CancerQuest CancerQuest presents the biology of cancer, cancer prevention, detection, treatment, survivorship and current news. Video interviews with patients and researchers and scientific lectures are also available. Classroom materials for middle school/high school and college are available as free downloads. http://www.cancerquest.org CancerQuest http://www.cancerquest.org/multimedia/skeleton/cq-logo.jpg http://www.cancerquest.org Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:58:31 EST en-us Childhood Leukemia Survival Now At 90%. Wed, 14 Mar 2012 12:00:00 EST

From 1990 to 2005, the cure rate for the most common form of childhood leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, has increased to 90%.  Given that the disease was essentially incurable just fifty years ago, this is a tremendous achievement.  The author of the article, Dr. Stephen Hunger, stressed that the work will not stop until the cure rate is 100%

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Diagnosing metastatic cancer with tiny dots. Wed, 29 Feb 2012 12:00:00 EST

Cancer cells that spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body from an original location frequently travel through the bloodstream.  Because there are so few of these cells in blood, compared to the enormous number of red and white blood cells, the circulating tumor cells (CTC) are very difficult to find.  A test that could find CTC would make diagnosing cancer  easier and help doctors to design treatment plans.

New research has shown that it is possible to create small sheets coated with tiny 'nano dots'.  Researchers then attached antibodies to the dots and showed that this new (bumpy and sticky) surface, was very good at capturing CTC.  The researchers hope to develop a laboratory test to detect CTC with their technology.

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Another reason to eat your broccoli. Wed, 29 Feb 2012 12:00:00 EST

Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, collards, and kale, are thought to have anti-cancer activity.  The chemical responsible for the majority of the cancer-cell fighting effects is called sulforaphane.  Sulforaphane is found at particularly high levels in broccoli.

Much work has been done to identify the ways in which sulforaphane inhibits the growth of cancer cells.  Previously, it has been shown that the chemical changes the way that DNA is utilized.  It does this by interefering with proteins (histone deacetylases) that modify the proteins that organize our DNA (called histones). 

New research with prostate cancer cells has shown that sulforaphane has more tricks up its sleeve.  The chemical is able to change the way other enzymes modify DNA, again leading to altered cell behavior and inhibition of cancer cell growth.

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Chemo-brain can last at least twenty years. Wed, 29 Feb 2012 12:00:00 EST

Patients treated with chemotherapy sometimes suffer from what is commonly called 'chemo-brain', a group of symptoms related to memory and concentration defects.  A study was done with long-term breast cancer survivors who had been treated with a specific chemotherapy regimen (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and fluorouracil). The  survivors were compared to women of the same age  who had NOT had cancer.  The results showed that the women treated with chemotherapy had memory and processing defects many years after the treatment ended.

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Yoga Shown To Improve Fatigue In Breast Cancer Survivors. Mon, 09 Jan 2012 12:00:00 EST

About one in three breast cancer survivors suffers from fatigue.  A recent study shows that yoga may help with this problem.  Thirty-one breast cancer survivors were divided into two groups, one group received  health education and the other participated in yoga two times per week.  Women in the yoga group reported reduced fatigue and more 'vigor' after three months of yoga.

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Laser-Guided Cancer Treatment. Mon, 09 Jan 2012 12:00:00 EST

One of the major problems with the majority of current cancer treatments is that they affect both normal and cancer cells, leading to many unpleasant or even dangerous side effects.   A Norweigian company has developed a technology that can reduce or eliminate this problem.  The system uses lasers to activate cancer drugs.  Because the light can be directed very precisely, the drugs are not activated in normal cells.  To make this work, patients would take a chemical that reacts to the laser light (Amphinex®) and an inactive form of the cancer drug.  Both of these are taken into all cells.  When the laser light hits the target cells, the cancer drug is activated.  The method results in sparing of normal cells and a dramatic increase in the potency of the cancer drugs.

