Folate and lung cancer

July 29, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

As scientists continue to unravel the genetics of cancer, other researchers are also discovering ways of using these information in preventing or slowing down cancer.

Take for example lung cancer. Studies have identified a high number of genetic mutations in the lungs of smokers. Furthermore, the carcinogens that cause their mutations vary depending on the cigarettes, their ingredients and how they are manufactured.

But knowing the genetic mechanisms of cancer is not enough. Steven Belinsky of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico and his colleagues studied more than 1000 current and former smokers and report possible ways of slowing down  lung cancer even if not being able to beat it completely. And it is something that you can do all by yourself through lifestyle change. The answer lies in your diet. The research results indicate that genetic changes that lead to lung cancer is less severe among those who ate leafy green vegetables , multivitamins and foods rich with folate.

According to Dr. Belinsky:

“These studies do in fact indicate that substances in these food groups and in the multivitamins could potentially retard the processes by which these gene changes occur in the smoker.’’

The researchers identified sputum samples of smokers eight genes  which are commonly “silenced” in lung cancer patients and strongly associated with risk for this disease.

Folate is a vitamin commonly associated with pregnancy to prevent fetal defects such as spina bifida. However, everybody needs folate. According to World’ Healthiest Food, folate

So what are foods that are rich in folate?

Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Folate and Folic Acid

Food Micrograms (μg) % DV^
*Breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the DV, ¾ cup 400 100
Beef liver, cooked, braised, 3 ounces 185 45
Cowpeas (blackeyes), immature, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 105 25
*Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV, ¾ cup 100 25
Spinach, frozen, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 100 25
Great Northern beans, boiled, ½ cup 90 20
Asparagus, boiled, 4 spears 85 20
*Rice, white, long-grain, parboiled, enriched, cooked, ½ cup 65 15
Vegetarian baked beans, canned, 1 cup 60 15
Spinach, raw, 1 cup 60 15
Green peas, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 50 15
Broccoli, chopped, frozen, cooked, ½ cup 50 15
*Egg noodles, cooked, enriched, ½ cup 50 15
Broccoli, raw, 2 spears (each 5 inches long) 45 10
Avocado, raw, all varieties, sliced, ½ cup sliced 45 10
Peanuts, all types, dry roasted, 1 ounce 40 10
Lettuce, Romaine, shredded, ½ cup 40 10
Wheat germ, crude, 2 Tablespoons 40 10
Tomato Juice, canned, 6 ounces 35 10
Orange juice, chilled, includes concentrate, ¾ cup 35 10
Turnip greens, frozen, cooked, boiled, ½ cup 30 8
Orange, all commercial varieties, fresh, 1 small 30 8
*Bread, white, 1 slice 25 6
*Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 25 6
Egg, whole, raw, fresh, 1 large 25 6
Cantaloupe, raw, ¼ medium 25 6
Papaya, raw, ½ cup cubes 25 6
Banana, raw, 1 medium 20 6

Source: Office of Dietary Supplement, National Institutes for Health (ODS)

How much folate do we need?

Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances for Folate for Children and Adults [10]

Age
(years)
Males and Females
(μg/day)
Pregnancy
(μg/day)
Lactation
(μg/day)
1-3 150 N/A N/A
4-8 200 N/A N/A
9-13 300 N/A N/A
14-18 400 600 500
19+ 400 600 500

*1 DFE = 1 μg food folate = 0.6 μg folic acid from supplements and fortified foods

Source: Office of Dietary Supplement, National Institutes for Health (ODS)

Special warning

Folate from natural sources is not linked to any health risks. However, folate supplements in the form of folic acid can be toxic if taken in large amounts.

According to ODS:

Beware of the interaction between vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Intake of supplemental folic acid should not exceed 1,000 micrograms (μg) per day to prevent folic acid from triggering symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency [10]. Folic acid supplements can correct the anemia associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, folic acid will not correct changes in the nervous system that result from vitamin B12 deficiency. Permanent nerve damage can occur if vitamin B12 deficiency is not treated.

