Category Archives: Cancer Research

Tel Aviv University Nanoprobes Light Up Stray Cancer Cells

New Cancer Research Is Improving Cancer Treatment
New Cancer Research Is Improving Cancer Treatment

While cancer treatment often includes surgery, even a few missed cells can lead to recurrence and metastasis. Recent development of a “smart probe” that pinpoints cancer cells may greatly improve the effectiveness of surgical options.

Challenges of Surgery as Cancer Treatment

Removal of solid tumors can still leave behind stray cells that evade detection by MRI or CT. In some cases, surgeons end up damaging otherwise healthy tissue in an effort to excise all diseased cells.

Extensive studies by an interdisciplinary team at Tel Aviv University culminated in development of a nanoprobe that literally shines a light on cancer cells. When injected into a patient a few hours before surgery begins, the probe can alert the surgeon to the presence of cancer cells that might have been missed.

“Shedding a Light” on Cancer Cells

The probe is activated by the presence of an enzyme known as cysteine cathepsins, which occurs in higher numbers in tumor cells than in healthy cells. When the probe identifies cancerous cells, it triggers a fluorescent signal in those areas, while healthy tissue remains dark.

In tests conducted on mice with melanoma and breast cancer, the survival rate of mice that underwent probe-assisted surgery was double that of the mice who received regular surgery. Now that the team has registered patents for the technology, the next step is to start clinical trials with hopes of commercially marketing the probe.

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Modified Polio Virus to be Tested In Brain Cancer Research Efforts

Issels the Premier Provider of Immuno Oncology
Issels the Premier Provider of Immuno Oncology

When it comes to your health, a virus is generally something to be avoided. In a surprising discovery, a virus that normally causes paralysis may hold promise as an immunotherapy for cancer treatment.

Can a Virus Actually Fight a Tumor?

Glioblastoma is the most common and most deadly form of brain cancer affecting adults. It gained a measure of public awareness after former Sen. Edward Kennedy and Beau Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, succumbed to the disease. One year ago Sen. John McCain, already a cancer survivor, was diagnosed with glioblastoma.

Poliovirus, which causes the paralyzing disease that shares its name, infects cells in the nervous system. Based on this feature, a team of Duke University scientists decided to test a genetically modified version on patients with treatment-resistant glioblastoma.

Poliovirus and the Immune System: A Two-Pronged Attack

The researchers neutralized the virus by replacing the specific gene that causes polio with one from rhinovirus, which generally causes head colds. Once infused directly into the tumors, the newly formed virus was able to infect and kill cancer cells as well as stimulate the immune system to attack the cells.

According to team member Dr. Darell Bigner, the group’s 21 percent survival rate after three years is more than five times that of a previously treated comparison group. The researchers are planning to conduct studies combining the modified poliovirus with other immunotherapy for cancer drugs in hopes of improving the results.

Treatment for Advanced and Therapy-Resistant Cancers

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Should Immunotherapy be the Last Resort for Cancer Treatment?

It's Time to Cross Out Cancer! Using Immunotherapy Treatments
It’s Time to Cross Out Cancer! Using Immunotherapy Treatments

While immunotherapy for cancer has provided an exciting new avenue for scientists, there is still much to be learned about which patients will respond, leading to a serious dilemma for doctors: when all other methods have failed, is it ethical to provide cancer patients with immunotherapy treatments on an experimental basis?

If a Little Is Good, Is a Lot Better?

You need to go back only to the 1980s and 1990s for an example of the dangers of treating patients with untested methods. Many doctors began giving women with breast cancer higher-than-usual doses of chemotherapy and radiation based solely on theory, but it turned out that the treatment was worse than the disease.

Immunotherapy for cancer drugs that have received approval, such as Opdivo and Keytruda, are restricted to a narrow range of patients. Many oncologists won’t consider immunotherapy as an option outside of its designated uses.

“Desperation Oncology”: A Last Chance

Recently, though, oncologists such as Dr. Oliver Sarter of Tulane Medical Center have begun to offer what they refer to as “desperation oncology.” The reasoning is that if a cancer patient is terminal and there’s even an infinitesimal chance that an immunotherapy drug may help, it’s worth the risk.

Not surprisingly, results have been mixed. Drugs had no effect on one patient with bladder cancer who was treated by Dr. Sarter, while another patient with metastatic prostate cancer went into immediate remission upon treatment.

