Category Archives: cancer

New anti-PD-1 immunotherapies beating some cancers

They’re not quite ready to call it a cure, according to Dr. Susan Goodin of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. But researchers are very excited about the number of seemingly complete and relatively long-lived remissions they’re seeing in certain kinds of cancers using this new immunotherapy. Used alone and sometimes in combination with other drugs or modalities, the drugs are forcing a certain percentage of melanomas and smoking-induced lung cancers to yield. Read more about how Johns Hopkins is moving ahead with anti-PD-1 research.

English: James Earl "Jimmy" Carter
English: James Earl “Jimmy” Carter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is revolutionary thinking about a new way to tap into the astounding power of our own immune system to fight cancer. It doesn’t yet work consistently with all cancers or for all patients, according to Dr. Jeffrey Sosman of Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. A lot more research is needed on how to identify who can benefit and how to translate the principle into drugs for other types of cancers. But its effects can be near-miraculous for some – in one such instance, 91-year-old President Jimmy Carter’s brain tumors disappeared.

Here’s Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Center’s quick-and-dirty cartoon video about how the anti-PD-1 drug hooks up with the PD-L1 expression on the cancer cell (antigen).

Cost is said to be staggering for these new drugs. But according to Dr. Sosman, the cost has nothing to do with the science involved. It’s more a function of what the market will bear. And he said there are ways to get the drugs for patients who desperately need them but can’t afford them.

More dramatic progress in learning how to work with nature rather than against it.

Big Ten CRC collaboration targets cancer

They met last weekend in Indianapolis – twelve of the traditional Big Ten (actually 14) universities with active #cancer centers. The group calls itself Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (BTCRC), and they are serious about combining their research data and working together to speed progress against cancer in all its guises.

Cancer cells fool the human immune system into not recognizing them as invaders. Dramatic research breakthroughs in immunotherapy are mapping out how to cut through that shield and let the immune system do its job.  Congratulations, members of the BTCRC. We can’t wait to hear more about how your collaboration is changing the game for cancer patients around the world.

Follow Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium on Twitter
Follow Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium on Twitter


Sausages made with berries

English: Schwartz's smoked meat medium fat Mon...
English: Schwartz’s smoked meat medium fat Montreal Quebec 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember when scientists first discovered “antioxidants” back in the 1990s? These molecules began to be touted as miracle-workers, and food and drink purveyors took off in hot pursuit of profits. But since then, further sober consideration has heated up the debate as to how beneficial they are. Read this from Harvard Health about the true value of antioxidants for good health.

Meanwhile, researchers at Lund University in Sweden, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and four other European research institutions have launched a joint project to create a way to produce sausages and smoked meats made with antioxidants extracted from berries. The ultimate aim is to reduce the risk of colon cancer, one of the most common cancers in Sweden.

World Health Organisation (WHO) recently classified smoked and processed meat products as Group 1 carcinogens, the same group that includes tobacco products and alcohol. Hmmm. So, are all those Italian eating the Mediterranean diet—which includes generous portions of sausages and smoked “salumi“—quaking in their boots? Unlikely, since their way or eating has long been considered the gold standard of diets for long life.

Simply explained, the project involves extracting antioxidants from plants and berries, and then prepare [sic] meat products with these antioxidants. Animal testing will afterwards show whether this reduces the occurrence of cancer or not.

The question is, can extracted isolated antioxidants have the same effects as the complete “package of antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and other substances found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains” that are known to help prevent a variety of chronic diseases? Research in this area has generally come up empty. It’ll be interesting to see where this one goes.