Cancer in the headlines, September 17

September 17, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Medical summit to focus on pediatric cancer fight
The bipartisan Congressional Pediatric Cancer Caucus was founded last year and convened this week, Sept. 16, in Washington for the Childhood Cancer Summit. Among those who will be joining US lawmakers in the summit are top doctors and researchers from all over the US, from such well-known institutions like Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, Houston’s M.D. Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. To be discussed are “how we can overcome the obstacles to drug development and access to treatments, and how we can ensure a better quality of life for those who survive their fight with pediatric cancer… The summit is critical in raising the level of awareness, not just among the general public, but also among policymakers. Our goal is to fashion the recommendations from our experts into a legislative agenda and gain the support of our colleagues in the House and Senate.” The summit is part of the September observance on Childhood Cancer Awareness.

Breast Cancer Action will be turning 20 this year!
The Breast Action Group (BCA) will be turning 20 will be celebrating 20 years of activism on October 7th 2010. Check out for the schedule of schedule of activities on the BCA website. As a birthday present to BCA, you can sign the petition telling Eli Lilly to Stop Milking Cancer. Each signature counts!

Cancer features at the 6th Zurich Film Festival
The 6th Zurich Film Festival starts next week and cancer is a hot issue during this festival. For one thing, Michael Douglas is a special awardee for his film Wall Street but unfortunately cannot make it to the vents as he is undergoing cancer treatment. Then there is the 93-minute German-Language feature film Stationspiraten (Station Pirates) by Michael Schaerer. Here is a synopsis of the film:

“Five adolescents meet on a hospital’s cancer ward. Four of them have received a positive diagnosis; one is still awaiting his results. Although each of them suffers from a different kind of cancer, all of them face an uncertain future. Friendship has always played an important role in the lives of young people but is absolutely indispensible when your most impressionable years are spent dressed in pyjamas and hooked up to tubes. Despite their circumstances, the lively quintet manages to find a positive side to the monotony of everyday hospital life, and oppose their threatening illness by enjoying their lives to the full. Yet, each one of them must still cope with their own situation and problems.”

Check out the trailer. You might not understand the language (Swiss German) but you’ll be sure to shed some tears.

Cancer in the headlines, August 27

August 27, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Michael Douglas, Smoking and Throat Cancer
Cancer does not recognize demographic boundaries. It gets everybody, even the rich and the famous. 65-year old Hollywood legend Michael Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer recently. A tumor was detected in his throat and he will undergo aggressive radiation and chemotherapy that will last for about 8 weeks. There are speculations as to the stage of Douglas’ cancer but experts speculate it would be rather advanced – Stage III or IV. It is mostly that his lifestyle – 20 years of heavy smoking and alcohol abuse – is most likely to blame for his cancer.

In an interview in “Good Morning America”, Dr. Kenneth Hu, co-director of the Head and Neck Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York stated:

“That combination is, unfortunately, a recipe for development of a throat cancer. I think the fact that he’s getting radiation means it’s curable.”

However, he has to initiate a complete lifestyle change for the recovery to proceed.

Beauty and the Cancer Beast
Another celebrity who faces the monster cancer speaks out. Patti Hansen, supermodel and wife of Keith Richards, the guitarist of Rolling Stones was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007. The 54-year old opened up about her disease in the August issue of Vogue magazine. Hansen underwent surgery to remove her bladder, uterus and appendix at the New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering. She underwent several cycles of chemotherapy.

The chemo is really horrible. I don’t know how people get through it. I have friends who are on that wicked stuff for life. It’s so debilitating, so depressing. The first shot just totally ruined my arm. You have to go get yourself plugged in every week, and you sit there and you think, My God, I take such good care of myself.  I’m so organic. I can’t believe I’m putting this poison in me.  But it shrank the tumor.”

Hansen is now cancer-free.

A new ground zero for prostate cancer
Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have identified a “somewhat overlooked” type of prostate basal cell that is actually the “ground zero” of malignant tumors. According to HHMI researcher Dr. Owen N. Witte:

“We’ve defined one cell type as an originator of prostate cancer. Now we can use that knowledge to find genetic pathways that can be attacked therapeutically to control the disease.”

There are 2 types of prostate cells- the luminal cells and the basal cells. Previous research have concentrated on the luminal cells which coat the inner layer of the prostate tubules. However, the new evidence it is the basal cells which are lining the outer layer that get damaged genetically and turn cancerous.

Cancer in the headlines, July 23

July 23, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Mom searches China for donor to save her daughter’s life
Fifteen years ago, Sherrie Cramer adopted a malnourished baby from a Chinese orphanage who grew up to be Katie. Four years ago, the now 16-year old Katie developed leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, no match in the US can be found. Katie’s situation highlights a common problem facing ethnic minorities in the US. “The Asian American Donor Program says ethnic minorities overall have a 50 percent chance of finding a perfect match from the U.S. bone marrow donor registry of 8 million people, compared to an 80 percent chance for Caucasians.”

Annual report: US cancer death rates still declining
Death rates due to cancer are continuing to decline, according to Cancer Statistics, 2010, the annual cancer statistics report of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS). According to Dr. John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):

“This report is yet more proof we are creating a world with more birthdays… We will build on our progress in the fight against cancer through laws and policies that increase access to cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment services, and with a sustained federal investment in research designed to find breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of the most deadly forms of cancer.”

