Category Archives: Brain Cancer

One proton center closes, but that doesn’t slow new construction

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In this May 2013 photo, construction continues at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center. (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN).

This KHN story also ran on NPR

Proton therapy has been touted as the next big thing in cancer care. The massive machines, housed in facilities the size of football fields, have been sprouting up across the country for a decade.

There are already 14 proton therapy centers in the U.S., and another dozen facilities are under construction even though each can cost $200 million to build.

But Indiana University shocked experts who watch the industry last month when it announced that it plans to close down its facility in Bloomington, as reported by Modern Healthcare.

“I never thought that in my lifetime I would see a proton center close,” says Amitabh Chandra, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who studies the cost of American medical care.

He’s surprised because until now, industry growth has been entirely in the other direction, even though there’s little evidence that proton therapy is better than standard radiation for all but a few very rare cancers.

“But we do know it is substantially more expensive and substantially more lucrative for physicians and providers to use this technology,” Chandra says.

In the Washington, D.C., area alone, three proton therapy centers are under construction — one at Johns Hopkins Medicine Sibley Memorial Hospital, another at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and a third, the Maryland Proton Treatment Center, is slated to open at the University of Maryland in Baltimore next year.

All three say they are continuing to build their centers, despite the news out of Bloomington. In email statements, two said that the larger population of the DC-Baltimore area can support a proton facility better than a small city like Bloomington. The third said it’s building a smaller, one room center that will be more cost effective.

Proton Therapy Baltimore 2 300

Dr. Minesh Mehta, medical director of the Maryland Proton Therapy Center stands with Dr. William F. Regine, radiation oncologist at the University of Maryland and James DeFilippi, vice president of project development at the construction site of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center in this May 2013 photo (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN).

But in Indiana, a review committee determined that it just wasn’t worth spending the money that would be necessary to update their proton facility.

One reason for the closure is that insurers have been refusing to cover the treatment for common diseases such as prostate and breast cancer.

Cigna, for example, only covers proton therapy for a single rare eye cancer, says Dr. David Finley, the insurer’s national medical officer.

“When it’s used, however, for all other tumors, it’s not been shown to be any more effective than other forms of radiation therapy,” says Finley.

Proton beam therapy costs three to six times as much as standard radiation therapy for illnesses like prostate cancer, according to Finley. He adds that when insurers pay for expensive care that isn’t any better than the cheaper options, it can increase the cost of everyone’s health care.

“We said if two services offer the same result and one is much more expensive than the other one, we’re only going to pay for the one that is less expensive,” Finley says.

Other major insurers have also limited what they’ll cover with proton therapy, including Aetna and Blue Shield of California.

One health care payer that has not put any restrictions on proton therapy is Medicare. And Medicare pays much more for the treatment than it pays for standard radiation therapy.

“That’s the problem with Medicare payment policy,” says Harvard’s Chandra, “it not only covers treatments that are dubious treatments, it also covers dubious treatments extremely generously.”

But the doctors and researchers involved with building new proton beam facilities don’t think the treatment is dubious. They point to proton therapy’s potential to kill cancer without damaging surrounding tissue, and they say that it’s just a matter of time before clinical trials prove that proton therapy is worth the extra money.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

 

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Seattle Brain Cancer Walk — this Saturday, Sept. 20th

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Brain Cancer WalkThe 7th annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk will take place on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion.

Founded in 2008 by a group of committed volunteers and families, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk has raised over $2.5 million for research, clinical trials and comprehensive care for brain cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest.

100% of the walk proceeds go directly to patient care and research. Continue reading

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U.S. cancer deaths continue long-term decline

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By Bill Robinson
NCI Cancer Bulletin

According to the latest national data, overall death rates from cancer declined from 2000 through 2009 in the United States, maintaining a trend seen since the early 1990s.

SR-inside

Mortality fell for most cancer types, including the four most common types of cancer in the United States (lungcolon and rectumbreast, and prostate), although the trend varied by cancer type and across racial and ethnic groups.

The complete “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2009″ appeared January 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The report also includes a special section on cancers associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) that shows that, from 2008 through 2010, incidence rates rose for HPV-associated oropharyngealanal, and vulvar cancers.

