Environmental Causes Contribute to Lung Cancer More Than Previously Thought

The presence of environmental toxins, such as carcinogens, creates a higher risk for cancer than previously thought, according to a recent report from a presidential cancer panel.

In an unrelated 2009 review performed by the American Cancer Society, it was reported that environmental pollutants cause no more than five percent of all cases of cancer. However, in a review of 450 research papers and supporting documents, the presidential panel suggests that the actual percentage is much higher.

According to the panel, the cause for this underestimation is threefold:

  • The original study fails to account for compounding interactions due to the exposure of several contaminants

  • The amount of harmful pollutants is increasing

  • All cancer causes are as of yet still unknown

The findings come as a surprise to even those involved with the study – which was initiated because the researchers had concerns that previous reports linking environmental exposures to cancer were over-exaggerated.

While a more accurate estimation of cancer cases caused by environmental exposures is not cited by the report (due in large part to the lack of previous studies performed on the issue), the team is confident that an increased focus on investigating the linkage between carcinogens and cancer is necessary.

According to the co-authors of the 240-page report – Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. and Margaret L. Kripke – there are “nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which…are un- or understudied and largely unregulated.” As a result of this fact, the panel recommends initiating additional safety evaluations at the early stages of product development. They also suggest greater regulatory actions against chemical manufacturers who fail to take measures to test the safety of their products.

While increased funds for studying the link between carcinogens and cancer would certainly be insightful, some cancer experts suggest the focus on research should be elsewhere. For example, Dr. Graham Colditz of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis believes the greater focus should be placed on more tangible and widespread causes of cancer. As Colditz states, “The lack of physical activity, weight gain, obesity clearly account for 20 percent or more of cancer in the United States today.”

Even at high estimates, the number of cancer cases caused by environmental factors can’t match these other, easier to manage concerns.

Still, despite this opposition, most researchers agree that additional research is necessary into the dangers of new and current chemicals on the market. Clearly, there is a linkage there that needs to be addressed more clearly.

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20100506/environmental-cancer-risk-grossly-underestimated

http://wellness.blogs.time.com/2010/05/06/presidents-panel-analyzes-environmental-cancer-impact/?xid=rss-topstories

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64827I20100510

AACR, FDA and NCI Stress Importance of Biomarkers in Cancer Drug Development

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) joined forces in 2007 to form the Cancer Biomakers Collaboration. According to a recent report filed by the AACR in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, this collaboration seeks “to modernize the drug development process by incorporating new techniques that can predict the safety and effectiveness of new drugs faster, with more certainty, and at lower cost.”

The collaboration is particularly interested in improving the development process for cancer drugs related to biomarkers. In recent years, a number of important biomarkers have been identified that may help scientists engineer customized treatment options that dramatically improve survival for various types of cancer. However, the jump from biomarker research to viable drugs that exploit these biomarkers is considerable.

In an effort to overcome this research deficiency, the three organizations have developed a set of recommendations aimed at more effectively integrating biomarker research into traditional cancer drug development enterprises. These recommendations are based on the findings that:

  • Costs associated with drug development have increased tremendously

  • Success rates of clinical trials have diminished

  • Outdated trial designs reduce clinical testing results in early clinical stages

In an effort to curb these negative trends, the Cancer Biomarkers Collaboration has outlined recommendations in eight unique arenas. These arenas include:

  • Biospecimens: improving the quality and availability of biospecimens is a key initial goal that can dramatically improve biomaker research

  • Analytical performance: improved standardization of analytic performance for biomarker research

  • Standardization and harmonization: universal standards for biomarker research are sorely lacking

  • Bioinformatics: improved data standards to biomarker research

  • Collaboration and data sharing: cross-sharing of biomarker data

  • Regulatory issues: approval and clearance of biomarker research lacks standardization

  • Stakeholder education and communication: further steps need to be taken to inform stakeholders regarding compliance of new regulations and standards

  • Science policy: develop political policies that complement emerging biomarker research

Sources:

http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/16/13/3299.full#sec-33

http://www.pharmastrategyblog.com/2010/07/advancing-the-use-of-biomarkers-in-cancer-drug-development.html

Survival Statistics and Prognosis for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare lung cancer that has been linked to the inhalation of asbestos. While each case of mesothelioma is unique, the general prognosis for the illness is poor. However, the ultimate outlook for a patient will vary depending on the type of mesothelioma he or she has been diagnosed with, as well as other factors.

Survival Averages for Mesothelioma

Like most cancers, the survival rate of mesothelioma can vary depending on the stage in which it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, the nature of the illness typically results in late-stage diagnosis. As one might expect, this reduces the average length of suvival. This fact, combined with the fact that mesothelioma is a rare disease, has resulted in a lack of reliable statistics beyond 5-year survival rates.

However, there is a fair amount of statistics present for shorter diagnostic time frames. From the date of diagnosis, the general prognosis for a mesothelioma patient is in the range of 12 to 14 months of survival. If the cancer is caught early enough to warrant surgical removal of the tumor, then this time frame may be extended.

Regardless of the initial prognosis, statistics show that:

  • 4 out of 10 mesothelioma patients survive more than one year past diagnosis

  • 2 out of 10 mesothelioma patients survive more than two years past diagnosis

  • 1 out of 10 mesothelioma patients survive more than three years past diagnosis

  • 8 out of 100 mesothelioma patients survive more than five years past diagnosis

Again, these statistics are generalizations. Factors such as patient age, health and extent of cancer growth can all affect survival rates significantly.

Face-to-Face Diagnosis Favored by Cancer Patients

Reported satisfaction of medical care for cancer patients improves when a diagnosis is provided in person and in a personal setting, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Institutes for Heath (NIH).

