CT scans are one of the best ways for smokers to figure out if there’s something going on in their lungs… well at least for the most part. But there’s an argument that goes something like, “if a smoker receives this kind of exam and doesn’t receive bad results, it gives them a license to smoke.” Well, a study from Cardiff University is throwing shade on that argument. Researchers found that the simple act of receiving a CT scan might make a smoker more likely to quit—regardless of the result. The study authors chalk it up to the exam being a teachable moment where smokers give serious thought to giving up their cancer sticks.
Amazon is working tirelessly to find more and more pots to stick its Amazon Prime fingers in. The e-commerce goliath’s newest focus is healthcare, and it has two projects aimed at pushing in that direction. One is a secretive venture with the goal of (tell me if you’ve heard this one before) revolutionizing electronic medical records. The other is an investment that Amazon’s using to position itself as the solution for storing insane amounts of human genetic data. The company invested in Grail, a start-up planning to use its technology to flag the earliest signs of cancer. That requires a ton of data storage and processing, and if Amazon and Grail can pull it off here, you can bet it’ll be a huge market for them.
An FDA advisory board voted unanimously for the approval of a CAR-T cancer therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. This could be the first gene therapy—where one’s own genes are altered to create “killer T-cells” to attack cancerous cells—approved in the US. CAR-T cell therapy is a one-time treatment and shows promise in its ability to knock out ALL where other cancer drugs have failed. Novartis, the drug developer, reported 83% of the patients achieved complete remission within three months and a high probability of being relapse-free at 12 months. The new treatment isn’t without safety concerns, but traditional treatments are more toxic than CAR-T, must be taken long term and eventually stop working. Take THAT, childhood cancer!
No, we’re not talking about Twitter bullying, we’re talking about shots. Not cheap shots, or gun shots, but vaccine shots. Two studies published in Nature detail how DNA sequenced from melanoma tumors (the most deadly type of skin cancer) and an RNA-based vaccine were used to create personalized vaccines to treat cancer. Both showed promising Phase I results, with 4 of 6 patients in the first study showing no recurrence after 25 months, and 8 of 13 patients in the second study tumor-free after 23 months. The vaccines successfully stimulated an anti-tumor response from one’s own immune system. The downside? It took about four months between study admission and starting treatment, which may be too long for those with advanced stages of melanoma.
Are you thinking about selling a product through your Instagram that claims to prevent or even cure cancer? Don’t. The FDA is cracking down on 14 companies illegally selling 65 fraudulent products through websites and social media making those same claims. A press release issued by the FDA states these products are being marketed for use in humans and pets and come in the form of “pills, topical creams, ointments, oils, drops, syrups, teas and diagnostics (such as thermography devices).” Warning letters have been sent to these companies, and not complying with these letters could result in criminal prosecution. Next time you see a product like this, or this, and think “well that sounds ridiculous,” trust yourself.
The answer is Beau. How do we know? Because the Cancer Moonshot has been renamed the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot” in honor of the VP’s late son who died from brain cancer. Armed with $1.8B in funding, VP Biden recently gave an update on the project. One highlight is how the National Cancer Institute created the Genomic Data Commons, which archives cancer patient data using Amazon’s cloud computing software. Researchers have accessed this information about 80 million times, so that is a lot. In another initiative, companies like AZ, Novartis, Pfizer, and Celgene, just to name a few, are contributing to the Blood Profiling Atlas in Cancer (BloodPAC) consortium. Go team.
Yep, cancer survival death rates are going down and mean survival time is increasing, this according to a study by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. While that is great news, there are several cancer types that continue to have very low 5-year relative survival rates: pancreas (8.5%), liver (18.1%), lung (18.7%), esophagus (20.5%), stomach (31.1%) and brain (35.0%). While we did not read the whole report (I know), we assume that cancer walks were not identified as drivers of decreasing mortality rates, but early detection is always good. That said, we did find this interesting. Keep fighting the good fight, we are making progress.