HPV vaccination rates in 2010 remained low among the target population of adolescent girls in the United States.

As in past years, NCI, the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) collaborated on the annual report.

Cancer incidence data came from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database and the CDC, with analyses of pooled data by NAACCR. Mortality data came from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Incidence Rates Vary, Death Rates Continue to Drop

Among men, the overall rate of cancer incidence fell by an average of 0.6 percent annually from 2000 through 2009. Cancer incidence rates were stable among women during the same time period and rose by 0.6 percent per year among children. (See the table.)

“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer . . . The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections.”

The declines in cancer mortality averaged 1.8 percent per year for men, 1.4 percent per year for women, and 1.8 percent for children (ages 0 to 14 years) from 2000 through 2009.

During the same period, death rates among men fell for 10 of the 17 most common cancers and rose for three types of cancer. Death rates among women fell for 15 of the 18 most common cancers and also rose for three types of cancer.

“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer,” said ACS Chief Executive Officer Dr. John R. Seffrin in a statement. “The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections. We must face these hurdles head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control cancer.”

HPV Vaccination Rates Low

The special section on HPV-related cancers showed that from 2000 through 2009, incidence rates for HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer increased among white men and women, as did rates for anal cancer among white and black men and women. Incidence rates for cancer of the vulva also increased among white and black women.

However, cervical cancer rates declined among all women except American Indian/Alaska Natives. In addition, cervical cancer incidence rates were higher among women living in lower-income areas.

The annual report also showed that, in 2010, fewer than half (48.7 percent) of girls ages 13 through 17 had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, and only 32 percent had received all three recommended doses, a rate that fell well short of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent.

The rate is also much lower than vaccination rates reported in Canada (50 to 85 percent) and the United Kingdom and Australia (both higher than 70 percent).

Vaccination series completion rates were generally lower among certain populations, including girls living in the South, those living below the poverty level, and Hispanics.

“The influence that certain viral infections can have on cancer rates is significant and continued attention to the effect[s] of HPV infection, in particular, on cervical cancer rates is critical,” said NCI Director Dr. Harold Varmus in a statement. “It is important, however, to note that the investments we have made in HPV research can only have the tremendous payoff of which they are capable if vaccination rates … increase.”

Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates, 2000–2009

Men Women
Incidence Increase

  • kidney
  • pancreas
  • liver
  • thyroid
  • melanoma
  • myeloma

Decrease

  • prostate
  • lung
  • colorectal
  • stomach
  • larynx
Increase

  • thyroid
  • melanoma
  • kidney
  • pancreas
  • leukemia
  • liver
  • corpus and uterus

Decrease

  • lung
  • colorectal
  • bladder
  • cervix
  • oral cavity and pharynx
  • ovary
  • stomach
Mortality Increase

  • melanoma
  • liver
  • pancreas

Decrease

  • lung
  • prostate
  • colon and rectum
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • kidney
  • stomach
  • myeloma
  • oral cavity and pharynx
  • larynx
  • leukemia
Increase

  • pancreas
  • liver
  • corpus and uterus

Decrease

  • lung
  • breast
  • colon and rectum
  • leukemia
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • brain and other nervous system
  • myeloma
  • kidney
  • stomach
  • cervix
  • bladder
  • esophagus
  • oral cavity and pharynx
  • ovary
  • gallbladder

The NCI Cancer Bulletin is an award-winning biweekly online newsletter designed to provide useful, timely information about cancer research to the cancer community. The newsletter is published approximately 24 times per year by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with day-to-day operational oversight conducted by federal and contract staff in the NCI Office of Communications and Education. The material is entirely in the public domain and can be repurposed or reproduced without permission. Citation of the source is appreciated.

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Brain Tumor Paint

Film features medical technology from UW, the Hutch and Children’s

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A short film about a technology invented by the UW, Fred Hutch, and Children’s Hospital is a semi-finalist at the Sundance Film Festival.

The technology, called Tumor Pain, uses a scorpion toxin to cause cancer cells in the brain light up so that they can be seen and removed during surgery, protecting nearby normal brain tissue.

