Month: January 2018


New Cancer Drug Is So Effective Against Tumors, the FDA Approved It Immediately

A small but significant new study is blowing experts away after it found that a particular cancer drug overwhelmingly helped shrink or eradicate tumours in patients whose cancer had resisted every other form of treatment.

The study, which was published in the journal Science, followed 86 patients who had advanced cancer of the pancreas, prostate, uterus, or bone.

The patients were given pembrolizumab, which also goes by the brand name Keytruda, and the results were very promising.

Sixty-six patients had tumors that shrank significantly and stabilized, among them 18 patients whose tumours disappeared and haven’t returned.

The patients all carried genetic mutations that kept their cells from fixing damaged DNA.
Pembrolizumab is known as a PD-1 blocker, an emerging type of immunotherapy drug that helps the immune system find cancer cells and attack tumours.

The study was small, and there was no control group (i.e., a group that didn’t receive pembrolizumab that scientists could compare results against), but the results were so striking that the US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has already approved pembrolizumab for patients whose cancer comes from this particular genetic abnormality.

According to the New York Times, this is the first time a drug has been approved for use against tumours that share a particular genetic profile, regardless of where they appear in the body.

Dr Jack Jacoub, a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Yahoo Beauty that the study was “interesting, welcomed, and exciting.”

There has been a general opinion that the immune system is integral in the development and spread of cancer and these new findings show that targeting the immune system to treat cancer can be effective.

“To finally see now proof that targeting the immune system improves the situation and doesn’t necessarily correlate with one specific cancer … that’s a really powerful message,” Dr Jacoub said.
Dr Jacoub also points out that the FDA’s move to approve pembrolizumab quickly was a big step.
“The FDA doesn’t take these kinds of things lightly,” he said. “The data was so good, they had to approve it.”

Dr Jacoub says he suspects that drugs like this will be used in the future in connection with more established cancer treatments for specific types of the disease.

“This may improve outcomes,” he said.

“This form of therapy, plus something else, may allow us to potentially cure and eradicate cancer. These are the steps that are getting us closer to that goal.”

risk for melanoma

This is why redheads are more at risk for melanoma

It’s been acknowledged for some time that people with red hair and fair skin are more likely to develop skin cancer. But for the first time, medical researchers have uncovered the reason behind this connection, as well as a possible prevention plan.

Investigators from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) proved that MC1R (melanocortin 1 receptor) — the protein involved in pigmentation — is affected by a modification process called palmitoylation. But the researchers found that enhancing palmitoylation in MC1R proteins —demonstrated in a lab experiment using molecules and ultraviolet light — was shown to reduce risk of melanoma.

“We hope our study allows for the development of a pharmacological prevention strategy for red-headed people to protect their skin and let them enjoy the sun like other people,” said Dr. Rutao Cui, professor of pharmacology and dermatology at BUSM, said in a press release.

Making up 1 percent to 2 percent of the world’s population, redheads carry variants of MC1R, which increases their risk of skin cancers — the most dangerous being melanoma. According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 87,110 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed (about 52,170 in men and 34,940 in women) in the United States in 2017. Rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years, and while it accounts for only about 1 percent of skin cancers, it is responsible for a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

“This is very exciting!” Shannon Trotter, a dermatologist who specializes in melanoma and skin cancers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Research that focuses on prevention and reducing melanoma risk is much needed. This study is promising, but more research will be needed to see how we can put this into practice.”

Trotter explains that palmitoylation is a special process where proteins are changed by adding fatty acids. “This can affect the function of a protein in the body and have an impact on how our cells function,” she explains.

Jack Jacoub, MD, medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that both cancer cells and normal cells have different pathways that are actively in progress.

“And palmitoylation is one of those pathways,” he states. “This is a pathway that is also being investigated in other types of cancer-related therapeutics, just like other pathways are being investigated. But the researchers in this study took it one step further. Mitigating or reducing the risk is the big message — it’s very interesting.”

Trotter adds that because palmitoylation is a chemical process, “we might be able to use a medication that enhances its function to have a desired effect.”

Jacoub agrees, but believes a one-a-day prescription in the name of prevention could be a “very hard sell.”

“It’s going to have to be, I imagine, some dietary influence or environmental influence that can be changed,” he concludes. “Or it may be a limited intervention that will have a long-term effect against risks.”