Cancer patients who use alternative therapies ‘twice as likely’ to die

A new study of 1,290 United States cancer patients suggests that people who opt for alternative therapies are “twice as likely” to die. Often, these patients refuse life-saving treatments like surgery or chemotherapy in favor of alternative therapies.

“The reality is despite the fact that many patients believe that these types of unproven therapies will improve their survival and possibly even improve their chances of a cure, there’s really no evidence to support that claim…” said Skyler Johnson of from Yale School of Medicine, lead author of the study.

“Although they may be used to support patients experiencing symptoms from cancer treatment, it looks as though they are either being marketed or understood to be effective cancer treatments,” he added.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research United Kingdom’s head information nurse, believes that complementary medicine can increase quality of life and wellbeing for some patients.

“But it is important that patients considering them do not see them as an alternative to conventional treatments that have been shown though clinical trials to make a real difference to survival,” he said.

And Arnie Purushotham, director at King’s Health Partners Comprehensive Cancer Centre, believes that there is a clear difference between complementary treatments and alternative therapies.

“The medical community is united in agreeing that alternate therapy is not an effective means of treating cancer patients,” he said.

“However, there is increasing evidence that complementary therapy like acupuncture, yoga and relaxation therapy may be beneficial in alleviating cancer patients’ symptoms like pain and fatigue.”

The findings were published in JAMA Oncology.

HEALTH HND_Cancer HND_Disease Research SCI

Anti-cancer drugs put cancer to sleep forever

For the first time ever, Melbourne scientists have discovered an anti-cancer drug that puts cancers into a state of permanent sleep. Not only that, it does so without the standard harmful side-effects caused by traditional cancer therapies.

The unique new class of drugs could give cancer patients an alternative treatment, and thus far it has show promise for stopping the progression of cancer in models of liver and blood cancers. Not only that, it has been shown effective in delaying cancer relapse.

Tim Thomas, who led the research, claims that the new drug class is the first to target KAT6A and KAT6B proteins, which are known to play a big role in driving cancer.

“Early on, we discovered that genetically depleting KAT6A quadrupled the life expectancy in animal models of blood cancers called lymphoma,” Thomas said. “Armed with the knowledge that KAT6A is an important driver of cancer, we began to look for ways of inhibiting the protein to treat cancer.”

“This new class of anti-cancer drugs was effective in preventing cancer progression in our preclinical cancer models,” he added. “We are extremely excited about the potential that they hold as an entirely new weapon for fighting cancer.

Apparently, the compound was tolerated well in preclinical models and proved itself to be potent against tumor cells without negatively impacting healthy cells.

“This has been a very tough nut to crack,” said Ian Street, chief scientist at Cancer Therapeutics CRC. “There is no doubt that the KAT6 inhibitors have played an important role in elucidating the potential of this new and exciting strategy to treat cancers.”

The findings were published in Nature.

HEALTH HND_Cancer Research SCI

Healthy diets linked to lower cancer risk, study says

A new study continues to support the notion that a healthy diet in combination with physical activity and low alcohol consumption is connected to lower overall cancer risk. Not only that, it decreases the risk of prostate, lower breast, and colorectal cancer.

“Among all risk factors for cancer (besides tobacco), nutrition and physical activity are modifiable lifestyle factors which can contribute to cancer risk,” said Mathilde Touvier of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN).

“The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) estimated that in developed countries, around 35 percent of breast cancers and 45 percent of colorectal cancers could be avoided by better adherence to nutritional recommendations,” added Bernard Srour, also of the EREN. “It is, therefore, very important to investigate the role of nutrition in cancer prevention.”

It’s important to note that the researchers believe that a “synergistic contribution” of a healthy diet is more important than any single dietary recommendation. For example, exercise can lower blood pressure created by high-sodium foods, and antioxidants from fruits and veggies can counteract oxidative damage from processed meat.

“This emphasizes the role of an overall healthy lifestyle–nutrition and physical activity and alcohol avoidance–in cancer prevention,” Srour said. “It is, therefore, important to keep in mind that every lifestyle factor counts and it is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle.”

“In its last report, the WCRF stated that there is now strong, convincing evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risks of oropharyngeal, esophagus, liver, colorectal, and post-menopausal breast cancers,” Touvier said, suggests that there are also connections to premenopausal breast and stomach cancers.

The findings were published in Cancer Research.


Liver cancer rates are rising

Liver cancer rates have risen, according to Health Line. The liver cancer death rates in the United States have increased dramatically in recent years, and lifestyle choices including some that are dating back as far as the 1960s likely play a major role in this dilemma.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that death rates for liver cancer increased 43 percent among men, and 40 percent among women between 2000 and 2016. The death rate for liver cancer now stands at 15 per 100,000 U.S. men, and 6.3 per 100,000 women.

As a result of this, the liver cancer death rate rise from being the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2000, to the 6th leading cause of death in 2016, according to the report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics

Liver cancer deaths specifically increased among Caucasian adults (48 percent), African-American adults (43 percent), and Hispanic adults (27 percent). At the same time, the death rate for liver cancer declined 22 percent among Asian and Pacific Islander adults.

