Monthly Archives: April 2019

New technology that transforms brain signals into speech may give voice to people with Parkinson’s, throat cancer

Source: www.techtimes.com
Author: Naia Carlos Tech Times

Technology has advanced so greatly that even patients who have completely lost their voice could potentially have it restored soon. In fact, scientists have already developed a computer-based system that can translate brain activity into speech.

Someday in the future, this system could help individuals who have lost their speech through various conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, throat cancer, and paralysis.

“Speech is an amazing form of communication that has evolved over thousands of years to be very efficient,” said Edward F. Chang, M.D., senior author of the study and professor of neurological surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Many of us take for granted how easy it is to speak, which is why losing that ability can be so devastating. It is our hope that this approach will be helpful to people whose muscles enabling audible speech are paralyzed.”

Scientists Develop Computer-Generated Speech Translator
In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers shared the details of their new technology. First, the team collected recordings of the brain activity of epilepsy patients without speech problems and who are scheduled to undergo surgery.

The researchers had each patient speak or mime in full sentences, then they constructed maps on how the brain directs the entire vocal system to make sounds. The second step involved the maps getting applied to a computer program that produced the speech.

Volunteers listened to the computer-generated speech and asked to transcribe what they heard. In more than half of the times, they were successful in understanding what the computer program was trying to say.

Amazingly, the second step of translating the vocal maps into sounds seems to be generalizable and accurate even across patients. Since it would be difficult to get vocal maps from paralyzed patients, it’s fortunate that data from non-paralyzed individuals could be used in the system.

Findings show that even just miming speaking was enough for the computer to generate some of the same sounds.

Why This New Technology Is Groundbreaking
Existing computer-generated speech rely on the head and eye movement in translating speech, but this is a very slow, limited method since it involves using individual letters and words to create sentences. For the new technology, the scientists wanted to synthesize the actual sounds used in natural speech.

Gopala K. Anumanchipalli, Ph.D., study author and speech scientist at UCSF, explained that current technology is limited to 10 words per minute, but natural human speech can go as fast as 150 words per minute.

“This discrepancy is what motivated us to test whether we could record speech directly from the human brain,” said Anumanchipalli.

With this new development, patients who lost their voice could potentially gain access to faster, more efficient technology that helps them communicate.

April, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

Cancer ‘vaccine’ shown to be effective in small trial

Source: www.upi.com
Author: Dennis Thompson, HealthDay News

A new method of brewing a cancer vaccine inside a patient’s tumor could harness the power of the immune system to destroy the disease, researchers report.

Immune stimulants are injected directly into a tumor, which teaches the immune system to recognize and destroy all similar cancer cells throughout the body, said senior researcher Dr. Joshua Brody. He is director of the Lymphoma Immunotherapy Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“We’re injecting two immune stimulants right into one single tumor,” Brody said. “We inject one tumor and we see all of the other tumors just melt away.”

Eight out of 11 lymphoma patients in a small, early clinical trial experienced partial or complete destruction of the tumor that received the initial injection, according to the report published April 8 in the journal Nature Medicine.

The vaccine also halted overall cancer progression in six patients for three to 18 months, and caused significant regression or actual remission in three patients, the investigators found.

The results were solid enough that the research team is expanding its next clinical trial to include lymphoma, breast, and head and neck cancer patients, Brody said. That trial started in March.

Prior efforts at unleashing the immune system to fight cancer have focused on T-cells, which Brody calls the “soldiers” of the immune army because they directly attack harmful invaders in the body.

Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors help T-cells identify cancer cells as the bad guys and kill them off.

“We call them the ‘Jimmy Carter’ medicines because that’s what Jimmy got when he had very advanced-stage melanoma,” Brody said.

But the checkpoint inhibitors have typically only been able to help about one in five cancer patients significantly, “so there’s lots of room for improvement,” he added.

This new vaccine approach focuses on dendritic cells, which Brody calls the “generals” of the immune system’s army. Dendritic cells guide the response of T-cells to fight off invaders.

“We’re trying to mobilize these immune generals to tell the soldiers what to do,” Brody said.

Patients first received nine daily injections of an immune stimulant intended to “recruit” dendritic cells by teaching them how to recognize cancerous cells, the study authors said.

