Promising new drugs, research “dream teams,” cancer risk findings; news … The Plain Dealer

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

Thumbnail for 5533By Angela Townsend


Wednesday marks the official end of the four-day annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego, at which more than 18,400 scientists, physicians, patient advocates and other professionals in the field of oncology convened.

Among the research creating some of the biggest buzz: promising results of two drugs shown to slow down the development of metastatic breast cancer. The New York Times,  the Wall Street Journal and others reported on the drugs palbociclib, from Pfizer, and bemaciclib, from Eli Lilly & Co.

Menstrual cycle irregularity may be predictor for increased risk of ovarian cancer death

The results of a long-term study could lead to a better understanding of the 90 percent of ovarian cancers that occur in women with a family history of the disease and no known high-risk inherited mutations such as the mutated BRCA gene.

Led by Barbara Cohn, director of the Child Health and Development Studies at the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, California, researchers analyzed data from 14,403 women who during their pregnancy enrolled in the Child Health and Development Studies between 1959 and 1967.

What they found from analyzing 50 years of data: Women of childbearing age who suffered from irregular cycles – defined as being more than 35 days in length or who skip an ovulation cycle entirely – had more than twice the risk of death from ovarian cancer than those whose menstrual cycles were regular.

The risk of death, and of late-stage ovarian cancer, is close to the risk for women with a family history of the disease.

The researchers used that information as a proxy, or stand-in, for polycystic ovarian syndrome, with the findings giving them a bit more understanding about the long-term health effects of the hormonal endocrine disorder. Many women with PCOS go undiagnosed. The findings went against conventional thinking of pregnancy as protection against ovarian cancer.

“What we’re hoping is that by identifying this subset, we might learn more about what causes this disease,” Cohn told The Plain Dealer. “We’re hoping that this provides a clue that takes all of us a little step further in finding [ovarian cancer] a bit earlier, or finding a way to prevent it,” she said.

Research “dream teams” announced to study new cancer treatments

Two research “Dream Teams” were formally unveiled, one focusing on pancreatic cancer, the other on HPV-related cancers – both receiving financial support from Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C).

A three-year, $8 million grant from SU2C (with money donated by the Fox Family Cancer Research Funding Trust) and the Lustgarten Foundation is behind the creation of the pancreatic cancer team, made up of researchers from nine institutions. With work set to begin in July, and clinical trials scheduled to open within the first year, the focus is on new therapies that exploit patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancers.

SU2C is also behind the HPV-cancers team. The organization, along with the Farrah Fawcett Foundation and the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation, is providing a three-year, $1.2 million grant to go toward developing new therapies for patients with HPV-driven cancers (including anal, cervical, and head and neck cancers) whose cancer returns after initial treatment. Researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston will lead the project.

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