A drug that is already approved for prostate cancer has been shown to slow the spread of advanced forms of the disease for the first time, according to research released Saturday.

Zytiga, made by Johnson and Johnson, is being tested in a randomized phase III trial involving 1,088 men with prostate cancer at 151 cancer facilities in North America, Europe and Australia.

On average, participants in the study were diagnosed five years prior to entering the research but none had begun chemotherapy.

Their cancer had metastasized and had become resistant to initial hormone therapy, but they were not showing major symptoms.

According to interim results, the drug, abiraterone acetate, given in combination with prednisone, delayed the onset of pain and helped improve quality of life in patients whose cancer had metastasized.

The full data set is expected in 2014.

“This drug extended lives and gave patients more time when they weren’t experiencing significant pain from the disease,” said Charles Ryan, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“It appears that this medication may lay a foundation for the use of this drug at an earlier stage of prostate cancer, and its benefits may be able to be delivered to a much wider population of patients as a result.”

The research was to be released at the 48th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

US regulators last year approved abiraterone acetate for men whose disease had spread and who also were resistant to standard hormonal therapy, known as castration-resistant prostate cancer.

The drug was first conceived in a British lab in the 1990s, and works by blocking the production of hormones produced by the cancer that can help it grow.

The drug however carries risk for patients with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, low blood potassium and fluid retention.

Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men. Some 241,000 new cases are diagnosed in the US each year and 28,000 men die of the disease annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

About one third of patients require no treatment because their disease does not spread.

CDC Recommends Hepatitis C Tests For Baby Boomers (via redOrbit)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging baby boomers to have themselves tested for hepatitis C, a disease which results in more fatalities each year than the AIDS virus and has infected an estimated three-plus million people nationwide, according to various media reports. On…


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Weight Watchers International, Inc. And National Journal Explore Solutions To The Growing National Security Threat Posed By Obesity (via PR Newswire)

— Expert Panel Discusses the Roles of Public and Private Sectors in Addressing Obesity to Ensure Military Readiness — WASHINGTON, May 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Weight Watchers International, Inc. and National Journal today convened a policy summit to examine the growing national security…


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CHICAGO (Reuters) – German drug company Boehringer Ingelheim said on Monday it would test its experimental lung cancer drug directly against AstraZeneca‘s Iressa and Roche’s Tarceva pill, after it showed promise in a late-stage drug trial.

A study showed Boehringer’s afatinib drug prolonged the time lung cancer patients survived without a worsening of their condition by 4.2 months on average when compared with a control group on standard chemotherapy.

Results of the study were presented at the annual congress of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in Chicago on Sunday.

“This definitely meets our expectations. It’s very encouraging,” said Dr. Lecia Sequist, an oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and one of the lead researchers of the study.

The trial involved only patients with non-small cell lung tumors that had undergone the so-called EGFR gene mutation.

“In the U.S., this is important because this study may lead FDA approval of the first drug specifically for the EGFR mutation,” she said in an interview.

Lung cancer is the most common and one of the most difficult to treat types of cancer, and targeted therapies are currently only available for patients with this type of mutation.

Cancer drugs are referred to as targeted when they interfere with cancer cell growth, unlike the shotgun approach of chemotherapy, which slows or stops any cell growth.

Boehringer, the world’s largest private drugmaker, is now recruiting patients to directly compare afatinib with AstraZeneca’s Iressa and Roche’s Tarceva.

Iressa, a once-daily pill, was approved for certain lung cancer patients in Europe in 2009, and its sales rose 32 percent last year to $554 million.

It falls into the category of so-called personalized medicine, in which patients undergo genetic tests before treatment to determine whether they are likely to benefit from the drug in question.

Boehringer plans to take the concept further and narrow down the targeted group even within the EGFR-mutated patients.

The drug trial showed that a sub-group that accounts for 90 percent of EGFR patients had a particular benefit from afatinib. For them, survival without tumor progression was 6.7 months longer on average than in the control group on chemotherapy.

One problem with the drug is that many people develop resistance to it after about a year, Sequist said.

“Delaying resistance will be a focus of future research,” she said.

Boehringer said it was planning to market a test kit to identify the genetic mutation.

(Reporting By Debra Sherman in Chicago and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Maureen Bavdek)

SUNDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) — Men with metastatic prostate
cancer who undergo hormone-deprivation therapy sometimes take breaks from
the treatment to minimize its often difficult side effects.

However, a major new study that tracked more than 1,500 men for almost
a decade finds that opting for intermittent treatment may take a toll on
certain patients, in terms of shortened survival.

The study found that for men with cancer involving “minimal spread,”
adopting a stop-and-start treatment schedule was associated with a
two-year decline in survival compared to men who’d been treated on a
continuous basis.

This gap in survival did not appear for men whose prostate tumors
showed more extensive spread, but the researchers stopped short of
recommending intermittent treatment for this subset of patients, pending
better data.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, was reported
Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
(ASCO) in Chicago.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second
most common cancer in men after skin cancer, with almost 242,000 new cases
diagnosed in the United States each year.

