Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, JAMA, Outcomes & Safety, Surgical Research / 17.02.2016 Interview with: Dr. Art Sedrakyan MD PhD ScD Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research in Cardiothoracic Surgery Department of Public Health Weill Cornell Medical College  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sedrakyan: In the most recent years available to us for research(2011-2013) one in four women underwent repeat surgery within 90 days after breast conserving approach to cancer removal. Patients operated by higher volume physicians had lower chance of undergoing repeat surgery.Uniform guidelines and increased surgical training are needed to standardize the breast conserving surgery to reduce the high rate of repeat surgery. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Pancreatic, Weight Research / 13.02.2016 Interview with: Joao Incio, MD Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology Massachusetts General Hospital | Harvard Medical School | Boston, MA, U.S.A Department of Internal Medicine | Hospital S. Joao | Porto, Portugal  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Incio:  The study focused on the effects of obesity on pancreatic and breast cancer, since more than half of those diagnosed with such tumors are overweight or obese. In addition, a number of large-scale studies have found that obesity leads to an increased risk of death in pancreatic, breast and other types of cancer. But prior to the current study the mechanism of obesity-induced pancreatic and breast cancer progression was unclear. We have uncovered a novel mechanism behind the ability of obesity to promote cancer progression.  We found an association between obesity and an overabundance of a factor called PlGF (placental growth factor) and that PlGF’s binding to its receptor VEGFR-1, which is expressed on immune cells within tumors, promotes tumor progression. We found that obesity increased infiltration of tumor-promoting immune cells and the growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancers. Blocking VEGFR-1 signaling shifted the immune environment towards prevention of tumor progression in obese but not in lean mice in both pancreatic and breast cancer models. We also found that PlGF was present in excess in obesity and that reduction of PlGF produced similar results to VEGFR-1 inhibition in the tumors of obese mice. We also discovered that targeting the PlGF/VEGFR-1 interaction prevents weight gain in a genetically obese mouse model but worsens a diabetes-like condition, a worsening that was alleviated by use of the common diabetes drug metformin, which also had beneficial anti-tumor effects. Our findings in cellular and animal models, as well as in patient tumor samples, indicate that targeting the PlGF/ VEGFR-1 pathway may be particularly effective in obese patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Geriatrics, Lung Cancer, Nature / 12.02.2016 Interview with: Chiara Ambrogio, PhD Experimental Oncology Group CNIO-Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (Spanish National Cancer Research Centre) Melchor Fernández Almagro nº3 Madrid Spain  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Ambrogio: The majority of preclinical studies aimed at discovering new therapeutic strategies for lung adenocarcinoma have been conducted so far in full-blown tumors. We wanted to try a new approach by studying early lung lesions in a KRasG12V mouse model in order to bypass the problems imposed by tumor heterogeneity in later stages of the disease. We reasoned that the analysis of the first steps of lung adenocarcinoma development would help us in identifying valuable targets for therapeutic intervention.  Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Ambrogio: 1) We performed gene expression analysis of KRasG12V-driven mouse lung hyperplasias (≤ 500 cells) and we compared it to the gene expression profile of full-blown lung adenocarcinoma. We found that the aggressive nature of this tumor type is determined earlier than what predicted by histopathological criteria. 2) The analysis of transcriptional changes in early lesions allowed us to identify DDR1 as a drugable target in KRasG12V-driven lung adenocarcinoma. We validated its potential as a therapeutic target both genetically and pharmacologically by means of a selective DDR1 inhibitor. We demonstrated that the co-inhibition of DDR1 and NOTCH pathway, a key player in DDR1-mediated survival, exerted additive therapeutic effect. 3) We confirmed these results in human lung adenocarcinoma by reporting, for the first time, the development of an orthotopic Patient-Derived Xenograft (PDX) model as the ideal platform for the preclinical evaluation of new therapeutic strategies. (more…)
Anesthesiology, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Duke, Radiology / 11.02.2016 Interview with: Mary Scott Soo, M.D. FACR Associate professor of Radiology Duke Cancer Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Soo: Imaging-guided needle breast biopsies for diagnosing suspicious breast lesions have been performed for many years and have definite advantages as a diagnostic tool over surgical biopsies. These biopsies are performed in outpatient settings, which decrease costs and reduce delays, and are highly accurate and less invasive than surgical procedures, requiring only local anesthesia. However, performing biopsies in this outpatient setting limits the use of intravenous sedation and pain medication that could address commonly experienced patient anxiety and occasional associated pain. Anxiety and pain can negatively impact the patient's experience and could possibly affect the biopsy outcome due to patient movement, and could potentially even alter patients' adherence to follow-up recommendations. Prior studies have explored methods to reduce anxiety, using interventions such as music, hypnosis and anxiolytics. Although hypnosis and anxiolytics are effective, these are a little more complicated to implement due to training costs for administering hypnotherapy, and costs, potential side effects, and need for an adult driver to take the patients home when anxiolytics are used. Other research has shown that meditation-based interventions can lead to positive psychological and physical outcomes, and may be helpful for decreasing anxiety, pain and fatigue. Loving-kindness mediation is a type of mediation that focuses on relaxation and developing positive emotions, by silently repeating phrases encouraging compassion and goodwill towards oneself and others, while also reducing negative emotions. Previous studies have shown that even a 7-minute loving-kindness meditation can be effective for increasing positive emotions, so my co-authors Rebecca Shelby PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke’s Pain Prevention and Treatment Research Program,clinical psychologist Anava Wrenn PhDwho has used loving-kindness meditation in a different practice setting, and breast imaging radiologist Jennifer Jarosz MD and I put together a team to study whether an audio-recorded, lovingkindness meditation could reduce anxiety, fatigue and pain during the imaging-guided breast biopsy time frame.  