Monthly Archives: June 2003

No Such Thing as ‘Cancer Personality’

  • 6/6/2003
  • Sendai, Japan
  • Daniel DeNoon

Personality Types Unrelated to Risk of Developing Cancer

When it comes to cancer, it doesn’t matter how outgoing, emotional, aggressive, or conformist you are. Your personality doesn’t affect your risk of cancer, a new study suggests. Some — but by no means all — earlier studies have found links between cancer and certain personality types. These included being extroverted, having a “type 1” personality, and lacking emotion. These studies had various weaknesses. They tended to focus on small numbers of people. And they often failed to control for important cancer risk factors, such as smoking. Now, a research team led by Yoshitaka Tsubono, MD, of Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, has solved those problems. The researchers gave personality tests to 30,277 people living in northern Japan. Seven years later, they looked at who got cancer and who didn’t.

Four Personality Traits

Tsubono’s team used a test called the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. It uses four measures to analyze personality:

*Extroversion-Introversion. Extroverts are very social people. They have lots of friends and must talk with other people a lot. They like excitement, take risks, and act on the spur of the moment. Introverts are quite and studious. They plan ahead, don’t easily lose their tempers, and value ethical standards.
*Neuroticism. People with high “N” scores tend to be very emotional and overactive. They have trouble calming down. They complain about vague physical problems and tend to be worried, anxious, and irritated.
*Psychoticism (Tough-Mindedness). People with high “P” scores aren’t necessarily crazy. But they tend to be cruel, intolerant, and aggressive. They tend to make trouble for other people and lack empathy.
*Lie. People who score high on this scale are conformists. They “fake good” in order to please others.

Cancer and Personality

After seven years, the researchers saw no link between cancer and any personality trait. However, people who already had cancer tended to score higher on the Neuroticism scale. So did people who got cancer after three years. But since high “N” scores weren’t linked to cancer in the long run, the researchers suggest that it’s not an “N” personality that causes cancer — it’s cancer, or early symptoms of cancer, that make a person anxious and emotional.

The findings appear in the June 4 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

OCF NOTE: In the emotional section of the main body of the web site, this idea has been explored at great length. Emotions as a precursor to developing cancer is an idea which has been dismissed by the vast majority of doctors in the field of psycho-oncology, and that includes OCF board member Dr. Jimmie C. Holland, MD. Dr. Holland is the Chair, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This published study reinforces what was generally believed by those in this field.

June, 2003|Archive|

Paclitaxel-Based Regimen Effective for Head and Neck Cancer

  • 6/5/2003
  • Chicago
  • Charlene Laino

In a finding that some physicians say could transform the management of people with locally advanced head and neck cancer, researchers have found that adding paclitaxel to the standard chemotherapy regimen completely wipes out tumors in about one third of patients, extending lives. Patients given the paclitaxel combination are also more likely to retain the ability to speak and swallow, resulting in improved quality of life, said Ricardo Hitt, MD, PhD, an oncologist at the Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid, Spain, and the chief investigator of the new study.

Based on results of a phase II trial pitting paclitaxel plus the standard regimen of cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) against the standard regimen alone, the researchers hypothesized that the triplet would shrink more tumors, extending survival. Which is just what happened, Dr. Hitt reported here at the 39th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. In the prospective, randomized phase III study of 384 patients with locally advanced head and neck cancers, mostly tumors of the oropharynx, larynx, and oral cavity, patients were randomly assigned to receive either 100 mg/m2 of cisplatin on day 1 plus a continual infusion of 1 g/m2 of 5-FU for five days every three weeks, or the same drugs plus 175 mg/m2 of paclitaxel on day 1 of each cycle. About 35% of the patients, whose median age was 56 years, had resectable disease. Three quarters had a performance status of 1, and 84.1% had stage IV disease.

Tumors disappeared in 32% of those who received the triple therapy. In contrast, conventional chemotherapy was associated with a complete response rate in 13% (P < .007), Dr. Hitt said.
The difference in partial response rates between the two groups was not quite as striking: Tumors shrank by 50% or more in 56% of patients given the paclitaxel combination compared with 48% of those receiving conventional chemotherapy, the study showed.
But as follow-up continues, “many of the patients who received the paclitaxel combination have already survived more than 38 months, the median survival time for the standard chemotherapy regimen,” Dr. Hitt said. The median time to progression for patients who received the paclitaxel combination was 23 months compared with 18 months for those treated with the standard drugs. In addition, the larynx, pharynx, and tongue were preserved in 88% of patients who received the paclitaxel combination compared with 75% of those who were treated with cisplatin and 5-FU alone.

Adverse effects were similar among patients in both groups, except for grade 3 to 4 mucositis, which was significantly more common in patients receiving standard therapy: 23.3% vs. 3.1% in the paclitaxel arm, the study showed. Given its superior efficacy and toxicity profile, “this combination may soon become the standard treatment option for some patients with head and neck cancer,” Dr. Hitt said. ASCO spokespersons who were not involved with the study generally agreed.
“This is a very important study that will very likely change the way head and neck patients are managed,” said Robert Mayer, MD, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and moderator of a discussion on the findings. Frank Haluska, MD, chair of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee, said that while practice guidelines are rarely changed based on one study, “there is very little downside to physicians adopting this regimen immediately.”

Head and neck cancer is a relatively chemoresponsive tumor, but adding paclitaxel “clearly results in better complete response rates,” said Dr. Haluska, an oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “This is really important for the patient, representing not only a step toward a cure but also allowing for treatment to preserve the larynx and the voice.” Plus, toxicity is very tolerable, he said.
Bristol-Myers Squibb helped fund the study.

ASCO 39th Annual Meeting: Abstract 1997. Presented June 1, 2003

June, 2003|Archive|