Immune System Boosting Drug to Work With Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

A number of new drugs have shown the ability to boost the immune system to help it fight cancer. Some of the drugs simply help the immune system detect and kill cancer cells. They do this by disabling the mechanisms cancer cells use to remain hidden.

One such drug is Nivolumab. There is a protein called programmed cell death 1 (PD-1), that helps the immune system understand which cells should die. Another molecule can attach itself to PD-1 to form PD-L1, which tells the immune system to not attack a cell. This prevents the immune system from going overboard and killing too many cells. The problem is the fact that cancer cells are smart enough to product their own PD-L1 protein and avoid detection by the immune system. The drug stops cancer cells from creating PD-L proteins, which helps the immune system notice and attack the cancerous cells.

Trials have seen some great results with Nivolumab, particularly in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other lymphatic system cancers. The drugs are especially useful for shrinking the size of tumors, as the immune system starts to recognize the cancerous cells and pull them away from the tumor mass. Researchers expect these kinds of drugs to be particularly effective at beating cancers affecting the blood and bone marrow.

A drug called pembrolizumab is another (PD-1) receptor inhibitor, showing promising results. A small study showed that the drug shrank tumors in 66% of the sample group.

These results should be looked at with some caution though, because they are phase one trial results. The research has only used small groups of test subjects so far.

According to Cancer.gov, there are 185,793 people living with Hodgkin Lymphoma in the United States. The five year survival rate is 85.3% (based on 2004-2010 figures).

There are some serious side effects with drugs that inhibit PD-1. 22% of the people involved in the nivolumab trial had a serious side effect. That can include inflammation of internal organs like the colon, lung and pancreas.

If the trials continue to go well, we will see these drugs in the market within a couple of years.

Cancer Survival Rates Tied to Location

Cancer 5 year survival rates

Cancer 5 year survival rates

One of the largest meta-study of cancer survival rates ever done has been published in the journal, “The Lancet”. Global surveillance of cancer survival 1995—2009: analysis of individual data for 25 676 887 patients from 279 population-based registries in 67 countries

The study highlights the massive discrepancy in survival rates between some countries. Cervical cancer, for example, has a 70% 5 year survival rate in some countries, but 40% in others. Some forms of leukemia offer 90%+ survival rates in the United States, but 16% in some parts of the Middle East.

The study used 279 population based cancer registries, from 67 countries to gather data. That encompassed more than 25.7 million adults and 75,000 children. The types of cancers involved were cancer of the stomach, colon, liver, rectum, lung, breast, cervix, ovary and prostate. They also examined childhood leukemia.

The study found that 5 year survival rates for common cancers like colorectal and breast has been increasing in developed countries. Developing countries were lagging behind.

It also found that liver and lung cancers remain extremely dangerous, with very low survival rates around the world. 20% for all of Europe, 15-19% in North America and as low as 7-9% in parts of asia.

Some of the good news included a 10-20% increase in the survival rate for prostate cancers. At it’s lowest, the survival rate is 60% in Thailand and Bulgaria, 95% at its highest in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

For cervical cancer, 5-year survival rates range from less than 50% to more than 70%. Regional variations are much wider, and improvements between 1995—99 and 2005—09 have generally been small.

Link Between Cancer and Obesity Examined

Obesity and Cancer

Obesity and Cancer

A new study has reaffirmed the link between obesity and cancer.

The study, published in the Lancet Journal, reaffirms that a high body-mass index of 25 kg/m2 or greater is associated with increased risk of cancer. Researchers believe that in 2012 nearly 500,000 cases of cancer were attributable to high BMI around the world. The vast majority of these obesity related cancers occur in the United States and Europe, because of the higher levels of obesity found in those locations.

Women were more likely to be affected by cancer relating to obesity, particularly breast cancer. The most common forms of cancer caused by obesity were corpus uteri, postmenopausal breast, and colon cancers. These forms accounted for 63·6% of cancers and are attributable to high BMI.

The research looked at cancer rates in over 184 countries and found that obesity was associated with 5.4 percent of cancer in women and 1.9 percent in men during 2012. Those percentages are higher in developed countries with excess weight causing 8 percent of cancers in women and 3 percent in men.

The cancer rates were lowest in parts of Africa, due to lower calorie intake.

According to the researchers:

These findings emphasise the need for a global effort to abate the increasing numbers of people with high BMI. Assuming that the association between high BMI and cancer is causal, the continuation of current patterns of population weight gain will lead to continuing increases in the future burden of cancer.

