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.

President Trump Targets Healthcare in Today’s Speech to the Congress.

In President Trump’s speech today before members of Congress, he touched on several healthcare topics. 

Most notably, he spent time discussing the need for Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. 

He also spoke about the high prices of prescription drugs that have been in the news recently . He said he is looking for a solution to bring the cost of drugs down.

President Trump also spoke about reducing regulation and fast tracking development of new miracle drugs by getting the FDA to move their regulatory processes at a faster pace. The president effectively illustrated the case of Megan Crowley, a person in the audience, who is a victim of a rare genetic condition called Pompe disease. Her father vowed to find a solution to her illness and eventually founded a biotech company with the aim of finding a drug solution that could cure his daughter’s illness. Eventually he succeeded and now Megan has lived longer than expected, and is attending college.

These healthcare topics are important subjects that members of Congress will need to pay attention to in the near term. Industry spokesperson’s are already working on strategies to respond to the president’s call to action.

Emerging Genetic Research Stories Coming This Year

According to CBS’s medical contributor Dr. David Agus on January 4, 2017, we can expect to see more developments in the use of the gene modification enzyme called CRYSPR. This technology enables scientists to alter one of the genetic letters of the 3.2 billion letters of the human genetic code. 
He said that scientists are using IVF mitochondrial replacement techniques to change defective genetic material from the mothers egg which would be replaced with donor mitochondria. 

Another Application is to have a baby get genetic material from three people to eliminate a birth defect. A recent story on CBS September 27, 2016, told a story of a doctor that did a three person fertilization in Mexico for a patient. This IVF technique can be performed in the UK and in Mexico. The story reported that the baby was born successfully in good health.

 Emerging ideas include the potential for using CRYSPR gene editing technology to prevent single gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and sickle cell anemia. This technology might be used to treat cancer and destroy viruses such as HIV or hepatitis.The first food using this technology is a mushroom that has already reached the market. 

Dr. Agus said that there are concerns that there’s a downside to using this type of technology as well. He mentioned that in China scientists there are working on embryos and editing the genes. And he wonders how are they are managing to do that and what are the concerns for society. He worried that perhaps they are changing hair color, eye color and other things that will make the babies look more interesting, or more attractive. He is worried that this is a slippery slope of things to come. He said that we need some kind of global leadership concerning the ethics of using this technology.

thousands of healthcare and biotech industry investors are coming to San Francisco in early January.

San Francisco will host two major Biotech industry conferences. During the week of January 9, the 35th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference will likely see more than 7000 attendees at the Westin St. Francis. 

Nearby, The Biotech Showcase at the Hilton, will be host to numerous smaller biotech companies that seek to raise funding from a variety of investors. 

As in past years, Other venues will play host to numerous other related events within a short distance in San Francisco.

Pfizer Buys Cancer Drugmaker; FDA Orders Blood Banks to Test for Zika Virus

Pfizer acquired biotech cancer drugmaker Medivation for $14 billion after a competitive fight among other bidders. The acquired company has a cancer drug portfolio with one product on the market and several new drugs in their development pipeline. The marketed cancer treatment includes Xtandi to treat prostate cancer. That product generated about $2.2 billion in worldwide sales according to the company. 

In other news, the spread of the Zika virus to 2000+ cases in the United States has caused the FDA to request that blood banks in 11 states will need to begin testing for ZIka virus from blood donors. The Swiss firm, Roche diagnostics has developed an automated blood bank screening system that can identify Zika virus in a blood sample. The FDA has approved the utilization of the Roche diagnostic equipment for blood banks in the the 11 initial states beginning with in weeks.

Eventually down the line, the FDA said that they expect all blood banks in the entire USA to eventually screen the blood system for Zika virus. The expanded US virus screening program will likely begin sometime early in 2017. 

To date, most of the Zika infection cases have been in Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida. The area of infection is likely to spread to other Gulf states in the East and states on the West Coast such as California, Oregon or Nevada. Doctors have discovered that Zika virus can cause an expanding range of conditions including Guillan-Barret syndrome, and one person has died as a result of complications from a Zika virus infection.

Ways To Prevent Cancer

Apparently, there are three ways to help prevent cancer that everybody can do. First they should take a baby aspirin, 81 MG aspirin every day. Two, people should eat a Mediterranean diet. Three, have a lean body. This invites came from Dr. David Angus, who spoke on CBS This Morning last week.

Big Data to Help Cure Cancer

  Using big data technology may speed up discoveries needed to cure cancer. For example, according to Dr. David Agus, USC professor of medicine, speaking with Charlie Rose and others on the CBS news morning show, a recent big data study of ovarian cancer patients has shown that some of the patients that use beta blockers to treat their high blood pressure also enabled them to live four years longer than patients that did not use beta blockers.     This new discovery has led to a new clinical trial which will study the effect of using beta blockers to treat ovarian cancer. 

  Using big data to fight cancer is one of the cornerstones of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cure for Cancer Moonshot that he is championing. New information resulting from big data, will enable the use of individualized precision medicine concepts to cure peoples cancers. The hope is that this moonshot program will speed the progress in cancer research so that 10 years of work can be reduced to five years to bring cures to patients a lot sooner than is offered today.

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