Alcohol, Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cancer Research, Dermatology / 26.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Shaowei WuMDPhD Department of Dermatology, Warren Alpert Medical School Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island Department of Dermatology Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin is the most prevalent cancer in the US, and is responsible for substantial morbidity and billions of dollars of health care expenditures. Knowledge on the modifiable risk factors of BCC is required for targeted prevention of cancer incidence. Alcohol consumption is a well-known risk factor for human cancer and has been linked to a number of cancers, including breast, prostate, pancreatic, and colon cancers. Interestingly, a large epidemiological study has reported a positive association between alcohol consumption and increased prevalence of severe sunburn, an established skin cancer risk factor. It is hypothesized that metabolites of alcohol (e.g., acetaldehyde) can serve as photosensitizers and promote skin carcinogenicity in the presence of UV radiation. However, epidemiological evidence for the association between alcohol consumption and BCC risk has been limited and a few previous studies on this topic have yielded conflicting results. Therefore we conducted a comprehensive prospective study to investigate this question using data from three large cohorts including the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2010), Nurses’ Health Study II (1989-2011), and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010). We documented a total of 28,951 incident Basal cell carcinoma cases over the study follow-up. We found that increasing alcohol intake was associated with an increased Basal cell carcinoma risk in both women and men. In the combined analysis with all 3 cohorts, those who consumed 30 grams or more alcohol per day had a 22% higher risk of developing BCC when compared to nondrinkers. This increased risk was consistent in people with different levels of sun exposure. We also found that BCC risk was associated with alcohol intake levels more than a decade ago, suggesting that alcohol may have a lagged effect that can persist for a long-term period. Among the individual alcoholic beverages, white wine and liquor were positively associated with Basal cell carcinoma risk whereas red wine and beer were not associated with BCC risk. This difference may be due to some other chemicals accompanying alcohol in the specific beverages. For example, red wine contains higher amounts of phenolic compounds compared to white wine, and these compounds have antioxidant activities which may be beneficial for counteracting the potential carcinogenic properties of alcohol and its metabolites. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, CDC, Gender Differences, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 24.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Simple Singh MD Epidemiologist Division of Cancer Prevention and Control CDC  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Singh: This report provides official federal statistics on the occurrence of cancer for 2011 and trends for 1999–2011 as reported by CDC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Cancer incidence data are from population-based cancer registries that participate in CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program reported as of November 2013. Cancer mortality data are from death certificate information reported to state vital statistics offices in 2013 and compiled into a national file for the entire United States by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics’ (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). This report is a part of the first-ever Summary of Notifiable Noninfectious Conditions and Disease Outbreaks — United States, which encompasses various surveillance years but is being published in 2015. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Singh: In 2011, approximately 1.5 million invasive cancers were diagnosed in the United States, an annual incidence rate of 451 cases per 100,000 persons. In the same year, approximately 576,000 persons died of cancer nationally, an annual death rate of 169 deaths per 100,000 persons. Cancer incidence and death rates increase with age. Overall, 54% of cancer cases and 69% of cancer deaths in 2011 occurred among persons aged ≥65 years. Among men in 2011, blacks had the highest cancer incidence and death rates in the United States, and American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asians/Pacific Islanders had the lowest cancer incidence and death rates. Among women in 2011, whites had the highest cancer incidence rates and blacks had the highest cancer death rates. American Indians/ Alaska Natives had the lowest cancer incidence rates, and Asians/Pacific Islanders had the lowest cancer death rates. By state, overall (all cancer sites combined) cancer incidence rates in 2011 ranged from 374 to 509 cases per 100,000 persons, and overall cancer death rates ranged from 126 to 201 deaths per 100,000 persons. Four cancer sites accounted for half of all cases diagnosed in 2011, including 209,292 prostate cancers, 220,097 female breast cancers, 207,339 lung and bronchus cancers (110,322 among men and 97,017 among women), and 135,260 colon and rectum cancers (70,099 among men and 65,161 among women). These four sites also accounted for half of cancer deaths in 2011, including 156,953 lung cancer deaths, 51,783 colon and rectum cancer deaths, 40,931 female breast cancer deaths, and 27,970 prostate cancer deaths. During 1999–2011, cancer incidence rates declined from 485 cancer cases per 100,000 population in 1999 to 444 cases in 2011. Although lung cancer incidence declined steadily among men from 1999 to 2011, it increased among women from 1999 to 2005 and has since declined from 2005 to 2011. Prostate cancer incidence declined from 170 cases per 100,000 men in 1999 to 128 cases in 2011. Colorectal cancer incidence declined from 57 cases per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 40 cases in 2011. Female breast cancer incidence declined from 135 cases per 100,000 women in 1999 to 121 cases in 2005, increased to 125 cases in 2009, and declined again to 122 cases in 2011. During 1999–2011, cancer death rates declined from 201 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 169 deaths in 2011; during the same period, death rates declined for each of the top four cancers. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Melanoma, Primary Care / 24.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Simone Ribero,  M.D., Ph.D.  University of Turin Department of Medical Sciences Italy & King’s College London Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology St Thomas’ campus London, UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ribero: The total body naevus count is the principal risk factor for melanoma. having more than 100 moles increases  6 times the risk of developping a melanoma. In our study we described a model to predict the total number naevus count with the count of one arm. (more…)
Author Interviews, FDA, Immunotherapy, Lung Cancer / 24.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dickran Kazandjian, MD Office of Hematology and Oncology Products Center for Drug Evaluation and Research US Food and Drug Administration Silver Spring, Maryland Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kazandjian: Nivolumab is the first approved immunotherapy, for the treatment of metastatic squamous non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after platinum-based chemotherapy.  FDA initiated an expedited review after obtaining the data monitoring committee report of a planned interim analysis of a second-line squamous NSCLC trial demonstrating a large overall survival benefit (CheckMate 017). Nivolumab efficacy in metastatic Squamous (SQ) NSCLC has been previously reported in two studies.  CheckMate 063 was a single-arm trial in 117 patients with metastatic SQ NSCLC who had progressed after previous treatment with 2 systemic regimens including platinum-based doublet chemotherapy (Rizvi et al)  CheckMate 017 was a randomized study of nivolumab compared to docetaxel in 272 patients with metastatic SQ NSCLC who had progressed after prior platinum-based doublet chemotherapy (Brahmer et al).  