Cancer Currents: An NCI Cancer Research Blog
A blog featuring news and research updates from the National Cancer Institute.
- The Cancer Moonshot Summit: Reaching New Heights
Yesterday, I attended the Cancer Moonshot Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, held at Howard University in Washington, DC. In addition to this Summit, there were more than 250 regional summits happening simultaneously, making this truly a national event.
The summits were an opportunity for the Vice President to speak directly to the American public and ask them to “convene under the national charge of doubling the rate of progress toward ending cancer as we know it.”
- Prognosis Discussions Improve Understanding of Illness for Patients with Terminal Cancer
New study results show that many patients with advanced, incurable cancer have a poor understanding of their prognosis or life expectancy. Fewer than one in four patients in the study reported having a recent discussion about prognosis with their oncologist, although those who did were more likely to understand the serious nature of their illness, the study showed.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to directly address and demonstrate these associations between the timing of patient-reported prognostic discussions and improvements in illness understanding by patients,” the study authors wrote in a paper published May 23 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
- The Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel: Moving Toward a Final Report
I hope that, by now, most in the cancer community have seen Vice President Biden’s address at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. It was an inspiring presentation, with the Vice President highlighting the launch of the Genomic Data Commons and emphasizing the essential role the research community will play in achieving the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative’s goals.
I’d like to give you an update on other things that have happened with this important initiative since my last post in Cancer Currents, but let me just preface this by saying that it’s been anything but business as usual for NCI.
- Extended Adjuvant Therapy Beneficial for Some Women with Breast Cancer
Results from a recent clinical trial showed that extending adjuvant therapy with an aromatase inhibitor to 10 years after initial treatment can have important benefits for postmenopausal women with early-stage hormone receptor (HR)–positive breast cancer. The longer treatment improved 5-year disease-free survival and decreased the women’s risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast, called contralateral breast cancer.
The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 5 and presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.
- Early-Stage Cancer Trials Support Promise of Precision Medicine, Immunotherapy
Findings from several early-stage clinical trials featured at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago last week reflect the dominant trends in cancer treatment: targeted therapies and immune-based treatments.
Although the results of these trials won’t change patient care immediately, in each case the trial investigators and other researchers agreed that the findings point in that direction.
- Blood Test for Genetic Changes in Tumors Shows Promise as Alternative to Tumor Biopsy
In the largest study of its kind to date, a test that assesses DNA mutations and other changes in genetic material shed from tumors into the blood—a so-called liquid biopsy—produced results highly similar to those of traditional tumor biopsies.
The patterns of genomic changes identified by the test in a large collection of patient blood samples largely matched patterns of genetic changes seen in large tumor biopsy profiling studies, researchers reported last week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.
- Trials Produce Practice-Changing Results for Brain Cancer
The standard treatment that some patients with brain cancer receive is likely to change, based on findings from two large clinical trials presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago this week.
Both trials showed that administering the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (Temodar®) in addition to radiation therapy increased how long patients lived overall and without their disease progressing. The trial investigators and other leading brain cancer researchers agreed that the results of the two trials will change the standard of care.
- FDA Approves New Immunotherapy Drug for Bladder Cancer
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 18 approved atezolizumab (Tecentriq®) for the treatment of some patients with urothelial carcinoma, the most common type of bladder cancer. The drug, which strengthens the body’s immune response against cancer, is the first new treatment approved for bladder cancer in two decades.
“This is very exciting news for patients with bladder cancer,” said Piyush Agarwal, M.D., head of the Bladder Cancer Section in the NCI Center for Cancer Research's (CCR) Urologic Oncology Branch, who noted that the approval would likely open “a wave of new clinical trials” for patients with bladder cancer. The FDA approved atezolizumab for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma that has gotten worse during or after treatment with platinum chemotherapy.
- Patient-Derived Antibody Appears to Selectively Target Tumor Cells, Spur Immune Attack
Researchers have developed an antibody derived from patients with early-stage lung cancer that enlists the immune system to destroy cancer cells.
The antibody killed tumor cells in cell lines of several different cancer types and slowed tumor growth in mouse models of brain and lung cancer without obvious evidence of side effects, the researchers reported May 5 in Cell Reports.
