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…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, PNAS / 21.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Elizabeth Murchison Menzies Institute for Medical Research University of Tasmania Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment Hobart Australia Department of Veterinary Medicine University of Cambridge, Cambridge UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Murchison: Transmissible cancers are cancers that can be transmitted between individuals by the transfer of living cancer cells. Transmissible cancers emerge only very rarely in nature, and until now only three examples were known. One of the three known naturally occurring transmissible cancers affects Tasmanian devils, the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. This disease, which causes disfiguring facial tumours, was first observed in the late 1990s, and since then the disease has spread widely through the Tasmanian devil population. This transmissible cancer first emerged as a cancer in a single individual Tasmanian devil that probably lived about 30 years ago; this devil’s cancer cells have continued to survive by transmitting between hosts by biting. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Murchison: In late 2014, routine monitoring of the Tasmanian devil population led to the discovery of a male devil with facial tumours that resembled the known Tasmanian devil transmissible facial cancer. However, genetic analysis of this tumour indicated that the tumour in this devil was derived from a second transmissible cancer that was genetically unrelated to the first transmissible cancer in this species. Indeed, the genetic profile of this second cancer indicated that it had originally emerged from a male animal. This second cancer has subsequently been found in nine additional devils in the same part of Tasmania. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Dermatology, JAMA, Melanoma, Transplantation / 20.01.2016

More on Dermatology from Interview with: Pritesh S. Karia, MPH Manager-Dermatologic Oncology Research Program Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery Center Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA 02130  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Several recent studies have shown a reduced incidence of skin cancer in organ transplant recipients (OTR) treated with sirolimus as first-time therapy and those converted from calcineurin inhibitors to sirolimus. Although cancer formation is one of the main reasons for conversion to sirolimus, studies examining the effect of sirolimus on the risk of subsequent cancer formation in organ transplant recipients who have already been diagnosed with a post-transplant cancer are limited. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Melanoma / 20.01.2016

More on Dermatology on Interview with: Myra Sendelweck M.Eng M.D. Candidate 2018 and Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH Chief, Dermatology Service Denver VA Medical Center Denver, CO University of Colorado School of Medicine MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Indoor tanning has increasingly been recognized amongst providers as a public health concern. Recent literature suggests an association between indoor tanning and other risky health behaviors in adolescents. We were intrigued by this association. We analyzed a survey of Colorado high school students and found that those who tanned were also more likely to use various substances, such as steroids, alcohol, marijuana, and illicit drugs. Tanners were over five times as likely to report steroid use! (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Lymphoma / 18.01.2016

More Cancer Research on Interview with: Erin E. Hahn, PhD, MPH Research Scientist Southern California Permanente Medical Group Kaiser Permanente Research Department of Research & Evaluation Pasadena, CA 91101 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Hahn:  Adolescent and young adults, or AYAs, who are diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin lymphoma have very high overall survival rates. However, these patients are at high risk for short and long term health issues related to their cancer treatment, including cancer recurrence, cardiac and pulmonary problems, and developing new primary cancers. Some of these issues arise during treatment and persist over time, called long-term effects, and some develop years later, called late effects. Evidence and consensus based guidelines are available from organizations like the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the Children’s Oncology Group to help manage the post treatment care of  Adolescent and young adults Hodgkin lymphoma survivors. Examining adherence to guidelines is an important part of high quality care, and can help us find and address gaps in care. Guideline recommended care for these patients includes: oncology visits, imaging and labs, preventive care, counseling and education, risk based screening for late effects. Risk-based screening is based on a patient’s treatment. The type of health screening a patient needs is determined by the treatment exposure they had, such as certain types of chemotherapy or high-dose radiation that have known late effects  Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Hahn: For this pilot study, I was interested to see if post-treatment  Adolescent and young adults Hodgkin lymphoma patients in an integrated health care system received recommended short and long term care. The study setting is Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC). KPSC provides care for almost 4 million members with 14 medical centers, and they have a long-standing electronic medical record. For our population, we included AYA patients diagnosed with classical Hodgkin lymphoma between 15 and 39 years of age, diagnosed between 2000 and 2010. We wanted to find patients who were diagnosed, treated, and followed for at least 2 years within this single system. We have a sample of 354 patients, which is great. It has been traditionally difficult to find and follow these patients/obtain accurate medical information that isn’t only self-report data. We were able to extract chemotherapy, radiation, and other care details from the electronic medical record. We first looked at receipt of short term recommended care, within the first year after treatment had ended. We looked specifically at oncology visits, use of recommended CT scan and lab tests, and preventive care, such as the flu vaccine. The great majority of patients had the recommended oncology visits, CT scan, and lab tests. However, receipt of the flu vaccine was lower, at 20%. When we looked at a composite measure of all 4 recommended services, only about half of the patients received all four recommended services within the first year after treatment. We also looked at use of a longer term recommended service for cardiac issues. Cardiac screening is recommended for patients who are 10 years out from their treatment and who received high-dose anthracyclines, plus radiation to the chest. This is the highest risk group for cardiac damage. Almost everyone received annual blood pressure screening, but only about 30% received screening with an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or MUGA scan. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research, NYU / 16.01.2016