The median survival of patients randomized to nivolumab was 9.2 months vs 6.0 months for docetaxel (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95%CI, 0.44-0.79; P < .001) a 41% improvement in the risk of death. Approval was supported by the single-arm study which demonstrated an objective response rate of 15% and at the time of analysis, 10 of the 17 responding patients (59%) had response  durations of 6 months or longer. The FDA approved nivolumab on March 4, 2015, saving 6 months by not waiting for formal preparation of data by the sponsor and 2.5 months by expediting review. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, MD Anderson, Nature / 23.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dihua Yu, M.D., Ph.D. Professor and Deputy Chair Dept.  of Molecular and Cellular Oncology Hubert L. and Olive Stringer Distinguished Chair in Basic Science University Distinguished Teaching Professor Co-Director, Center of Biological Pathways Univ. of TX MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston, TX 77030 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Yu: Metastasis is the number one cause of cancer-related mortality. Despite the continuous advancement of modern medicine in better controlling primary cancer progress, brain metastasis incidence constantly and steadily increases. Major neoplastic diseases such as melanoma, lung, breast, and colon cancers have high incidences of brain metastases. One-year survival after diagnosis of brain metastasis is less than 20%. Cancer cells dynamically interacts with specific organ microenvironments to establish metastasis as depicted by the “seed and soil” hypothesis. Many research have focused on how tumor cells modulate the metastatic microenvironment, but the reciprocal effect of the organ microenvironment on tumor cells has been overlooked. The brain tissue is very distinct from primary tumor environment for metastatic cancer cells. Brain metastasis frequently manifests in the late stages of cancer, and a long period of dormancy often precedes relapse. This implies that additional regulations imposed by the brain microenvironment are essential for metastatic colonization and outgrowth. Yet it is unclear when and how disseminated tumor cells acquire the essential traits from the brain microenvironment that primes their subsequent metastatic outgrowth. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, JAMA, Prostate Cancer, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Surgical Research / 23.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Quoc-Dien Trinh MD Assistant Professor of Surgery Harvard Medical School  Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA 02115 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Trinh:  Blacks who undergo radical prostatectomy, e.g. surgical removal of the prostate for cancer, are more likely to experience complications, emergency room visits, readmissions compared to their non-hispanic White counterparts. As a result, the 1-year costs of care for Blacks is significantly higher than non-hispanic Whites. Interestingly, despite these quality of care concerns, the survival of elderly Blacks and Whites undergoing prostatectomy is the same. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Trinh: A possible interpretation of our findings is that the biological differences in tumor aggressiveness among Blacks  (e.g. Blacks have more aggressive prostate cancer than Whites) may have been exaggerated, and that the perceived gap in survival is a result of lack of access or cultural perceptions with regard to surgical care for prostate cancer or other factors that differentiate who makes it to the operating table. (more…)
Author Interviews, Colon Cancer, Gastrointestinal Disease, Primary Care / 22.10.2015

Elizabeth Broussard, MD Clinical Assistant Professor Division of Gastroenterology Harborview Medical Center Seattle, WA 98105MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Elizabeth Broussard, MD Clinical Assistant Professor Division of Gastroenterology Harborview Medical Center Seattle, WA 98105 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Broussard: I am a clinical assistant professor of gastroenterology and I practice and teach fellows and residents GI at a safety-net hospital in Seattle and I was seeing too many late stage colorectal cancer (CRC) in our patient population. CRC is preventable with screening, and I wanted to see how the primary care clinics were performing in getting patients screened. When I looked at the baseline percentages, I realized this was an opportunity for improvement. I teamed up with an internal medicine resident Kara Walter, and we did a deep dive into the process of screening. The results of the poster presentation are a product of this teamwork, with cooperation and input from the directors of the six primary care clinics at our hospital. The main findings are that performing the FIT test is complicated and tricky for some patients, that this process can be streamlined with providing a toilet hat, a prepaid postage envelope, and improved and visual instructions. After one year, we saw statistically significant increases in overall screening with FIT in our patient population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Radiation Therapy, Supplements / 21.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Nicholas G. Zaorsky MD Resident Physician, Radiation Oncology Fox Chase Cancer Center Medical Research: What was the motivation for your studies? Dr. Zaorsky: Men often walk down grocery store aisles and see bottles of pills labeled “men’s health” or “prostate health.” We call these pills “men’s health supplements.” Our goal is to determine what effect (if any) these pills have on the cancer that men are most commonly diagnosed with – that is, prostate cancer. Medical Research: What is the significance of these findings in simple terms? What are the implications for human health? What would you hope a general audience might take away from these findings? Dr. Zaorsky:  Men with prostate cancer commonly use these pills because of the high incidence of prostate cancer (about 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with the disease), the stress associated with the diagnosis, the desire to benefit from all potential treatments, and the limited regulation on marketing and sale of the supplements.  Many men believe the supplements will help their cancer or (at worst) do nothing – so what’s the harm?  We found that men’s health supplements have no effect on curing prostate cancer treated with radiation therapy (a common treatment option). Men who took these pills also had no difference in their side effects during or after treatment.  Although we did not see a change in side effects, there have been thousands of cases in the US where supplements have harmed patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Cancer Research, Occupational Health / 21.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:, David Richardson PhD Associate Professor Epidemiology Gillings School of Global Public Health UNC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Richardson:  The International Nuclear Workers Study (INWORKS) combines three cohorts from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. INWORKS follows on from an earlier 15-Country Study but focuses on the three countries that provided the majority of the most informative data on early nuclear workers (1940’s onward). The use of data from just 3 countries, instead of 15, reduces the organisational requirements – and therefore financial burden – associated with the greater number of countries but the cohort selection (of the three main contributing countries) means that the power of the INWORKS study is not a concern. INWORKS uses information from the French, UK and US cohorts that has been updated since the 15-Country study was published. The overall purpose of the study is to improve the understanding of health risks associated with protracted, low-level exposure to ionising radiation. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, JAMA, Mammograms, UC Davis / 21.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Diana L. Miglioretti, PhD Dean's Professor in Biostatistics Department of Public Health Sciences UC Davis School of Medicine Davis, CA  95616 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Miglioretti: Screening mammography intervals remain under debate in the United States. