Could fruit flies help match patients with cancer treatments?

Author: Michele Cohen Marill

Joel Silverman is facing down a nightmarish cancer prognosis. What he’d thought was a benign cyst in his jaw was actually a rare cancer that grew stealthily, supplanting the bone. And even after the tumor was excised, an undetectable remnant in his bloodstream seeded metastatic lesions in his lungs. His doctors can do little beyond removing the lesions as they appear. This cancer, myoepithelial carcinoma, doesn’t have a standard chemotherapy treatment.

Silverman, 59, an internal medicine physician in Boca Raton, Florida, is accustomed to delivering both good news and bad to his patients, so he is realistic about his predicament. But he is also aware that science constantly pushes the bounds of what is possible. His hopes now hinge on a new paradigm of personalized medicine that will use a half million fruit flies to design and test a drug regimen tailored to his specific cancer. Not his type of cancer. His individual tumors.

Drosophila melanogaster, the tiny creatures of high school genetics experiments, are actually sophisticated models of human biology. Some 60 percent of Drosophila protein-encoding genes (known as the exome) have a parallel in humans. Drosophila can become drunk or obese, can develop diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, and, with some tricks of genetic engineering, can be induced to develop tumors identical to those in humans.

The signaling pathways among cells—the mechanisms that control cellular repair, for example—are the same in humans and flies. “If you find a drug that is going to affect [a cancer-inducing] oncogene in flies, there’s a good chance that will have an effect in humans,” says Norbert Perrimon, a developmental biologist and geneticist at Harvard Medical School who developed several of the techniques used in genetic research on flies.

That is the premise of a London startup called Vivan Therapeutics (formerly My Personal Therapeutics), which is harnessing a century of fruit fly genetic research along with modern genomic sequencing to create the cancer-fighting “Personal Discovery Process” in which Silverman’s hopes lie. (Perrimon is not affiliated with the company.) Their process is essentially a fly-based clinical trial for an individual patient: By giving hundreds of thousands of fruit flies the same cancer mutations as in a human patient, they can run thousands of drug screens in parallel, testing to see which are the most effective—and in what combinations—for combatting that particular tumor. This truly personalized medicine incorporates both common cancer drugs and those not normally used in cancer treatment.

Vivan Therapeutics is focusing on gastrointestinal, head, and neck cancers and rare cancers for which there is no established treatment. Ultimately, the company plans to develop a database of gene mutations and previously tested drug combos, enabling patients to receive suggestions for a regimen more swiftly. “For colorectal cancer, we already know that there are about five drug combinations that work for about 75 percent of the population,” says CEO and founder Laura Towart. “When we have a colorectal cancer patient, we would first test those five drug combinations along with 150 other drugs”—ones that have shown some effect in other screens—“and see if they rescue the flies. If they don’t work, then we would broaden out the screen.”

This could be the beginning of a new horizon in cancer care, a move beyond the current targeted therapy based on a single biomarker or commonly found mutation (such as the BRAF gene in melanoma). The fly-based process seeks agents against the combined, interactive effects of as many as 20 mutations in a single tumor. But at the moment it is still more of an oncological Hail Mary, an option for patients who have exhausted all their alternatives.

“I’m about two months away from finding out if there are other drugs and combinations that could actually save my life,” says Silverman, who has been taking a targeted therapy based on the detection of a mutation in the PIK3CA gene. It’s not clear if that drug is diminishing the lung lesions. “If they could stop what’s going on in my lung, my life is saved—or at least prolonged,” he says of Vivan Therapeutics.

The basic science underlying Vivan Therapeutics dates back to 1918, when Mary Stark, a little-known scientist in biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan’s famous Fly Room at Columbia University, identified tumors in Drosophila larvae and experimented with transplanting pieces of them into healthy larvae. Over the decades, the lowly fruit fly became an exquisite model of human disease. (Morgan received a Nobel Prize for his Drosophila work in 1933.) The fruit fly reveals attributes and treatments for disorders ranging from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to aging, from epilepsy to eye disease—the source of enough discoveries to fill a book titled First in Fly. (The author, Harvard geneticist Stephanie Mohr, also contributes to an ongoing blog called Drosophila Models of Human Disease.)