The patients then received eight injections of a second stimulant that “activates” the dendritic cells, prompting them to instruct T-cells to hunt and destroy the now revealed cancer cells in the body.

Essentially, the method turns the injected tumor into a cancer vaccine factory, the researchers explained.

The approach differs from traditional vaccines for the flu or measles because those are preventive, teaching the body beforehand how to fight off an infectious disease, Brody pointed out.

This vaccine is therapeutic. “We’re trying to teach the immune system to get rid of the thing even after you’ve already got the problem,” he said.

Lab tests involving mice show that this vaccine approach could be at least three times more powerful if combined with checkpoint inhibitors, Brody added.

Because of this, patients in the new trial will receive both the vaccine and checkpoint inhibitors, the researchers said.

Susanna Greer, scientific director of clinical cancer research and immunology for the American Cancer Society, said that “priming” dendritic cells inside a person’s tumor to produce the best anti-tumor immune response “suggests a promising immunotherapy strategy.”

“Additional human studies are warranted to confirm these findings,” Greer said.

Dr. Catherine Diefenbach, director of clinical lymphoma at the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center in New York City, said the vaccine approach is “novel and extremely interesting,” and could help explain why checkpoint inhibitors usually don’t help patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

However, she noted that really only three of the 11 patients in the initial clinical trial had truly meaningful responses to the vaccine.

“These are indolent lymphoma patients,” said Diefenbach, an expert for the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “The fact there was stable disease doesn’t really mean anything because these cancers don’t grow fast.”

April, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

How does alcohol compare with tobacco in terms of cancer risk?

Source: rocklandregister.com
Author: Rockland Staff

Everyone knows, these days, about the cancer risks associated with smoking cigarettes. Perhaps not as many understand that drinking alcohol also poses some elevated risk for developing cancer. A new study, however, has compared and quantified these risks in a new report suggesting that drinking a single bottle of wine per week can bear the equivalent cancer risk of at least five cigarettes.

Study author Dr. Theresa Hydes comments, “It is well-established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver, and breast. Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, data shows there are “clear patterns” related to alcohol consumption and the development of several types of cancer: liver cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, and head and neck cancer. Essentially, the more you drink (both acutely and cumulatively), the higher your risk for developing cancer. However, the study also suggest that even very light drinks (one or fewer drinks per day, or up to 7 per week) have about the same moderately elevated risk as binge drinkers (sporadic drinking of at least four servings in one session).

From this data, then, a British team of researchers from University of Southampton, Bangor University, and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust investigated the data, particularly in how alcohol consumption might compare against smoking.

Analyzing data taken from Cancer Research UK—regarding lifetime cancer risk across the general population—and data taken from cancer patients linked specifically to tobacco or alcohol, they calculated the likelihood for developing cancer among men and women. They found that out of 1,000 non-smoking men who drank one bottle of wine for week, at least 10 more would develop cancer in their lifetime. For women, the number was 14. This is the equivalent of smoking 5 to 10 cigarettes per week, respectively; and, keep in mind, it is an estimate.

Dr. Hydes goes on to say, “We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices. We must be absolutely clear that this study is not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is any way equivalent to smoking. Our finds relate to lifetime risk across the population.”

April, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month: Self-exams, early detection can save lives

Source: www.prnewswire.com
Author: press release

Because early detection of oral cancer offers a greater chance of a cure, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) is reminding the public during Oral Cancer Awareness Month of the importance of performing monthly self-exams.

AAOMS promotes self-exams and screenings every April with the Oral Cancer Foundation, which predicts about 53,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in 2019 in the United States – leading to more than 9,000 deaths.

“A monthly self-exam takes only minutes and could potentially save your life,” said AAOMS President A. Thomas Indresano, DMD, FACS. “If done on a regular basis, you’re increasing the chances of identifying changes or new growths early. The survival rate for oral cancer is between 80 and 90 percent when it’s found at early stages of development.”

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMSs) encourage a six-step oral cancer self-exam that involves looking and feeling inside the mouth for suspicious sores and feeling the jaw and neck for lumps. Using a bright light and a mirror:

  1. First remove any dentures.
  2. Look and feel inside the lips and the front of the gums.
  3. Tilt the head back to inspect and feel the roof of the mouth.
  4. Pull the cheek out to inspect it and the gums in the back.
  5. Pull out the tongue and look at its top and bottom.
  6. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of the neck, including under the lower jaws.

