Tag Archives: Cancer News

Cancer News: Cancer Can Metastasize Without Involvement of the Lymph System

Metastatic cancer, where tumors spread from the original site to other parts of the body, presents a significant challenge for cancer treatment. Current research is causing scientists to rethink the conventional model of metastasis.

The Role of Lymph Nodes in Cancer Metastasis

A team of researchers led by Dr. Rakesh Jain of Massachusetts General Hospital studied 213 tissue samples from 17 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The focus was on relationships between cells from the primary tumor, lymph nodes and remote sites of metastasis.

The scientists were surprised to discover that only 35 percent of the patients presented the traditional path of cancer moving via lymph nodes to more distant sites. In these cases, cancer cells from both metastases matched cell types in the original tumor.

In the other 65 percent of patients, both metastases matched different cells within the primary tumor, indicating separate origins. These results demonstrate that cancer may metastasize without involvement of lymph nodes, contradicting previously-held beliefs.

Applications for Future Cancer Treatment

According to Dr. Jain, lymph node metastases were generally considered forerunners of more distant metastases. Scientists were therefore puzzled why complete surgical removal of lymph nodes didn’t always improve survival rates.

Dr. Jain went on to explain that the typing assay his team developed can be a valuable way to analyze cancer’s path in certain patients. The information can then be used for better clinical management of metastatic cancer treatment.

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The First in 10 Years – FDA Approves New Liver Cancer Drug

FDA Approves New Drug! Could This Make Groundbreaking Progress?
FDA Approves New Drug! Could This Make Groundbreaking Progress?

In November 2007, the Food and Drug Administration gave its first-ever approval for a drug designed as liver cancer treatment. Nearly 10 years later, the FDA has given its approval to a second drug for liver cancer that also has applications for some forms of gastrointestinal cancer.

The Search for Effective Liver Cancer Treatment

Sorafenib, brand name Nexavar®, was the original drug approved for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is the most common form of liver cancer. The drug acts as a kinase inhibitor to block enzymes responsible for cell division and reproduction.

According to Dr. Tim Greten of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, since 2007 there have been a number of phase III trials for possible liver cancer treatments. Until now, none of them have been successful.

A 10-Year Breakthrough

Regorafenib, brand name Stivarga®, is also a kinase inhibitor. During a phase III trial, 573 patients whose HCC had not responded to sorafenib were assigned to receive either regorafenib or a placebo.

The patients who received regorafenib experienced an overall three-month increase in survival over the placebo group. Percentage of patients whose tumors had at least partial shrinkage was 11 percent and four percent respectively.

Researchers are also studying the use of other immunotherapy agents against liver cancer. The current focus is on checkpoint inhibitors such as tremelimumab and nivolumab.

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New Blood Test May Identify Early Cases of Pancreatic Cancer

Tests Have Found Blood Can Help Identify Signs of Pancreatic Cancer.
Tests Have Found Blood Can Help Identify Signs of Pancreatic Cancer.

While pancreatic cancer is relatively rare in the United States, it’s one of the more deadly forms of the disease. According to a recently published study, a new blood test may be able to detect pancreatic cancer during its earliest and most treatable stages.

Solving the Puzzle of Early Detection

Experts predict that pancreatic cancer will become the second leading cause of cancer deaths by 2020. The main problem is late detection, with five-year survival rates coming in at less than 10 percent.

Scientists working on methods of early detection ran into a catch-22. Studies to identify potential markers relied on tumor samples from patients who were already in advanced stages of pancreatic cancer.

A Biomarker Breakthrough

The recent study was conducted by a joint University of Pennsylvania/Mayo Clinic team. Senior investigator Dr. Ken Zaret explained that reprogrammed cells were transplanted into mice, where they developed into invasive pancreatic tumors.

Samples from the lesions and tumors were then taken from the mice and used to identify proteins they secreted. Elevated levels of one protein, called THB52, was found to accurately distinguish between the affected and healthy controls, as well as between pancreatic cancer and other forms.

Dr. Zaret and his team are continuing their research with larger samples and more cross-validation. Researchers are hopeful that their work will lead to a viable test for people at high risk for pancreatic cancer.