When the Drosophila melanogaster genome was sequenced in 2000 (three years before the human genome), new possibilities arose for probing the genetic origins of disease. Developmental biologist Ross Cagan was studying the mechanisms of cancer in fruit flies, but in 2010 he turned the question around: Could the flies reveal cancer-killing drugs, even if the science wasn’t fully worked out?

He created the drug testing process in his lab at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City that has since been licensed by Vivan Therapeutics. “We’re exploring which drugs work, attacking the cancer network with a therapeutic network,” says Cagan, who recently moved his work to the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

First, scientists analyze the patient’s tumor, comparing its exome with the whole exome sequencing of the patient’s blood to identify the tumor’s protein-coding alterations. They select the changes most likely to drive the growth or proliferation of the tumor, based on their function or location. (A single tumor can contain hundreds of genetic alterations, but typically only five to 15 of them drive its growth.)

“There are many, many tumors that are not caused by one mutation. Or one mutation is compounded with two or three others that allow the cancer to grow, proliferate, and stay alive,” says Marshall Posner, a Mount Sinai oncologist specializing in head and neck cancer who has conducted fly research with Cagan but is not affiliated with the company.

Scientists next inject strands of synthetic bacterial DNA into fruit fly larvae to integrate the mutations into the genome. The location is precise; a colorectal cancer will be expressed in the fly’s gut, for example. Then they calibrate larvae development by altering the temperature of their environment, so the tumor is timed to kill the larvae in seven days. (Larvae typically metamorphose into flies in 10 to 11 days.)

Then these fruit fly “avatars” must propagate. Vivan Therapeutics uses about a half million fly larvae to test about 2,000 drugs and drug combinations, encompassing a version of most FDA-approved drugs that are currently in use, says the company’s chief scientific officer, Nahuel Villegas. For example, an anti-inflammatory or anti-hypertensive drug might have unexpected cancer-fighting properties when used with a tumor suppressor.

The larvae live in tubes in groups of 35—half with the tumor, half without to serve as the control group—feeding on drug-laced food. The healthy larvae have been tweaked with genetic alterations that make them shorter and fatter, so they can be distinguished from those carrying tumors. After seven days, their survival rates are compared. Every drug is tested on at least 300 larvae, and promising drug combinations are retested. The top candidates are ranked based on the survival rates, but ultimately the selection takes into account the human patient’s clinical history and their oncologist’s judgment. For example, a patient with an underlying cardiac problem might steer clear of a drug associated with cardiac concerns, Villegas says.

The entire process takes about six months, from whole exome sequencing of the tumor to drug recommendations. “We are under pressure to get it right and to get it fast. We want to give them the best option possible,” says Villegas. While the patients and their oncologists will make the decision about following any recommendations, the process is designed to expand and individualize the cancer-fighting armamentarium beyond what is currently possible.

So far, only a limited number of people have followed these fly-tested regimens. Cagan launched a clinical trial testing drugs in fruit fly avatars at Mount Sinai in 2016, and it took a few years to enroll 39 cancer patients. Nine patients received the screening and treatment options, and other patients stayed with standard treatment or haven’t yet used the recommendations, for various reasons (including the interruptions caused by Covid-19).

In 2019, Cagan, Posner, and colleagues published a report in Science Advances about a patient with metastasized colorectal cancer who had stopped responding to his chemotherapy. The fly model identified a promising combination of the anti-cancer drug trametinib and the bone-repairing drug zoledronate. The patient followed a regimen with the drugs, and the lesions shrunk by 45 percent, according to the case report. But after 11 months, new lesions appeared. Although the patient died, the sustained response to the novel treatment hinted at the promise of the personalized fly model. “It’s a success in the sense that it worked for a while,” says Cagan. “Now we can say maybe we’re moving in the right direction.”

Another case study done by the same team, published in the open access journal iScience, focused on a patient with metastasized adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare and difficult-to-treat cancer of the salivary gland, who received a three-drug cocktail that was identified in the fly screening. The combination of the arthritis drug tofacitinib, the beta blocker pindolol, and anti-cancer drug vorinostat caused the cancer to stabilize for 12 months. But after a year, new mutations evolved that evaded the drugs and the cancer rapidly progressed. The patient died the following year.

