Category Archives: Oncology

Beneficial Skin Bacteria Protect Against Skin Cancer

Science continues to peel away layers of the skin microbiome to reveal its protective properties.  Researchers now report on a potential new role for some bacteria on the skin: protecting against cancer.

“We have identified a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, common on healthy human skin, that exerts a selective ability to inhibit the growth of some cancers,” said Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells but does not appear to be toxic to normal cells.”

The team discovered the S. epidermidis strain produces the chemical compound 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). Mice with S. epidermidis on their skin that did not make 6-HAP had many skin tumors after being exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays (UV), but mice with the S. epidermidis strain producing 6-HAP did not.  6-HAP is a molecule that impairs the creation of DNA, known as DNA synthesis, and prevents the spread of transformed tumor cells as well as the potential to suppress development of UV-induced skin tumors.

Mice that received intravenous injections of 6-HAP every 48 hours over a two-week period experienced no apparent toxic effects, but when transplanted with melanoma cells, their tumor size was suppressed by more than 50 percent compared to controls.

“There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome is an important element of human health. In fact, we previously reported that some bacteria on our skin produce antimicrobial peptides that defend against pathogenic bacteria such as, Staph aureus,” said Gallo.

In the case of S. epidermidis, it appears to also be adding a layer of protection against some forms of cancer, said Gallo. Further studies are needed to understand how 6-HAP is produced, if it can be used for prevention of cancer or if loss of 6-HAP increases cancer risk, said Gallo.

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. More than 95 percent of these are non-melanoma skin cancer, which is typically caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer that starts in the pigment-producing skin cells, called melanocytes.

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Huntington’s Disease Molecule Can Kill Cancer Cells

Scientists have destroyed numerous types of human cancer cells with a toxic molecule characteristic of fatal genetic illness Huntington’s disease.

The researchers hailed the molecule—which has killed both human and mouse ovarian, breast, prostate, liver, brain, lung, skin and colon cancer cell lines in mice—as a “super assassin.” Their results were published in the journal EMBO Reports.

Huntington’s disease is a progressive illness caused by an excess of a specific repeating RNA sequence in the Huntington gene, which is present in every cell. The defect causes the death of brain cells, and gradually worsens a person’s physical and mental abilities. The disease has no cure.

Researchers believe that the defect may be even more powerful against cancer cells than nerve cells in the brain, and the team hopes it can be harnessed to kill cancer cells without causing Huntington’s symptoms.  “This molecule is a super assassin against all tumor cells,” said senior author Marcus Peter, a professor of cancer metabolism at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, in a press statement. “We’ve never seen anything this powerful.”

Peter collaborated with Feinberg colleague Shad Thaxton, associate professor of urology, to deliver the molecule in the form of nanoparticles to mice with human ovarian cancer. The targeted molecule decreased tumor growth with no toxicity to the mice.

First author Andrea Murmann, a research assistant professor who discovered the cancer-killing mechanism, used the molecule to kill numerous other human and mouse cancer cell lines. Building on previous research into a cancer “kill switch”, Murmann looked to diseases associated with low rates of cancer and a suspected RNA link.  “I thought maybe there is a situation where this kill switch is overactive in certain people, and where it could cause loss of tissues,” Murmann said in the statement. “These patients would not only have a disease with an RNA component, but they also had to have less cancer.“

There is up to 80 percent less cancer in people with Huntington’s disease than the general population.  Murmann recognised similarities between the kill switch and the toxic Huntington’s disease RNA sequences.  Based on their results, the team believe the “super assassin” molecule could be used to fight cancer in humans. “We believe a short-term treatment cancer therapy for a few weeks might be possible, where we could treat a patient to kill the cancer cells without causing the neurological issues that Huntington’s patients suffer from,” Peter said.  The scientists next aim to refine the molecule’s delivery method to improve tumor targeting, and to stabilize the nanoparticles for storage.

By Katherine Hignett – Displayed with permission from Newsweek via RePubHub License; Cancer Cells courtesy of PixaBay FREE LIC CC0 

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ABRCC Consortia MD Elena Shagisultanova Targets Treatment-Resistant Breast Cancer

Metastatic triple-positive breast cancer frequently resists treatments. Scientists at the University of Colorado Cancer Center are testing a unique combination of medications to change that.