The survey also suggests that patient satisfaction improves when the doctor takes substantial time to discuss the diagnosis, as well as treatment options.

To come to these conclusions, the NIH team surveyed 460 cancer patients who were treated at the NIH treatment facility in Bethesda, MD. Of the 437 patients who responded, 54 percent were informed of their diagnosis in person at the physician’s office. In contrast, 18 percent were informed via telephone and 28 percent received a diagnosis while at a hospital.

Based on these settings, satisfaction scores were significantly higher for patients who were notified in person as opposed to telephone. On a 0-to-100 scale, those informed in person had a mean average satisfaction of 68.2, while telephone patients had a mean average of 47.2. Comparison of a personal doctor’s office setting to an impersonal hospital setting resulted in scores of 68.9 and 55.7, respectively.

Of all patients, 53 percent reported the conversation with the doctor lasted more than 10 minutes. Again, for all patients, 31 percent of participants distinctly remember that treatment options were not discussed.

Mean average satisfaction for those who had discussions of ten minutes or more came in at 73.5. This is compared to 54.1 for those with shorter conversations. When looking at discussion of treatment options, those who received such information returned a satisfaction score of 72.0. Those who did not receive treatment option details posted an average mean score of 50.7.

Resource:

http://oncolink.org/news/index.cfm?ID=1174&sort_year=2010&url.page=1&function=detail

Cancer Advocacy – Helping Yourself and Others

Cancer Advocacy – Helping Yourself and Others

Cancer advocacy is an activity that can positively affect both your own experience with cancer and the cancer experiences of others. Whether you have already gone through treatment or are just getting started, taking the time to become a cancer advocate can be rewarding on many levels. Learn how to become a cancer advocate so you can help yourself and others.

Self-Advocacy for Cancer

If you are currently undergoing treatment, then your primary interest may be taking an active role in your own treatment. Self-advocacy simply requires you to become more of a participant when it comes to planning your treatment regiment and seeking support when necessary. Ways that you can become an advocate for yourself include:

  • Asking additional questions while visiting with your doctor

  • Becoming an expert on your type of cancer by reviewing online websites and other resources

  • Investigating available cancer financial and support options via the National Cancer Institute and other resources

  • Reviewing medical journals to find alternative methods of treatment

  • Seeking the help of cancer support groups, counseling centers or fitness classes

  • Getting a second opinion

  • Getting proactive about health care costs and insurance

Cancer Advocacy for Others

Cancer patients often feel compelled to become a cancer advocate. Doing so can be a rewarding commitment, and ultimately help ease the pain and suffering of patients who are currently going through treatment. Cancer advocacy can come in a variety of ways, including:

  • Raising public awareness

  • Assisting with fundraisers

  • Providing assistance to individual cancer patients

  • Finding ways to advance cancer research

  • Informing others through online blogs

  • Lobbying for legislative changes

If you are interested in becoming an advocate, it is recommended you research all opportunities available in your area to find the best fit for your interests and skills. If you enjoy working one-on-one with patients, then helping to lead a support group may be a good option. If you are adept at public speaking, then raising awareness at local civic groups can be a good opportunity.

For those interested in getting involved with public policy and other advocacy goals on a state or national level, consider getting in touch with the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Resources:

http://www.cancer.net/

http://www.cancer.net/

Cancer Care Travel – Minimizing Costs and Hassles

It is not uncommon for cancer patients to travel out of town in order to receive cancer treatment. For example, those living in a rural setting may need to travel to a larger city in order to find specialized cancer treatment facilities. Receiving treatment for rare forms of cancer or seeking out a treatment method that isn’t widely available are other reasons why you might need to travel for cancer care.

Regardless of the reason, there are a number of things that need to be kept in mind when traveling for cancer treatment. Review these tips and considerations to minimize costs and hassles associated with the trip:

Costs of Cancer Care Travel

Transportation, hotel lodging and the cancer treatment itself can all combine to make out-of-town cancer care a costly endeavor. Prior to embarking on your trip, it is important to review how much of the intended treatment will be covered by your insurance. In some cases, traveling farther for a covered cancer treatment may be a more affordable option.

Before agreeing to out-of-town care, you should also investigate how long the treatment takes and how long you will be required to stay near the cancer facility. This will affect the length of time you’ll need lodging. If you are flying to reach your destination, be sure to review the U.S. Transportation Security Administration requirements to ensure that all medications and medical equipment you will be traveling with will pass through security.

You may also want to inform your airline of any special accommodations you may need, such as wheelchair assistance.

If you feel you need help paying for travel expenditures associated with cancer treatment, then there are a number of resources that may be able to help. For example, organizations such as Joe’s House, Ronald McDonald House and the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses are good options for finding patient housing. Other groups that help cancer patients with financial assistance include the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition, HealthWell Foundation and National Foundation for Transplants.

Trip Preparations for Cancer Treatment

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed prior to traveling for cancer care. Talking with both your local doctor and primary doctor at the out-of-town facility is a good place to start. Be sure to ask questions relating to the nature the treatment, as well as what to expect in regards to trip length and treatment side effects.

To minimize hassles upon arrival at the facility, obtain documentation of your medical history and bring it with you. A list of medications and contact information for previous health care providers is also recommended. Taking the time to refill prescriptions prior to leaving town may also minimize issues down the road.

Of course, discussing a leave of absence with your employer is important as well. Be sure to discuss the expected length of travel with your employer to review your options related to medical leave and short-term disability.

At home, you may also need to make plans to have someone watch your house, pets and children. There are many home responsibilities that need to be attended to while away. Make sure that bill payments and other issues are covered prior to leaving.

Resource:

Posted in cancer treatment