Bringing Light | Bert Klasey, Chris Baron & James Allen Smith from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

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Gilda's Club Seattle Logo

You’ve been treated for cancer — now what?

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Treatment Summaries and Surviorship Care Planning

What do you do when you’ve finished treatment?

How do you coordinate your ongoing care with your Primary Care doc?

How do you keep track of your medical records and get the right information to the right people about what you’ve been through?

Now we have some answers.

  • Debra Loacker, RN, will provide an overview of the valuable information provided in cancer treatment summary and the survivorship care plan. You will learn where to obtain a copy of your own treatment summary, and how your doctor can use it.
  • Patricia Read-Williams, MD, will share her perspective as a Primary Care Provider on the importance of these documents in the care provided to cancer survivors.

When:

6/21/12 , 6:45-8:30 p.m.

Where:

Gilda’s Club Seattle • 1400 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

Phone: 206.709.1400 • info@gildasclubseattle.org • www.gildasclubseattle.org


Gilda’s Club Seattle

Gilda’s Club is a non-profit group that provides meeting places where men, women and children living with cancer and their families and friends join with others to build emotional, social and educational support as a supplement to medical care.

The club’s services are free and include support and networking groups, lectures, workshops and social events in a nonresidential, homelike setting.

The club is named in honor of Gilda Susan Radner was an American comedienne and actress, best known for her years as a cast member of Saturday Night Live.

Radner, who died at 42 of ovarian cancer, helped raise the public’s awareness of the disease and the need for improved detection and treatment.

Lectures are held on Thursday evenings at Gilda’s Club, 1400 Broadway, Seattle.

Please RSVP to attend.

Refreshments served 6:45-7:00 pm

Lecture begins 7:00-8:30 pm

All lectures are open to the public. There is no cost to attend our lectures.

Please RSVP 24+ hours in advance to attend and pre-register for Noogieland childcare a minimum of 72 hours in advance.

When:

6/21/12 , 6:45-8:30 p.m.

Where:

Gilda’s Club Seattle • 1400 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

Phone: 206.709.1400 • info@gildasclubseattle.org • www.gildasclubseattle.org

 

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Swedish to open new Women’s Cancer Center

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Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center will open a new cancer center that will provide services tailored specifically for women — next Tuesday, June 5th.

The 23,600-square-foot True Family Women’s Cancer Center will occupy the fifth and sixth floor of the medical center’s Arnold Pavilion at 1221 Madison on Swedish’s First Hill campus.

The goal is to bring the Swedish physicians specializing in treating cancer in women into a single location to better coordinate care and to provide women cancer patients with a place where they can find all the services they need under one roof, said Dr. Patricia Dawson, the medical director of the new center and a breast surgeon with the Swedish Cancer Institute.

Although women and men have many of the same kinds of cancer, these cancers often have a different course in women and respond differently to treatment, said Dr. Dawson.

Women with cancer also often seek the kind of community and support services the new center hopes to offer, she said.

In addition to exam rooms, imaging services and procedure rooms, the new center will have support-group meeting rooms, counseling services and an educational resource center.

The facility’s decor and layout was designed to be both practical and “calming and restful” with the aim of enhancing both the quality of care and the quality of the patients’ experience, Dr. Dawson said.

The new center brings together a variety of clinicians and services that in the past have been scattered across the Swedish Medical Center’s main campuses.

Alexis Vanden Bos, a patient of Dr. Dawson who has been treated for two breast cancers, remembers having to shuttle between campuses during her treatments, often carrying her radiology films under her arm.

Alexis Vanden Bos

“It wasn’t bad, but how much easier this will be,” Vanden Bos said. “Now, I’ll be able to talk to both my surgeon and my oncologist in one place. I’ll love having all my people together.”

Construction of the $11 million facility was funded entirely from philanthropic gifts. The families of Patricia True, Doug and Janet True, and Bill and Ruth True began the fund-raising effort with $2 million donation.

Other major contributors include Eve and Chap Alvord, Robin Knepper, the Norcliffe Foundation, Bruce and Jeannie Nordstrom, Seattle Radiology, and Sellen Construction.