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial (every other year) screening, whereas other organizations recommend annual screening. To help inform their updated screening guidelines, the American Cancer Society guideline development group requested that the US Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium conduct a study comparing cancer outcomes among women screened annually vs. biennially. Prior studies conducted by the consortium used wide intervals for defining annual and biennial mammograms. We wanted to evaluate cancer outcomes for women who more closely adhere to screening intervals. Our goal was to determine if women diagnosed with cancer following biennial screening have tumors with less favorable prognostic characteristics compared to women diagnosed after annual screening. We evaluated outcomes separately by age and by menopausal status because evidence suggests that younger women and premenopausal women may have more aggressive tumors and thus may benefit from more frequent screening. We found from this study that premenopausal women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer following biennial versus annual screening mammography were more likely to have tumors with less-favorable prognostic characteristics (e.g., later stage, larger size). For example, women with an invasive breast cancer diagnosed after a biennial screen had a 28% increased risk of a stage IIB or higher tumor, a 21% increased risk of being diagnosed with a tumor >15 mm, and an 11% higher risk of being diagnosed with a tumor with any less-favorable prognostic characteristic compared women diagnosed with breast cancer following an annual mammogram. In contrast, we found postmenopausal women not using hormone therapy and women 50 years of age or older had similar proportions of tumors with less-favorable prognostic characteristics regardless of screening interval. Relative risk estimates were close to one with no significant differences between biennial and annual screeners. Among postmenopausal women using hormone therapy at the time of the mammogram and women age 40-49, results were less clear. Relative risk estimates for biennial versus annual screeners were consistently above one, but were not as large as for premenopausal women and were not statistically significant. (more…)
Author Interviews, Baylor University Medical Center Dallas, Biomarkers, BMJ, Cancer Research / 20.10.2015

Ajay Goel, Ph.D. Investigator/Professor Director, Center for Gastrointestinal Research Director, Center for Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genomics Baylor Research Institute and Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center Baylor University Medical Center Dallas, TX 75246MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ajay Goel, Ph.D. Investigator/Professor Director, Center for Gastrointestinal Research Director, Center for Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genomics Baylor Research Institute and Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center Baylor University Medical Center Dallas, TX 75246 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Goel: Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains one of the most common and lethal malignancies worldwide, and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Although there are some improvements in cancer treatments, such as development of novel chemotherapeutic drugs and technical advances in invasive treatment for metastatic lesion, there is a clear need for prognostic biomarkers that can identify high-risk patients, who can benefit from intensive post-treatment surveillance protocols for early detection of recurrence. Small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) are one of the largest groups of single-stranded small ncRNAs, and in the past, snoRNAs were recognized for housekeeping functions due to their roles in rRNA maturation, while causing a relatively low impact on cellular homeostasis. However, recent evidence has revealed a new and previously unrecognized role of snoRNAs in the control of cell fate and oncogenesis in various cancers. The main finding of this study is to firstly demonstrate the clinical impact of snoRNA expression as a predictive biomarker of recurrence and poor prognosis in patients with Colorectal cancer. This study for the first time showed that higher levels of SNORA42 were associated with overall and disease-free survival, and emerged as a risk factor for the return of cancer in another part of the body. It was also correlated with high risk of recurrence and shorter survival in a smaller sample of bowel cancer patients in early stages of their disease. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer / 17.10.2015

Dr. Will Brackenbury MRC Research Fellow University of York York, UKMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Will Brackenbury MRC Research Fellow University of York York,  UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Brackenbury: Although survival rates from breast cancer are improving, metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from the primary tumor to secondary sites, is still the main cause of death. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments available to slow or cure metastasis. We and others have found that sodium channels, normally found in neurons and muscle cells, are also present in metastatic cancer cells. Sodium channels are important drug targets for treating epilepsy. We previously found that the antiepileptic drug phenytoin, which is a sodium channel blocker, reduced tumor growth and metastasis in a preclinical model of breast cancer. This suggests that sodium channels might be useful new therapeutic targets for drugs that could slow metastasis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Lymphoma / 16.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Matthieu Million, MD, PhD Assistant of Professor RAOULT French National referral center for Q fever Service de Maladies Infectieuses du Professeur BROUQUI Chemin des Bourrely Marseille Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Million: Human lymphomas have been associated with many infectious agents including viruses (HCV, HIV) but also bacteria (Helicobacter pylori). Q fever, the infection by Coxiella burnetii, mainly acquired from domestic (cattle, sheep, goats but also dog and cats) or wild animals (deer), has been associated with many lymphoproliferative disorders (hyperlymphocytosis, mononucleosic syndrome). We observed a lymphoma developing in a patient followed up for Q fever that prompted us to investigate the association between the two diseases. In this study, we reported 11 cases of B-cell lymphoma developing after Coxiella burnetii primary-infection, we found an increased incidence of lymphoma in Q fever patients, particularly those with persistent focalized infection, and we detected the viable bacterium within lymphoma tissues. More specifically, we found that this bacterium infect the plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) in patients with C. burnetii-related lymphoma. This is particularly important since these cells are critical modulating their immune microenvironment including the natural antitumoral activity. Moreover, we found that peripheral blood mononuclear cells of these patients overproduce interleukin-10 even in the absence of the bacterium. This suggests that a persistent reprogramming of their immune cells have been triggered by the infection. Finally, we showed that these patients have very high levels of the anti-inflammatory Interleukin-10 in their serum, suggesting a systemic immune escape favoring the development of cancer. Coxiella burnetii is associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, its presence in the tumor microenvironment may favor lymphomagenesis. C. burnetii should be added to the list of bacteria that promote human B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (more…)
Anemia, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, University Texas / 16.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Anil K. Sood, M.D. Professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sood: Erythropoietin is an important drug for managing anemia, but concerns have surfaced that it might promote cancer growth. The data with the conventional epo-receptor were not convincing with regard to an explanation for why tumor growth might increase. Therefore, we considered whether there could be an alternative receptor to explain these findings. We carried out a systematic search and identified EphB4 as the alternative receptor that explained the increased tumor growth in response to epo. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Melanoma, Technology / 15.10.2015

