It’s the first full week of May and we’re bringing you hopeful news from the world of cancer research with progress in early detection rates, a new method discovered by researchers to turn macrophages back to their cancer-killing state, and a new drug which offers hope for prostate cancer patients. We also look at a potential vaccine for COVID-19 which is being adapted from a proven form of gene therapy; in women’s health – endometriosis therapeutics, and predisposition to Alzheimer’s; as well as some insight into the under-diagnosis of NAFLD in the US.
Early Detection: A New Front in the War on Cancer
The American Cancer Society recently reported the largest single-year reduction in cancer mortality ever—a 2.2 percent drop. Prevention—especially big declines in smoking—and advanced treatments targeting late stage cancers have been the cornerstones of the fight.
Still, more than 600,000 Americans will likely die of cancer this year, making it the nation’s second leading cause of death. It is time to open a new front in the war: better early detection.
A Coronavirus Vaccine Project Takes a Page from Gene Therapy
Researchers at two Harvard-affiliated hospitals are adapting a proven form of gene therapy to develop a coronavirus vaccine, which they expect to test in people later this year. Their work employs a method already used in gene therapy for two inherited diseases, including a form of blindness: It uses a harmless virus as a vector, or carrier, to bring DNA into the patient’s cells.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is Under-Diagnosed in the US
A condition involving excess fat buildup in the liver is grossly underdiagnosed in the United States, according to an analysis of Medicare claims data. The condition, called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is often associated with obesity and is not related to alcohol consumption.
Harvard-Designed 'Backpacks' Turn Immune Cells into Better Cancer Killers
Normally, a class of immune cells known as macrophages patrol the body and engulf cellular waste, foreign organisms and other substances that pose threats. But tumors have a way to switch macrophages into a different state that instead promotes the survival and growth of the cancer. A team of scientists at Harvard University has found a way to turn macrophages back to their cancer-killing state by attaching to their surfaces little “backpacks” that produce stimulatory cytokines.
Combination Therapy for Endometriosis Symptoms
In the US around 11% of women suffer from endometriosis and it can be completely debilitating for people who have to live with it. The main symptoms include chronic pain, feeling nauseous and struggling to conceive. While there’s no cure for endometriosis, massive medical strides are being made to help people manage their symptoms.
Ipilimumab May Help Some Patients with Prostate Cancer
Patients with prostate cancer have typically derived very limited benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitors to date, with most clinical trials showing underwhelming results and failing to meet their primary endpoints. Despite this, some patients do respond, and a new phase 2 trial testing CTLA-4 blocker ipilimumab in patients with metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) has attempted to find out why this minority of patients do well.