Congratulations are in Order!

Every year Billboard releases its prestigious list of Women In Music: The Most Powerful Executives in the Industry, and every year several of our board members are included for being “ground-breakers and game changers.” This year our board members Jody Gerson, Julie Swidler, Jennifer Breithaupt and Sharon Dastur as well as our New York Honors Gala honoree Marsha Vlasik were all listed. We are so honored to work with these incredibly hard-working women to continue our vital leukemia, cancer and AIDS research.

To read the full list, please visit billboard.com.

HPV-Positive Head and Neck Cancer Patients May be Safely Treated with Lower Radiation Dose

A new study suggests that lowering the dose of radiation therapy for some head and neck cancer patients may improve outcomes and cause fewer long-term side effects.

The research was presented by lead author Anthony Cmelak, M.D., professor of Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), during the 50th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), held recently in Chicago.

The study focused on patients with newly-diagnosed oropharyngeal cancers related to the human papilloma virus (HPV). More than two-thirds of new head and neck cancer patients have HPV-positive tumors and the number of these patients is on the rise. Cmelak’s prior cooperative group study found that patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer have significantly longer survival rates than patients whose tumors are HPV negative.

For the new study, 80 HPV-positive patients with stage III, or IVa,b squamous cell cancer of the oropharynx received induction chemotherapy, including paclitaxel, cisplatin and cetuximab.

After chemotherapy, 62 of the patients showed no sign of cancer and were assigned to receive a 25 percent lower dose of intensity-modulated radiation therapy – an advanced technology that targets the radiation beam more accurately to treat the tumor without harming surrounding tissue. The rest of the patients received a standard IMRT dose. The drug cetuximab was also given to both groups of patients along with the IMRT treatment.

Two years after treatment, the survival for the low-dose IMRT patients was 93 percent.  Those who did not have complete resolution of cancer following induction and went on to get full-dose radiation had an 87 percent two-year survival. Eighty percent of the low-dose patients and 65 percent of standard IMRT patients also showed no evidence of tumor recurrence.  Ninety-six percent of those who had minimal or no smoking history had no evidence of tumor recurrence after two years following treatment, and long-term side effects were minimal.

The investigators concluded that patients with HPV-positive cancer who had excellent responses to induction chemotherapy followed by a reduced dose IMRT and cetuximab experienced high rates of tumor control and very low side effects particularly for those with a minimal smoking history.

Treating tumors in the delicate head and neck region often causes side effects that can be troublesome and long-lasting, including difficulty swallowing, speech impairment, dry mouth, problems with taste and thyroid issues, so any therapy option that reduces these side effects can have an impact on patient quality of life.

“Treatment for head and neck cancer can be quite grueling, so it’s very encouraging to see we can safely dial back treatment for patients with less aggressive disease and an overall good prognosis, particularly for young patients who have many years to deal with long-term side effects,” said Cmelak.

He noted that lower-dose IMRT is not recommended for patients with HPV-negative cancer or larger tumors.

The authors note that further studies of reduced-dose IMRT in HPV-positive patients are warranted.

Other investigators include Jill Gilbert, M.D., VICC; Shuli Li, Ph.D., Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts; Shanthi Marur, M.D., William Westra, M.D., Christine Chung, M.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland;  Weiqiang Zhao, M.D., Ph.D., Maura Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; Julie Bauman, M.D., Robert Ferris, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; Lynne Wagner, Ph.D., Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; David Trevarthen, M.D., Colorado Cancer Research Program, Denver;  A. Demetrios Colevas, M.D., Stanford University, California; Balkrishna Jahagirdar, M.D., HealthPartners and Regions Cancer Care Center, St. Paul, Minnesota;  Barbara Burtness, M.D., Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Funding was provided by The National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health (CDR0000665170).

 

Excerpt: Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Widespread screening for colorectal cancer has helped prevent an estimated half-million cases of the disease since the mid- 1970s, a new study suggests.

At a time when screening for many kinds of cancer is being questioned, the findings underscore the importance of screening for colorectal cancer in saving lives, said the senior author of the study, Dr. James Yu, an assistant professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine.

Colonoscopies, beginning at age 50, are considered the gold standard in colon cancer screening, although other techniques, like fecal occult blood testing, can detect some cancers.

 To read the full article in The New York Times, please click here.

Excerpt: Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer

Every day in our work with cancer patients and research doctors, we are reminded of the importance of continuing to fund life-saving advancements and consistently renew our commitment to our foundation’s mission. A recent article in The New York Times states the eye-opening fact that cancer is about to overtake heart disease as the number one cause of death in this country, shining new light on the urgency of funding a cure:

Every New Year when the government publishes its Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, it is followed by a familiar lament. We are losing the war against cancer.

Half a century ago, the story goes, a person was far more likely to die from heart disease. Now cancer is on the verge of overtaking it as the No. 1 cause of death.

Troubling as this sounds, the comparison is unfair. Cancer is, by far, the harder problem — a condition deeply ingrained in the nature of evolution and multicellular life. Given that obstacle, cancer researchers are fighting and even winning smaller battles: reducing the death toll from childhood cancers and preventing — and sometimes curing — cancers that strike people in their prime. But when it comes to diseases of the elderly, there can be no decisive victory. This is, in the end, a zero-sum game.

 

The rhetoric about the war on cancer implies that with enough money and determination, science might reduce cancer mortality as dramatically as it has with other leading killers — one more notch in medicine’s belt. But what, then, would we die from? Heart disease and cancer are primarily diseases of aging. Fewer people succumbing to one means more people living long enough to die from the other.