Ashley K. Day, Ph.D., M. Psych (Hlth) Post-Doctoral Associate Rutgers Cancer Institute of New JerseyMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ashley K. Day, Ph.D., M. Psych (Hlth) Post-Doctoral Associate Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Day: Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the US, and it is estimated that more than 9,000 Americans will die of melanoma this year. Melanoma patients have a 9-times greater risk for a diagnosis of another melanoma compared to the general population. Because of this, it is important that melanoma patients practice regular sun protection and skin self-examination behaviors. There is potential opportunity to use the Internet to deliver information and interventions to help melanoma patients engage in these behaviors. However, it is important to understand patients’ preferences. Our research explored factors associated with the receptivity of patients with melanoma to such Internet-delivered behavioral interventions. We found that, in a sample of 176 melanoma patients, the vast majority (84.1%) had Internet access and had previously sought melanoma information online (77.7%). More than two-thirds of patients (68.4%) reported being at least moderately interested in participating in an Internet-based intervention to promote engagement in sun protection and skin self-examination behaviors. Receptivity to such an intervention was higher among patients who were younger, had greater knowledge of the ABCDE signs of melanoma (looking at the asymmetry, border irregularity, color, diameter, and evolution of the mole or affected area), and were more comfortable using the Internet. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Lancet, Surgical Research / 14.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. R. A. Badwe, MS Director, Tata Memorial Centre E. Borges Marg, Parel Mumbai -India  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response:   The available retrospective clinical data suggested an overall survival benefit for metastatic breast cancer patients treated with surgery, with or without radiation, for the primary breast tumor. These studies were fraught with biases and at the same time, studies showed  removal of the primary tumor improved survival in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Additionally data from animal experiments suggested that surgical removal of the primary tumor could potentially increase metastatic spread. Our study was thus planned to address the uncertainty on role of surgery of the primary in women presenting with metastatic breast cancer. The main findings of this study suggest that there is no evidence to suggest that loco-regional treatment of the primary tumor confers an overall survival advantage in patients with de-novo metastatic breast cancer and this procedure should not be routinely done. Additionally, we noted though there was significant local control in the loco regional treatment arm, there was a detriment in distant progression-free survival and no difference in overall survival. (more…)
Author Interviews, Lung Cancer, Melanoma / 12.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Martin O. Bergo Sahlgrenska Cancer Center Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine Institute of Medicine University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Bergo: Dietary antioxidants and antioxidant supplements can protect cells and people from harmful effects of free radicals. The free radicals have the potential, over time, to cause cancer. But why is this research field so enormously fraught with controversy, and why have clinical trials with antioxidants not established this potential anti-cancer effects? We believe it is because the question of “whether antioxidants protect against cancer” should be divided into two separate questions: 1. Do antioxidants protect a healthy cell or a tumor-free person from cancer in the future.?and 2. What is the impact of antioxidant supplementation on an already established tumor? Focusing specifically on the second question, we showed previously that the antioxidants N-acetylcysteine and vitamin E markedly increase lung cancer progression in mice and cause human lung cancer cells to proliferate faster. The mechanism for this effect was directly linked to the ability of the antioxidants to scavenge free-radicals, which is why it is likely that other antioxidants, synthetic or natural, could have a similar effect. In the current study, we argued that it would be important to test this in malignant melanoma for three reasons. First, melanoma cancer cells are known to be sensitive to changes in free radicals. Second, melanoma is the cancer that increases most in incidence and lethality in the western world. And third, primary melanomas may be exposed to antioxidants from both the diet and from skin lotions and sun creams. We found that supplementing the diet of mice with acetylcysteine has no impact on the primary tumors on the skin but doubles the rate of metastasis – i.e. the ability of the tumor cells to spread in the body. We found similar results with human malignant melanoma cells in culture: antioxidants (acetylcysteine and vitamin E) increased their ability to migrate and invade surrounding tissue. Thus, all in all, we have found that antioxidants can worsen cancer in two different ways, one in the lung, and another in the skin.     (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, End of Life Care, Radiation Therapy / 12.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Kavita Vyas Dharmarajan M.D., M.Sc Assistant Professor Radiation Oncology Assistant Professor Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: Forty to fifty percent of all patients having radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment are having the treatment for palliative reasons – meaning, not to cure the cancer but rather to alleviate or prevent symptoms caused by it. The most common reason for referral to a radiation oncologist in the setting of advanced cancer is for alleviation of pain or prevention of an impending fracture due to bone metastases. Radiation therapy is very effective at relieving pain; in fact, published response rates are about 60-80%. The standard treatment has been two weeks of radiation treatment, and this is a common treatment scheme followed by many radiation oncologists. This may be too long or burdensome for some patients given their overall state of illness, or other personal or logistical factors. Several large randomized trials have shown that shorter radiation courses, even as short as 1 fraction of treatment, can be just as effective as 10 fractions (or, two weeks) of treatment. However, literature suggests that these condensed approaches are underutilized by radiation oncologists. A major disadvantage of traditional 2-week courses of radiation is that patients who are very debilitated may be kept in the hospital to undergo this treatment. Some patients stop early because it is too burdensome. Moreover, some may not survive long enough after the treatment to appreciate its benefits. At Mount Sinai, we proposed an intervention that combined the technical expertise within radiation oncology with the whole-patient support services of palliative medicine into a service model led by a single radiation oncologist specializing in the care of advanced cancer patients and collaboration with experts in palliative care. The service model was meant to care for patients suffering from advanced cancer with the goal of improving the quality of care that these patients receive. About two years into the establishment of this new model, we assessed patient outcomes of pain improvement, length of hospitalization, utilization of palliative care services after radiation, treatment completion rates, and duration of treatments. To accomplish this study, we reviewed the charts of 336 consecutively treated patients who underwent radiation therapy at the Mount Sinai Hospital over the last 5 years. We compared the outcomes of the patients treated before the model was established in 2013 to those treated after the model was established. