New treatments suggest that cancer is on the run!

People suffering from cancer will be encouraged by a cluster of recent reports on successful new treatments for several different forms of cancer.

In fact the arrival of so much positive information and progress has raised cautious optimism in some experts that the Big C may be on the run.

To date the most exciting news is that Herceptin, a drug used to treat certain advanced breast cancers, also works against an aggressive type of early breast cancer, with some doctors saying the drug is a major advance in treating the second deadliest cancer in women.

Gabriel Hortobagyi, director of the breast-cancer program at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, has written in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, that the recent results are 'revolutionary'.

Other experts are more cautious saying some of the studies followed women for only two years.

Herceptin targets a gene called HER2, which causes an overproduction of a particular protein in about 20 percent of invasive breast tumors.

The drug was approved for treating metastatic HER2-positive breast cancers in 1998.

For patients fighting advanced lung cancer, which is difficult to detect in its early states, they can now benefit from a procedure using surgery and little radioactive seeds.

According to doctors from Montefiore Medical Center in New York, previously inoperable patients can benefit from a process that combines limited surgery to remove most of the tumour, and then implants the seeds in the remaining cancer that surgery cannot resolve.

As a rule the tumours have invaded bones and blood vessels and further surgery is not possible, so the radioactive seeds are used in a procedure called brachytherapy, and target the cancer in such places.

The researchers presented their findings at the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology meeting in Denver.

In their study they looked at 35 patients, many of whom had successful results from the combination treatment.

Another study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine's Department of Urology, confirms that consumption of fruit and vegetables might be a positive step in fighting off prostate cancer.

The team found that a flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables and herbs, affected mice with prostate tumours.

They found the tumours' implanted in mice slowed after the mice were fed apigenin for eight weeks and none of the side effects associated with treatment were seen.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta said his team found apigenin lowered "inflammation and oxidative stress" as well as increasing a protein that fights prostate cancer.

The study was published in the October online issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.

Meanwhile researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found cell vaccines that can help rapidly restore immunity in immune-suppressed cancer patients.

The treatment is especially beneficial to patients with multiple myeloma who suffer from a malignant proliferation of plasma cells in their bone marrow.

As the standard treatment for this cancer is high-dose chemotherapy and transplantation of one's own blood-producing adult stem cells, a patient's mature immune-system cells can be destroyed.

The latest research showed protective levels of immunity against pneumococcus could be provided by giving the prophylactic bacterial vaccine in addition to a new autologous T-cell-based vaccine only two weeks after transplantation.

It seems that protection developed in the patients within a month after the transplantation.

The treatment is described in this week's online edition of Nature Medicine.

In another study by Dr. Hans Theodor Eich, a radiation oncologist at the University of Cologne, Germany, has found that patients with early-stage Hodgkin's disease can be treated with half the radiation, cutting side effects.

Over a period of four years, between May 1998 and May 2002 researchers treated 1,131 patients with a combination of chemotherapy and half the standard amount of radiation, and found that only 2.5 percent of the patients relapsed during the study's two years of observation, and 13 patients died from the disease during the course of the study.

Eich says the results are very encouraging as it is now possible to cure patients with early-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma of their cancer while reducing the amount of radiation given , thus allowing them to have a higher quality of life after treatment.

The study was reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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