cancer

A Map To Help Cancer Doctors Find Their Way

Sep 9, 2016

What if doctors could call up a computerized map that would show them how a case of cancer is likely to progress?

Tumor cells can mutate in unexpected ways. And cancers can suddenly grow. For doctors, anticipating cancer's next moves can help guide timely, effective patient treatment.

A mapping program, called PiCnIc for short, aims to help physicians in staying a step ahead of cancer and preparing long-term treatment plans with fewer elements of surprise.

How does it work?

A computer may soon be able to offer highly personalized treatment suggestions for cancer patients based on the specifics of their cases and the full sweep of the most relevant scientific research.

IBM and the New York Genome Center, a consortium of medical research institutions in New York City, are collaborating on a project to speed up cancer diagnoses and treatment.

If coffee is your favorite morning pick-me-up, read on.

The World Health Organization's cancer research agency has given coffee the green light. The group concludes that coffee does not pose a cancer risk, and experts say a regular coffee habit may even be protective of good health.

In 1975, I was living in San Diego and needed a job. The roommate of a friend of mine was a scientist at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. He said a colleague of his was looking to hire a lab technician, so I applied and got the job. The scientist I worked for was some guy from a small town in Texas. His name? Jim Allison.

How A Cancer Drug Has Saved People From Going Blind

May 6, 2016

Ten years may not seem like a long time, but in my field, ophthalmology, it has made the difference between going blind and still being able to drive.

Courtesy of Robert Hood / Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Vice President Joe Biden used his visit to Seattle Monday to call for breaking down barriers that keep scientists from cooperating to fight cancer.

 

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Seattle’s South Lake Union area is home to a notable retailer, but not the big online one you’re thinking about. This is a store called Shine, and it’s part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

The interior of the store looks like a regular boutique: rich, dark brown wood paneling, with focused lights that make sweaters and scarves and books pop off the shelves. But the store specializes in items that are “oncology specific.”

U.S. health regulators acknowledged they miscalculated the amount of formaldehyde emitted from some of Lumber Liquidators' laminated floor products. Shares of the company fell sharply Monday on the news.

The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention says the risk of cancer is three times higher than it previously estimated, and it strongly urged Lumber Liquidators customers to take steps to reduce exposure to the substance. The company no longer sells the Chinese-made, laminate products.

A novel immunotherapy drug is credited for successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter's advanced melanoma. Instead of killing cancer cells, these drugs boost the patient's immune system, which does the job instead.

Immunotherapy is cutting-edge cancer treatment, but the idea dates back more than 100 years, to a young surgeon who was willing to think outside the box.

Presage Biosciences

A Seattle company hopes its device will accelerate the development of cancer drugs by letting scientists test multiple drugs simultaneously within a person’s living tumor.

The device, called a CIVO, uses eight micro-needles to inject a tumor with microdoses of multiple cancer drugs. Doctors then would be able test the effects of eight different drugs at once, saving research time.

“What CIVO enables you to do is to have essentially multiple shots on goal,” said Rich Klinghoffer, Chief Scientific Officer of Presage Biosciences which developed the CIVO from research at the Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Creative Commons

A Seattle biotechnology firm is making waves on Wall Street. Juno Therapeutics had a splashy initial public offering Friday, and shares climbed more than 45 percent in its first day of trading.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

For someone with cancer who lives far from a big city, it can be hard to access cutting-edge care, but a network of Northwest hospitals is getting millions to bring clinical cancer trials to far-flung communities.

Clinical trials study experimental drugs and therapies, and they're the main tool for bringing new treatments to market. But they can also have more immediate benefits for the people enrolled in a study.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Nina Garkavi was feeling rotten. She was throwing up. She’d barely slept the night before. And she hadn’t managed a poop without excruciating pain in weeks.

She was halfway through six months of in-patient chemotherapy when a nurse came into her hospital room and started prepping the empty bed opposite hers. The nurse informed her, matter-of-factly, that another patient would be joining her.

vissago / Flickr

Two nutrient supplements once thought to protect against cancer may actually increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to a study led by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at 4,856 men taking large doses of vitamin E and selenium, either alone or together, or a placebo.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Deathstalker scorpion is about the size of your palm. It’s yellow and surly, its venom a seething cocktail of neurotoxins.

And somewhere in that poison soup is a very special little molecule, called chlorotoxin, designed to penetrate a prey animal’s brain. That effect happens to come in very handy: while it’s in there, it sticks to cancer cells while slipping right by healthy ones.

Jim Olson, a pediatric oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, put that toxin to work.

jbrandner / Wikimedia Commons

A promising but preliminary new study based on a Seattle scientist's discovery has shown dramatic increases in survival for people with brain cancer.

Charles Cobbs, now head of the Ben and Cathy Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, figured out a key feature of the most common kind of brain tumor, glioblastoma.

The tumor appears to be connected to a virus that most of us carry, called CVM. It’s harmless in most people, but for some, it seems to promote tumor growth.

It's not the first study that finds the lowly aspirin may protect against the deadliest kind of skin cancer, but it is one of the largest.

And it adds to a mounting pile of studies suggesting that cheap, common aspirin lowers the risk of many cancers — of the colon, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and ovary.

It's well-known that chemotherapy often comes with side effects like fatigue, hair loss and extreme nausea. What's less well-known is how the cancer treatment affects crucial brain functions, like speech and cognition.

For Yolanda Hunter, a 41-year-old hospice nurse, mother of three and breast cancer patient, these cognitive side effects of chemotherapy were hard to miss.

"I could think of words I wanted to say," Hunter says. "I knew what I wanted to say. ... There was a disconnect from my brain to my mouth."

Researchers studying men in Seattle have found more evidence that sexual behaviors and cancer may be linked. In this case, they’re looking at prostate cancer.

The connection is through viruses and circumcision's role in possibly limiting some infections.

The documentary More to Live For screens at the Gig Harbor Film Festival this Saturday. People from the Pacific Northwest will finally get an opportunity to view the story of three men affected by Leukemia seeking out a bone marrow transplant, including the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Some of the leading disease experts from Seattle are visiting the United Nations this week. They’re at a "High-Level" meeting to discuss whether poor countries should start worrying about cancer and diabetes – as much as malaria or AIDS. 

That's a controversial idea, says KPLU’s Humanosphere blogger Tom Paulson.  He's in New York to cover the meeting. Before he left he explained the controversy to KPLU’s Keith Seinfeld.

Jake Ellison / KPLU

You may associate downtown Seattle with its shopping, hotels and offices, but the city's core also has a growing medical research community. From global-health focused non-profits to the University of Washington, it seems scientists all want to be near downtown.

The latest addition is a combination cancer research lab and bio-factory. Seattle Children’s Research Institute plans to open the new lab and "factory" in the Denny Triangle next month.

Rob Gipman, Uganda Program on Cancer and Infectious Diseases / FHCRC

The fight against diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis has made Seattle a center for global health. 

Now, increasingly, the battle is including cancer -- which might seem ridiculously impossible.  Isn’t it hard enough to fight infectious diseases in poor countries? Can we afford to start talking about the diseases like cancer, which we still struggle with in the United States?