This increase in deaths from liver cancer was especially relevant among adults ages 65 and older. Interestingly, many of the leading causes of liver cancer ( which include alcohol use, hepatitis infections, obesity, and smoking) are also on the rise in the United States.

The CDC reported that in May 2017 that newly reported cases of hepatitis C infection tripled between 2010 and 2015, and the rate of hepatitis B increased in 2013 for the first time in two decades. Experts also pointed to rising use of injectable opiate drugs as the cause, as both types of hepatitis that can be transmitted by sharing dirty needles.


Immunotherapy shows promise in combating lung cancer

Immune-based therapy could help create one of the best lung cancer treatments to date, according to new research across three studies simultaneously published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Though many immunotherapy treatments have been approved to treat certain tumor types, they have not yet been used to fight lung cancer. In the new research, scientists from various U.S. universities found that immune-based technology may be able to weaken lung tumors and increase overall survivability.

Currently, more than half lung cancer survivors see it return after treatment. As a result, methods like chemotherapy only increase survival chances by about 5 percent. Scientists hope the newly researched immunotherapy could help raise that percentage without exposing patients to any toxic chemicals. 

In one of the studies, researchers mixed two checkpoint inhibitor drugs — which target proteins to help expose tumors to the body’s immune system — to see if the concoction could keep tumors from growing better than standard chemotherapy treatments in those with advanced non small cell lung cancer. After testing 300 people, they found immunotherapy to be 42 percent more effective than chemotherapy.

Scientists also found that combining chemotherapy with another immune-based checkpoint inhibitor known as pembrolizumab (Keytruda) helped patients live nearly four months longer on average than those treated with only chemotherapy.

“The magnitude of benefit was unexpected and great to see,” said co-author of one study Leena Gandhi, associate professor of medicine at New York University, according to Yahoo News.


Though lung cancer treatments typically rely on chemotherapy, doctors are steadily trending towards other solutions as time goes on. This new proposal is one such way, and it could largely increase survival rates in the coming years. They could also alter the way lung cancer is treated down the line.

“The Holy Grail is to have a relatively non-toxic therapy that could potentially use the body’s own immune system to prevent recurrence,” said co-author of one study Patrick Forde, assistant professor of oncology and associate member of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins University.


Fluorescent dyes could help surgeons better detect cancer

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania are attempting to use glowing, fluorescent dye as a way to identify hidden cancer tumors and dangerous cells.

Currently, surgery is the best way to cure cancer. While more advanced treatments are used if the disease spreads, most operations can remove localized tumors. However, such procedures can leave behind harmful cells because there is no way to easily tell which are normal and which are cancerous. Though surgeons can look or feel for defects, that is not a perfect system.

The new dyes aim to fix that by helping surgeons easily detect infected or problematic areas.

“It’s almost like we have bionic vision,” said Sunil Singhal, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, according to ABC News. “We can be sure we’re not taking too much or too little.”

While the dyes are purely experimental for now, there is a lot of progress being made. Two are currently in late-stage studies, and researchers hope to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration within the next five to ten years.

Doctors have long used a dye known as ICG for different purposes. The new research is unique because it employs the substance in a completely new way. They found that when large doses of the dye are administered to a patient the day before surgery it collects in cancer cells and glows under infrared light. As a result, it could be used for all tumor types.

In addition, there is another dye in the works that binds to a protein found in many cancer cells. The dye is still in testing, but it highlighted 56 of 59 lung cancers during early trials. Nine of those were not visible ahead of time.

Roughly 80,000 Americans have lung spot surgery each year. Being able to easily identify harmful areas would allow surgeons to more accurately know what to remove. This process could also be extremely useful for breast cancer patients. Nearly one third of women who have surgery for the disease need a second one. The dye could drastically reduce such errors.

“You can see it down to a few dozen cells or a few hundred cells,” said Jim Olson, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital, according to CBS News. “I’ve seen neurosurgeons come out of the operating room with a big smile on their face because they can see the cancer very clearly.”


Testosterone can help cancer patients

Cancer  patients who suffer from a loss of body mass can be helped by using testosterone, according to Science News Daily. Statistics show that 20 percent of cancer-related deaths are due to the syndrome called cachexia, which forces cancer patients to lose body mass at an accelerated speed. Dr. Melinda Sheffield-Moore, professor and head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology, along with researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, recently published research showing that the hormone testosterone is successful at fighting cachexia in cancer patients and improving their quality of life.

“We hoped to demonstrate these patients would go from not feeling well enough to even get out of bed to at least being able to have some basic quality of life that allows them to take care of themselves and receive therapy,” said Dr. Sheffield-Moore.

Dr. Sheffield-Moore also said that doctors were interested in  her expertise in nutrition and metabolism when patients were losing significant amounts of weight from cancer cachexia. She said that previous treatment failed and so led to her team investigating the hormone testosterone instead.