FDA Warning About Device Capable of Spreading Cancer

FDA Warns of Laparoscopic power morcellator

FDA Warns of Laparoscopic power morcellator

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken action to stop the use of a gynecological device that can spread pre-existing cancer in women.  Laparoscopic power morcellators are used in the removal of the uterus, or to remove fibroids.

The device is used to destroy fibroids, which are then removed by key hole surgery.  There is no way to know if the fibroids contain cancer cells. If they do, the destruction process may released some of those cells, allowing cancer to spread to other organs.

This can lead to more dangerous forms of cancer developing, which cannot be treated as easily.

In a press release,William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said: “Updating the device label with a boxed warning and contraindications will provide clinicians and patients with critical information about the risk of spreading cancerous tissue when these procedures are performed.”

The FDA was made aware of the flaw with this device by surgeon Hooman Noorchashm.  Dr Noorchashm’s wife, Amy Reed, had the procedure as a part of her hysterectomy and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  The use of the device had spread cancer cells throughout her body.  Thankfully Amy is currently in full remission.

Whilst Dr Noorchashm was arguing for a complete ban on the device, the FDA was chosen to add a compulsory warning to the device.  The warning indicates that the device may spread cancer cells throughout the body.

The FDA chose to only use a warning because younger women may still safely use the device in their procedures.  That is due to the fact younger women are much less likely to have cancer cells in regions that can be spread.  If the device is not used, fertility can be affected.

Some hospitals have already stopped using the device, well aware of the risk before the FDA decision.  One of the companies that manufacture the device has also pulled it off the market, a sure sign that the risk of the procedure is well known.

So while this device might still play a role in certain surgeries, for older women with a higher chance of cancer, it is too risky.

Triclosan May Cause Liver Cancer

Triclosan and Liver Cancer

Triclosan and Liver Cancer

New research undertaken at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found that a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps may cause liver cancer.  Triclosan was found to cause liver fibrosis and cancer in mice.   It is a cleaning agent found in soap, shampoos, toothpaste and other household items.

It was previously believed that triclosan toxicity in mice was unrelated to humans.  The new research casts some doubt on that judgment and suggests triclosan is very dangerous for humans.  The study suggests that further research is required to determine exactly how much damage the chemical is doing to the liver.

Triclosan is already being heavily scrutinised because of some evidence that it can disrupt hormones and alter muscle performance.  The FDA is already looking at triclosan with some concern.

Researchers suggest that triclosan interferes with the constitutive androstane receptor, which helps the body remove foreign substances from the liver.  If the constitutive androstane receptor is impaired, the foreign substances in the liver increase cancer risk.

There are also long standing concerns that triclosan in antibacterial soaps may promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  There is no real benefit from the presence of the chemical in soaps either, with research showing normal hand washing with plain soap being just as effective.

This is the latest concern about Triclosan, which is under close review by the FDA.

According to the last FDA statement in 2013:

What is known about the safety of triclosan?

Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. But several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review.

Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

In light of these studies, FDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of this ingredient. FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.

Research Suggests Meditation May Help Cancer Patients

Cancer and Meditation

Cancer and Meditation

For many years now, spiritualists and alternative medicine devotees have suggested that meditation can help a person beat cancer. In a world first, some research may have demonstrated that meditation can alter cells within the human body and play a role in battling cancer.

The canadian-based research, “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors“, has been published in the journal Cancer. It indicates that meditation and yoga can alter cellular activity of cancer survivors.

Protein caps at the end of chromosome called telomeres stayed at the same length in cancer survivors who meditated or took part in support groups over a 3 month period. This is contrasted with people who did not participate in support groups or meditation, and saw a shortening of their telomeres. Telomeres determine how quickly a cell ages.

The question here is what role telomeres play in regulating disease. There is some evidence that longer telomeres can help protect people from diseases like breast cancer.

There was already evidence that meditation, mindfulness and support groups could make you feel better, but this is the first mind-body link discovered for these practices.

88 breast cancer survivors took part in the research. The average age of the participants involved was 55. One third of the group was asked to attend a weekly 90 minute support session and to practice meditation or yoga for 45 minutes each day.

Another third just used the support group to talk about their emotions. The third group attended a single seminar about stress management and was not asked to meditate.

The people who used the support group and meditated had lower stress levels and maintained their telomere length. The control group saw a shortening.

