Genomic structure of HPV
The National Cancer Institute released a pair of major news stories yesterday, each with potentially major benefits for patients.
First, researchers have found that antibodies against the human papillomavirus (HPV) may help identify individuals who are at greatly increased risk of HPV-related cancer of the oropharynx, which is a portion of the throat that contains the tonsils.
The findings in this study led researchers to believe that a blood test may eventually be available to identify patients, which could lead to advanced screening procedures.
“Although promising, these findings should be considered preliminary,” said Paul Brennan, Ph.D., the lead investigator from International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). “If the predictive capability of the HPV16 E6 antibody holds up in other studies, we may want to consider developing a screening tool based on this result.”
The results of this study, carried out by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the IARC, were published online June 17, 2013, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology
Second, the NCI announced that they plan to take serious measures to speed up the clinical trials process
. This is a vital necessity, as trials that move slowly to register patients rarely succeed. Among the institute's Operational Efficiency Working Group's (OEWG) recommendations:
- the ideal, or target, time to open a clinical trial should be 210 days for phase I and phase II trials; and 300 days for phase III trials
- absolute deadlines—which, when surpassed, lead to cancellation of the trial— should be set at 540 days for phase I and II trials; and 720 days for phase III trials.
The study showed that the OEWG recommendations resulted in a median 18.3 percent reduction (from 541 to 442 days) in the time it takes to initiate phase I and phase II trials. The decrease seen in phase III trials was even more encouraging, with a median reduction time of 45.7 percent (from 727 days to 395 days).
It still isn't an ideal solution, as the deadlines are still a bit longer than most patients would like, but these are major steps in the right direction. This study of OWEG outcomes appeared online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, June 17, 2013.
• NIH scientists find promising biomarker for predicting HPV-related oropharynx cancer
(Cancer.gov, June 17, 2013)• Reforms speed initiation of NCI-sponsored clinical trials
(Cancer.gov, June 17, 2013)
Tom Williams, Getty Images
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled
that human genes cannot be patented.
This appears to be a big win for cancer research.
It's too early to make any definitive statements on the impact of this ruling, but many experts see
this is a "victory for doctors and patients, who worried that company patents could interfere with medical research."
The case dealt specifically with a Utah-based company called Myriad Genetics. These were the folks who isolated the much-discussed BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and investigated their involvement in increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. These are naturally occurring genes in the human body, and not synthetic DNA created in a lab, which provided the basis for the Supreme Court's distinction in its ruling.
“Myriad did not create anything,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”
This ruling theoretically opens it up for labs across the world to run their own tests on these genes without interference from a private company or a patent office. Immediately after the ruling, the New York Times
wrote that "at least three companies and two university labs said that they would begin offering genetic testing in the field of breast cancer."
If these genes sound familiar, it's likely because you remember reading about them in Angelina Jolie's Op-Ed
about her decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. She possesses the mutation on the BRCA1 gene that gives her an 87 percent risk in developing breast cancer.
It will be fascinating to see how this decision impacts future genetic tests, but right now, it appears as if costs for some of these tests will decrease, while patient access will increase -- a huge win for the public.• Justices, 9-0, Bar Patenting Human Genes (New York Times, June 13, 2013)• Supreme Court: Human Genes Not Patentable
(Barron's, June 13, 2013)• Myriad Genetics shares retreat on Court decision
(USA Today, June 13, 2013)
Millions of dollars are spent each year by folks looking to reverse the aging process. From expensive creams to plastic surgery, people will try almost anything to appear younger.A recent study shows that one of the most effective, safe, and cost-effective ways to slow aging is to wear sunscreen — not just at the beach or by the pool, but every single day.
According to CBSNews.com, this study "examined 903 people 55 and younger, to see whether daily sunscreen would stall their aging more than people who used the products at their discretion." The findings were published June 3 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Researchers calculated the daily sunscreen group showed 24 percent less skin aging than those in the discretionary group by study's end. Most of those in the daily sunscreen group ended up using it at least three to four times per week. Sunscreen's anti-aging properties were observed in all participants who used it daily, regardless of age, meaning adults up to 55 were also protected.
