Cancer News: Latest Developments in Cancer Research and Treatment for June

News breaks in the cancer arena all the time. Sometimes it’s big — like word that a breakthrough drug has increased survival for a hard-to-treat cancer. Sometimes it’s smaller. Any of it may matter to you and your family as you navigate your cancer journey. We do our best to keep you up-to-date with a monthly roundup of some of the most significant recent cancer news.

New Screening Test Can Detect New and Recurrent Bladder Cancer

What’s New A novel screening test that identifies a cancer biomarker (keratin 17 [K17]) in urine can detect new bladder cancers in patients with blood in their urine, according to research published in the June 7 online issue of the American Journal of Clinical Pathology. The test can also identify bladder cancer in patients under surveillance for recurrence.

Research Details Researchers from Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, and Stony Brook University in New York assessed 179 urine samples taken from adults with blood in their urine or who were being followed for recurrence to determine sensitivity (the ability to detect cancer) and the specificity (the ability to differentiate cancers from non-cancers). Overall, the findings showed that the K17 urine test correctly identified 82 percent of patients with bladder cancer and 92 percent without bladder cancer.

Why It Matters Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men. The American Cancer Society projects that approximately 64,000 men (and 20,000 women) will develop bladder cancer in 2021. Current bladder cancer screening requires difficult and often expensive and invasive camera-based testing (cystoscopy), namely because other methods are unable to reliably distinguish between benign and low-grade bladder cancers. Ultimately, the K17 urine test may be used to determine which patients are likely to benefit from treatment while also eliminating the need for complicated cystoscopy in patients who are negative.

RELATED: Kidney and Bladder Cancer Breakthroughs Among Top ESMO 2020 News

More U.S. Adults More Worried about Wrinkles, Sunburn Than Skin Cancer

What’s New Roughly a third of Americans report that they are unaware that tanning causes skin cancer, and almost as many are more worried about avoiding premature wrinkles than about preventing cancer, according to survey findings released by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Research Details As part of its SPOT Skin Cancer awareness campaign, the AAD surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to learn more about prevailing attitudes toward sunning, protection, and understanding of their link to skin cancer. The findings highlighted that 70 percent of Americans (especially younger adults) are spending more time in the sun during peak hours of intensity (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Of the 25 percent of people who reported having a sunburn in 2020, 37 percent were millennials and 43 percent were gen Z. Overwhelmingly, those surveyed believed that sun protection was important, but few planned for it. Only 55 percent reported regularly using sunscreen, especially during outdoor activities. While 59 percent reported having at least one skin cancer risk factor (i.e., moles, family history), only 36 percent were concerned about developing skin cancer.

Why It Matters Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, affecting millions annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But it is also one of the most preventable. With cases on the rise and summer upon us, it’s more important than ever to know the risk factors and learn about prevention, including seeking shade when outdoors, minimizing exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying sunscreen with a minimum skin protection factor (SPF) of 15.

RELATED: 6 Steps for Choosing a Clean and Safe Sunscreen

Palliative Care a Mystery to Many Americans

What’s New Only 11 percent of Americans report understanding the value of palliative care for alleviating pain and symptoms of chronic illnesses, according to findings published on June 4 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal.

Research Details Researchers used data from the 2018 NCI's Health Information National Trends Survey, which asked adults ages 18 and older to describe how much they knew about palliative care. Among 3,450 respondents participating in the survey, 89 percent felt that they had an inadequate knowledge level. Participants with at least two encounters with the healthcare system over the past year and/or a regular source of healthcare were three times more likely to have adequate knowledge of palliative care compared with those with fewer encounters or no regular healthcare provider. Other factors associated with greater knowledge included being female (approximately twice the odds), being married (approximately twice the odds), and having a college degree or higher (almost 14 times greater odds).

Why It Matters Palliative care is a type of supportive care that addresses the physical, emotional, and general needs of patients with serious illnesses. Both the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines emphasize the importance of palliative care to overall cancer outcomes.