While they believe that intervening earlier with personalized treatment would likely produce better results, the Vivan Therapeutics team acknowledges that their work hasn’t yet evolved enough for fruit-fly-derived regimens to supplant standard care. “We are very open with the patients in terms of what we know and don’t know,” says Cagan, who is on the Vivan Therapeutics scientific advisory board.

Still, this would expand the current scope of targeted treatments by tailoring them to individual patients. “The promise of precision medicine and targeted therapy is very real, but it’s [been] very limited,” says Posner.

Vivan Therapeutics recently began recruiting patients for clinical studies in the United Kingdom (20 patients) and Saudi Arabia (five patients), and expects to launch a study with at least five patients in Switzerland. Nine private patients from various countries are at various stages in the process, but none have yet received a fly-derived treatment. The company charges $15,000 for the Personal Discovery Process, but Towart says this barely allows Vivan to break even. Its broader plan is to develop a database of cancer mutations and use machine learning algorithms to identify drug combinations to treat them. Vivan Therapeutics has received grants from the European Union and the United Kingdom and is using tumor sequencing data from Genomics England to build profiles.

Eventually, most patients will simply need their tumor sequenced and then could take a drug cocktail identified by the AI system, rather than new tests in fly proxies; the AI system would search the database for a match with previously screened tumors and the resulting drug recommendations. That would greatly shorten the time to treatment, Towart says. But as new mutations arise, some patients won’t match a tumor profile in the databank—or some will want their own personalized avatars—so Vivan Therapeutics officials expect to continue conducting some fly trials.

For now, the search for the optimal cancer treatment still requires a half million fruit flies. That cumbersome process concerns Silverman’s oncologist, Hilary Gomolin at the Lynn Cancer Institute in Boca Raton. When a patient’s cancer has already metastasized, it’s hard to wait months for a new treatment. Insurance companies might not cover cancer drugs identified through a method they view as experimental. Silverman’s tumor is particularly challenging—a rare salivary gland cancer with an even rarer emergence in the jaw—and the effectiveness of any treatment may be limited.

But Gomolin, who once worked with Posner at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, remains open-minded. “I’m an eternal optimist,” he says. “I hope they can find something that helps Joel.”

Ideally, oncologists want a more individualized way to treat each patient’s tumor. Researchers are pursuing other models to explore tumor vulnerabilities, including organoids or engineered tumors in zebrafish or mice. But ultimately, any approach will need to be validated in studies that confirm the effects in a sizable number of patients, says Sam Klempner, an oncologist who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Our standards of care are not good enough for many tumors. We definitely need new platforms,” says Klempner, whose research focuses on targeted therapies. “Ultimately, the power of many model systems is the generation of large data sets that we can mine for patterns and shared vulnerabilities in the tumors.”

So far, Silverman has been able to keep on seeing patients and carrying on with his life. He just wants more time—time to spend with family and see his youngest child, who is a freshman, graduate from high school. And perhaps his results will add important information to the fly bank that could shape future treatments. “Whether it works for me or not, I’m convinced it will help somebody down the road,” he says. “It’s worth all the effort to support them and help them move forward.”

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2021-02-26T19:03:11-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

Sunstar Americas, Inc. Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of GUM® Hydral Dry Mouth Relief Oral Spray Due to Possible Microbial Contamination

Source: Yahoo! Finance
Date: February 18th, 2021

CHICAGO, Feb. 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Sunstar Americas, Inc. (SAI) is voluntarily recalling GUM® Hydral Dry Mouth Relief Oral Spray products bearing an expiration date from 2021-11 through 2022-05 (see specific lots below) to the consumer level. This product may be contaminated with the bacteria Burkholderia cepacia.

Use of the defective product in the immunocompetent host may result in oral and, potentially, systemic infections requiring antibacterial therapy. In the most at-risk populations, the use of the defective product may result in life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia and bacteremia. To date, no adverse events have been reported to SAI related to this recall.

The oral spray, available through retail, is indicated for use for lubricating, moisturizing, soothing, and refreshing properties to help relieve and manage the symptoms of dry mouth:

  • 1800R/1800RA GUM® Hydral Dry Mouth Relief Oral Spray is distributed in 2.0 fluid ounce Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles with white polypropylene caps and a separate spray nozzle.

