Pair of Pills Shows Promise for Recurrent Ovarian Cancer

SATURDAY, May 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A combination of two new pills may nearly double the length of survival for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer, according to preliminary clinical trial results.

The therapy combines the drugs olaparib and cediranib. It provided nearly 18 months of progression-free survival on average, as opposed to nine months’ survival with olaparib treatment alone, said Dr. Joyce Liu, a gynecologic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Liu was scheduled to present the study findings Saturday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

The results “compare favorably to what you’d see in chemotherapy,” Liu said. This raises the possibility that this drug combination “might offer a non-chemotherapy alternative for the treatment of ovarian cancer,” she said. Patients could swallow pills rather than go through intravenous chemo treatment.

As many as four out of five women with aggressive ovarian cancer experience a relapse after chemotherapy, the researchers said. When the cancer returns, it is more likely to have spread to other parts of the body and to have developed resistance to chemotherapy.

Because of this, researchers have been exploring alternate treatments for ovarian cancer that can overcome resistance to chemotherapy.

Olaparib works by targeting an enzyme called PARP that repairs DNA damage in cells and, if inhibited, could cause cancer cells to die. Cediranib blocks the growth of blood vessels in a tumor, starving the cancer of the nutrition and oxygen it needs to survive.

Both drugs are awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, Liu said. And as with most studies presented at meetings, the findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute-funded trial involved 90 women with aggressive ovarian cancer that returned after chemotherapy. Participants were randomly assigned to receive treatment with olaparib alone or a combination of olaparib and cediranib. All had cancers that responded to platinum-based chemotherapy.

Tumors shrank more dramatically during combination therapy — 80 percent compared to 48 percent for patients who only received olaparib, the researchers found.

The combination treatment delayed disease progression, with a median progression-free survival of 17.7 months, the researchers said. Past trials of standard chemotherapy for platinum-sensitive patients have demonstrated median progression-free survival times between eight and 13 months, they noted.

Five patients in the combination arm and two patients in the olaparib-alone arm had a complete remission, the findings showed.

“If you combine these two agents, we saw significantly improved activity,” Liu said.

The drugs seem to be synergistic, meaning they make each other more effective when used together.

It’s not clear how the drugs work in tandem, Liu said. One theory is that by depriving cancer cells of oxygen using cediranib, they are more vulnerable to DNA damage left unrepaired by olaparib. Another is that both might work to retard the growth of blood vessels to the tumor.

Using both drugs together does increase side effects, most commonly high blood pressure, fatigue and diarrhea, the researchers said. For the most part, side effects were managed by treating the symptoms or adjusting the dosage of the drugs, Liu said.

Dr. David Fishman is a gynecologic oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. He called the new findings “extremely exciting.”

“We’re entering an era where we are identifying unique pathways for cancer, and therapies that attack the unique biology of cancer will be much more effective than we’ve had in the past,” he said.

Fishman compared the way cancer works to a cross-country road trip, where “there are many ways to drive from New York City to Portland.” These targeted therapies form road blocks along some of the major routes, forcing the cancer onto little-used and less efficient side roads.

“This is a demonstration that understanding the biology of the tumor and applying a therapy that is unique to that tumor is effective,” he said.

Can Sun Rays Prevent Thousands Of Cases Of Breast And Colon Cancer Each And Every Year?

If you are like most people, you probably think the sun causes cancer. And why shouldn’t you? Some news coverage has demonized the sun as dangerous. It has sent many running from it like Vampires at dawn.

The truth is that overexposure to the sun can cause some health problems. What you probably also aren’t aware of is that underexposure can be dangerous to your overall health as well. Here is why. A study looking at the relationship between vitamin D serum levels and the risk of colon and breast cancer across the globe has estimated the number of cases of cancer that could be prevented each year if vitamin D3 levels met the target proposed by researchers.

Cedric F. Garland, Dr.P.H., is a cancer prevention specialist at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Colleagues estimate that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D3. This is particular in countries north of the equator. Vitamin D3 is available through diet, supplements and exposure of the skin to direct sunlight.