It is very important for older adults to be aware of the relationship between folic acid and vitamin B12 because they are at greater risk of having a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you are 50 years of age or older, ask your physician to check your B12 status before you take a supplement that contains folic acid. If you are taking a supplement containing folic acid, read the label to make sure it also contains B12 or speak with a physician about the need for a B12 supplement.

How asthma protects (yes!) you from cancer

July 21, 2010 by  
Filed under ALLERGIES, ASTHMA, CANCER

My family has a history of asthma. One of my sons is suffering from wheezing and eczema. How can I say that these are good things to have, that they are actually blessings in disguise.

But that is actually what this recent study by French Canadian researchers tells me. Their findings show that men who suffer from eczema had a lower risk for developing lung cancer. And those who suffer from asthma have a lower risk for developing stomach cancer.

But how can one health condition provide protection against another more serious condition? Study author Professor Marie-Claude Rousseau of the INRS–Institut Armand-Frappier explains:

Asthma and eczema are allergies brought about by a hyper-reactive immune system – a state which might have enabled abnormal cells to have been eliminated more efficiently, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.”

The researchers actually looked at exposures to occupation hazards and the risk for getting cancer. They checked 3000 male participants who have been diagnosed with cancer and compared to 512 people who did not have cancer. They specifically looked at the link between allergies and the incidence of the 8 of the most common types of cancer.

It is ironic to think that a bothersome condition such as allergy can have some benefits. Especially as both cancer rates and allergy rates are on the rise.

A recent estimate gives us the following figures: Allergy rates in the Western world in 1980 were 10%. Today it is 80%. Should this give us hope that our body is fighting back against cancer? It is really too soon to tell.

The study authors wrote:

These findings contribute important knowledge to population health and provide new research leads. Although the study did not allow to identify which specific factors related to asthma and eczema were responsible for reducing the risk of cancer, it offers new angles for research into the molecular and immunological mechanisms that are involved in immunostimulation, a potentially promising strategy for cancer prevention.

Lung cancer increase in women: is estrogen to blame?

July 13, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

A friend of mine who has lung cancer has never smoked in her life. Her husband of 20 years however does. So why did she get the disease and he didn’t?

Lung cancer is more prevalent among men than women but prevalence in the fairer sex is catching up. This is a trend that is causing concern among health experts especially as lung cancer rates in men are on the decline. Lung cancer has long overtaken breast cancer as the main cause of cancer mortality in women.

According to the American Cancer Society, projections for 2010 in terms of lung cancer mortality is 86,000 in men and 71,000 in women. In contrast, projection for breast cancer death for this year is 40,000.

So what is the reason behind this gender difference?

Smoking in women is not increasing and therefore cannot be the main cause of increase in lung cancer. However, women seems to be more vulnerable to the effects of cigarette smoke, be it as a first-hand smoker or as a passive smoker. Non-smoking women are three times more likely to have lung cancer than non-smoking men.

According Brenda Edwards, associate director of the surveillance research program at the National Cancer Institute:

“Unless we start seeing a turnaround for women, there will be as many women diagnosed with lung cancer in the next few years as men.”

That is why researchers are trying to figure out women’s increased vulnerability to lung cancer. One group put forward the hypothesis that the female hormone estrogen may be to blame. Estrogen has also already been linked to genetic mutations that led to the formation of breast tumors. Lung cells have been found to produce estrogen in women as well as in men, but much more in the former than in the latter.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers exposed female mice by placing them in cigarette smoke- filled chambers for 6 hours each day, five days a week for three, eight or 20 weeks. They then compared the genetic make up of those exposed to those who were not exposed.

“Researchers found differences in 10 genes around an enzyme called cytochrome P450 1b1, which is known to break down estrogen and tobacco smoke. The 1b1 enzyme activates cancer-causing agents in tobacco and converts estrogen to a more active form that appears to cause DNA mutations. Estrogen may, in essence, be adding fuel to the fire that occurs when lung cells are exposed to tobacco smoke.”

