the fight against cancer
April 2, 2019

Good news for men around the world: Prostate cancer is on the decline.

In most countries worldwide, both new diagnoses and deaths by prostate cancer have either stabilized or declined, per a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on Tuesday. The study, funded by the American Cancer Society, found that the U.S. has had the biggest drop in new diagnoses after analyzing data from 38 countries from 1980 to 2012.

Prostate cancer is the second most common and the sixth deadliest type of cancer in men, CNN reported. The study's authors, led by MaryBeth Freeman, believe that these results are "encouraging," and that the decline is due in part to the prevalence of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, screening.

A PSA screening is a blood test that searches for a type of antigen that is usually high in men with prostate cancer, and in addition to a rectal exam, can aid in the early diagnosis of prostate cancer and improve the odds of survival.

While this is an early result, Freeman remains optimistic that "further studies" that examine prostate cancer on a global scale can provide a better look at prostate cancer trends worldwide, as well as assessing the effectiveness of PSA screenings in diagnosis. Read the original press release from the AACR meeting here. Shivani Ishwar

April 1, 2019

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, funded by Napster founder and billionaire Sean Parker, on Sunday presented the results of clinical trials testing a new treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer. The results, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Atlanta, Georgia, came just a year and a half after the first patient was enrolled in the trial — "moving fast" by pharmaceutical standards, said Ramy Ibrahim, the Parker Institute's chief medical officer.

The findings show partial tumor shrinkage in metastatic pancreatic cancer patients who'd had no cancer treatment before the multi-drug regimen the trial was testing, Stat News reported Monday. Pancreatic cancer is the third deadliest type of cancer, which makes these early findings "impressive," said the investigator in charge of the trial, Robert Vonderheide.

In addition to the standard drugs typically prescribed for pancreatic cancer, patients were given a third drug, an "experimental antibody" called APX005M. And half of the patients in the trial were also given a fourth drug: Optivo, typically prescribed for lung cancer patients. Patients who received all four drugs had the best results, with 54 percent of them seeing tumor shrinkage that lasted up to 10 months or more.

With the Phase 1 trial complete, this new regimen will undergo further testing from the Parker Institute before it can move ahead to potentially become a viable treatment for pancreatic cancer patients. Read more about the trial results at Stat News. Shivani Ishwar

August 14, 2018

The cells in our body are constantly changing and mutating, and it's specific harmful types of mutations that can cause cancer. Logic would suggest that larger organisms, which have larger volumes of cells, should develop cancer a lot more often than smaller ones.

This does not hold true for elephants.

Elephants have a remarkable ability to avoid cancer, CNN reported; only about 5 percent of elephants die of cancer, compared to about 25 percent of humans. That's why researchers are studying the massive mammals for clues into how they manage to fight back against cancer so well, in the hopes that some of their findings can be applied to treat cancer in humans, too.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports, scientists reveal the discovery of a gene in elephants that might explain their resilience. Called a "zombie gene," it can detect cancer as soon as it develops in a cell, and kill that cell off before it can divide and create more cancerous cells. By observing the "zombie gene" at work in elephants, the researchers were able to learn that its self-destruct button is triggered by damaged DNA — which is why it responds to the mutations in cancer cells.

There's a long road ahead before the "zombie gene" can be used as a treatment for humans with cancer, but it's "one piece of a larger puzzle," study author Vincent Lynch said. Read more at CNN. Shivani Ishwar

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