Tailoring Immunotherapy for Cancer to the Patient

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Lymph Node Metastasis Uses Blood Vessel Pathways to Spread Cancer

Metastasis Uses Blood Vessel Pathways
Metastasis Uses Blood Vessel Pathways

Lymph node metastasis can have major implications for immuno oncology treatment. In a recent study, scientists examined the progression of metastatic tumor cells to learn more about how they are disseminated throughout the body.

Is Treatment of Lymph Node Metastases a Priority?

When cancer metastasizes in the lymph nodes, it’s generally a sign of an exceptionally aggressive tumor and a poor prognosis. Scientists differ on the treatment of lymph node metastases, with some experts believing it’s “clinically inconsequential” while others think they should be treated promptly to prevent distant metastases.

Results of clinical testing further complicate the issue. In one trial, removal of anything beyond the first lymph node had no benefit for patients who had received radiation and systemic therapies, while in another, lymph node treatment was found to help a subgroup of patients with breast cancer.

Tracing the Journey of Metastatic Cancer Cells

A team of researchers implanted a group of mice with cancer cells that expressed a photoconvertible protein known as Dendra2. This feature allowed scientists to photoactivate selected metastatic cells in the lymph nodes and follow their path.

Originally, metastatic cells were thought to travel by either blood vessels or the lymphatic system. In studying the affected mice, scientists determined that the metastatic cells followed a hybrid route by invading blood vessels within a lymph node, using it as a means of exit by which the cells could travel to the lungs and other organs.

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Tips for Coping with a New Cancer Diagnosis

Do you Have or Know Someone Who is Currently Experiencing a Hard to Treat Cancer? There is Hope!
Do you Have or Know Someone Who is Currently Experiencing a Hard to Treat Cancer? There is Hope!

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, your mental and emotional adjustment can make a difference during your course of immuno oncology treatment. Unfortunately, most people have no frame of reference for coping with such news.

The American Cancer Society offers helpful tips for coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis and continuing to live life to the fullest.

Follow Your Own Path

Your situation is unique. Others may offer ideas of what has worked for them, but don’t feel obligated to follow them to the letter. View these tips as suggestions and try out different methods to find your own best solution.

Learn About Your Cancer

Knowledge is power. The unknown is often more frightening than the reality, so take time to educate yourself about your type of cancer and the various treatment options that are available.

Stay Active

The link between exercise and mood is well-documented. Physical activity stimulates production of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Consult with your doctor to make sure you’re not overdoing it.

Let Your Feelings Out

Many people believe that fear, anger and other negative emotions must remain hidden, but that can make your situation even harder to bear. Talk to friends and family, join a support group or try an artistic outlet such as writing or painting.

Be Kind to Yourself

Make a point each day of doing something that makes you happy, whether it’s meeting a friend for lunch or simply meditating for 15 minutes.

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New Immunotherapy Drug Combination Fails to Stop Cancer’s Progression

New Immunotherapy Drug Combination Fails to Stop Cancer's Progression
New Immunotherapy Drug Combination Fails to Stop Cancer’s Progression

Scientists have embraced immuno oncology research as an avenue for more effective cancer treatments. Unfortunately, the field took a temporary hit recently when Incyte pulled the plug on its latest immunotherapy drug trial.

Arming the Body’s Immune System

Incyte had high hopes for epacadostat, which works as an IDO inhibitor. IDO is an enzyme found in the body that prevents T cells in the immune system from attacking cancer cells.

In the trial, epacadostat was paired with Keytruda, a phenomenally successful immunotherapy drug from Merck. Keytruda is a checkpoint inhibitor that helps T cells recognize cancer cells, which often evade detection.

It was hoped that epacadostat would boost the effectiveness of Keytruda when taken alone. But not only did epacadostat fail to stop the progression of cancer, it had no positive effect on overall survival rates.

Is There Still Hope for Epacadostat?

While the original trial failed against melanoma, Incyte is hoping to conduct further tests with epacadostat in treating other forms of cancer. As explained by Dr. Jason Luke, an oncologist at the University of Chicago, the patient sample may have been too broad.

According to Dr. Luke, immunotherapy benefits patients with T cell-inflamed tumors. The key is to test epacadostat on patients who have a natural immune response, which can be determined via RNA-based sequencing.

Yale University oncologist Dr. Roy Herbst says the setback will not affect the enthusiasm for immunotherapy. He emphasizes that these cancer treatments are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

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