Aside from the natural levels of estrogen the female body produce, women nowadays also take medications to boost estrogen levels, from contraceptive pills to hormone replacement pills to ease menopausal symptoms. The higher the estrogen levels in the blood, the more susceptible they might be.

3 cigarettes = 1 mutation

June 28, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

We’ve always wondered. How do carcinogens in cigarettes cause cancer? The answer is genetic mutations. And not just one. Or two. Or ten. Or a even hundred. We are talking thousands of mutations – tens of thousands, in fact.

This is according to researchers at Genentech, the biotech daughter company of Roche in California. The researchers compared the genetic status of healthy tissue and a piece of lung tumor from 51-year old male patient who smoked on average 25 sticks of cigarettes per day for 15 years before tumor removal. Using state-of-the art genetic technology that looks at whole genomes rather than a few genes, the researchers were able to find mutations fast. They detected as many 50,000 mutations in the tumor cells.

According to study author Zemin Zhang of Genentech:

Fifty thousand is a huge number. No one has ever reported such a high number… This is likely associated with the smoking history of the patient. It is very alarming.”

Doing some calculations based on the number of genetic mutations and the number of cigarettes smoked over the last 15 years, the researchers estimated one genetic mutation for every 3 sticks of cigarettes smoked. The smoking rate of 25 sticks per day results in about 8 genetic mutations occurring daily.

However, the calculations are actually an oversimplification because they did not take into consideration the defence mechanisms of the body that helps repair damaged DNA. Thus, there could actually be more mutations occurring each day but are rapidly repaired. However, over time, the DNA repair mechanisms become overused and less efficient and can no longer provide ample protection against the damage of smoking. This is when tumors develop.

The patient whose lung tumor was analyzed was a typical lung cancer patient with no unusual characteristics and can therefore represent the average smoker patient diagnosed with cancer of the lung.

“If you imagine over a lifetime you are going to develop this many mutations in the genome, some people may think twice about it.”

The next step is to find out which of these mutations are linked to smoking-related cancer. In the meantime, next time you smoke a cigarette, think of the cells in your lungs and what cigarette smoking is doing to them. Think of those mutations happening each day. Maybe then you’ll be motivated to stop.

Ovary removal and cancer risk: weigh your options

September 1, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

chanceWhat a bummer! Many women undergo oophorectomy in order to prevent the development of cancer, a procedure which comes with a heavy price – losing the ability to reproduce. Now comes the next blow: while the risk for ovarian cancer is drastically reduced with the procedure, the risk for lung cancer is greatly increased.

Oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a woman’s ovaries. The procedure is performed to treat problems with the ovaries but it is already performed as proxylactic intervention in connection with cervical and breast cancers.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic:

Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations have a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Several options are available for reducing the risk of cancer in these women. One option is preventive (prophylactic) oophorectomy, the surgical removal of the ovaries. Although removing your ovaries is usually performed to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, oophorectomy can also reduce the risk of breast cancer.

During a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) due to cervical cancer, it is also a common practice to remove the ovaries to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Some studies have questioned the necessity of this, considering the repercussions, namely

  • Loss of reproductive potential
  • Premature menopausal
  • Hormonal problems

A recent study by esearchers at the University of Montreal indicates another effect of removal of the ovaries – increased risk for lung cancer.

The researchers looked at 422 women with lung cancer and 577 men and women without lung cancer and collected data on

  • socio-demographic characteristics
  • residential history
  • occupational exposures
  • medical history
  • smoking history
  • menstrual history
  • pregnancy history

The study results revealed that women who went through non-natural menopause have almost double the risk of developing lung cancer compared to women who experienced natural menopause.

 In particular, women who have had non-natural menopausal as a consequence of surgical removal of ovaries are at an increased risk. The median age of those who went through normal menopause was 50 years; those who went through it non-naturally, either by surgery or as result of radiation or chemotherapy was 34 years. It wasn’t clear whether the study distinguished between oophorectomy that was absolutely necessary and prophylactic oophorectomy.