Growth of breast cancer cells is often propelled by one of three receptors – estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR) or the growth factor receptor called HER2. Treatments exist targeting each of these receptors individually. However, when all three receptors are present – this “triple-positive” breast cancer – blocking any single receptor is not enough.  Treatments that block hormonal (estrogen and progesterone) receptors may be not very effective because tumor cells may use HER2 receptor to grow. The drugs that block HER2 receptors may not work as well because the cells will use hormonal receptors to survive. Chemotherapy works against triple-positive breast cancers, however, it has multiple side effects. Previous clinical trials have been largely unsuccessful in defining a well-tolerated targeted drug combination that blocks all avenues for growth of triple-positive breast tumors.

“Under the current guidelines, patients with triple-positive metastatic breast cancer have two options as a first line of treatment and neither is a great option,” says Elena Shagisultanova, MD, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and assistant professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Division of Medical Oncology. “One approach is to start an anti-hormonal pill, which is generally non-toxic. However, the response usually lasts only three to four months. The other choice is to start chemotherapy combined with HER-2 targeted agents. This option is effective, but it has multiple side effects.”

Shagisultanova is the principal investigator on the multi-institutional trial.  It is also an investigator-initiated trial which allows physician/scientists to test treatments that their hands-on experience in the lab and clinic indicate may offer meaningful results. Shagisultanova believes she and CU Cancer Center colleagues may have another option: a regimen using three pills, each targeting a different pathway of the disease. The trial combines tucatinib, which inhibits HER2, with letrozole targeting hormone receptors, and the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib.

“We think hormone receptor and HER-2 signals are coming together to help cancer cells resist treatment,” says Shagisultanova. “The CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib can block these converging signals in the nucleus. We believe that if we can inhibit the signaling deeper in the tumor cell using this triple blockade, patients will have longer lives and better quality of life.”  Tucatinib, palbociclib and letrozole tend to have different side-effects, leading Shagisultanova to believe the triple combination of targeted agents will be well- tolerated.

Early clinical trials often exclude patients whose cancer has already metastasized to the brain, in large part due to the inability of anti-cancer drugs to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to reach the disease in the central nervous system. However, because tucatinib has proven effective in shrinking HER2-positive breast tumors that have spread to the brain, patients with brain metastases are, in fact, included in the current trial.

“Metastatic disease in the brain is one of the most dangerous complications of triple-positive breast cancer. If we can prevent development of brain metastases, or effectively treat metastatic disease in the brain, it will improve the lives of many patients,” Shagisultanova says.  “There are many challenges in designing and delivering clinical trials,” says Christopher Lieu, MD, CU Cancer Center’s deputy associate director for clinical research. Lieu also leads CU Cancer Center’s efforts in further developing an Investigator-Initiated Trials Committee.

“We are fortunate at CU Cancer Center to have innovative clinicians who are analyzing data to find novel and innovative strategies to target malignancies that are in serious need of better therapies,” Lieu adds.  “Trials like this one are critical in moving cancer science forward and finding effective, non-toxic therapies.”

This trial is currently open for enrollment at the ABRCC Consortia Academic sites of: University of Colorado Cancer Center, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio, TX; Stony Brook University, NY; University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.

The trial is funded by the Pfizer ASPIRE Award in Breast Cancer Research. Cascadian Therapeutics and Pfizer are providing the study drugs tucatinib and palbociclib.

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Cancer Deaths Decline Again in US

Death rates from cancer in the United States dropped again between 2014 and 2015, continuing a downward trend that began in 1991 and has meant 2.4 million fewer deaths.

Advances in early detection and treatment, along with a drop in smoking, are believed to be responsible for much of the 26 percent drop since 1991, said the findings in the American Cancer Society’s comprehensive annual report. “This new report reiterates where cancer control efforts have worked, particularly the impact of tobacco control,” said Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

“A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates.”  However, he noted that “tobacco remains by far the leading cause of cancer deaths today, responsible for nearly three in 10 cancer deaths.”

Overall, the US cancer death rate reached a peak of 215.1 per 100,000 population in 1991, and has declined to 158.6 per 100,000 in 2015.

Deaths from lung cancer made a 45 percent decline among men and 19 percent among women.  Cancers of the breast, prostate and colon and rectum are also down steeply. The report forecasts about 1.7 million new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States in 2018. “Over the past decade, the overall cancer incidence rate was stable in women and declined by about two percent per year in men,” it said.

