as a substitute nurse in our school district when we switched back to full in-person learning, and I’m now working as a nurse in our home district with our oldest child in my building. I love it, but I took a 50 percent pay cut moving from the hospital to a public school, but my work-life balance is worth it.” She and her family especially enjoy hiking and the outdoors at Adirondack State Park and Lake Placid. They’ve simplified their work lives to enjoy more time with their kids.

Marissa has some other advice for patients and loved ones, “I know it’s hard for some people to ask for help, but ask for help when you need it.” Her family had a meal train that was delivered to a cooler on their front porch so that friends could leave food without intruding at all. Friends took their kids to their activities. Marissa saw a therapist and is still going to process all her feelings about her cancer experience.

Even though going through cancer was difficult, Marissa is so grateful for her family and friends who supported her through everything. She also stresses the importance of self-advocacy. “It’s your body, and you want to make sure you understand what the specialists are telling you. Make sure that you’re making an educated decision for yourself and that you have all the information you need to make the right decision for you and your family.”

January 2023 Notable News

This month the focus is on cancer screening and education, both equally important in improving patient outcomes. A new metabolite has been found in urine of patients with a form of liver cancer, allowing for a new urine screening tool to detect the cancer. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers; education about symptom recognition could help save lives with earlier detection. Scientists are studying how cells move through the body with the hope of preventing metastasis of cancer cells in the future.

Urine Test Hope for Early Liver Cancer Diagnosis

Staff at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow have identified a metabolite never found before in mammals which could indicate the presence of the disease reports BBC News. Currently, there is no urine test available for any kind of cancer. Liver cancer is usually diagnosed through blood tests, ultrasound scans, and surgery. Scientists discovered a new metabolite while studying glutamine synthetase, which is a protein present in normal liver tissue of mice. This new metabolite is called N5-methylglutamine and is present in the urine of patients with a specific type of liver cancer. This specific liver cancer has a gene mutation of beta-catenin. This urine test will indicate if the patient has this form of liver cancer and may also be used to monitor growth of tumors. Diagnosis of liver cancer is often in the late stages, making the patient’s outcome less favorable. This test could allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment, leading to better patient outcomes. Click to read the full story.

14 Signs of Deadliest Cancer You’re Most Likely to Ignore

Pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease, is particularly hard to spot as it does not cause and signs of symptoms in the early stages reports The US Sun. This cancer typically has a lower survivability rate of death in less than 3 months of diagnosis. The pancreas is located behind the stomach and under the liver, this location makes it difficult to treat. The purpose of the pancreas is to put digestive enzymes in the stomach to break down food. It is also responsible for releasing hormones that regulate blood sugar. Understanding some common symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer could help with earlier cancer detection. Due to the pancreas’ functions, common symptoms are indigestion, abdominal or back pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. More symptoms can include weight loss, fatigue, changes in bowel habits, and difficulty swallowing food. Patients can experience jaundice, itchiness, and depression or anxiety. Pancreatic cancer diagnosis can sometimes be detected with a recent diabetes diagnosis since the pancreas regulates blood sugar. Finally, blood clots can occasionally be a sign of cancer. Click to read the full story.

A Look at How Cancer Cells Move and Metastasize Could Help Doctors Stop Them From Spreading

Instead of focusing on just the effect of the “solid” environment of cells, researchers are turning toward their “fluid” environment reports Popular Science. Scientists are studying how fluids affect cell migration. In cancer cells, the fluid between the cells is thicker than healthy cells. This thicker fluid causes cancer cells to move and spread quicker. The cancer cells maintain a memory after being in the thicker fluid and continue to move faster and leak out into surrounding tissue causing metastasis. Metastasis is usually what kills cancer patients. This new knowledge that fluid viscosity affects cell migration can be used to create potential drug targets to reduce the spread of cancer. Click to read the full story.

November 2022 Digital Health Roundup

November is full of promise using science to help in the fight against cancer. Scientists have made genetically engineered bacteria robots to release cancer fighting chemicals using magnetic force. Engineers have developed artificial intelligence to help predict the recurrence of a deadly cancer, melanoma. Pancreatic cancer is another deadly cancer that is difficult to treat. Scientists have developed a radioactive implant to help doctors treat pancreatic cancer.

