Entries in Tumors (11)


Dog Tumors May Give Clues for Humans with Breast Cancer

Courtesy 2 Million Dogs(NEW YORK) -- Luke Robinson never liked dogs much until an ex-girlfriend offered him a puppy while he was living in San Antonio.  The Great Pyrenees he named Malcolm changed all that.

"It was the first dog of my adult life," said Robinson, 41.  "He was my companion, my mate."

But at the age of 6, Malcolm was diagnosed with bone cancer -- which both devastated and mobilized Robinson.

When a veterinarian from a major university couldn't tell Robinson why Malcolm got cancer at such a young age, he went on a national crusade to "find out why."

Robinson walked 2,300 miles over two years to raise awareness, founding in the process Two Million Dogs, an organization that is a pioneer in the field of comparative research -- finding common links between animals and humans who have cancer.

Today, a $50,000 grant from the organization is funding such research at Princeton University to learn how breast cancer tumors progress from seemingly benign to malignant ones.

"We are using a new model -- no one looked at progression this way," said Olga Troyanskaya, the computational biologist who is leading the genetic research.  "It's something that is really out there and forward-thinking."

Troyanskaya is collaborating with Karen Sorenmo, an oncologist at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, who has a special interest in mammary tumors.

The pair met when Troyanskaya's German shepherd Jessie was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2006, and she sought help from Sorenmo.

Sorenmo provided the Princeton project with tumors from shelter dogs that get free treatment.

Dogs have multiple mammary glands and when they develop cancer -- unlike humans -- they can have multiple tumors.

"The screening is not as good, but when found, on average they have seven masses at different stages of development," said Troyanskaya.  "Some are benign ... but they are not truly benign."

Troyanskaya compares dog and human tumors on a molecular level and hopes to find genetic markers that can give clues to how human breast cancer tumors progress and which ones are more likely to become malignant.

"We are looking at progression in a unique model," she said.  "Way more research has been done in mice ... Dogs get these tumors naturally and the physiology is more similar, the way tumors rise is similar, with the hormonal link to breast cancer in women."

Troyanskaya said she hopes to find targets for drug treatment or predict clinical outcomes in women with breast cancer and help speed up human trials.

"We can help dogs and humans," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Common Cold Virus Attacks Cancer, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A virus that causes the common cold can also track and attack tumors, according to a new study that opens the door to novel cancer treatments.

British researchers injected reovirus into the bloodstreams of 10 patients with bowel cancer that had spread to the liver and found the virus set up deadly “reproduction factories” in the tumors but not in healthy tissue.

“It seems that reovirus is even cleverer than we had thought,” study author Dr. Alan Melcher, professor of clinical oncology and biotherapy at Leeds University in the U.K., said in a statement. “By piggybacking on blood cells, the virus is managing to hide from the body’s natural immune response and reach its target intact. This could be hugely significant for the uptake of viral therapies like this in clinical practice.”

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggest cancer-killing viruses can target hard-to-treat tumors after being injected into the bloodstream like standard chemotherapies.

“It would have been a significant barrier to their widespread use if they could only have been injected into the tumor, but the finding that they can hitch a ride on blood cells will potentially make them relevant to a broad range of cancers,” study co-author Dr. Kevin Harrington of the Institute of Cancer Research said in a statement. “We also confirmed that reovirus was specifically targeting cancer cells and leaving normal cells alone, which we hope should mean fewer side effects for patients.”

Other viral cancer therapies, some of which require direct injection into tumors, are currently in phase 3 testing. But this is the first time reovirus has been shown to safely and effectively home in on tumors through the blood.

In an accompanying editorial, John Bell of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada said the study provides an “important proof-of-concept” for intravenous viral cancer therapies.

“The authors and, more importantly, the patients who participated in this trial have made crucial contributions to the translation of [oncolytic virus]-based therapies,” he wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breast Cancer: Blood Test Spots Wayward Tumor Cells

Photodisc/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A simple blood test can help predict the recurrence of breast cancer, a new study has found. The question is: Will it save lives?

The test detects cancer cells in the blood that have broken free from a tumor in the breast, like seeds that have fallen from a tree.

"The greater the number of seeds you sow, the greater the chance they'll take hold and grow," said study author Dr. Anthony Lucci, a surgical oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Lucci and his team followed more than 300 women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer for up to eight years, and found those who had cancer cells in their blood were five times more likely to relapse or die from breast cancer. Women with high levels of circulating tumor cells were 10 times more likely to relapse or die during the study period.

The results, published Tuesday in The Lancet Oncology, could help identify breast cancer patients with a high risk of recurrence. But the jury's still out on whether those patients should be monitored more frequently or treated more aggressively.