GUM® Hydral Dry Mouth Relief Oral Spray was distributed Nationwide to Grocery and Drug Wholesalers, Grocery and Drug chains, Web distribution and sales, and direct to consumers.

SAI is notifying its direct distributors and customers by USPS Priority mail and is arranging for return of all recalled products. Patients, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities in possession of these products should stop using and dispensing immediately.

Consumers with questions regarding this recall can contact SAI by phone at 1-800-528-8537 or email on Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm CST. Consumers should contact their physician or healthcare provider if they have experienced any problems that may be related to using this drug product.

Affected products and lot numbers follow below:


SKU# Lot Exp
1800R 493538 2021/11
1800R 493539 2021/11
1800R 493540 2021/11
1800R 493541 2021/12
1800R 498339 2021/12
1800R 498340 2021/12
1800R 498341 2021/12
1800R 498342 2021/12
1800R 511571 2022/01
1800R 516383 2022/02
1800R 516384 2022/02
1800RA C140DD 2022-05


Adverse reactions or quality problems experienced with the use of this product may be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail or by fax.

Sunstar is committed to delivering safe, fully compliant products of the highest quality and is taking necessary steps to prevent future occurrence of this issue.

This recall is being conducted with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About Sunstar Americas, Inc.

Sunstar Americas, Inc., a member of the Sunstar Group of companies, is a global organization headquartered in Switzerland that is a leader in the oral care industry and the manufacturer and distributor of the GUM and Butler Brands.

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2021-02-22T11:19:16-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

Machine learning is giving cancer detection new bionic eyes

Author: Adam Benzion

It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) — or, as my nerdier friends call it, “the outcome of really good machine learning (ML)” — is changing the way we live; the way we shop, eat, sleep is all monitored and enhanced by AI, and now the medical industry is tapping into the capabilities of AI. Entrepreneurs, hackers, and engineers have discovered new ways to infuse off-the-shelf hardware with ML tools to deliver highly specialized and expensive medical diagnostics in a field that is known for costly equipment and high barriers to entry. Welcome to the new era of AI-powered medical care.

Until recently, standard skin cancer lesion screening methods such as radiological imaging (x-rays) could miss the early signs of cancer in approximately 25% of cases, according to research published in the British Journal of General Practice. And in places where there is no access to expensive medical equipment, patients and doctors rely on experience and the naked human eye to perform early-stage cancer diagnosis. Not only does this present a non-standard level of diagnostics, but it also draws attention to the soft belly of medical care — only those who can afford quality treatment will get it. Either way, we are finding that there’s a need for other detection modalities that we’ve never tried before, breaking from traditional methods, and offering the same, top-quality early detection and diagnostics of cancer to everyone equally.

Medical care meets computer science
Meet Mohammed Zubair, associate professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Consultant at the Center for Artificial Intelligence at King Khalid University in Saudi Arabia. Zubair is accustomed to operating at the intersection of medical care and computer science and has been on a quest to solve one of the most critical problems in one particularly painful form of cancer affecting the oral cavity. Through his research and personal observations, he found that the biggest factor affecting oral cavity cancer patients was the time it took between initial detection and accurate diagnosis. When oral cavity cancer patients did not have fast access to experts, and too much time passed between the formation of cancerous cells and their detection, the odds of successful treatment and survivability decreased dramatically.

Zubair started his journey by mapping out the root of the problem, including long wait times to see specialists (up to months), lack of access to care in remote locations, and human error factors. All of these delays in detecting malignant tongue lesions could result in the avoidable death of a patient. Zubair decided that he would apply his expertise in this form of cancer to design a fast and inexpensive pre-screening solution that could be built faster and cheaper, and used everywhere. He wanted to develop a system that would reduce the time it takes to train physicians and even dental specialists, regardless of location and socioeconomic disparity.

To begin, he created a data warehouse with a clinically annotated tongue lesion dataset, and trained a detection model based on the Edge Impulse TinyML engine and Google’s TensorFlow Lite framework. He then ran his trained software on his iPhone, as well as a microcontroller integrated camera, using off-the-shelf computer vision to screen patients. The systems showed both benign and precancerous conditions, alongside traditional diagnostics methods. What he discovered was nothing short of astonishing. His detection accuracy (percentage of correct prediction) was close to 90%, with detection inference time at around seven milliseconds.