Doctors have long known that prostate tumors “feed” on circulating male
hormones such as testosterone. So hormonal deprivation therapy — designed
to turn off testosterone production and thereby stop cancer growth —
remains a common first-line approach in keeping the cancer at bay.

But, there’s a big downside to the treatment, since it “is associated
with significant side effects, including loss of libido, erectile
dysfunction, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, hot flashes, depression and
cardiovascular issues,” said Dr. Herbert Lepor, chairman of the department
of urology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

He said that in prior studies, “intermittent therapy was equally
effective as continuous therapy with fewer side effects,” and so patients
have sometimes opted for this approach.

But, would the intermittent approach remain equally effective over the
long term?

The new phase 3 trial sought to answer that question. In the study,
researchers tracked outcomes for more than 1,500 men with
hormone-sensitive cancers that had spread beyond the prostate. All of the
men first got seven months of continuous hormone deprivation therapy.
Then, half were randomly chosen for intermittent treatments while the
other half stayed on the continuous regimen.

Overall, the men who got the stop-and-start treatment were exposed to
about half the total amount of hormonal therapy as the men in the
continuous group, the researchers said.

Unfortunately, “survival with intermittent hormone therapy was inferior
to survival with continuous hormone therapy,” reported study author Dr.
Maha Hussain, a professor of medicine and urology at the University of
Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Speaking at an ASCO press briefing, she concluded that “because of
these findings, continuous therapy continues to be the standard of

After a median follow-up of more than nine years, overall survival in
men with minimal disease spread (no cancer beyond the spine, pelvis and
lymph nodes) was 7.1 years for those on continuous therapy vs. 5.2 years
for those treated intermittently — a two-year difference.

That gap in survival closed for men with more extensive disease (4.4
years for those on continuous therapy vs. 5 years for those in the
intermittent group). However, Hussain was careful not to recommend
treatments breaks, even for this sicker group of patients, saying that the
finding was “surprising” and more data is needed.

For patients with extensive cancer spread, it’s best to discuss
treatment options with a doctor before embarking on either one of the
regimens, she said.

Dr. Bruce Roth, a professor of medicine in the division of oncology at
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said experts had
waited a long time for the findings of this “important” trial.

“Prior, underpowered studies suggested that there was no downside to
intermittent therapy, which clearly provides less toxicity,” he said at
the press briefing. “This study for the first time indicates that there is
a price to pay.”

Lepor agreed that, “on the basis of this study, intermittent androgen
[hormonal] deprivation therapy should no longer be recommended for those
men with minimal disease spread.”

Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

There’s more on treatments for prostate cancer at the American Cancer Society.

SUNDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) —
An experimental drug designed to treat patients with a specific kind of
breast cancer known as HER2-positive appeared to boost survival compared
to the standard treatment, a new study shows.

The drug, known as trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), is in the final stage
of research necessary before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can
approve its sale. For now, it is only available in clinical trials.

“The drug worked. It was significantly better than a very effective
approved therapy for HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer,” study
author Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, a professor of medicine and an assistant
professor of radiation oncology at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C.,
said in a news release from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“Also, as a clinician who takes care of a lot of breast cancer
patients, I’m pleased that this drug has very little dose-limiting
toxicity,” she added. “Patients don’t lose their hair from this drug. For
patients facing metastatic breast cancer, this is a breakthrough.”

Patients with HER2-positive breast cancer have a protein called human
epidermal growth factor receptor 2 that promotes cancer cell growth.

The drug T-DM1 is a dual drug made up of the antibody trastuzumab
(Herceptin) and the cytotoxic drug emtansine (DM1).

In the study, nearly 1,000 patients received either T-DM1 or a regimen
of capecitabine (Xeloda) and lapatinib (Tykerb), a combination referred to
as XL. They took the assigned treatment until the disease got worse or
side effects became unmanageable.

After two years, 65.4 percent of those who took T-DM1 were alive,
compared to 47.5 percent of those who took the other treatment.

The median progression-free survival time was 9.6 months for those who
got T-DM1, compared to 6.4 months for the others.

Several side effects were more common in the T-DM1 patients, including
a low platelet count, but the regimen was generally well-tolerated, the
researchers said. Those who got the standard treatment were more likely to
experience diarrhea, stomach upset and redness, swelling and pain in their
palms and the soles of their feet.

Dr. Daniel Hayes, clinical director of the breast oncology program at
the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, said
the study “suggests that T-DM1 will provide us with yet another effective
and meaningful agent to use in women with HER2-positive breast

The study was scheduled to bepresented Sunday at the American Society
of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more about breast cancer, see the U.S. National Library of

CLEVELAND, June 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center’s Harrington Discovery Institute has launched a new program aimed at supporting physician-scientists seeking to move their research into therapies that will improve patients’ lives. Goutham Narla, MD, PhD, formerly at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, has been named the first Harrington Distinguished Scholar (Early Career Award). Dr. Narla’s research includes the identification and characterization of key genes and pathways involved in human cancer development and progression, and the development of novel drugs to target these genes in various cancers.