"I think we need to be patient," said Lucci, stressing the need for clinical trials to tease out the test's true value. "The natural urge is to run the test; have more information. But we don't know how best to use that information."

The test can reliably detect a single cancer cell in 7.5 milliliters of blood. But to become a tumor, that cell has to evade the body's immune system and find the perfect environment to grow and divide.

"In ongoing studies we're trying to characterize the cells that break free; figure out which ones are capable of setting up shop," Lucci said.

Nearly one-quarter of the women in the study had cancer cells in their blood, according to the study. But only 15 percent of them relapsed after undergoing treatment, meaning the vast majority did not.

Breast cancer treatment is currently guided by the size of the primary tumor, whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, and molecular markers, like HER2, that open the door for targeted chemotherapies. But Lucci said cancer cells in the blood may be molecularly different from those in the primary tumor.

"We detected HER2-positive cells in the blood of patients with HER2-negative tumors," said Lucci, describing the results of a separate study he recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. "It raises the question of whether those patients could potentially benefit from other therapies."

But experts say it's too soon to tell whether having a single blood-borne cancer cell should influence treatment decisions.

"There's a substantial amount of interest in the technology of counting circulating tumor cells in the blood, but it's still a relatively new technology and questions remain as to how it can best guide clinical practice," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. "At this point in time, it's difficult to say this technology would improve the care of women with breast cancer."

Until the test is proven to provide information that can refine and improve care for women with breast cancer, it's not ready for primetime, Lichtenfeld said. "This information is interesting, but ultimately it's how it impacts patient care that's most important."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Panel Approves Ultrasound Device for Spotting Hidden Breast Tumors

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel Wednesday approved the widespread use of an automated ultrasound machine that would give doctors a detailed image of dense breast tissue, helping them to spot cancerous tumors.

The FDA reviewed the safety and effectiveness of the Automated Breast Ultrasound, a device that uses an automated, Xerox-like system to get ultrasound images of breast tissue. ABUS is intended to screen women with dense breast tissue, for whom traditional mammograms may be inadequate.

"We know that mammography is limited by breast density," said Robert Smith, senior director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society. "Sometimes the glandular tissue is so dense that radiation doesn't penetrate it. You can't see anything."

The dense tissue makes it easy for tumors to hide on traditional mammograms.

Some research estimates that about 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue.

According to ABUS' manufacturer, U-Systems, the device provides 3-D images of breast tissue and is intended for use along with mammograms, not in place of them, and to "increase breast cancer detection" in women with dense breasts who have already received a benign mammogram.

"This panel review, part of the FDA process for assessing new technology, brings us one step closer to an approved adjunctive screening tool for women with dense breasts," said Ron Ho, president and chief executive officer of U-Systems, in a statement.

Some say ultrasound is a valuable tool for finding breast tumors not easily spotted with other tests. Others say greater detection of abnormal spots on ultrasounds would lead to more biopsies but not necessarily better outcomes for women with breast cancer.

Mammograms are the gold standard of breast cancer screenings, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women over age 50 get a mammogram once every two years to screen for breast cancer. Some groups, such as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recommend that women begin getting mammograms at age 40.

For women at an increased risk of breast cancer, such as those with dense breasts or those who have had breast cancer before, doctors may use additional screening tools, such as MRIs or ultrasound, to check their breasts for problems.

Doctors currently use handheld ultrasound devices to hunt for breast tumors in some patients. But the practice is labor-intensive and depends on ultrasound technicians, who are often few and far between at hospitals around the country.

"One of the major drawbacks of handheld ultrasound is that it takes a lot of time," said Dr. Nagi Khouri, director of breast imaging at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center in Baltimore. "Whole breast ultrasound is highly desirable if it can be done with ease with few if any drawbacks."

Research has shown more screening does detect more breast cancer. A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that annual mammograms combined with ultrasound and MRI significantly increased the detection of breast cancer in more than 2,600 women at higher risk of the disease. Mammograms alone detected cancer in 53 percent of the women, and ultrasound detected 33 additional cases. MRIs found nine cases that were not detected by mammogram or ultrasound.

But only 7.4 percent of those women ended up actually having breast cancer. The findings highlighted concerns that increased detection of breast abnormalities may lead to finding more cancer when there is none, called a false positive. High numbers of false positives could result in unnecessary biopsies and other medical procedures without an actual benefit for women's health.

"The fundamental problem is that we have no evidence that detecting these cancers by ultrasound actually saves lives," Dr. Daniel Kopans, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News last week. "With all the effort that has gone into ultrasound screening over the last decade, it is surprising that no one has done a randomized, controlled trial, which is the only way to know if finding these cancers actually saves lives."

