Kathryn E. Vinson, MS, CCRC
If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times – our mental outlook on life is so important as cancer patients and caregivers. A positive outlook helps keep you healthy, while depression can wreak havoc on the immune system. Granted, when you are hit with a diagnosis of cancer, depression is totally understandable – we’ve all been there. With that said though, I want to take some time today to look at one thing for each month of 2018 that gives cancer patients reason to celebrate.
Researchers at Standford University released a study showing that the injection of two agents into solid tumors in mice made the tumors disappear – even distant metastases. These so-called cancer “vaccines” work by activating T cells within the tumors.
The World Health Organization celebrated World Cancer Day on February 4th. By declaring this day, the member states of the WHO have implemented initiatives aimed at reducing cancer rates worldwide.
A Presidential panel recognized the astronomical burden of high drug prices on cancer patients and their families. This “financial toxicity” has been noted to cause myriad issues for cancer patients, sometimes forcing patients to choose between treatment and financial ruin. The panel called for solutions to stem the cost of these lifesaving treatments.
Doctors at the Yale Cancer Center announced the results of a study comparing chemotherapy alone versus chemotherapy plus a checkpoint inhibitor (Keytruda®) in patients with advanced non-squamous non-small cell carcinoma of the lung. The study revealed that patients receiving the combination therapy experienced significantly longer survival times. These results show that immunotherapy is the wave of the future in cancer care!
In what may be some of the best news possible, the National Cancer Institute released its annual report to the nation, showing that cancer mortality rates are declining across all genders, age groups, and ethnic groups. Additionally, new diagnoses of cancer have decreased in men, and remain stable in women across the 1994-2014 timeframe.
In more exciting news regarding immunotherapy, the National Cancer Institute revealed that a woman with previously treatment resistant breast cancer, with metastases to the liver, showed no evidence of disease after undergoing treatment with adoptive cell transfer!
The National Institutes of Health and the Prostate Cancer Foundation announced the launch of a study, backed by $26.5 million in funding, to understand why men of African-American decent are disproportionately affected by prostate cancer. This research will focus on environmental factors, genetic factors, and social stresses that may play a role in the development and progression of aggressive prostate cancer.
Scientists in Melbourne found that by targeting the KAT6A and KAT6B proteins, they were able to “put cancer to sleep”. The researchers focused on these proteins as they are known to be expressed in higher levels as cancer grows. Pre-clinical testing of drugs that inhibit KAT6A have been shown to quadruple life expectancy in animal models.
The American Association for Cancer Research released its annual report showing that in the previous year, 14 new drugs were approved by the FDA for the treatment of various cancers, and 11 already approved drugs received clearance to be used in other types of cancer.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to Drs. James Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their groundbreaking work in immunology and cancer treatment. You can read more about their amazing work in “The Nobel Prize and Cancer”.
Results of a study were released on November 4th showing that patients at low risk for recurrence of thyroid cancer may receive lower doses of radioactive iodine post-surgery without increased risk of recurrence. This news means significantly lower side effects for thyroid cancer patients, both in the short-term and long-term.
In the ongoing fight against cervical, anal, and oral cancers, HPV is the most prevalent foe. Researchers have found a protein in our cells that HPV needs in order to form tumors. It is their hope that by inhibiting this protein (which the doctors think they can!), that they can treat HPV induced cancers much more effectively.
As always, much love, many prayers, and abundant blessings to all of the warriors out there!