- Two New Therapies Approved by FDA for Advanced Kidney Cancer
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two drugs for the treatment of patients with advanced kidney cancer. Both approvals are for patients whose cancers have progressed after receiving prior treatment with drugs that block tumor blood vessel growth, known as antiangiogenic therapies.
- Enhanced Risk-Based Lung Cancer Screening May Prevent More Deaths than Current Approaches
NCI researchers have developed a risk model-based approach for selecting smokers and former smokers who may be candidates for lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT). Using data from two lung cancer screening studies and a U.S. health survey, the researchers estimated that the new approach might prevent more deaths from lung cancer over 5 years than would current screening recommendations.
Results from the statistical analysis appeared in JAMA on May 15.
- FDA Approves First Immunotherapy for Lymphoma
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved nivolumab (Opdivo®) on May 17 for the treatment of some patients with classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL). The approval is for the treatment of patients whose disease has relapsed or worsened after they received an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) followed by brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris®).
Nivolumab—which has already been approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, lung cancer, and kidney cancer—is the first immunotherapy agent approved for any type of lymphoma.
- Colorectal Cancer Survival Linked to Primary Tumor Location
In patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, the location in the colon where the tumor originated appears to strongly influence how long patients live, according to a new study.
The study—a retrospective analysis of data from a large NCI-funded phase III clinical trial—found that patients whose cancer originated in the left side of the colon (distal colon) lived more than a year longer after initial treatment than patients whose disease originated in the right side of the colon (proximal colon).
- Charting a Course toward Precision Cancer Prevention
Today, in JAMA Oncology, with my colleagues in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and elsewhere, we published a study on a risk prediction model developed to assess the absolute risk of breast cancer in women of European background in the United States.
The model takes into effect risk factors that can be modified, like alcohol use, and those that can’t, like family history and the constellation of previously identified common genetic risk variants, or SNPs. This multifaceted model can more precisely identify the subsets of women at highest risk of breast cancer who would be most likely to benefit from alterations to those modifiable factors.
- Survival Disparities Identified in Young African Americans with Colorectal Cancer
African Americans who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a young age have significantly worse survival rates than young white patients, according to a new study.
The disparity was found even among those who were diagnosed with early-stage disease, Elena Stoffel, M.D., of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and her colleagues reported May 2 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
- Online Tool Helps Users Distinguish Moles from Melanoma
As Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month comes to a close and summer begins, NCI has launched a new online tool called Moles to Melanoma: Recognizing the ABCDE Features.
The new tool is intended to help educate the public about the appearance and features of common moles (nevi), which pose no health risk, as well as those of atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), which can increase melanoma risk, and actual melanomas.
- Improving Cancer Control in Rural Communities: An Interview with Dr. Robert Croyle
Researchers from several NCI-Designated Cancer Centers and NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) sites that serve rural parts of the United States recently met with NCI leaders to discuss the disparities in cancer outcomes in many rural areas of the country. The meeting was part of NCI’s efforts to prioritize its research activities to improve cancer control in rural areas.
In this interview, Robert Croyle, Ph.D., director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, discusses some of the issues faced by rural communities and how NCI is approaching this important problem.
- Cross Talk between Cancer Cells and Neighboring Cells May Contribute to Tumor Growth
Pancreatic tumor cells and neighboring normal cells engage in a two-way molecular conversation that helps drive malignant behavior in the cancer cells, according to new study results.
Working in cell lines from mice, researchers showed that pancreatic cancer cells that have cancer-causing mutations in the KRAS gene can coerce nearby healthy cells to release growth signals. These signals then activate a chain of events in the tumor cells that enhance their ability to survive and multiply.
- New Treatment Target Identified for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma
NCI researchers have identified new therapeutic targets in a common subtype of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Drugs that hit these targets, known as SMAC mimetics, are already under clinical development, and the research team hopes to begin testing them in clinical trials of patients with DLBCL.
In a study published April 11 in Cancer Cell, the NCI researchers showed that the proteins cIAP1 and cIAP2 control the activity of a key signaling pathway in B cells that drives proliferation and survival in the ABC subtype of DLBCL (ABC DLBCL). In cell lines and animal models of the ABC subtype, they found that SMAC mimetics, which inhibit cIAP1 and cIAP2, killed cancer cells and shrank tumors.