Archive for December, 2010

If you are a tuberculosis patient, then beware! For you have 11 times higher chance of falling prey to lung cancer than your non-tuberculosis counterparts. A new study conducted by China Medical University suggests that tuberculosis patients run a greater risk of getting afflicted with lung cancer.

Though, the researchers are still at a loss to clearly associate cancer with tuberculosis, the latest study does furnish evidence of enhanced lung cancer risk among people with tuberculosis. This study has been published in the January issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

Nearly 1 million patients were selected by Hospital in Taiwan and the researchers at China Medical University to carry out a study. These patients were covered under the country’s National Health Insurance program. The patients of age 20 or above were categorised into two groups:

1.     Exposed cohort (those with a fresh diagnosis of tuberculosis between 1998 and 2000)

2.     And non-exposed cohort (those without any tuberculosis history).

They excluded patients who were already suffering from cancer. Thus, 716,872 adults were selected of which 4480 were the exposed cohorts and 712,392 were the non-exposed cohorts.

Both the groups were kept under observation from 2001 to 2007. Later, the study showed that the death rate was higher in the exposed cohort group who were 10.9 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Dr. Chih-Yi Chen, one of the researchers, stated that this study directs attention to the lesser-known fact that tuberculosis patients need to be evaluated from time to time as they are much more susceptible (11 times more) to lung cancer. Furthermore, if any tuberculosis patient also suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease then the vulnerability increased to as high as 16 times.


A new study published in Pain has brought forth the theory that smoking worsens pain in cancer patients. The study has established a relationship between smoking and cancer, and reports that there has been significant evidence to prove that puffing smoke is lethal for cancer patients.

It has been suggested that those who continue smoking cigarettes after getting diagnosed with cancer experience worse cancer pain than their non-smoking counterparts, and that links have been found between smoking and various types of cancer and cancer stages (I-IV).

Lead investigator Joseph W. Ditre, PhD, states that the study revealed that current smokers registered higher pain, pain-interference and pain-related distress than former smokers and non-smokers. Plans are also on paper to find links between pain and other smoking variables viz. Number of years since quitting.

In the study, 224 patients (with various types of cancer at varying stages) were investigated. In a range of 1-6 (1=none to 6=very severe), the patients were asked to rate their body pain. On a range of 1-5 (1=not at all, 5=extremely), they were also asked to report how their pain affected their daily routine.

Conclusively, the researchers are maintaining that physicians must encourage smoking cessation amongst cancer patients. Smoking cessation is likely to enhance the quality of life that a cancer patient suffers. However, more study needs to be done to further relate nicotine addiction to cancer diagnosis.


According to a new UCSF study, men who are older are offered fewer and low-effective treatment choices than their younger counterparts. This leads to earlier deaths than if they had been given better treatments.

Scientists have discovered that 75-plus men who are suffering from prostate cancer are seldom offered sound and better treatments like surgery or radiation therapies. Instead they are given under-treatment through hormone therapy or watchful waiting.

Senior Investigator Matthew Cooperberg, MD, MPH cites that the age of the patient is playing a crucial role in the treatment of prostate cancer. He remarks that older men with high-risk disease are given under-treatment and on the other hand younger men with low-risk disease are offered over-treatment. He explains that this perhaps explains the cause behind high death rate and suggests that selection of treatment should be risk-based rather than age-based.

Prostate cancer has affected an estimated 217,730 men in 2010 alone and as per American Cancer Society, 32,050 men are likely to die from this disease. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer amongst men and interestingly, 64% of fresh cases in US in 2010 were related to men above 65 of which 23% were above the age of 75.

The researchers studied men in the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor (CaPSURE) and studied 13,805 patients. The findings revealed that older and high-risk patients had a 46% lower mortality rate if provided with aggressive treatments.

Peter Carroll of UCSF Department of Urology states that the findings support the decision that treatment should be decided based on the disease-risk and life expectancy rather than on chronological age.

Cooperberg concludes by suggesting that there needs to be a better balance between risk and benefit. Even though the risk of surgery and radiation is higher in older patients yet they must be offered a chance of aggressive therapy.


Latest data available from the University of Colorado Cancer Center may, in future, change the way cancer drugs are evaluated. Researchers at the famed University have demonstrated that a class of drugs that was thought to destroy cancer cells may in fact not kill them but merely block ‘cross talk’ between the cancer cell and normal immune cells. This, in turn, curtails the growth of cancer and checks its spread.

The researchers have demonstrated this discovery in bladder cancer which is responsible for around 14,000 American deaths in 2010 alone. It is the fifth most common form of cancer in USA and most people die due to spreading of cancerous cells to other organs in a process known as metastasis.

The study that was published on 22nd December in the Journal of Clinical Investigation proves that Endothelin-A (one of the significant drugs for cancer) does not kill the tumours but merely blocks the spread of cancer to other organs by blocking ‘tumour host interactions’. Since they don’t kill the cancer, they are rendered nearly useless unless they are used at an early stage.