Additional support came from more that 2,500 individual donors.

The center’s staff will include oncologists, surgeons, onsite radiologists, psychological and genetic counselors, physical therapists, social workers and patient education specialists.

The center will provide resources for women with most cancers, including bladder, brain, breast, cervical, colorectal, esophageal, head and neck, leukemia, liver, lung, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, ovarian, pancreatic, renal/kidney, skin, thyroid and uterine.

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U.S. cancer deaths continue steady decline

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By Sharon Reynolds
NCI Cancer Bulletin Staff Writer 

According to the latest data on nationwide death rates from cancer, overall mortality from cancer declined from 1999 to 2008, maintaining a trend seen since the early 1990s.

Mortality fell for most cancer types, including the four most common types of cancer in the United States (lungcolorectalbreast, and prostate), although the rate of decline varied by cancer type and across racial and ethnic groups.

The complete Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2008 appeared March 28 in Cancer.

The declines in cancer death rates (mortality) averaged 1.7 percent per year for men and 1.3 percent per year for women from 1999 through 2008.

Among men, the overall rate of new cancer cases (incidence) fell by an average of 0.6 percent annually from 1999 to 2008.

Among women, incidence dropped by an average of 0.5 percent annually from 1999 to 2006 but held steady from 2006 to 2008.

Cancer incidence in children ages 0 to 14 rose from 1999 to 2008 (by 0.5 percent a year), continuing a trend seen in previous Annual Reports to the Nation.

However, advances in treatment contributed to a steady decline in mortality rates for children with cancer in the last 5 years (an average of 2.8 percent per year).

“Steady progress, as measured by declines in cancer death rates for many cancers, is good because we have an aging, growing population,” said Dr. Brenda K. Edwards, NCI’s senior advisor for surveillance.

“While the number of people diagnosed with cancer or who die of the disease may be increasing, the decline in cancer death rates for more than a decade is the best indicator of progress due to prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment,” she added.

NCI, the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) collaborated on the report. Cancer incidence data came from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database and from the CDC, with analyses of pooled data by NAACCR. Mortality data came from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Not All Good News

There were some notable exceptions to the overall decreases in incidence and mortality. From 1999 to 2008, death rates rose for pancreatic cancer in men and women, for liver cancer and melanoma in men, and for endometrial cancer in women.

The cervical cancer death rate, which had been falling for decades, showed no further decrease over the last 5 years.

And, although incidence rates fell overall for men and women from 1999 to 2008, the decline was not distributed evenly across racial and ethnic groups.

Cancer incidence rates did not decrease significantly among American Indian/Alaska Native men and women combined or among black, Asian and Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Although incidence rates in black men did decline, this group still had the highest cancer incidence rate of any racial and ethnic group, 15 percent higher than that of white men and nearly double that of Asian and Pacific Islander men.

Major Modifiable Risk Factors

Each Annual Report to the Nation includes a special feature that focuses on a topic of importance to the cancer research community and the public.

This year’s report featured an analysis on the contribution of excess weight (overweight and obesity) and insufficient physical activity to the nation’s cancer burden.

More than 60 percent of the U.S. adult population is estimated to be overweight or obese, and a similar percentage of adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity.

The rates of insufficient physical activity are even worse for children; for example, up to 90 percent of high school girls do not engage in recommended levels of physical activity.

Excess weight “is a major modifiable risk factor for cancer and other diseases—probably second only to tobacco use in terms of its impact on cancer incidence and mortality,” said Dr. Edwards. “The risk may be modest but it’s so pervasive that we felt this was the time to look at [cancer] incidence in this context.” Physical inactivity not only contributes to excess weight but is itself a risk factor for several cancer types.

The report was not designed to quantitatively link the trends in excess weight and lack of physical activity to the national trends for cancer, explained Dr. Rachel Ballard-Barbash, associate director of the Applied Research Program in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.

Many other studies have shown convincing links between excess weight and several cancer types, including endometrial, postmenopausal breast, colorectal, kidneyesophageal, and pancreatic cancer.