Zubair is validating with his research what many in his field are also saying: AI can greatly improve the accuracy of cancer detection in images, and open up new ways of developing and deploying cancer screening with a new set of bionic eyes that can see and detect what a human can’t. With enough data to train neural networks, cancer detection is being democratized, achieving impressive results.

Developments like this impact more people than you can imagine. According to the World Health Organization, more than 650,000 cases of tongue cancer are reported each year. It is prevalent in individuals mostly from developing countries due to lack of awareness and limited access to clinical diagnosis and dental specialists, predominantly in South Central Asia. This painful and debilitating disease normally manifests on the lips, gums, tongue and inner lining of the cheeks, roof and floor of the mouth. A patient suffering from this form of cancer has difficulties with eating, speaking, the appearance of lumps in the oral cavity, physical marks on the face due to surgical procedures and treatment, and severe pain.

“Automating the initial screening process for oral cancer patients using AI to detect precancerous tongue lesions can prove to be an effective and inexpensive technique that would allow patients to be triaged accordingly to receive appropriate clinical management,” Zubair said.

Rendering the human eye obsolete
Zubair’s experience is a bright spot in a new, blazing trail of experiments that are changing the way we look at medical care and cancer detection. In 2018, a team from Germany, the United States, and France taught an AI system to distinguish dangerous skin lesions from benign ones, across 100,000 image datasets, using a convolutional neural network (CNN), while comparing their hypothesis against 58 dermatologists from 17 countries. All were shown the same photos of malignant melanomas and benign moles. Once again the results scored a hands-down win for software. The AI-powered system was able to accurately detect cancer in 95% of images of cancerous moles and benign spots, whereas a team of 58 dermatologists was accurate 87% of the time.

With the right hardware, ML models, and datasets, medical-grade AI will detect other skin conditions, from pigmented lesions to rashes. However, pigmentation, lesions, and rashes can often look identical, whether they are cancer, toxin, or allergic reaction, so it’s the nuances that will make it effective, as well as the tiniest details within the dataset. Without a doubt, cancer diagnostics and detection will be best performed by AI in the coming years, even if we’re not there yet. Even untrained developers are pushing the limits on what we can do to beat this awful disease, which is always a leading indicator of things to come, see the Ultra96 Skin Cancer AI detection system shared on Hackster last year.

According to an article published by the radiological Society of North America, advancements in medical-purpose AI and deep learning are also applied to many other fields of cancer detection. In particular, applying deep learning to digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT: an advanced method for cancer detection in which an X-ray arm sweeps over the breast, taking multiple images in seconds) improves cancer detection. It reduces false-positive recalls compared to screening with digital mammography (DM) alone. With a new deep learning system mining vast amounts of data to find subtle patterns beyond human recognition, researchers tested its performance on real patients with and without cancer for comparison, detection sensitivity increased from 77% to 85% while cutting detection time by half.

We’re experiencing a healthcare revolution, powered by purposeful AI, from Google labs who recently shared an AI system that can detect the presence of breast cancer more accurately than doctors, to newly formed organizations such as CancerAI, which is committed to helping organizations to develop AI technology to dramatically improve cancer prevention, detection, and treatment.

AI-Powered Healthcare Is Our Greatest Ally
Cancer is not one disease; it’s a group of over 100 diseases involving abnormal cell growth and is the second leading cause of death around the world, taking 10 million lives annually. Not surprisingly, seven out of every ten deaths from the disease happen in low-or middle-income countries, and generally with people who cannot afford quality care. AI truly changes the way we can build, reach, detect, and possibly treat cancer patients in greater numbers at a lesser cost. AI, done right, can become humanity’s best friend after all.

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2021-02-17T11:39:46-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

Head-and-neck surgeons buoyant about new, just-right robot

Author: Brian Donohue

You know how great it feels when someone makes a pie or cake just for you? University of Washington Medicine head and neck surgeons have been feeling that kind of love lately, and on Feb. 5 they shared the first slice, so to speak, with patient Steven Higley.

Surgical assistants work near patient Steven Higley on Feb. 5. Lead surgeon Jeff Houlton is obscured by the robotics.