Scientists Use Magnets to Deliver Cancer-Killing ‘Micro-Robots’ Into the Body

Scientists have conceived of a new way to deliver cancer-killing compounds, called enterotoxins, to tumors using bionic bacteria that are steered by a magnetic field, according to a report by Invers published last week reports InterestingEngineering.com . The bacteria hung down a specific tumor and releases naturally produced anti-cancer chemicals to kill the cancer. The scientists use aquatic bacteria because of its magnetostatic quality, it has tiny iron crystals inside that can be guided by magnetic force.

They made genetically engineered bacteria robots whose nanoparticles make them release the chemicals that fight cancer on cue. It is a slimy feces shaped robot that consists of polyvinyl alcohol, borax, and particles of neodymium magnets to move the slime around. It uses biohybrid bacteria. Some cancers can’t be operated on due to the tumor’s location; this treatment offers hope for those types of tumors. These tiny robots have been tested on mice and shown to have three times more precision in the delivery of the biohybrid bacteria to kill the cancer. Find more information here.

AI Could Help Cancer Patients Avoid a Deadly Recurrence

AI could help doctors identify which skin cancer patients are at high-risk of a melanoma recurrence before their initial cancer is even treated- giving them a head start to recommend more aggressive treatments that can prevent a recurrence reports Freethink.com . Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, and recurrence is often caught in late stages making it harder to treat. In the early stages of skin cancer, it is often just removed and not treated with drugs. The drugs used to treat melanoma are immune checkpoint inhibitors and often can have serious side effects.

If doctors know ahead of time that patients were at risk of recurrence, they could treat the cancer more aggressively with those drugs. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital is training and validating algorithms to predict recurrence of melanoma within five years for patients. They used electronic health records and data from over 1,700 early-stage melanomas to train the AI. They found the two best predictors of recurrence are tumor thickness and the rate of cancer cell division. The AI model was found to have a sensitivity of 76% so the team is trying to improve the algorithm to be more specific. The AI shows great promise for helping doctors fight skin cancers. Find more information here.

A Radioactive Tumor Implant is a Major Breakthrough for Treating Pancreatic Cancer

In what can be called a quantum leap in medical science, the most successful treatment for pancreatic cancer ever recorded in mouse models is here. Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed an approach that completely eliminates tumors in 80 percent of mice across various model types, as opposed to most trials that solely halt the growth of such tumors reports InterestingEngineering.com .

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. It is currently hard to treat due to its location and the effects on the surrounding tissue. Scientists have developed an implant that has radioactive iodine-131 that is surrounded by a gel like depot. They can put the implant into the tumor to emit radiation that penetrates the tumor without reaching surrounding tissue. In mice models, scientists use the implant in combination with giving a chemotherapy drug- Paclitaxel. These two together have given good results and are moving into other phases of clinical trials. Scientists believe that the constant radiation to the pancreas makes the drug interact with the cancer in a way that has a stronger effect on the tumor. Find more information here.

September 2022 Notable News

This month, researchers and scientists reveal the results from studies that are valuable tools for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Currently, they are studying the reasons why there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people getting cancer under the age of fifty. The results of this study may promote people to make changes in their lifestyle to prevent cancer. Stress is also a significant risk factor for causing cancer; it is now considered the 6th vital sign for detecting cancer. Researchers have discovered why air pollution causes cancer; the reason is different than what was previously thought. This discovery could offer hope for people diagnosed with lung cancer that are not smokers.

Dramatic Rise in Cancer in People Under 50

A study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital reveals that the incidence of early onset cancers-including breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, and pancreas- has dramatically increased around the world, with the rise beginning around 1990 reports news.havard.edu . People born a decade later have a higher risk of developing cancer later in life due to things they were exposed to earlier in life. Some factors that are causing this increased risk are diet, lifestyle choices, weight gain, environmental exposures, and a persons’ microbiome. The best weapons to fight cancer are still screening and early detection. Some other factors that are on the rise are alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity, and a diet high in processed foods. There has also been an increase in eight cancers that are related to the digestive system. Many of these factors are easily changed with lifestyle modification. Find more information here.

The Role of Distress in Cancer

For those who do not know, cancer is not a specific disease but a cluster of over 200 diseases typified by dysfunctional cell growth that is rapidly replicated. The challenge is that the body’s immune system often misses detecting the stealth cell growth and then has difficulty eliminating it reports Psychologytoday.com . Stress causes inflammation, the proteins involved in inflammation are what feed cancer. Stress has been found to be the 6th vital sign in finding cancer. People can manage other risk factors for cancer such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and chemical exposures; stress can be managed as well. People need to be encouraged to overcome trauma, treat anxiety and depression, and promote emotional healing. More effort needs to be made to decrease stress to help prevent cancer. Find more information here.

