Preliminary data from a trial published in Clinical Cancer Research shows that a harmless human virus that occurs naturally could potentially boost the effects of two standard chemotherapy drugs in some cancer patients. Oncolytics Biotech Inc. developed a new drug, RT3D that will be marketed under the trade name of Reolysin. The drug is based on a virus, i.e. reovirus type 3 Dearing that is commonly found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of almost every adult without causing any symptoms. RT3D can grow and kill certain types of cancer cells, but it does not grow in normal cells. Earlier trials whereby patients were injected with only the virus displayed limited effectiveness, however, the team discovered that the effects of platin and taxane-based chemotherapy on tumor cells seemed to be magnified by RT3D.
Genetic mutations in cancer cells can lead to resistance to treatment, thereby potentially resulting in relapse. However, a new article, published in the magazine section of the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology, suggests that the converse may also happen. Steven Frank from the University of California, Irvine, and Marsha Rosner from the University of Chicago, propose that it may often be the case that a few cells become resistant before any genetic change, and then later acquire the genes to stabilize that resistance. Why does it matter whether resistance comes before genetic mutations, or vice versa? Because the effectiveness of treatment depends primarily on preventing resistance. If, as is the current view, genetic mutations occur first and then spread to cause resistance, then treatment protocols must focus on preventing the origination of cancer cells with the particular set of mutations that cause this resistance.
Although cancer recurrence may be the overriding fear for many survivors, nearly half of survivors from a recently presented study died from other conditions. These results indicate survivors could potentially benefit from a more comprehensive, less cancer-focused approach to their health, according to lead researcher Yi Ning, M.D., Sc.D., assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and community health at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and associate research member at VCU Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, Va. Ning presented the results at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012, March 31 - April 4. "We realized that the mortality rates for some types of cancer, such as breast cancer, had declined, " said Ning. "Cancer survivors live much longer than they did several decades ago.
Oesophageal cancer is a very serious form of cancer that, if not fatal, requires extensive surgery. A new study from Karolinska Institutet shows that when serious complications arise after surgery for oesophageal cancer, many patients suffer other health problems, such as breathlessness, fatigue, insomnia and eating problems, for five years afterwards. "Patients who suffer serious post-operative complications after surgery for oesophageal cancer need very close, long-term monitoring so that any problems that arise can be identified and targeted quickly, " says research team member Maryam Derogar, doctoral student at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery. Oesophageal cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer in the world. The disease is often discovered at a late stage once the symptoms, such as difficulties swallowing and weight loss, have occurred.
If current trends continue, the cost of having one's genome analyzed will be comparable to that of the weekly supermarket bill. But will this give us the ability to predict which common diseases are likely to afflict us in the future? Well, according to a new study of twins that was published this week in Science Translational Medicine, the answer in most cases is likely to be no. In fact, the Johns Hopkins researchers warn of complacency, especially with respect to negative results; they could inadvertently give people a false sense of security. This is because while a positive test for a gene variant known to cause a disease means you may well be able to predict what the higher risk of developing the disease might be, a negative test does not mean there is no risk. This is particularly the case where many cancers are concerned, said the researchers.