Recent News in Cancer Research, 2017

 ⁃ Computer model says leading cause of cancer is due to random mutations of the DNA in cells.

During March, three scientists at John’s Hopkins research labs have released results of their mathematical model based cancer study that was published in the journal Science, concluded that the chance of getting cancer is mostly caused by random mutations of DNA. 

The top line numbers boil down to this: random mutations in DNA:66%, preventable cancers with environmental causes: 29%, genetically or heredity based cancers 5%. The scientists also said that it’s important to understand that at least three random mutations in the DNA are needed before any cancer tumor can be formed. This cancer study is a follow on study of a that occurred two years ago which was met with much controversy because of its broad scope. This current study is beginning to generate controversy as well, as scientist lineup on either side of the discussions. It’s interesting to note that the network news shows on TV did not mention the study at all.

 ⁃ Today the FDA fast tracked a cancer immunotherapy to fight a rare form of blood cancer called advanced lymphoma. 

According to Dr Jon LaPook of CBS News, there is a new experimental immunotherapy called, car-T. The immunotherapy uses a patient’s own immune cells that are removed from the body and are treated by genetic modification that re-programs the immune cells to target lymphoma cells, and then put back into the patient’s blood stream. The cancer treatment was developed by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Dr. Frederick Lock, the clinical trial director, reported results of 101 patients that had advanced lymphoma that used the new immunotherapy. He said that the immunotherapy “puts a GPS navigation on the front of the cell.” He said when immunotherapy is put back into the patient’s blood stream, they reprogrammed immuno cells destroy the advance lymphoma cells.The results: after a single treatment 39% of the patients had no evidence of cancer after 8-months. There were three treatment related deaths, and there were some challenging side effects. 

 ⁃ The future of cancer treatment: immunotherapies.

On March 12, 2017 CBS News’ Dr. Jon LaPook reported on recent developments in immunotherapy. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is using an experimental cancer treatment called car–T to treat pediatric leukemia in a clinical trial. The young girl patient featured in Jon’s story had already failed several rounds of chemotherapy and as a last ditch effort she was enrolled in the clinical trial. About six weeks after therapy, the girl had no sign of cancer in her.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute have been studying immunotherapy for 40 years. Dr. Steven Rosenberg in 1984, was the first person to use a person’s own immune system to fight and beat cancer. He said that we are now at a sort of a inflection point at which the knowledge learned of the last four decades will be used to offer some dramatic treatment results in a few years to come. So far immunotherapy has been successful treating cancer in the lung, bladder, melanoma. 

A new class of Immunotherapy that is available now are called checkpoint inhibitors. These treatments include products called Keytruda, Opdivo, and Tecentriq. These products target cancer in lung,kidney,bladder, melanoma, and more. Perhaps only 10% of all cancers can benefit by using immunotherapies according to Dr. Rosenburg.

So far there is not much going on in treating metastatic cancer, but scientists are hopeful that they are learning new things every day about how to treat that type of cancer.

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