15 December 2017
FRIDAY, Dec. 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) — A new drug that targets a genetic flaw common to most cancer cells is showing potency against many tumor types. The preliminary trial of a drug called ulixertinib was conducted with 135 patients who had already failed treatments for one of a variety of advanced, solid tumors. Researchers led by Dr. Ryan Sullivan, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said ulixertinib did seem to spur at least a “partial response” to the therapy or “disease stabilization,” regardless of cancer type. “It was exciting to see responses in some patients,” said Sullivan, an oncologist and member of the Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at the Boston hospital. “The results of this study can be built upon to develop better treatment regimens for these patients,” he said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). One cancer specialist explained how ulixertinib works on the cellular level. “It inhibits the MAPK/ERK pathway, which is a chain of proteins in the cell that communicates a signal from a receptor on the surface of the cell to the DNA in the nucleus of the cell,” said Dr. Maria Nieto. “When one of the proteins in the pathway is mutated, it can become stuck in the ‘on’ or ‘off’ position, which is a necessary step in the development of many cancers,” said Nieto, a medical oncologist at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. Ulixertinib effectively inhibits this broken cellular pathway, and that inhibition “can be therapeutically exploited in multiple different cancers such as melanoma, lung, colon, and low-grade ovarian cancer,” she explained. Sullivan said that because ulixertinib targets the “final regulator” in the MAPK/ERK pathway, it might avoid cancer cells’ typical resistance to drug treatment. “A great number of cancers — including melanoma and lung cancers — have mutations in the MAPK/ERK pathway, and while current therapies target proteins in this cascade, many patients develop resistance to current drugs,” he explained. “The common denominator in these failed therapies is that the cancer has found a way to activate ERK. Therefore, the development of ERK inhibitors is a crucial next step to target this aberrant pathway,” Sullivan said. When it came to side effects, ulixertinib appeared to have a “tolerable” profile, with most issues not particularly severe, the researchers said. But this was still a small phase 1 trial, Sullivan noted, so larger trials are needed. The study was funded by the drug’s developer, Biomed Valley Discoveries, and published Dec. 15 in the AACR journal Cancer Discovery. Dr. Stephanie Bernik is chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that the new medicine has great potential. “Ulixertinib halts the message at the last stop before the signal can make it into the nucleus and creates a second roadblock, therefore halting growth of the cancer cell,” Bernik explained. “This kind of therapy shows great promise and allows drugs to work synergistically, making it much harder for the cancer cell to figure out a way to continue to multiply and spread.” According to the study team, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fast-tracked ulixertinib for development and potential approval. More information There’s more on cancer cells at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
13 December 2017
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Exposure to firefighting chemicals may be one reason why Florida firefighters have a higher-than-normal rate of skin cancer, a new study suggests. The researchers analyzed data from almost 2,400 firefighters statewide who’d participated in a cancer survey. They found that 4.5 percent — 109 firefighters — had been diagnosed with skin cancer. That included 17 cases of melanoma, 84 cases of other types of skin cancer and 18 of an unknown type of skin cancer. The melanoma rate among the firefighters was 0.7 percent, compared with 0.011 percent in the general population, according to the researchers. “We believe there are chemicals in the work environment that, when firefighters come into contact with them, might be increasing the risk for specific kinds of cancer,” study leader Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez, said in a University of Miami news release. He’s with the university’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The study noted that other factors also could be involved, such as: Increased ultraviolet radiation exposure when firefighters respond to an emergency during daylight hours Improper decontamination of safety gear after an emergency call Exposure to diesel exhaust from fire trucks engines idling while firefighters prepared to respond to a call A major surprise in the study was the younger ages that skin cancer occurred among the firefighters, Caban-Martinez said. The firefighters’ average age when diagnosed with skin cancer was 42 for melanoma, 38 for non-melanoma and 42 for unknown skin cancer types. The findings were published online Dec. 13 in the journal JAMA Dermatology. “If a primary care physician has a patient who is a firefighter, the findings suggest that they make it a point to do a full body skin exam and provide health education on skin cancer protection,” Caban-Martinez said. He noted that some firefighters may not consider skin cancer screenings until they’re older, but this study suggests it’s wise to begin full body skin examinations at an earlier age. “Firefighters are already at risk for developing and dying from other cancers, so it’s not surprising to me that our research has now identified that the risk of skin cancer among firefighters is elevated, particularly within the South Florida context,” said senior study author Erin Kobetz, associate director of the Sylvester Center. “There are certain occupational-vulnerable groups, including firefighters, who may need more regular skin cancer screening or to start earlier,” Kobetz added. More information The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on skin cancer.
05 December 2017
TUESDAY, Dec. 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Your chances of surviving cancer may depend on the type of insurance you have. Researchers from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California found significant improvements in survival among cancer patients with private insurance or Medicare, but not among those who have public insurance such as Medicaid, or are uninsured. The investigators analyzed data on more than 1.1 million patients in California diagnosed with the five most common types cancer in the state — breast, colon, lung, melanoma and prostate — between 1997 and 2014. Compared with people who had private insurance, those who had no insurance had a much higher death rate for all cancers except prostate. Those with Medicaid had a much higher death rate for all cancer types except lung cancer, the researchers found. Also, they found that Medicaid patients had higher survival rates than uninsured people with breast, lung or prostate cancer, but there was little or no difference for colon cancer or melanoma. “A lack of access to preventative health care is likely to have played a key role in these survival disparities, especially for breast and colorectal cancer, for which established screening practices exist,” lead researcher Libby Ellis said in an institute news release. She also noted that people without insurance or with public insurance such as Medicaid also may also trouble getting high-quality cancer care. The findings were published online Nov. 30 in the journal JAMA Oncology. More information The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cancer.