The point of the special feature, she noted, “is to highlight specific types of cancer that are related to [excess weight and lack of sufficient physical activity], show how these behaviors relate to these cancers in terms of their relative risks, and briefly describe some of the mechanisms by which they relate.”

The special feature also highlights national- and state-level prevention strategies in policy and environmental change that are intended to help people achieve recommended changes in their diets and physical activity levels.

As the nation’s weight has risen, so has the incidence of some, although not all, types of cancer related to excess weight and lack of sufficient physical activity. From 1999 to 2008, incidence rates of kidney cancer and of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus each rose about 3 percent per year for men and women, while incidence of pancreatic cancer rose 1.2 percent per year among men and women.

In addition, incidence rates of endometrial cancer rose significantly among black, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Hispanic women. Incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer stabilized from 2005 to 2008, after a period of decline.

“Although all of these cancers are influenced by multiple factors, the high prevalence of excess weight and insufficient physical activity likely contributed to these observed increases and to the lack of decline in breast cancer,” the authors wrote. “Continued progress in reducing cancer incidence and mortality rates will be difficult without success in promoting healthy weight and physical activity, particularly among youth.”

Excess weight and lack of physical activity also influence cancer survivorship, explained Dr. Ballard-Barbash, as both can negatively affect outcomes after a cancer diagnosis, further increasing the need for these risk factors to be addressed on a personal and societal level.

The NCI Cancer Bulletin is an award-winning biweekly online newsletter designed to provide useful, timely information about cancer research to the cancer community. The newsletter is published approximately 24 times per year by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with day-to-day operational oversight conducted by federal and contract staff in the NCI Office of Communications and Education. The material is entirely in the public domain and can be repurposed or reproduced without permission. Citation of the source is appreciated.

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Why does being overweight increase your risk of cancer?

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Uncovering the Mechanisms Linking Obesity and Cancer Risk

By Sharon Reynolds
NCI Cancer Bulletin Staff Writer 

Being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk for many types of cancer, including postmenopausal breast cancer; endometrial cancer; and colorectal, esophageal, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and thyroid cancer.

These risks are not minor. In 2002, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, using European data, estimated that obesity contributed to more than one-third of endometrial and esophageal cancer cases and a quarter of kidney cancer cases. (See the table below.)

Being overweight or obese also raises the risk of dying of cancer. In an often-cited paper published in 2003 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the American Cancer Society estimated that 14 percent of all cancer deaths in men and 20 percent in women could be blamed on excess weight.

Type of Cancer Estimated Percentage Caused by Obesity
Endometrial 39
Esophageal 37
Kidney 25
Colon 11
Postmenopausal Breast 9
Source: Weight Control and Physical Activity, International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The obvious question is: Why? What biological processes mediate the relationship between excess body fat and increased cancer risk? Researchers are only beginning to tease out the answers, but almost all the factors under study are rooted in the fact that adipose (fat storage) tissue is highly metabolically active.

Once thought to be just a passive storage depot for fuel, adipose tissue is now known to pump out an astounding array of hormonesgrowth factors, and signaling molecules, all of which can influence the behavior of other cells in the body.

Excess Hormones, Extra Risk

Most, if not all, of the molecules being studied as potential mediators between obesity and cancer are not cancer-causing but cancer-promoting. That is, they do not cause the mutations that turn a normal cell into a cancerous cell, but instead feed the growth and proliferation of malignant cells.

One of the best understood of the pathways that may lead from obesity to cancer involves the hormone estrogen, which fuels a large number of breast and endometrial cancers. In postmenopausal women, the levels of estrogen circulating in the bloodstream normally drop drastically, as the ovaries stop producing the hormone.

But fat tissue also produces estrogen, through a cellular pathway involving the enzyme aromatase, the target of several breast cancer therapies called aromatase inhibitors.

In obese women, “the body fat just becomes an estrogen-producing machine,” explained Dr. Leslie Bernstein, director of the Division of Cancer Etiology at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, who has studied the relationship between estrogen and cancer risk for years through the California Teachers Study.

This excess estrogen produced by fat can feed cancer cells that express the estrogen receptor. But estrogen alone does not account for all of the extra risk for these cancers in obese postmenopausal women.