The research paper which looks at the dose-response relationship between vitamin D and cancer will be published in the August edition of the journal of Nutrition Reviews. It stated that for the first time, we are saying that 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer may possibly be prevented each year worldwide, including nearly 150,000 in the United States alone,” said study co-author Garland.

The study combined data from surveys of serum vitamin D levels during winter from 15 countries. It is the first such study to look at satellite measurements of sunshine and cloud cover in countries where actual blood serum levels of vitamin D3 had also been determined. The data was then applied to 177 countries to estimate the average serum level of a vitamin D metabolite of people living there.

The research data revealed a conflicting association of serum vitamin D with danger of colorectal and breast cancer. The protective effect began at levels ranging from 24 to 32 nanograms per milliliter of 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration in the serum. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D level is the major indicator of vitamin D level status. The late winter average 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the U.S. is about 15-18 ng/ml. The researchers uphold that increasing vitamin D levels in populations, chiefly those in northern climates, has the probability to both prevent and possibly serve as an adjunct to existing treatments for cancer. These research studies had some very important findings for any reader to consider.

“This could be best achieved with a combination of diet, supplements and short intervals – 10 or 15 minutes a day – in the sun,” said Garland. It could be less for very fair-skinned individuals. He went on to say that “the appropriate dose of vitamin D in order to reach this level could be very little in a lifeguard in Southern California… or quite a lot for someone in Northern Europe who tends to remain indoors most of the year.”

The serum level recommended by the study would correspond to intake of 2000 International Units per day of vitamin D3 for a meaningful reduction in colorectal cancer. The researchers recommend 2000 IU/day, plus, when weather allows, a few minutes in the sun with at least 40% of the skin exposed, for a meaningful reduction in breast cancer incidence, unless the individual has a history of skin cancer or a photosensitivity disease. Garland also recommends moderate sun exposure and use of clothing and a hat when in the sun longer than 15 minutes. These studies and more can be found by visiting New Century Spine Centers in San Diego.

New Discoveries Could Lead To Better Cancer Treatment

Cancer is one of the costliest illnesses to befall a person. Treatment can be long and arduous with many side effects. Crucial time can be wasted on waiting lists and even when effective drugs are on the market, there is no guarantee that you will receive them because it all comes down to the budget of your local health authority, unless you have private health insurance that covers you.

There are many different types of cancer and they grow and progress in different ways and react differently in each patient and with each drug. That is why a breakthrough in one cancer treatment does not mean a breakthrough in all and is a constant source of research for scientists. However, there is good news for patients and private health insurance companies alike as it looks like a breakthrough for all is imminent.

US scientists now know that the enzyme called telomerase is what gives cancer cells their immortal quality. Cancer cells are simply normal cells that have become deformed over time to a point where they grow out of control leading to the development of tumours. Telomerase is a key factor in this change and one of the factors that can make tumours resistant to main stream cancer drugs.

Researchers are currently working on finding a drug that can switch of this enzyme and allow conventional treatments to do their stuff. Once a drug has been developed it will be followed by years of testing on animals and humans before it reaches cancer patients and will need to be approved by the appropriate medical authorities before any private health insurance company would pay for it. That said, it is always good to see progress in the right direction.

In the meantime, a whole host of universities and scientists in the US have conducted one of the largest studies into brain and pancreatic cancers and have also made promising findings. Professor Kenneth Kinzler was on the team and explained to the Daily Mail that what has been found amounts to dozens of broken, missing and overactive genes that are responsible for the lethal tumours.

Some of these genes had already been found to be prevalent in tumours before but the part they played was underestimated. It has now been found that they are much more important and the other defective genes are new discoveries. So now at least the scientists have something much more concrete to work with.

They are by no means complacent and encourage people to look out for their health, eat well and do regular physical checks themselves as well as with a doctor. It is also a good idea to ensure you have some sort of private health insurance that pays for any new drugs that are approved and ensures you have the best chance possible.
A complete cancer breakthrough, in any department, is still a long way off but is a goal scientists will continually strive to reach.

Around 4,500 brain tumours are diagnosed annually in the UK and the majority of those diagnosed will die within fourteen months. Pancreatic cancer affects 7,400 every year so if this research is all it’s cracked up to be, then there truly is future hope that it will become a thing of the past.