Oral cancer symptoms may include one or more of the following if they are persistent and not resolving:

  • Red, white or black patches in the soft tissue of the mouth.
  • A sore in the mouth that fails to heal within two weeks and bleeds easily.
  • An abnormal lump or hard spot in the mouth.
  • A painless, firm, fixated mass or lump felt on the outside of the neck that has been present for at least two weeks.
  • Difficulty in swallowing, including a feeling food is caught in the throat.
  • Chronic sore throat, hoarseness or coughing.
  • A chronic earache on one side.

The risk factors for oral cancer include smoking and tobacco use, alcohol consumption and the human papillomavirus (HPV).

“About 25 percent of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors,” Dr. Indresano said. “It’s important that everyone perform a monthly self-exam. And if you have any of the symptoms for more than two weeks, promptly contact an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. OMSs are experts in diagnosing and surgically treating oral cancer.”

April, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

The HPV Vaccine Is Already Dramatically Lowering Rates of Cervical Disease

Source: Gizmodo
Date: 04/03/19
Author: Ed Cara

A new study out Wednesday in the BMJ is the latest to showcase even the short-term benefits of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It found that the routine vaccination of preteen girls in Scotland, starting in 2008, led to drastically lower rates of cervical disease by the time the girls turned 20. That included conditions known to raise the risk of cervical cancer later on in life.

There are over 100 different types of HPV that regularly infect humans. Most types cause no symptoms at all, while some can cause annoying but harmless warts on our hands, feet, or genitals, depending on where they like to call home. High-risk HPV types, however, linger in the cells that line the surfaces of our body, triggering changes that can eventually turn them cancerous. These HPV types account for nearly all cases of cervical cancer, as well as a substantial proportion of cancers in the mouth, throat, anus, and penis.

We’ve had a vaccine available for two of the most common high-risk types of HPV since 2006, when it was at first recommended only for teen girls. Over the years, the window of opportunity for getting the vaccine has expanded, as has the number of HPV types it protects against. The newest version protects against seven high-risk types that account for 90 percent of cervical cancers (along with two types that cause genital warts). And young boys and men are now also encouraged to get the vaccine, as are women up to age 45.

Despite this increase in recommended age, getting vaccinated while young provides the most benefit, since it’s incredibly easy to contract HPV once a person becomes sexually active. But rates of childhood HPV vaccination in places like the U.S. are still abysmally low. According to one estimate, only 35 percent of children are fully vaccinated by age 15 (the current guidelines call for kids to begin their vaccination from age 11 to 12, with only two shots needed if they get both by age 15; otherwise three shots are required). That low adherence rate not only hampers the protective effects of the vaccine, it also complicates efforts by researchers to study the real-world impact of the vaccine on a population.

In countries like Scotland, though, routine HPV vaccination was quickly adopted and made commonplace, thanks to a nationally funded vaccination program that targeted 12- to 13-year-old girls starting in 2008, along with a later program that targeted older teens. But there are other factors that make Scotland an ideal country to test the value of widespread HPV vaccination, according to lead author Tim Palmer, a pathologist at the University of Edinburgh.

“Up until June 2016, we started [cervical disease] screening at age 20, so we’re one of the first countries to have immunized women attend for screening,” he told Gizmodo via email. “We are also one of the few countries to be able to link directly the fact that an individual had or had not been vaccinated and her screening outcome many years later.”

Palmer and his team looked at the records of more than 130,000 women in Scotland who received one of these cervical screenings at age 20. They compared women vaccinated for HPV as young girls to slightly older women vaccinated during the catch-up program and to unvaccinated women born in 1988.

Compared to these unvaccinated women, they found, the women vaccinated as young girls were far less likely to have any kind of cervical disease, defined as the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix. Most importantly, the rate of growths classified as a cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grade 3 also dropped substantially, by nearly 90 percent. That’s crucial because a CIN3 growth puts women at their greatest risk of someday developing cervical cancer. According to Palmer, the 90 percent reduction they found is the largest drop seen with CIN3 in any population where HPV vaccination is available.

