December 14, 2011
By William C. Phelps, PhD
The 1960s seems like yesterday to me. The music, the cultural passion, and a Presidential assassination helped to sear time and place in my now gray-headed memory. During this time, two young scientists in Philadelphia, Dr. Peter Nowell from the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. David Hungerford from Fox Chase Cancer Center, spent their days peering through microscopes at white blood cells. They noticed that when they stained cells from patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (or chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML), they would very often see an odd, minute chromosome in addition to the normal set.
We know today in looking back that this was a landmark observation. Dr. Nowell and Dr. Hungerford named their discovery the "Philadelphia Chromosome" in keeping with the tradition of the day, and it soon became an important way to diagnose CML.
In the 1970s as we suffered through the disco era, Dr. Janet Rowley at the University of Chicago used newly developed techniques that highlighted different regions of chromosomes to look more carefully at the Philadelphia Chromosome. She determined that they looked odd because two large pieces of two different chromosomes had changed places. But the significance of that wasn't immediately apparent. More...
October 14, 2011
By William Chambers, PhD
Earlier this month, 3 immunologists were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. Two of the 3, Bruce Beutler and Ralph Steinman, are former research grantees of the American Cancer Society, bringing the total of Nobel Prize winners who are former grantees to 46. Drs. Beutler and Jules Hoffman, the third awardee, were singled out for their work on non-adaptive immunity, and Dr. Steinman was recognized for his discovery of dendritic cells, which are singularly important in adaptive immunity. So why is their work important, and what does it have to do with the fight against cancer? More...
August 09, 2011
By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP
From time to time, I encounter advocates for research in certain diseases. These are people who want better answers for a specific cancer. Oftentimes these folks or a relative has had that particular cancer. They often ask, why is so little money spent on pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or even lung cancer? Why can't we spend more? These are reasonable questions, and I want to try to address them in this piece.
First I caution against what I call "disease Olympics." This is when advocates for one disease try to increase funding for their disease by decreasing funding for another disease. I have often seen this in my 25 years as an oncologist, researcher, and scientific administrator. I would point out that 90% of the grants that are submitted and judged worthy of funding to the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and other research-funding organizations are not funded due only to a lack of money. I believe the wise advocate tries to get more money for all cancer research and does not try to undermine another disease in favor of the disease that he or she is interested in. More...
July 11, 2011
By Eric Jacobs, PhD
You may be wondering if you should start taking an aspirin every day, since you've heard that aspirin can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Or maybe your cholesterol level is a little high but you're concerned about taking a statin pill every day because you saw an Internet article that said lowering cholesterol by taking a statin might cause cancer.
Or recently, a study came out that suggested that using the over the counter pain reliever acetaminophen at least 4 times a week for 4 years, might increase risk of certain types of blood cancers.
Medications often have unexpected long-term effects, both good and bad, that are not fully known. We'd all like to understand the full range of risks and benefits of a drug before we take it. Or at least we'd like our doctors to understand them so they can help us make well-informed decisions. More...
April 12, 2011
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
A recent study has shown that for some women diagnosed with breast cancer, extensive lymph node surgery isn't needed. This is great news because removal of lymph nodes in the armpit area can have debilitating and life-long side effects.
Here is a little background: In the United States, about 210,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year. Of the invasive cancers, about 30% of cases, or 63,000 cancers, will be diagnosed at the "regional stage," which means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The findings of this study are important for women in this group.
March 22, 2011
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA
There's been a lot of news lately about cancer-sniffing dogs after a new study by Japanese researcher Hideto Sonoda and his colleagues was published in the medical journal Gut. So we couldn't help but wonder, is that possible?
If you haven't heard about it, the recent study suggests that specially-trained dogs can identify the scent of volatile chemicals (those that evaporate into the air at room temperature) present in colon cancer. More...