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What will CAR T-Cell Therapy for Paediatric ALL Treatment Mean to Africa?


Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy is a form of cancer immunotherapy which seeks to sharpen and strengthen the immune system’s inherent cancer-fighting powers.

CAR T-Cell Therapy was approved in August 2017 ~ the first time that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CAR T-cell therapy for a form of cancer ~ for the treatment of paediatric and young adult patients with B-cell ALL that has relapsed or hasn’t responded to previous treatments.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) is a type of leukaemia in which a group of white blood cells, called lymphocytes, are affected. Leukaemia is the most common form of cancer in children, and about 80% of children with leukaemia have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

CAR T-Cell Therapy involves treating patients with modified versions of their own immune system T cells ­– white blood cells that help protect the body from disease.

Lewis Silverman, MD, Clinical Director of the Hematologic Malignancy Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said:

It’s a very exciting development in our ability to treat childhood ALL. It offers hope to those that we haven’t been able to treat with conventional therapy. This is a hugely exciting time in childhood leukaemia research”

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Stealing Pain Medication from Cancer Patients the Lowest of the Low


Johnathan William Click, the lead pharmacy technician for Birmingham’s ContinuumRx, has been accused of stealing opioid medication from IV bags intended for cancer patients experiencing excruciating pain. Prosecutors have accused Click of siphoning morphine and hydromorphone from the vials and replacing the drugs with saline or sterile water.

For nearly two months, a patient at New Beacon Hospice in Birmingham, Alabama, would push the button on her intravenous pump, hoping for a dose of medication to ease the excruciating pain caused by her liver cancer, but never got the relief she was seeking.

A nurse made a series of worried calls to ContinuumRx, the pharmacy that supplied IV bags to the hospice. “Something was not right,” the nurse told the pharmacy. “Keep pushing the button”, the pharmacy instructed, before swapping out the patient’s bag at least twice.

Prosecutors say Johnathon William Click, the leader pharmacy technician for ContiuumRx, spent nearly two years stealing opioid drugs that were supposed to go into IV bags for patients in palliative care. He is accused of siphoning morphine and hydromorphone from the pharmacy’s vials and replacing the liquid he took with saline or sterile water.

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Less than 0.1% of S.A. GDP Earmarked for NCD’s


According to the 20th edition of the South African Health Review published by the Health Systems Trust (HST) on Wednesday, South Africa is experiencing an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which imposes a heavy burden on healthcare services, which are already under tremendous strain from HIV and Tuberculosis.

NCDs include diseases like cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes are the leading cause of mortality and disability globally. 80% of NCD deaths reportedly occur in low- and middle-income countries (including South Africa), affecting disproportionately more individuals younger than 60 years than in high-income countries.

According to the report, stronger prevention and community-based programmes, including those involving Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) are required, to “avert the growing burden of NCDs.

 

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Taste Problems While Undergoing Chemotherapy Treatment


A potential side effect of chemotherapy treatment is issues with taste — either food not tasting like anything or a bitter or metallic taste in one’s mouth.

Food for Children with Cancer going through Chemotherapy is important, because they need to keep up their strength up and maintain weight.

Why does this happen, and what can you, as a parent, do to cope?

As chemotherapy kills cancerous cells, it kills other types of cells too, including taste cells. Fortunately this change in taste is usually temporary – the chemotherapy agents in the blood stream get into the saliva, giving it a metallic flavour.

The most important thing that you need to do for your Child with Cancer during and after treatment is to see that they eat sufficient and that what they eat is nutritious, which can be rather difficult when your child has no appetite, may have sores in their mouth from the chemotherapy and when everything tastes different anyway.

 

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The Cancer Moonshot/Biden Cancer Initiative


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.

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Donated Tumour Yields Answers for DIPG


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.

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Why is Childhood Cancer not a Priority in South Africa?


While Childhood Cancer is “relatively rare” with an incident rate of around 1 in 600, or 150 patients per million in South Africa, too many children with Cancer are dying needlessly because cancer, including Childhood Cancer, is not a priority in South Africa.

The cure rate for Childhood Cancer in high income countries is around 80% but childhood cancer survival rates in low-income countries may be as low as 10%.

This is extremely disturbing when one factors in that out of the 250 000 children diagnosed worldwide with cancer every year, 80% live in low and middle-income countries and 90% of childhood cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

This is partially due to a lack of awareness of Childhood Cancer which leads to late diagnosis, and partially due to many Childhood Cancer patients falling through the cracks when it comes to support services, which are sorely lacking from government.

 

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Stopping Neuroblastoma’s Blood Supply in its Tracks


Researchers have discovered the mechanism by which a modified natural compound disrupts the formation of tumours’ blood vessel networks in Childhood Cancer Neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma occurs when malignant cancer cells form in the specialised nerve cells of the sympathetic nervous involved in the development of the nervous system and other tissues.

Neuroblastoma most commonly occurs in one of the adrenal glands situated in the tummy or in the chest, neck, abdomen, pelvis or the nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord. The adrenal glands are specialised glands that release hormones that help the body respond to stress and maintain blood pressure.

The international study, led by scientists at Children’s Cancer Institute and UNSW, is published in Scientific Reports and paves the way for less toxic treatments for Neuroblastoma, a Childhood Cancer with an average age of diagnosis of just one to two years old.

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HIV & Cancer Fields Collaborate For a Cure


Revolutions in cancer treatment are being tested in HIV in the hopes it will bring the world closer to a cure.

The first-ever anti-HIV drug, AZT, was initially developed to fight cancer but was abandoned in preliminary testing. This breakthrough drug saved lives and offered hope to people with AIDS. Over two decades later, the fields of oncology and HIV are collaborating again in the search for a functional cure for AIDS.

Why HIV cure and cancer?” asked Nobel Laureate Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi at a meeting in Paris last month. Renowned for co-discovering the HI virus in 1983, she said that the two had more in common that one would expect.

At a forum held shortly before the 9th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science in late July Barré-Sinoussi said a collaboration between the two fields held promise towards finding a more sustainable solution to the current option for people living with HIV: daily treatment for life.

Well we know, first of all, some people on long-term treatment develop cancer,” she explained. Secondly, she said that over the past five years there is “more and more data” showing similarities between tumour cells and those latently infected with HIV.

When a person’s antiretroviral treatment (ART) is working to suppress the amount of virus in the blood to below detectable levels (an undetectable viral load) a number of HIV-infected cells persist. These cells, latently infected cells, stop infecting other cells with HIV but they reactivate when a person stops taking ART. A group of latently infected cells is called an HIV reservoir – and it is this that scientists are trying to locate and destroy in the hopes of finding a cure.

 

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Dr Charles Keller’s New hope for Rare Children’s Cancers


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.

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