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: We found large differences in quality of care for advanced cancer patients being treated for symptomatic bone metastases after establishment of our palliative radiation oncology consult service. The rate of short-course treatments (meaning 5 or fewer radiation fractions) rose from 26% to 61%, while the corresponding rate of traditional length treatments (meaning, treatments over 5 fractions) declined from 74% to 39%. Hospital length of stay declined by 6 days, from 18 to 12 days (median). We also found that more patients were finishing their treatments -- the proportion of treatments left unfinished halved, from 15% to 8%. More patients were accessing palliative care services within 30 days of finishing radiation, (34% vs. 49%). We did not see a significant change in the proportion of patients experiencing pain relief from the treatment. In fact, we saw a slight improvement (74% to 80%), but this was not a statistically significant increase. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from this report? Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: Our study validates the importance of cohesive collaboration in cancer care. The palliative radiation oncology service model thrives at the Mount Sinai Hospital because of the unique and strong partnership between palliative care and radiation oncology departments. Yet, there are elements of palliative care practice that can transcend other disciplines including radiation oncology. These include eliciting and attending to goals, preferences, expectations, and concerns of patients and families being evaluated for treatment. Shorter treatment courses for advanced cancer patients are effective, and the implications of using such treatments goes beyond that of just finishing the treatment early. Patients treated within our service model were more likely to finish their treatment and spend 6 more days at home with their families. Clinicians should know that using such an approach did not compromise the efficacy of the treatment. Medical Research: What should patients know about your study? Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: Patients should know that their voices, their preferences, and their goals matter when making decisions about palliative radiation treatment. My goal as a palliative radiation oncologist is to engage patients and their families to set realistic expectations and incorporate their goals and preferences into their treatment plans. By involving key players in this process, such as palliative care specialists, we can ensure that patients receive the best quality of care that treats the whole person, not just a tumor. Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study? Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: Our study showed that making small changes to everyday practice in the real world can lead to large impacts on patient outcomes in a population of cancer patients who are often the sickest. Our next projects revolve around 1) how best to equip radiation oncologists with the skills needed to appropriately provide treatment and primary palliative care to advanced cancer patients, and 2) to empower patients and families to engage with their physicians in discussions about their treatment including their overall goals and preferences. Both of these concepts ultimately have direct impacts on treatment recommendations and treatment outcomes for advanced cancer patients and their families. Citation: upcoming Palliative Care abstract: A palliative radiation oncology consult service’s impact on care of advanced cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Kavita Vyas Dharmarajan M.D., M.Sc Assistant Professor Radiation Oncology Assistant Professor Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Research: What is the background for this study?  Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: Forty to fifty percent of all patients having radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment are having the treatment for palliative reasons – meaning, not to cure the cancer but rather to alleviate or prevent symptoms caused by it. The most common reason for referral to a radiation oncologist in the setting of advanced cancer is for alleviation of pain or prevention of an impending fracture due to bone metastases. Radiation therapy is very effective at relieving pain; in fact, published response rates are about 60-80%. The standard treatment has been two weeks of radiation treatment, and this is a common treatment scheme followed by many radiation oncologists. This may be too long or burdensome for some patients given their overall state of illness, or other personal or logistical factors. Several large randomized trials have shown that shorter radiation courses, even as short as 1 fraction of treatment, can be just as effective as 10 fractions (or, two weeks) of treatment. However, literature suggests that these condensed approaches are underutilized by radiation oncologists. A major disadvantage of traditional 2-week courses of radiation is that patients who are very debilitated may be kept in the hospital to undergo this treatment. Some patients stop early because it is too burdensome. Moreover, some may not survive long enough after the treatment to appreciate its benefits. At Mount Sinai, we proposed an intervention that combined the technical expertise within radiation oncology with the whole-patient support services of palliative medicine into a service model led by a single radiation oncologist specializing in the care of advanced cancer patients and collaboration with experts in palliative care. The service model was meant to care for patients suffering from advanced cancer with the goal of improving the quality of care that these patients receive. About two years into the establishment of this new model, we assessed patient outcomes of pain improvement, length of hospitalization, utilization of palliative care services after radiation, treatment completion rates, and duration of treatments. To accomplish this study, we reviewed the charts of 336 consecutively treated patients who underwent radiation therapy at the Mount Sinai Hospital over the last 5 years. We compared the outcomes of the patients treated before the model was established in 2013 to those treated after the model was established. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Vyas Dharmarajan: We found large differences in quality of care for advanced cancer patients being treated for symptomatic bone metastases after establishment of our palliative radiation oncology consult service. The rate of short-course treatments (meaning 5 or fewer radiation fractions) rose from 26% to 61%, while the corresponding rate of traditional length treatments (meaning, treatments over 5 fractions) declined from 74% to 39%. Hospital length of stay declined by 6 days, from 18 to 12 days (median). We also found that more patients were finishing their treatments -- the proportion of treatments left unfinished halved, from 15% to 8%. More patients were accessing palliative care services within 30 days of finishing radiation, (34% vs. 49%). We did not see a significant change in the proportion of patients experiencing pain relief from the treatment. In fact, we saw a slight improvement (74% to 80%), but this was not a statistically significant increase. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, JAMA, Melanoma / 12.10.2015

Eleni Linos, MD DrPH, MPH Assistant Professor UCSF School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Eleni Linos, MD DrPH, MPH Assistant Professor UCSF School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Linos: Google offers a remarkable service for non-profit organizations-in our case we used AdWords, Google’s keyword-specific advertising service, to disseminate skin cancer prevention messages to people searching for tanning. Our question was simple: can we send a skin cancer prevention message to someone who is searching for information about tanning beds online? From this preliminary data we found that it is possible to use online advertising to reach a large, targeted audience with specific health messages. Or Online advertising for prevention is a brand new concept. It builds on the knowledge of online advertisers and marketers-and uses this knowledge for good. We hope other social media and technology companies will join this effort to provide precise, tailored health messages to those who need them the most. Marketing is a powerful tool when it comes to getting the message out to a larger audience. As we are thinking of using Google Ads for our services, we were recommended to compare Adwords software and tools, as it would make the decision of finding the right software a lot easier. As technology becomes apparent within businesses, it makes sense for us and other companies to use this to their advantage. (more…)