We consulted with Mary Brantley, MA, LMFT, who teaches loving-kindness meditation at Duke's Integrative Medicine, to develop an audio-recorded loving-kindness mediation used specifically in the breast biopsy setting, and compared this to using music during biopsies or standard care (supportive dialogue) from the technologist and radiologist performing the biopsy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Radiation Therapy, Stem Cells / 11.02.2016 Interview with: Erina Vlashi, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Radiation Oncology David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Los Angeles, CA 90095-1714 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Vlashi: It has been known for quite some time that head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) that test positive for human papilloma virus (HPV) respond to radiation therapy more favorably than HPV-negative HNSCCs. Our team reviewed a cohort of 162 patients with a head and neck squamous carcinoma diagnosis over a two-year period, and confirmed that the outcomes were correlated with the patient's HPV status. The work that followed was prompted by a discovery we had made earlier in breast cancer suggesting that breast cancer cells that manage to survive radiation therapy have the capacity to convert into more de-differentiated, therapy-resistant cells with characteristics of cancer stem cells, and that the degree of this conversion depended on the type of breast cancer: the more aggressive types of breast cancer being more prone to the therapy-induced phenotype conversion. So, we hypothesized that this therapy-induced conversion phenomenon may especially be at play in  head and neck squamous cell carcinomas given the clinical observation that HPV-positive HNSCCs respond to radiation therapy much more favorably than HPV-negative HNSCCs, despite optimum treatment modalities. And indeed, that is what we found: tumor cells derived from a panel of  head and neck squamous cell carcinomas cell lines that do not respond well to radiation therapy have an enhanced ability to convert the cells that survive radiation into more aggressive cells, cancer stem-like cells that will resist the next round of radiation therapy.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Beth Israel Deaconess, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Lung Cancer, Radiology / 10.02.2016 Interview with: Phillip M. Boiselle, MD Professor of Radiology and Associate Dean for Academic and Clinical Affairs Harvard Medical School Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Boston, Massachusetts Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Boiselle: We surveyed leading academic medical centers in 2013 and found considerable variability in their practice patterns as well as a relatively small number of patients being screened for lung cancer at these sites. Considering landmark developments since that time, including favorable policy and payment decisions by USPSTF  and CMS  and development of radiology-specific nodule guidelines by the American College of Radiology, we were curious to see whether there would be greater conformity of practice patterns and increased patient volumes in response to these developments. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Boiselle: First, our finding of greater conformity of lung cancer screening practices at present compared to 2013 confirmed our hypothesis that the development of radiology-specific guidelines by ACR would contribute to greater uniformity. Second, we were surprised by the very modest level of increase in patient volumes for CT screening over time despite the favorable USPSTF and CMS decisions. We emphasize, however, that the timing of our survey occurred too early to determine the full impact of CMS coverage on patient volumes (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Dermatology, Transplantation / 09.02.2016 Interview with: Claire M. Vajdic, PhD Center for Big Data Research in Health University of New South Wales Australian Graduate School of Management Bldg, Sydney Australia on behalf of the authors. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Vajdic: Lip cancer is one of the most common cancers in solid organ transplant recipients. Iatrogenic immunosuppression is a strong risk factor for lip cancer but the dose-related association between individual immunosuppressive agents and risk of lip cancer has not been examined. Therefore, we investigated the association between the type, dose and duration of immunosuppressive therapy and lip cancer risk in Australian liver, heart and lung transplant recipients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, JAMA, Prostate Cancer / 09.02.2016 Interview with: Dr. Quoc-Dien Trinh MD Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School Brigham and Williams Hospital  Medical Research:  Please briefly explain the potential benefits and harms of PSA testing, the rationale for screening all men, and the reason U.S. guidelines now recommend against routine screening.  Response: The goal of cancer screening is to detect the disease early, and consequently treat it before it becomes more aggressive and spread to other parts of the body (which ultimately leads to death). However, cancer screening may lead to overdiagnosis (detecting cancers that would not have been a problem for a while) and overtreatment. The latter is a problem for prostate cancer, because surgery and radiation therapy (the currently accepted first-line treatments for localized prostate cancer) have significant long-term adverse effects on sexual and urinary function. I wouldn't say that 'US' guidelines are against screening. Many professional societies continue to recommend some form of joint decision-making with regard to PSA screening. the USPSTF recommends against screening for all - they argue that the harms mentioned above outweigh the benefits. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Heart Disease, Journal Clinical Oncology / 07.02.2016 Interview with: Saro H. Armenian, DO, MPH Associate Professor Departments of Pediatrics and Population Sciences City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center Director of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship Clinic Duarte, CA     Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Armenian: There are an estimated 14 million cancer survivors living in the U.S. today, and this number is expected to reach 19 million by 2024. Among these cancer survivors, nearly two-thirds will have survived more than five years beyond their cancer diagnosis, and two out of every five will be considered a ten-year survivor, contributing to a growing population of aging cancer survivors. Until now, very little was known about the cardiovascular health of adult long-term cancer survivors. For the current study, we relied on diagnosis/procedures routinely recorded in a large integrative healthcare system that includes racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse members who are broadly representative of the residents in Southern California. Cardiovascular outcomes were captured from a wide variety of healthcare delivery settings (inpatient and outpatient, primary and sub-specialty care). Importantly, cancer survivors included in the current study continued to receive their primary and subspecialty care within this system well-beyond their initial cancer diagnosis (5- and 10-year retention rate: 81% and 70%, respectively), providing us with reliable population-based estimates of long-term cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. We found an up to 70% higher risk of CVD (ischemic heart disease, stroke, or cardiomyopathy/ heart failure) in patients diagnosed with breast, kidney, lung/bronchus, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and ovarian cancer when compared with an age- sex- and zip-code matched non-cancer controls. Cancer survivors who had multiple modifiable risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia were at highest risk of developing cardiovascular disease  later in life, irrespective of cancer diagnosis. Importantly, cancer survivors who developed CVD were significantly more likely to die from all causes when compared to cancer survivors who did not develop CVD. While the reasons for these findings are not clear, it is possible that the presence of CVD can markedly diminish treatment options or planned duration of therapy at the time of cancer recurrence, thus compromising the optimal long-term management of a cancer patient. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Heart Disease, JAMA, Pharmacology / 06.02.2016 Interview with: Jonathan Douxfils Pharm.D. - Ph.D. Research assistant Faculty of Medicine - Department of Pharmacy NAmur Research Institute for LIfe Sciences (NARILIS) Namur Thrombosis and Hemostasis Center (NTHC) Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Douxfils: We decided to perform this study based on the release of the FDA regarding the risk of arterial occlusive events associated with ponatinib. We then hypothesize that the risk was not only restricted to ponatinib but also to other TKIs. This study shows that dasatinib, nilotinib and ponatinib increase the risk of vascular occlusive events compared to imatinib. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Douxfils: We suggest that patients treated with these molecules should be more frequently monitored, i.e. by an intensive support of associated comorbidities. In addition, even if they appear to have a better efficacy in terms of molecular response, new generation TKIs does not improve the overall survival at one year. As we have not access to individual data, it was impossible to clearly identify categories of patients for whom the risk of cardiovascular occlusive events is predominant. Therefore, the intensive monitoring proposed should be applied to all patients treated with these molecules. Regarding the choice of the therapy, the physician should certainly consider the goals of the treatment. For elderly patients, improving survival is the main objective and in this context, imatinib remains an excellent choice. For patients with a life expectancy greater than 10 years in whom we aim to achieve a deep molecular response to potentially reach a point of treatment cessation, dasatinib and nilotinib could be preferred. However, the choice of dasatinib or nilotinib as first-line treatments should involve a screening for potential risk factors such as diabetes, prior vascular occlusive events or any risk that could increase these adverse events. For second- and third-line treatments, the choice of the treatment has to be based on mutational analysis, previous adverse events, and the medical condition of the patient. Thus, in case of intolerance or resistance, the switch to one of the other TKIs approved for first-line therapy is an option. If treatment failure still occurs, a more potent TKI, i.e. bosutinib, is preferred. Importantly, ponatinib is reserved to patients with the T315I mutation and must be avoided in patients with good prognosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Cancer - Brain Tumors, Genetic Research, Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania / 04.02.2016 Interview with: Dr. Adam C. Resnick, Ph.D Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery Faculty, Abramson Cancer Center Director of Children's Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium Division of Neurosurgery Director, CHOP/PENN Department of Neurosurgery Brain Tumor Tissue BiorepositoryDirector for Neurosurgical Translational Research, Division of Neurosurgery Children's Hospital of Philadelphia   Payal Jain, PhD Candidate Division of Neurosurgery, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Department of Neurosurgery Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Group Gene Therapy and Vaccines Program Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study originates from our long-standing interest in studying pediatric low-grade gliomas (PLGGs), which are the most commonly diagnosed brain tumor in children. While several PLGGs have been found to harbor mutations/gene fusions driving the mitogen-associated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway leading to clinical trials testing MAPK inhibitors, these tumors remain poorly categorized and not enough is known about specific genetic mutations driving different tumor sub-types and the potential for specific targeted therapeutics. Our current study encompasses analysis of the largest combined genomic dataset of pediatric low-grade gliomas samples.  In doing this we, identified the MYB-QKI gene fusion, a non-MAPK related event, as the common genetic event driving a rare PLGG sub-type, called angiocentric gliomas. We have reported a novel tri-partite mechanism by which MYB-QKI mediates its oncogenic effect, this being the first report of a single gene rearrangement utilizing three different paths to cause cancer.