“We already know that testosterone builds skeletal muscle in healthy individuals, so we tried using it in a population at a high risk of muscle loss, so these patients could maintain their strength and performance status to be able to receive standard cancer therapies.” Dr. Sheffield-Moore said.

The National Cancer Institute funded this study for five years, ands patients with a type of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma were treated with standard of care chemotherapy along with seven weeks of treatment with either testosterone or placebo.


California coffee makers need to use cancer warning

A California judge has ruled that coffee companies within the state need to put a cancer warning label on their cups.

The reason that Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle sided with a nonprofit organization’s call for the labels was because they made the case that coffee makers were in violation of a regulation that requires businesses with at least 10 employees to share the amount of carcinogens and toxic chemicals in their food.

“While plaintiff offered evidence that consumption of coffee increases the risk of harm to the fetus, to infants, to children and to adults, defendants’ medical and epidemiology experts testified that they had no opinion on causation,” stated Berle, according to The Washington Post. “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.”

Acrylamide — which is typically created during the baking or frying of certain foods — is produced in coffee beans when they are roasted. As a result, it then transfers over to brewed cups.

Neither side in the case disputed that coffee has acrylamide. The reason the nonprofit won was because the defendants could not show that it posed no risk or added any benefits to the coffee. They also could not prove that the substance would not cause one or more cancer cases in every 100,000 people.

Though the case is eight years old and the ruling is tentative, it is unlikely that the decision will be reversed. In addition to the labels, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics — who brought on the lawsuit — asked for fines up to $2,500 for every person exposed to the chemical since 2002. That could pave the way for large settlements. In fact, many larger companies, including 7-Eleven, have already settled.

The complaint filed by the nonprofit in the case argues that a 12-ounce serving of coffee contains a statistically significant level of acrylamide. Though there is not a lot of evidence for that, there is also not a lot of evidence against it.

Past research has found that acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in rats and mice when administered at extremely high doses, but nobody is sure how it affects humans. More researchers needs to be done on the substance moving forward to see if the labeling needs to go beyond California.

“Acrylamide was added to the Proposition 65 list in 1990 because studies showed it produced cancer in laboratory rats and mice,” Sam Delson of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) told ABC News.


Ultra-processed foods may be linked to cancer, study reports

A group of researchers in France have discovered a strong link between highly processed foods and cancer, according to new research in BMJ.

The scientists closely analyzed how diet is tied to potential cancer risk. They paid special attention to ultra-processed foods, which are commonly high in fat, salt, sugar, and saturated fat.

Such foods — which are created through several levels of processing — have little nutritional value. However, while they are commonly consumed in today’s society, little research has been done on how they affect health.

To shed some light on that subject, the team analyzed the diets of 105,000 adults who took a survey that asked questions about diet, weight, education, drug use, physical activity, and family history. The team then followed up with each person for five years to collect information on cancer diagnoses.

After collecting the data, researchers noticed a strong connection between ultra-processed foods and cancer. They found that increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods by 10 percent came with a 12-percent increased risk of being diagnosed with any type of cancer.

While the data did not conclusively point to any one type of food as a cancer-causing agent, it does suggest a strong correlation. As a result, the team hopes the research will cause people to be more careful about the food their choose to eat.

“Rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” the researchers wrote in the study, according to Newsweek.

Though the results are new, they are not particularly surprising to health professionals. Past studies have linked many processed food to weight problems, which in turn is also linked to cancer.

“It’s already known that eating a lot of these foods can lead to weight gain, and being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of cancer, so it’s hard to disentangle the effects of diet and weight,” Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, told BBC News.

Eating fatty foods from time to time is not a big deal, but researchers warn that people should be careful about how much processed food they consume on a regular basis.

HEALTH HND_Cancer Science

Children’s cancers may be hard to detect

Scientists discovered that some children’s bone cancers start growing years before they are currently diagnosed and so can lay dormant for years before discovery, according to Science Daily.

Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Canada discovered large-scale genetic rearrangements in Ewing Sarcomas and other children’s cancers, and showed tha. these can take years to form in bone or soft tissue. This study will help unravel the causes of childhood cancers and raises the possibility of finding ways to diagnose and treat these cancers earlier in the future.

Dr Adam Shlien, a  lead author on the paper and Associate Director of Translational Genetics and Scientist in Genetics & Genome Biology, and co-Director of the SickKids Cancer Sequencing (KiCS) program at SickKids, said: “Many childhood sarcomas are driven by gene fusions, however until now we have not known how or when these key events occur, or whether these processes change at relapse. We found dramatic early chromosomal shattering in 42 per cent of Ewing sarcomas, not only fusing two critical genes together, but also disrupting a number of important areas.”

The earlier that a cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, but until now it was thought that Ewing sarcoma was very fast growing. Interestingly, the researchers then found that the complex DNA rearrangements that cause Ewing sarcoma had actually occurred years before the tumor was diagnosed. This of course offers possibilities of finding ways to screen for these cancers to treat them much earlier and so save lives.