While progress is evident, stark racial disparities remain. The cancer death rate in 2015 was 14 percent higher in blacks than in whites, down from a peak of 33 percent in 1993.

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Displayed with permission from AFP, usage courtesy of RePubHub license; Image courtesy of Pixabay by alisea_30 under CC0 License.

New Report: Breast Cancer Fatalities Plummet 40%

The American Cancer Society says women face a one-in-eight chance of getting breast cancer and more than 40,600 will succumb this year in the U.S. from the disease.

But improved treatments and early detection are producing promising results, because fatalities from the cancer have dropped almost 40 percent between 1989 and 2015.  That, according to a new report released by ACS, saved some 322,600 lives.  While breast cancer rates increased from 1975 to 1989, the study notes, the fatality rates have dramatically decreased, dropping an actual 39 percent over that period.

The results confirm a steady downward trend over recent years.  Advances in chemotherapy regimens that were developed in the 1980s, the introduction of new drugs like tamoxifen and Herceptin, and early detection through mammograms have reduced the likelihood of breast cancer patients dying from the disease, the report notes.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. women and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women after lung cancer, according to ACS.  The American Cancer Society publishes the “Breast Cancer Statistics” report every two years to track the latest trends in breast cancer incidence, mortality, survival and screening by race/ethnicity in the United States, as well as state variations in these measures.

The report reveals that black women continue to have higher breast cancer death rates than whites nationally. “Non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women have higher breast cancer incidence and death rates than women of other race/ethnicities; Asian/Pacific Islander (API) women have the lowest incidence and death rates,” the report states. “Although the overall breast cancer incidence rate during 2010 through 2014 was slightly lower in non-Hispanic black women than in non-Hispanic white, the breast cancer death rate during 2011 through 2015 was 42 percent higher in NHB women than in NHW women.”

The report also links the physiology of black and white women to the discrepancy, noting that black women do not benefit from the development of tamoxifen because they are less inclined to have the type of breast cancer known as “estrogen-receptor positive” that the drug alleviates.  In addition, black women are twice as likely as white women to develop “triple negative breast cancer,” which can be more difficult to treat, the report noted.

But the black-white disparity is stabilizing.  There were no significant differences in breast cancer death rates between black and white women in seven states, according to the study, while Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware had similar rates, suggesting equitable breast cancer outcomes are feasible.

“A large body of research suggests that the black-white breast cancer disparity results from a complex interaction of biologic and nonbiologic factors, including differences in stage at diagnosis, tumor characteristics, obesity, other health issues, as well as tumor characteristics, particularly a higher rate of triple negative cancer,” lead author of the report, Carol DeSantis said.  “But the substantial geographic variation in breast cancer death rates,” she continued, “confirms the role of social and structural factors, and the closing disparity in several states indicates that increasing access to health care to low-income populations can further progress the elimination of breast cancer disparities.”

By Alicia Powe, Displayed with permission from WND via RePubHub; Chart Courtesy of Nat’l Center for Health Statistics/CDC

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This Is Why Red Peppers Could Reduce Lung Cancer Risk In Smokers

In a new study, researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts have uncovered the molecular reasoning for beta-cryptoxanthin pigment’s powerful cancer-fighting skills.

red-bell-peppers-1836560_1920-by-pexels-pixabay-free-cc0-lic

Red Bell Peppers — Image courtesy Pexels PIXABAY CC0 Lic

Researchers discovered in 2004 that beta-cryptoxanthin (BCX), a natural pigment which gives many fruits and vegetables their bright red and orange colorings, was able to reduce smokers’ risk of developing lung cancer — although exactly why remained unclear.

Tufts cancer researcher Xiang-Dong Wang and his team found that BCX has the opposite effect of nicotine on lung cells in mice and is able to decrease erratic cell growth in the lung and limit the cancer from spreading. While more research is needed, Wang predicts that understanding BCX’s effect on lung cells could lead to new chemoprevention techniques and could be implemented in dietary recommendations for patients undergoing lung cancer treatment, and for lung cancer survivors.

Read More:  3 Reasons Why Non-Smokers Get Lung Cancer

“For smokers, tobacco product users or individuals at higher risk for tobacco smoke exposure, our results provide experimental evidence that eating foods high in BCX may have a beneficial effect on lung cancer risk,” said Wang in a statement.