Mystery of Why Air Pollution Causes Cancer is ‘Solved’ in Major Breakthrough Offering Hope for Treatment

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London found that rather than damaging cells directly, air pollution instead ‘wakes up’ dormant mutations and causes them to become cancerous reports The-sun.com . This new research explains why non-smokers are getting cancer. This knowledge changed previous ideas that cancer was formed from a healthy cell mutating. Air pollution triggers the damaged dormant cells to turn into cancerous cells. Discovering the mechanism that causes the cancer cells to grow can help scientists develop cancer blocking treatments. The air pollution causes this mechanism to start in the lungs. Smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, but air pollution has a significant impact on lung cancer as well. Find more information here.

September 2022 Digital Health Roundup

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer used to be considered a death sentence, due to its late detection and difficulty in treatment delivery. With the help of science and technology, pancreatic cancer is a now treatable cancer. Scientists have created a glass bubble nanocarrier to help make the treatment of pancreatic cancer more effective. An Artificial Intelligence program has been created to help detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages to help increase survivability for patients diagnosed with this cancer. Scientists have discovered that using photodynamic therapy to treat many cancers, including pancreatic cancer, is more specific in its delivery and less harmful to the patient.

‘Glass Bubble’ Nanocarrier Boosts Effects of Combination Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

In hopes of turning the tide, UCLA researchers have developed a technology that delivers a combination therapy to pancreatic tumors using nanoscale particles loaded with irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug approved as part of a drug regimen for pancreatic cancer, and 3M-052, an investigative drug that can boost immune activity and help overcome tumors’ resistance reports Phys.org . One of the reasons pancreatic cancers are hard to treat is that the cancer is protected by biological factors that make it resist treatment. The use of the nanoparticle for treatment helps to shrink the cancerous tumors and prevent metastasis. This nanocarrier attracts more cancer killing immune cells to the pancreatic tumors. There is a double layer of lipids surrounding the core of the glass bubble. The bubble is made of silica and has a hollow core filled with the cancer drugs. The fatty tail of the carrier is used for the second drug delivery. This nanocarrier method helps prevent drug leakage and toxicity to surrounding tissues. It can break through the rugged barrier that is around the pancreatic cancer tumors to deliver the treatment. Find more information here.

Pancreatic Cancer: New AI Program Could Help with Early Detection

If caught early, pancreatic cancer is treatable. Experts say that early detection is the best way to improve the chances of survival as the prognosis worsens significantly once the tumor grows beyond 2 centimeters reports healthline.com . There are currently no valid screening tests for this deadly cancer for patients without any symptoms. The standard use of CT scans for detection does not always find the tumors in the difficult to visualize pancreas. The pancreas is close to many other structures and varies in size and shape. In Taiwan, scientists have made a clinically applicable computer aided detection tool that helps to easily find the pancreas. This program is accurately finding pancreatic cancer in its early stages. The use of liquid biopsy in combination with this AI program work together for early detection. Liquid biopsy is a blood test that finds the biomarkers showing there is cancer present. This program offers hope for early detection of pancreatic cancer and increases survivability for patients. Find more information here.

Photodynamic Therapy Offers Promise for Cancer Treatment

Photodynamic therapy –the use of precisely targeted light, usually from a laser, that activates or “turns on” a drug to kill cells- has been used mostly to treat skin cancers, since it is easier to deliver light to the outside of the body. But light does not travel far through the body tissues reports MedicalXpress.com . The goal of this therapy is to get the light as close as possible to red light, which has the longest wavelength, to penetrate tissue using the lowest energy. The use of the lower energy causes less harm to surrounding tissues. Doctors use a two-photon light, in which two particles of light hit at the same time. The cancer killing molecule that is activated only by light can destroy cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy. This therapy has been tested on drug resistant pancreatic and breast cancers. Scientists can examine cancers for levels of a certain protein using phototherapy. The light fluoresces differently for various levels. A high level of the protein shows red, and a low level shows yellow. This test shows whether the patient will be responsive or resistant to chemotherapy. If the patient is resistant, doctors can use the photodynamic therapy. This therapy is given via IV infusion in an outpatient setting and fiber optics deliver the light. 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.