Smith said more research on the use of ultrasound and other supplemental imaging is certainly needed, but researchers may find that the risk of finding something that turns out to be nothing may be worth it for some women.

"It may be that the combination of supplemental imaging has higher false positive rate, but I think we can accept a higher false-positive rate if a woman's risk is higher," he said. "Women have said pretty clearly, whatever the risk of a false positive is, they place a higher priority on finding breast cancer early."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Are Nanoparticles the Next Cancer Treatment?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- The word nanoparticles may make people think about objects floating around in space, but according to new research, they show very early promise as a cancer treatment.

A team made up of academic researchers and scientists from BIND Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company, developed specially programmed nanoparticles that targeted tumors and delivered high doses of a chemotherapy drug in a series of animal and human trials.

The nanoparticles are about one-thousandth the width of a human hair and made of the same chemical substance used in biodegradable sutures, said Robert Langer, a co-author and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“They are made out of very safe chemicals,” he said.   “They are also very small so they can be taken up by the cells.”

In an early-stage ongoing trial, about 17 patients with different types and stages of cancer receive doses of a nanoparticle containing the chemotherapy drug docetaxel every three weeks.

So far, Langer said, the particles seem to be safer and able to maintain a high concentration of the drug in the body.

“We don’t see the same adverse effects we see with the drug, and there is also much more of the drug circulating and targeting the tumors,” he said.

There has also been some tumor shrinkage in some of the patients, which is also encouraging.

“At this point, it seems to be more effective than the drug by itself,” he said.  “Some tumors we normally wouldn’t be able to treat we’re able to treat here.”

But it’s too early to be overly optimistic about the potential of nanoparticles since the study involving the cancer patients is primarily a trial designed to determine whether the treatment is safe.

“We still need to do more advanced clinical trials with many more patients,” Langer said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Do Opioids Play Role in Cancer Growth?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When Dr. Jonathan Moss was developing a drug to relieve the severe constipation plaguing end-stage cancer patients taking opioid painkillers, he noticed a few of those patients lived longer than expected.

Although likely to die within a month, some "went on to live for five to six months," Moss said.  He began to think the methylnaltrexone (Relistor) might be doing more than simply improving their ability to eat.

"I began to wonder in my mind…could it be an effect on the progression of the tumor?" he said.

Subsequent laboratory studies confirmed that Relistor inhibited tumor growth and angiogenesis -- the sprouting of blood vessels that nourish tumors.

Now, almost a decade later, multiple laboratory and animal studies, are converging with some human research to suggest that opioid drugs and the body's natural opioids may play a role in the growth and spread of cancer, according to two studies and an accompanying commentary published Tuesday in a special issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

Moss, co-author of the commentary and one of the studies, cautioned that it would be premature for cancer patients or their doctors to give up on opioids, which have a 200-year history in relieving cancer pain and post-surgical pain.

"There are no double-blind human studies showing that if you take an opioid, that you are more or less likely to have tumor progression," said the professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Chicago.

Without proof provided by a "large human study," the findings are "very interesting," but "much too early" to change practices, said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation and Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.  He expressed concern that cancer patients might become unnecessarily worried that pain meds will make their cancers grow.

In one of the new studies, breast cancer patients survived longer if they had a gene that made them resistant to opioids (meaning they probably needed more medication to control their pain).  In the Carolina Breast Cancer Study of more than 2,039 women diagnosed between 1993 and 2001, women with invasive breast cancer who had one copy of the gene variant survived twice as long.  Survival quadrupled for those with two copies of the gene variant, according to research led by Dr. Andrey V. Bortsov, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In the other study, led by Patrick A. Singleton, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, researchers found that naturally occurring opioids could fuel the growth of human non-small cell lung cancer in human lung cancer cells transplanted into mice with compromised immune systems.

"What we saw was a two-fold increase in tumor growth, and even more strikingly, a 20-fold increase in metastasis," he said in an interview.

"The two papers together are really bookends," Moss said.  The finding that lung cancer cells have lots of so-called mu opioid receptors involved in tumor growth and spread provides "a plausible explanation for what people in North Carolina have found.  The mu opioid receptor may be very importantly involved in the progression of tumors."

As a result, he said that receptor could become a therapeutic target for new cancer drugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Molecular Discovery Could Mean Fewer Chemo Side Effects

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- While it can often work wonders against invading cancer cells, chemotherapy can also bring on very undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, nausea and vomiting.

But the recent discovery of the structure of a certain molecule could potentially lead to the development of new drugs that could target tumors while avoiding damage to healthy tissue, resulting in possibly fewer side effects.