The UH Harrington Discovery Institute, launched in February, is the not-for-profit academic medical engine of the Harrington Discovery and Development Project – a first-of-its kind, $250 million initiative that also includes a mission-aligned for-profit commercialization and development company. Aligning these entities, for the first time at an academic medical center, provides a comprehensive model to advance discoveries into development and create novel drugs and therapies for patient care.

Through the Harrington Distinguished Scholars Program, a physician-scientist is chosen to practice medicine at UH Case Medical Center and to hold a faculty position at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Physician-scientists with potential breakthroughs are able to tap into grant funding and a peer network of innovators and mentors within the UH Harrington Discovery Institute’s infrastructure to support their discovery efforts. Over the next decade, the UH Harrington Discovery Institute will recruit 10-20 physician-scientists of outstanding promise and with a determined interest in advancing the treatment of patients.

“We will be bringing physician-scientists with a wide range of experience to UH Case Medical Center—those who have already made exceptional contributions to their research field and others at the beginnings of their research and patient care careers who show extraordinary promise,” said Jonathan S. Stamler, MD, the Institute’s Director and Director of the Institute for Transformative Molecular Medicine at UH Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Dr. Narla’s research involves a previously unrecognized signaling network of genes that is disrupted in lung cancer. This network can be turned on by a novel combination of two drugs previously approved by the FDA and that may also help to regulate lung cancer progression.  The research has just been published online in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, a prestigious journal for physician-scientists. The work highlights how understanding the basic mechanisms regulating cancer development and progression can lead to new uses for existing FDA approved drugs in the treatment of cancer.

“My training as a physician-scientist did not prepare me to move clinical discoveries from my laboratory toward commercialization,” said Dr. Narla, a medical geneticist at UH Case Medical Center who specializes in the care of high risk cancer patients.

“The added guidance and resources that come with being a Harrington Distinguished Scholar will enable me to bring my discoveries to patients more quickly,” added Dr. Narla, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Institute of Transformative Molecular Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.  

Scholar-Innovator Grants… 

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By the National Cancer Institute

BETHESDA, Md., May 31, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Many people who fear cancer don’t realize that some types of cancer are preventable. Cancer of the colon or rectum (together referred to as colorectal cancer) is one of these. What’s more, colorectal cancer can often be treated effectively if it is found early enough.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111018/DC89117LOGO)

Regrettably, African Americans (both men and women) are more likely than people of any other racial/ethnic group in the United States to develop colorectal cancer, and also to die from it. Nearly 17,000 African Americans will develop colorectal cancer this year. Only prostate, breast, and lung cancer kill more African Americans.

Doctors don’t know exactly why African Americans are harder hit with this disease, but they do know that many cases and deaths could be avoided if African Americans knew about––and followed––recommended strategies for prevention and early detection. Here are some things to keep in mind about colorectal cancer:

Colorectal Cancer and Precancers Can Be Detected Early

Most colorectal cancers develop from a certain type of polyp, called an adenoma. Polyps begin as small growths on the inner lining of the rectum or the colon. A number of different tests can be used to check if people have polyps or colorectal cancer. Polyps can often be detected by a colonoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy, or a fecal occult blood test, and then removed before they have a chance to develop into cancer. Some of the tests are done at your doctor’s office, and others are done at home using a kit that your doctor gives you.

Some polyps can grow and develop into cancer without any real symptoms. So, unless you are checked regularly for polyps, you could develop colorectal cancer that will be harder to treat by the time symptoms appear.

There are two ways to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. One is to be sure that you undergo regular screening—and follow-up with effective diagnosis and treatment when screening finds a possible problem, such as large polyps or a cancer. The other is to know––and try to reduce––the risk factors for colorectal cancer that you have the power to change.

Talk To Your Doctor about Regular Screening

Colorectal cancer is more likely to occur as people get older. Many experts recommend that both men and women start getting screened beginning at age 50.

People should talk with their doctor about when to begin screening for colorectal cancer, what tests to have, the benefits and harms of each test, and how often to get screened. Common considerations include your age, your family’s history of colorectal cancer, the convenience of the test and the preparation required for it, your insurance coverage, and other factors.

Although some people may feel embarrassed about the idea of colorectal cancer screening and are worried about some of the procedures that are used, colorectal cancer screening decreases the risk of dying from colon cancer. So, it’s important to push past any reluctance and talk with your doctor to learn more.   

Think about Changing Your Lifestyle––Even Just a Little

A number of studies show a link between certain “lifestyle factors” and people’s chances of getting colorectal cancer–and other cancers as well. People who drink three or more alcoholic beverages per day are at increased risk of colorectal cancer, as are people who are obese. Those who engage in regular physical activity have a lower risk. Daily aspirin also decreases risk, but it may cause intestinal bleeding and other side effects, and it’s important to find out from your doctor whether it is right for you.

Take time to learn as much as you can and share the information with people you love. The National Cancer Institute is a great resource for this information.  See video.

NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI web site at www.cancer.gov (or m.cancer.gov from your mobile device) or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). More articles and videos in the culturally relevant Lifelines series are available at www.cancer.gov/lifelines.

Editor’s Note:  The following article is part of the monthly Lifelines education and awareness print series that the National Cancer Institute provides to African American media outlets.

SOURCE National Cancer Institute

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