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 © Pascal Lauener
© Pascal Lauener / Reuters
Cancer patients are finally catching a break, as Australian researchers have tested a miracle drug that leads to big improvement in a majority of cases, and total recovery in some. The drug targets a specific protein that helps cancer cells survive.

The Melbourne-based trial took place over four years and tested 116 patients. It was shown by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre that the drug Venetoclax can greatly reduce cancer blood cells.

Positive results were seen in 79 percent of cases involving patients suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Some patients who had previously undergone treatment were left as good as new after agreeing to the new pill trials.

This is indeed historic news, as it marks the first trial of a medicine that is the result of three decades of research. "Here we are a bit under 30 years later in collaboration with WEHI and pharmaceutical companies here and in the US having proved that's achievable," head of haemotology, Professor John Seymour, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Metastasis – or the spread of cancer from one part of the body to other parts – accounts for more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths. Although the cells that seed metastasis and the sites that they tend to travel to have been increasingly studied over the years, little has been known about how cancer migrates from a primary site, such as breast tissue, to a secondary site, such as the brain or bone marrow. A study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), published in Nature Communications, offers a new view of how cancer cells extend their reach, co-opting and transforming normal cells through “metastatic hijacking.” The researchers also find that in pre-clinical models, pharmacological intervention can prevent this hijacking from occurring, pointing to new therapeutic targets for preventing cancer cells from spreading.

“Metastasis remains a final frontier in the search for a cure for cancer,” said Shiladitya Sengupta, MS, PhD, of BWH’s Bioengineering Division in the Department of Medicine and corresponding author of the study. “For the past five years we have studied how cancer travels to other parts of the body, and what we find is that communication is key.”

Postponing the start of adjuvant chemotherapy for more than 90 days following surgery may significantly increase risk of death for breast cancer patients, particularly those with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), according to a new study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Further, the researchers found that factors such as socio-economic status, insurance coverage and ethnicity were associated with delayed treatment.

According to the study, published in JAMA Oncology, patients who start chemotherapy more than 90 days after surgery are 34 percent more likely to die within five years. Patients with TNBC who delay treatment have a 53 percent increased risk of death.

Adjuvant chemotherapy, which is given after primary surgery, has been demonstrated to benefit patients by decreasing the risk of recurrence and death, explained Mariana Chavez Mac Gregor, M.D., assistant professor, Health Services Research and Breast Medical Oncology. However, delaying the start of adjuvant chemotherapy may allow small remnants of the tumor to grow or become drug-resistant.

Currently, there are no guidelines recommending the optimal time to initiation of adjuvant chemotherapy. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) considers the administration of adjuvant chemotherapy within 120 days of diagnosis for certain patients as a quality metric. Eleven cancer hospitals, including MD Anderson, are now reporting on this metric.

Scientists at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre have discovered that blocking the master regulator of bone renewal stops osteosarcoma – the most common primary bone cancer in children and teens, and the malignant disease that was fatal for Canadian icon Terry Fox. 

The proof-of-concept findings, published online today in Science Translational Medicine, establish the importance and function of the bone master regulator, a protein known as RANKL, in bone cancer and set the stage to develop rationalized targeted therapy for patients, says principal investigator Dr. Rama Khokha, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Dr. Khokha is also a Professor in the departments of Medical Biophysics and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. 

"We now understand the molecular basis of how RANKL drives osteosarcoma and believe this new information could potentially be rapidly translated into the clinic as a new therapy for patients," says Dr. Khokha.

"There is already a clinically-approved RANKL-blocking drug currently being used to treat other bone diseases. The next step is to determine whether this particular drug could be adapted to treat osteosarcoma and improve outcomes for these patients. As there has been little improvement in treating this type of bone cancer for the past 20 years, we are eager to find out."

She adds that in the U.S., the National Cancer Institute has recently approved a Phase 2 clinical trial to test the drug in osteosarcoma patients whose cancer either recurs or resists treatment.

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