November 2021 Notable News

Cancer research has come a long way in the last half century. Each month there is an amazing amount of new knowledge. There’s new information this month about childhood cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and a couple of vaccines. The research and advances we learn about each month are due in large part to the programs and systems that resulted from the National Cancer Act of 1971.

National Cancer Act of 1971

Fifty years ago, a few days before Christmas, President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is commemorating the anniversary at cancer.gov. The act established networks of cancer centers, clinical trials, data collection systems, and advanced research. As an amendment to the Public Health Service Act of 1944, by signing the act, Nixon declared a war on cancer. The bill expanded the authority of the director of the NCI and made possible many of the present-day advances in cancer research. Learn more about the National Cancer Act of 1971 and the impact it has had over the past 50 years here.

HPV Vaccine

One of the accomplishments noted by the NCI is the HPV vaccine. The vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is reducing the number of cervical cancer cases by almost 90 percent, says bbc.com. Almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV, and cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. More than 100 countries are using the vaccine to help in the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate cervical cancer. With such positive results in the United Kingdom, the hope is that the vaccine will have an even bigger impact in lower income countries. Read more here.

Covid-19 Vaccines

Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective for most cancer patients, reports usnews.com. In a study that included more than 1,000 vaccinated cancer patients, researchers found that the vaccines were effective in protecting cancer patients from severe Covid-19. Patients who had been treated with chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, or corticosteroids had a weaker immune response, but still benefited from the vaccine’s protection. Cancer patients had similar side effects as healthy vaccine recipients. Get more information here.

Pancreatic Cancer Detection

Researchers have identified two additional symptoms of pancreatic cancer that could help with earlier detection of the disease, reports webmd.com. The newly identified symptoms are feeling thirsty and having dark urine, and they are associated with the most common type of pancreatic cancer. Other symptoms include problems swallowing, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal swelling, tiredness, constipation, back pain, itching, loss of appetite, change in bowel habits, indigestion, abdominal pain, abdominal mass, nausea, flatulence, heartburn, and fever. Patients can have symptoms for up to a year before diagnosis. Get more information here.

Gut Microbiome and Prostate Cancer

A new study shows that there might be a link between the gut microbiome and deadly prostate cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. Researchers analyzed different metabolites in the blood serum of study participants and found a connection between aggressive prostate cancer and three of the metabolites. The metabolites, phenylacetylglutamine, choline, and betaine, are either produced by the gut or found in some foods. The metabolites are mostly found in meat and animal products, but also in beans, nuts, and diet sodas with aspartame. Men with high levels of choline or betaine were two times more likely to die of prostate cancer, and men with high levels of phenylacetylglutamine were 2.5 times more likely to die of prostate cancer. Learn more about the study here.

Childhood Cancer Survivors

Childhood cancer survivors tend to have higher risk of lifelong health problems, reports medicalxpress.com. A new study shows that the type of cancer and how the cancer was treated can affect the type of health issues survivors will have later in life. Researchers found that people who were treated with chemotherapy and radiation were most likely to experience later health problems. The lowest risk was for people who were treated only with surgery. Researchers say the long-term health effects should be considered when discussing treatment options for young people with cancer. Learn more about the study and watch an animated video that explains the study in an easy-to-understand manner here.

Here’s hoping that we will have more preventive vaccines and life-saving measures before the passing of the next 50 years.

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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Family Member Profile: Alison Greenhill

Family-Member Profile
Alison Greenhill
Pancreatic Cancer

It’s been little more than a year since Alison Greenhill lost her husband Richard to pancreatic cancer. Richard was 47 at the time of his death and the couple had been married for 18 years. They had a tortoiseshell cat named Nibbles. Richard was a Registered Nurse and Alison worked for and continues to work for a major airline. Despite a history of Crohn’s disease, Richard was a generally healthy guy so when he started complaining of stomach pains in September 2016 he was referred to a gastroenterologist.

The couple had just returned home from a cruise and Richard’s stomach pains were severe enough to send him to the hospital, but all the test results done by the gastroenterologist were negative. The doctors didn’t know what was causing the pain, but it continued through December when Richard was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis as a possible result of Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause abdominal pain and lead to a host of other issues so the diagnosis made sense.