  • First, this gene rearrangement activates MYB, which is a proto-oncogene that is normally not expressed in the developed brain.
  • Second, we found that the rearrangement leads to translocation of QKI-related enhancers close to MYB’s promoters, thereby driving MYB-QKI expression in these tumors. Furthermore, MYB-QKI can also regulate its expression in a positive feedback loop.
  • Third, the tumor suppressor activities of QKI are disrupted in MYB-QKI. Such collaboration of genetic and epigenetic dysregulation in a single genetic rearrangement has previously not been reported.
Cancer Research / 03.02.2016 Prof. Norbert Stefan, MD Department of Molecular Epidemiology German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke Nuthetal, Germany MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Prof. Stefan: Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer are among the most important causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although the body mass index and waist circumference are established variables that help to predict the risk of these disease, adult height also predicts mortality independently of adiposity measures. However, compared to these risk factors, it has been somewhat neglected in clinical practice. Based on the finding that in recent decades the height of children and adults has steadily increased throughout the world, the question arises whether this secular trend in height might be a marker of a yet not well understood mechanism that affects not only stature, but also the development of cardiometabolic disease and cancer.  MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Prof. Stefan: We summarized and interpreted data from different areas of research and also could provide some novel data to better understand the causes of the worldwide increase in height and its relationships with cardiometabolic disease and incidence of cancer. There is strong epidemiological evidence that tall people, in comparison to short people, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes but have a higher cancer risk. Per 6.5 cm in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six percent, but cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four percent. We suspect that the increase in body height is a marker of overnutrition of high-calorie food rich in animal protein during different stages of growth. Thus, already in utero, lifelong programming might take place that until now has mainly been established for the insulin-like growth factor 1 and 2 and the IGF-1/2 system. Among other consequences, activation of this system causes the body to become more sensitive to insulin action, thus positively influencing the lipid metabolism. Accordingly, our new data show that tall people are more sensitive to insulin and have lower fat content in the liver, which may explain their lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. However, this activation of the IGF-1/2 system and other signaling pathways may be related to an increased risk of certain cancers, especially breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma because cell growth is permanently activated. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Lymphoma / 03.02.2016 Interview with: Theresa Keegan, PhD, MS Associate Professor Division of Hematology and Oncology UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Sacramento, California 95817 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Keegan: This study expanded upon our earlier work examining survival among the young population diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, which can be cured about 90 percent of the time with it is diagnosed at its earliest stages.  We tracked 9,353 patients ages 15-39 who were diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma between 1988 and 2011. Using California Cancer Registry data, we examined the impact on survival of socio-demographic characteristics such as race/ ethnicity, neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES), health insurance, the types of treatment patients received and whether they were diagnosed with subsequent cancers. We found that insurance coverage, neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and the types of treatment provided patients all played a role in survival.  Young adults diagnosed with early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma were twice as likely to die if they resided in a lower SES neighborhood. They were also twice as likely to die if they had public health insurance or were uninsured, whether they were diagnosed at an early stage or late stage. While there were improvements in survival over time, disparities in survival persisted for some racial/ethnic groups. African American patients were 68 percent more likely to die of their disease than non-Hispanic white patients, regardless of stage at diagnosis. Hispanic AYA patients diagnosed at a late stage were 58 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white patients to die of Hodgkin lymphoma; there was not a significant disparity for Hispanic patients diagnosed at an early stage. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cancer Research, Lancet, Pediatrics, Radiation Therapy / 02.02.2016 Interview with: Dr. Torunn Yock, MD Director, Pediatric Radiation Oncology Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School Radiation Oncology Quality Assurance Massachusetts General Hospital, Proton Center Boston, MA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Yock: Proton radiotherapy is a highly targeted form of radiation therapy that can spare normal tissues better than standard x-ray/photon based radiotherapy. Because, all side effects from radiotherapy come from radiation dose to normal healthy tissues, it is widely believed that proton radiotherapy has great potential to mitigate the side effects of treatment, both acute and long term side effects. There have been many planning studies that show that proton radiation can achieve a more highly conformal dose distribution and appear to spare 50% or more normal tissue from unnecessary irradiation.  However, there have been only a handful of retrospective studies that report disease control and side effects of treatment. While the technology looked promising, the definitive clinical data has been lacking to date. Because of this lack of clinical outcome data, the role and benefit of proton radiotherapy has been a subject of great debate in the oncology community.  