EXPERT VOICES

Timely insight on cancer topics from the experts of the American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society Expert Voices

The American Cancer Society

Cancer Drugs: Long Odds and Magic Bullets

August 13, 2012

By William C. Phelps, PhD

 

During 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 30 completely new therapies (new molecular entities, as opposed to the modification of an old drug), 7 of which were for treatment of different types of cancer.  One of them, the lung cancer drug crizotinib, was decades in the making. For a new drug, that isn't necessarily a lot of time.


Why does it take so long to get cancer treatments to the patients who need them? The answer lies both in the complexity of cancer and the complexity of the drug development and testing process. More...

The Bottom Line on Soy and Breast Cancer Risk

August 02, 2012

By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. McCullough added the following statement 4/8/14 in response to questions related to sources of isoflavones:

Research on soy and cancer is highly complex, controversial, and evolving.

When concerns about soy are raised, they generally focus on findings from rodent models of cancer which tend to use isolated soy compounds like soy protein isolate or high doses of isoflavones (compounds found in soy).  However, soy is metabolized differently in humans than it is in mice and rats, so findings in rodents may not apply to people. (See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16614407 for more on this.)(Setchell, AJCN, 2011).  There is no evidence in the medical literature that soy protein isolate is bad for humans, compared to other forms of soy. Soy protein isolate is often used as a supplement in randomized studies of the effects of soy on health and none of these studies have shown harm.

Most of the studies suggesting benefits of soy consumption in people have measured how much soy foods people are eating, including tofu, soybeans, and soy milk.  These foods are more commonly eaten in Asian countries. In the U.S., purified forms of soy are used in the food supply, including in energy bars and soy hot dogs.  The few US studies that have measured these forms of soy do not suggest harm.    

More research is needed to understand the relationship between specific forms of soy and doses of isoflavones on cancer risk and recurrence. We also need to learn more about childhood exposure to isoflavones and risk of cancer. Until more is known, if you enjoy eating soy foods, the evidence indicates that this is safe, and may be beneficial (but note that miso, a fermented soy product, is high in sodium.)  It is prudent to avoid high doses of isolated soy compounds found specifically in supplements, as less is known about their health effects. As for other "hidden" sources of soy proteins, the evidence to date does not suggest harm or benefit. However, if you are concerned about these products, you can choose to avoid them.  


 

Before writing a blog about soy and breast cancer, I took an informal poll of a few friends to get a sense of what women believe about soy.  I asked them, "What do you know about eating soy food?  Is it good for you? Not good for you?" (I didn't even mention breast cancer.)  The responses I got were,  "I think it acts like estrogen in the body"; "Consuming any soy products increases the risk of breast cancer"; "I don't eat it a lot because I heard something negative but I can't remember what it was;" and "I've heard you should only have it in moderation."  Apparently, people are hearing that soy may not be good. But what's the truth? In this blog I'll walk you through what we know and what we don't know about soy and breast cancer, and give you some practical tips on eating soy. More...

Health Equity, Health Disparities: What's the Story?

July 24, 2012

By Alvaro Carrascal, MD, MPH

 

These days we hear a lot about health disparities, cancer disparities, health equity, etc. What is this all about? And why do these terms seem to be more discussed now?


MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health's website for patients, describes health disparities as "differences between groups of people. These differences can affect how frequently a disease affects a group, how many people get sick, or how often the disease causes death."


For the World Health Organization (WHO), health equity is "the absence of unfair and avoidable or remediable differences in health among population groups defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically."

 

Essentially, health equity is about everyone getting a fair shake when it comes to health and healthcare. More...

Filed Under:

Disparities

Weight Gain during Cancer Treatment

July 05, 2012

By Michele Szfranski, MS, RD, CSO, LDN

 

When I talk with people who have gained weight during their cancer treatment, they are often shocked. For people who lost considerable weight before their diagnosis and then felt better once their treatment started, weight gain can be a welcome change. But more often I speak with people who were at a healthy weight or overweight before treatment and did not realize that their treatment might cause some weight gain. More...

Filed Under:

Survivorship

Expert Voices blog: Cancer Vaccines -- Fulfilling the Promise

June 26, 2012

By William H. Chambers, PhD

 

Vaccines are not new. In fact, there is evidence that the ancient Egyptians and Chinese used them many centuries ago.  Vaccines work by preparing your own immune system to attack invading pathogens, thus preventing disease. Vaccines have helped us make great inroads against many deadly diseases over the past 60 years, when they became used more widely.