Yet, the battle is far from over. There is still much work to be done and cancer continues to be a major health concern in the US.

The report is accoumpanied by Cancer Facts & Figures 2010 and is published in the ACS journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

FDA advisory panel votes against Avastin for advanced breast cancer
A US FDA advisory panel voted to withdraw the approval of the cancer drug bevacizumab (Avastin) for the indication of advanced breast cancer in combination with chemotherapy. New data from clinical trials indicate that Avastin does not seem to provide added benefit compared to treatment with chemo alone. Avastin is approved for other types of cancer as well and the panel’s recommendation does not apply to the other approved indications.

NY mulls indoor tanning rules, cites cancer risk
New York is on the move again in trying to improve its residents’ health. Next to smoking bans and the trans-fat free restaurant food, it is now looking into tanning salons. Current New York law bans “commercial indoor tanning for children under 14 and requires written parental consent for those from 14 up to 18.” Health advocates are pushing for stricter regulations, calling tanning beds “cancer chambers.”

Cancer in the headlines, March 5

March 5, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in the US

Information on Life after Cancer Now Available on
Life after Cancer is the newest addition to the NIHSenior Health resource center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIHSeniorHealth is a health and wellness site focusing on the needs of older adults. It was developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), both part of the NIH. Life after Cancer addresses the needs of the elderly cancer survivors which make up almost 60% of all cancer survivors. Topics include follow-up care, physical and emotional changes, age-related complications, and relationships with family and friends

Researchers chart genomic map spanning over two dozen cancers
This is the largest study of its kind – mapping the genomes of 26 different cancers. The groundbreaking study started in 2004 by a group of international scientists led by researchers at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute. The cancers studied some of the most common, e.g. lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, colon, esophageal, liver, brain, and blood cancers. Over 2,500 cancer specimens were collected and analyzed using chip technology. The analysis focused on a particular type of genetic abnormalities called somatic copy-number alterations or SCNAs present in many tumor types. According to senior author Matthew Meyerson:

“Our findings show that many genome alterations are universal across different cancers. Although this has been known for some types of changes, the degree to which so many alterations are shared was pretty surprising to us.”

Costly Tests May Not Help Detect Bladder Cancer Recurrence, M. D. Anderson Study Finds
Are these some of those costly but unreliable cancer screening tests? Cystoscopy is currently in gold standard in screening for recurrence of early-stage bladder cancer. Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center report that this is a cost-effective technique in detecting bladder tumors. However, some doctors tend to do additional tests such as testing for ancillary urinary markers. These tests, however, said the researchers, will simply increase costs without real benefits to the diagnosis. In fact, these tests could actually increase the rate of false positives that would cause distress and unnecessary procedures. According to senior research Dr. Ashish Kamat:

“The tests frequently added to cystoscopy have many more false positives than commonly believed, and they can lead to unnecessary work-ups. Our findings also may help reduce the cost of caring for bladder cancer patients, which currently in is the range of $4 billion annually.”

Online Health Chats at the Cleveland Clinic

Cancer in the headlines, Feb 19

February 19, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

FDA Cancer Drug Approval Rate Highlighted in JNCI
A review in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute gives positive feedback on US FDA’s rate of cancer drug approval. Between July 2005 and end of 2007, the regulatory body Office of Oncology Drug Products approved more than 50 new indications in oncology as well as hematology drugs and biologics. In addition, the review reports:

FDA Approves Rituxan to Treat Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
One of the latest approved cancer drug is Rituxan (rituximab), indicated for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL is a slowly progressing cancer of the blood and bone marrow primarily affecting people older than 50. It arises from a group of white blood cells known as B-cells—part of the body’s immune system. About 16,000 people in the US are diagnosed with CLL each year, resulting in 4,400 deaths. Rituxan is indicated for patients for chemotherapy-naive as well as chemotherapy-experienced patients not responding to ongoing therapy. Rituxan is administered in combination with two other chemotherapy drugs, fludarabine and cyclophosphamide.

According to Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

“Rituxan is the third drug approved for the treatment of CLL since 2008 and underscores FDA’s commitment to expediting the development and approval of drugs for patients with serious and life-threatening diseases.”

Merck: Studies boost Gardasil for new uses
The HPV vaccine Gardasil is effective against other conditions, according to its manufacturer Merck. Gardasil was initially approved for prevention of cervical cancer in females from age 9 to 26. Last year, it was approved for the prevention of genital warts in males aged 9 to 26. New studies indicate that the vaccine is also effective in preventing cervical cancer and genital warts in older women (up to 45 years) and anal cancer in men. Merck is applying for approval for these new indications.

Wishing you all a relaxing weekend!

Cancer in the headlines, February 5

February 5, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Here’s a round up of cancer news for you today.

NIH to Hold Press Telebriefing on February 4 following State-of-the-Science Conference on Colorectal Cancer Screening
American adults are not utilizing available screening methods for colorectal cancer, according to a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) press statement. An NIH State-of-the-Science Conference on Enhancing Use and Quality of Colorectal Cancer Screening was held on February 2 to 4, 2010. Current guidelines recommend screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 but a 2005 statistics indicated that only 50% of those eligible for screening have been screened. Currently available screening methods are as follows:

  • fecal occult blood testing
  • sigmoidoscopy (internal examination of the lower part of the large intestine)
  • colonoscopy (internal examination of the entire large intestine).