But, in January Richard was back in the hospital with jaundice and he received a couple of stents to relieve bile duct blockage. He also had a number of tests done including an MRI and several lab and blood tests, but there still seemed to be no definitive answer as to what was causing Richard to be so sick. Alison recalls being frustrated that they still didn’t have more answers and says she felt like things were moving at a snail’s pace. Richard, she says, thought his symptoms indicated cancer, but on his birthday, also in January, they were told that Richard did not have cancer. “When they said it wasn’t cancer, it was his birthday,” says Alison. “We couldn’t have gotten better news.”

Ten days later Richard started vomiting and was back in the hospital with a blood infection. Alison says he recovered from the infection, but that it had almost killed him and that doctors were still saying they weren’t sure what was wrong. Finally, at the end of February Richard got referred to the Mayo clinic. Alison says they got there on a Thursday and by Friday evening the oncology department had been added to Richard’s daily report. Richard had stage four, pancreatic cancer that had metastasized. “It was the worst possible diagnosis with the worst possible cancer,” says Alison. “We were just numb.”

The Mayo Clinic oncologist suggested Richard start chemotherapy and referred him to a local oncologist who took over his case. Two weeks later, in March, he started chemo. During chemo, Alison says his numbers were going down, but Richard had a bowel blockage, another bout of jaundice, and an infection that interrupted his chemo. They learned that the tumor was covering his pancreas and he had another tumor on his liver. By the end of June he was in Hospice care. Richard remained positive through it all, says Alison. “My husband was like a rock. I don’t know how he did it,” she says adding that Richard made peace with his diagnosis. “We decided we were going to handle things the best we could.”

After his death, Alison says she had a lot of ups and downs and a lot of anger, but that, through Hospice, she got a grief counselor who helped her through each step of her grief. “She was wonderful from the beginning,” says Alison who focuses on remaining positive rather than letting herself get caught up in questioning why they were told Richard didn’t have cancer and why his cancer wasn’t found sooner. “I wish we would have known more. We didn’t know what we were working with,” says Alison, but she knows they did the best they could at the time. “I can’t keep going backward,” she says. “I would never be able to move forward.”

Along with the grief counselor and exercise, which she says helps her to stay positive and outgoing, Alison says she learned to accept help from others. “You have to let people do things for you. As time went on I realized I can’t do this by myself,” she says. Alison received a lot of help from her parents and had a strong support group. “Lean on your family. Let people help you,” she advises. Although it’s been difficult reaching each milestone or holiday throughout the year she says, “I’m better than I was a year ago.”

Now, Alison says it is important to her that others might benefit from what she and Richard went through. “I pray every day that no one else has to go through this,” she says. Richard also hoped his story might help others. “He said that he hoped one day we could help someone else,” she says. “He said people can learn from this.”

Alison wants people to hear her story and know they aren’t alone, but more importantly she wants people to do whatever it takes to get answers.“You’ve really got to speak up for the patient,” emphasizes Alison. “If you don’t have the answers and the doctors don’t give you the answers, don’t take no for an answer. Take it to the next level.” Alison says that patients and caregivers shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and to push for more information. She says, “Keep fighting for your person.”

Real Stories of Pancreatic Cancer

Real patient experiences shared privately at www.TreatmentDiaries.com. Read more, share if you like or join in the conversation. Making sure you feel less alone navigating a cancer diagnosis is important. Connecting you to those who can relate and provide support is what we do.

Pancreatic Patient 1: Female (Canada)

This is my first entry. A friend directed me to a related site today, and somehow I ended up here. I was given the pancreatic cancer verdict the end of last year – after months of testing and being told ‘whatever it is, it isn’t cancer’. Ha! So much for the – it isn’t cancer theory. I was referred to a world class surgeon in Toronto early this year who was able to do a Whipple procedure, removing about a third of my pancreas.

Initially he thought he got it all. However subsequent scans revealed the original cancer had metastasized into the liver. So then it was off for chemo. What a nightmare. Again, an excellent oncologist at an excellent facility. I was put on the 5-FU regime (how appropriate is that name!) from May-Nov. Twelve treatments in total. Nearly killed me. I don’t think I have ever felt as ill as I did during the 2 weeks between treatments. Just began to feel normal when it was time to begin all over again. But, by the end of the year my tumors had reduced considerably, and my oncologist considered me his poster girl. We all knew the reality of pancreatic cancer.

