Cancer patients who use alternative therapies ‘twice as likely’ to die

A new study suggests that alternative cancer therapies are doing more harm than good.

A new study of 1,290 United States cancer patients suggests that people who opt for alternative therapies are “twice as likely” to die. Often, these patients refuse life-saving treatments like surgery or chemotherapy in favor of alternative therapies.

“The reality is despite the fact that many patients believe that these types of unproven therapies will improve their survival and possibly even improve their chances of a cure, there’s really no evidence to support that claim…” said Skyler Johnson of from Yale School of Medicine, lead author of the study.

“Although they may be used to support patients experiencing symptoms from cancer treatment, it looks as though they are either being marketed or understood to be effective cancer treatments,” he added.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research United Kingdom’s head information nurse, believes that complementary medicine can increase quality of life and wellbeing for some patients.

“But it is important that patients considering them do not see them as an alternative to conventional treatments that have been shown though clinical trials to make a real difference to survival,” he said.

And Arnie Purushotham, director at King’s Health Partners Comprehensive Cancer Centre, believes that there is a clear difference between complementary treatments and alternative therapies.

“The medical community is united in agreeing that alternate therapy is not an effective means of treating cancer patients,” he said.

“However, there is increasing evidence that complementary therapy like acupuncture, yoga and relaxation therapy may be beneficial in alleviating cancer patients’ symptoms like pain and fatigue.”

The findings were published in JAMA Oncology.

Anti-cancer drugs put cancer to sleep forever

A new study reveals the discovery of a new class of drugs that puts cancer cells into a permanent sleep.

For the first time ever, Melbourne scientists have discovered an anti-cancer drug that puts cancers into a state of permanent sleep. Not only that, it does so without the standard harmful side-effects caused by traditional cancer therapies.

The unique new class of drugs could give cancer patients an alternative treatment, and thus far it has show promise for stopping the progression of cancer in models of liver and blood cancers. Not only that, it has been shown effective in delaying cancer relapse.

Tim Thomas, who led the research, claims that the new drug class is the first to target KAT6A and KAT6B proteins, which are known to play a big role in driving cancer.

“Early on, we discovered that genetically depleting KAT6A quadrupled the life expectancy in animal models of blood cancers called lymphoma,” Thomas said. “Armed with the knowledge that KAT6A is an important driver of cancer, we began to look for ways of inhibiting the protein to treat cancer.”

“This new class of anti-cancer drugs was effective in preventing cancer progression in our preclinical cancer models,” he added. “We are extremely excited about the potential that they hold as an entirely new weapon for fighting cancer.

Apparently, the compound was tolerated well in preclinical models and proved itself to be potent against tumor cells without negatively impacting healthy cells.

“This has been a very tough nut to crack,” said Ian Street, chief scientist at Cancer Therapeutics CRC. “There is no doubt that the KAT6 inhibitors have played an important role in elucidating the potential of this new and exciting strategy to treat cancers.”

The findings were published in Nature.

Healthy diets linked to lower cancer risk, study says

A healthy diet in combination with exercise and reduced alcohol consumption decreases cancer risk, according to a new study.

A new study continues to support the notion that a healthy diet in combination with physical activity and low alcohol consumption is connected to lower overall cancer risk. Not only that, it decreases the risk of prostate, lower breast, and colorectal cancer.

“Among all risk factors for cancer (besides tobacco), nutrition and physical activity are modifiable lifestyle factors which can contribute to cancer risk,” said Mathilde Touvier of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN).

“The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) estimated that in developed countries, around 35 percent of breast cancers and 45 percent of colorectal cancers could be avoided by better adherence to nutritional recommendations,” added Bernard Srour, also of the EREN. “It is, therefore, very important to investigate the role of nutrition in cancer prevention.”

It’s important to note that the researchers believe that a “synergistic contribution” of a healthy diet is more important than any single dietary recommendation. For example, exercise can lower blood pressure created by high-sodium foods, and antioxidants from fruits and veggies can counteract oxidative damage from processed meat.

“This emphasizes the role of an overall healthy lifestyle–nutrition and physical activity and alcohol avoidance–in cancer prevention,” Srour said. “It is, therefore, important to keep in mind that every lifestyle factor counts and it is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle.”

“In its last report, the WCRF stated that there is now strong, convincing evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risks of oropharyngeal, esophagus, liver, colorectal, and post-menopausal breast cancers,” Touvier said, suggests that there are also connections to premenopausal breast and stomach cancers.

The findings were published in Cancer Research.

Women are going bankrupt to treat breast cancer, study says

A new study highlights the financial hardships that women with breast cancer are faced with.