Andrew Lloyd Webber urges men to get cancer tests
The renowned British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is back on track after having been successfully treated for prostate cancer last year. The 61-year old is back, working on new musicals and felt very lucky that his cancer was caught rather early. Webber urges men to undergo prostate cancer screening:

“I say to every red-blooded male, if you do begin to have a problem down under, however embarrassing, go to your GP at once. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, if you are over 50 get regular PSA (prostate specific antigen) tests.”

Mutations Contribute to Type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
NIH researchers report the discovery of genetic mutations that may contribute to the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The study specifically looked at diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is and aggressive and the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, accounting for about 30% of newly diagnosed cases. Studies show the implication of the BCR signalling pathway in the pathogenesis of DLBCL. This current study looked for mutations in genes that encode these signaling pathway components in human DLBCL tumors and identified critical points in the BCR signaling pathway that affect the survival of lymphoma cells.

UPDATE 2-Roche says Xelox cancer drug effective in elderly
Xelox, a cancer drug developed by Roche, extends survival of patients with colorectal cancer, according to recent study results. Xelox is oral Xeloda combined with intravenous oxaliplatin and is given after surgery. The study which included patients older than 65 demonstrated that disease-free survival rate is higher in those treated with Xelox compared to those treated with commonly used chemotherapy regimen 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin

Project seeks genetic basis of childhood cancer
Researchers at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are working together to sequence all the genes associated with childhood tumors. It is hoped that with genetic knowledge, treatments can be developed that will work specifically and more effectively in children than chemo- and radiotherapy. According to Dr. Larry Shapiro, dean of Washington University School of Medicine:

“Our belief and our expectation is that pediatric cancer is going to have different genetic alterations than adult cancers.”

The 3-year study is estimated to cost $65 million which will mostly come from private donations.

Cancer in the headlines, January 22

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Here are some cancer news updates for you this weekend.

The Cancer Genome Atlas Identifies Distinct Subtypes of Deadly Brain Cancer That May Lead to New Treatment Strategies
The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network reported an recent discovery with regards to glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is the most common form of malignant brain cancer in adults. A research study showed that GBM is not just one sole disease as previously thought but can actually be furthered classified into 4 different molecular subtypes. Depending on the subtype, the cancer responds differently to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. TCGA is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins:

“TCGA is mobilizing the entire cancer community to find new strategies in detecting and treating cancer faster. These findings are just a hint of what we expect to result from the comprehensive data generated by TCGA over the next few years.”

Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays
The US FDA recently issued a consumer update on indoor tanning and the risks involved.

According to scientist Dr. Sharon Miller, FDA scientist and international UV radiation expert:

“Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage… A tan is the skin’s reaction to exposure to UV rays. Recognizing exposure to the rays as an ‘insult,’ the skin acts in self-defense by producing more melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. Over time, this damage will lead to prematurely aged skin and, in some cases, skin cancer.”

Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning
A legislator in the state of Maine is lobbying for cell phone warning. Maine Rep. Andrea Boland wants to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to do the same thing. The Maine leaders will be discussing Boland’s proposal this month. If agreed upon, Maine will be the first state to implement such as a warning, which are supposedly exists in some countries. Currently, scientists and health authorities are divided on the phone-cancer link. Scientific evidence has been mostly inconclusive

Patients with diabetes are at increased risk for pulmonary problems but not lung cancer
California researchers report that diabetes can lead to a decline in lung function that increases the risk for pulmonary problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and pneumonia. The silver lining is that there is no increase in risk for lung cancer.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cancer in the headlines, Dec 11

December 11, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

Good news and bad news on the cancer battle front.newspaper

Annual Report: Cancer Death Rate Down; Increase in Certain Cancer Types
Now, this is good tidings indeed for the holiday season. Cancer death rates in the US are down! This is according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2006, Featuring Colorectal Cancer Trends and Impact of Interventions (Risk Factors, Screening, and Treatment) to Reduce Future Rates, authored by researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).  Not only are cancer mortality rates lower, the number of new cases is dropping as well. Some types of cancers, however, still present a major challenge.
According to Betsy Kohler, executive director of NAACCR:

The continued decline in incidence and death rates for all cancers combined is extremely encouraging, but progress has been more limited for certain types of cancer, including many cancers that are currently less amenable to screening, such as cancer of esophagus, liver and pancreas.”

Yet, the battle is far from over. According to NCI Director Dr. John E. Niederhuber:

“The continued decline in overall cancer rates documents the success we have had with our aggressive efforts to reduce risk in large populations, to provide for early detection, and to develop new therapies that have been successfully applied in this past decade…Yet we cannot be content with this steady reduction in incidence and mortality. We must, in fact, accelerate our efforts to get individualized diagnoses and treatments to all Americans and our belief is that our research efforts and our vision are moving us rapidly in that direction.”

32nd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium
The 2008 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) was held this week from 9 to 13 December. This is the first time the symposium is presented together by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center and the Baylor College of Medicine. More than 8,500 participants from 90 countries were present.

Stand Up To Cancer Funds High-risk/High-reward Cancer Research by 13 Young Scientists
 Another good news, this time for young scientists. The advocacy group Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) is awarding $9.68 million worth of grants to 13 young scientists involved in “high-risk/high-reward cancer research.” The research grants are meant to be highly innovative, to encourage the bright researchers “to step outside their comfort zones and strive to make big differences with bold initiatives.” The complete list of awardees can be found here.

