Many scientists have devoted their lives to discovering new ways to battle cancer. Through relentless research, we become one step closer to fully understand this deadly disease and to find a cure that will save millions of lives. In this spotlight, we look at some of the most promising cancer studies from the past month.
A Single Blood Test Detects Over 20 Types Of Cancer
A new kind of blood test is showing some serious promise. Cancer diagnostic developer Grail announced a test that can detect the disease in its earliest stages. But apart from that, it can also identify its site within the body using markers taken from the bloodstream. This past summer, Grail presented early research data in Chicago during the yearly meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The company showed its liquid biopsy test that can screen 12 types of cancer before they’ve had a chance to grow and spread to other parts of the body.
By the end of September, across the Atlantic in Barcelona at the European Society for Medical oncology’s 2019 Congress, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators delivered the results of the multi-center trial. The blood test has proven to detect more than 20 types and subtypes of the disease and identify their tissues of origin. The next-generation sequencing technology probes DNA strands for tiny chemical tags that influence whether genes are inactive or active.
Scientists applied the test to more than 3,580 blood samples taken from participants with and without cancer prior to cancer diagnoses and found that it could deliver a false-positive rate of 0.6 percent or a 99.4 percent specificity. The patient samples included those with colorectal, hormone receptor-negative breast gastric, lung, leukemia, and other cancers. This remarkable test can make cancer screening efforts more efficient in the near future.
Insulin Drug Stops The Growth Of Fatal Brain Cancer
Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer that is aggressive and normally resistant to treatment, making extremely fatal. In fact, more than half of newly diagnosed GBM patients die within the first 15 months, according to the National Foundation for Cancer Research. Late US Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain both suffered from it, raising national awareness of the deadly disease.
Surfen, a compound molecule first discovered in 1938, is a pharmaceutical agent used to optimize insulin delivery. The University of Georgia researchers found that surfen-treated cells were “blocked” from tumor growth and spread. For the study, the team first looked at the binding properties of surfen in lab culture cells. They then tested the compound molecule on mice with cells that could become invasive tumors. Results showed that the tumors grew smaller and the mice had less brain bleeding than control subjects.
Now, the team wants to use the findings to speed up the review and approval process for the drug to get in on the market for use on humans. Statistics from the National Institutes of Health show that white people have twice the risk of developing glioblastoma than black people. In the wake of discovery, study author Lohitash Karumbaiah is hopeful that lives can be saved and the outlook for this life-threatening disease could finally change.
Radiotherapy Not Necessary After Surgery For Men With Prostate Cancer
There has been an age-old question about whether the advantages of radiotherapy after surgery outweigh the complications. Finally, RADICALS-RT, the largest ever trial of postoperative radiotherapy in prostate cancer sheds light on this matter. The study enrolled 1,396 patients after surgery for prostate cancer from Canada, Denmark, Ireland, and the UK.
Researcher Chris Parker said that the findings reveal that radiotherapy is equally successful whether it is given later to those men without recurrent disease or administered to all men shortly after surgery. There is strong evidence pointing that radiotherapy should be an option only if the cancer comes back and that observation is enough after surgery.
Since adjuvant radiotherapy shows no improvement in free survival compared to early salvage radiotherapy, patients may be spared from it after getting surgery. Fortunately, many men may be able to avoid the complications of radiotherapy in the future. These include narrowing of the urethra and urinary leakage. Both are potential side effects after surgery alone, but the risk amplifies if radiotherapy is done as well.
Nanotechnology Improves Chemotherapy For Patients
Chemotherapy is quite known as a standard in cancer treatment. With cancer rates rising worldwide, scientists have been looking for ways to refine its efficacy within the crucial therapeutic window. There’s still a lot of guesswork involved in delivering chemotherapy to cancer patients. Too low a dose may not be enough to kill cancer cells. On the other hand, too high a dose can result in the death of healthy cells and tissues, triggering more side effects.
Bryan Smith and his team of researchers from Michigan State University and Stanford University probed at this problem. They created a process that relies on magnetic particle imaging or MPI and superparamagnetic nanoparticles to observe drug release in the body at the location of the tumor. MPI is a new imaging technology that is faster than traditional magnetic resonance imaging or MRI and has near-infinite contrast. This non-invasive method allows doctors to see and adjust the amount of drug being delivered to the tumor in real-time, ensuring the most effective dose. Conversely, if toxicity is a concern, it can provide a view of the kidneys, spleen, or liver as well to minimize side effects.
The team used mice models to pair Doxorubicin, a commonly used chemo drug, with their superparamagnetic nanoparticle system. The nanocomposite combination, when used with MPI, can show drug delivery rates within cancers hidden deep within the body. As the results showed a near 100 percent accuracy, Smith is moving toward clinical trials within the next seven years.
Many of the most promising investigations into new cancer therapies focus on cellular mechanisms at play in disease formation and growth. From using biomarkers to screen multiple types of cancer to using nanotechnology to improve dosage delivery, researchers continue to find methods that ultimately benefit the patient.