The cake in this story is actually a da Vinci robotic-assist system built especially for head and neck procedures. It is easier to maneuver than the robotic device they’ve used for the past decade, which was designed for operations to the chest and abdomen.

Higley underwent surgery to have a cancerous tonsil and part of his throat removed. Sitting at a console a few feet from the patient, Dr. Jeff Houlton manipulated the miniature surgical tools emanating from the robot’s single port, positioned just outside Higley’s open mouth. It was UW Medicine’s first trans-oral surgery with the new tool.

“If you think about laparoscopic surgery in the belly area, robotics provides the advantage of multiple mechanical arms approaching from different angles,” Houlton said. “But it’s a challenge to have three robotic arms that all need to go through a patient’s mouth. With this machine, the three arms are designed to come through one garden hose-like entry port and then articulate out from there.

“Pretty interesting, though, that in the past 10 years we built a nationally recognized practice for robotic head and neck surgery with a device designed for a different part of the body,” he added, laughing.

The new robot’s single port, left, through which all surgical instruments travel. At right, Dr. Jeff Houlton manipulates the instruments from a distant console. Photos by Randy Carnell, UW Medicine

Higley’s radical tonsillectomy entailed the removal of a margin of tissue beyond the visible tonsil and tumor. Houlton’s incisions exposed cranial nerves and branches of the carotid artery. Working in tight quarters with such vital anatomy, Houlton and his head-and-neck colleagues in surgery, Brittany Barber and Neal Futran, welcome the improvement in maneuverability.

Head and neck cancers represent only 3% of all oncology cases in United States. But case numbers are rising, Houlton said, with increased incidence of throat cancer involving human papillomavirus (HPV), as was the case with Higley, 68.

“Most of these cancers are HPV-mediated rather than smoking- and drinking-related,” Houlton said. “We call it an epidemic because it’s a viral cancer that’s gone up significantly since about the year 2000. In terms of HPV, cancer of the oropharynx (mouth, throat and tongue) is actually more common than cervical cancer now.”

Higley’s cancer came to light last fall after a yearly physical with his Olympia-based physician.

“I had no trouble swallowing, no pain,” Higley recalled. “I didn’t notice anything until my doctor said, ‘Hey, this looks like something we should check out.’ ” His referral to UW Medicine led to a biopsy in mid-December, and on Dec. 23, he learned that he had cancer.

“I’m glad they found it early and so is my wife,” Higley said. “If I could’ve had surgery the next day, it would’ve been OK with her.”

After the robotic part of the surgery, Houlton incised Higley’s neck and removed more than a dozen lymph nodes to be biopsied for cancer cells. Higley hopes they’ll concur with the pre-surgery PET scan that indicated his cancer was constrained to the tonsil.

Patient outcomes data suggests Higley’s prognosis is encouraging: 90-95% of patients who undergo surgery for this cancer survive five years or more.

Higley is already swallowing liquids and soft foods, but he’ll manage sore throat for about a month, Houlton said.

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2021-02-12T18:43:12-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

More parents balking at giving kids cancer-fighting HPV vaccine

Author: Steven Reinberg

From 2012 to 2018, more doctors recommended their patients get vaccinated with the HPV vaccine — from 27% to 49%. But at the same time, the number of parents who were reluctant to have their kids vaccinated increased from 50% to 64%, researchers found.

“Overall, more U.S. teens are getting the HPV vaccine, and the nation is making progress towards reaching the HPV vaccination goals; however, if parental reluctance continues to grow, the current rate of our progress might plateau or possibly decline,” said lead study author Kalyani Sonawane. She’s an assistant professor in the department of management, policy and community health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

“In the long term, the lost opportunity to protect our teens from HPV might contribute to cases of HPV-associated cervical, oropharyngeal, penile, anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers in the future,” Sonawane said.

Parents’ reluctance to have their kids vaccinated rose more for girls, from 54% to 68%, compared with 44% to 59% for boys, the researchers noted. The report was published online Feb. 9 in the journal Pediatrics.

To increase the number of boys and girls who get vaccinated, doctors need to strongly recommend it, Sonawane said.

“Further improvements in provider recommendations can be made, given that it is the most important factor for improving HPV vaccine uptake,” she said. “Providers should be prepared to tackle hesitancy by conveying the importance of HPV vaccination to parents and debunking vaccine misinformation. Increasing vaccine confidence in parents will be key to attaining HPV vaccination goals in the U.S.”