 A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement Eleven Years Later
However, it’s not all good news all the way. American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown laments some states’ decision to cut down on funding for tobacco prevention programs as shown the State Tobacco Spending Report. Dr. Brown calls it “a broken promise to our children.” The State Tobacco Settlement of 1998 provides that states should fund “comprehensive programs to save lives and keep children and adults from smoking.” Most of the funds come from tobacco-generated revenues such as tobacco taxes. Yet, the majority of the states do not meet the levels set by the CDC and some have even cut back on funding. Brown concludes:

“The battle against tobacco must be fought on several fronts. Although we’re making progress with smoke-free workplace laws, higher tobacco excise taxes and enactment of federal legislation to regulate the tobacco industry, we must do more to give smokers the tools and resources they need to kick this deadly habit. State lawmakers have more than enough resources to make a huge difference in their communities. Now they must back their promises with real and immediate results.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cancer in the headlines, November 27

November 27, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaperNovember is a month for cancer awareness. This month, the following were observed (source: Dana-Farber Institute):

Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
National Bone Marrow Awareness Month

New guidelines: Pap smears can start at 21
New guidelines are popping up almost everyday. The Pap smears guidelines have also been rehauled. This one, however, (unlike the new mammogram guidelines) is well-accepted and has the complete support of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The new guidelines provide for the following changes:

European Commission calls for smoke-free Europe by 2012
The European Commission has called for s Smoke Free Europe by 2012. The press release says that currently, only 10 European countries meet the criteria of having “comprehensive smoke-free laws in place.” Of these, only the UK and Ireland have a complete ban on smoking in enclosed places, including public transport and workplaces. More European countries are expected to follow their example. Among European residents, smoke-free policies are becoming popular. The results of a recent survey show:

  • 84% support smoke-free offices and other indoor workplaces;
  • 77% are in favor of smoke-free restaurants
  • 61% want smoke-free bars and pubs.

World Series Game 3 Dedicated to Cancer Research
Major League Baseball opened its heart by dedicating the October 30 World Series to cancer research. Sponsor MasterCard Worldwide and Major League Baseball made donations that benefited Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a not-for-profit organization that advocates cancer research support. MasterCard donated $1,000 to SU2C for every home run hit in the post season and $1 million if a ball hits the “Hit It Here” sign. According to Laura Ziskin, SU2C spokesperson:

“Collaboration is central to Stand Up To Cancer, whether it’s within the teams of scientists whose work we fund, in the extraordinary partnerships we have among the people and companies that make up the entertainment community, or in our remarkable relationships with MLB and other generous donors. We’re utilizing all these resources to build a movement of people excited about helping researchers who are on the cusp of major breakthroughs, but need additional funding.”

Cancer in the headlines, October 30

October 30, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaperSome cancer news for you this weekend…

Andrew Lloyd Webber vows to beat prostate cancer
British star composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, his spokesman revealed. But he is not taking a passive stance but vows to beat the disease. He cleared the next couple of months of work but aims to be back by the end of the year. He began treatment in a private clinic last weekend. Webber is well-known for his musical hits Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats and Starlight Express. Webber is 61 years old.

Hispanics Who Move to U.S. Face Higher Cancer Rates
Moving to the US increases the risk for Hispanics to develop cancer by 40%, according to a study from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Florida has one of the biggest and the most diverse Hispanic population in the US. Researchers  believe that the lifestyle change that comes with immigration may be responsible. More about this report in a later post.

Family of teen who fled chemo wants court out
13-year old Daniel Hauser made headlines earlier this year when he and his Mom fled to avoid chemotherapy. Daniel was diagnosed childhood Hodgkin’s lymphoma but his family decided to opt for alternative medicine. The case was brought to court which decided that Daniel show follow standard oncology treatments. He and his mother disappeared for a couple of weeks but eventually came back to Minnesota. He has finished his chemotherapy sessions in September but is still undergoing radiation therapy. The family has now filed a petition that court supervision of his treatments should end.

FDA Approves New Treatment for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
The US FDA has just approved a new treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The drug is called Arzerra (ofatumumab), a monoclonal antibody developed by the UK pharma  GlaxoSmithKline. LCL is a slowly progressing cancer of the blood and bone marrow

Unused cancer meds can be donated, law says
There are those who can’t afford cancer drugs but there are lots of excess unused cancer drugs lying around. The unused drugs come from people who could afford it but the drug has to be stopped for one reason or another. What happens to the unused, unopened but paid for drugs? Since cancer drugs are resulted prescription drugs, it is illegal to give them away. A new law in several American states may change this and allow that the unused drugs be donated under strictly controlled and monitored conditions.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cancer in the headlines, September 18

September 18, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

Tribute to the cancer victims

Mary Travers of “Peter, Paul and Mary” dies, age 72
She’ an icon from my childhood. Yes, I admit I grew up with Peter, Paul and Mary even if this admission gives away my age. I grew upnewspaper humming the tunes of “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, “Stewball”, “Lemon tree” “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “500 miles” and many other folk songs. Mary Travers and her bandmates were social activists who used their music as social commentaries. I am therefore saddened to hear about the passing of Mary Travers at age 72 after battling leukemia since 2004. Travers had bone marrow transplant 3 years ago but she suffered from a relapse. Reports say she passed away on September 16 from complications of chemotherapy.

