Medical news

Daily Aspirin May Lower Risk for Cancer

The simple act of taking aspirin once a day may dramatically reduce an individual’s likelihood of dying from cancer, according to a study conducted at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The primary focus of the Oxford study was to look at how aspirin affects death rates associated with stroke and heart attack. However, the team also decided to look at how many patients involved in the study eventually died from cancer. Remarkably, a comparison of patients given around 50 mg of aspirin daily and patients given a placebo shows that those given aspirin were 21 percent less likely to die from cancer.

This percentage is based off the participation of 25,570 patients that took part in eight different aspirin-related trials. Each trial lasted for four to eight years. Of all patients who took part in the study, 674 eventually died from cancer.

Interestingly, cancer death rates remained low for aspirin-taking patients long after the trials were completed. Five years after the trials, cancer-related deaths were 35 percent lower for all types of cancer and 54 percent lower for gastrointestinal cancers. After a full 20 years after the completion of the study, results show that aspirin-taking participants still displayed a 20-percent reduction in cancer deaths.

The study also shows that the positive effects of aspirin in relation to cancer take several years to show a measurable advantage. Specifically, it is estimated that aspirin must be take every day over a five-year period to reduce the probability of being diagnosed with lung, brain, pancreatic and esophageal cancers. Positive effects related to stomach and colorectal cancer require ten years of daily intake and prostate cancer requires 15 years.

Scientists are as of yet unclear as to how aspirin may help ward off cancer. However, it has been proposed that the medicine may inhibit specific enzyme functions that spur tumor growth.

Though researchers stop short of recommending the daily use of aspirin for everyone, they do suggest it may be helpful for some individuals. Through the research, it was found that taking aspirin doses above 75 mpg daily does not result in added health benefits. However, it was determined that individuals in their 40s and 50s responded most effectively to the effects of daily aspirin consumption.

Though the potential benefits of a daily aspirin may spur some to begin a daily regimen, it should be noted that the risk of internal bleeding increases with frequent aspirin consumption.


Asbestos hazards

BAC Cinema Owner Unknowingly Disperses Asbestos

It was a sweet deal, with the city of Belleville, Illinois offering to pay half the cost of demolition of an old theater for the owner if he would simply add a third screen to his drive-in.

The cost of the asbestos remediation and demolition combined was $81,000, with the asbestos remediation occurring first, as required by NESHAP (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants), a set of regulations established and enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to insure that deconstruction of public (and private) buildings does not adversely impact the health of the American public.

NESHAP regulations include specific instructions on how to handle asbestos, including wetting it to prevent it dispersing into the air; not using certain power tools or equipment in the presence of friable asbestos (any material containing more than one percent asbestos) to prevent dispersing fibers into the air and onto surfaces; and putting it into EPA-designated containers after bagging it in plastic, and marking both the bags and the containers.

Asbestos-containing materials, or ACMs, if badly handled, can release asbestos fibers that have been implicated in a number of diseases, including asbestosis, small cell and non-small cell lung cancers, and malignant mesothelioma.

The first is a progressive respiratory disease whose symptoms are similar to other breathing disorders like asthma. The second are, of course, cancers. The last is also a form of cancer, but one that is particularly insidious and disturbing. Unlike most cancers, which manifest rather rapidly, mesothelioma can lie dormant for up to five decades before exploding into the sort of aggressive cancers for which the typical prognosis, after diagnosis, is about a year to live.

Sources: Belleville News Democrat, EPA

cancer treatment Medical news

Researchers Identify Gene That Guards Cancer From Chemo

A cancer gene known as astrocyte elevated gene-1 (AEG-1) has been identified as a major contributor to chemotherapy resistance, according to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University. The findings suggest that future treatment methods focused on switching off the expression of this gene may improve treatment success of chemotherapy regimens.

Cancer researchers have long viewed AEG-1 as an important gene in the study of cancer. Previous studies have already shown that the gene facilitates cancer cell survival by regulating a variety of critical intracellular processes. Now, the VCU team reports that AEG-1 is also responsible for regulating a tumor’s level of protective autophagy – a process that bolsters the cancer’s defenses against drugs and environmental attack.

