A new five-year canine cancer research project, awarded to the University of Minnesota, may improve survival rates in dogs and give researchers more insight into glioblastoma to apply to human trials.
The $2.7 million grant funded as part of the 21st Century Cures Act by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is led by Dr. Liz Pluhar, professor of veterinary surgery at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.
Glioblastomas are a highly invasive tumour that carries a grim prognosis in humans, with a median survival of 14 months despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Pet dogs diagnosed with these tumours have few treatment options and are often euthanised shortly after diagnosis. Pluhar’s project hopes to improve those outcomes by combining complementary therapies.
2017 saw many “firsts” in the oncology community, in the form of several revolutionary advances in the research and treatment of cancer, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of an immunotherapeutic to treat patients based on biomarkers rather than the site of tumour origin; the approval of the first CAR T-cell immunotherapy; and the approval of a comprehensive next-gen companion diagnostic test to identify the right patients for the right molecularly targeted therapeutic.
In 2017, the FDA also approved the FoundationOne CDx test, which can detect genetic mutations in 324 genes and two genomic signatures in any solid tumour type, and the first “biosimilar” cancer drugs, which could potentially help drive down the costs of some cancer treatments.
While immunotherapies lead to long-lasting responses for some patients, a sizable portion of patients do not respond to these agents; some patients who respond ultimately develop resistance; and we still do not have precise biomarkers to predict who will respond and who will not. The same can be said about targeted therapies, where challenges with treatment resistance continue to be a major roadblock. Above all, patients from underrepresented and underserved communities quite often do not benefit from cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment advances.
Anorexia is a common symptom in patients with cancer, which can lead to poor tolerance of treatment and can contribute to cachexia in extreme cases. … Currently, there are no instruments that measure common concerns specifically associated with anorexia and cachexia in children with cancer.
By some estimates, nearly one-third of cancer deaths can be attributed to a wasting syndrome called cachexia that can be devastating for patients and their families.
Characterised by a dramatic loss of skeletal muscle mass and often accompanied by substantial weight loss, cachexia (pronounced kuh-KEK-see-uh) is a form of metabolic mutiny in which the body overzealously breaks down skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, which stores fat. Patients suffering from cachexia are often so frail and weak that walking can be a Herculean task.
Cancer can never really be “cured” – one just goes into “remission” because the cancer can come back at any time, and when it does it is generally a far worse strain.
Cancer Survivors live their lives knowing that they have this “time-bomb” inside of them that may go off again at any time, and that there is absolutely nothing that they can do about it – one just lives with the constant fear of recurrence.
New research by Mayo Clinic’s Tim Kottke and his team, which was recently published in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, may hold some hope though.
The new research was a collaborative effort among scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, and the University of Surrey in Guildford — all of which are in the United Kingdom — and researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Mubarak Labaran Liman has overcome the death of his father and a scarcity of resources to develop a thriving career in his native Nigeria, studying the role of African ethno-medicine in the management, prevention, and control of cancer and diabetes.
Liman is one of five recipients of the 2017 AACR African Cancer Researchers Travel Awards (ACRTA). These travel awards provide financial assistance to meritorious early-career African cancer researchers who wish to attend and present their research at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in the United States.
Intended to enhance the education and training of African researchers engaged in all fields of cancer research, the ACRTA are also designed to encourage cross-cultural collaborations and learning.
“Receiving this award is an honour for me and for my whole family,” says Liman, who presented his work on the potential of African sweet detar, a plant used in West African cooking, to prevent colon cancer.
In an effort to improve outcomes for patients with some of the deadliest Childhood Cancers, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have created the world’s largest collection of Childhood solid tumour samples, drug-sensitivity data and related information and have made the resource available at no charge to the global scientific community.
St. Jude and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute collaborated to create the resource, known as the Childhood Solid Tumour Network (CSTN), which was launched in 2013.
“Survival rates for children with recurrent solid tumours have not improved significantly in more than 20 years and remain below 30 %,” said corresponding author Michael Dyer, Ph.D., Chair of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “This research will change that by promoting scientific collaboration to leverage the efforts of researchers worldwide to advance understanding and ultimately treatment of Childhood solid tumours.”
In another case regarding Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and its possible link to ovarian cancer, in which a Californian woman alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-based Baby Powder led to her ovarian cancer, the jury has just ordered J&J to pay Eva Echeverria, 63, from Los Angeles, a whopping $417 million in what may be the largest award yet concerning the product.
Eva was too ill to testify during the trial, but instead sent a video deposition stating that she had used the company’s talc-based powder for decades, even after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. When she found out about the product’s potential risks last year, she stopped using it.
Echeverria’s legal team arrived armed with studies dating back to 1971, when a group of researchers from Wales first discovered a correlation between talcum powder and cervical and ovarian tumours.
Johnson & Johnson maintains that the product is safe.
“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson representative said in a statement after the verdict. “Ovarian cancer is a devastating diagnosis and we deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by this disease.”
When Deborah Mayer, PH.D., RN, AOCN, FAAN, was a young oncology nurse, she met a patient with sarcoma who clearly expressed her expectations for care.
“I expect my doctor to try to cure me,” the patient told Mayer, who is now a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor in the School of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill. “But if nobody has asked me how I slept or when I last moved my bowels, then the time you’re buying me is not worth living.”
Mayer took that conversation as a call to action, never forgetting the importance of symptom management.
Recently, she relied on her passion for and knowledge about the subject when she sat on former Vice President Joe Biden’s Blue Ribbon Panel that helped shape the Moonshot initiative, a national endeavour to make 10 years’ worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment within half that time. The panel helped inform Biden’s task force and the National Cancer Advisory Board about what should be included in the Moonshot.
Jennifer Kranz was diagnosed with an especially aggressive form of a deadly childhood brain tumour, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), on her 6th birthday in 2013, and died less than four months after being diagnosed.
Jennifer’s parents heard about the work of Stanford paediatric neuro-oncologist Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, who studies donated DIPG tumour tissue to understand how its biology might be targeted with new treatments during Jennifer’s illness, and during their final appointment at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, the Kranzes asked if they could donate their daughter’s tumour for this research after her death.
“They said ‘Yes, here is the paperwork,’ and we signed it,” Libby said. Then she realized the donation form asked only for consent to study the tumour on Jennifer’s brainstem, making no mention of the metastases that had spread to the frontal lobe of her brain and down her spine.
“But we want to donate all of it,” Libby, Jennifer’s mom told Sonia Partap, MD, Jennifer’s oncologist. The Stanford team made the arrangements, and Libby also asked Monje to try to figure out how Jennifer’s tumour had spread so fast.
While many types of cancers have had improved survival outcomes over recent years due to new drugs and other clinical innovations, there are certain cancers that have not progressed appreciably in their survival rates or in developing new methodologies and drug protocols for decades.
Unfortunately, these cancers primarily affect children and young adults. Since the number of patients diagnosed with these deadly diseases annually is small compared to other types of cancers such as breast, prostate and colon cancer, they are treated as “orphan” diseases which translate into less emphasis by the drug companies and medical establishment in finding treatments and cures for these forms of cancer.
It is therefore up to dedicated researchers and grassroots support groups to “pick up the slack” and help those children afflicted with these deadly diseases by finding new drug protocols and techniques to stop the cancers from metastasising at worst or to stop the cancer cells from developing at best.