Patrick Swayze dies, age 57
Patrick Swayze, on the other hand, was part of my teen years and early adulthood. “The Outsiders”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Ghost” and “North and South” are just a few of his memorable films. Swayze battled pancreatic cancer for almost 2 years. He passed away last September 14 at the age of 57. An oncologist told CNN it was “an accomplishment” that he was able to survive that long. Pancreatic cancer that has metastasized outside the pancreas has very poor prognosis. Swayze admitted that his cancer might be largely due to his smoking.

While fighting his own battle, Swayze was also fighting on behalf of other cancer victims. He was a strong supporter of the advocacy group Stand Up to Cancer and was actively campaigning for health reforms.

Good news for the cancer survivors

News from ASCO: 6-Minute Cancer Survivorship Care
It was announced recently at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Orlando, Florida – a survivor care plan accessible online. This is good news for cancer survivors – about 12 million in the US and 28 million around the world. This new web service is a partnership between the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It is called the LiveStrong Care Plan powered by OncoLink. Oncolink is a general cancer site which was set up by the university in 1994. With this new partnership and innovation

Patients can actually go in and enter basic demographic information about themselves, enter information about the treatments they had; whether it be chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, or hormonal therapy; and this plan will actually spit out about a seven or eight page care plan for the rest of their life.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cancer in the headlines, Sept 7

September 7, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaperLet’ start the week with some cancer news update

News about  skin cancer

NIH Study Reveals New Genetic Culprit in Deadly Skin Cancer
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified a new group of genetic mutations that are linked to melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. What is interesting is that some of these mutations are also linked to breast cancer.  The mutations, which are found in about a fifth of melanoma cases, actually are in a gene that is being targeted by a drug approved for breast cancer. “We have found what appears to be an Achilles’ heel of a sizable share of melanomas,”  according to author Dr. Yardena Samuels of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) .

News about  prostate cancer

Overdiagnosis of Prostate Cancer Widespread, Study Finds
Is prostate cancer overdiagnosed? The incidence of prostate cancer has been increasing during the last 20 years mainly due to new screening techniques. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test has especially been popular but also controversial. Many health experts believe that the test has a high rate of false positives. A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute estimates that more than million of those men who were diagnosed may actually not have benefited from the diagnosis.

September Focused on Health: Men’s Health Update
The September issue of Focused on health, the free online newsletter of the MD Anderson Cancer Center is focusing on men’s health, particularly on prostate cancer, PSA, and eating healthy. Subscription is for free.

News from the pollution fighters

American Lung Association to EPA: Tighter NO2 Standards Necessary
The American Lung Association (ALA) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “adopt stronger air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide”  in order to protect the health of those who are living close to highways and major thouroughfares. The ALA volunteer leaders made the petition at the EPA hearings last month. Specifically, the request is ” to lower the official limit (called the air quality standard) for NO2, a potent form of air pollution. The new NO2 standard will trigger federally enforced clean up measures designed to protect people from the harm that breathing this pollutant can cause. “

Smoke no longer found in European hospitals
Not all European countries have banned cigarette smoking in public places. However it seems that at least the hospitals are smoke-free. A  study by researchers at  Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) shows that environmental  smoke exposure in European hospitals is “low”, and “without any notable differences.”  The measurements were done way back in 2001, indicating some kind of anti-smoking regulations were already in place 8 years ago.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cancer in the headlines, August 28

August 28, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

livestrong-summit-lafAnother sunny weekend on my side of the world. However, our thoughts are with the victims of the bush and forest fires in many parts of the world. Such devastations have long-term effects on the environment, including the air we breathe.

I am also bring you the cancer news round up for this weekend. Happy reading.

News from the cancer victims

Senator Edward Kennedy passes away
Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy lost the battle against brain cancer on Tuesday, August 25, 2009. He was 77 years old. The senator’s famous words:

“For those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

News from the cancer summit

LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland in Support of Men’s Health
The first ever LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign was held in Dublin, Ireland this week, from August 24 to 26. The Livestrong Summit is an initiative of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF). More than 500 delegates from almost 70 countries met “to share their commitments to fight cancer.” The goal: a world without cancer. Photo from livestrong blog.

News from the airwaves

WEEI / NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon
Thursday and Friday, August 27 – 28, 2009 is the 8th annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon on WEEI Sports Radio Network and New England Sports Network. The 36-hour radio broadcast will feature stories and interviews of celebrities (inlcuding Red Sox players), cancer patients, doctors, and other medical professionals. Funds raised will be used to support research and care for both children and adults at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Here are the radio-telethon times:

  • Thursday, August 27: 6 a.m. to midnight
  • Friday, August 28: 6 a.m. to midnight

News from the researchers

Worrisome” radiation doses with imaging, new study finds
Patients undergoing medical imaging procedures for clinical purposes are actually exposed to substantial doses of ionizing radiation, a trend which is “worrisome” according to researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine. Radiation exposure increases the risk for certain types of cancer. According to lead author Dr Reza Fazel

“Our findings that in some patients worrisome radiation doses from imaging procedures can accumulate over time underscores the need to improve their use. Unlike the exposure of workers in healthcare and the nuclear industry, which can be regulated, the exposure of patients cannot be restricted, largely because of the inherent difficulty in balancing the immediate clinical need for these procedures, which is frequently substantial, against the stochastic risks of cancer that would not be evident for years, if at all.”