Another likely player in many types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer, is insulin, the hormone that triggers cells in the body to take up glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream.

Obesity often goes hand in hand with type II diabetes and insulin resistance, which may contribute to cancer risk.

Adipose Tissue

Obesity often goes hand in hand with metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. In type II diabetes, the body’s cells stop responding to insulin, causing a buildup of glucose in the blood, which in turn stimulates the body to produce even more insulin.

And in some cancers, “insulin acts as a mitogen—it makes cancers grow faster,” said Dr. Michael Pollak, director of the Division of Cancer Prevention at McGill University in Montreal.

Interestingly, a diabetes drug called metformin, which lowers the levels of blood glucose, has shown some anticancer activity. Several studies have suggested that people with diabetes who took metformin had a lower risk of developing cancer ordying from the disease compared with diabetics who did not take metformin.

Currently, several clinical trials, including one in breast cancer, are testing the addition of metformin to standard treatment.

It will be important, stressed Dr. Pollak, to continue basic science research on metformin, given the many unanswered questions about who should take the drug.

“I think this is an extremely promising area of cancer research, but we need to do more basic science research before we’ll be able to design the best clinical trials” to figure out which patients are most likely to benefit from the drug, he said.

For example, other diabetes drugs lower insulin levels but don’t show a similar anticancer effect, suggesting that metformin may affect more than just the insulin pathway.

Also, some patients’ tumors have mutations in the insulin signaling pathway that make the cells act as if extra insulin is always present, even when it’s not. In these cases, reducing insulin would be futile in terms of cancer control. “So maybe those patients shouldn’t be on clinical trials of metformin,” said Dr. Pollak.

Digging Deeper

A myriad of other molecules are being studied to see if they contribute to the relationship between obesity and cancer. Some of these molecules, such as certain interleukins, are part of the body’s natural inflammatory response, which is often chronically overstimulated in people who are obese.

Others are signaling molecules called adipokines (cytokines produced by fat tissue), levels of which can be affected by weight gain.

Within NCI, researchers in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) are using several multimarker panels to study molecular pathways that may link obesity to cancer risk in humans. Two panels—one that assesses 15 different estrogens and estrogen metabolites, and one that assesses 79 molecular markers of inflammation—are already being used to examine these mechanisms.

A third, more experimental panel simultaneously tests 400 to 600 small molecules to give a snapshot of metabolism at the time of sample collection, said Dr. Steve Moore, a research fellow in DCEG’s Nutrition Epidemiology Branch.

With these panels, “you can look at how the markers are related to cancer risk, you can look at how obesity is related to cancer risk, and you can look at how obesity is related to cancer risk after adjusting for the marker levels,” explained Dr. Moore. “So by triangulating these three things, you can estimate which molecular mechanisms obesity is most likely to act through.”

Other researchers are examining genetic variants that might also influence how obesity and cancer risk intersect. “A lot of people have looked at biomarkers like insulin, but what are the [full] genetic and molecular pathways being affected by obesity?” asked Dr. Li Li, associate director for Prevention Research at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University.

His project, supported by the first tranche ofTransdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) funding, is looking at how genetic variants found naturally in the population influence whether obesity can promote colon polyp formation.

All of this research may eventually help create targeted cancer prevention measures and treatments for overweight and obese patients, based on a better understanding of the molecular events driving progression.

For now, “I would say what we know now supports the adoption of a healthier lifestyle that promotes weight control,” concluded Dr. Moore.

The NCI Cancer Bulletin is an award-winning biweekly online newsletter designed to provide useful, timely information about cancer research to the cancer community. The newsletter is published approximately 24 times per year by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with day-to-day operational oversight conducted by federal and contract staff in the NCI Office of Communications and Education. The material is entirely in the public domain and can be repurposed or reproduced without permission. Citation of the source is appreciated.

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No evidence linking cell phones to brain cancer – FDA

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No Evidence Linking Cell Phone Use to Risk of Brain Tumors

Do the radio waves that cell phones emit pose a threat to health?

