February 27, 2018

Health Roundup: Cancer Edition

'Unheard of' responses to bluebird CAR-T therapy seen in myeloma study

More than half of patients with advanced multiple myeloma who had run out of therapeutic options remained in complete remission after receiving bluebird bio Inc's experimental gene-modifying immunotherapy in a small, early stage study, according to updated data released in December.

Of 18 patients who received a therapeutic dose of bb2121, all but one responded to the treatment, a 94 percent response rate, while 56 percent remained in remission with a median follow-up of 40 weeks after treatment. Researchers, who reported the data at the American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta, said the initial response to the treatment was very quick and that many of the patients continued to improve over time.

bb2121 belongs to a potentially revolutionary new type of one-time treatment called CAR-T therapy that involves genetic manipulation of a patient's immune system. A patient's own disease-fighting T-cells are harvested and genetically reengineered to target specific proteins on cancer cells before being replaced so they can circulate seeking out and attacking the cancer, possibly for years. The first two CAR-T therapies from Novartis and Gilead Sciences, through its acquisition of Kite Pharma, were approved earlier this year for other blood cancers.

Cancer “Vaccine” That Wipes out Tumors Ready for Human Trial

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a compound that when injected into a tumor destroys it along with all the other cancerous masses present in the body.  The combination of two agents that stimulate the immune system sparked a body-wide reaction in mice, destroying cancer cells both near and very far from the initial injection point. The success of the treatment, which worked for different types of cancer, means that human trials will be starting soon.
This surprisingly effective treatment works using the patient’s own immune cells.  The drugs “turn on” immune cells within the tumor that had previously been put to sleep by the cancer. The drugs then amplify the ability of these immune cells so they can be much more effective in targeting and destroying the invader.

The 'breakthrough' fast-track operation to save patients with deadly pancreatic cancer

The pancreas, which forms part of the digestive system and is critical to the control of blood sugar levels, is located deep inside the body — so cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages and prompt diagnosis is difficult.  Even as the cancer grows, the symptoms — which can include tiredness, abdominal and back pain, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, changes to bowel habits and, later, jaundice — can be vague. Jaundice can occur if the pancreatic tumor presses on the bile duct, stopping the bile — a substance that helps break down fat — from passing through.
Jaundice complicates treatment, because traditionally medics have believed that operating on patients while they have it can trigger kidney failure, so patients have to wait an average of 65 days while the jaundice is treated with surgery.This is dealt with normally before cancer surgery. Experts believe this delay could be a factor in pancreatic cancer’s low survival rates....In the trial, instead of first having an operation to fit a stent, patients were sent straight into main pancreatic surgery to remove the tumor.

Cancer immunotherapy uses melanin against melanoma

Researchers have developed a melanin-enhanced cancer immunotherapy technique that can also serve as a vaccine, based on early experiments done in a mouse model. The technique is applied via a transdermal patch  and is made more effective by applying near infrared light.

"Melanin is a natural pigment that can efficiently transform absorbed sunlight energy into heat," says Zhen Gu, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "We demonstrated that melanin, which is found at high levels in melanoma, can actually be used to help treat melanoma. We do this by shining near infrared (IR) light on a therapeutic skin patch, which promotes the systemic immune response that fights cancer."

Ovarian cancer doesn't start in the ovaries: 'Silent killer' begins in the fallopian tubes,

Two studies published last fall have confirmed that ovarian cancer actually starts in the fallopian tubes
Ovarian cancer, dubbed a 'silent killer', kills 14,000 women in the US each year.  Lead researcher Dr Ron Drapkin says the recent findings will likely lead to advancements in prevention, detection and treatment of the disease

Over-the-counter supplement reduces breast cancer aggressiveness by up to 80%,

Breakthrough study finds NAC, approved for colds, lowers levels of cancer aggressiveness marker by 80%, while the aggressive marker Ki67 decreases by 25%.  N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), which is sold as a supplement in Holland & Barrett in the UK and is approved as a cold and flu remedy in the US, and is available from Walgreens, Walmart and CVS and is priced from as little as $4.79 for a bottle of 30 600mg capsules.  The drug contains antioxidants that make tumors release nutrients, stopping growth. 

Researchers from the University of Salford analyzed 12 breast cancer patients.  Professor Lisanti said: 'High levels of 'MCT4 are extremely worrying as they are linked to aggressive cancer behavior and poor overall survival, so this is [a] very encouraging result....To be able to inhibit MCT4 protein expression, in a non-toxic way, is huge step forward'

Woman, 67, who battled blood cancer for five years 'recovers after treating it with TURMERIC'

A woman who battled blood cancer for years without success finally halted the disease with turmeric, it has been reported. Dieneke Ferguson, 67,  is now leading a normal life after giving up on grueling treatments that failed to stop it.  Doctors say her case is the first recorded instance in which a patient has recovered by using the spice after stopping conventional medical treatments.  With her myeloma spreading rapidly after three rounds of chemotherapy and four stem cell transplants, the 67-year-old began taking 8g of curcumin a day – one of the main compounds in turmeric.

HPV vaccine IS safe and effective, confirms longest-ever study into the shot which prevents cancer of the cervix, head, neck throat and penis

HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection.  The human papilloma virus can cause genital warts and a host of cancers, even if it is dormant.  The HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing human papilloma virus,  A 10-year study by Augusta University in Georgia found the shot protected all 1,661 participants from HPV for a decade. According to the longest investigation ever conducted on the relatively new shot, the vaccine protects against HPV and therefore HPV-linked cancers such as throat, head, neck, penis, and cervical cancer.

The vaccine is commonly used in children aged 9-12 in the US and the UK; it is offered as a three-shot in the US, and a two-shot in the UK. Those who received the shot earlier had a stronger immune response. Experts say they hope these findings will help drive up coverage rates.
Posted by Jill Fallon at February 27, 2018 12:23 PM | Permalink