Nicotine binds to lung cells, triggering a biochemical response that may lead to erratic cell growth, and new blood vessel development — the perfect storm for lung cancer. However, Wang and his team discovered that BCX is able to counteract this response by inhibiting lung cell growth and preventing cancer cells from spreading to different parts of the body.

In the study, the team observed that mice that had purposely been given a nicotine-derived carcinogen, and which were treated with BCX had fewer lung tumors than those who were not given BCX. According to Wang, the greatest benefit in mice was equivalent to a daily human dose of about 870 micrograms, or the amount contained in one sweet red pepper or a couple of tangerines a day. Also, human lung cancer cells in a petri dish treated with BCX migrated less than those that were not.

The researchers emphasized that their study does not show that BCX has the ability to prevent or cure lung cancer in humans. Still, the results are promising and the team hope to take their research further to better understand the cancer-killing capabilities of red and orange fruits and veggies.

Source: WAng XD, Iskandar AR, Miao B, et al. β-Cryptoxanthin Reduced Lung Tumor Multiplicity and Inhibited Lung Cancer Cell Motility by Downregulating Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor α7 Signaling.  Cancer Prevention Research .2016

By Dana Dovey; Displayed with permission from Medical Daily via RePubHub

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Most Women Are Confused About Cancer Screenings

A new survey courtesy of Planned Parenthood finds that many women are unfortunately in the dark about the basics of breast and cervical cancer screenings.
FREE PIXABAY question banner-1090830_1280 CC0 LICThe nonprofit organization teamed up with an independent research institution, NORC at the University of Chicago, to survey over 1,000 adult women across the country this past March. Among other questions, the women were asked about the age they should first get screened for either type of cancer and how often they should return for a follow-up. When it came to cervical cancer, around 70 percent of women said they knew the correct answer to each question, but only nine percent actually got it right for either. For breast cancer, it was even worse, with more than 80 percent saying they understood the correct time frames, but only four percent getting the first question right and 10 percent the second.

For both breast and cervical cancer, the age that an average woman should get their first screening is 21. With cervical cancer, follow-up screenings should happen every three years for women in their 20s, and every three to five years for women ages 30 to 64; with breast cancer, the rate of screenings should be every one to three years, depending on your family history. In particular for breast cancer, women often confused mammograms as the primary form of screening rather than physical breast exams. Thirty percent guessed the first screening should happen at age 40, which is actually the recommended age of the first mammogram, and 55 percent guessed that women under the age of 40 should receive both types of screenings.

“The survey shows that not enough women have accurate information about their recommended cancer screenings,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. The survey is the first of its kind commissioned by the organization, which wanted to understand how much women understood about cancer screenings given the updated recommendations issued by health agencies in recent years, according to Planned Parenthood spokesperson, Catherina Lozada.

Additionally, the survey demonstrated that a significant chunk of women haven’t gotten screened at all. Nineteen percent said they hadn’t been checked for cervical cancer, compared to 16 percent who said the same about breast cancer. And 39 percent and 23 percent of women said they weren’t sure when they should next get screened for cervical and breast cancer, respectively. These gaps were especially pronounced among Black and Hispanic women, who were not only less likely to get screened, but expressed facing more barriers to proper health care.

For instance, 42 percent of Hispanic women and 32 percent of Black women said that financial cost made them wary of cervical cancer screenings, compared to only 18 percent of white women. Similarly, these women felt more fearful of the test and of the potential results than their white counterparts. The findings only reaffirm a steady stream of research showing the disparities of cancer care experienced by people of color.

“The unfortunate reality is that women of color in the U.S. face more barriers to accessing health care than white women, and so are less likely to get preventive screenings, more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, and more likely to experience worse health outcomes when it comes to breast and cervical cancer,” explained McDonald-Mosley. Sadly, less than half of the women were aware that the Affordable Care Act has now made all insurance policies cover both types of screening completely free of charge.

“The survey revealed that almost half of women have never encouraged other women in their lives to get screened for cervical cancer, one of the most preventable cancers when caught early,” said McDonald-Mosley. “We hope more women will talk with their loved ones — mother, siblings, aunts, cousins, partners, and friends — about the importance of getting screened for breast and cervical cancer. You can simply ask when the last time they had a check-up was — and if they aren’t going in for screenings, ask what’s preventing them from getting care.”

