Category Archives: News

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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Losing Too Much Weight When You Are Over 60 May Signify Cancer

Losing Too Much Weight When You Are Over 60 May Signify Cancer
Losing Too Much Weight When You Are Over 60 May Signify Cancer

As the obesity problem in our society has grown, doctors have recommended programs for their patients to lose weight through healthy eating and moderate exercise. But immuno oncology experts warn that unexplained weight loss in people over the age of 60 can be a sign of cancer.

What Is the Relationship between Unexplained Weight Loss and Cancer?

With cancer survival rates that rank well below those of many comparable countries, Great Britain has been searching for ways to improve early detection and treatment. A research team led by the Universities of Oxford and Exeter set out to quantify the connection between unexplained weight loss and cancer.

The team reviewed 25 studies involving 11.5 million patients. Their major findings include:

– Men over the age of 60 with unexplained weight loss had a 14.2 percent risk of cancer, more than double the 6.7 percent risk of women in the same age group.

– Weight loss is a primary factor in prostate cancer, the most common form occurring in men, which accounts for the gender disparity.

– Unexpected weight loss was found to be the second-highest risk factor in colorectal, lung, renal and pancreatic cancers.

Improving Access to Early Testing

There are currently no guidelines for doctors regarding weight loss and how it pertains to cancer. Dr. Richard Roope of the Royal College of GPs expressed hope that this study will help improve access to more accurate diagnostic tools.

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Fast Diagnostic Testing May Improve Cancer Outcome for Many Patients

Fast Diagnostic Testing May Improve Cancer Outcome for Many Patients
Fast Diagnostic Testing May Improve Cancer Outcome for Many Patients

Early detection greatly improves the chances of immunotherapy for cancer and other treatments to have a beneficial effect. A recent literature review by a team of experts emphasizes the importance of patients receiving fast diagnostic testing as soon as possible after a positive screening.

Making the Case for Fast Diagnostic Testing

An interdisciplinary team of cancer experts, led by a group from the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a review of studies involving patients with breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancer. All studies were published between January 1998 and December 2017 and were drawn from average-risk populations except in the case of lung cancer.

Patient outcome data in the studies provided clear support for the policy of receiving quick diagnostic testing, such as a CT scan, after a positive screening result. While the team suggested a target time frame for each type of cancer ranging from 60 to 90 days, they emphasized that there is no specific window of safety.

Why Time Is of the Essence

Dr. Chyke Doubeni, lead author of the review, stated the following benefits of prompt diagnostic testing:

– Reduced mortality risk

– Less worry and uncertainty for the patient

– Reduced likelihood of delays, such as changes in insurance coverage

Researchers will now focus on identifying the data that will allow more precise definitions of time frames for testing.

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Surgery for Breast Cancer May Awaken Sleeping Cancer Cells

Surgery for Breast Cancer May Awaken Sleeping Cancer Cells
Surgery for Breast Cancer May Awaken Sleeping Cancer Cells

One of the challenges in developing immunotherapy for cancer treatments is that benefits of a method are sometimes offset by drawbacks. In a recent example, scientists have found that breast cancer surgery may trigger micrometastases that are too small to be found on imaging.

Seeking Treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer

Approximately 35 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer already have thousands of these micrometastases lying dormant in their system. Only half of them develop into full-blown metastatic cancer, and scientists believe the half that remain dormant are controlled by immune system activity.

A research team at the Whitehead Institute wanted to explore the problem, but they didn’t want to withhold surgery from breast cancer patients to form a control group. Testing was conducted on mice that had been injected with breast cancer cells and undergone simulated “surgery.”

“Surgery-Driven Interruption of Dormancy”

Of the mice that had “surgery,” 60 percent had continued growth of cancer cells, while only 10 percent of the mice that didn’t receive surgery had the same result. The team concluded that “surgical wounding” superseded attacks by the immune system, allowing the tiny malignancies to grow.

The test also uncovered a possible solution. When the mice were given non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) pre- and post-“surgery,” it appeared to counteract the negative effects of the wounds. This opens the door to the possibility of over-the-counter products such as aspirin and ibuprofen being used as treatments.

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New Research: Blood Flow Determines Secondary Tumor Locations

New Research: Blood Flow Determines Secondary Tumor Locations
New Research: Blood Flow Determines Secondary Tumor Locations

One of the goals of immunotherapy for cancer is control of metastasis, which is a leading cause of cancer deaths. Results of a recent study concerning metastasis and blood flow could shed some needed light on ways to disrupt the process.

Investigating the “Metastatic Cascade”

In metastasis, tumor cells migrate from the original site via the lymph system or bloodstream to establish secondary tumors. The process involves a series of six steps known as the metastatic cascade.

A team from Frances’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research conducted tests focused on the fourth step, when tumor cells build up in tiny capillaries and pass through the walls into surrounding tissue. During the first phase, they tracked tumor cells in zebrafish embryos.

The Relationship Between Blood Flow and Metastasis

The scientists discovered there was a specific velocity range of blood flow connected with capillaries where the tumor cells stopped traveling. Blood flow was also found to be an essential factor in allowing the capillary lining, or endothelium, to “remodel” around the tumor cells.

Researchers came to the same conclusions in the next phase, involving mice with brain metastases. For the final step, the team observed brain metastases in 100 human patients.

When the scientists compared the brain metastases map to one showing the blood flow of a healthy human, it confirmed the results of the zebrafish tests. Secondary tumors tended to grow in areas with specific blood flow velocity.

Immunotherapy for Cancer: Treating Tumors and Their Environment

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The Importance of Gut Bacteria in the Spread of Pancreatic Cancer

The Importance of Gut Bacteria in the Spread of Pancreatic Cancer
The Importance of Gut Bacteria in the Spread of Pancreatic Cancer

Gut bacteria, or microbiome, include organisms that manufacture vitamins and promote healthy digestion and other functions. A study recently published in Cancer Discovery found that pathogenic gut bacteria can have a negative impact on pancreatic cancer treatment.

When Gut Bacteria Fights the Immune System

A research team at NYU School of Medicine conducted tests on both mice and humans with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), a particularly aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. The scientists discovered that pathogenic, or “bad,” gut bacteria migrated to the pancreas, increasing bacterial presence by a thousand times.

Problems arise when this unbalanced mix of bacteria triggers a shutdown of immune cells, allowing cancer cells to multiply unchecked. Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy cancer treatment that reactivates immune cells, but they’re ineffective against the overwhelming amount of bacteria in the pancreas.

Using Antibiotics to Supplement Immunotherapy

When the researchers treated the mice with antibiotics, the amount of bacteria decreased enough to “flip the switch” on immune cells, thereby slowing cancer growth. In addition, checkpoint inhibitors were approximately three times more effective when used in conjunction with antibiotics.

Checkpoint inhibitors had previously failed to treat pancreatic cancer in clinical trials, so scientists are encouraged by these results. The team is now recruiting PDA patients to test the antibiotic-checkpoint inhibitor combo.

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