Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Step 6: Direct Hit

More precise radiation therapy may offer options to lung cancer patients with inoperable tumors

Lung cancer patients usually require 20 to 30 rounds of radiation to stop the tumor growth. But, a more accurately aimed radiation therapy may be able to do the trick for patients with inoperable tumors in just three treatments, according to recent study conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Think power in numbers. Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) directs several beams to hit at the exact point of the tumor. Each relatively weak beam enters the body from a slightly different angle, leaving little damage in patients' surrounding tissue. But, when they converge, the beams take a powerful strike at the cancer.

Dr. Robert Timmerman, vice chairman of radiation oncology at the UT Medical Center who led the study, treated 55 lung cancer patients with three outpatient treatments of SBRT. Surgery was not a treatment option for any of the participants because of non-related medical conditions. The treatments stopped the growth of the original tumor in nearly 98 percent of the patients. And 56 percent of the participants survived beyond three years past treatment.

Controlling the primary tumor is essential, according to the UT Medical Center’s press release on the study. So, the researchers concluded SBRT offers a lot of potential to lung cancer patients with inoperable tumors. Timmerman’s team plans further research to compare SBRT results to surgery outcomes in patients eligible for surgery, which could lead to fast, less-invasive treatment.

Read more details of the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March 2010, here. Read more about Timmerman’s work at UT Medical Center here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step 5: Find out what makes it spread

British researcher catches cancer on video

The plot might seem undeveloped compared to the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but the takeaway of Erik Sahai's latest film will leave viewers salivating for the sequel. The British scientist's new technique lets him zoom in on breast cancer tumors to watch the individual cells break away and spread. Studying cancer growth with real time video gives researchers a powerful new tool to better understand the disease. Sahai compares finding drifting cancer cells to finding a needle in a haystack because of the huge number of cells in one tumor, according to the American Society for Cell Biology's press release on Sahai's report. Finding the needle puts Sahai and his team at Cancer Research UK, a division of the London Research Institute one step closer to finding a cure.

The latest video featured breast cancer metastasis (a big word for "spreading") in mice. It helped Sahai's team find a set of messenger proteins in the bloodstream that control whether or not the cancer can spread. The messenger cells could send two different signals. The first signaled single cancer cells to break away from the tumor and spread via the bloodstream to other organs, like the lungs. But, the second signal blocked single cells from breaking away from the tumor. Only clumps of cancer cells could break away, blocking the cancer cells from wandering through the bloodstream and reaching the lungs. Watch the video here. Check out more Sahai films here.

Knowing how the cancer grows helps scientists develop more effective treatments that target the source of the problem. Read more about Sahai's research here.

Read more about the American Society for Cell Biology's annual meeting (where Sahai's film screened) here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Step 4: Spread the word

New global cancer prevention campaign to hit 100 countries

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 40 percent of cancers are preventable with simple lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and staying active. But, not everyone knows how to do it. Enter International Union Against Cancer: an alliance of some of the world's most respected cancer-fighting organizations. At the group's global conference, "Wold Cancer Day," on February 4, 2010, the organization launched "Cancer can be prevented too" -- a campaign to spread public awareness of the everyday health-conscious habits proven to decrease your risk of cancer later in life.

The campaign's takeaway: get vaccinated, eat a healthy diet, make exercise routine, reduce alcohol consumption, reduce unprotected sun-exposure and cut tobacco out.

So, how does one organization educate everyone on earth? The UICC has compiled the most up-to-date news on cervical cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer and many more onto a lineup of posters, pamphlets and fact sheets, which they and their member organizations will distribute. More than 300 member organizations in 100 countries delivering the same message is sure to turn a few heads. And if one of those diverted heads was on a cancer-track, that's one step closer to winning the fight.

Learn more about the "Cancer can be prevented too" campaign here. Find out more on the UICC here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Step 3: Soak up the sun

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester found one more way for cancer patients to prep their bodies for the fight. Logging optimal vitamin D levels upped patients' likelihood of responding to treatment and surviving. The good news adds to the mounting evidence that vitamin D plays a role in determining cancer risk and outcomes.

The study tracked 374 lymphoma patients -- 50 percent of whom had vitamin D deficiencies. Matthew Drake, M.D., Ph.D., and his team concluded the vitamin D-light patients were one-and-a-half times more likely to watch their disease progress than participants with ideal vitamin D levels. Sub-par vitamin D patients were also twice as likely to die from their cancer than the patients with sufficient levels. Check out more on the study here.

So do your body a favor and get enough vitamin D. Besides its cancer benefits, vitamin D helps you absorb calcium, a.k.a. good bone health. The sun is one of the top sources. Spend 15 minutes catching some rays, three times a week in the summer to be vitamin D optimal, according to Drake in his study's press release. If the weather's not cooperating, look for vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice and cereals. Or, try a daily supplement. Check out more vitamin D guidelines from the National Institute of Health here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Step 2: Cancer-proof yourself

While there's no magic formula to stay cancer-free, a neuroscience researcher and cancer survivor suggests a few simple lifestyle changes could pull your risk way down.

The latest edition of the 2008 book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life caught the attention of doctors, psychologists and the media since hitting US bookshelves in December of 2009. The book explains that diet, exercise, stress management and the environment all influence the body's likelihood of developing cancer. Author David Servan-Schreiber tells his own story of beating a brain tumor at age 31 and then outlines a natural approach shown to keep the body in better shape to prevent cancer and respond to treatment if diagnosed.

So, how does it work? Eat a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, veggie proteins (like beans and tofu), fish and healthy fats. Stay active. Pull out the yoga mat and keep your stress in check. Avoid chemicals when you can: cigarette smoke, aluminum-based deodorant and chemical cleaners. And soak up plenty of sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels.

Check out Servan-Schreiber's thoughts on cancer research in his 2008 New York Times article here. More info about his book here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Step 1: Spot it sooner

No cancer diagnosis is a "good" diagnosis. But, the less advanced a tumor is when doctors find it, the better the chance they have to wipe it out. So, a recent study by a team of Danish scientists that identifies cancer "red flags" in blood cells puts us one step closer to more successful treatments. The findings could lead to cancer screenings through simple blood tests.

Unique antibodies, or proteins, form in cancer patients' blood cells to target harmful cancerous cells, according to the new study led by Hans H. Wandall, M.D., Ph.D. and Ola Blixt, Ph.D. at the Center for Glycomics at Copenhagen University. The antitumor antibodies were found in patients with breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Because these proteins are present in cancer patients' blood, the research suggests doctors may be able to detect cancer sooner and more effectively with simple blood tests.

The findings will be appear in the Feb. 15, 2010 issue of Cancer Research, a journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research, Inc. Check out more details about the study here.