Cancer Currents: An NCI Cancer Research Blog
A blog featuring news and research updates from the National Cancer Institute.
- DINO RNA Molecule Triggers Anticancer Response in Damaged Cells
Researchers from Stanford University have identified an important molecule involved in the process that normally causes irreparably damaged cells to self-destruct. This molecule, a type of RNA they nicknamed DINO, helps regulate a vital tumor suppressor protein called p53, which is inactivated in more than half of all cancers.
In DINO, "we've found a new guardian of your genome," said Howard Chang, Ph.D., who led the study. His lab's experiments showed that, once cells accumulate a dangerous amount of genomic damage, the DINO (short for Damage Induced NOncoding) RNA takes part in a process that stabilizes the p53 protein so that it can initiate the self-destruct program, called apoptosis.
- Modified Immunotherapy Approach Shows Promise for Leukemia
An immunotherapy approach that uses a new method of preparing immune cells may provide a potential treatment option for some patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), results from an early-stage clinical trial suggest.
In the phase I trial, researchers collected the immune cells, called natural killer (NK) cells, from donors, manipulated them to be better cancer killers, and infused the cells into patients with AML who had previously exhausted all other treatment options. The approach—which uses a new method of manipulating NK cells that is different from those used in prior studies—led to partial or complete remissions in five out of the nine patients who could be evaluated. It also appeared to be safe, with patients experiencing only minor side effects.
- Metabolomics Study Reveals another Energy Source for Cancer Cells
Researchers have discovered another way that cancer cells may produce the energy they need to survive and grow.
Using new metabolomics technologies, the researchers found that cancer cells can use the compound lactate to fuel biochemical reactions and to generate other compounds needed for cell growth, such as lipids to build new cellular membranes. Metabolomics is the science of measuring small molecules, such as glucose, amino acids, and cholesterol, within a biological sample.
- Educating Patients about Genetic Test Results: An Interview with Carol Weil about the COMET Study
The COMET (COMmunication and Education in Tumor profiling) study, launched in September 2016, is examining whether educating patients with cancer about genetic testing will increase their knowledge and reduce their stress levels after receiving the results of their tumor profiling tests. COMET is an ancillary study to NCI-MATCH, a treatment trial that seeks to match patients whose tumors have specific genetic mutations to drugs that target those mutations.
In this interview, Carol Juliet Weil, program director for ethical and regulatory affairs in NCI’s Cancer Diagnosis Program, describes the COMET study and discusses how the findings could help to empower patients with cancer.
- Avelumab Induces Sustained Tumor Responses in Some Patients with Rare Skin Cancer
In the phase II trial, 32% of patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma that had returned after earlier treatment experienced partial or complete shrinkage of their tumors when treated with the new drug. Among patients whose tumors shrank, more than 90% sustained this response for at least 6 months.
- Study Confirms Benefits of Early Palliative Care for Advanced Cancer
Patients who received palliative care along with standard treatment for advanced cancer reported having a better quality of life and mood than patients who did not receive early palliative care, according to the results of a randomized clinical trial.
Patients who received early palliative care also scored better on an assessment of their ability to cope with their disease and were more likely to discuss end-of-life care preferences with their health care team.
- TARGET Initiative Fueling Progress Against Childhood Leukemia
Research from an NCI-funded program studying a group of rare and hard-to-treat childhood cancers has set the stage for two Children’s Oncology Group-led clinical trials that are evaluating new treatment options for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
The Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments (TARGET) initiative is a large, multinational, collaborative effort to conduct comprehensive genomic analyses of select pediatric cancers. The TARGET initiative’s goal is to identify the molecular changes that drive these cancers and, consequently, to lay the foundation for the development of new therapies or approaches that target these molecular alterations.
- Studies Highlight Potential of Targeting HIF-2 in Kidney Cancer
Two new studies show that a new class of drugs can block the activity of a molecular driver of the most common type of kidney cancer, clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). Both studies were published online September 5 in Nature.
The drugs target HIF-2, a transcription factor that controls the activity of a group of genes, which can promote tumor growth. In both studies, a HIF-2-targeting drug shrank human-derived ccRCC tumors in mice.
- Many Cancer Caregivers Report Feeling Unprepared for Caregiving Challenges
Many family members who care for loved ones with cancer do not feel adequately prepared for the caregiving tasks they assume and need help to make informed decisions about end-of-life care, according to a new study.
“Our study found that many cancer caregivers experience high levels of emotional stress,” said Erin Kent, Ph.D., of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. “Many caregivers need to perform medical or nursing tasks without feeling fully prepared or trained to carry them out.”