According to Dr. Jack Siemiatycki a professor at the Université de Montréal’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and a scientist at the Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal

“Non-natural menopause, particularly surgical menopause, may represent an increased risk with younger age at menopause given that surgery is usually done before natural menopause occurs. It’s possible that vulnerability to lung cancer is caused by early and sudden decrease in estrogen levels or potentially long-term use of hormone replacement therapy and further research is needed to explore these hypotheses.”

Many health experts believe that women should very carefully the think about the decision to have the ovaries removed unless there is a very strong medical reason for it. Weigh your pros and cons carefully!

Cigarette smoke carcinogens: they hurt HER more than HIM

May 5, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

lips_with_smokeHealth problems and outcomes can vary depending on gender. Men and women can have different susceptibility to certain diseases. Several recent studies indicate that women are more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarette smoke than men.

Swiss researchers followed up 683 lung cancer patients who have been referred to a cancer center between 2000 and 2005. The results showed that female cancer patients tended to be younger when they developed the cancer, despite having smoked on average significantly less than their male counterparts.

According to lead researcher Dr Martin Frueh

“Our findings suggest that women may have an increased susceptibility to tobacco carcinogens.”

When people are asked what the leading cause of cancer death among women in the US is, the reply is usually breast cancer. However, the correct answer is actually lung cancer. Lung cancer used to be considered a “man’s disease.” However, since smoking became popular among women, the incidence of lung cancer among women has dramatically increased.

Irish researchers, however, report a silver lining to the cloud of lung cancer. It seems that women have better outcomes than men after surgical removal of lung tumors. The researchers studied 640 patients whose non-small-cell lung cancer was surgically removed over a 10-year period, 239 of whom were women. They found that median survival after surgery was 2.1 years for men, and 4.7 years for women.

Apparently, lung cancer is not the only evidence of women’s vulnerability to the adverse effects of cigarette smoke. American researchers reported last year that cigarette smoke carcinogens also cause colorectal cancer and that women are more susceptible than men. The study followed up 2,707 patients who had colonoscopy between 1999 and 2006.The patients’ average age was 57 years. The study looked at the extent of tobacco exposure, which was expressed in terms of “pack years ” calculated by multiplying the packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of smoking years.

According to lead researcher Dr. Joseph Anderson

“While men and women shared a similar two-fold risk for developing significant colorectal neoplasia, women required less tobacco exposure in pack years than men to have an increase in colorectal cancer risk.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, cigarette smoke contains more 4,000 chemicals. More than 60 of these are classified as carcinogenic. The aforementioned studies only looked at the effects of carcinogens on the smokers. It is also a well-known fact that second hand or environemental smoke passes on some of these carcinogens to non-smokers.

 Why women are more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarette smoke is not so clearly understood. However, it is something that should be taken seriously.

Know your carcinogens: Radon

February 4, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

Resource post for February

January was National Radon Action Month. I must apologize for missing that opportunity to post something on radon. However, it is never too late to take action against radon, any day, any month, anytime of the year.

But what is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless -and is carcinogenic. This means you can’t really know it is there but this carcinogen is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and claims the lives of about 20,000 Americans each year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Radon is released when uranium, a naturally-existing radioactive chemical in soil, rocks and water decays naturally and gets into the air we breathe. The link between lung cancer and radon was first observed in miners who were exposed to the gas underground. However, high amounts of radon can also be found above the ground. A radon concentration level of 4 pCi/L is considered to be hazardous to our health.

How do you get exposed to radon?

Radon exposure can happen anywhere – in offices, schools, and yes – at home. And because home is where people spend most of their time, that is also the place where radon exposure is the greatest. The closer a room is to the ground, the higher is the risk for radon to seep inside. That is why the EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that all homes below the third floor should be tested for radon. Basements are especially at risk.

Radon also occurs in ground water, such as wells and water supplies using ground water. However, research has shown that your risk of lung cancer from breathing radon in air is much larger than your risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it.