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Exciting New Treatment Possibilities for Hard to Treat Cancers

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!

Cancer cells have the ability to hijack healthy cells, which is one of the reasons tumors are so difficult to treat. A team of British scientists recently found a way to counteract this process, in effect hijacking the hijacking.

How Healthy Cells Aid Tumor Growth

For healthy people, fibroblasts are cells that help to hold different organs together. Cancer cells transform them into cancer associated fibroblasts, or CAFs, that aid in a tumor’s growth and spread.

Higher levels of CAFs are found in many bowel, neck and head cancer cases that have poor survival rates. Despite this knowledge, scientists had been unsuccessful at targeting CAFs.

Halting Pro-Cancer Activities

A team at the University of Southampton identified an enzyme called NOX4 that is essential for CAFs to work with cancer cells. Using a developmental drug that treats organ fibrosis, the team was able to halt pro-tumor actions by CAFs.

When mice were treated with the drug, the size of their tumors was reduced by up to 50 percent. Cancer Research UK is now funding the Southampton team as they explore the use of this approach in immunotherapy for cancer.

Professor Gareth Thomas, lead researcher of the Southampton team, said that targeting CAFs can offer new possibilities for patients whose cancer has been unresponsive to traditional treatments.

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Zika Virus and Brain Cancer – New Research is Underway

Could There be a Connection Between Zika and Brain Cancer?
Could There be a Connection Between Zika and Brain Cancer?

The Zika virus is back in the news, but this time the stories are positive. Researchers in the UK are planning a groundbreaking test to determine whether the Zika virus can destroy brain tumor cells.

Thinking Outside the Box

Cancer Research UK uses its Pioneer Awards to encourage innovation that could lead to game-changing new methods in the fight against cancer. Dr. Harry Bulstrode of the University of Cambridge is the most recent recipient.

The target of Dr. Bulstrode’s test is glioblastoma, the most aggressive and commonly occurring form of brain cancer. Laboratory research will be conducted on tumor cells in mice.

Why the Zika Virus?

Immunotherapy for cancer and other current treatments have two major drawbacks:

• The treatments are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier.

• Low doses must be administered to avoid harming healthy tissue.

The Zika virus has neither of these restrictions. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and target cancer cells rather than healthy ones.

While Zika virus infection in pregnant women causes severe disabilities in babies by attacking stem cells in developing brains, it generally causes only mild flu-like symptoms in adults who have fully developed brains.

The crucial difference is that glioblastoma cells have a similar makeup to cells in developing brains. Dr. Bulstrode is hopeful that the Zika virus can be used to attack the tumor cells and spare healthy tissue.

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New Medications Inhibit Cancer Cloaking by IDO Enzyme

New Medications Inhibit Cancer Cloaking by IDO Enzyme
New Medications Inhibit Cancer Cloaking by IDO Enzyme

 Cancer treatment research often focuses on destroying the defenses that prevent the immune system from attacking tumor cells. A promising new immunotherapy drug works by disabling one of these protective enzymes.

Disabling Cancer’s Protective Shield

IDO is an enzyme that shields a fetus from the mother’s immune system, which would perceive the fetus as an infection. During the early 2000s, researchers in Belgium discovered that tumors also express IDO, depriving T-cells of tryptophan, an amino acid that fuels T-cells.

Incyte, a small firm in Wilmington, Delaware, was the first to develop epacadostat, a drug that suppresses production of IDO. The company presented their findings, including results of the first meaningful trial in treating lung cancer, at last June’s meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The Medical Community Reacts

According to Vamil Divan, an analyst at Credit Suisse, Incyte’s impressive presentation generated major interest in doctors and investors alike. Incyte also confirmed earlier research that successfully paired epacadostat with Keytruda, another immunotherapy drug, without a significant increase in side effects.

Approval of the combined epacadostat-Keytruda cancer treatment is pending results of a final trial, expected sometime next year. Merck and Bristol-Myers, two of Incyte’s initial collaborators, are working on development of their own IDO inhibitors.

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