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Watching Drugs Kill Cancer Cells. Mon, 09 Jan 2012 12:00:00 EST

Scientists from Florida and Canada have teamed up to develop a new tool for watching how cancer drugs affect their targets.  The researchers linked drugs to tiny structures known as quantum dots (Qdots).  When the drug-Qdot combination enters the cancer cells, the Qdots give off a reddish color, allowing them to be easily detected.  The research should speed up the testing of new cancer drugs and allow tracking of drug activity over time.

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Omega-3 Fish Oil Derivative Used To Cure Mice With Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). Thu, 05 Jan 2012 12:00:00 EST

A chemical naturally formed from Omega-3 fish oil, ¿12-prostaglandin J3, has been shown to cure mice with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).  The chemical was first identified as a possible drug by a computer analysis.  Researchers gave the drug to mice with CML and the results were striking.  The mice were cured, with no evidence of disease or relapses.  The chemical seems to kill the CML stem cells, the cells at the root of the disease.  Studies in humans are planned.

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Using Light To Identify Drug Resistant Cancers. Thu, 05 Jan 2012 12:00:00 EST

The HER2 protein is serves as an receiver/transmitter on the surface of cells.  Signals from HER2 cause cells to divide.  Some cancers (including breast cancer) can have too much HER2 on their surface.  Treatments, like Herceptin®, block some of these cancer cells but not all HER2 over-expressing cancers respond to the treatments.

To help determine which cancers are likely to respond to treatmens like Herceptin® researchers have turned to using light.  When the right light is directed at the cancer cells, those that are being affected by the treatment emit a different color than those that are resistant to the treatment.  If this method is able to work inside patients, those that would not respond to a particular treatment can be quickly identified and treated differently.

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A 'Gold Standard' For Lung Cancer Detection? Thu, 15 Dec 2011 12:00:00 EST

Early detection of lung cancer is difficult.  A new technology may change that.  An international team of researchers has developed sensors that can detect differences in small chemicals released by normal vs lung cancer cells.  The cells were grown in the laboratory and the air in their dishes was sampled.  The released chemicals are trapped by gold nanoparticles and analyzed. The test was able to tell the difference between normal and cancer cells and also to determine if a lung cancer cell line was from a small cell or a non-small cell cancer.

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What Really Causes 'Chemo Brain'? Thu, 15 Dec 2011 12:00:00 EST

Some patients treated with chemoatherapy can suffer from a loss of ability to concentrate or remember.  This syndrome, informally called 'chemo brain', has been shown to also affect patients treated with radiation. A recent study looked at mental function in women with early stage (stage 0-II) breast cancer.

The researchers found that patients treated with chemotherapy, radiation or both had similar problems with their mental function, even up to three years after treatment.  The results indicate that chemotherapy itself may not be responsible for 'chemo brain'.  The syndrome may be due to other long-lasting effects of treatment, including fatigue.

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Acupuncture Used To Treat Chemotherapy-Induced Nerve Damage. Wed, 07 Dec 2011 12:00:00 EST

Patients taking particular chemotherapy drugs, including paclitaxel (Taxol®), are at risk for developing pain, numbness, burning, and/or tingling in their hands and feet.  Also called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), the problem due to nerve damage caused by the drugs.

A small pilot study in Germany has shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for this side effect.  In the study, 6 patients with CIPN were treated with acupuncture and their nerve function was tested over time.  Five of the six treated patients showed improved nerve function.  In a comparison group of untreated CIPN patients, only one showed improvement over the same time period.  The results indicate that larger studies should be done with acupuncture for CIPN.

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Blood Glucose Levels Linked To Colon Cancer Risk In Women Mon, 05 Dec 2011 12:00:00 EST

A study of almost 5000 women who were followed for about 12 years indicates that those women with higher levels of circulating glucose are at increased risk of developing colon cancer.  The women whose levels were in the highest third had about twice the risk of developing colon cancer than those in the lowest third. 

Glucose levels then to be higher in obese individuals, and obesity is a known risk factor for colon cancer.  The relationship is continuing to be explored.