Author Interviews, Chemotherapy, Lung Cancer, NEJM, UT Southwestern / 11.10.2015

David E. Gerber, MD Associate Professor Division of Hematology-Oncology Associate Director for Clinical Research Co-Leader, Experimental Therapeutics Program Co-Director, Lung Disease Oriented Team Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TXMedicalResearch.com Interview with: David E. Gerber, MD Associate Professor Division of Hematology-Oncology Associate Director for Clinical Research Co-Leader, Experimental Therapeutics Program Co-Director, Lung Disease Oriented Team Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gerber: In this trial, we compared an immunotherapy and a chemotherapy drug in patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease continued to progress after first-line chemotherapy. We found that nivolumab immunotherapy improved overall survival compared to docetaxel chemotherapy and was generally well tolerated. These results are significant because options for patients whose lung cancer progresses after initial treatment are limited. Nivolumab is an immunotherapy drug that works by inhibiting the cellular pathway known as PD-1 protein on cells that block the body’s immune system from attacking cancerous cells.  The idea behind nivolumab and other immunotherapy drugs is to kick-start the body’s natural immune response to a cancer. Cancer develops and grows in part because it has put the brakes on the immune response. These drugs take the foot off the brake, allowing the immune system to accelerate and attack the cancer. The phase 3 clinical trial followed more than 500 patients who had non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): 287 received nivolumab and 268 received the chemotherapy drug docetaxel. The one-year survival rate was 51 percent in the nivolumab arm versus 39 percent in the docetaxel arm. The most common reported side effects with nivolumab were fatigue, nausea, decreased appetite, and weakness, and they were less severe than with docetaxel treatment. In a minority of cases, patients treated with nivolumab also developed autoimmune toxicities affecting various organs. In addition to studying safety and efficacy, the trial examined the protein biomarker PD-L1, which is believed to play a role in suppressing the immune system. The study results suggested that patients with a higher level of PD-L1 in their cancers may experience the greatest benefit from nivolumab, which targets the related molecule PD1. Using a biomarker helps oncologists predict which patients will do best on which treatment, and plan their treatment accordingly. Other promising predictive biomarkers for cancer immunotherapies include the degree of immune cell infiltration within a tumor and the number of mutations a tumor has. Specifically, the more mutations a cancer has, the more foreign it appears to the body, thus marking it for immune attack. With lung cancer, we see the greatest number of tumor mutations – and perhaps the greatest benefit from immunotherapy – among individuals with the heaviest smoking history. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research / 10.10.2015

Huma Q. Rana, MD Clinical Director, Cancer Genetics and Prevention Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in BostonMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Huma Q. Rana, MD Clinical Director, Cancer Genetics and Prevention Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Rana: -        Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is thought to be a rare, inherited condition that  causes high lifetime risks for multiple cancers.  It is caused by mutations in the TP53 gene.  Traditionally, only people with striking personal or family histories of cancer underwent genetic testing for TP53 mutations, as there are well-established testing criteria.   This gene was usually tested for in isolation, meaning not combined with testing of other genes.  Due to technological advances, namely multi-gene panels (MGP), many more people are having their TP53gene analyzed.    This included a patient of mine who somewhat surprisingly  tested positive for a TP53 mutation.    This led us to investigate whether people who test positive for TP53 mutations on MGPs are different from ones who test positive on traditional or single-gene (SG) testing. We compared individuals tested for TP53 single gene versus multigene panel testing to determine if there were differences in the percent of mutation carriers meeting current testing criteria for LFS.   Our data showed that 73% of individuals sent in for single gene testing of TP53 met Classic or Chompret (2009) criteria for LFS, whereas only 30% of those sent in for multi-gene panel testing met criteria (p=0.0000001).  When we looked at the most up-to-date testing criteria, which includes Classic, Chompret, or a personal diagnosis of early-onset breast cancer (age at ≤35), 85% of individuals in the single gene group who were positive met criteria, while only 53% of the mutation carriers identified on a multi-gene panel did.   These data suggest that multi-gene panel testing enables us to identify TP53 mutation carriers who may not have otherwise been identified if testing were limited to those who meet established LFS criteria. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cost of Health Care, Pancreatic, Surgical Research / 09.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Andrew P. Loehrer, MD David Torchiana Fellow in Health Policy and Management Massachusetts General Physicians Organization Research Fellow Codman Center for Clinical Effectiveness in Surgery Department of Surgery Massachusetts General Hospital Andrew P. Loehrer, MD David Torchiana Fellow in Health Policy and Management Massachusetts General Physicians Organization Research Fellow Codman Center for Clinical Effectiveness in Surgery Department of Surgery Massachusetts General Hospital Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Loehrer: The incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing and is on pace to become the second leading cause of cancer mortality by the year 2020. While surgery remains the only chance for long-term survival, significant and persistent disparities in evaluation for and receipt of surgery remain for underinsured patients across the United States. The Affordable Care Act aims to increase access to care through expansion of health insurance coverage and was modeled on previous reform in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We evaluated the impact of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform on rates of surgery for pancreatic cancer. We found the insurance expansion to be independently associated with a 67% increased rate of resection for pancreatic cancer. While disparities in resection rates by insurance status decreased after the health reform, significant gaps remain between privately-insured patients and government-subsidized/self-pay patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research / 07.10.2015

Dr. Madeleine M A Tilanus-Linthorst PhD Department of Surgery Erasmus University Medical Centre - Cancer Institute Rotterdam, NetherlandsMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Madeleine M A Tilanus-Linthorst PhD Department of Surgery Erasmus University Medical Centre - Cancer Institute Rotterdam, Netherlands  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Medical Research: Why is this study important? Response: This prospective nationwide study  investigates whether  tumor stage (size and axillary nodal involvement)  still has impact on survival of breast cancer in modern times with more effective end more widely used additional systemic therapy . We  take tumour biology, age and the different therapies into account and compare results with our nationwide results from 1999-2005.   
  1. Mortality increased with increasing tumour size and independently with nodal involvement, correcting for age, tumour biology and therapy.
  2. Five year relative survival (this is compared with women without breast cancer of the same ages) was 96% for all 93.569 Dutch breast cancer patients between 2006-2012 and 100% in cancers ≤ 1cm.3.     In 2006-2012 in the Dutch population 65% of the breast cancers were detected ≤2cm.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
  1. First, the general prospect of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer currently in the Western world is very good.