Using vaccines against cancer is relatively new, though. Cancer researchers have been trying to make vaccines for tumors, just like others have made vaccines for measles, mumps, and tetanus. More...

ACS releases new data on survivorship

June 14, 2012

By Kevin Stein, PhD

 

June is turning out to be big month for cancer survivors. Not only did we celebrate National Cancer Survivor Day on the 7th, but the Society is also co-hosting the 6th Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference June 14 -16 in Arlington, VA.

 

And the American Cancer Society has just released the first-ever Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Facts & Figures, the newest addition to our Facts & Figures publications. The report highlights the continued increase in numbers of cancer survivors in the United States. Survivors are defined as any person with cancer from the time of diagnosis on.

 

We estimate that there are now 13.7 million Americans alive today who have a history of cancer, and that this number is expected to grow to nearly 18 million by 2022. More...

Filed Under:

Breaking News | Survivorship

What do you really learn from a path report?

June 06, 2012

By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, MPH

 

 

Most people's impression of pathology is based on the forensic pathologists in TV shows such as "CSI" (or, if you're my age, "Quincy, ME"). But for people facing cancer, there is another aspect of pathology to learn about - the testing that is done to find out whether an area of diseased tissue is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

 

Doctors often suspect that a person has cancer based on their physical exam findings and on the results of x-rays and scans. In the vast majority of cases, however, samples of cells (called cytology) or tissue samples (biopsies) must be tested to know for sure. And, if the tumor is cancerous, pathology testing will also determine what kind of cancer is present. This information is very important in guiding the treatment you receive, and in estimating your outlook for recovery and survival.

 

People receiving treatments for cancer usually get to know the teams of professionals who perform surgery and who prescribe and give their chemotherapy and radiation. On the other hand, you rarely meet the pathologists, technologists, and other laboratory professionals who test the biopsies, blood, and other specimens removed from your body. Learning about what they do with your samples can help you make informed decisions about your care. More...

Filed Under:

General | Ted Gansler

Hookahs are trendy, but are they safe?

May 29, 2012

By Tom Glynn, PhD

 

 

Hookah smoking is no safer than cigarette smoking. If you read no further, that is the take-home message for this blog -- no matter what you may have heard or read, the scientific evidence is clear that hookah smoking is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.

 

Countering the widely-held, although mistaken, belief that hookah smoking is safer than cigarette smoking is important, so let's take a step back and consider what hookah is, learn about its history and current popularity, and then look at the facts about the scientific evidence regarding its effects on health. More...

What we can learn from the Cancer Prevention Studies

May 15, 2012

By Alpa Patel, PhD


How often do you see someone battling cancer and wish there was something tangible you could do to make a difference?

 

During the past 50 years, more than 2 million volunteer participants have joined the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Studies and have been making a difference simply by giving a little time to fill out surveys and share information about their behaviors, lifestyle, family and personal medical history, and other information. In 1959 and 1982, adult men and women voluntarily joined the Cancer Prevention Studies I, and II, respectively. Their simple actions as study participants have helped us understand much of what we know about how cancer develops in the population.

 

Today, a new generation can do the same, by joining the Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3), the Society's newest Cancer Prevention Study. More...

Just say no -- to pain drugs?

May 07, 2012

By Terri Ades, DNP, FNP-BC, AOCN

 

We remember the phrase from the 1980s. It emerged from a substance abuse prevention program to teach students skills to resist peer pressure and other social influences. When Mrs. Nancy Reagan was visiting an elementary school in California and was asked by a schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs, the first lady responded by saying, "Just say no."  Upon her husband's election to the presidency, Mrs. Reagan outlined how she wished to help educate the youth, stating that her best role would be to bring awareness about the dangers of drug abuse.


Mrs. Reagan was talking about drug abuse among our youth- she was not talking about the appropriate use of drugs to treat cancer-related pain. Yet patients are hesitant today to take pain-relieving medicines for their pain, and caregivers are reluctant to give them. Many are afraid of addiction. Are their fears related to this campaign from the 1980s? Probably not, but we know it is very difficult to change people's attitudes about taking pain-relieving medicines once those attitudes are formed. More...

Filed Under:

Survivorship

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