A new study suggests that women are going bankrupt to treat breast cancer. Not only that, but patients are worried about the financial implications of their treatment and diagnosis, and feel that doctor’s offices are unhelpful with their concerns.

“We have made a lot of progress in breast cancer treatment, which is wonderful. But this study shows we are only part of the way to our goal,” said says lead study author Reshma Jagsi of the University of Michigan. “We must now turn our efforts to confronting the financial devastation many patients face.”

The team surveyd approximately 2,500 patients that underwent early stage breast cancer treatment, as well as 845 medical oncologists, treating physicians, and radiation oncologists.

The results revealed that 38 percent of women were at least partially worred about finances due to breast cancer treatments, 14 percent reported losing over 10 percent of household income, and 17 percent said they spent over 10 percent of their household income on medical expenses.

Approximately half of medical oncologists and 43 percent of radiation oncologists said that someone in their practice always or often talks about financial burden with their patients. However, the researchers found that only 16 percent did.

And of the patients that worried about finances, 73 percent claim that their doctor’s office didn’t help. The results suggest that doctors need to work on communicating with their patients about financial hardship.

“To cure a patient’s disease at the cost of financial ruin falls short of our duty as physicians to serve,” Jagsi said. “It’s simply not acceptable to ignore patients’ financial distress any longer,”

The findings were published in Cancer.

Researchers create ‘world’s first’ melanoma test

Australian researchers claim to have created the “world’s first” melanoma test.

A team of Australian researchers created a blood test for early-stage melanoma and reported it as a “world first” breakthrough that can save lives. The researchers are from Edith Cowan University, and claim that the test could aid doctors in the detection of skin cancer prior to its spread throughout the body.

“Patients who have their melanoma detected in its early stage have a five-year survival rate between 90 and 99 percent,” said lead researcher Pauline Zaenker, adding that when the cancer spreads, survival rates fall to less than 50 percent.

“This is what makes this blood test so exciting as a potential screening tool because it can pick up melanoma in its very early stages when it is still treatable,” she added.

The data examined 105 patients with melanoma and 104 healthy participants. According to the researchers, the new procedure detected early stage melanoma in 70 percent of cases.

As of now, melanoma is detected using visual scans, and areas of concern are surgically removed and biopsied. But the new process identifies autoantibodies that the human body produces in response to melanoma.

“We examined a total of 1627 different types of antibodies to identify a combination of 10 antibodies that best indicated the presence of melanoma in confirmed patients relative to healthy volunteers,” Zaenker said.

Sanchia Aranda, Cancer Council Australia chief executive, claims that the test will help high-risk groups that require time-consuming tests of their moles and spots. However, she said that the new test failed to pick up the more common, but less deadly, skin cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

“People need to be very aware of whether they’ve got sun damage or UV damage on their skin, and be alert to changes in any spots or moles,” she said.

The findings were published in Oncotarget.

FDA recalls blood pressure medicine amid cancer concerns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just recalled various blood pressure medications due to potential cancer risks.

A drug commonly used to prevent heart failure and control blood pressure was recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday just a week after it was recalled in 22 other countries. The recall was reportedly due to the presence of a chemical that carries a potential cancer risk.

Valsartan is an off patent drug that is used as a component of various other generic medicine. However, the FDA claims that not all medicines containing the ingredient are involved.

The recall includes forms of valsartan that are made by Solco Healthcare, Major Pharmaceuticals, and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, as well as the valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) combination sold by Teva Pharmaceuticals and Solco Healthcare.

“The amounts of NDMA found in Valsartan API are much lower than the cumulative endogenous production and usual external exposure of NDMA,” said Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff.  “There is no certainty as to how much this contaminant may potentially increase cancer risk in humans. Thus, the amount of NDMA found in the Valsartan API would not represent a significantly increased risk to the patients taking of Sandoz Valsartan and Sandoz Valsartan HCT Film coated tablets.”

“The FDA is committed to maintaining our gold standard for safety and efficacy,” the agency said. “That includes our efforts to ensure the quality of drugs and the safe manner in which they’re manufactured.”

“When we identify lapses in the quality of drugs and problems with their manufacturing that have the potential to create risks to patients, we’re committed to taking swift action to alert the public and help facilitate the removal of the products from the market. As we seek the removal of certain drug products today, our drug shortages team is also working hard to ensure patients’ therapeutic needs are met in the United States with an adequate supply of unaffected medications.”

Scientists reengineer cancer cells to kill each other

A new study reengineers cancer cells to attack each other using their existing biology.

In a recent study, scientists used the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing technique to turn cancer cells against each other by harnessing their built-in homing instincts.

