October 30, 2017

Health Roundup: Cancer Edition

A Nine-Year Collaboration Has Just Shown How Sugar Influences Cancer Cell Growth

We know that almost all the cells in the human body require energy, and they derive this energy from the sugars in the food we eat. Cancer cells also require sugars to grow. But their glucose intake is a lot higher than that of healthy cells, as is the rate at which they ferment that glucose into lactic acid. This is known as the Warburg effect, and it may, scientists have hypothesized, have something to do with cancer's rapid growth rate. Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth," said researcher Johan Thevelein from KU Leuven in Belgium. "Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness. This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences."

Aspirin 'cuts risk of several types of cancer by up to half':

A trial involving more than half a million people found long-term aspirin users cut their risk of liver and esophageal cancer by almost half, while their odds of getting bowel cancer fell by a quarter. Aspirin, already known to protect against heart attacks and strokes, is thought to block enzymes which help cancer tumous to grow.

The study, which followed patients for 14 years, was led by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lead author Professor Kelvin Tsoi said: ‘The findings demonstrate that the long-term use of aspirin can reduce the risk of developing many major cancers."

Aspirin may reduce risk for liver cancer in hepatitis B patients, study says

Immunotherapy Treatments for Cancer Gain Momentum (WSJ)

The National Cancer Institute's prominent cancer researcher and chief of surgery, Steven A. Rosenberg, detailed for the first time an immunotherapy success against metastatic breast cancer, in a talk earlier this month. In the lecture at a Boston meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, Dr. Rosenberg reported on the first patient with metastatic breast cancer who is disease-free nearly two years after her first immunotherapy treatment. In the therapy, a person’s own cells are multiplied billions of times and reinfused into the patient. Dr. Rosenberg’s lab has already reported successes in treatment of melanoma, lymphoma, colorectal cancer and bile-duct cancer....“Our hypothesis,” says Dr. Rosenberg, “is that immunotherapies work because they target unique mutations in that person’s cancer.”

Immunotherapy, or immune-cell therapy, describes a range of treatments that harness a patient’s own immune system to target cancer. The approach doesn’t work in all patients, but its success against some hard-to-treat cancers makes it the most closely watched area in cancer pharmaceuticals. Underscoring the rapid advances, the National Institutes of Health and the NCI Thursday announced a $215 million medical collaboration with 11 medical companies, including AbbVie , Novartis AG and Johnson & Johnson . The NIH will contribute $160 million over five years to the research, and the companies will contribute $55 million.

Treatment causes cancer to self-destruct without affecting healthy cells

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered a compound that makes cancer cells self-destruct while sparing healthy cells. Acute myeloid leukemia accounts for nearly one-third of all new leukemia cases and kills more than 10,000 Americans each year.

The new compound fights cancer by triggering apoptosis, the process that rids the body of unwanted or malfunctioning cells. Some chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells by indirectly inducing apoptosis by damaging DNA. Apoptosis happens when BAX, the "executioner protein" in cells, is activated by pro-apoptotic proteins. BAX molecules punch lethal holes in mitochondria once activated, but cancer cells produce anti-apoptotic proteins that prevent BAX from killing them.

"Our novel compound revives suppressed BAX molecules in cancer cells by binding with high affinity to BAX's activation site," Gavathiotis said. "BAX can then swing into action, killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed."

FDA approves second ever gene therapy to fight aggressive form of blood cancer

The new therapy, called Yescarta uses the same CAR-T technology as the first to fight an non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The therapy uses a patient's own immune system cells and reprograms them to find and fight aggressive cancers. Yescarta was approved on Wednesday and will cost $373,000 per patient In tests, Yescarta shrunk cancer for 72 percent of patients, and about half of those treated were disease-free eight months later. This approval comes two years after the FDA approved the first gene therapy to fight leukemia.

Both gene therapies are approved to treat cancers that have been virtually unresponsive to all other treatments.  CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer can often evade. The T cells are filtered from a patient's blood, reprogrammed to target and kill cancer cells, and then hundreds of millions of copies are grown. Returned to the patient, all the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years. That's why these immunotherapy treatments are called 'living drugs.'

An Unprecedented Study Has Revealed 72 New Breast Cancer Gene Variants

Two genes already commonly associated with breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2.  Mutations in these genes prevent them from repairing changes in other sections of DNA in breast tissue, raising the risk of further mutation. In what's being billed as the world's largest collective study on the genetics of breast cancer, researchers have discovered 72 new gene variants that appear to be responsible for increasing the risk of developing the disease.

The additions nearly double the number of genetic markers known to scientists, providing a trove of data for future studies to investigate in search of better understanding, new detection methods, and potentially more effective treatments.  More than 300 research groups were involved in the analysis, which pooled the genetic data of over 275,000 women from all around the globe. By comparing the genes of those diagnosed with the condition with those who had no history of breast cancer, the researchers were able to identify 65 variations of genes that contributed to the disease's development.

Ovarian cancer starts developing in the fallopian tubes 6 YEARS before it becomes deadly,

A new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that ovarian cancers begin in the fallopian tubes and take 6.5 years to develop. This could change the way the disease, which is the fifth deadliest cancer among women, is diagnosed. It could also lead to more women getting their fallopian tubes rather than their ovaries removed to prevent the illness.  But once the cancers reached their ovaries the progression of the disease was estimated to have occurred within two years.

Dr Velculescu said: 'This aligns with what we see in the clinic, that newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer patients most often already have widespread disease.'  He said bigger studies are required to validate the new findings before there can be a change in clinical practice. There are already ongoing trials involving the removal of fallopian tubes instead of ovaries in women with the cancer-causing BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

Eating Brussels sprouts and drinking green tea could make aggressive breast cancers treatable by 'turning off' tumor genes,

Eating sprouts and drinking green tea could make aggressive breast cancers treatable, new research suggests. Compounds in cruciferous vegetables, such as sprouts, and the traditional herbal drink 'turn off' genes for ER-negative forms of the disease, which is notoriously unresponsive to therapy, a study found. Study author Professor Trygve Tollefsbol from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said: 'Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, and science now tells us she was right.

'Unfortunately, there are few options for women who develop ER-negative breast cancer.' Study author Yuanyuan Li added: 'The results of this research provide a novel approach to preventing and treating ER-negative breast cancer, which currently takes hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.'

New lung cancer cure fixes patients in just four days

Advanced technique to remove tumors via a matchstick-sized incision in the chest is hailed by NHS surgeons as an effective alternative to risky open surgery. A small tube – known as a port – is inserted to allow access to the lungs, through a gap in the rib cage. Surgeons are then able to carefully remove the part of the lung containing the tumor without causing damage to surrounding tissue. The procedure replaces older methods which involve a large incision in the chest, or a keyhole operation that uses three separate incisions, and the advance has slashed time spent in hospital from two weeks to as little as four days for some, as patients recover faster and are in less pain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 30, 2017 12:27 PM | Permalink