“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
Cancers associated with being overweight or obese account for 40% of all diagnoses of the disease in the United States, an increasing share of all cancer diagnoses nationwide.
Although new cases of cancer have fallen since the 1990s, diagnoses of overweight- and obesity-linked cancers increased between 2005 and 2014, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being overweight is associated with increased risk for 13 types of cancer.
“When we step back and lump together all the types of cancer associated with overweight and obesity, we saw a direction upwards,” said Anne Schuchat, deputy director of the CDC.
“That’s not a smoking gun, but it’s a note of caution for us.”
Researchers at the CDC used data from the US Cancer Statistics database from 2005 to 2014, looking specifically at cancers the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies as linked to being overweight.
What if every home had an early-warning cancer detection system? Researcher Joshua Smith is developing a nanobiotechnology “cancer alarm” that scans for traces of disease in the form of special biomarkers called exosomes. In this forward-thinking talk, he shares his dream for how we might revolutionize cancer detection and, ultimately, save lives.
Nature is wonderfully abundant, diverse and mysterious — but biological research today tends to focus on only seven species, including rats, chickens, fruit flies and us. We’re studying an astonishingly narrow sliver of life, says biologist Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, and hoping it’ll be enough to solve the oldest, most challenging problems in science, like cancer. In this visually captivating talk, Alvarado calls on us to interrogate the unknown and shows us the remarkable discoveries that surface when we do.
Finding could herald a big shift in treatment of the deadliest cancer
A study could lead to wider use of Merck’s Keytruda. Photo: Michael Lund/Merck/Associated Press
Patients with advanced lung cancer who took Merck& Co.’s immune-boosting drug Keytruda as their first treatment lived longer on average than those who received chemotherapy in a new study that could herald a big shift in treatment of the deadliest cancer.
The finding could lead to wider use of Keytruda and help Merck gain ground on rival Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.in the multibillion-dollar market for new drugs that fight cancer by harnessing patients’ immune systems.
Bristol’s immunotherapy Opdivo, which has so far outsold Keytruda, failed to significantly prolong survival beyond chemotherapy in a separate study of lung-cancer patients. Opdivo had global sales of $1.54 billion for the first six months of 2016, while Keytruda had sales of $563 million.
Both companies previously revealed limited results of their respective lung-cancer studies this year; researchers presented full results Sunday at a meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Copenhagen, and Merck’s study was published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.
Multiyear, peer-reviewed study found ‘low incidences’ of two types of tumors in male rats exposed to type of radio frequencies commonly emitted by cellphones
A major U.S. government study on rats has found a link between cellphones and cancer. — Photo: iStock
A major U.S. government study on rats has found a link between cellphones and cancer, an explosive finding in the long-running debate about whether mobile phones cause health effects.
The multiyear, peer-reviewed study, by the National Toxicology Program, found “low incidences” of two types of tumors in male rats that were exposed to the type of radio frequencies that are commonly emitted by cellphones. The tumors were gliomas, which are in the glial cells of the brain, and schwannomas of the heart.
“Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to [radio-frequency radiation] could have broad implications for public health,” according to a report of partial findings from the study, which was released late Thursday.
A spokesperson for the National Institutes of Health, which helped oversee the study, wasn’t immediately available for comment. Earlier in the week, the NIH said, “It is important to note that previous human, observational data collected in earlier, large-scale population-based studies have found limited evidence of an increased risk for developing cancer from cellphone use.”
While not all biological effects observed in animals necessarily apply to humans, the National Toxicology Program’s $25 million study is one of the biggest and most comprehensive experiment into health effects from cellphones.
“Where people were saying there’s no risk, I think this ends that kind of statement,” said Ron Melnick, who ran the NTP project until retiring in 2009 and recently reviewed the study’s results.
This was the night the revelation happened. This was when Sean Parker, serial entrepreneur—co-founder of Napster, founding president of Facebook FB-2.54%, blunt-talking oracle of Internet disruption, and occasional subject of tabloid scuttlebutt—recognized his legacy.
It was a Saturday night in November 2010. At Café des Amis on Union Street in San Francisco, Parker and legendary angel investor Ron Conway—both part owners of the place—were sitting across from each other at a crowded banquette at what amounted to a family dinner. Ron’s wife, Gayle, was next to him; Alexandra Lenas, Parker’s new girlfriend and future wife, was curled up beside him. Still, the crowd was boisterous, and it was so loud that Parker had to shout to be heard.