: "This study effectively shows that daily sunscreen can reduce the signs of photoaging and photodamage," said Dr. Brundha Balaraman, a dermatology researcher from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The research is led by Dr. Adele Green, a professor at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research at the University of Queensland in Australia, and a collaborator with University of Arizona researchers in the Pan-Pacific Skin Cancer Consortium
In addition, The University of Arizona Cancer Center's Skin Cancer Institute
is among those looking into all the various benefits of regular sunscreen application. On Saturday, June 8, the SCI is hosting the Eighth Annual "Living in Harmony with the Sun"
event from 4-8 p.m. at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Like them on Facebook
to receive $4 off admission.• Daily sunscreen slows skin aging, even in middle age: Study (CBSNews.com, June 3, 2013)• Arizona Cancer Center to form Pan-Pacific Skin Cancer Consortium
(Aug. 31, 2010)• "Living in Harmony with the Sun"
Each May, dozens of the top cancer research facilities in the United States highlight some of their most innovative, groundbreaking projects as part of National Cancer Research Month.
In 2007, the United States Congress declared May National Cancer Research Month. The University of Arizona Cancer Center is joining the American Association for Cancer Research's
national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cancer research and the progress that research institutions are making in critical areas of research and patient care.
We're in the final stages of preparing our Summer edition of Act Against Cancer
, which covers some truly incredible research projects already taking place at the UA Cancer Center. Sally Dickinson, PhD, is currently exploring how sulforaphane, a naturally occurring compound in broccoli, can be extracted and used as a topical solution to combat skin cancer. In addition, Monica Yellowhair, PhD, is examining how depleted uranium exposure could potentially impact a cell's ability to repair itself.
We have also updated our Facebook page
to reflect our participation in NCRM.
Here some more highlights
of the many research efforts under way at the UA Cancer Center:
Angelina Jolie is no stranger to the spotlight.
She's been an A-list movie star for nearly two decades. She's married to Brad Pitt, arguably the most famous actor of his generation. She's graced the cover of every magazine. When she speaks, people listen.
So her Op-Ed in today's New York Times
obviously got people talking.
Jolie underwent a prophylactic mastectomy after finding that she is a carrier of an alteration in the BRCA1 gene. Her mother died of breast cancer at 56, and doctors estimated that Jolie had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.
Jolie's essay is extremely powerful and illuminating. You should read the whole piece here
For people who have a strong family history of cancer, our multi-specialty team at the University of Arizona Cancer Center
can assess cancer risk, determine if genetic testing is appropriate, interpret testing results, and counsel regarding the options for cancer risk management. The UACC is the only cancer care facility in Tucson with certified genetic counselors.
To find out more, visit our web page
or call (520) 694-0800. Read more about prophylactic mastectomy
Destiny Hessel (photo by Sandy Hessel)
No child should ever have to deal with something as traumatic as a cancer diagnosis.
A person's youth is supposed to be sacred. It's a time for people to experience carefree enjoyment of the world around them.
It's not that simple for young cancer patients. All of the treatment sessions and hospital visits make a person grow up much faster than they should have to. Sadly, this often means they have to miss out on some of defining youth experiences.
The fine folks at the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern Arizona
are doing amazing things to help kids reclaim their youth.
On Saturday, the Candlelighters held their eighth annual Dream Night Prom
in Tucson, an event to help bring some much-needed normalcy and fun into the lives of young cancer patients.
From Kimberly Matas at the Arizona Daily Star
: "The first Dream Night Prom, in 2006, was the creation of teenager Carina Groves, who envisioned the event as a high school senior project. The 50 teens who attended found the prom to be both fun and healing, and encouraged the Candlelighters to make it an annual event."
Events like this are "especially meaningful to teens and their families because a cancer diagnosis can cause challenges that make a normal social life difficult. Treatments can cause hair loss, weight changes and other physical challenges. Long hospital stays can disrupt usual social activities, and important milestones are often missed."
Thank you so much to everyone responsible for events like this.• Teens with cancer get their own special Tucson prom
(Arizona Daily Star
, May 5, 2013)
May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month
-- perfect timing, especially considering how much additional sunshine most communities start to see as spring rolls into summer.
Each May, we look to do what we can to help educate folks about this disease. It's the most common form of cancer in the United States, and many skin cancer cases can be prevented through regular screenings and sun-safe habits (such as wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunscreen on exposed areas).
Today, the UA Skin Cancer Institute
is kicking off "Trivia Tuesday,"
where they will post a trivia question to their Facebook page to test your knowledge on Skin Cancer and Sun Safety. You will have until Friday to answer, and the first person to answer correctly will win a prize.
