Posts tagged ‘melanoma’
Melanoma is the skin cancer that’s most associated with being lethal, but a study in JAMA Dermatology suggests a much more common skin cancer also carries a risk of metastasis and death.
The 10-year retrospective study, led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, examined outcomes for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, or CSCC, diagnosed between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2009 – the largest study of CSCC outcomes since 1968.
Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most-common skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Although most cases of this type of cancer are easily cured with surgery or ablation, the study found that the cancer carries a low but significant risk of metastasis and death.
Sometimes, breakthroughs must be made not by researchers or individuals but by society. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, City of Hope’s Vijay Trisal, M.D., describes a breakthrough that doesn’t seem to have occurred: widespread awareness that the outcome of a person’s cancer is not decided by how hard they fight.
His response follows a question about Showtime’s “The Big C,” for which he was the medical consultant.
Reporter Mary MacVean asks: “Cathy also got really angry at one point about people using the words ‘fighting’ or ‘battling’ cancer. What do you think about those verbs?
“I think it is a lot of pressure. The pressure is that if the patient is not getting better, they’re not trying hard enough. Look at [Lance] Armstrong. Armstrong had a cancer that has a 98 percent survival rate. … Put that with someone who has even stage 1 pancreatic cancer, and eventually has a 90 percent mortality rate … it is not based on whether they are trying hard enough, it’s based on the disease. We have this belief that death is a failure. Death is not a failure. It is inevitable. How we go is much more critical than when we go.”
In a previous interview with City of Hope’s Roberta Nichols, Trisal said that collaborations between Hollywood and physicians create the potential for “teachable moments.” For a specialist in melanoma, a show about a patient with stage 4 melanoma offered plenty of such moments. Continue reading “‘The Big C’ offers teachable moment about ‘fighting’ cancer” »
Somewhere along the way, May – a harbinger of carefree summer fun – got serious. It’s now known as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. But as fun-sapping as that name might seem, there does appear to be a way to combine an exuberant embrace of the sun with skin protection. The Aussies have already proved it.
The words Slip! Slop! Slap! are credited with awakening Australians to the need to protect their skin from the sun. That’s what anyone would call a breakthrough. Used as a slogan, the words were the focal point “one of the most successful health campaigns in Australia’s history.”
Of course, the Australian campaign featured Sid the seagull, an animated bird wearing board shirts.
“Slip, Slop, Slap!,” Sid sang, in a charming, and apparently persuasive, Aussie accent. “It sounds like a breeze when you say it like that … Slip, Slop, Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. Slip, Slop, Slap!”
There’s more, but reading the lyrics doesn’t do the bird justice. See? Fun. Continue reading “To reduce melanoma risk, learn from the Aussies (and a seagull)” »
One in a series of articles about how to reduce the risk of cancer …
The skin is the body’s largest organ, but it’s also one of the most neglected. Skin cancer is — by far — the most common cancer among Americans. According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be more than 2 million new cases of skin cancer in 2013. That includes approximately 76,000 new cases of its most deadly form, melanoma.
And the reason is as clear as day. Americans simply do not take enough precautions against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays; many even deliberately compromise their skin health for a tan.
“Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause mutations which can lead to skin cancer,” said City of Hope dermatologist Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D. “Every melanoma patient I have seen under the age of 40 has had a sun tanning history.”
The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented and all it takes is a little savvy and vigilance in protecting yourself from the sun, said Jung. She offers these tips: Continue reading “To fight cancer, shield yourself from the sun” »
Some of us may not be able to live without our smart phones and their apps, but are we willing to bet our lives on them? A study this week likely answered that question when it evaluated several apps’ ability to determine whether or not a mole is melanoma.
It found that apps are, at best, unreliable in differentiating cancerous lesions from benign ones.
The research – published in the Jan. 16 edition of JAMA Dermatology – assessed four apps’ ability to evaluate lesions using 188 images that had already been evaluated and diagnosed by a dermatopathologist.
The upshot: “Sensitivity of the 4 tested applications ranged from 6.8% to 98.1%; specificity, 30.4% to 93.7%; positive predictive value, 33.3% to 42.1%; and negative predictive value, 65.4% to 97.0%. “
Those are far from reliable results. In fact, the study found, 3 of the 4 apps incorrectly classified 30% or more of melanomas as unconcerning.
“The highest sensitivity for melanoma diagnosis was observed for an application that sends the image directly to a board-certified dermatologist for analysis; the lowest, for applications that use automated algorithms to analyze images,” the researchers wrote.