A protein known as Endothelin 1 (ET-1) is supposedly responsible for the growth and spread of cancer cells. Researchers in Colorado University discovered that ET-1 attracts macrophages (immune cells) towards cancerous cells in the lungs and then the cancer grows by a process called metastatic colonization. Endothelin-A receptor antagonist drug blocks the action of ET-1 and thus prevents cancer spread.

But since Endothelin-A is thought to be of use only when given at an initial stage perhaps that’s the reason why it failed to treat a number of patients in phase 3 clinical trials. The new information has significant implications as now the physicians can better test the drug for effectiveness before trying them out on a patient.


According to researchers from University of Rochester Medical Center, children exposed to head and neck radiations (owing to CT scans or cancer treatment) are prone to thyroid cancer for the next 58 years or even longer. The study has been published in the December 2010 edition of ‘Radiation Research’ and throws light on the cause behind rising cases of thyroid cancer.

The public is quite exposed to the harmful radiations since doctors often prescribe CT scans that spew out rays which can be detrimental in the long run. Jacob Adams, M.D. and M.P.H. of URMC states that nearly 1 million CT scans are performed on kids per annum and most of these kids are 5 years or below. Despite the significant revelations of these scans, the drawback lies in their radiation of ions which are known carcinogens.

Children are often made to go through such scans of chest, head or body and thus they are exposed to these harmful rays, thereby, making them vulnerable to thyroid cancer in the long run. Adams conducted a survey of the population between 2004 and 2008 and found that thyroid cancer occurred in 50 of 1303 people who had been exposed to radiations. In contrast, only 13 of 1768 siblings (who were not subject to irradiation) were detected with thyroid cancer.

The study confirmed that the risk of thyroid cancer is directly linked with the amount of radiation to which a person has been exposed. And as per findings, the risk of cancer in a child owing to radiation exposure runs upto an average of 57.5 years.


A recent UCSF study published in the “Journal of Clinical Oncology” has found that doctors often provide fewer and less effective treatment choices to older men who have high-risk prostate cancer than younger men.

The researchers discovered that men who are above 75 years  and have high risk prostate cancer are frequently under-treated. Watchful waiting or hormone therapy may be used instead of more aggressive treatments like radiation therapies and surgery.

Senior investigator Mathew R. Cooperberg, MD, MPH said, “We found that under-treatment of older men with high risk disease might in part explain higher rates of cancer mortality in this group. There is also pervasive over-treatment of low-risk disease in this age group. Overall, treatment needs to be selected more based on disease risk and less based on chronologic age.”

64 per cent of new prostate cancer American victims in 2010 were men who had crossed the age of 65, while 23 per cent were above 75 years.

This study is one of the first to focus on the link between age, disease risk and survival among prostate cancer sufferers. Patients in the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor were studied. It is a longitudinal, observational database which had information relating to 13,805 U.S. urological patients when the study was conducted.

When older, high risk men were given more aggressive treatment their death rate was 46 per cent less than men who were under-treated. In the case of older men who have local, high-risk disease and can expect to live for more than a decade, surgical treatment and radiation can be given; according to the researchers.

In Cooperberg’s opinion, there needs to be a better balance between the risk of the treatment and its benefit.


A robotic surgical procedure, which is less intrusive, to cure the malevolent swelling in the upper airway and digestive track is as effectual as other minimally intrusive surgical procedures anchored in patient function and endurance, as per the canvassers at the University of Alabama (UAB) located at Birmingham. The squamous cell carcinomas linked to the head and neck answer for approximately 4% of the cancerous growth detected in America yearly. At present, the common minimally insidious surgery for these swellings is transoral laser microsurgery.

UAB’s otolaryngologist and this investigation’s chief author, Scott Magnuson, and his colleagues from the UAB and the Mayo Clinic analyzed 89 patients with diverse phases of squamous cell carcinomas associated with the head and neck. All of the patients were scrutinized during their stay in the sickbay and up to 33 months subsequent to surgical treatment. The general two-year endurance percentage for these patients was 86.3 percent, which is analogous to the standard healing, as per Magnuson, who is also a scientist in the UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has mentioned, however, that the patients with swellings in the initial stage seemed to have little better endurance, bereft of cancerous repetition, than those with advanced stages.

Magnuson stated that the patients’ ability to swallow differed based on the site of the tumor, preoperative swalloing capacity, the cancerous stage and the patients’ age. These findings on function were in line with earlier investigations. Some patients endured an oral diet 48 hours subsequent to surgical procedure while some were released with a temporary nasal feeding tube or lasting gastric feeding tube. He has revealed that all the patients in the investigation repossessed the swallowing power at the moment of the ultimate follow up visit, with no patients remaining reliant on feeding tubes. Magnuson has mentioned that the study’s repercussions are positive and illustrate that robotic surgery tenders a scientifically viable and oncologically credible treatment.

Magnuson also said that this is, however, a comparatively fresh procedure, and long-standing oncological ramifications are not obtainable. Nevertheless, early functional and oncological results rationalize the continued healing of select patients, who possess squamous cell carcinomas associated with the ‘head and neck’, with computerized surgeries. Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) has been proved in former studies as one operation that diminishes overall patient morbidity and death, chiefly in the capability to ingest subsequent to surgery. TORS is at present endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cure T1 and T2 oropharyngeal tumors.