Read More:  For Cancer Screenings, When Do The Benefits Outweigh The Risks? Read here
Ovarian Cancer Screening May Soon Be Conducted With A Simple Blood Test. Read here

Source:  National Survey of Women’s Knowledge of Recommended Screenings for Breast and Cervical Cancer. Planned Parenthood. 2016.

By Ed Cara; Displayed with permission from Medical Daily.  Read full article online at RePubHub:RePubHub Banner

 

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IMMUNO-ONCOLOGY: Targeting the immune system, not the tumor

Immuno-oncology is based on the concept of harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

One of the most exciting areas of cancer research today is immuno-oncology, and while it’s an approach that scientists first considered more than 100 years ago, recent scientific discoveries and clinical advances have ushered in a truly historical time in cancer research.

Immuno-oncology Video Capture

Image Courtesy of PhRMA (Video Capture)

Recently, PhRMA released a new video highlighting immuno-oncology, which is currently being researched and developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and several other bio-pharmaceutical companies.

Cancer is clever and has found ways to outwit the immune system. Rather than killing these cancer cells directly with traditional tools like radiation or chemotherapy, immunotherapy seeks to intensify the immune system’s power to eliminate them. Immuno-oncology is already improving outcomes and survival rates for some patients, including melanoma, kidney and lung cancer, and researchers are urgently working to gain new insights into the complex interactions between patients’ immune systems and the cancer cells growing in their bodies with the goal of markedly improving outcomes in many more tumor types.

While the science has advanced rapidly in recent years, there is more work to do. Researchers hope to replace chemotherapy as the first line treatment for many cancers and help as many patients as possible achieve long-term survival. This new treatment approach has the potential to help patients live longer, healthier lives.

Learn more about advancements in science at From Hope to Cures.

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For Cancer Patients, The Possibility Of DNA-Tailored Care

Holly Boehle looked at the expression on the face of her radiologist and knew something was wrong. Boehle had felt a lump just before the holidays and had decided to schedule a mammogram, even though she wasn’t due to start standard screening for another eight years. The mammogram was followed up with an ultrasound, and then a biopsy. Finally, she was given the formal diagnosis: invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer.

The next week she traveled to Mayo Clinic’s oncology office in Rochester, Minn., where she met with clinical breast surgeon Dr. Judy Boughey who suggested Boehle consider participating in a new, ongoing study. She quickly agreed and became one of 140 women to take part in the Breast Cancer Genome-Guided Therapy Study, affectionately called “BEAUTY.”

By the end of the month, the first phase of the study was underway. Tumor tissue was taken from Boehle, and promptly brought into a lab where the sample was injected into mice with compromised immune systems. With her tumor tissue growing inside of them, the avatar mice are given different chemotherapy drugs in order to test the efficacy of treatment before they try it out on human Boehle.

BEAUTY’s Beginnings

Each patient in BEAUTY was given a biopsy, imaging, and chemotherapy treatment, followed by a second round of biopsy and imaging before they headed into the operating room. This gave researchers information on each patient’s blood and genetic makeup, and the sequencing information for their tumor before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment. The mouse avatars, known as patient xenografts, took up the patient’s individualized tumor 40 percent of the time, ultimately serving as a preview into the patient’s treatment outcome.

DNA Strand Free CCLicenseA class of chemo drug called taxanes are the standard of treatment for breast cancer, but doctors currently don’t have a genetic marker to indicate who will respond to taxane therapy and who won’t. That’s why anthracyclines and cyclophosphamide, a separate chemotherapy drug regimen, are typically given in conjunction as the first step in treatment followed by taxane therapy. However, Boughey’s team reversed the sequence for BEAUTY patients whose mice reacted well to the taxane treatment first. It turned out that those patients who responded best to the flipped treatment sequence also shared the same gene in their genetic makeup.

Based on how her mice reacted to treatment, Boehle was one of those patients who were treated with a reverse chemotherapy schedule than what the typical patient with invasive ductal carcinoma is treated with. Within six months of her diagnosis, Boehle’s tumor shrank considerably as a reaction to the chemotherapy.

Being part of the trial has long-term implications for Boehle, too. If the cancer were to recur, she says, “we would already know…what works for me and what doesn’t. It really opens up a whole new world for me and other breast cancer patients in terms of individualized medicine and knowing that I don’t need to be the person who they experiment on and say, ‘Let’s try this medication or chemotherapy and see if it works and we hope that it does.’”

