Posts tagged ‘Ovarian cancer’
Think twice before tossing out those hormone replacement pills. Although a new Lancet study suggests that hormone replacement therapy could increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer, a City of Hope expert urges women to keep this news in perspective.
Hormone replacement therapy is prescribed to help alleviate symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, that can damage quality of life in menopausal women. The University of Oxford study found that women who used hormone replacement therapy for less than five years after menopause had a 40 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer than other women.
However, while the statistical finding is an important one, the study was not designed to definitively show that the hormone therapy caused the increased ovarian cancer risk. No mechanism has been identified.
Robert Morgan, M.D., co-director of the gynecological cancers program at City of Hope, said that women do indeed face a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer when using hormone replacement, but that the overall risk for the general population is very low. Over 21,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and over 14,000 are expected to die of the disease.
“The fact alone of a slight increased risk of ovarian cancer in women taking hormone therapy won’t, and shouldn’t, impact treatment decisions,” Morgan said in a HealthDay interview. » Continue Reading
Chemotherapy drugs work by either killing cancer cells or by stopping them from multiplying, that is, dividing. Some of the more powerful drugs used to treat cancer do their job by interfering with the cancer cells’ DNA and RNA growth, preventing them from copying themselves and dividing.
Such drugs, however, like Hydroxyurea, do have drawbacks. One is that the body metabolizes them quickly. Patients need frequent doses to achieve the desired effects. Because the side effects of the drugs are already considerable, increased use of them raises the risk of negative reactions. Another drawback is that cancer cells develop rapid resistance to the drugs, reducing their effectiveness.
A team effort
As a physician, molecular pharmacologist Yun Yen, M.D., Ph.D., knows well the limitations of chemotherapy drugs. He partnered with medicinal chemist David Horne, Ph.D., to find — and improve — a molecule, or compound, to overcome these problems.
First, Yen selected a promising anti-cancer compound from the National Cancer Institute’s library of anti-cancer agents. Then, using data obtained with the help of the skilled laboratory scientists in City of Hope’s Core (or “Shared”) Services, Horne began to make structural adjustments to improve the molecule’s effectiveness. Core Services provides researchers, specialized expertise, testing and instrumentation in fields such as molecular modeling, screening, medicinal chemistry and cancer biology. Access to these services enabled Yen and Horne to determine, even before preclinical testing, how the compound worked. » Continue Reading
Ryan Chavira was a senior in high school when she began feeling sluggish, fatigued and, well, “down.” Trips to the doctor ended in “you’re fine” pronouncements; blood tests results showed nothing of real concern.
But Chavira’s grandmother had passed away from ovarian cancer when she was in eighth grade, and the distended stomach and bloated feeling that Chavira was experiencing reminded her of her grandmother’s symptoms.
When the bloating gave way to pain, then excruciating pain, Chavira went to a hospital emergency room. A CT scan revealed a tumor the size of a watermelon engulfing her ovaries. Emergency surgery was the only option.
Chavira, now 22, describes the diagnosis and decision on a course of action in this way: “They come in, say ‘You have cancer and we’ll be right back to operate.’” There was no time for the diagnosis to sink in. » Continue Reading
Immunotherapy — using one’s immune system to treat a disease — has been long lauded as the “magic bullet” of cancer treatments, one that can be more effective than the conventional therapies of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. One specific type of immunotherapy, called adoptive T cell therapy, is demonstrating promising results for blood cancers and may have potential against other types of cancers, too.
Here, Leslie Popplewell, M.D., associate clinical professor and staff physician in City of Hope’s Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, explains what this treatment entails.
What is adoptive T cell therapy and how does it work to treat cancer?
Every day, our immune system works to recognize and destroy abnormal, mutated cells. But the abnormal cells that eventually become cancer are the ones that slip past this defense system. The idea behind this therapy is to make immune cells (specifically, T lymphocytes) sensitive to cancer-specific abnormalities so that malignant cells can be targeted and attacked throughout the body.
Who would be good candidates for this type of therapy? » Continue Reading
For women with ovarian cancer, the results of recent study could mean new hope for future treatments. The findings, reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, found that a combination of two experimental drugs, olaparib and cediranib, significantly lengthened the duration of progression-free survival compared to olaparib alone and standard chemotherapy.
