Friday, September 4, 2015

Around the Web: End of Summer Edition

Kids are back in school everywhere, it seems, based on all of the adorable Facebook posts of your kids holding signs about what grade they're entering. This is one of my favorite times of year on social media. Pumpkin patch season is next up, I think.

Anyway, here's my husband (a professor) with his take on the meme (and yes, this is how he typically dresses for work).

It's true: save for this weekend, summer's just about over (even if our thermostat begs to differ). And I owe you all some news. So here's the research I found around the web over the last couple of months. I wasn't just eating bonbons by the pool, you guys. Who am I kidding? I wasn't doing that at all, but a girl can dream.

Scientists Turn Cancer Cells Back to Normal, Could "Switch Off" Disease

WELL, THIS WOULD BE AMAZING. Clinical trials stat, please.

"For the first time, aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida in the U.S. said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.

So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumours so that cancer could be “switched off” without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery."

No Surprise Here: Cancer Drugs Are Freaking Expensive

"[The report] goes on to matter-of-factly lay out the harsh financial realities many people face after a cancer diagnosis, a suite of diseases that will affect 1 in 3 individuals over their lifetime. While the cost of new drugs has soared to well over $100,000 a year, the out-of-pocket expenses patients are expected to bear have also gone up to 20 to 30 percent. Because of these costs, about 10% to 20% of patients with cancer do not take the prescribed treatment or compromise it."

So Here's to Generic Drugs!

"There's new evidence that two inexpensive generic drugs can improve survival rates for women who develop breast cancer after menopause.

In two large studies published Friday in The Lancet, a class of hormone-therapy drugs called aromatase inhibitors and bone-preserving drugs called bisphosphonates improved survival and recurrence rates in postmenopausal women with early breast cancer."

As if You Needed It: Another Reason to Quit Smoking

But none of my readers still smoke, right? 

"Among more than 800 women with breast cancer, those who had smoked for more than two decades had at least triple the odds of dying of any cause, or from breast cancer in particular, compared with women who never used cigarettes."

A "Glimmer of Hope" for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patients

"Using mouse models of triple-negative breast cancer, the team reduced expression of IL13RA2 in cancer cells. They found that lowering IL13RA2 was associated with much slower tumor growth, and the cancer cells were much less likely to spread to the lungs.
Based on their findings, Thiagalingam and colleagues believe IL13RA2 plays a role in the growth and spread of triple-negative breast cancer, suggesting the molecule may be an important drug target for the disease. Thiagalingam adds:

"This discovery offers a glimmer of hope for patients stricken with BLBC. Personalized cancer therapies could be developed by targeting breast cancer cells that express copious levels of IL13RA2."

What is more, the researchers say their findings could lead to treatment strategies for other forms of cancer involving high IL13RA2 expression, such as ovarian, brain, colon and pancreatic cancers."

And More Options for Her-2+ Patients (Like Myself)

"Treatment-refractory HER2-positive metastatic breast cancers are becoming increasingly rare due to the recent advent of multitargeted HER2 receptor blockade mechanisms that utilize novel antibodies and antibody–drug conjugates even as the roster of new therapies under study for this patient population continues to expand, according to Mohammed Jahanzeb, MD.

“The landscape is really shifting,” said Jahanzeb, a breast and lung cancer expert.

Jahanzeb said many novel agents including antibody–drug conjugates, bispecific antibodies, and immunotherapies are being evaluated for patients with recurrent disease at a time when outcomes are improving. “The field is very rich,” he said. “Actually, what is not so rich is access to these patients [for clinical trials]. Luckily for them, fewer are relapsing.”"

Further Evidence that Our Immune Systems Have a Role to Play in Fighting Cancer

"A cancer patient's chances of survival seem to depend partly on activity in specific genes and immune system cells, a new study suggests.

Using data from nearly 18,000 people who were treated for cancer, scientists found that particular patterns of gene activity corresponded to patients' survival odds -- across a whole range of cancers, including brain, breast, colon and lung cancers."

Another Novel Approach? Overstimulate Certain Cancer Cells to Kill Them

This is not yet available in a clinical setting, but researchers are optimistic.

"A drug candidate that overstimulates proteins crucial for tumor growth shows promise as a new strategy to treat a wide range of cancers. The demands of rapid cell division put a strain on cancer cells, and the approach works by tipping cell stress over the edge. In the August 10 issue of Cancer Cell, American researchers show that the drug candidate inhibits tumor growth in a mouse model of breast cancer and efficiently kills a broad range of human cancer cells.

"No prior drug has been previously developed or proposed that actually stimulates an oncogene to promote therapy," says co-senior study author David Lonard of Baylor College of Medicine. "Our prototype drug works in multiple types of cancers and encourages us that this could be a more general addition to the cancer drug arsenal.""

Blood Test Could Predict Breast Cancer's Return

I'm not sure if I'd want this, for the same reasons I won't go see a psychic. Would you get the test?

"An experimental blood test may be able to predict whether a woman with breast cancer will suffer a relapse months before new tumors would be detectable on scans, researchers said Wednesday.

The technology, described in the journal Science Translational Medicine, works by detecting cancer DNA that circulates in the bloodstream.

While the test is not yet available to the public, and likely will not be for years to come, researchers are hopeful that it could help refine personalized treatments for cancer and perhaps lead scientists further down the path of finding a cure one day.

"We have shown how a simple blood test has the potential to accurately predict which patients will relapse from breast cancer, much earlier than we can currently," said study author Nicholas Turner, team leader in molecular oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London."

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