City of Hope dermatologist Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., who was not involved with this study, said that the findings should raise red flags for anyone considering an app in lieu of a professional examination. Continue reading “Melanoma detection: There’s an app for that (but best to skip it)” »
Cancer cells can build up a resistance to the drugs commonly used to combat the disease – it’s one of cancer’s many defensive survival mechanisms. In a research letter published Jan. 9 in the journal Nature, however, researchers report that intermittent treatment appears to have helped overcome drug-resistant melanoma in the lab.
The results are promising, but they’re hardly ready for prime-time.
Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., City of Hope’s Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Chair and Professor of the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, is cautious about whether the results — found in mice — will translate into human benefit.
Scientists in the study used mice with a common type of melanoma linked to a mutation in the BRAF gene. More than half of all melanoma patients have a BRAF-mutated cancer. The drug vemurafenib inhibits BRAF proteins, which leads to apoptosis – or natural cell death – of the melanoma. However, the melanoma can develop a resistance to vemurafenib.
Not only do the cancer cells find different ways to survive the lack of BRAF proteins, they also learn to thrive on the drug treatment itself, feeding off of the vemurafenib to continue growing. Continue reading “‘Drug holidays’ might help melanoma, but probably not all cancers” »
Usually, we hate salmonella.
It’s the reason you’ve got to make sure your chicken is cooked through. These bacteria cause food poisoning so serious it can even be deadly to people with weakened immune systems.
We may yet learn to like salmonella if City of Hope virologist Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., has his way.
Diamond is leading studies to turn the household bug against diseases such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He plans to take advantage of a surprising trait of salmonella: The bacteria naturally seek out tumor cells.
Salmonella as a cancer-fighter isn’t a new idea. But Diamond has his own twist.
Using funds from his 2012–13 Tim Nesvig Lymphoma Fellowship, Diamond is improving a weakened, safe form of salmonella he says “performed beautifully in the laboratory, but had disappointing results in the clinic.” He and his team are amping up the bacteria’s natural cancer-finding ability.
So far, they’ve published exciting results in melanoma and pancreatic cancer. Ultimately, they hope to use the souped-up salmonella to help the body fight lymphoma. The plan: The bacteria travel to cancer cells and then push the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer.
The scientists expect that a resulting treatment would be gentler on patients than the treatments of today.
That would be a good development coming from a bug that’s usually bad news.
Think that surviving cancer puts you in the clear for getting diagnosed with other forms of the disease? Think again.
Cancer risk is significantly higher among cancer survivors. As many as 14 percent of all cancers diagnosed are second cancers — completely new cancers (not recurrences of the original cancer) that develop among cancer survivors. According to City of Hope’s Arti Hurria, M.D., and Ari M. VanderWalde, M.D., formerly of City of Hope and now at Amgen, these cancers happen most often among people diagnosed with their first cancer between ages 50 and 69, but they can happen among those in their 70s and beyond, too.
A new, high-tech facility at City of Hope soon will cut out the middleman when it comes to drug manufacturing — and help get City of Hope-designed drugs into clinical trials more quickly.
It’s called the Chemical GMP Synthesis Facility, and it’s scheduled to open in 2012. GMP stands for good manufacturing practice, standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that drugs are pure and consistently potent. Most importantly for patients, the facility will mean that more drugs with cancer-fighting potential will be created and tested for safety without getting held up by as many processing delays.
According to the FDA, it typically takes more than eight years of study and testing before the agency will approve a drug for general use. One of the chief hurdles for bringing a new drug into use is testing it in clinical trials. To do this initial testing, scientists need to produce large quantities of the drug under strict quality guidelines.
Academic scientists have plenty of promising ideas, but they don’t have the resources to produce drugs to these high standards. They have to partner with pharmaceutical companies or specialized manufacturers, often adding precious time to the process. Just negotiating the terms of a partnership can take months or years.
The new Chemical GMP Synthesis Facility will produce synthetic drugs for phase I and phase II clinical trials. It serves as a counterpoint to City of Hope’s existing manufacturing facility, the Center for Biomedicine & Genetics, or CBG. That facility uses cells to produce proteins, DNA and other biological molecules that can be used against disease. But some molecules can be made more efficiently in the lab, and that’s where the new GMP facility comes in.
In the beginning, it will manufacture drugs created by City of Hope scientists. Eventually, scientists from other institutions will be able to use it, too.
One of the first drugs to be produced will be COH-29 — an investigational medication that might replace hydroxyurea, a drug used for more than six decades to treat leukemia, melanoma and other cancers. If clinical trial evidence bears out its potential, the drug — like others to follow — will more quickly and easily reach a commercial pharmaceutical maker and the general public.