Radon is found in all 50 states of the US but with varying levels. The EPA has a map showing radon potential zones. You can check out the potential radon levels of your state in the EPA site.

How do you check for the presence of radon in your home?

Unless you test for it, there is no way of telling how much radon is present in a building. The EPA recommends that each home be tested for radon. Radon test kits are available commercially and are usually easy to use. Radon testing can be done two ways, namely:

What happens if your home tests positive for radon?

The EPA recommends that a short-term test be performed first. If the radon levels is 4 pCi/L or more, then a second short-term test or a long-term term test is necessary. If subsequent tests show persistent high levels of radon, it doesn’t mean to say that the house is completely worthless and unliveable. There are radon reduction systems which can reduce radon levels in a building to acceptable levels, even up to 99%. The most common method is some of a ventilator pipe and fan system which sucks out the radon from the building and releases it outside. It also helps to seal cracks in the floor and walls and other opening where radon can possibly seep through. Other systems, however, may be necessary depending on the structure and design of the house.

Even if the radon levels in your home have been successful reduced to acceptable levels, it is advisable to test for radon before buying or renting a home or building to avoid radon problems.

National Radon Action Month

The EPA has recommended four things you can do during National Radon Action Month which are however valid anytime of the year.

The International Radon Project

Radon testing is common in the US and other developed countries but not in many other parts of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the International Radon Project in 2005. Through a network of partner agencies of member countries, WHO will “collect and analyse information on radon risk, radon policies, radon mitigation and prevention as well as risk communication.”

For more information about radon, check out the following links:

Picture credits: EPA, International Radon Project, Stock.xchng

John Updike succumbs to cancer at age 76

January 27, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction John Updike died on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 from lung cancer, according to Associated Press. He was 76. He is described as a “prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire.” His most famous works were the Rabbit series (Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest) and The Witches of Eastwick which was made into a movie and a musical play.

November Resource Post: Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November 3, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

November is International Lung Cancer Awareness Month. And I am greatly honored to start my post in this blog with this very relevant event.

During this month, all over the world, advocacy groups, medical associations and people from all walks of life are organizing activities with the aim of stepping up awareness about of lung cancer.

According to the Lung Cancer Alliance

Lung Cancer Awareness Month (LCAM) is a national campaign dedicated to increasing attention to lung cancer issues. By organizing rallies, distributing educational material, holding fund-raising events, contacting Congress, and speaking to the media, those involved in LCAM bring much-needed support and attention to a disease that each year kills more people than breast, prostate, colon and pancreas cancers combined.

Some of the activities are listed below.

United States

Lung Cancer walks and runs

What better way to show your support than to participate in a walk or run. Your participation will not only be supporting the lung cancer awareness cause, it will also be good for your health. A couple of walks and runs have already been organized last weekend including CancerCare’s 6th Annual Lung Cancer Walk in Woodbury, New York last Sunday. However, some more are being planned on the coming weekends of this month.

Cocktails and dinners

Workshops and fairs

Other events

Europe

In the UK several charity organizations formed a coalition called Lung Cancer Awareness Month Working Group. These organizations work to raise lung cancer awareness during the Lung Cancer Awareness Month every November. Some of the members of the coalition are listed below. Please check their websites for this month’s activities.

Also take note that schedules of events sometimes can change at short notice. Please contact the organizers for confirmation.

Do you know of any events I’ve missed? Please drop me a line!

In the meantime, as we welcome the first snow and frost and suffer the first coughs and colds of this season, let us turn our thoughts to those who are or have been affected by lung cancer in one way or another.

Photo credits: stockxchng

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No more excuses. No more lung cancer

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

These are the the promises of the Lung Cancer Alliance, the only national non-profit organization dedicated solely to patient support and advocacy for people living with lung cancer and people at risk for the disease.