Critics assert that proton radiotherapy is expensive and unproven and therefore a leading culprit in escalating costs of oncologic health care. Proponents assert that when used in the appropriate patient setting, the margin of benefit in terms of improved health outcomes, outweighs the increased cost of treatment. We embarked on this study to answer help answer the call for prospectively collected clinical outcome data to better define the most appropriate role for proton radiotherapy. Importantly, this study addresses both disease control and side effects of treatment in a pediatric medulloblastoma cohort of children. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Yock: This study shows that disease control in the pediatric medulloblastoma population is very much the same as that which is achieved by photon based radiotherapy treatments. However, more importantly, late side effects commonly attributed to radiotherapy such as neurocognitive decline over time and hearing loss appear to be improved compared with published photon treated cohorts of pediatric medulloblastoma patients.  Additionally, adverse late side effects on the cardiopulmonary, GI, and reproductive systems were essentially eliminated. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Colon Cancer, Gastrointestinal Disease, Global Health / 31.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Melina Arnold Section of Cancer Surveillance International Agency for Research on Cancer Lyon, France What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Dr. Arnold: In this study, we looked at patterns and time trends in the incidence in and mortality from colorectal cancer on the global scale. In the analyses, we used data from the Globocan database, Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, both hosted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the World Health Organisation mortality database. We documented a ten-fold variation in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates worldwide. We also found distinct gradients across human development levels, meaning that changes in patterns and trends of this cancer could be linked to economic development and that the adoption of a Western lifestyle may have a role. While incidence and mortality rates are on the increase in many countries in socioeconomic transition, stabilizing or decreasing trends are seen in highly-developed countries where rates remain among the highest in the world. These observations point to widening disparities and an increasing burden in transitioning countries. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mayo Clinic, Melanoma / 29.01.2016 Interview with: Mariah L. White, MD Department of Radiology Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN 55905 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. White: Stage IV (metastatic) melanoma carries a poor prognosis with median survival of 6 to 10 months, claiming over 9000 lives per year in the United States. There is evidence that aggressive focal treatment in patients with oligometastatic disease with complete eradication of all clinical disease can result in durable remissions and potentially improve overall survival. Oligometastatic disease is typically defined as metastatic disease limited to 5 or fewer lesions. Thermal ablation is an alternative local management strategy to resection of limited sites of distant spread.  Similar to surgical management of oligometastatic disease it can be used in conjunction with systemic medical therapy or as an alternative in those patients where SMT is not well tolerated or unable to achieve complete remission. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Radiation Therapy / 29.01.2016 Interview with: Quyen Chu, MD, MBA, FACS Charles Knight Professor in Surgery Professor of Surgery Chief, Surgical Oncology Director, Surface Malignancies Program Feist-Weiller Cancer Center Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Chu: In 2004, national treatment recommendations changed for a select group of elderly breast cancer patients with the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) 9343 trial. Research found that postoperative radiation therapy was not needed to prolong survival in a select group of women 70 or older, mainly those with a small, estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumor, and receiving anti-hormone therapy.  Even with this information, nearly two thirds of the women who fit these criteria were still receiving radiation therapy after undergoing a lumpectomy although it has been proven to be safe to omit. We found that as a nation, we are mostly not following the national guideline on breast cancer treatment and that the possible side effects of RT can be avoided. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Chu: Clinicians and patients should take away from this report that in U.S. women 70 or older with stage I, ER+ breast cancer and receiving anti-hormone therapy, radiation therapy is overly utilized as it is not needed to prolong survival.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer, Colon Cancer, Surgical Research / 29.01.2016

More on Colon Cancer on Interview with: Samantha Hendren, MD, MPH Associate Professor of Surgery Colorectal Surgery University of Michigan  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We studied colorectal cancer nationally, and found that about 1 in 7 colorectal cancer patients in the U.S. (that is, 14.7%) is diagnosed before the age of 50.  We also found that these younger colorectal cancer patients were diagnosed when their cancers were more advanced (higher “stage”, meaning more of them had spread to lymph nodes and/or to other organs).  Part of the reason for this is that these young patients are often diagnosed only after their cancers start to cause symptoms such as anemia, bowel bleeding or a blockage in the colon. The age of 50 is when screening for colorectal cancer is started in the U.S.  This study means that a pretty large proportion of colorectal cancers are  happening in people who are too young to receive screening tests.  To put this in context, breast cancer screening often begins at age 40, and less than 5% of invasive breast cancers occur in women under that age. Our study found that about 15% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed before the screening age of 50. Fortunately, the young patients with colorectal cancer do a little better than you might predict, knowing that they are diagnosed at a worse cancer “stage”.  