Launching a new war on cancer

By Miriam Falco, CNN September 22, 2012 

On Friday, Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center is announcing its own “Moon Shots Program,” aimed at significantly reducing the number of deaths from a handful of cancers by the end of this decade.

Inspired by Kennedy’s words, Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of the large cancer treatment and research center, is launching this project in two parallel tracks: “One is to apply the existing knowledge, to make a near-term impact in this decade,” he said. “The second is to also say, ‘We do not know everything we need to know to ultimately cure the disease.'”

The cancer center calls the program “an unprecedented effort to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.”

“The Moon Shots Program signals our confidence that the path to curing cancer is in clearer sight than at any other time in history,” DePinho says.

Cancer center ambitious new ‘cure’ plan

Doctors at MD Anderson believe that dying from cancer can eventually be as rare as dying from pneumonia. And DePinho believes this can happen sooner rather later for patients suffering from the following five types of cancer:

— lung cancerancers receive 9/11 fund coverage

— melanoma

— triple negative breast cancer and ovarian cancer (which are very similar on the molecular level)

— prostate cancer

— acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome & chronic lymphocytic leukemia (blood cancers)

These types of cancers were chosen by a panel of 25 experts from within and outside MD Anderson based on what’s known about prevention, treatment and survivorship as well as the likelihood of reducing the number of deaths.

Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer worldwide, in part because the cancer is usually found when it’s already spread. A good way to screen for this cancer is still elusive.

That’s why good screening tools are so crucial.

“If you catch stage 1 lung cancer, you’re dealing with about a 20%, mortality as opposed to advanced-stage cancers where you’re dealing with about 10% survival,” DePinho tells CNN. One of MD Anderson’s experts has developed a blood test in mice that can more accurately determine who should have a CT screening. Part of this “moon shot” will include making this test useful in humans.

Skin cancer, meanwhile, is the most common form of cancer, but it’s usually not fatal, except for the 5% who are diagnosed with the deadliest form: melanoma.

DePinho says he’s leveraging the knowledge gained from treating more than 100,000 patients each year with the skills of the thousands of doctors and researchers to significantly improve the detection, treatment and survival rates of cancer, as well as preventing the disease in the first place.

Forty years after President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, MD Anderson plans to move the battle to a new level by taking advantage of the many technological advances.

The cancer center is backing this project with a $3 billion investment over the next decade.

“Those funds will come from institutional earnings, philanthropy, competitive research grants and commercialization of new discoveries,” he says.

The project is scheduled to launch in February 2013.

Listen to this video:




Stress, depression may affect cancer survival

(CNN) — “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ,” John Steinbeck once wrote. Now we are closer to understanding why. A disease like cancer can be a mortal battle, often fraught with overwhelming stress. Given that stress management can be difficult even under ordinary circumstances, elevated feelings of anxiety and depression in cancer patients are certainly understandable.

Yet, several recent studies underscore how critically important it is for those fighting illness to learn how to combat stress. A team of researchers led by Lorenzo Cohen, professor of general oncology and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, found that symptoms of depression among a group of patients with late-stage renal cell carcinoma were associated with an increased risk of death.

The chief suspects in Cohen’s study: cortisol — also known as the “stress hormone” — and inflammatory pathways.

“This study is the next step in the process of understanding that emotional factors have an impact on biology, which can, in turn, influence outcomes in cancer,” says Cohen.

Cortisol is the hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. It helps regulate the inflammatory response in the body.


According to Cohen, under normal circumstances cortisol levels should be high in the morning and drop throughout the course of the day. But among patients experiencing chronic stress or depressive symptoms, cortisol levels can remain sustained throughout the day, with less of a decrease in the evening.


In the study, those patients with sustained cortisol levels throughout the day had an increased risk of mortality.


A team of researchers led by Sheldon Cohen (not related to Lorenzo Cohen), professor of psychology and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity and Disease at Carnegie Mellon University, found that chronic psychological stress was associated with the body losing its ability to regulate its inflammatory response.

The researchers found that over a prolonged period of chronic stress, body tissue becomes desensitized to cortisol and the hormone loses its effectiveness in regulating inflammation. Inflammation is a good thing when it’s triggered as part of the body’s effort to fight infection, says Lorenzo Cohen, but chronic inflammation can promote the development and progression of many illnesses, including depression, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and cancer.


Breast Cancer Drug May Harm the Heart More Than Thought

Read more:

Women with breast cancer who are treated with the cancer drug Herceptin may have more long-term cardiac problems than experts have thought, new research suggests.

It has been known that women treated with anti-cancer drugs known as anthracyclines and Herceptin (trastuzumab) are at higher risk for heart failure and cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle.

Bowles and her colleagues evaluated 12,500 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from 1999 through 2007 in eight different health systems.

The risk of heart failure was 1.4 times higher in those treated only with an anthracycline at the five-year mark. That was about the same increase as those treated with other types of cancer drugs.

However, those on Herceptin alone had more than four times the risk of heart problems compared to those who did not take the medication, the study stated.

And, the biggest increase in risk was seen in those on both anthracyclines and Herceptin. Those patients showed a sevenfold increased risk at the five-year mark, the researchers said.


German drug firm makes first apology for thalidomide

BERLIN (AP) — The German manufacturer of a notorious drug that caused thousands of babies to be born with shortened arms and legs, or no limbs at all, issued its first ever apology Friday — 50 years after pulling the drug off the market.

Gruenenthal Group’s chief executive said the company wanted to apologize to mothers who took the drug during the 1950s and 1960s and to their children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.

“We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn’t find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being,”Harald Stock said. “We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us.”


Thalidomide is still sold today, but as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer and leprosy. It is also being studied to see if it might be useful for other conditions including AIDS, arthritis and other cancers.

Read more:–finance.html?_esi=1