The molecule, known as a transporter, can carry specific anti-cancer and antiviral drugs directly into cells.  The drugs can then prevent tumor cells from dividing and multiplying.

"If you really know what this transporter looks like, you can potentially design a cancer drug to be recognized by this transporter and carried into the cells, and you can lower the dose of cancer drugs and decrease the side effects as a result," said Seok-Yong Lee, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Duke University School of Medicine and lead author of the research, published online in the journal Nature.

Experts not involved with Lee's research say development of such drugs is still a very long way off, but focusing on the ability of a drug to get into cancer cells makes scientific sense.

"If it could be manipulated to help with drug delivery or avoiding the toxicity of these drugs.  It could have clinical relevance years from now," said Dr. Minetta Liu, director of translational breast cancer research at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington.  "We have these very effective drugs, and the question is can we make them even more effective by giving them the homing devices for cancer cells so they can avoid normal cells?"

"There are two newer compounds that are doing that now.  They can invade cells so we don't have to give as much of it to target tumors," said Dr. Stefan Gluck, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

Many other drugs that treat cancer, however, are administered intravenously and are distributed throughout the body.

"We need to achieve specific levels in cancer tissues, but at the same time, that level will be reached in normal tissues.  Some of the normal tissues are sensitive to chemotherapy and can be harmed," Gluck explained.  Damaging normal tissues can lead to a number of the effects often associated with chemotherapy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Giving Drugs to Breast Cancer Patients Before Surgery Save Lives?

Comstock/Jupiterimages(NEW YORK) -- Breast cancer is difficult to treat and, once treated, the potential for recurrence looms large.  So instead of just treating breast cancer after it returns, there is also great research interest in giving drugs prior to surgery.  The hope is that if they can shrink the tumor before the surgery, it will reduce the chance of recurrence and hopefully extend patients lives.

In research released Wednesday in the New England Journal, two studies suggest that Avastin, a drug recently taken off the market for use in metastatic breast cancer, might have potential to shrink breast tumors before surgery.

The studies were conducted in Europe and North America.  The European study enrolled 1,948 patients.  The results were particularly interesting for a group of patients suffering from a form of “triple negative” breast cancer, which is less common but more aggressive.  Dr. Gary Lyman of Duke University, who was a member of the Food and Drug Administration panel that voted to remove Avastin’s approval for metastatic breast cancer, says that this group of patients represents 15,000 to 20,000 of all 200,000 newly diagnosed cases of breast cancer.

According to the study, patients with this type of breast cancer that received Avastin along with standard therapy had greater rates -- about 11 percent -- of complete tumor disappearance.  However, researchers noted that Avastin resulted in a greater rate of toxic effects such as high blood pressure, skin reactions and infections.

The North American study enrolled 1,206 patients and also showed that patients receiving Avastin significantly increased the rate of complete tumor disappearance, by 6 percent.

Dr. Stefan Gluck of the University of Miami says, “We oncologists need to assess and chose very wisely. Triple negative cancers are usually very aggressive and not sensitive to chemotherapy, so the addition of Avastin can help at least temporarily.”

Dr. Lyman agrees and says, “Women in earlier stage of disease should be considered candidates, although we haven’t learned which specific patients will benefit the most.  The results of these studies do not improve overall survival but can be given to patients prior to surgery to reduce tumor burden and improve surgical outcomes.”

Most experts concur with this sentiment and recommend that further studies showing improvement in survival are necessary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Doctors Debate Controversial 'Hot Chemo' Treatment

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Is it a dangerous method of treating cancer or a source of hope for colon cancer patients?

"Hot chemo" is a treatment that involves opening up the entire stomach cavity, removing the colon and removing tumors by hand.  Then, the diseased area is directly blasted with hot chemotherapy.

Critics of the practice compare it to being disemboweled and bathed in hot poison.

"It is toxic, it is expensive," says Dr. Robert Mayer of Harvard.

He adds that no tests have been done studying hot chemo's effectiveness.

But Dr. Steve  Libutti who has performed the treatment, says it can work.

"I have certainly seen patients carefully managed through the course of therapy and come out of it without major toxicities," he says.

As more patients become aware of the hot chemo treatment, more studies will likely be performed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News


Fish Oil Boosts Breast Cancer Therapy in Mice, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Pairing fish oils with drugs commonly prescribed for breast cancer could help bolster treatment of the disease, according to a new study presented at the 102nd annual American Association of Cancer Research meeting.

Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia tested the combination in mice, using tamoxifen, a commonly prescribed breast cancer drug, and fish oils.  They found that when both substances were paired together, the incidence of mammary tumors in the mice were reduced.

It is yet to be known if fish oil could have the same positive effect in human breast cancer patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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