The phase II trial is the first time that a PARP inhibitor is combined with an anti-angiogenic drug to treat ovarian cancer. PARP inhibitors such as oliparib work by thwarting cancer cells’ ability to repair their own DNA, while anti-angiogenic drugs such as cediranib halts growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
“The significant activity that we saw with the combination suggests that this could potentially be an effective alternative to standard chemotherapy,” said the study’s lead author Joyce Liu, M.D., M.P.H., in a press release.
Liu, an instructor in medical oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, added that these findings showed that the two drugs worked synergistically and bolstered each other’s effectiveness against the cancer.
For this clinical trial, Liu and her colleagues randomized 90 patients with recurrent, platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer into either olaparib-only or olaparib+cediranib groups. In their analysis, they found that progression-free survival was significantly higher in the combination group, over 17 months compared to nine months in oliparib only. Meanwhile, previous trials with standard chemotherapy in this population showed a progression-free survival range from eight to 13 months.
More than 18,000 researchers, clinicians, advocates and other professionals will convene at the 105th American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting taking place in San Diego from April 5 to 9. With more than 6,000 findings being presented over this five-day period, the amount of information can seem overwhelming.
But all those posters, presentations and seminars serve a purpose, which is best summed up by the theme of this year’s meeting: “Harnessing Breakthroughs –Targeting Cures.”
“We are in the generation of personalized, precision medicine where we can learn a great deal about cancers,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., City of Hope’s Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director’s Distinguished Chair. “Conferences such as AACR’s annual meeting lead to true dialogue, exchange of information and collaboration. This not only benefits the scientists’ own research projects, but also leads to meaningful advances for treating, detecting and preventing cancers.”
Added Rosen, who is also City of Hope’s provost and chief scientific officer: “City of Hope investigators are well-represented at this year’s annual meeting. They have made significant contributions to our understanding of cancers. This includes furthering our knowledge of individual cancers’ epidemiology and etiology, developing novel therapies and enhancing survivorship.”
The findings and knowledge that City of Hope researchers are sharing at this year’s conference include: » Continue Reading
A phase I clinical trial led by researchers at City of Hope has demonstrated the promise of a new drug combination for women with triple-negative breast cancer.
This type of breast cancer doesn’t produce any of the three proteins that common cancer therapies target — the identifying characteristic that gives it its name, and which makes it especially difficult to treat. The trial, led by Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., and George Somlo, M.D., both professors of medical oncology and therapeutics research, tests the common drug carboplatin in combination with a novel targeted therapy called a PARP inhibitor. » Continue Reading
In this series, we explore crucial strides made against women’s cancers by City of Hope researchers during the past year. The projects are many and varied, involving the basics of fighting cancer, analyses of who’s at greatest risk, the search for surprising new therapies, the testing of new treatments and the follow-up with survivors and their partners.
Advances in immunotherapy
Peter P. Lee, M.D., chair of cancer immunotherapeutics and tumor immunology at City of Hope, is pursuing several projects that are part of a what he calls integrated immunotherapy. This concept advances the idea that effective cancer treatment must address each phase or action of the body’s complex immune system. » Continue Reading
Despite vitamin C’s well-known antioxidant properties, multiple clinical trials since the 1970s have found it ineffective as a cancer treatment. Thus, vitamin C has been largely ignored by conventional oncology and is usually offered only in alternative/complementary practices.
However, an article published in the Feb. 5 issue of Science Translational Medicine may reinvigorate research for this nutrient. The study found that vitamin C, when administered intravenously, induces cancer cell death without harming normal tissues. And in animal models, vitamin C made ovarian cancer cells more sensitive to the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel.
Additionally, in an early-phase clinical trial involving 27 patients, those receiving vitamin C in addition to standard chemotherapy were less likely to experience toxic side effects. The finding suggests that vitamin C may have potential in helping patients tolerate higher and more powerful doses of chemotherapy.
“With enhanced understanding of [vitamin C’s] anticancer action presented here, plus a clear safety profile, biological and clinical plausibility have a firm foundation,” the study’s authors wrote, adding that these findings justify larger clinical trials to investigate vitamin C’s effectiveness in enhancing conventional chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.