For the young patients under 50, about 68% survived 5 years, while about 67% of the patients 50 and older survived 5 years.  It looks like patients’ young age helps them in their cancer treatment and survival; our study found that treatment may be a bit more aggressive in the younger patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, PNAS / 28.01.2016 Interview with: Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD and Director of Immunotherapy and professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology Benjamin Greenbaum, PhD Assistant Professor The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai   Medical Research: How did the discovery of the group of non-coding RNA molecules in cancer cells that sets off an immune response come about? Dr. Greenbaum: Our work is a collaboration between my lab, which is computational, and the Bhardwaj lab, focused on cancer immunology. I had previously made the observation that certain RNA viruses were avoiding certain motifs, such as CpG dinucleotide containing motifs, and the Bhardwaj lab tested whether those motifs could set off an immune response. Recent work had shown that tumors transcribe unusual RNA with immunological consequences, so we investigated whether the same sort of approaches we had used for viral RNA worked here. Dr. Bhardwaj: It has recently become clear that, due to epigenetic alterations, tumors transcribe non-coding RNAs that are typically silenced. Often such RNA emanates from the “dark matter” genome. Many of these regions consist of repetitive elements and endogenous retroelements that are rarely transcribed in normal tissue. At the same time, due to immunotherapy, understanding the role of the immune system and immune activation in tumors has become critically important. The activation of specific elements of the innate immune system in a tumor may have either beneficial or detrimental effects for patients. Moreover, recent work has suggested that endogenous element activation can lead to improved immunotherapy outcomes. Therefore, it is critically important to understand the nature of innate immune activation in tumors and what triggers are responsible for these responses. We have been developing methods to detect abnormal patterns in viral RNA that may indicate activation of the innate immune system. We have found that patterns of motif usage avoided in the evolution of viruses, such as influenza, indicate RNA features that provoke an innate immune response. The innate immune system is capable of sensing motifs in viruses. We tested directly whether these avoided patterns are immunostimulatory. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Bhardwaj: We used a novel quantitative approach, derived from methods in statistical physics, to characterize all of the non-coding RNA transcribed by normal tissue and compared them to the non-coding RNA found in tumors. We found that while the non-coding RNA transcribed in normal tissue displays patterns of motif usage consisting with that of coding RNA, the RNA transcribed in tumors, yet rarely found in normal tissue, can have motif usage more typically associated with viral and bacterial genomes. We predicted a handful of such RNA are immunostimulatory and validated this prediction in antigen presenting cells. We then showed that this sensing may come from a subset of the innate immune system associated with pathogen RNA sensing. We called these RNA “i-ncRNA”, for immunostimulatory non-coding RNA. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Cancer - Brain Tumors, Dermatology, JAMA / 27.01.2016 Interview with: Alexander Egeberg, MD PhD National Allergy Research Centre, Departments of Dermato-Allergology and Cardiology Herlev and Gentofte University Hospital University of Copenhagen Hellerup, Denmark   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Egeberg: There appears to be an overlap in the pathogenesis of rosacea and glioma, focused around matrix metalloproteinases. Rosacea may be associated with an increased risk of glioma, however, it is important to note that the absolute risk is still low. Whether this is a causal link is not known. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Melanoma / 27.01.2016 Interview with: DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D. Associate Professor Division of Epidemiology and Community Health University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 55454 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lazovich: In Minnesota, as well as nationally, melanoma rates have been increasing more steeply in women than men younger than age 50 years since about the mid-1990s.  Some have speculated that this could be due to women's indoor tanning use, as women use indoor tanning much more than men do.  We had data on indoor tanning for men and women according to their age from a case-control study on indoor tanning and melanoma that was published in 2010.  In that 2010 report, we examined the association for individuals regardless of sex, all ages combined.  In this analysis, we restricted the study to individuals under age 50 years, and looked at the association between indoor tanning and melanoma according to three age groups (less than 30 years, 30-39 years and 40-49 years) for men and women separately. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Colon Cancer, Kaiser Permanente / 27.01.2016 Interview with: Douglas A. Corley, MD, PhD Gastroenterologist and Research Scientist III Division of Research Kaiser Permanente Oakland, CA  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Corley: Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States, so understanding how cancer screening tests for this cancer are used and if they are effective is extremely important. There are two commonly used tests for colorectal cancer screening in the United States: colonoscopy and fecal immunochemical tests (also known as "FIT"). Colonoscopy requires a bowel preparation to clean you out and is invasive but, if normal, it is done infrequently (every ten years). FIT is simple to do at home but, to be most effective, needs to be done every year. This has the advantage of potentially picking up cancers that grow between tests. There are few studies that have looked at how well FIT picks up cancers when used year after year. If a test picks up most cancers, it is said to be very "sensitive" for picking up cancer. Most studies only looked at 1 or 2 years of use for how well FITdetected cancers. It is possible that the first year of use may "clear out" most of the easily detectable cancers and that FIT might not work as well in subsequent years. This very large study over several years at Kaisier Permanente, where we use both colonoscopy and FIT for colorectal cancer screening, looked at whether FIT worked as well at detecting cancer in years 3 and 4 as it did the first time someone used it. We found that the sensitivity was highest in the first year, likely from clearing out cancers that were there for a while and easily detected, but that in subsequent years the sensitivity, though 5-10% lower, remained high. Also, most people who started with FIT continued doing it, suggesting that it is both feasible and effective for colorectal cancer screening. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Infections / 27.01.2016 Interview with: Yvonne Kapila, DDS, PhD Professor, Division of Periodontics Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine University of Michigan School of Dentistry Ann Arbor, MI   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kapila: Our research showed that the preservative nisin induces cancer cell death. When tested on normal control cells to see if they were affected, the control cells were not affected. Thus, the most recent project began in order to find out more details as to why this occurred. We used a cancer mouse model (head and neck cancer) to show that nisin can retard tumor growth and extent the life of these mice. Another thing that we published about the preservative is nisin’s role on biofilms. Biofilms are communities of bacteria that can cause diseases. Nisin has been tested in bacterial biofilms that contain bacteria that cause gum disease and dental decay and nisin has been found to be effective in this setting as well. In laboratory settings, nisin is also cytotoxic to superbugs, including the most resistant bugs found in hospitals, and therefore nisin holds promise for several therapeutic applications. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 27.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Anne Burtey, PhD Department of Biosciences University of Oslo Oslo, Norway Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Burtey: At the site of tumors, cancer cells communicate with normal cells present in the microenvironment. This communication deeply modifies these cells that become “devoted” to tumors, helping the latter in growing, in becoming more invasive. Drugs blocking this communication - or taking advantage of it to spread better within tumors and towards “tumor-helper” cells - may represent a new generation of drugs with increased anti-cancer properties. To develop such drugs, we first need to understand the communication processes at stake between cancer and normal cells. Previous reports suggested that cells communicate by trading entire subsets of components by contact- or secretion-dependent mechanisms. Whereas the latter is rather well studied, the former remains largely unclear. In 2004, our group identified tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) as a cellular feature for contact-dependent communication (Rustom et al., Science 2004). They are thin membranous bridges established between cells that facilitate the cell-to-cell transport of ions, proteins, RNAs, mitochondria and even viruses. That TNTs were observed in a variety of cells including cancer cells suggests that they may represent a general route of communication and play a role in cancer. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Melanoma, NYU, Personalized Medicine / 25.01.2016 Interview with: Tomas Kirchhoff, PhD Assistant Professor, Departments of Population Health and Environmental Medicine NYU Langone Medical Center Member, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center NYU Langone  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Kirchhoff: Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the cause of approximately 80% of all skin cancer patients annually. One factor that can help reverse this negative trend is efficient prediction of which patients at early melanoma stage will likely progress to more advanced metastatic disease. Current clinical predictors of patient survival, based on tumor characteristics, are important, but are relatively non-specific to inform melanoma prognosis to an individual patient level. It is critical to identify other factors that can serve as more personalized markers of predicting the course of melanoma. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Kirchhoff: In our study, we found that inherited genetic markers that impact activity of certain immune genes correlate with melanoma survival. More specifically, our findings show that patients with more frequent forms of these genetic markers (genotypes) have, on average, a five-year shorter survival than patients with less common genotypes. We suggest that these genetic markers are independent of the current tumor surrogates and, as such, can serve as novel personalized markers of melanoma prognosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Cancer Research, Heart Disease, Pharmacology / 24.01.2016

More on Heart Disease on Interview with: Professor Ian C K Wong Fellow of Royal Pharmaceutical Society Fellow of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (Honorary) Fellow of the Higher Education Academy Chair in Pharmacy Practice Head of Research Department of Practice and Policy UCL School of Pharmacy London  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wong: Previous studies had showed an increased cardiovascular risk associated with clarithromycin (a widely used antibiotic) but the duration of effect remained unclear. Therefore, we conducted this study to investigate the duration of cardiovascular adverse effect provided that the risk exists after patients receiving clarithromycin in Hong Kong. We used three study designs to examine the  association (temporal relationship) between clarithromycin and cardiovascular adverse outcomes such as myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, stroke, cardiac mortality at different time points.

We found that there was an increased short-term risk of myocardial infarction, arrhythmia and cardiac mortality associated with clarithromycin in all study designs. However, no long-term risk was observed. In every 1000 patients, there was 1.90 extra myocardial infarction events in current use of CLARITHROMYCIN when compared with the use of amoxicillin.

Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine, UCLA / 24.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Chirag Patil, MD American Board Certified Neurosurgeon Brain & Spine Tumor Program Lead Investigator, Precision Medicine Initiative Against Brain Cancer Program Director, Neurosurgical Residence training program Director, Center for Neurosurgical Outcomes Research Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California Editor’s note: Dr. Patil’s research is focused on developing a method of personalized cancer treatment through the harnessing of genome wide mutational analysis of a specific patient’s cancer. Would you tell us a little about yourself and your research interests? Dr. Patil: I am a Stanford-trained, Board Certified Neurosurgeon and cancer researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. I primarily focus on the care of patients with malignant brain tumors, particularly glioblastomas. I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell, followed by a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where I was a Regent’s scholar. I completed a residency in neurosurgery and a fellowship in stereotactic radiology at Stanford University. I also have a master’s degree in epidemiology with a focus on clinical trial design and mathematical modeling from Stanford. Can you tell us about some of your research interests? Dr. Patil: I am keenly interested in and focused on developing precision science-powered novel brain tumor therapies, immuno-therapies, and patient-centered “big data” outcomes research. I lead the recently-funded Cedars-Sinai Precision Medicine Initiative Against Brain Cancer, which utilizes tumor genomics to build a mathematical computer model, i.e., a virtual cancer cell of each patient’s unique tumor. The White House and several other stakeholders have taken keep interest in this research initiative as an example of a leading precision medicine program. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, JAMA, Prostate Cancer / 23.01.2016

More on Cancer Research on Interview with: Firas Abdollah, M.D., F.E.B.U. (Fellow of European Board of Urology) Urology Fellow with the Center for Outcomes Research, Analytics and Evaluation Vattikuti Urology Institute at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit  MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Abdollah: Cancer screening aims to detect tumors early, before they become symptomatic. Evidence suggests that detection and treatment of early-stage tumors may reduce cancer mortality among screened individuals. Despite this potential benefit, screening programs may also cause harm. Notably, screening may identify low-risk indolent tumors that would never become clinically evident in the absence of screening (overdiagnosis), subjecting patients to the harms of unnecessary treatment. Such considerations are central to screening for prostate and breast cancers, the most prevalent solid tumors in men and women, respectively. These tumors are often slow growing, and guidelines recommend against screening (non-recommended screening) for these tumors in individuals with limited life expectancy, i.e. those with a life expectancy less than 10 years. Unfortunately, our study found that this practice is not uncommon in the US. Using a nationwide representative survey conducted in 2012, we found that among 149,514 individuals 65 years or older, 76,419 (51.1%) received any prostate/breast screening. Among these, 23,532 (30.8%) individuals had a life expectancy of less than 10 years. These numbers imply that among the screened population over 65 years old, almost one in three individuals received a non-recommended screening. This corresponds to an overall rate of non-recommended screening of 15.7% (23,532 of 149,514 individuals). Another important finding of our study was that there were important variations in the rate of non-recommended screening from state to state; i.e. the chance of an individual older than 65 to receive a non-recommended screening varies based on his/her geographical location in United States. Finally, on a state-by-state level, there was a correlation (40%) between non-recommended screening for prostate and breast cancer, i.e. states that are more likely to offer non-recommended screening for prostate cancer are also more likely to offer non-recommended screening for breast cancer, and vice versa. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Ovarian Cancer, Radiology / 22.01.2016

More on Ovarian Cancer on Interview with: Dirk Timmerman, MD PhD Department of Development and Regeneration Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology University Hospitals Leuven Leuven, Belgium Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Timmerman: Ovarian cancer is the most aggressive and lethal gynecological malignant neoplasm. The prognosis of ovarian cancer is poor, with only about 40% of patients still alive five years after being diagnosed. The preoperative characterization of an adnexal tumor is fundamental for selecting the optimal management strategy. An accurate differentiation between benign and malignant masses can lead to optimal referral of patients with malignant diseases to gynecological oncology centers for further diagnostics and treatment, which positively influences the prognosis. On the other hand, it may help in safely selecting patients with benign ovarian masses for minimally invasive or fertility sparing surgery, and in some cases maybe even conservative follow-up. The International Ovarian Tumor Analysis (IOTA) study is the largest diagnostic accuracy study of its kind. Transvaginal ultrasound is a cheap and very accessible imaging technique. Using ultrasound features, which are easy to assess by a trained examiner, we proposed a model to define the individual risk of malignancy for each patient presenting with an adnexal tumor. This could considerably impact on the morbidity and mortality associated with adnexal pathology. (more…)
Author Interviews, Melanoma, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 21.01.2016

More on Dermatology on Interview with: Dr. Jennifer A. Stein MD PhD Associate Professor Department of Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology NYU Langone Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Stein: Although acral melanoma is not a common cancer, it is the most common form of melanoma in African Americans. There is low awareness about acral melanoma, and it tends to get detected later and is more often fatal than other types of melanoma. Our study looked at awareness of and the prevalence of pigmented lesions on the hands and feet. People with darker skin were more likely to have a pigmented lesion on their soles or palms than people with lighter skin. We found that more than half of the people in the study were not aware that they had a pigmented lesion on their feet. Our study found that most pigmented lesions on the hands and feet are benign, and that an imaging technique called dermsocopy can be used to distinguish benign from malignant acral lesions. (more…)