“Thus, we are confident that the reduction in CIN3 will lead to a reduction in cancers,” Palmer said.

The high vaccination rate in Scotland also had indirect effects, they found. The rate of cervical disease in the minority of women who were eligible but did not get vaccinated dropped as well, meaning vaccine coverage was high enough to provide some herd immunity (put simply, the more protected a population is from a disease, the less opportunity the disease has to spread to unprotected people). As expected, women who were older when vaccinated still had a lower rate of cervical disease than unvaccinated women, but not to the same degree as those who got the vaccine when young.

All in all, Palmer said, the study shows that Scotland’s HPV program has been an unmitigated success, one that will continue to pay off for decades. And Scotland’s early success story should provide plenty more motivation for other countries to drive up their own local vaccination rates.

That said, it’ll still take some time before we can really be sure that cervical cancer rates will similarly plummet, since many women develop it in their mid 30s and 40s. But Palmer says his team is already at work studying screening data that might show the vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing earlier cases of cancer.

The growing success of the HPV vaccine might eventually lead to changes in how we screen women for cervical cancer, Palmer said, since there’ll be fewer total cases of cancer to catch—a welcome problem, obviously.

“Ultimately, when routinely immunized women form the majority of the women eligible for screening, the need for cervical screening programs should be reviewed; they may no longer be justified,” he said. “However, this point will not be reached in Scotland for at least 25 or 30 years. Before that stage, the frequency and number of screening tests will need to be reviewed; there are suggestions that just two or three tests in a screening ‘lifetime’ will be adequate.”

Currently, in the U.S., it’s estimated there are 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer annually.

April, 2019|Oral Cancer News|

Flossing and going to the dentist linked to lower risk of oral cancer

Source: www.livescience.com
Author: Yasemin Saplakoglu, Staff Writer

Regularly flossing and going to the dentist may be tied to a lower risk of oral cancer.

That’s according to findings presented March 31, here at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting.

In the new study, researchers analyzed the dental health behaviors of patients who were diagnosed with oral cancer between 2011 and 2014 at the ear, nose and throat clinic at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. The patients’ behaviors were compared to those of non-cancer patients who came to the clinic for other reasons, such as dizziness or an earache. [7 Odd Things That Raise Your Risk of Cancer (and 1 That Doesn’t)]

All of the patients in the study had responded to a survey that included questions about how often they flossed, how often they went to the dentist, how sexually active they were and if they smoked or drank alcohol.

Oral cancer can be divided into two categories: those driven by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) and those that aren’t, said lead study author Jitesh Shewale, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (Smoking and drinking are both risk factors for non-HPV oral cancers.)

After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status and race, the researchers found that oral HPV-negative people who went to the dentist less than once a year had nearly twice the risk of developing oral cancer than those who went once a year or more. Similarly, oral HPV-negative people who flossed less than once a day had over twice the risk than those who flossed more. In other words, poor oral hygiene was linked to increased non-HPV oral cancer risk.

The study didn’t find an association between poor dental hygiene and oral cancer in those who also had oral HPV, however.

The researchers hypothesize that the oral microbiome may play a role in the association between oral hygiene and cancer risk. In previous research, scientists from the same team found evidence that “poor oral hygiene practices causes a shift in your oral microbiome,” Shewale told Live Science. That shift “promotes chronic inflammation and [can lead to] the development of cancers.” HPV-positive oral cancers mostly affect the base of the tongue and the tonsils region, while HPV-negative cancers mostly affect oral cavities, which are more affected by oral hygiene, he added.

Denise Laronde, an associate professor in dentistry at the University of British Columbia who was not a part of the study, said that the new research was “interesting” but added that it was too early to draw conclusions. (The study found an association between oral hygiene and cancer risk, but did not show cause-and-effect.)

Still, “a lot of the times people look at their oral health as almost disconnected from the rest of their body,” Laronde told Live Science. “But so many systemic diseases are reflected in your oral health and vice versa.”

Laronde added that the new research will hopefully raise awareness about the importance of flossing. “We all know people say they floss way more than they do,” she said. But studies like this raise awareness that “you’re not just flossing to keep your teeth, you’re flossing to maintain your health.”

The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

April, 2019|Oral Cancer News|