The newest cancer report, which came out in mid-December, put the best possible face on things. If one accounts for the advancing age of the population — with the graying of the baby boomers, death itself is on the rise — cancer mortality has actually been decreasing bit by bit in recent decades. But the decline has been modest compared with other threats.

To read the full article, please click here.

The Problem with Excuses: Early Cancer Detection in Young Adults

Guest Blog Post from 15-40 Connection

In the realm of cancer research, preventative measures like early detection are coming into the spotlight lately. After Angelina Jolie’s high-profile case, more people are aware that genetic testing even exists. It’s a hot topic on everyone’s mind. Early detection can mean increased chances of survival, but it also likely means fewer rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation. Especially if the cancer is caught early enough so that it has not spread, it drastically decreases the complexity of treatment and the painful side effects.

So, why isn’t it working for everyone? Rates of survival in the 15-40 year old age group have not increased since 1975. Rates of survival of pediatric cancer have improved, as well as cancer found in those over 40, so why are young adults left out?

There isn’t an easy answer. This age group is particularly hard to diagnose, because screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms aren’t usually required until later in life.  While many are aware that early detection works, far fewer know what to look for or how to look. Even when they are aware, the environmental factors mean that this age group often overlooks their own health problems.

15-40 year olds are chronically busy. This age group encompasses high school-ers, college students, young professionals, and young parents. There are a lot of transitions and a lot of new adjustments, and taking care of your health can take a back seat. When making an annual physical appointment is competing with your children, your schoolwork or your full-time job, it’s very easy to leave at the bottom of the list.

With all these responsibilities, 15-40 year olds are less likely to put themselves and their health needs first, and more likely to ignore persistent health problems, or write them off as due to stress or “just getting older.”

The busy schedule paired with a feeling of invincibility is particularly dangerous. Feeling invincible, and that ‘cancer doesn’t happen to someone my age,’ can be self-perceived, but it can also be inferred by the doctors. Doctors are less likely to expect that a persistent health problem could be due to cancer, and frequently treat symptoms individually without discovering the real cause: cancer.

To make use of the power of early detection, we need to empower 15-40 year olds to take control of and responsibility for their health. Here are a few resources:

Stress the importance of self-exams and teach how to do them:

Breast self-exam

Testicular self-exam

Teach 15-40 year-olds how to advocate for their health:

How to talk to your doctor

When to trust your instincts

If we harness the power of early detection, the 15-40 year old age group can see similar improvements in cancer survival rates as the pediatric and adult cancers. We can change this. See www.15-40.org for more information.

Cancer Prevention Tips from Dr. Margaret Cuomo

Our latest guest post is courtesy of Dr. Margaret Cuomo, the author of “A World Without Cancer,” a board-certified radiologist and an attending physician in diagnostic radiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. for many years. Specializing in body imaging, involving CT, Ultrasound, MRI and interventional procedures, much of her practice was dedicated to the diagnosis of cancer and AIDS. She is the daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Mrs. Matilda Cuomo and sister to Governor Andrew Cuomo and ABC’s Chris Cuomo. She resides in New York.
Here are her biggest tips for cancer prevention:
1. Attention to diet – Your “daily plate” should contain two-thirds whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and one-third lean protein, including poultry and fish. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain cancer-fighting compounds. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens also have anticarcinogenic activity. Cooked or processed tomatoes, including tomato juice and tomato sauce, contribute lycopene to your diet, which is a powerful antioxidant.
Berries such as strawberries and raspberries contain the cancer-fighting ellagic acid and blueberries are powerful antioxidants. Add the spice tumeric to your meals – which is being studied for its cancer-fighting properties.
Red meat should be eaten sparingly and processed meats should be eliminated from your diet. Avoid added sugar in beverages and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Buy organic products whenever possible. It’s a good investment in your good health.
2. Limit alcohol consumption – Alcohol has been linked to cancer risk. No more than one drink a day for women, or two drinks a day for men.
3. Stop smoking – which causes cancer for the smoker, and the person exposed to  second-hand smoke.
4. Vitamin D – Have your doctor check your blood level of vitamin D. 40-60 ng/ml is the level recommended by over 40 vitamin D experts for cancer prevention. If your blood level is below this range, a vitamin D supplement is recommended. Vitamin D can also be found in salmon, sardines, vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice.
5. Exercise daily – Exercise is good for your mind and body. Overweight and obesity are known risk factors for cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes. Keep physcially fit, and maintain a healthy weight.
Include physical activity in your daily life  – climb stairs instead of taking the elevator, or walk a few blocks rather than taking a subway or driving. Be a good role model for children – take frequent breaks from your computer – pace while on the phone – do jumping jacks – all of this can be done in your home or office.
6. Read labels on your consumer products and food packaging. If plastic bottles containing water or other beverages, or food containers, contain the number 3, 6, or 7 within a small triangle imprinted on the bottle or package, it contains BPA – a weak estrogen classified as  an “endocrine disruptor,”  that has been linked to breast , prostate, and ovarian cancers.
7.  Read the labels on your cosmetics, body washes, shampoos, toothpaste, and other personal care products , and do not purchase any that contain harmful chemicals such as parabens, pthalates, and triclosans. Good news: In August, 2012, Johnson and Johnson becamse the first consumer product company to commit to removing a variety of chemicals, including the known carcinogen, formaldehyde, from its consumer products (including its subsidiaries Neutrogena, Clean and Clear and Aveeno) by 2015. Hopefully, other major consumer product and cosmetic companies will step forward to follow this important initiative to protect the public’s health.