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Exercise Does NOT Increase Risk For Lymphedema In Breast Cancer Patients. Fri, 02 Dec 2011 12:00:00 EST

The surgery and radiation used to treat breast cancer can damage the lymphatic vessels in the area of treatment, leading to an increased risk for lymphedema, a swelling caused by fluid that leaks out of the lymphatic system into the tissues.  The result is swelling, pain, and loss of function in the affected area.  Frequently, in breast cancer, the arms are affected.

To avoid increasing the risk of lymphedema, patients have traditionally be told to avoid resistance exercises for the affected arm.  Recent results have suggested that this may not be correct and now a review of many studies in the field confirms that exercise of this type does NOT cause lymphedema in women at risk.  Only certain types of exercise were included in the studies and it is important that women considering increasing their exercise levels discuss their activities with their clinician.

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Sequencing A Patient's Entire Genome To Choose Treatments. Wed, 30 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

Most genetic tests used to help physicians choose the best treatments for cancer patients examine a small number of genes.  This may not be the case for long. The rapid advances in DNA sequencing technology have driven the cost down from millions of dollars to thousands of dollars per genome.  A small pilot study performed by researchers from Michigan, Texas and India has shown that it is feasible to get whole genome sequencing performed on cancer patients in a timeframe (about a month) and at a cost (thousands of dollars) that makes it reasonable to pursue further.  The end result is that physicians can have information about every gene in a patient.  The research showed that sequencing and gene activity results are very likely to be of great benefit to cancer patients.

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Cancer Cells Eat Themselves To Survive. Tue, 29 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

Cancer cells divide in an out of control manner.  To constantly make new copies of themselves, they need lots of energy and raw materials.  Scientists have shown that one way they get what the need is to digest their own components and recycle them.  The process is known as autophagy (self-eating) and cancer cells seem to rely on a particular type of autophagy, chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA).  In this form, proteins to be broken down for parts are guided to their destruction by other proteins, chaperones.

When researchers blocked the activity of the chaperones, the cancer cells were not able to get the parts they needed to reproduce, instead many of them died.  Because CMA is not common in normal cells, the researchers hope to target the process in cancer patients.

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New Device Approved To Detect Melanoma. Tue, 29 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

A new imaging device (MelaFind®) from Mela Sciences (www.melasciences.com) was recently approved by the FDA for the detection of melanoma skin cancer.  The device scans the skin and compares the image to a library of images to determine whether melanoma is likely to be present.  If the computer determines that cancer may be present, a biopsy can be taken.  The new device has proven to be highly accurate and may prevent unneeded biopsies.

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Drug Used To Treat IBS Linked To Increased Risk For Skin Cancer. Tue, 29 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

Two new studies have identified thiopurine drugs as risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer.  The drugs are used to treat inflammatory conditions, including Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Thiopurines are also used to treat some forms of cancer.  They work by blocking the division of cells.  The results indicate that patients taking thiopurine drugs should be vigilant about checking their skin for any new growths or changes in existing skin abnormalities.

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HPV Vaccine Shown To Protect Men From Anal Cancer Precursor. Wed, 23 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

Men who have sex with men are at risk for transmission of HPV.  HPV is known to cause anal cancer.  A study was performed to examine the effectiveness of an HPV vaccine (Gardasil®) in preventing the changes that lead up to anal cancer.  Prior to the development of cancer, there are changes that occur in the cells infected with HPV.  These changes are visible in the way the tissue looks and behaves.  The changes lead to new growth of affected cells and result in intraepithelial neoplasia  (intra=within, epithelial refers to the cells lining the surface of organs, neo=new, plasia=growth).

In the study, the vaccine was shown to reduce the development of these changes.  It is likely therefore, that the vaccine also protects against the development of anal cancer.