RELATED: Understanding Lung Cancer and Palliative Care

AI-based, Noninvasive Imaging Helps Predict Outcomes in Lung Cancer

What’s New Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, have developed a noninvasive imaging technique that measures levels of a specific biomarker called PD-L1 to predict which patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) will respond well to immunotherapy. Study findings were published in the June issue of the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.

Research Details The PD-L1 biomarker is considered an indicator of how well a cancer will respond to some immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors. Generally, the higher the number of PD-L1 biomarkers on cancer cells, the more likely it will be to respond to the therapies. Researchers developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-based scoring method that uses computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging features (e.g., size, shape, pixel intensity) to train computers to measure PD-L1 biomarker levels in 697 NSCLC patients. The model was further developed to predict which patients would derive the most durable clinical benefit from checkpoint inhibitor therapy, demonstrating as high as an 87 percent accuracy. In addition, the deep learning model also demonstrated a reasonable ability to predict progression-free survival (survival time during which the cancer does not grow) and overall survival.

Why It Matters PD-L1 is a protein that helps prevent immune cells from attacking non-harmful cells. Some cancer cells also have high PD-L1 levels, which allow them to trick the immune system to avoid attack. Until now, practitioners have had to rely on invasive, surgical biopsy procedures to obtain tissue samples to determine which NSCLC patients will respond to a specific type of immunotherapy that uses checkpoint inhibitors. If proven accurate in larger trials, PET/CT imaging may ultimately provide an alternative to invasive procedures and help guide choice of therapy.

RELATED: New Hope for Previously 'Undruggable' Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

No Link Found Between Fertility Treatments and Breast Cancer

What’s New A meta-analysis of data from the past three decades shows that women who are treated with ovarian stimulation treatments for infertility are not at higher risk for breast cancer. The study findings were published online on June 21 in Fertility and Sterility Journal.

Research Details Kings College London researchers analyzed 20 studies that enrolled 1.8 million women with no prior breast cancer history who received ovarian stimulation drugs for infertility between 1990 and 2020. The women were followed for an average of 27 years. Compared with the general population, infertile women who received either gonadotropins (hormones used to support normal development of eggs and promote ovulation) or clomiphene (an infertility drug used in women who cannot ovulate) did not have a significant increased risk for developing breast cancer.

Why This Matters Breast cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. women and affects one in eight women globally, according to the American Cancer Society. While there are a variety of factors that increase risk, there has been concern that drugs that increase estrogen and progesterone production might affect breast cells and make them turn cancerous. Until now, studies looking into the link between fertility drugs and breast cancer risk have been inconclusive.

RELATED: When to Worry About Breast Lumps

New Blood Test Detects More than 50 Cancer Types

What’s New A blood test that accurately detects more than 50 types of cancer before any signs or symptoms arise may be ready to be added to screening strategies for people at high risk, according to study findings published online on June 24 in the Annals of Oncology journal.

Research Details French researchers evaluated the performance and ability of the multi-cancer early-detection (MCED) test to identify chemical signals for multiple cancer types in 15,254 people with and without cancer. The findings showed that overall, the test correctly identified the presence of cancer in about 51 percent of cases and was wrong (false positive) in only half a percent of cases. The MCED test correctly identified cancer across stages 1 to 3 in approximately 67 percent of cancers.

Why It Matters Although one of the most important tools in the fight against cancer is screening and early detection, only five screening tests (breast, colon, cervical, lung, and prostate) are currently available in the United States. While these tests have been shown to reduce mortality rates, they are also associated with high false-positive rates (meaning that they often incorrectly identify the presence of cancer) and conversely, a low ability to predict that proportion of people with positive test results who actually do have true cancer. The MCED test (currently available by prescription in the United States) is viewed as an important addition to current screening modalities and has the potential to shift detection to earlier stages, when cancers are most treatable and deaths most preventable. Although studies are ongoing, detecting cancer by blood samples represents a possible game-changer for cancer detection efforts.

RELATED: Why Are More and More Young People Being Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer?

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