  2. Catching breast cancer early is still highly important.
  3. Surgery is the cornerstone of therapy and maybe breast conserving therapy is even a bit better for survival than mastectomy and certainly not worse. Breast cancer in the other breast did not impact on survival and preventive contralateral mastectomy seems only well advised in high risk gene mutation carriers.
  4. Both additional hormonal therapy and targeted therapy (usual against epidermal growth factor her2neu) are, if indicated by tumour stage and receptor status, beneficial for survival.
  5. Further also patients diagnosed late with large tumors of 5cm and above experienced an improvement in outcome. In the earlier group such patients had a 70% five-year relative survival, while in the recent cohort this increased to 81%. This may be a comforting result for some patients.
  6. Finally our results are informative when considering breast  screening.
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Author Interviews, Cancer Research, End of Life Care, Journal Clinical Oncology / 07.10.2015

Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D. Irving Sherwood Wright Professor in Geriatrics Professor of Sociology in Medicine Director, Center for Research on End of Life Care Weill Cornell Medical College New York Presbyterian Hospital New York City, New YorkMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D. Irving Sherwood Wright Professor in Geriatrics Professor of Sociology in Medicine Director, Center for Research on End of Life Care Weill Cornell Medical College New York Presbyterian Hospital New York City, New York 10065 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Prigerson: Research has revealed that a majority of terminally ill cancer patients do not realize that they are dying. We wanted to know if terminally ill patients would report wanting to know their life expectancy, how many oncologists shared their life expectancy estimate for the patient with them, and how that prognostic disclosure affected the patient’s accuracy.  We found that 71% of terminally ill cancer patients wanted to know their life expectancy, but only 17.6% were told it by their oncologist. Those who were told were much more realistic than those who were not told, about 17 months closer to their actual survival time from out baseline assessment. Oncologists who shared the prognosis did not psychologically injure patients (eg make them significantly more anxious or depressed) nor was their relationship harmed. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Lung Cancer, PLoS / 07.10.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Keiji Tanimoto, D.D.S., Ph.D Assistant Professor Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine Hiroshima University Hiroshima Japan Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Tanimoto: Hypoxia-inducible factor-2α (HIF-2αor EPAS1) is important for cancer progression, and its overexpression is considered a putative biomarker for poor prognosis in patients with lung cancer. However, molecular mechanisms underlying EPAS1 overexpression are not fully understood. Recently, several SNPs of EPAS1 have been reported to be associated with the development of various diseases including cancer. Therefore, we focused on SNPs within EPAS1, and examined the roles of these SNPs in regulation of EPAS1 gene expression and the association of these SNPs with prognosis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients by bioinformatics analyses. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Tanimoto:
  • The SNP within the EPAS1 intron 1 region (rs13419896) may affect EPAS1 gene and protein expression;
  • The fragment with A allele of the SNP showed higher transactivation activity than one with G, especially in the presence of overexpressed c-Fos or c-Jun;
  • The median survival time of NSCLC patients with at least one A allele of rs13419896 was significantly shorter than that with the G/G homozygote (28.0 vs. 52.5 months, P = 0.047, log-rank test);
  • The possession of A allele of rs13419896, along with clinical stage, was an independent variable for risk estimation of overall survival for NSCLC patients [hazard ratio (HR) = 2.31, 95% CI = 1.14-4.81, P = 0.021], after adjustment for age, gender, stage, histology, tumor size, and differentiation.
(more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Dermatology / 06.10.2015

Nirmala Pandeya, PhD Post Doctoral Research Fellow Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health Herston campus The University of QueenslandMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nirmala Pandeya, PhD Post Doctoral Research Fellow Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health Herston campus The University of Queensland Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Pandeya: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common cancer. Although BCC is curable and has low mortality, its high occurrence in the population causes significant healthcare and financial burdens to the community. Hence exploring preventive strategies for this cancer is important in reducing the burden. To date few chemopreventives for BCC have been identified. In many cancer cells, inflammatory biomarkers such as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and its product prostaglandin E2 are increased and basal cell carcinoma is no exception. Anti-inflammatory drugs, suppressing COX-2 activity, have been shown to reduce the risk of various cancers including squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, so they also have a potential to prevent BCC. But to date research evidence on the benefit of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on basal cell carcinoma has been inconsistent. So we reviewed and synthesized all published epidemiological studies on NSAIDs and BCC to combine results and estimate the overall pooled effect. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Pandeya: After thorough evaluation, we identified eleven studies that were relevant and pooling showed a 10% reduction in risk of BCC among those using any kind of NSAIDs. Aspirin and non-aspirin NSAIDs analysed separately suggested a reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma, but were not statistically significant likely due to lack of power. Our research found strongest risk reduction of BCC by the use of NSAIDs among those with either a history of skin cancers or high prevalence of actinic keratosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Endocrinology, JAMA, Menopause / 05.10.2015

Rodrigo R. Munhoz, MD Hospital Sírio Libanês São Paulo, Brazil MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Rodrigo R. Munhoz, MD Hospital Sírio Libanês São Paulo, Brazil  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Munhoz:  Chemotherapy-induced early menopause and its impact on quality of life is clinically relevant issue that often arises during the treatment with curative intent of premenopausal patients with early breast cancer. The use of neo-/adjuvant chemotherapy is associated with risks of ovarian dysfunction, permanent or transient amenorrhea, infertility and symptoms of menopause with a premature onset. In addition to osteoporosis, loss of libido, increased cardiovascular risk and atrophic vaginitis, early ovarian dysfunction may adversely impact quality of life and result in significant psychosocial burden. Currently available guidelines addressing fertility preservation in young women undergoing treatment for early breast cancer recommend that patients at reproductive ages should be advised about the potential risks of fertility impairment and additional effects of adjuvant chemotherapy and that preservation techniques should be carefully considered. However, “evidence regarding the effectiveness of ovarian suppression” is quoted as “insufficient” and the use GnRH agonists as “experimental” . The current meta-analysis includes a large number of patients and also the results of recently presented clinical trials, and suggest that the use of GnRH agonists is associated a higher rate of recovery of regular menses in patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.These results summarize the findings of different clinical trials and has immediate clinical implications - this was not clear in the literature, since negative results had been reported across different clinical trials. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Colon Cancer, Genetic Research, JNCI, Mayo Clinic, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 05.10.2015