This is very exciting research for people who have advocated for meditation and mindfulness. While we don’t know exactly what role telomeres play in human health just yet, we do know that maintaining telomere length is positive for human health.

Skin Cancer Costs Rising

Skin Cancer Treatment Cost Increasing

Skin Cancer Treatment Cost Increasing

A report by Kimberly Leonard has found that the costs of skin cancer have increased greatly within the United States.

Treating skin cancer has become more expensive, between 2002 and 2011 growing five times faster than other forms of cancer treatments. The study that the report was based on came from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It found that the average yearly cost for treating skin cancer has increased by 126 percent in the 2002-2011 time period.

Despite massive publicity campaigns, many Americans are still complacent about protecting their skin. Between 2001 and 2011 the rate of skin cancer increased significantly, by 1.6% per year among men. More people are being diagnosed with skin cancer and it is becoming more expensive to treat — a recipe for disaster.

Other forms of cancer have become more expensive to treat, but not to the same degree. On average they increased by 25 percent.

The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, saw the large increase in treatment costs. It went up by 106 percent. Skin cancer now costs more to treat per person and in the community as a whole.

A large percentage of the costs of treating skin cancer are held by the public, with medicare covering 41 percent of the costs. This is due to the large number of seniors who have been diagnosed with skin cancer.

Skin cancer is usually caused by damaging ultraviolet light from the sun or from tanning beds. Prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer and there are a number of steps that can be taken to avoid it. Skin cancer is also on the increase in many other developed countries, despite many millions spent on awareness campaigns.

NFL Continues to Raise Money for Breast Cancer

NFL Supporting Breast Cancer

NFL Supporting Breast Cancer

The NFL is continuing with it’s annual breast cancer awareness month, which occurs every October. The campaign is designed to increase breast cancer awareness and raise money for breast cancer research. The breast cancer awareness campaign began in 2009. In the United States, breast cancer remains the 2nd most dangerous form of cancer for women.

Similar campaigns have been started in other countries with the rugby league competition in Australia also raising awareness and funding for breast cancer research.

NFL players and fans wear pink to the games in October, leading to the stunning sight of a crowd awash in bright pink. The NFL most definitely has some work to do as it attempts to repair it’s reputation after damage domestic violence incidents from players.

The games in October include cancer survivors honored at half time and player gear auctioned off to support cancer research. It’s not a small amount of money either, with the event raising over $7 million since it began.

The more funding breast cancer research obtains, the close we are to a cure for this terrible disease. While enjoying the games this month, make sure to donate some money and talk to the women in your family about breast cancer.

Stanford Researchers Target Cancer Cell Proliferation

Axl and Gas6 Proteins Cancer Metastasis

Axl and Gas6 Proteins Cancer Metastasis

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a new therapy which may be able to disrupt cancer cell proliferation. The treatment prevents cancer cells breaking away from a tumor to spread cancer to other locations in the body.

The metastasis process is how cancer cells proliferate and create more problems for cancer patients. Most people die from cancer spreading to other parts of their bodies. Traditionally doctors use drug therapies and chemotherapy to halt metastasis.

The new treatment developed by Stanford researchers, prevents two proteins from interacting and helping spread cancer cells. The two proteins, Axl and Gas6, play an important role in helping cancer cells leave the tumor and migrate elsewhere.

The treatment created fake Axl proteins to distract the Gas6 protein and prevent proliferation of cancer cells. The treatment has been successfully tested on mice with breast and ovarian cancers.

The best part about the treatment is that it is non-toxic! The next step is more animal trials, followed by a human trial within the next few years.

Researchers say that all biological processes are driven by the interaction of various proteins. The way cancer grows and spreads is just a simple biological process that also relies upon proteins. Researchers must first identify the proteins responsible for cancer growing and spreading, then neutralise them with fake proteins or by limiting specific proteins.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The year is moving incredibly quickly and we are almost up to September. The American Cancer Society has reminded us that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) aims to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research.

Breast Cancer continues to be one of the most dangerous forms of cancer, with death rates higher than any other form of cancer. More than 232,000 new cases diagnosed in 2013 and nearly 40,000 women died from breast cancer in the same year.

It is a very common and very deadly form of the disease, which makes it a focal point for a of cancer research.

In the past couple of years, public awareness of the gene mutations which are responsible for some breast cancers, has increased. This is largely thanks to Angelina Jolie, who had the gene mutation and undertook a double to avoid breast cancer.

With breast cancer, early detection is incredibly important. Take a read of the breast cancer early detection guidelines at cancer.org.