Archive for November, 2011

Cancer consultants ‘may save lives’

November 30, 2011

The lives of more bowel cancer patients could be saved if the NHS made more consultants available in emergencies and cancers were detected earlier, experts have said. Bowel cancer is often only detected at a late stage, frequently when a tumour causes a life-threatening emergency bleed or blockage. The report covers data from 100 NHS trusts and includes more than 28,000 cases of bowel cancer. Some form of surgical procedure was performed in 75% of cases and a major resection – removal of all or part of the bowel – was undertaken in 60% of patients.

But the study said delays in diagnosis were having an impact on surgery rates. “Late presentation of the disease may be the reason why almost 40% of patients do not receive major surgical resection of their primary disease,” it said.

There was some good news in the study – the overall number of patients who die within 30 days of planned surgery has fallen, to 2.4% in the 12 months to July 2010 from 2.6% in the previous year. The use of keyhole surgery, which is less invasive, is also becoming more widely used, accounting for 30% of cases compared with 25% the year before. Read more…


Updated biopsies could save breast cancer patients’ lives: study

November 29, 2011

One in seven women with advanced or recurring breast cancer could benefit from having an up-to-date biopsy to determine if their treatment plans should be changed, a new study has found. Currently, women with breast cancer that spreads or returns are prescribed therapies based on biopsies done when they were first diagnosed, which are typically many years or decades old. The approach can give an outdated picture of the disease since it ignores the possibility that the cancer may have changed over time, making it unresponsive to previously effective treatments.

The finding suggests there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating the various stages of breast cancer. Indeed, some treatments that may not have worked on primary tumours may suddenly prove to be effective in fighting cancers that have returned, or spread to vital organs such as the lungs, liver, bones and lymph nodes. Doctors should recognize this possibility and recommend their patients get an updated biopsy so their cancer can be reassessed, the study concluded. Read more…

Bone marrow cancer threat can run in the family as gene found to increase risk by 30 per cent

November 28, 2011

A person’s genes can increase the risk of developing a type of bone marrow cancer by 30 per cent, a study has revealed. For the first time scientists have identified genes responsible for an aggressive form of the disease, called multiple myeloma. It was already known that relatives of those suffering from the incurable cancer were at increased risk, but until now, no responsible gene had been identified. It is now hoped the discovery will prompt improvements in diagnosis and treatment.

Researchers used a technique called a genome wide association study to scan the DNA of 1,675 patients with multiple myeloma. The same process was also carried out on around 5,900 healthy people. When results were compared scientists discovered that two regions of the DNA that were more common in people with multiple myeloma and were therefore linked to a higher chance of developing the disease. Read more…


Oral cancer deaths declining among well-educated

November 24, 2011

Deaths from mouth and throat cancer have dropped since the early 1990s, according to a new study — but only among people with at least a high school education.

Researchers said that may be due to higher rates of smoking and other oral cancer risks among less educated, poorer Americans, and because they’re also less likely to have access to timely health care. Similar trends have been shown in rates of death from lung and breast cancers, for example, they added.

Cancer deaths declined during the 1990s and 2000s by two to five percent every year, on average, researchers found. By the end of the study period, the cancers killed three out of every 100,000 white men, six out of every 100,000 black men, and one each of every 100,000 white and black women annually. But when Chen and her colleagues broke those findings down by education level, they found the downward trends only held up among black people with at least a high school education, and only among whites who’d completed some college. That throat and mouth cancers are the latest type of cancer to show such a socioeconomic pattern is one more reason to make education a priority, Chen told Reuters Health. Read more…

Uterine cancer risk lowered for female coffee drinkers

November 23, 2011

Women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day may have a reduced risk of developing cancer in the lining of their uterus, according to a study. Researchers who looked at more than 67,000  nurses found that women who drank that much coffee were one-quarter less likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who averaged less than a cup a day, said the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

The absolute risk that any one woman, coffee drinker or not, would develop the cancer was fairly small, with only 672 women — or one percent of the study group — being diagnosed with it over 26 years. While researchers could also not say for certain that coffee was the reason for the lower risk among those who drank a lot of coffee, the study adds to several others with similar results.