Although research is ongoing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that available scientific evidence—including World Health Organization (WHO) findings released May 17, 2010—shows no increased health risk due to radiofrequency (RF) energy, a form of electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by cell phones.

FDA also cites a separate National Cancer Institute program finding that, despite the dramatic increase in cell phone use, occurrences of brain cancer did not increase between 1987 and 2005.

FDA shares regulatory responsibilities for cell phones with the Federal Communications Commission.

Although cell phones can be sold without FDA clearance or approval, the agency monitors the effects the phones have on health. FDA has the authority to take action if cell phones are shown to emit RF energy at a level that is hazardous to the user.

Largest Study of Its Kind

The findings released in May 2010 are from Interphone, a series of studies initiated in 2000 and conducted in 13 countries (the United States was not one of them). Interphone was coordinated by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The study reported little or no risk of brain tumors for most long-term users of cell phones.

“There are still questions on the effect of long-term exposure to radio frequency energy that are not fully answered by Interphone,” says Abiy Desta, network leader for science at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “However, this study provides information that will be of great value in assessing the safety of cell phone use.”

WHO reports that Interphone is the largest case-control study of cell phone use and brain tumors to date, and includes the largest numbers of users with at least 10 years of RF energy exposure.

The study focuses on four types of tumors found in the tissues that most absorb RF energy emitted by cell phones: tumors of the brain known as glioma and meningioma, of the acoustic nerve, and of the parotid gland (the largest of the salivary glands). The goal was to determine whether cell phone use increased the risk of developing these tumors.

Recent Findings

The recent Interphone findings, which are being posted online in the June 2010 International Journal of Epidemiology, did not show an increased risk of brain cancer from using cell phones.

Although some of the data suggested an increased risk for people with the heaviest use of cell phones, the study’s authors determined that biases and errors limit the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from it.

According to WHO, cell phone use has become much more prevalent and it is not unusual for young people to use cell phones for an hour or more a day. This increasing use is tempered, however, by the lower emissions, on average, from newer technology phones, and the increasing use of texting and hands-free operations that keep the phone away from the head.

Minimizing RF Exposure

Although evidence shows little or no risk of brain tumors for most long-term users of cell phones, FDA says people who want to reduce their RF exposure can:

  • reduce the amount of time spent on the cell phone
  • use speaker mode or a headset to place more distance between the head and the cell phone

PHOTO CREDIT: Kprateek88 under a GNU Free Documentation License.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

For more information:

Date Posted: May 17, 2010

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Seattle researchers team up to fight brain cancer

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The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy from glioblastoma has called attention to the challenge of developing better treatment for brain cancers. Below is column by Dr. Greg Foltz on brain cancer research that LocalHealthGuide published last May to call attention to the Annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk to raise funds for brain cancer research..

Research for a Cure: Local doctors and scientists collaborate to develop new treatments for brain cancer patients

brain-tumor-petWhile there has been great progress in the fight against many common cancers, progress againstbrain cancers, some of the deadliest cancers known, has been agonizingly slow.

Over the past 25 years, for example, only three new drug have been approved for the treatment of brain cancers, and survival rates remain essentially the same as they were a century ago.

In this column, Dr. Greg Foltz, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, writes about the challenges brain cancers pose, about efforts by Seattle researchers to find new treatments, and about this weekend’s Annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk.

Dr. Greg Foltz

Dr. Greg Foltz

Dr. Foltz writes:

While a small group of scientists and doctors are working hard toward a cure, the lack of funding and awareness for the disease, coupled with the limited survival of patients, has left brain cancer as an “orphaned” disease.

Research for a Cure: Local doctors and scientists collaborate to develop new treatments for brain cancer patients

By Dr. Greg Foltz

Brain cancer is the most malignant form of cancer known to humankind. Despite significant advances in the research and treatment of more common cancers, brain cancer survival rates, measured in terms of median survival, have essentially remained unchanged over the past 100 years.

Patients with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive type of primary brain cancer, face a particularly bleak future.

With survival measured in just one to two years, the majority of these patients will tell you that their lives become focused on a simple equation of time and hope.

With each month they continue to live, there is renewed hope for a medical breakthrough, an effective treatment or perhaps even a potential cure.