Today's question has two parts: 1) What is the most common type of skin cancer? 2) What is the estimated number of new cases, of that type of cancer, diagnosed annually in the US?
Think you know the answer? Head over to the SCI Facebook page
and leave a comment!UPDATE
: Watch this Lifelines video about how skin cancer affects minorities (h/t NCI Multicultural Media)
Today, we found out that the University of Arizona Cancer Center
became the first institution in Southern Arizona (and only the fourth in the entire state) to be awarded a three-year term of accreditation from the American College of Radiation.
It's a prestigious, well-deserved honor for our tremendous Radiation Oncology
team, which has been working hard for years to earn this accreditation.
From the official ACR release
The ACR is the nation’s oldest and most widely accepted radiation oncology accrediting body, with nearly 500 accredited sites, and 25 years of accreditation experience. The ACR seal of accreditation represents the highest level of quality and patient safety. It is awarded only to facilities meeting specific Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards developed by ACR after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists who are experts in the field.
Patient care and treatment, patient safety, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures, and quality assurance programs are assessed. The findings are reported to the ACR Committee on Radiation Oncology Accreditation, which subsequently provides the practice with a comprehensive report they can use for continuous practice improvement.
Dave Dravecky had a special left arm.
Think about it. There are nearly 7 billion people on Earth. Less than one percent of them - a fraction of a fraction - will ever throw a Major League fastball. Dave Dravecky was one of them.
He grew up idolizing Sandy Koufax and Vida Blue - other lefties who could fire off 90-plus mile-per-hour fastballs. He spent most of the 1980s sharing the same occupation as his heroes: big-league pitcher. Incredible.
It all came to a heartbreaking halt on Aug. 10, 1989, when Dravecky suffered one of the most horrifying injuries anyone can suffer on a baseball diamond. His left arm - that special, gifted arm - snapped in half. Dravecky, a desmoid tumor survivor, pulled off one of the most incredible comebacks earlier that season, defying the odds and returning to the mound 10 months after his diagnosis.
But that cancer had weakened his deltoid to the point where his arm could no longer survive the torque of a 90 mile-per-hour fastball. After the injury, the cancer reappeared (along with dozens of surgeries and a brutal 10-month staph infection) and claimed his arm for good. In order to survive, the doctors would need to amputate. That left arm that made all of his dreams come true was now threatening to ruin his life.
For some people, that could be too much to bear. For Dave Dravecky, it started him on a path of spiritual and personal discovery.
Dravecky told his story on Thursday morning at the annual NACCDO-PAN conference
in Denver. With nearly every American cancer center represented in the audience, Dravecky delivered a moving, emotional, and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious speech that reminded us what it takes to defeat this awful disease.
Dravecky took us through the dizzying highs of his professional baseball career, along with the heartbreaking lows of the identity crisis and depression he went through when he lost his ability to pitch.
"We're all on a journey for a common goal, and that's to find a cure for cancer," Dravecky said at one of the speech's most emotionally charged moments. "It's teamwork that will help us achieve that goal."
Dravecky also relayed a story about the time he met his idol, Sandy Koufax. He wanted to shake his hand for serving as such an inspiration in his life. As a young, baseball-loving child growing up in Wyoming, I remember watching Dravecky pitch through the 80s and how devastatingly sad I was to witness Dravecky's injury on television in 1989. Seeing him speak today was one of the more inspiring moments of my life.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a hand I need to shake.
Just about everyone who smokes has tried to quit at some point. Last week, we had a post covering how some folks seek out massage therapy
to kick the habit. We've also done posts on the hidden financial burden
smokers endure, as well as the added health hazards
We've even covered the proposed smoking ban
at the Arizona Health Sciences Center.
Today, we explore the technology route.
Judith Gordon, PhD, a behavioral psychologist with the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, is seeking participants to help test a mobile phone app designed to help people take medication to quit smoking.
Study participants will spend two hours testing the app, called RxCoach, in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and will be compensated for their time. Knowing how to use a smart phone is required. It will be a plus – but not required – for a participant to be a smoker, former smoker and/or using the prescription drug Chantix to curb their nicotine cravings.
Dr. Gordon, a recognized leader in smoking-cessation research, is principal investigator on the study, which is funded with a National Institutes of Health Small Business Technology Transfer Grant. She is partnering with InterVision Media of Eugene, Ore., which is programming the app.