Hall of Fame Orioles’ Shortstop, Cal Ripken, Jr. is the honorary spokesperson for the Lung Cancer Alliance, joining forces with the organization in the Face in the Fight campaign. Ripkin is working with the Alliance to help reverse the stigma surrounding the disease. It isn’t about blame but about support and compassion.

Read more

Lung Cancer Deaths in Non Smokers

September 9, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

WebMD today shared the results of an American Cancer Society research study that showed that the mortality incidence in men is higher than women in lung cancer among non smokers. While there are no clear answers as to why, the following information was noted:

  • Men died more from lung cancer than did women in all age and racial groups studied.
  • Women and men 40 years old and older had similar rates of lung cancer, when the figures were standardized.
  • African-Americans — and Asians living in Korea and Japan — had higher death rates from lung cancer than did people of European extraction.
  • There were no time trends seen when researchers compared lung cancer rates and death rates among U.S. women ages 40 to 69 during the 1930s to nonsmoking women of today’s population.
  • Women in East Asia had higher and more variable lung cancer rates than did women in other areas of the world where women don’t smoke very much.

Lung Cancer Facts From The American Cancer Society:

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. There will be an estimated 161,840 deaths from lung cancer (90,810 among men and 71,030 among women) in 2008, accounting for around 29% of all cancer deaths. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer From Mayo Clinic:

  • Tobacco use
  • Second Hand Smoke Exposure
  • Sex: Females (possibly due to estrogen) have a greater risk
  • Exposure to Radon
  • Exposure to Asbestos
  • Family History
  • Excessive Alcohol Use

What About That Second Hand Smoke?

Live with a smoker? Your risk of lung cancer increases by twenty to thirty percent. And–more than 3,000 people die each year from exposure to second hand smoke.

Need more facts? See the National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet

Arthritis Drug Celebrex Maybe Beneficial Against Lung Cancer

June 4, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Celebrex – a widely prescribed pain killer for people with arthritis – is in the limelight recently because it has been found to reduce the levels of lung cancer biomarkers.

The last cox-2 inhibitor in the U.S. market, Celebrex (celecoxib) – a product of Pfizer – is one of the most common NSAID (non-steroidal antinflammatory drug).

CELEBREX is an NSAID that relieves arthritis pain, stiffness, and inflammation. For many people, just one 200-mg dose provides 24-hour relief. CELEBREX has never been taken off the market; on average, more than 1 million prescriptions are filled for CELEBREX each month.

During the ASCO Annual Meeting on Sunday, researchers reported that Celebrex may reduce levels of a biomarker indicating risk for lung cancer.

According to Dr. Shakun Malik, director of the lung cancer program at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center, in Washington, D.C.:

“This is a very early study. It hasn’t shown any effect on actual lung cancer. All it is showing is that it affects biomarkers. The hypothesis is that if biomarkers are affected, it will help, but we haven’t shown that as of yet.”

Yes indeed, maybe too early to tell whether Celebrex will be beneficial in lung cancer, but at least it is good to know the effects of an NSAID and COX-2 inhbitor to lung cancer biomarkers. Maybe if the mechanism are interrelated, then perhaps arthritis research can learn from cancer research in its quest for better arthritis drugs.

The cox-2 enzyme is expressed in both precancerous lesions in lung tissue, as well as in lung cancer, and it has an inflammatory aspect that can stimulate more cell growth within the lung.

This study involved more than 200 patients, all of whom had a history (current or prior) of a greater than 20-pack-years cigarette habit. All participants underwent biopsies at the opening of the study, at three months and again at six months.

They were then randomized to take either Celebrex or a placebo for three months, after which they either continued on that course or switched to the other arm.

Over three months, high-dose Celebrex (400 milligrams twice a day) did reduce expression levels of Ki-67, as well as the cox-2 enzyme and a third biomarker, NF-kappa-B.

Read more from the US News and World Report.