However, by the end of February the party was over. The tumors were back. So another hit of 5-FU. This time the drug concoction plus the accompanying steroids, triggered bleeding abdominal ulcers. It was decided to discontinue 5-FU. I am now receiving Gemcitabine, a less aggressive treatment. I feel I’ve been given a reprieve chemo-wise, but only time will tell if this will work for me or not.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone with pancreatic cancer. I am blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband, family and friends. Life is good. But I hate this disease with a passion. Acceptance of it is not in my vocabulary.

Pancreatic Patient 2: Female (USA)

Just found this site and today is my first entry. I was diagnosed the end of June with inoperable pan can. I went through an experimental drug trial for Tnferade in the fall. It was absolutely brutal….and did nothing as far as we know. My tumor has remained basically “stable” since my diagnosis, with my current treatment of gemzar every other week. The gemzar really knocks me down for a few days, but being as I’m still “stable”, I guess it’s worth it. Early September of this year I spent two weeks in ICU, as all of my treatments/drugs created a 5cm duodenal ulcer……Had no idea I had it until it began to bleed profusely…..10 pints of blood later, I’m still here. Back to work now, but only three days a week. Absolutely dreading the winter, having lost 50lbs since this started I don’t have an ounce of fat for insulation!

Feeling so much better since the ulcer was taken care of! I believe it has been a undetected problem for quite some time, but how would you know….I mean was I having a lot of abdominal pain…yes….but I have pan can so how do you differentiate? Best of all I am sleeping better. Prior to the episode, I was usually only able to sleep two hours or so at time! Now my sleep is nearly “normal. I had plans to go to Vegas with my family in October for a family wedding….but of course was side lined by the hospitalization. Was able to rebook my husband’s ticket and mine for the first week of December and am excited at feeling well enough to have a good time…..and have some nice weather, if only for a weekend!!! Of all the compromises this illness has forced upon me, not being able to tolerate traveling much has really been one of the worst things since I got sick. Prior to getting sick I travelled the world extensively. I have plans to celebrate my 50th birthday this March in London…and soooooo hope I will still be well enough to do it!

Hello friends! Still here!!! Have gained back 25-30 lbs. and doing much better! Been off chemo for eight weeks now. The last round has damaged my nerves in my hands and feet. The doctors say they have exhausted all established tx options for me. This is not necessarily bad news, as the reason is more people in my shoes…don’t get this far. My last scan showed my liver mets are nearly imperceptible and the once very large head tumor itself shows a “residual”! They don’t have any idea what this means in the long run, and consider me a “lucky” anomaly. I am far from the person I was physically, before this started…but certainly grateful to still be here. I hope someone reads this post who has been recently diagnosed with inoperable pan can……I know that the odds are so very poor for most of us….but PLEASE believe there are cases like mine out there…..It isn’t always a 3-6 window. When I was diagnosed, I never expected to be here this long…26 months and counting. Not that I was being a defeatist or negative…..It’s just as a healthcare professional myself, I understood the grave reality of my situation. That said….we all MUST remember….ever case IS different and the best advice I can give is to always stay positive!!! Since I the first of the year I have begun to try to resume my life’s passion….regular travels. I have been to London twice, one in March to celebrate my 50th with friends from around the globe, and last month for a music symposium my husband was invited to attend. I plan on getting back to London in a month or two, and to Vegas in September!!! Anyways…thanks for reading…and stay positive!!! XOX

Pancreatic Patient 3: Female Caregiver of Male patient (USA)

Just little background… My husband, 54, was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer last Sept. We went to have the Whipple procedure and found the cancer had spread to his abdominal cavity. He just completed his 10th round of Folfirinox. The treatment side effects have been continuing to get worse…. he sleeps most of the day and when he is awake he is in pain. His weight has gone from 220 to 150 in the last year and with his appetite gone it continues to go down. We have been holding on to the hope that once he completed 12 rounds of Folfirinox they would do another CT Scan and God willing the spots on his abdominal wall would be gone.

We thought he would then be a candidate for the Whipple. He has a tumor in the head and tail of his pancreas. Today we were told that wouldn’t be happening…. while I understand the reasoning (the lengthy recuperation period, the added weight loss and the overwhelming odds that the cancer would come back anyway) I am heartbroken. I had convinced myself that we were going to beat this. I never let myself think we couldn’t. I’m supposed to grow old with this man, our “golden” years…. we raised three beautiful children together, watched the oldest get married, watched them graduate and go their own ways…. it was supposed to be “our” turn. Our kids are 25, 26 & 30.

Today we had to tell them that time is limited. All I can hope for realistically is another wonderful five years… I really hope I get another 5 years.