- Chromosomal Instability Score May Predict Response to Cancer Treatment
A team led by researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has identified a new type of biomarker that may help predict prognosis and response to chemotherapy and radiation therapy for several types of cancer.
The biomarker is a score based on the expression levels of a set of genes involved in partitioning chromosomes during cell division. This score, the researchers found, could identify tumors that would likely not respond to certain treatments and those that would be sensitive. The score could also predict patients’ outcomes with or without treatment.
- Forging Collaborations to Spur Global Progress against Cancer
Cancer, like many other diseases, doesn’t exist within the geographic borders of any single country. Its burden is felt around the world and that burden is growing in many countries. According to the most recent estimates, worldwide, there were approximately 14 million new cancer cases in 2012. And that number is expected to swell by an additional 10 million cases over the next two decades.
In April, while speaking alongside Pope Francis at a Vatican event, Vice President Biden stressed the role that biomedical research can—and, indeed, must—play in addressing the impact of cancer and other diseases on global health.
- Meeting Patients Where They Are: Liberating Clinical Trials Data Under the Cancer Moonshot
Cancer clinical trials are a critically important step on the pathway for new or improved treatments to make their way to patients in clinics and hospitals in towns and cities across the country.
Patients and their loved ones are relying on these rigorous studies to determine whether promising new therapies and approaches might extend how long they live or improve their quality of life.
- The Impact and Future of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study: An Interview with Greg Armstrong, M.D.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, an opportunity to learn more about pediatric cancer. Thanks to treatment advances, 83% of children diagnosed with cancer will survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, many of these survivors will experience late effects, health problems later in life that are related to the cancer treatments they received as children.
The NCI-supported Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) has helped to identify late effects of childhood cancer treatments, and to develop strategies for preventing or better managing these effects, with the aim of improving survivors’ quality of life and long-term survival. In this interview, Greg Armstrong, M.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, principal investigator of the CCSS, discusses some recent findings from the long-running study and its future directions.
- Pancreatic Cancer Cells May Obtain Nutrients from Neighboring Cells
Pancreatic cancer cells grow by instructing neighboring cells to provide them with nutrients, a new study published online August 10 in Nature has shown.
The researchers found that when grown together in culture, cancer cells prompted cells from the tumor microenvironment to degrade their own proteins and supply the cancer cells with the resulting amino acids. This external nutrient supply led to increased metabolism and growth in the pancreatic cancer cells. In separate experiments in mice, blocking the supply of nutrients from cells in the tumor microenvironment slowed pancreatic tumor growth.
- Blue Ribbon Panel Report: The Power of the Cancer Community Coming Together
Listening to the presentation of the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel report at the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) meeting earlier this week, I was moved and inspired by this culmination of 5 months of work. The report demonstrates the power of the cancer community coming together as it never has before to deliver a promise of progress against cancer. The time, energy, dedication, and ideas that went into the report’s creation have been nothing short of extraordinary, and I'd like to thank the cancer community for participating in this collaborative and important undertaking.
This report represents the collaboration of science, technology, advocacy, social science, and big data to solve some of cancer’s greatest challenges. At the core of the report are 10 bold yet feasible initiatives that can benefit patients by changing the trajectory of our understanding of how cancer develops, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. I am honored to deliver this compelling report to Vice President Biden and my federal colleagues on the Cancer Moonshot Task Force for inclusion in their reports to the President later this fall.
- Approach May Allow for Stem Cell Transplant without Radiation, Chemotherapy
In a proof-of-concept study in mice, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine successfully performed hematopoietic (blood) stem cell (HSC) transplants (also called bone marrow transplants) without first using radiation or chemotherapy.
Instead of these toxic conditioning regimens, which are normally used to clear existing stem cells in the bone marrow before transplantation, the researchers used two biological agents that selectively eliminated HSCs in the host mice but left other tissues and organs undamaged.
- Engineered Stem Cells Help Identify Potential New Treatment for Medulloblastoma
In search of a better laboratory model for studying an aggressive kind of medulloblastoma, a group of researchers led by a team from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center has created their own system for studying this rare pediatric brain tumor.
The researchers engineered neural stem cells, which can develop into any type of brain cell, to carry mutations thought to drive this particular subtype of medulloblastoma. When implanted into mice, the engineered cells successfully replicated how medulloblastoma develops and spreads in patients.
- Tumor DNA in Blood May Signal Response to T-Cell Transfer Immunotherapy
A pilot study by NCI researchers suggests that tumor DNA circulating in the blood of patients with cancer might be a biological marker for determining, soon after the treatment has started, whether a form of immunotherapy is likely to work for a given patient.