“I’m going to cure cancer!” he yelled.
The outburst was vintage Sean. “We’d both had plenty of wine,” remembers Conway, who has known Parker, now 36, since he was an “edgy” 19-year-old—a daredevil hacker from Herndon, Va., whose music file-sharing company would almost single-handedly humble the recording industry. Conway, now 65, had mentored Parker through nearly every company he had helped start or lead—Napster; Plaxo, an automated address book that had made clever, if infuriating, use of viral marketing; and of course Facebook, the college-dorm-project-turned-juggernaut that had made Parker truly rich. (When the company went public in May 2012, Parker’s 66 million shares turned him into an instant paper billionaire. Sources close to him say that he’s currently worth between $2 billion and $3 billion.)
Cancer is a very clever, adaptable disease. To defeat it, says medical researcher and educator Paula Hammond, we need a new and powerful mode of attack. With her colleagues at MIT, Hammond engineered a nanoparticle one-hundredth the size of a human hair that can treat the most aggressive, drug-resistant cancers. Learn more about this molecular superweapon and join Hammond’s quest to fight a disease that affects us all.
Spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. rose 5.2 percent in 2015, driven mostly by increased costs of expensive specialty medications to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, according to data from the largest manager of employers’ drug benefits.
Spending on specialty medications rose 18 percent, while spending on standard prescription drugs rose less than one percent, according to a new report by Express Scripts. The report is based on the prescription drug spending for the company’s 80 million covered patients.
The measure — called “drug trend” in pharmaceutical industry parlance — includes increases in the use of medications and price hikes.
Still, in the health care industry, an increase that’s more than quadruple the rate of inflation — 0.7 percent in 2015 — still counts as a bit of good news. Why? In 2014, drug spending increased more than 14 percent.
Former president Jimmy Carter no longer needs treatment for the metastatic melanoma that spread to both his liver and brain. His miraculous recovery is thanks to a drug called Keytruda, one of a group of new drugs that centers on treatment called immunotherapy.
These drugs use an individual’s own immune system to fight off cancer—in Carter’s case, melanoma, which kills an estimated 10,000 Americans each year. Keytruda is a treatment that some have referred to as the “golden age of chemotherapy drugs” and a “miracle cure.”
But how exactly does it work?
Chemically known as pembrolizumab, Keytruda was introduced in 2014 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago. In a room too packed for seats, a team of Israeli and American scientists explained the secret to the drug’s success: the PD-1 pathway.
Normally when an infection occurs in the body, certain cells alert the immune system. The immune system then activates what are called T-cells. The “soldiers” of the immune system, T-cells locate the intruder and kill it off. Cancer, however, disrupts this model using a PD-1 pathway.
Short for “programmed cell death protein 1,” PD-1 is a protein that functions as an immune checkpoint. In order to evade being attacked and destroyed, cancer cells take over the PD-1 pathway—in turn, preventing the activation of T-cells.
Keytruda and other immunotherapy drugs block the PD-1 pathway. Without it, the cancer is visible to the T-cells, and it loses the ability to multiply undetected. “This medicine is a miracle cure—it’s a real breakthrough,” said Dr. Jacob Schachter, one of the Israeli researchers.
When Susan Thornton was 30, she noticed a flat red rash in a small band around her waist. It was itchy and terribly persistent. No cream or lotion made it go away.
One year and half a dozen dermatologists later, she was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that’s often mistaken for eczema or psoriasis in its early stages.
Twenty-five years later, Thornton’s cancer is still around. It persists mostly as a manageable rash, treated with a topical steroid. At certain points the disease has flared up, requiring more drastic treatments. By 1998, the cancer had progressed to tumors, with scaly, itchy splotches spreading all over her body. It took a series of electron beam radiation treatments to knock it back, she says, “melting the tumors away.”
Thornton’s cancer has been under control since her last radiation treatment five years ago. Still, it’s never completely gone, never cured — instead, it’s just something she lives with.
Most days, the Philadelphia native feels great. She participates in triathlons every year and travels the world for work as the CEO of the Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation.“I don’t know why, but I’m one of the lucky ones,” she says.
This sounds like a remarkable feel-good story. But it’s actually an increasingly common cancer experience. The cancer death rate has dropped by 23 percentsince 1991, with some even larger gains in types of cancer that used to be extremely lethal. This means there are more and more patients like Thornton who are neither dying from cancer nor defeating it entirely. Instead, they’re learning to live with it.