Where Do We Stand in the War on Cancer? The Biggest Advances in 2007

January 14, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

During his 1970 inaugural address, American President Richard Nixon declared a War on Cancer. Promising to allocate at least $100 million in funding to investigate the causes for what was then the second-leading cause of death in the United States, Nixon followed through in 1971 by signing the National Cancer Act. Key objectives of this act included infusing basic sciences research funding, ramping up clinical trials and making the National Cancer Institute a free-standing body under the National Institutes of Health.

Nearly forty years later, physicians and scientists are making great strides in better understanding the etiology, management and treatment in all forms of cancer. Recently, the American Society for Clinical Oncology released a report entitled, Clinical Cancer Advances 2007: Major Research Advances in Cancer Treatment, Prevention, and Screening. This annual review, which is available as a .pdf, podcast, and slideshow at the People Living With Cancer website, includes the following highlights: 

Primary Liver Cancer Patients Get the Option for Systemic Treatment: Until recently, surgical techniques were the first line of treatment in liver cancer patients because response to chemotherapy was so poor. In 2007, results of a large study showed that advanced liver cancer using sorafenib (Nevaxar), a targeted chemotherapeutic, lived 44 percent longer than patients who did not. Read more

Natural Cancer Killers Take off During Flu Season: Cancer Research Roundup

November 9, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Here’s a quick glance at a few interesting cancer research studies that have come out recently, edited here for your weekend reading pleasure — enjoy!

Transplanting killer cells into cancer patients: Apparently, there are some people just aren’t prone to getting cancer due to a higher than normal healthy stock of immune system soldiers called granulocytes. Wake Forest University-based Dr. Zheng Cuit and his colleagues are looking to see if they can transplant some of those natural born killer cells into cancer patients — um, as long as it’s not flu season.

Average cancer-killing ability appeared to be lower in adults over the age of 50 and even lower in people with cancer. It also fell when people were stressed, and at certain times of the year.

“Nobody seems to have any cancer-killing ability during the winter months from November to April,” says Cui, who presented preliminary results at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK, earlier this month.

See “‘Cancer-resistant’ people lend out their killer cells” for more.

Looks like access to better diagnostic technologies doesn’t get people to the doctor any sooner:  A new paper published in The Journal of the American College of Surgeons finds that individuals diagnosed with colorectal and lung cancer who live in cities often present in later stages than their counterparts in less urban areas.

“The proportion of urban patients presenting with metastatic cancer is alarming,” said Ian Paquette, MD at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH. “This study highlights the need for better screening efforts for colorectal cancer and the need to develop an effective screening program for people at high risk for lung cancer.”

This finding is contrary to the common assumption that rural patients with cancer present at a later stage of disease in comparison with urban patients.

Read more at “Study reveals differences in cancer stage presentation between rural and urban patients.”

Take a break this weekend — your body may thank you.  A recent study headed by Dr. Yonghua Yang at MCG Cancer Center has recently helped expose how environmental stress can contribute to the incidence of cancer.

This fundamental finding about the relationship between stress and cancer opens the door for treatments that increase SENP1 activity, making it easier for cells that are becoming cancerous to die, says Dr. Yang, first author on a paper published in the November issue of Nature Cell Biology.

“This is one of the things that makes cancer cells so durable, one way they survive so well,” says Dr. Yang. “We want to see if we can block that process and make cells die.”

Find out more information at “Relationship between environmental stress and cancer elucidated.”

Smoking is BAD for you?

November 1, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

I know that I’m not saying anything new with this post, but after reading an recent article answering the question “Did the Marlboro Man Die of Lung Cancer?”, I had to wonder if there was anyone else out there aware of the sharp, poetic irony associated with the death of not one, but two men who played the role of the Marlboro Man in ads for Marlboro cigarettes. Didn’t they get the memo that smoking is bad?

To be fair, at least thirteen men have played the Marlboro Man throughout the years and only two have died of lung cancer: Wayne McClaren in 1992, and David McClean in 1995. And also to be fair, at the time these gentlemen began their stints on the Marlboro Man ad campaign, cigarettes were not yet associated with a high risk of cancer development and more importantly, smoking was supposed to be cool.

