Cancer Research

With a cure rate approaching 90 percent, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common type of childhood cancer, is one of the big "success stories" of modern cancer treatment.

Yet up to 20 percent of patients with a high risk of relapse are not cured, which could change with the results from a clinical trial showing that high doses of the commonly-used chemotherapy drug methotrexate increases the survival rate for these patients. 

Women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun, even though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. This paradox baffles oncologists and has suggested that the war on sunshine has been unjustified.

Researchers have turned skin cells into cancer-hunting stem cells that destroy the brain tumors known as glioblastoma – a discovery that may offer a new and more effective treatment for the disease. 

The survival rate beyond two years for a patient with a glioblastoma is 30 percent because it is so difficult to treat. Even if a surgeon removes most of the tumor, it’s nearly impossible to get the invasive, cancerous tendrils that spread deeper into the brain and inevitably the remnants grow back. Most patients die within a year and a half of their diagnosis.
Two small structural elements, called decorin and lumican, could be decisive in the development of a resistance to the drugs currently used for treating glioblastoma multiforme, such as temozolamide.  

Glioblastoma multiforme is the most frequent and aggressive tumor that affects the central nervous system, and it has a low survival rate: less than a year and a half after being diagnosed.

For half a century, cancer researchers have struggled with a confusing paradox: If cancer is caused by the occurrence and accumulation of cancer-causing (oncogenic) mutations over time, young children should get less cancer since they have fewer mutations.

So why do young children have a higher incidence of leukemia than teenagers and young adults? 

A gene believed to suppress the growth and spread of cancer has the opposite effect in some forms of colorectal cancer, researchers have found. 

Sprouty2 is the gene and the new paper studied it in cancer cell models, mouse models and human biopsy samples. Using different molecular methods, the researchers found that the gene functions differently in colorectal cancer than in other types of cancers. Sprouty2 is known to block molecular circuits to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading to other parts of the body. However, the researchers found that in colorectal cancer, Sprouty2 may increase the metastatic ability of cancer cells instead of suppress it. They believe this occurs when the gene is up-regulated, or supercharged.  

Recurrence of HER2-positive breast cancer after treatment may be due to a specific and possibly cancer-induced weakness in the patient's immune system -- a weakness that in principle could be corrected with a HER2-targeted vaccine -- according to a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Nearly one in four publicly sponsored cancer clinical trials fail to enroll enough participants, which means progress is impeded and a lot of time and money has been wasted.

What accounts for that? Patients grumble about cost - if you go to Stanford Medical for a consultation about a trial they are doing, you are likely to get a large bill just for the visit - and then there is the risk of side effects that get so much media attention. If real medicines that survived 12 years and $2 billion end up with lawsuits for harm, untested treatments or techniques are likely to be worse. And Big Pharma is evil, activists and the federal government routinely tell us.

This case-study suggests that a genetic predisposition, such as susceptibility to sunburn, can result in abnormal growth or “tumour” formation without proper sunscreen protection, as previously described in Science 2.0 [Sunburn with Sunscreen: A Case-Study - April 20, 2011].

One of the popular myths that lazy journalists like to "debunk" this time of year is that early cancer detection saves lives. That's because there is no way to really prove someone didn't die, any more than it is possible for a politician to claim that a giant pork stimulus packing for government union employees saved jobs.

A lazy narrative like 'early detection doesn't save lives' means people will think that about all things, and they may not go to a doctor until they have a giant tumor growing out of them.