Higher concentrations of insulin and higher lifetime exposure to estrogen have both been linked to a higher risk of endometrial cancer. Researchers looked at a number of other factors, such as differences in women’s weight, since obesity is also linked to a higher risk of endometrial cancer, but that did not account for the lower cancer risk seen among coffee drinkers. Read more…

Brain Cancer Vaccine Shows Positive Results

November 22, 2011

Immunotherapeutic vaccine called Rindopepimut showed positive results in prolonging survival in patients with newly diagnosed EGFRvIII-positive glioblastoma (GB), one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer. 65 patients in 31 locations were choosen for the study known as ACT III.

The overall historic survival rate for patients with GB selected to match those on the trial was 15.2 months. Rindopepimut targets the tumor-specific molecule, epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII). EGFRvIII is a mutated form of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) that is only expressed in cancer cells and not in normal tissue, and is a transforming oncogene that can directly contribute to cancer cell growth.

Expression of EGFRvIII is linked to poor long term survival, regardless of other factors, such as extent of resection and age. EGFRvIII has been expressed in 31% of GB tumors when assessed using the Celldex PCR assay.

The high level of immunity seen in vaccinated patients is again associated with loss of EGFRvIII at recurrence. Rindopepimut was generally well-tolerated with treatment duration up to more than 7 years; toxicities consisted chiefly of injection site reactions, while fatigue, rash, nausea and pruritus also occurred in >10% of patients. Activity and safety data are very consistent with previous smaller studies of Rindopepimut in GB. Read more…

F.D.A. Revokes Approval of Avastin for Use as Breast Cancer Drug

November 19, 2011

The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Friday revoked the approval of the drug Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer, ruling on an emotional issue that pitted the hopes of some desperate patients against the statistics of clinical trials. The commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, said that clinical trials had shown that the drug was not helping breast cancer patients to live longer or to meaningfully control their tumors, but did expose them to potentially serious side effects like severe high blood pressure and hemorrhaging.

“Sometimes, despite the hopes of investigators, patients, industry and even the F.D.A. itself, the results of rigorous testing can be disappointing,” Dr. Hamburg told reporters Friday. “This is the case with Avastin when used for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.” Avastin will remain on the market as a treatment for other types of cancers, so doctors can use it off-label for breast cancer. But insurers might no longer pay for the drug, which would put it out of reach of many women because it costs about $88,000 a year. Federal officials said on Friday that Medicare would still provide coverage for the drug’s use in breast cancer, though the government plans to “monitor the issue and evaluate coverage options.” Read more…

Late-stage ovarian cancer can be treated

November 18, 2011

Researchers have discovered a peptide that shrinks advanced tumours and improves survival rates for ovarian cancer.  Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological cancer. Its symptoms, which include nausea, bloating and abdominal pain, are vague and can be attributed to a number of ailments.

Often the disease remains undetected until it’s well advanced, when the odds of survival are poor.  It’s called the silent killer because it really does sneak up on you. In addition to regressing tumours, ABT-898 essentially prunes dysfunctional blood vessels in the tumour while leaving healthy vessels intact. Read more…

Lung cancer mostly diagnosed late

November 17, 2011

Cases of chronic lung disease and lung cancer are rapidly rising in India, remaining mostly undiagnosed until it is too late, experts say. As Thursday marked World Lung Cancer Day, doctors say changing lifestyles, smoking and air pollution have alarmingly raised the number of lung problems.

Along with cancer, rising equally rapidly are cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that causes acute breathing problems, also related to smoking in most cases. The biggest issue however remains that lung problems are often ignored and go undiagnosed due to lack of information. Read more…

Breast cancer group tests canned foods for BPA

November 16, 2011

Elevating its call to remove a potentially troubling plastic ingredient from canned food linings, a breast cancer advocacy group released a report Tuesday that condemned the use of Bisphenol A in food packaging. The Breast Cancer Fund, which researches links between environmental causes and the disease, chose canned foods used in Thanksgiving dinners as its target. After having 28 cans of food independently tested, the group found four samples bought in Minneapolis contained the highest levels of BPA in their respective categories. The use of BPA in consumer goods has stirred up trouble in recent years.

Advocates fear that BPA, first synthesized in the 1891 as a synthetic form of the hormone estrogen, could be linked to cancer, infertility, early puberty in females, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Minnesota was the first of roughly 10 states to prohibit the manufacture of baby bottles and sippy cups with BPA, but it can still be used in formula can linings and other food products. Some of the cans tested — including those from Minnesota — could contain levels of BPA that have been found harmful in laboratory tests, according to the report. Read more…