Four years ago, when Boughey and her team began setting up the BEAUTY study, they wanted to be able to design a treatment plan with a relatively accessible patient population. Because breast cancer is so common among women, the research team chose to start work on individualized medicine with those patients with plans to eventually work their way to other solid tumor cancers such as prostate.

By sequencing the genome for both the tumor and the patient’s inheritable DNA, researchers are able to pull the curtain back and see what’s driving the tumor to grow, why it’s different from another tumor, and how the tumor might react to drug treatments. Harnessing the genetic sequence of a tumor in conjunction with a person’s DNA will allow doctors to expand personalized cancer treatments beyond breast cancer.

Standard of Care Tumor Sequencing

Sequencing a tumor for its complete genetic information can take as little as a few days, and as long as several weeks, depending upon the stage of cancer. Once they have the results, researchers then compare them to a patient’s individual germline cells, which contain hereditary mutations that occur during conception. Patients born with germline mutations can pass on to future generations. Somatic mutations can be caused by a number of different environmental factors and can occur spontaneously. As researchers unravel which gene mutations are responsible for causing each corresponding disease, it sets the foundation for creating individualized treatments through trial-and-error.

“From there potential drugs can be identified that act on genes and/or pathways,” Boughey and her colleague Dr. Matthew Goetz, a clinical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, told Medical Daily in an email. “One novel aspect of the BEAUTY clinical trial is our ability to link drug response in the patients with both germline and somatic genomic information and validate using the patient derived xenografts [mouse avatars].”

Mayo Clinic’s research team is currently writing the protocol for BEAUTY 2 based on the types of tumors they identified, and the drug resistance and successes discovered in BEAUTY 1. Because they were able to prove mouse avatars, when administered the same drug that patients were treated with, mirror the drug response seen in patients, pharmaceutical companies will be involved with this next stage by designing medications based on study participants’ response to treatment.

BEAUTY, Boughey says, will “drive forward breast cancer treatments for the future.”

By Samantha Olson Displayed with permission from Medical DailyRePubHub Banner

 

 

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‘Second Cancers’ Are On The Rise, But It’s Kind Of A Good Thing

The number of “second cancer” patients, or individuals who develop two unrelated forms of cancer at different times in their lives, is on the rise. Although the news may sound grim, doctors say the increase is not due to patients’ poor health, but rather a sign that we’re getting better at detecting and beating cancer.

In the United States, nearly one in five new cases of cancer occur in individuals who have already had the disease. That’s a 300 percent increase since the 1970s, The Associated Press reported. While this figure may be startling, the fact remains that no matter what type of cancer a person has had, it’s possible to develop a new, unrelated cancer. According to the American Calab-test-tubes_227ncer Society, increasing numbers of second cancer cases are a sign that advances in early detection and treatment are saving an unprecedented amount of lives. In other words, people getting second cases of cancer means that more people than ever are actually surviving their first case.

Cancer is caused by mutations within the DNA that cause cells to no longer function correctly. These cells may eventually become cancerous. For some, the same mutations that led to the first cancer inevitably spur a second or even third case. This can occur even after the patient has made a full recovery. For example, doctors know women who have the BRCA1 mutation and have already experienced breast cancer are at a higher risk of developing an unrelated type of cancer, such as colon cancer. Because of this genetic risk, these patients will need to be monitored and screened for signs of other cancers for the remainder of their lives.

For others, the treatment that saved their life ends up being the reason their life is once again at risk. For example, although cancer treatments have become effective at destroying cancer without compromising the patient’s health, some treatments, such as radiation treatment, can actually give rise to new mutations and therefore new cancers.

Translational Science ResearchBattling cancer the second time can be trickier than the first because many treatments are ineffective or even deadly when given over a longer period of time.  Along with the medical limitations, experts agree that a second bout of cancer can be mentally difficult for patients to deal with. “I think it’s a lot tougher” for most people, Julia Rowland, director of the federal Office of Cancer Survivorship, told AP. “The first time you’re diagnosed, its fear of the unknown. When you have your next diagnosis, it’s fear of the known.”

Those who have survived past bouts of cancer need to be hypervigilant about cancer screening throughout their lives in order to ensure that if they do develop the disease again, they are able to detect it at the earliest possible stage. Although it may be daunting, patients should remember that cancer treatments are advancing on nearly a daily basis.

By Dana Dovey, Displayed with permission from Medical Daily
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