“The new twist here is the use of CRISPR-based technology to add resistance or sensitivity features to the parental cells,” said Renata Pasqualini, a cancer biologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in Newark.

The team first pinpointed the S-TRAIL protein, which they determined held the potential to trigger cell death in some cancer cells. Afterwards, they used CRISPR to edit genes in brain cancer cells to simulate the creation of S-TRAIL and then released the cells against cancer cells sensitive to the protein.

Another approach that was examined involved cutting out specific genes in cancer cells sensitive to S-TRAIL, and then giving the cells the genes necessary to create the protein.

“Safe elimination of therapeutic cancer cells after treatment was achieved by co-engineering with a prodrug-converting suicide system, which also allowed for real-time in vivo positron emission tomography imaging of therapeutic tumor cell fate,” the study reads.

“This study demonstrates self-tumor tropism of engineered cancer cells and their therapeutic potential when engineered with receptor self-targeted molecules, and it establishes a roadmap toward a safe clinical translation for different cancer types in primary, recurrent, and metastatic settings.”

As far as clinical applications, the approach still has a ways to go. However, scientists hope that it will eventually provide an effective alternative for cancer patients unresponsive to other options.

The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers discover process that neutralizes tumors

A new study reveals a unique process that could help in cancer prevention.

A team of University of California San Diego researchers has discovered a unique mechanism that could help medical professionals determine if cancer patients will respond to immunotherapy.

The human body’s immune system ideally identifies tumors and sends its immune cells (T cells) to to find and destroy them. But tumor cells have evolved to employ a PD-L1 protein to prevent immune cells from working properly.

Although antibodies that benefit some cancer patients have been developed to prevent PD-L1/PD-1 , it’s remained a mystery why some patients don’t respond to these therapies. But the new study might have just revealed some clues.

The team discovered that some tumor cells display their PD-L1 weapon as well as a PD-1 “brake” that neutralizes tumors. This expression causes PD-1 to attach to and neutralize the PD-L1 located on the same cell.

“It’s a very exciting finding,” said Enfu Hui, co-author on the study. “Our study uncovered an unexpected role of PD-1 and another dimension of PD-1 regulation with important therapeutic implications.”

The team is hoping to extend the the finding to focus on immunotherapy and reveal other mechanisms of “self-cancellation” that work on the surface of immune and tumor cells.

“We think that our finding is the tip of the iceberg,” Hui said. “We speculate that self-cancellation is a general mechanism to regulate immune cell function. Understanding these processes more clearly will help develop better immunotherapy strategies and more reliably predict whether a patient will respond or not.”

Amino acid asparagine may help cancer spread, study reports

A new study found that the amino acid asparagine may help tumors move throughout the body.

Certain diets could help breast cancer tumors spread throughout the body, according to research published in the journal Nature,

This new discovery — which comes from scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute — adds to the growing pile of evidence that cancer is directly tied to the food a person eats. In this case, the cancer looked at in the study was linked to the amino acid asparagine, which is found in many popular foods, such as asparagus, seafood, and poultry.

The team analyzed asparagine’s connection to cancer by feeding mice in a controlled study. Some of the rodents were given a low-asparagine diet, while others were administered drugs that blocked the amino acid. Mice that were given the drugs had slow growing tumors, while the others died much more quickly than they normally would have.

“We’re seeing increasing evidence that specific cancers are addicted to specific components of our diet,” said study co-author Gregory Hannon, a researcher at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, according to BBC News“In the future, by modifying a patient’s diet or by using drugs that change the way that tumour cells can access these nutrients we hope to improve outcomes in therapy.”

When it comes to cancer, the first tumor is rarely deadly. It is when the cells begin to spread that it become a serious problem. In order to multiply, a cancerous cell must break off from the main tumor, then survive in the bloodstream and thrive somewhere else inside the body. Researchers believe that is the process asparagine aids.

However, while some may be concerned over the new findings, the team still has to confirm the discovery in human trials. Not only that, but asparagine is extremely hard to avoid. This research was more to look at the link between diet and cancer than to warn people to stay away from certain foods.

“On current evidence, we don’t recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors,” said Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now who was not involved in the study, according to The Guardian. “We’d also encourage all patients to follow a healthy and varied diet – rich in fruit, vegetables and pulses, and limited in processed meat and high fat or sugar foods – to help give them the best chance of survival.”

If researchers can fully understand how food affects cancer, they may be able to come up with new cures or treatments. While that point is a long way off, the team hopes that one day patients will be put on special drinks that are nutritionally balanced, but lack asparagine in order to slow down tumor spread.