Cancer Research Blog

Bringing You the Latest in the Search For a Cure

Month: February 2015

Genome Study Yields Clues to Head and Neck Cancers

Researchers have surveyed the genetic changes in nearly 300 head and neck cancers, revealing some previously unknown alterations that may play a role in the disease, including in patients whose cancer is associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, and the number of HPV-related head and neck cancers has been growing.

Published January 29, in Nature, the study was conducted by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network, which is jointly supported and managed by NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute. The study is the most comprehensive examination to date of genomic alterations in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC).

Special Spotlight: World Cancer Day – Ending Cancer Health Disparities is Not Beyond Us

Today is World Cancer Day and CRCHD joins the global fight against cancer and cancer health disparities so that everyone can live healthy lives.

In many parts of the U.S., some population groups experience an unequal burden of cancer. In areas like the Deep South, Appalachia, and the Great Lakes region for example, members of members of racially and ethnically diverse groups often face great barriers to health care access. Cancer health disparities are a result of a complex set of factors. Poverty can be to blame, as well as environmental and lifestyle risks, but another is simply a lack of cancer information.

Medicare to Cover Annual Lung Cancer Screening for Some Beneficiaries

For the first time, Medicare will cover the costs of lung cancer screening for some beneficiaries, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on February 5. The coverage applies only to screening with low-dose computed tomography (LD-CT) in beneficiaries considered to be at increased risk based on their smoking history.

“This is an important new Medicare preventive benefit since lung cancer is the third most common [nonskin] cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States,” said Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS chief medical officer and deputy administrator for innovation and quality.

FDA Grants Palbociclib Accelerated Approval for Advanced Breast Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted accelerated approval to palbociclib (Ibrance) for the initial treatment of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with metastatic disease. The approval is for the use of palbociclib in combination with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole.

Palbociclib is the first FDA-approved cancer drug that works by inhibiting cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4 and 6, both of which are involved in regulating cancer cell division.

Twitter Chat on Non-Communicable Diseases and Global Health

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 63 percent of deaths in the world today, or more than 36 million deaths each year.  The largest burden due to NCDs (80 percent or 28 million) occurs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). NCDs are a major cause of poverty in these countries.

The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (e.g., heart attacks, stroke), cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases (e.g., chronic obstructed pulmonary disease, asthma).   Recently, the World Health Organization added mental health to the group to address the rapid rise of mental disorders, injuries, and violence.  

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Plummets, but Disparities Persist

Secondhand smoke exposure in the United States fell by 50 percent from 1999 to 2012, according to a new study by investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, they estimated that 58 million people in the United States were still exposed to secondhand smoke through cigarette smoking in 2011–2012.

Secondhand smoke causes disease and death in nonsmoking children and adults, and there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. In the study, published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), David Homa, Ph.D., and his colleagues examined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 1999 to 2012 to examine secondhand smoke exposure among the nonsmoking population. Secondhand exposure was assessed among nonsmokers over 3 years of age by measuring levels of serum cotinine levels (a metabolite of nicotine).

“Flipping the Switch”: An Interview with Dr. Mark Gilbert, Chief of NIH’s Neuro-Oncology Branch

In November 2014, Mark Gilbert, M.D., became chief of the NIH Neuro-Oncology Branch. The Branch is a partnership between NCI and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In this interview, Dr. Gilbert talks about the Branch’s priorities and new developments in neuro-oncology.

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New from NCI: Resources, Tools, and News

In an effort to inform the cancer research community and public about new NCI resources, this blog will regularly feature tools, videos, and other materials recently posted on NCI websites, including

Some recent additions include a new catalog of widely used data sets from NCI-supported studies and programs, several videos featuring NCI researchers, and an important NCI budget document known as the Congressional Justification.

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