Specific procedure found to be responsible for most of the radiation exposure are: myocardial perfusion imaging (22%); computer tomography (CT) scans of the abdomen, pelvis, and chest (38%).

News from the cancer side, August 21

August 21, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaperIt’s been ages since I had brought you some cancer news. I was away, travelling in southern Africa during the last three weeks. Knowing that Internet access is rather difficult where I was going, I didn’t even bring my laptop with me. Can you imagine three week without a computer? Try it! It can be pretty relaxing. Anyway, I’m back and here I am, once again bringing you weekly cancer news round up.

News from the survivors

On Larry King Live this Friday: Prostate cancer survivors speak to save lives
Today, Friday, August 21, former state secretary Colin Powell, tennis champ John McEnroe and L.A. Dodger’s manager Joe Torre will be guests on Larry Kind Live on CNN. They speak out on one of the deadliest cancers for men… on surviving and preventing prostate cancer. 9 pm PT, 6 pm ET on CNN.

News from the legislators

FDA Launches New Center for Tobacco Products
Following the passage of the historic Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in June, the US FDA launched on August 19 its new Center for Tobacco products “in an historic effort to curb the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by those products each year.” The act gave the US FDA regulatory powers over tobacco products and the center will oversee its implementation which would include “setting performance standards, reviewing premarket applications for new and modified risk tobacco products, and establishing and enforcing advertising and promotion restrictions.” Appointed as the first director of the center is Dr. Lawrence Deyton, a clinical professor of medicine and health policy at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and an expert on veterans’ health issues, public health, and tobacco use.

News from the drug makers

Insulin glargine and cancer: Existing evidence does not warrant alarm
Claims of glargine increasing cancer risk are unfounded, experts say. Glargine is a long-acting insulin analog commonly prescribed for the management of diabetes. The claims were put forward by a small observational study earlier this year. However, as more data are coming, experts believe it was “an unwarranted alarm.” Doctors and patients are advised not to stop but continue using glargine. Glargine is marketed as Lantus by Sanofi-Aventis.

Prostate Cancer Foundation supports research on new drug for bone density in prostate cancer patients
Research on bone metastasis funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PFC) is also looking at a new targeted therapy with the hormone-blocking agent denosumab. The treatment aims to stop bone loss, increased bone density, and decrease fracture risks in cancer patients with bone metastasis. Standard treatment for advanced and metastatic prostate cancer is the androgen-deprivation therapy which although effective, comes with a serious side effect – bone loss, which leads to fractures and poor quality of life.  Denosumab, now being tested in Phase III clinical trials, might be safer alternative to current standard treatments.

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News from the cancer side, July 24

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

pink-ribbon21News from the cancer victims

Hartson facing cancer treatment
Ex-footballer John Hartson has recently been diagnosed with testicular cancer which has metastasized to his brain. The 34-year old professional football player was a striker for Wales and used to play in the English Premier League for Arsenal and Celtics but retired last year. He is currently undergoing treatment at Swansea Singleton Hospital.

Frank McCourt had wisdom to look back
The Pulitzer-prize winner frank McCourt died of cancer last Sunday, July 20. The New York-born Irish American author of the acclaimed autobiographical piece Angela’s Ashes was suffering from melanoma. He was 78.

The Beat Lives On
In its summer 2009 issue, CR magazine features reggae legend Bob Marley who died of metastatic melanoma almost 30 years ago. The article reviews what has changed in the field of melanoma treatment and management during the last 3 decades. According to Dr. Vernon K. Sondak, a surgical oncologist and melanoma specialist at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Fla.

“Most people still don’t think of dark-skinned people as being at risk for skin cancer, and probably even fewer think that a melanoma might occur under a toenail. Still to this day, we have a hard time getting an early diagnosis when it’s a non-classic melanoma, meaning that it is in an unusual location, has an unusual presentation, or is in an unusual patient.”

News from drugmakers

UA pharmacy research shows prescribers miss potentially dangerous drug pairs
Drug-drug interactions can be dangerous and doctors should know what drugs should not be prescribed together. However, a research by the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy revealed that “a very low rate of recognition of these particular interactions [among prescribers] and some of these interactions are very common.” A potentially life-threatening interaction, for example, is between the widely used sildenafil (Viagra) and nitrates (e.g isosorbide mononitrate). The research also revealed that on average, 2.3 medications are prescribed during each doctor visit.

Europe attacks tactics that delay generic drugs
European authorities are attacking tactics by pharmaceutical companies to delay access to generic drugs. The European Commission just completed an 18-month inquiry into the case of several companies and certain “agreements” that may have breached anti-trust laws.

News from the cancer clinics

Dana-Farber is fifth highest ranked cancer center in the country
The US News and World Report has recently released its survey of medical facilities in the US. Once again, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was ranked top cancer hospital in New England and 5th in the whole of the US. The top 4 places were taken by University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston (no.1), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York (no. 2), Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore (no. 3) and Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. (no.4)

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News from the cancer side, July 3

July 3, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaperNews from the survivors

Lance Armstrong starts Tour de France
While fireworks go up in the US tomorrow, our favorite cancer survivor Lance Armstrong will start the first stage of Tour de France tomorrow in his bid for his 8th title. The 96th Tour goes till July 26 and covers a distance of 3,500 kilometers in 21 stages Go, Lance, Go!