Harry H. Yoon, MD Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN 55905MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Harry H. Yoon, MD Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN 55905 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Yoon: In the U.S., the survival of patients with colon cancer is known to differ by race, with individuals of black race having worse outcomes than those of white race. However, it has been difficult to tease apart why the differences in survival exist. It is generally believed that social or other non-biologic factors (eg, decreased access to care, suboptimal treatment) contribute to the discrepancy.  It’s also known that differences in the general medical condition of patients could affect how long a patient lives. However, it is unknown whether there are race-based differences in the biology of colon tumors themselves.  This biology can be reflected in the genetic composition of tumors, as well as by whether and how quickly the cancer returns after the patient has undergone surgery and chemotherapy. In addition, it is unknown whether race-based differences in biology may be related to the age of the patient at the time of diagnosis.  Blacks with colorectal cancer typically have an earlier age of onset than whites do. A major barrier to addressing these questions are that there are very few large populations of colon cancer patients where everyone had the same disease stage and received uniform treatment, and where patients were monitored for years afterward specifically to see whether the cancer returned.  It is much harder to measure whether cancer has returned (ie, cancer recurrence), as compared to simply knowing whether a patient is alive or dead.  This difference is important, because knowing about cancer recurrence sheds more light on cancer biology than only knowing about patient survival, since many factors unrelated to cancer biology (eg., heart disease) can affect whether a person is alive or dead. The most reliable data on cancer recurrence (not just patient survival) generally comes from patients who have enrolled in a clinical trial.  In the Alliance N0147 trial, all patients had the same cancer stage (ie, stage III), underwent surgery and received standard of care chemotherapy (ie, “FOLFOX”) after surgery.  Patients had uniform, periodic monitoring after chemotherapy to see if the cancer returned. In other words, examining racial outcomes in this cohort largely eliminates some of the key factors (eg, decreased access to care, suboptimal treatment) that are believed to contribute to racial discrepancies, and provides a unique opportunity to determine if differences in cancer biology between races may exist. This study was done to see if colon cancers are genetically different based on race, and whether race-based differences exist in cancer recurrence rates. The study found that tumors from whites, blacks, and Asians were different in terms of the frequency of mutations in two key cancer-related genes, BRAF and KRAS.  Tumors from whites were twice as likely to have mutated BRAF (14% in whites compared to 6% in Asians and 6% in blacks).  Tumors from blacks had the highest frequency of KRAS mutations (44% in blacks compared to 28% in Asians and 35% in whites).  Tumors from Asians were the mostly likely to have normal copies of both genes (67% in Asians compared to 50% in blacks and 51% in whites). Next, the study found that the colon cancers among blacks had more than double the risk of cancer recurrence, compared to whites.  However, this discrepancy was only evident among young patients (ie, aged less than 50 years).  Almost 50% of younger black patients experienced colon cancer recurrence within 5 years, compared to ~30% of black patients over age 50, or compared to white or Asian patients regardless of age. The worse outcome among young blacks remained evident even after adjusting for many potential confounding factors, such as tumor grade, the number of malignant nodes, or the presence of BRAF or KRASmutations.  Because this question was examined in a clinical trial cohort of uniform stage and treatment, the role of multiple important potential confounders was diminished. To our knowledge, this is the first report indicating that colon cancers from young black individuals have a higher chance of relapsing after surgery and chemotherapy, compared to those from white individuals. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Surgical Research / 04.10.2015

Kimberly J. Van Zee, MD, FACS Surgical oncologist Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kimberly J. Van Zee, MD, FACS Surgical oncologist Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Medical Research: Why is this study important? Dr. Van Zee: It is very important because the 4 large studies that randomized women with DCIS to radiation or not after they had breast-conserving surgery all began between 1985 and 1990.  Those studies are generally used to help women and clinicians estimate risk of subsequent recurrence in the same breast over time.  This study shows that recurrence rates have significantly fallen over the decades, suggesting that the recurrence rates observed in those studies are higher than what would be expected in the current era.  This is good news for women that want to have breast conservation for DCIS! Medical Research: What are the key findings? Dr. Van Zee:
  1. a)       Recurrence rates have fallen over the years, by about 40% between the early period (1978-1998) and the later period (1999-2010).
  2. b)      The decrease in recurrence rates is only partly explained by factors such as increased screening, wider margins, more frequent use of endocrine therapy (ie, tamoxifen).
  3. c)       The improvement in recurrence rates is mostly due to a decrease in recurrence rates for women NOT undergoing radiation (even though women having radiation continue to have a lower recurrence rate than those not having radiation)
  4. d)      This last point is important because since radiation is given only to reduce local recurrence rates and has never been shown to improve survival (survival is excellent with all treatments).  So a woman treated currently with breast conservation without radiation can expect about a  40% lower recurrence rate than in the earlier decades.
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Author Interviews, JAMA, Melanoma, Ophthalmology / 01.10.2015

Ann-Cathrine Larsen MD, PhD-student University of Copenhagen Faculty of Health Sciences Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Eye Pathology Section CopenhagenMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ann-Cathrine Larsen MD, PhD-student University of Copenhagen Faculty of Health Sciences Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Eye Pathology Section Copenhagen Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Larsen: Conjunctival melanoma is an uncommon malignancy with a high mortality. Population-based studies evaluating prognostic features and treatment are rare. The clinicopathological and prognostic features associated with BRAF-mutations in conjunctival melanoma are unclear. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Larsen: Extrabulbar tumor location and invasion of adjacent tissue structures were poor prognostic features. Incisional biopsy and excision without adjuvant therapy were associated with metastatic disease. Younger age at diagnosis, bulbar or caruncular tumor location, T1 stage tumor, lack of clinical melanosis and mixed or non-pigmented tumor color were features associated with BRAF-mutated conjunctival melanoma. Furthermore, Patients with BRAF mutated tumors seem to have an increased risk of distant metastatic disease. (more…)