Cancer Research Blog

Bringing You the Latest in the Search For a Cure

Month: June 2015

Dr. Stefan Ambs: Increasing Diversity in Cancer Research: One Lab at a Time

As part of the feature series on “Increasing Diversity in Cancer Research,” we interviewed Dr. Stefan Ambs, an investigator at the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, who is using novel approaches to discover gene differences in the tumors of African American patients.

By examining the differences in tumor biology and tumor markers between African-Americans and whites, Stefan Ambs, Ph.D., M.P.H., a Senior Investigator in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research (CCR), Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, is attempting to unravel the biological complexities and survival differences that make up health disparities in African Americans.

Grantee Spotlight: Marta Torroella-Kouri, Ph.D. – Studying the Role of Obesity and Breast Fat Tissue Inflammation in African American Women with Breast Cancer

Marta Torroella-Kouri, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, is studying the role of obesity and breast fat tissue inflammation in breast cancer. A CRCHD-NCI R21 grantee, Torroella-Kouri is hoping to understand the role breast adipose tissue inflammation plays in breast cancer development in obese patients from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds.

 “It is our hope that our research will lead to new breast cancer prevention approaches and therapeutic alternatives for overweight/obese women, especially among African Americans and Latinas, characterized by a high prevalence of obesity and who also have more aggressive breast cancers with the worst prognoses,” she said. Torroella-Kouri is studying the inflammatory response in breast adipose tissue in obese women through two CRCHD-funded R21s.

Whole Brain Radiation for Some Patients with Brain Metastases Worsens Cognitive Decline

In some patients with cancer that has spread to the brain, adding radiation to the whole brain following tumor-focused radiosurgery causes more severe cognitive decline and does not improve survival compared with radiosurgery alone, according to findings from a phase III clinical trial.

The results, several experts in neuro-oncology said, should have an impact on clinical practice.

International Partnerships for Clinical Cancer Research

NCI CGH was privileged to co-sponsor the 2015 International Symposium on Cancer Clinical Trials and related meetings held in partnership with the Japanese National Cancer Center (JNCC) and Embassies of France, Korea, United Kingdom (UK), and United States (US) in Tokyo on May 14 – 15, 2015.

On May14, 2015, Drs. Atsushi Ohtsu and Seiichiro Yamamoto of JNCC hosted an Experts’ Meeting that highlighted exciting research by Japanese and UK scientists.  Dr. Takayuki Yoshino (JNCC) and Dr. Naoko Takebe (US NCI) introduced new precision medicine initiatives, and Drs. Timothy Yap, Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, and Samantha Turnbull presented their work on phase I trials and immunotherapy.  This was followed by a meeting with cancer patient advocates hosted by Drs. Fumihiko Wakao and Seiichiro Yamamoto of JNCC.  Here, Japanese patient advocates shared the need for more information and patient access to clinical trials, patient advocate training, and opportunities to provide input on clinical research.  Drs. Ted Trimble, Matt Seymour, and François Sigaux presented on ways that patient advocates play an important role in cancer research in the US, UK, and France, respectively.  This session was informative for everyone as participants heard examples for patient involvement that could be adopted in their own country.

The Playing Field for Cancer Checkpoint Inhibitors Is Expanding

The list of cancers that may be susceptible to immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors is quickly expanding, according to findings from three early-stage clinical trials presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.

In addition, results of one of the trials point to a genetic alteration that may further define which patients are most likely to benefit from one type of checkpoint inhibitor.

Adjuvant Chemotherapy Modestly Improves Survival in Some Men with Prostate Cancer

Giving some men with prostate cancer chemotherapy after standard treatment with radiation and hormone therapy modestly improves how long they live, according to results from an NCI-funded clinical trial. Results from the trial were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

Among the most common cancers, prostate cancer is the only one in which adjuvant chemotherapy—which is given after the completion of primary treatment and is intended to prevent cancer from returning and extend survival—is not routinely used.

CURE Spotlight: Cesar Castro, M.D. Develops Smartphone Technology for Cancer Detection in Underserved Communities

Cesar Castro, M.D., a former K12 CURE scholar and now Director of the Cancer Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Systems Biology, and a team of researchers have developed a smartphone-based technology that converts a smartphone into a tool for cancer diagnosis.

The device called the Digital Diffraction Diagnosis System or “D3” is what Castro describes as a “forward thinking nanotechnology platform that allows us to extract clinical and scientific information from small amounts of tissues.”

Study Finds Storytelling Helps Overcome Cervical Cancer Screening Disparities

Using a narrative story-telling approach to educate women about screening for cervical cancer improved their knowledge about and attitudes toward screening and increased the number of women who were screened or who intended to be screened, according to a recent study.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and USC Keck School of Medicine, also found that the narrative approach was particularly effective with Mexican American women. Findings from the NCI-funded study were published April 23 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Better Care for Children with Cancer Linked to Longer Lifespans

Gradual refinements in the treatment of many childhood cancers over the last few decades have helped to extend the lifespans of many cancer survivors, a new study suggests. An analysis of data on more than 34,000 childhood cancer survivors showed that the death rate among survivors at 15 years after their diagnoses fell from 12.4 percent to 6 percent between the early 1970s and early 1990s.

Gregory Armstrong, M.D., of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, presented the findings from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) during a May 31 plenary session at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.

Enhancing the Clinical Trials Search Function on

One month after the launch of the redesigned, I’m pleased to announce enhancements to the website’s clinical trials search function. These improvements enable patients and health care providers to more easily find accurate and timely information about active and recruiting NCI-supported cancer clinical trials.

The clinical trials search function now draws trial records from NCI’s Clinical Trials Reporting Program (CTRP) database rather than the National Library of Medicine’s database.

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