Welcome to the *50th* edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival – your monthly roundup of writing from the cancer blogosphere. The carnival is always looking for new hosts. If you’re interested, please send an email or leave a comment below to sign up. Submit your own cancer-related blog posts here.
Disclaimer: While Beaker is happy to host this month and is a big supporter of the great science blogging community, please remember the opinions expressed here belong to those who wrote them and are not necessarily supported by Sanford-Burnham researchers. Moreover, the information found here is not intended as recommendations about how to diagnose or treat illnesses. If you have a personal medical issue and need advice, please contact your physician.
Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer this week. To honor the inventor and entrepreneur, a surgeon-by-day-blogger-by-night known by the pseudonym Orac re-ran a couple of posts he originally penned in June 2009 as part of a series about Jobs’ health problems. In them, Orac discusses the medicine and science behind neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas that have metastasized to the liver and their treatment by liver transplant. Check out the blog at Respectful Insolence.
On their blog the Weizmann Wave, the Weizmann Institute of Science gives us a very cool look at a Cancer Breakthrough 20 Years in the Making. It’s been said that the cancer treatments patients receive today were first conceived in research labs in the 1980s. This post gives us a great example of that. Here’s the story: In a small clinical trial conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, three patients with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) were treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T cells (a type of immune cell normally known for killing cells infected with viruses). Just a few weeks after treatment, the tumors had disappeared and the patients remained in remission for one year before the study was published last August. Here’s the twist: That success began as a proof-of-concept paper published in 1989 by the Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Zelig Eshhar, in which he and his colleagues used mice to show that immune cells could be programmed to identify and attack cancer cells. The blog nails the take-home point: “This is clearly the place to repeat our mantra about basic research: It is a long-term undertaking. There are no guarantees. No one can predict where a specific line of inquiry will eventually lead, or when. Without basic research and vision, there will be no innovative new cancer treatments.”
Over at ERV, a blog written by a graduate student studying HIV, we get a discussion of a recent case report about a person with B-cell lymphoma. The patient had tried many different treatments, but nothing worked. So he agreed to an experimental procedure designed by scientists. In this post, the blogger uses humor to explain the science and break down exactly how they designed the treatment. What happened to the patient? “[The treatment] … killed all of his non-cancerous B-cells (dude has no antibodies) but he is not having any recurrent infections or anything weird. He’s gardening and hanging out and doing just fine. No cancer. Not dead.” At the very least, you must click through to see the cartoon!
In a post called Does chemotherapy work or not? The “2% gambit,” scientist/blogger Orac takes down chemotherapy skeptics one by one—those who portray chemotherapy as a huge scam designed to enrich big pharma. He addresses websites and articles with headlines like “Chemotherapy doesn’t work” and the many reports claiming that “chemotherapy only provides two percent benefit” (what Orac calls the “2% gambit”), picks apart their arguments, and points out the flaws in the studies they quote. For example, Orac explains that the “2% gambit,” is the frequent claim that chemotherapy only contributes two percent to five-year survival in adult malignancies. But, the post says, the study this refers to appears almost intentionally designed to have left out the very types of cancers for which chemotherapy provides the most benefit, and it uses five-year survival exclusively, completely neglecting that in some common cancers (such as breast cancer) chemotherapy can prevent late relapses. Check out the thoroughly researched post—and the extremely interesting discussion in the comments—at Respectful Insolence.
On the research blog at Highlight Health, computational biologist Walter Jessen discusses a recent study led by scientists at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the Fox Chase Cancer Center that identified mutations in a particular gene (called BAP1) that predispose people to malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers most internal organs. The research, published in Nature Genetics, describes two U.S. families with a high incidence of mesothelioma, as well as other cancers, associated with mutations in BAP1.
The health benefits of green tea make headlines every so often, but what does science actually say about it? For a summary of recent studies linking green tea consumption and reduced cancer risk, check out this post at the Pancreatic Cancer Facts blog. In one Columbia University study described, researchers found that higher consumption of green tea led to the lower the risk of cancer, especially pancreatic and colon cancers.
And that’s it for this month. See you at the next Carnival!