News from the safety watch groups

Cancer concerns with insulin glargine
The European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) has requested requesting further research to investigate a possible link between insulin glargine and cancer. Glargine is an insulin product marketed as Lantus by Sanofi-Aventis. The concerns came up when two studies by German and Swedish researchers showed a dose-dependent increase in cancer risk among glargine users. UK studies on the other hand gave inconclusive results. The American Diabetes Association said the findings “are conflicting and inconclusive” and “cautions against overreaction until more information is available.

News from the cancer researchers

Cancer biology: Double agent
The protein STAT3 plays the double agent. The protein regulates gene expression and is active in mitochondrial metabolism. However, STAT3 mutants seem to mediate metabolic changes necessary for cancer cell growth. This new development has been reported in the June issue of Science.

News from the endocrinologists

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
In a recent meeting of the Endocrine Society, endocrinologists reported on several so-called endocrine disrupting chemicals. On top of the list is bisphenol A (BPA), the controversial plastic component. BPA exposure of pregnant mice led to loss of fertility in female offsprings. Dioxins, on the other hand, have been shown to interfere with the development of mammary cells and therefore milk production. Dioxins occur naturally but are also produced as industrial waste. They get into the water, soil and into the food chain. According to the World Health Organization, 90% of dioxin exposure occurs via the food chain. Both BPA and dioxin are potential carcinogens.

News from the drug developers

New Class of Drugs Promising for BRCA-Related Cancers
Good news for BRCA gene carriers. A new class of cancer drugs called PARP inhibitors show promising activity against inherited cancers caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 cell mutations. PARP inhibitors work by blocking the action of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, an enzyme that helps repair DNA. In certain tumor cells, such as those from BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, blocking this enzyme can lead to cell death.

News from the cancer side, June 26

June 26, 2009 by  
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newspaper1It’s really summer finally! Have a great weekend!

News from the cancer victims

Remembering Farrah Fawcett
I come from a generation who grew up with the TV series Charlie’s Angels (yes, it was a series before the films!), Six Million Dollar Man and Wonder Woman. Of the three original Angels, Farrah Fawcett was probably the most glamorous and sexiest. She was very famous back then and even became more famous when she married, then later divorced “Six-Million” lead star Lee Majors. TV shows come and go. Thirty years later, I was saddened to hear about Farrah’s battle with rectal cancer. She had a successful surgery to remove the tumor but it came back and later metastasized to the liver.

Fawcett appeared in a cancer documentary film last month wherein she shared her own cancer story. Earlier this week, her long-time partner Ryan O’Neal (of the Love Story fame) asked her to marry him and she accepted. One day later, on June 26, Farrah Fawcett succumbed to cancer and moved on to a better place.

News from the cancer researchers

United States and the Republic of Chile Partner to Battle Cancer
The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Chile have formed alliance “to accelerate progress against cancer in Hispanic populations in the United States and Latin America.” The two  institutions will closely collaborate to to advance cancer research. A 2006 estimate showed cancer as the second leading cause of mortality in Chile.

News from the legislators

Tobacco Regulation Bill Becomes Law
US President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act granting the US FDA regulatory powers over production, sale and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products. According to President Obama

“Today, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, health care and consumer advocates, the decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious…This law will save American lives and make Americans healthier.”

News from the toxicologists

EPA Estimates Cancer Risk Associated With Air Pollution
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that some regions of the US face greater health risks from air pollution than others. The agency looked at 181 different air pollutants, including benzene, methylene chloride, and acrolein. 80 of these pollutants which may come from traffic-related or coming from industrial sources are thought to increase cancer risk. The EPA also identified about 600 neighborhoods in the US where people are exposed to higher concentrations of toxic air compared to the rest of the country.

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News from the cancer side, June 12

June 12, 2009 by  
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News from the toxicologists

Formaldehyde, pesticide increase cancer risk
Two ongoing studies indicate that exposure to certain compounds increased the risk for certain types of cancer. Formaldehyde exposure among industrial workers is associated with increased risk of cancers of the blood and lymphatic system. Pesticide use has been linked to higher risk of pre-cancerous multiple myeloma.

News from the sporty survivors

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James recovering from five hour operation
NBA’s Most Valuable Player LeBron James is on his way to recovery after a 5-hour surgery on his right jaw. James had a tumor in the right saliva-producing parotid gland. The growth is said to be benign.

Lance Armstrong gives strong Giro d’Italia showing
Meanwhile, another sports professional and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong showed that “he is a force to be reckoned in the mountains after a strong stage in the Giro d’Italia” last month. The next race is just around the corner. Tour de France starts on July 4 and ends on July 26.

News from the legislators

California Senate Votes to Ban Bisphenol A in Baby Food and Beverage Products
California is BPA-free! The California Senate passed the Toxics-Free Babies and Toddlers Act (SB 797) aka the Pavley Bill after its initiator Sen. Fran Pavley. If it goes through the Stae Assembly, the bill will ban the use of bisphenol A in the manufacture of food and drink containers designed for children aged 3 and younger. BPA is a potential carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. It leaches out of food containers and packaging and ends up in the human body. “Millions of babies and toddlers are exposed to the toxic hormone disruptor BPA on a daily basis through their baby bottles, formula and baby food,” said Renee Sharp, director of Environmental Working Group’s California office. “If the Pavley bill becomes law, this will finally end.”