More on Breast Cancer Research on Interview with: Dr. Benjamin Neel MD PhD Professor, Department of Medicine Director Perlmutter Cancer Center NYU Langone Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Neel:  Over the past 10 years, there have been major advances in cancer genomics--i.e., defining what changes in genes are found in different types of cancer cells.  Sometimes, such studies have resulted in the identification of new drug targets, such as EGF receptor mutations or EML-ALK translocations in lung cancer, RAF mutations in melanoma and hairy cell leukemia, and KIT or PDGFR mutations in GIST.  More often, though, either the genetic changes that genomic studies reveal are difficult to target by conventional small molecule drugs or we dont know which of the many mutations found in a given tumor are critical to its proliferation/survival. "Functional genomics" is a parallel approach to tumor genomics, that aims to use large scale screening technology to identify which genes are essential to cancer cell survival/proliferation.  This approach can reveal which genetic changes in cancer cells "drive" the cancer--but it also can find genes on which the cancer becomes dependent because of the other "driver" genes.  One major approach to functional genomics uses short hairpin RNAs (a type of RNAinterference/RNAi) to "knock down" the expression of each gene in a cell.  Scientists can generate a "library" of designer virus particles, each of which expresses a different hairpin that can "knockdown" a different gene.  A large population of tumor cells is then infected with the virus, and scientists use gene sequencing or array based approaches to see which shRNAs become depleted from the starting population of shRNAs; this type of screen is called a "dropout screen". Earlier studies, including by our group, performed dropout screens on smaller numbers of cancer cell lines.  Yet because these screens involved only a few cell lines, they could not represent the large number of sub-types knownt to occur in, for example, breast cancer.  Our study, by using 77 breast cancer lines, has adequate power to survey the landscape of breast cancer. Furthermore, by obtaining parallel genomic information, as well as some information on the breast cancer cell "proteome" (the proteins in these cells), we can couple genomic analysis with functional genomics. In addition, we had drug response information for a large number of these lines, and so were able to make some predictions for drugs that might prove additive for breast cancer therapy. The result is a large number of potential new targets linked to genetic information, as well as new insights into how the different sub-types of breast cancer "rewire" their respective signaling diagrams compared with normal cells. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Technology / 15.01.2016

More on Cancer Research on Interview with: Elena V. Batrakova, Ph.D. Associate Professor Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics Eshelman School of Pharmacy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Batrakova: Deep down I was always was fascinated by the ability of biological systems to deliver various compounds to the disease sites. I believe, we have a lot to learn from living things. For example, immune cells, macrophages can feel inflammation and travel to this sited to deal with the problem, for example, kill bacteria, virus, or regenerate and support dying cells. So, when I realized that specific and targeted transport of therapeutics to cancer cells is very difficult task, I turned to nature. Exosomes are naturally occurring vesicles (bubbles) that offer distinct advantages that uniquely position them as highly effective drug carriers. They consist of cellular membranes with multiple sticky proteins on their surface. Exosomes by nature specialize in cell-cell communication and provide an approach for the delivery drugs to target disease sites. Plus, exosomes released by patient’s white blood cells are not immunogenic, because they are part of the immune system, so these tiny bubbles can be used for very precise and effective delivery of anticancer drugs to treat metastases, as well as primary tumors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Pancreatic, Pharmacology, PLoS / 15.01.2016

More on Pancreatic Cancer on Interview with: Dai Fukumura, M.D., Ph.D. Joao Incio, M.D. and Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D Edwin L. Steele Laboratory Department of Radiation Oncology Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Fukumura: This study focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of pancreatic cancer, which accounts for almost 40,000 cancer death in the U.S. ever year. Half of those diagnosed with this form of pancreatic cancer are overweight or obese, and up to 80 percent have type 2 diabetes or are insulin resistant. Diabetic patients taking metformin – a commonly used generic medication for type 2 diabetes – are known to have a reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer; and among patients who develop the tumor, those taking the drug may have a reduced risk of death. But prior to the current study the mechanism of metformin’s action against pancreatic cancer was unclear, and no potential biomarkers of response to metformin had been reported. We have uncovered a novel mechanism behind the ability of the diabetes drug metformin to inhibit the progression of pancreatic cancer. Metformin decreases the inflammation and fibrosis characteristic of the most common form of pancreatic cancer. We found that metformin alleviates desmoplasia – an accumulation of dense connective tissue and tumor-associated immune cells that is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer – by inhibiting the activation of the pancreatic stellate cells that produce the extracellular matrix and by reprogramming immune cells to reduce inflammation. Our findings in cellular and animal models and in patient tumor samples also indicate that this beneficial effect may be most prevalent in overweight and obese patients, who appear to have tumors with increased fibrosis. (more…)