Unfortunately, the odds are against them as funding for brain cancer research is extremely limited. Only three new treatments have been approved for brain cancer in the past 25 years – one of which is the recently FDA approved Avastin.

None of these treatments extend median survival by more than a few months.

While a small group of scientists and doctors are working hard toward a cure, the lack of funding and awareness for the disease, coupled with the limited survival of patients, has left brain cancer as an “orphaned” disease.

For the 1200 patients in the Pacific Northwest newly diagnosed each year with brain cancer, this reality is especially devastating.

They have grown accustomed to reading about the latest medical and scientific breakthroughs from our world-class research institutions.

Shown is a PET scan (positron emission tomography) of a 17 year old girl with a longstanding history of epilepsy, who has a brain tumor classified as a grade 1 astrocytoma. The PET scan indicates that the tumor is not metabolizing excess glucose and is therefore benign. PET scans allow doctors to tell if a tumor is malignant without resorting to a surgical biopsy.Seattle is now established as a global leader in healthcare. Yet, until recently, few clinical trials or advanced treatment options have been available for brain cancer. These patients expect more. They deserve more.

Recent developments and partnerships that have sprouted in the Pacific Northwest’s biotechnology community are providing some hope for new advancements.

Last year, the Swedish Neuroscience Institute opened the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment (CABTT) as a regional hub for community-based brain tumor clinics.

The opening of CABTT put in motion a network of doctors, researchers and scientists working toward a common goal – to discover more effective treatments for brain cancer.

Other local institutions and research groups such as the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Institute of Systems Biology, Accium Biosciences and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett are working closely with CABTT in innovative ways such as sharing tissue samples, research findings and methods.

This collaborative approach is leading to new scientific advances with potential impact on patient care in the near term.

Doctors can now use genomic profiling (the individualized study of a patient’s tumor to determine which genes are being expressed) to predict why some patients respond to standard treatments while others do not.

This could potentially allow physicians to “customize” their patients’ treatments, bringing more advanced treatments or clinical trials into play sooner.

With continued research and increased clinical trials, transforming brain cancer from a rapidly fatal disease to one with a meaningful possibility for long term survival is within our grasp.

The effort to raise awareness and support for brain cancer research has continued to gain momentum locally as the community gears up for the 2nd Annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk on May 30th.

Initially started by a volunteer who lost a close friend to brain cancer, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk is an annual event that provides an opportunity for our community to take a stand against this deadly disease.

Last year 550 participants raised $120,000 for brain cancer research and the hope is that this year, the Walk will double in size and fundraising. To register or donate to this years event, please visit www.braincancerwalk.org.

While a good start, these efforts represent only an initial step toward our common goal. For our patients, hope can be something that is sometimes difficult to grasp.

But when they see increased community activism and awareness lead to funding for new research, hope does not seem quite so far out of reach.

Medical research and clinical trials are essential in the fight against brain cancer and it is only through increased awareness and doctor/scientist collaboration that treatment advances, and someday a cure, is possible.

About the Author

Greg Foltz, M.D., is a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, Wash., surgical director of the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment and founder of the Pacific Northwest Brain Tumor Alliance.

PHOTO CREDIT:

Photograph of Dr. Foltz courtesy of Swedish Medical Center

PET scans courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.

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Seattle researchers team up to fight brain cancer – Dr. Greg Foltz

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brain-tumor-petWhile there has been great progress in the fight against many common cancers, progress against brain cancers, some of the deadliest cancers known, has been agonizingly slow.

Over the past 25 years, for example, only three new drug have been approved for the treatment of brain cancers, and survival rates remain essentially the same as they were a century ago.

In this column, Dr. Greg Foltz, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, writes about the challenges brain cancers pose, about efforts by Seattle researchers to find new treatments, and about this weekend’s Annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk.

Dr. Greg Foltz

Dr. Greg Foltz

Dr. Foltz writes:

While a small group of scientists and doctors are working hard toward a cure, the lack of funding and awareness for the disease, coupled with the limited survival of patients, has left brain cancer as an “orphaned” disease. Continue reading

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