According to Paul B. Fisher, Ph.D., of VCU Massey Cancer Center, “Understanding how AEG-1 promotes resistance to chemotherapy and enhances cancer cell survival may lead to treatments that inhibit this gene and its regulated pathways, thereby uncovering potentially new therapeutic targets that can be exploited to enhance the ability of anticancer drugs to fight tumors.”

The findings, which were published in the November 22nd online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may one day improve the survival rates of patients for a variety of aggressive cancer types.


cancer treatment Medical news

Skin Rash From Erbitux Linked to Improved Lung Cancer Survival

Lung cancer patients who developed a rash following treatment with cetuximab (Erbitux) lived longer than those who displayed no such side effects, according to researchers at Hospital Grosshandsdorf in Germany.

While drug side effects are generally seen as a negative outcome of treatment, it would appear that individuals taking Erbitux might come to view skin rash as a positive sign.

For the study, the German researchers looked at hundreds of patients who had been diagnosed with non-small-cell lung cancer. Of the 518 patients reviewed who had taken Erbitux, it was noted that approximately 70 percent eventually reported an acne-like rash on the skin. This rash typically showed up within the first three weeks of treatment.

Surprisingly, the researchers noted that this sector of patients went on to live much longer than the non-rash sector. On average, those who reported a rash survived for 15 months, while those without a rash survived an average of 8.8 months.

Additionally, patients with the rash displayed an increased stoppage of cancer progression (5.4 months compared to 4.3 months).

While it is currently unclear why a skin rash may be an indicator to success rate for Erbitux, the findings could help doctors assess the effectiveness of lung cancer treatments in the future. Presumably, the manifestation of skin rash would indicate that Erbitux is delivering a positive effect on an individual’s cancer. As such, absence of the rash may help identify patients who need to be switched to an alternative treatment method.

Before such avenues can be recommended, the German team stresses that additional studies must be conducted to validate these initial findings. According to Dr. Francesco Perrone of the Istituto Nazionale Tumori in Naples, Italy, “The only way to verify the hypothesis that skin rash predicts the benefit of cetuximab is a randomized trial that compares interruption versus continuation of cetuximab in patients with skin rash after three weeks of treatment with cetuximab and chemotherapy.”

Erbitux is currently approved for treatment of squamous cell carcinoma, colorectal cancer and head and neck cancer. The drug is currently in Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.


cancer treatment Medical news

Improving Treatment by Targeting Cancer Stem Cells

Studies completed in 2008 suggested for the first time that cancer tumors might contain cancer stem cells. Stem cells are basic cell structures that have the ability to grow into a diverse variety of cell types. As such, cancer stem cells are the initial cancer cells that grow and divide to proliferate the illness.

Today, a wide variety of cancer drugs and treatments are effective at killing a high number of cancer cells. However, the ability of cancer stem cells to survive these treatments and start the growth process all over again often prevents them from offering long-term health benefits.

With the discovery of cancer stem cells, interest has quickly grown in favor of the idea for developing drugs that specifically target these unique cell structures.

Robert A. Weinberg of MIT and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is one of the emerging experts on the subject (it was his 2008 research that led to the discovery of tumor cells that may indeed harbor stem cells). Weinberg has worked closely with Piyush Gupta, a researcher that has done extensive research into how current drug treatments affect cancer stem cells.

As it turns out, there are currently very few conventional cancer drugs that measurably affect the health and function of cancer stem cells. With this fact in mind, Gupta set to work screening 16,000 unique compounds in the hopes of finding specific drugs that might effectively target stem cells.

Through Gupta’s research, it was found that an antibacterial known as Salinomycin proved to attack a large proportion of breast cancer stem cells. Now, a startup known as Verastem intends to research how Salinomycin may be used to create the first cancer treatment that specifically targets cancer stem cells.

Verastem also plans to screen an additional 300,000 compounds in an effort to find additional options that may target cancer stem cells.

Another startup that is focusing on cancer stem cell research is OncoMed. Based in Redwood City, CA, OncoMed researchers are looking to find ways to reduce the ability of cancer stem cells to self-renew. OncoMed currently has entered stage 1 clinical trials with its inaugural drug (OMP-21M18).