On Thursday, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the drug, Avastin, not be utilized by victims of breast cancer as the drug has been found to be ineffectual in diminishing the ferocity of the disease, as per recent investigations on it. Also, the studies have illustrated that Avastin can also engender unpleasant side effects.

The FDA has voiced that the drug’s advantages are overshadowed by its health dangers. The pill had obtained hurried authorization from the FDA in 2008 for usage in treating breast cancer in tandem with chemotherapy. However, four subsequent analyses ascertained that Avastin did not augment the endurance of patients with advanced breast cancer nor did it decelerate the dissemination of the cancer, as per the FDA.

The four independent experimental trials, which examine the usefulness and security of a substance prior to it becoming a permitted drug, did unearth a connection between the drug and intense blood pressure, between the pill and bleeding/ hemorrhage and the growth of holes in the coating that dissociates the right and left nostrils, as well as punctures in the belly and intestines. The FDA has also stated that the drug is allied to cardiological attack and fatal cardiological collapse.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center For Drug Evaluation and Research, has said that there have been meticulous assessments of the clinical data, after which the FDA is advising that the breast cancer indication for Avastin be extricated anchored in the evidence found.

However, some vociferous American legislators have accused the FDA of possessing bias against the drug on account of its lofty cost. Cost is, by the way, not commanded to be a factor in FDA’s endorsement of any drug. The company, Roche, insists that its Avastin is a credible alternative for breast cancer sufferers.

It must be admitted that the cancellation of the approval of Avastin for curing breast cancer doesn’t signify that the physicians can’t recommend it for that use. It does signify, however, that the insurers may discontinue covering the drug for breast cancer victims. Patient organizations are campaigning to ensure that the insurance businesses continue to shell out for the drug for the patients who are already employing it, notwithstanding the FDA’s negative vote.


Heather Greenlee, ND, Ph, a researcher from the Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, has found out that if the women suffering from breast cancer take multivitamins with minerals, then they may face lower chances of re-appearance of the cancer and it may keep them away from death too.

The researcher further added that these multivitamins will be more beneficial to the patients undergoing the radiation treatment. However, the study does not include the cause and effect. Jacksonville Mayo Clinic’s director of the breast cancer program, Edith Perez, MD, added that women, who have the habit of eating the right diet and exercising regularly, usually take more vitamins.

The findings of the study are still under a trial called ‘Pathway’, which will include 4,500 women suffering from breast cancer. Half of these women will be prescribed multivitamins and they will be kept under observation for some years to find how many of the women from each group had faced the cancer again and how many of them died.

Greenlee has stated that their study has just started recruiting women with breast cancer. She further said that 60% of women suffering from breast cancer usually take multivitamins whereas only 38% of healthy women take them.

The researcher added that no other studies have yet discovered this link between multivitamin use and breast cancer prediction. Greenlee along with her colleagues studied the medical records of 2,239 women, who were in the early stage of breast cancer during the period of 1997 and 2000. She informed that 44% of them consumed multivitamins with minerals and 13% took without minerals. They took the multivitamins at least thrice a week for one year or more in three years before they were diagnosed. Following the diagnosis, 65% were found taking multivitamins with minerals and 19% without minerals.

She found that 363 of the women relapsed by May 2010 and 372 died from breast cancer.


After 12 years of vigorous research work following the creation of a transgenic mouse, the researchers at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center have come to the conclusive note that breast inflammation process is linked to the growth and promotion of cancer cells.

The December 15th issue of Cancer Research reports that the long suspected theory has finally been confirmed by these scientists who have now proven that inflammation process in the breast triggers cancerous cell activities which are directly linked with tumour development.

This also suggests that if the inflammation process can be halted then it would amount to the stoppage of breast cancer cells from spreading. Director of Kimmel Cancer Center Richard Pestell cites that inactivating the NFKB inflammatory path in the epithelial region of breast shall cease the progression of cancerous cells in living animals.

This finding is of great significance since it points to the need of just suppressing the breast inflammation for the desired result. Preventing the inflammation of the whole body, on the contrary, is likely to give rise to side effects.

Dr. Pestell has successfully demonstrated how NFKB pathway augments breast cancer. HER2 oncogene provides the first ‘insult’ which eventually activates NFKB. NFKB triggers inflammation and gives rise to tumour-growing factors.

But this theory was, hitherto, unverified as suppressing inflammation kills the mouse on which the test is conducted. Hence, this problem was addressed by creating a transgenic mouse in which the inflammatory system could be controlled. After 12 years of labour, the special mice have been developed in which selective inactivation of NFKB can be done.

Using this mice, they could demonstrate that inactivation of NFKB cells prevented the growth of tumours. It also reduced the number of cancerous stem cells in the breast. The transgenic mice can be used in future to conduct researches in relation to cardiac diseases, neuro-degeneration and other types of cancers.