Neuro-ophthalmologist Nancy Newman’s 2017 Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture and Award were unexpectedly timely. Her talk on Tuesday was a tour of her career and mitochondrial disorders affecting vision, culminating in a description of gene therapy clinical trials for the treatment of Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.
The sponsor of those studies, Gensight Biologics, recently presented preliminary data on a previous study of their gene therapy at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in April. Two larger trials Read more
Plasma cells live in our bone marrow. Their job: to make antibodies that protect us from bacteria and viruses. But if those plasma cells grow unchecked, that unchecked growth leads to multiple myeloma.
Sagar Lonial, MD
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that results in lytic bone disease, or holes in the bones. Whatâ€™s more, the cancerous cells crowd out normal bone marrow resulting in anemia or a low white count, leaving a person vulnerable to infections.
Sagar Lonial, MD, an oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, treats people with multiple myeloma. The prognosis for people with this type of cancer is poor; however, researchers are gaining on the disease. Twenty years ago, the survival rate was two to three years; now, itâ€™s four to five.
Lonial says one of the keys to improving patientsâ€™ prognosis is increasing their enrollment in clinical trials and better access to life-extending drugs.
A recent article in Nature describes the resurgence of interest in cancer cell metabolism. This means exploiting the unique metabolic dependencies of cancer cells, such as their increased demand for glucose.
Cancer cells' preference for glucose is named after 1931 Nobelist Otto Warburg
Otto Warburg, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1931, noticed that cancer cells have a “sweet tooth” decades ago, but only recently have researchers learned enough about cancer cells’ regulatory circuitry to possibly use this to their advantage.
AtÂ Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, several scientists have been investigating aspects of this phenomenon. Jing Chen and his team have identified a switch, the enzyme pyruvate kinase, which many types of cancer use to control glucose metabolism, and that might be a good drug target.
Jing Chen, PhD, and Taro Hitosugi, PhD
Shi-Yong Sun, Wei Zhou and their colleagues have found that cancer cells are sneaky: blockade the front door (for glucose metabolism, this means hitting them with the chemical 2-deoxyglucose) and they escape out the back by turning on certain survival pathways. This means combination tactics or indirectly targeting glucose metabolism through the molecule mTOR might be more effective, the Nature article says.
A quote from the article:
Clearly, metabolic pathways are highly interconnected with pathways that govern the hallmarks of cancer, such as unrestrained proliferation and resistance to cell death. The many metabolic enzymes, intermediates and products involved could be fertile ground for improving cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.
The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University offers a collaborative approach for dealing with cancer that begins as soon as a patient is diagnosed. The program considers the emotional, psychological and physical symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
And options for patients may include cognitive therapy, antidepressants, or both. Anger, fear, and anxiety mixed with the physical and emotional side effects of cancer treatments can lead to depression during and even after treatment, when patients may feel isolated.
Darren Johnson spent his 19th birthday undergoing a bone marrow transplant. A few weeks earlier, Johnson had been diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a form of leukemia in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough normal blood cells. He endured a year of treatment and then a lengthy recovery. (Watch “When Life Goes On,” a short video about his story.)
Only relatively recently have health care providers turned serious attention to the emotional well-being of cancer patients. They have realized that easing the emotional burden of a cancer diagnosis for patients and families may actually improve treatment and outcome.
Working with the news media is an effective way for academic researchers and physicians to educate the public, says Otis Brawley, MD, one of the most recognized figures in medicine today. Brawley spoke recently with physician/researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University about the importance of working with the news media to explain difficult medical concepts and to influence public opinion on health issues and the importance of research.
Brawley is chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and a professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory School of Medicine. He is a regular contributor to CNN and is featured as one of four medical experts on cnn.com/health, one of the most widely viewed health-related websites.
Brawleyâ€™s advice? Concise messages are important when communicating through print or electronic media. He typically consolidates what he wants to say into three points, which helps keep the message simple and understandable. He also tries to include colleagues in descriptions of his work and avoid jargon.
Acknowledging the difficulty of communicating complex medical concepts and data in lay language for the average news audience, Brawley strongly suggests working with an institutionâ€™s media relations staff. This team can help physicians and scientists with their communications skills and connecting with the right audiences.
Emory oncologist Ruth O’Regan, MD, is leading a trial testing whether Afinitor can reverse resistance to Herceptin in metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients. As part of the trial, some patients been receiving a drug called Afinitor (everolimus) along with chemotherapy and Herceptin (trastuzumab).
Ruth O'Regan, MD
About 25 percent to 30 percent of breast cancers are HER2 -positive, which means they test positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2). This protein promotes the growth of cancer cells, making HER2 -positive breast cancers more aggressive than other types.
They also tend to be less responsive to hormone treatment. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this type of cancer responds extremely well to Herceptin.
Herceptin specifically targets HER2 cells, killing them while sparing healthy cells, so side effects are minimal. Its effectiveness has made Herceptin the gold standard of treatment for HER2 -positive breast cancer.
When Cynthia Anderson, MD, prepares her patients for stereotactic radiosurgery she emphasizes three things: the surgery is fast, friendly and focused. Initially used to treat the part of the brain associated with brain tumors, stereotactic radiosurgery has gained currency as a treatment for various types of cancer. This type of surgery uses x-ray beams instead of scalpels to eliminate tumors of the liver, lung and spine.
“It’s fast because the actual radiation treatment itself is very short,” says Anderson, a radiation oncologist at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. “It’s friendly because it’s all done as an outpatient. And it’s focused because these targeted radiation beams get the maximum dose of radiation to a tumor and give the most minimal dose of radiation to the critical organs that surround the tumor.”