Gene-Therapy Fights Oral Cancer

5/16/2001 San Francisco, CA Daniel Q. Haney Associated Press A gene-therapy mouthwash shows promise of warding off oral cancer by killing ominous growths before they turn malignant. The idea is to attack these pre-malignant patches by unleashing viruses programmed to kill cells with cancer-causing genes. The first study of this approach is still under way, but doctors said yesterday that it appears to work in at least some patients, making ominous patches in their mouths disappear completely. In the past 20 years, scientists have learned that all cancer arises from genetic defects that accumulate during a lifetime, causing cells to grow rampantly and spread in the body. With this insight came the belief that it might be possible to target these bad genes to stop cancer. This was once one of the hottest ideas in cancer research. But enthusiasm cooled as scientists hit roadblocks. One was reaching and killing every cancer cell. Even reaching 80 percent of the cells is not good enough, because the rest keep growing. So researchers decided that the mouth might be an excellent target for gene therapy, since the problem can be so easily reached. "The advantage is that it's where we can see it," said Dr. Ezra Cohen of the University of Chicago. "We can get to it, and the therapy does not get absorbed into the body." White or red patches in the mouth, so-called dysplastic lesions, frequently are a forerunner of malignancy and are common in smokers and heavy drinkers. These cells [...]

2009-03-22T10:01:55-07:00May, 2001|Archive|

Predicting Oral Cancer

5/13/2001 Janet McConnaughey AP A simple genetic test can help doctors accurately predict whether people with common white patches inside their mouths are likely to develop deadly oral cancer. The technique developed at the University of Oslo could help physicians assess patients with the patches, called oral leukoplakia, so they can be treated early if cancer appears likely. "I think there is a message to physicians: Beware of white patches," said Dr. Jon Sudbo, whose study was published in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "There is a message to consumers and patients: Beware of white patches. And get them investigated." The key is the number of chromosomes in the cells that make up those patches. If it's the normal 46, cancer is unlikely. If the number is doubled, cancer is more likely. And it becomes very likely if the number cannot be divided evenly by 23, the number of chromosomes received from each parent. More than 300,000 people around the world, including about 30,000 in the United States, are diagnosed each year with oral cancer, making it the nation's No. 11 cancer and the ninth most common worldwide. More than half of those people die within five years, largely because the cancers are hard to diagnose early. The death rate hasn't changed in more than 20 years. Because there is no way to know which white patches will develop into cancer, doctors often remove them as a precaution. But there is also no good way to [...]

2009-03-22T09:58:08-07:00May, 2001|Archive|

Cancer Patients’ Mouth Sores Relieved in Studies

5/12/2001 San Francisco Deena Beasley Reuters An experimental drug that stimulates cell growth can reduce the duration of severe mouth sores in cancer patients undergoing toxic treatments like chemotherapy, researchers said on Saturday. "Currently, there are no approved or consistently effective treatments for severe mucositis. This is a potential breakthrough," said Dr. Ricardo Spielberger, a staff physician at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, and lead investigator in a midstage clinical trial of the recombinant human keratinocyte growth factor, or KGF. KGF, a human protein shown to protect certain tissues from damage, is being developed by Amgen Inc., which sponsored the studies of the drug. Mucositis, or severe inflammation of mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, is a serious and painful side effect of cancer therapy. Patients who develop the condition have difficulty swallowing, eating, drinking and talking. The mouth sores cause pain and lower the quality of life for patients but also make them more susceptible to infection, the researchers said. "Mucous membranes are affected by toxic cancer therapies because they are fast-dividing cells -- like tumor cells," explained Dr. Patrick Stiff of Loyola University in Chicago, a co-author of the study. He said mouth sores were the No. 1 complaint of lymphoma patients who could be successfully treated with intense doses of radiation therapy followed by stem cell transplants. PROBLEM HALVED In a trial of 129 of these patients, those who received injections of KGF, both before and after undergoing cancer therapy, experienced [...]

2009-03-22T09:55:02-07:00May, 2001|Archive|

Cervical Cancer Virus Linked to Some Head and Neck Cancer

5/10/2001 Journal of the National Cancer Institute The virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer has been linked to some head and neck cancers, particularly to cancer of the tonsils, according to an article published this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI, Vol. 92, No. 9). The findings are providing hope for treating a type of cancer that has not seen improvements in survival rates for the past three decades. The research by Maura Gillison, MD, and colleagues at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, suggests some of the cancers that tested positive for the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) represent a distinct class of disease with a more favorable prognosis."We found that HPV-positive HNSCC [head and neck squamous cell carcinomas] had significantly improved disease-specific survival when compared with patients with HPV-negative tumors, even after adjustment for age, lymph node status and heavy alcohol consumption," the researchers wrote. What the Researchers Found Dr. Gillison and her colleagues tested tumor tissues from 253 patients with head and neck cancers and found 25 percent of the cases were HPV-positive. In 90 percent of those HPV-positive tumors, HPV16 - the type of the virus most often associated with cervical cancer - was present.Earlier research suggested a link between HPV and cancers of the tongue, tonsils and pharynx. This new study confirms a strong link between HPV and those cancers - particularly in cancer of the tonsils. "These findings are exciting because, in addition to providing a solid etiologic link [...]

2009-04-07T18:56:01-07:00May, 2001|Archive|
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