Cancer Research Blog

Bringing You the Latest in the Search For a Cure

Month: December 2014

Building on Opportunities in Cancer Research: NCI’s Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for FY 2016

This is a time of remarkable opportunity in cancer research. Armed with broad knowledge about how various kinds of cancer arise and with powerful new research tools, the cancer research community, under the leadership of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is poised to reduce the burden of cancer in this country and around the world at an accelerated pace.

The NCI’s goal is to support research that ultimately leads to important clinical outcomes: improvements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment that can reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality of all types of cancer. Making sustained progress, however, requires a wide range of research disciplines that span the continuum from basic science to clinical research to research on implementation and cancer care delivery.

Program Spotlight: Arizona’s Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention – Fostering the Next Generation of Native American Cancer Researchers

Monica Yellowhair, a young Navajo cancer researcher living in Arizona, is just the kind of success story that the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention (NACP) loves to tell.

Growing up in Kayenta, Arizona on a Navajo reservation that spanned four states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico), Yellowhair discovered her passion that eventually led her to the biology lab. “I grew up in an area that exemplifies the essence of beauty, and because of this, I have been interested in science ever since I was just a little girl,” she said. Yellowhair originally thought she might fulfill that passion through teaching, but during her sophomore year, she was offered a position in a research lab through Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Minority Student Development Program. It turned out to be an opportunity that would change her life.

Method for Identifying Combination Therapies to Combat Treatment Resistance Shows Promise

The research community and biopharmaceutical industry have had marked success over the past 10 to 15 years in developing therapies that target genetic changes involved in cancer cell growth and survival. But these targeted therapies have an Achilles heel; in nearly all patients who initially experience tumor shrinkage, their tumors eventually start growing again.

The culprit in these cases? Acquired resistance—that is, the tumor cells develop additional mutations that render the targeted therapy ineffective, or they use alternative communication pathways to transmit the biochemical signals they need to resume growing and traveling throughout the body.

Promoting Cancer Control in Indonesia

The mission of the National Cancer Institute, Center for Global Health is to create sustainable international partnerships, support programs that address global gaps in research and scientific training, and disseminate information and best practices that drive improvements in cancer research and cancer control. In partnership with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Indonesia on detail with the Ministry of Health this past spring to address important global issues of cancer control and cancer research I was positioned in the MOH, Cancer Sub-Directorate, and worked closely with Dharmais National Cancer Hospital, academic partners, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other non-profit organizations to pursue U.S-Indonesia cooperation on tobacco control and research opportunities.

In Indonesia, the current smoking situation is nothing short of a dire public health emergency. Tobacco smoking prevalence is very high among Indonesian men with 67% of men smoking, and although smoking is low among women, it appears that rates among women are increasing rapidly. Additionally smoking rates are quite high among youth with 41 percent of boys starting at an earlier age, when compared to neighboring countries.   Nevertheless, it is an unfortunate reality that for those youth that do not smoke, 78 percent are still exposed to secondhand smoke at home or in public places and 69 percent are exposed to secondhand smoke at home.  Overall, smoking kills at least 225,000 people each year in Indonesia.

More than 300 million people in at least 70 countries use smokeless tobacco

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Conference on Smoking or Health in Mumbai, India released the first-ever report on the global use and public health impact of smokeless tobacco: Smokeless Tobacco and Public Health: A Global Perspective.

Which Patients Will Benefit from Immunotherapy for Cancer? Some Hints Emerge

A relatively small but growing number of patients with cancer have benefited from treatments that use the body’s immune system to fight tumors. Some patients have had dramatic responses to these treatments—called immunotherapies—but little is known about which patients and which types of cancer are likely to respond. A flurry of new studies could provide some clues.

In one study, researchers identified a “genetic signature” in the tumors of patients with advanced melanoma who responded to a form of immunotherapy called checkpoint blockade. The results could be the basis for a test that identifies likely responders to this treatment as well as for developing new treatments, the researchers said in a news release.

Grantee Spotlight: Habtom Ressom, Ph.D. – Multi-Omic Approaches for the Early Detection of Liver Cancer

Each year, more than 12,000 individuals lose their lives to liver cancer. The disease is found more commonly in men than women, and affects African Americans more than non-Hispanic whites. The rate of survival (five years from diagnosis) is slim (only between 2-7%).

Habtom W. Ressom, Ph.D., NCI CRCHD R21 grantee at Georgetown University’s Vince Lombardi’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., is working to identify a method for detecting liver cancer early – with an ultimate goal to save more lives. With a background in electrical engineering, Dr. Ressom employs bioinformatic technologies (a collaboration of bioengineering, computer science, molecular biology, chemistry and mathematics) to collect, and make sense of, multi-omic data from liver cancer cases and patients with liver cirrhosis.

Global Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black Men

Science is expanding at breakthrough speeds, and we are learning more and more about the disproportionate effects of cancer on different races and ethnicities.  This is no different when it comes to prostate cancer.  In the US, African-American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer. They are twice and five times as likely to die from the disease as Caucasians and Asian-Americans, respectively. Similar observations were made among African descent populations in the Caribbean, South America and the United Kingdom. In Africa, prostate cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with men from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) experiencing the highest rates of prostate cancer mortality in the world. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has projected an alarming 101% increase in the mortality rate for this disease in SSA over the next two decades.

To highlighted the importance of addressing prostate cancer in Black men, while building collaborations between scientists and advocates, the 3rd Biennial Science of Global Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black Men Conference was organized by three international NCI-supported cancer epidemiology consortia, namely the Trans-Atlantic Cancer Consortium, the African Caribbean Cancer Consortium and the Men of African Descent and Carcinoma of the Prostate Consortium, in Montego Bay, Jamaica on November 5th – 8th, 2014. The goal of this conference was to develop and maintain a global community of practice that will continue to address common challenges in eliminating prostate cancer disparities worldwide. Jamaica was chosen as the conference location due to the high burden of prostate cancer in this country.

The United States – Latin America Cancer Research Network: A multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to conducting clinical cancer research in Latin America

Stimulating and strengthening cancer research networks and fostering sustainable research capacity through collaboration are goals of the Center for Global Health (CGH) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The United States – Latin America Cancer Research Network (US-LA CRN) convened its Annual Meeting, in coordination with the Ministry of Health of Chile, in Santiago, Chile this November, bringing together investigators from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and the United States to discuss the Network’s first multilateral clinical research study: Molecular Profiling of Breast Cancer (MPBC).  The US-LA CRN has utilized a transdisciplinary and collaborative team science approach throughout the planning and implementation phases of the MPBC to achieve the study objectives of building clinical cancer research capacity in the region while increasing our understanding of breast cancer molecular subtypes in Latin American women.

Dr. Tom Gross, Deputy Director for Science, CGH and I led discussions on the interim analysis of data from more than 1,300 breast cancer patients, across 25 hospitals in Latin America, recruited since 2011.  Short-term plans resulting from this meeting include, among others, the publication of a series of manuscripts describing the clinical cancer research network model, analysis and publication of the data collected to date for the MPBC study, and the planning of correlative studies.  In addition, groundwork for the development of a second US-LA CRN study, focused on gastric cancer, was discussed.

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