Fortunately, times have changed, and we are now fully aware of the deadly risks associated with tobacco use and cancer. A quick search on the American Cancer Society web site states that smoking is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in the US alone, and that tobacco use accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of all lung cancer deaths.

Anyway, back to the whole Marlboro Man ad campaign: what a racket that was! That was quite possibly the most genius ad campaign ever conceived. What woman has not dreamed of a rough and rugged cowboy, noticeable stubble enhancing an unbelievably handsome-as-sin face, wearing chaps and riding up on a stallion complete with a saddle made for two? This was a brilliant advertising strategy. Who cares if this guy is lighting up? He’s smoking hot! (Okay, that was bad — I admit it.) Read more

Infusion Clinic Opening Here In Winnipeg In January 2007

December 17, 2006 by  
Filed under CANCER

There is an article in today’s Winnipeg Free Press by Jen Skerrit ..

Source: Winnipeg Free Press – Cancer Meds For Those Who Have The Cash

Alternate Source: Therapeutics Daily – Cancer meds for those who have the cash

Both of the above links might be limited by subscription only …

Sun Dec 17 2006

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A private infusion clinic scheduled to open in Winnipeg this January will allow patients to pay out of their own pockets for pricey specialty cancer drugs not covered by CancerCare Manitoba.
This marks the first time patients will be able to access the latest intravenous cancer treatments, from Herceptin to Avastin, within the province on their own dime.

Pharmaceutical giant Roche Canada is teaming up with Bayshore Infusion Clinics Inc. and McKesson Canada, a pharmaceutical distributor, to offer the costly meds, which range in price from $20,000 to $40,000 for one year of treatment. Patients need a prescription for the medication from their oncologist before they are referred to the infusion clinic.

The clinic will be staffed by medical professionals. It is called an infusion clinic because it only administers IV drugs for patients.

Sabrina Paiva, spokeswoman for Roche Canada, was unable to say where in Winnipeg the clinic might be located.

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Basically .. drugs that are offered at these clinics are:

* RITUVANFor lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis – Selectively depletes certain cells and their role in cancer and automimmune diseases like arthritis

* AVASTINFor colon cancer – Health Canada approved the drug last year after it was shown to limit blood flow to tumours

* TARCEVAFor lung cancer – Used to treat advanced non-small-cell lung cancer after at least one failed chemotherapy treatment

* HERCEPTINFor breast cancer – May block tumour growth in early breast cancer stages where patient has HER2 protein. Is covered for patients who meet criteria set by doctors.

Infusion clinics are already operating in 18 Canadian cities, and nine more are set to open in cities across Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and British Columbia next month.

It’s a two-tiered system … Alan Katz, a researcher with the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy says .. The province can’t afford to pay for these drug treatments that could extend the lives of certain patients, and patients are frustrated they can’t access them.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca
© 2006 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved

Music legend Freddy Fender diagnosed with cancer

August 9, 2006 by  
Filed under CANCER

Thursday August 3, 2006

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP): Music legend Freddy Fender has been diagnosed with incurable cancer after tests showed he has several tumors on his lungs.

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“I feel very comfortable in my life,” Fender told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “I’m one year away from 70 and I’ve had a good run. I really believe I’m OK. In my mind and in my heart, I feel OK. I cannot complain that I haven’t lived long enough, but I’d like to live longer.”

Fender started his career in the late 1950s and hit the Billboard charts with “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” and “You’ll Lose A Good Thing.”

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MORE: Music legend Freddy Fender diagnosed with cancer

NASCAR’s Parsons Diagnosed With Cancer

August 9, 2006 by  
Filed under CANCER

bennyparsons.jpg
Benny Parsons found out two weeks ago that he has lung cancer. (Photo: AP)

07/26/2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)- Former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons has been diagnosed with lung cancer and began chemotherapy treatments Wednesday.

Parsons, the 1973 Cup champion and currently a NASCAR commentator on NBC and TNT, was diagnosed two weeks ago after he had trouble breathing.
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