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Platelets Shown To Have Important Role In Spread Of Cancer. Thu, 17 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

About 90% of the deaths caused by cancer are due to cancer that has spread (metastasized) to distant locations in the body.  New results show that the blood cell fragments called platelets may play an important role in the spread of cancer.  Platelets were shown to secrete a protein (TGF-beta) that stimulated cancer cells to begin migrating.  Separately, touching platelets directly caused additional changes in the cancer cells.  Together, the two activities worked together to make the cancer cells much more likely to move/spread.  The results suggest that blocking the platelet:cancer cell interaction could be a good way to prevent the spread of cancer.

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Vaccine Used To Treat Breast And Ovarian Cancer. Thu, 17 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

When people think of vaccines, they usually imagine a shot that prevents a disease.  In cancer, some vaccines are used to treat disease that has already developed.  NIH researchers have shown that a vaccine can be used to stimulate immune responses to breast and ovarian cancer.

In the study, 26 women who had been unsuccessfully treated for breast or ovarian cancer were vaccinated with a modified pox virus (PANVAC) that was able to produce specific cancer-related proteins in infected cells.  The virus also contained genes for proteins that stimulate the immune system.

The results were encouraging, with many of the women experiencing at least a partial response against their cancer, resulting in stable disease.  One woman had a complete response against her breast cancer and had no evidence of disease.  Additional studies are planned.

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Cervical Cancer Vaccine Prevents Cancer In Women Already Infected With HPV. Wed, 16 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

Analysis of data from the PATRICIA (PApilloma TRIal against Cancer In young Adults) study has shown that Cervarix®, one of the two FDA approved cervical cancer vaccines is extremely effective.  The results show that the vaccine is even able to prevent the progression of pre-cancerous conditions in women who are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) before they get the vaccine.  In young women who receive the vaccine before they become sexually active, the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing the development of pre-cancerous or cancerous growths caused by viruses included in the vaccine (HPV subtypes 16 and 18).

The authors suggest that early vaccination should be strongly encouraged but that even after women have been infected, the vaccine is still very helpful.

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Brain Areas Affected By 'Chemo Brain' Identified. Wed, 16 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

One of the most frustrating side-effects of cancer treatment is the impairment of memory and though processing known informally as 'chemo brain'.  New research with breast cancer patients has provided additional proof of the biological basis of the cognitive defects seen in cancer patients.  The study compared neural activity of breast cancer patients who had or had not received chemotherapy with normal controls.

Changes were seen in the activity levels of several different areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and premotor cortex.  The results seen in this population will need to be verified in other patients.  The identification of specific areas affected by chemotherapy opens the door to possible treatments for 'chemo brain'.

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New Cancer Drug Approach: Bending Targets Out Of Shape. Wed, 16 Nov 2011 12:00:00 EST

New 'targeted' cancer drugs typically work by blocking the activity of specific proteins in cancer cells.  The targets are frequently enzymes, and the drugs are designed to fit into the 'active site' of the enzyme like a key in a lock.  In this way, the drug prevents the enzyme from working.  There are several problems with this approach.  First, the 'key' often fits several different 'locks'.  In other words, the drugs interefere with enzymes that are NOT the actual targets.  Second, a slight change in the shape of the active site frequently makes the drug ineffective.

A group from UC San Diego has developed an alternative approach.  They developed a drug that binds to a place on the target enzyme that is NOT part of the active site (called an allosteric site).  When the drug binds, it changes the shape of the active site so that no longer work.  This would be like holding someones arms behind their back.  Their hands would not be able to do the same things in this position.

These drugs have the potential to be less toxic and cancer cells are less likely to develop resistance to these types of drugs.  Clinical trials are pending.

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Vitamin E Shown To INCREASE Risk Of Prostate Cancer In Clinical Trial. Mon, 17 Oct 2011 12:00:00 EST

Results of a large study done see if vitamin E or selenium could prevent prostate cancer has actually shown the opposite result!  The SELECT study was done to follow-up on a smaller study that indicated vitamin E might reduce prostate cancer risk.  The SELECT study results indicate that vitamin E, taken at the levels used in the trial (400 IU/d of all rac-α-tocopheryl acetate) may increase the risk of prostate cancer.  Men who take vitamin E supplements should discuss the impact of these results with their physician.

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