News from the advocacy groups

June Spotlight: Pediatric Patient Resources
The Dana Farber Institute’s spotlight for this month is on resources for pediatric cancer patients. It gives information about insurance and other financial issues, school and education, recreation and other social issues that young cancer patients and their families have to face.

News from the researchers

New protein centre opens
The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Copenhagen opened a new protein research center on June 4. The center is called the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Protein Research, named after the foundation which donated the 80 million Euros neede to set it up. The Protein Centre opens up new opportunities for investigating the complicated progression from protein to disease.

News from the cancer side, June 5

June 5, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

breast_cancer_bands_1News from the survivors

This coming Sunday, June 7  is National Cancer Survivors Day. In commemoration of this event, the author-doctor-cancer survivor Laura Liberman will give a talk on Women Conquering Cancer: A Celebration of National Cancer Survivors Day. Place: Akbar Hall, 1174 Bedford Avenue between Putnam Avenue & Madison Street, Brooklyn; Time: 1:30-4:30 pm. Dr. Liberam is the author of the book I Signed as the Doctor: Memoir of a Cancer Doctor Surviving Cancer.

News from the drug regulators

FDA: First Drug to Treat Cancer in Dogs Approved
The US FDA has approved earlier this week the drug Palladia (toceranib phosphate), the first anti-cancer drug for canine patients. Palladia is approved to treat canine cutaneous (skin-based) mast cell tumors, a type of cancer responsible for about 1 out of 5 cases of canine skin tumors. The drug is approved to treat the tumors with or without regional lymph node involvement.

News from the cancer experts

ASCO’s Annual Meeting
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) had their 45th Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL last May 29 to June 2. This year’s theme was “Personalizing Cancer Care.” Research highlights to be presented are

  • Experimental Vaccine for Treating Advanced Melanoma
  • New Class of Drugs for Treating Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
  • Vaccine Appears to Slow Type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Combo Chemo for Colon Cancer Appears to Work Differently Depending on Age
  • Childhood Cancer Survivors Not Getting Checked for Later Cancers

About 4000 research studies are expected to be presented.

News from the statisticians

Cancer Death Rate Steadily Declining
Good news from the American Cancer Society’s annual cancer statistics report: death rates due to cancer is steadily declining. Cancer death rates dropped 19.2% among men during 1990-2005 and 11.4% among women during 1991-2005. Cancer incidence rates are also on the decline – they decreased 1.8% per year among men from 2001-2005 and 0.6% per year from 1998-2005 among women. The decrease is attributed to better preventive measures, early screening and detection techniques, and improved cancer treatment.

News from the economists

One in ten advanced colon cancer patients worry about prescription drug costs
As the financial crisis drags on, we are wondering how cancer patients are feeling the financial burden of cancer treatments. In a study by researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the number of patients with advanced colon cancer enrolled in a clinical trial are worried about financing their treatment. The researchers surveyed 409 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who were enrolled in a Cancer Leukemia Group B (CALGB) Phase III clinical trial…”

  • 10% of the patients were very worried about paying for their supportive medications
  • <15% adopted a money-saving strategy (e.g. not filling a prescription, taking less than the recommended dose)
  • 12% of the patients reported speaking with their physicians about drug costs.

News from the cancer side, May 22

May 22, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

newspaper1News from the cancer patients

Arrest ordered for mom of boy, 13, resisting chemo
The 13-year old boy with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who refused to have chemotherapy has been reported to have disappeared together with his mother. The family belongs to a religious group who believes in natural healing and the boy is convinced that the chemotherapy will kill him. The mother and son disappeared after a court order was issued in favour of the doctors who believe the chemotherapy can save the boy’s life. A warrant of arrest for the mother has been issued.

News from the drug regulators

FDA Approves Drug for Treatment of Aggressive Brain Cancer
The US FDA recent approved an extension of Avastatin to treat atyped of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Avastatin is already approved for the treatment of breast, lung, colorectal cancers. The approval was based on the results of 2 clinical trials which demonstrated that Avastin shrank the tumor size in some patients with GBM. The generic name of Avastin is bevacizumab and is manufactured by Genentech.

News from the stem cell experts

Embryo’s Heartbeat Drives Blood Stem Cell Formation
This research study at the Children’s Hospital Boston discovered that the embryonic heartbeat is what drives the formation of the blood stem cells. The study results “published online by the journals Cell and Nature, respectively, on May 13, together offer clues that may help in treating blood diseases such as leukemia, immune deficiency and sickle cell anemia, suggesting new ways scientists can make the types of blood cells a patient needs. This would help patients who require marrow or cord blood transplants, who do not have a perfect donor match.”

News from the geneticists

Why do people with Down syndrome have less cancer
Researchers have always been intrigued why the incidence of cancer is very low among people with Down’s Syndrome or trisomy 21. American researchers report that the genes in the extra chromosome 21 actually render people with Down’s Syndrome more suppression of cancer formation and tumor growth. The results have been demonstrated in lab mice. According to researcher Dr. Sandra Ryeom “I think there may be four or five genes on chromosome 21 that are necessary for angiogenesis suppression. In huge databases of cancer patients with solid tumors, there are very few with Down syndrome. This suggests that protection from chromosome 21 genes is pretty complete.

Don’t forget

May 22, 2009 is the first “Don’t Fry Day,” Society, jointly sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP). Take care of your skin!


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.