The reluctance is largely due to safety concerns, Sonawane said. In a study, she and her colleagues found that the most common reason parents cite for their reluctant to HPV vaccine is concerns regarding adverse effects.

“The public message about the HPV vaccine should highlight that the vaccine protects against cancers. It is important to emphasize to parents that the vaccine offers protection for up to six cancers, because data indicates that many people are not aware of this fact,” Sonawane said.

In another study, Sonawane found that less than one-third of Americans know that HPV causes anal, penile and oral cancers.

Sonawane added that the anti-vaxxer movement is likely contributing to the growing reluctance of parents to have their children vaccinated, and she is concerned that the “negative coverage of the COVID vaccine will trickle down to HPV vaccine and affect perceptions regarding vaccines.”

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that is the cause of most cervical, vagina and vulva cancers, penis cancer and cancer in the back of the throat. It can take years for these cancers to develop, but children can be protected by getting the HPV vaccine at ages 11 to 12, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One pediatrician unconnected to the study noted the importance of the marketing for the vaccine.

“When this vaccine first hit the market, they didn’t focus the messaging around it being a cancer preventer vaccine. They focused on the sexually transmitted infections,” said Dr. David Fagan, vice chairman of pediatric administration-ambulatory at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Fagan believes, however, the message should be that the vaccine prevents cancer. “Wouldn’t you, as a parent, want to do everything you could for your child to prevent the possibility of your child getting a cancer — this vaccine does that,” he said.

He also thinks that the quality of the recommendation is key to convincing parents to vaccinate their children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is doing a lot to educate pediatricians in motivational interviewing techniques, Fagan said.

The tetanus booster, the meningitis vaccine and the HPV vaccine are those recommended for adolescence.

Evidence shows, if you offer the HPV in first or second place as opposed to third place, parents are more likely to opt for it, Fagan said.

“If you do tetanus, meningitis, HPV, they are less likely to accept HPV, but if you put HPV first or even second, there’s evidence that there’s better uptake. So messaging is really, really important,” he said.

The vaccine is safe, Fagan said. A study has shown that no serious side effects have been seen since the vaccine was released.

“You know these things on social media about the safety of the vaccine, obviously that’s crazy stuff,” he said.

“I tell parents if this vaccine was unsafe, it would have been pulled from the market,” Fagan said. “Additionally, you would be reading about multimillion dollar legal settlements in the press, and that has not happened. So the take-home message is this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing cancers caused by HPV.”

More information
For more on the HPV vaccine, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kalyani Sonawane, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of management, policy and community health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; David Fagan, MD, vice chairman, Pediatric Administration-Ambulatory, Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Pediatrics, Feb. 9, 2021, online

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2021-02-10T10:56:54-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

How enlisting dentists can speed up Covid-19 vaccinations

Source: Knowable Magazine
Date: February 3rd, 2021
Author: Mary E. Northridge

OPINION: Dental care providers have the skills, the facilities and the trust of patients who might otherwise miss out


Even as the Biden administration has upped its Covid-19 vaccine goal to 1.5 million per day, early reports say vaccination rates are lagging in hard-hit Black and Latino communities. On both fronts, America’s dentists can help.

Dental professionals — dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants — have been responding to the pandemic from the outset, even as many practices were shut down by the emergency. At the health center where I work in Brooklyn, dental providers first donated their personal protective equipment (PPE) to the affiliated hospital. Then many of them were redeployed to perform arterial blood gas measurements and even transport deceased patients to makeshift morgues.

Today, the urgent need is to get millions of shots in arms. States should immediately authorize dental providers to administer Covid-19 vaccines. That would not only expand the trained immunization workforce, it would open up additional sites to dispense the vaccine and bolster vaccine acceptance among patients who do not routinely go to the doctor.

This is not without precedent. In 2019, Oregon became the first state to allow dentists to offer any vaccine to patients. Other states, including Illinois and Minnesota, allow dentists to administer influenza vaccines. Since late 2020, Arkansas, Massachusetts and California have permitted dentists to administer Covid-19 vaccines.

During this devastating public health emergency, this idea needs to be extended to all states.

There are more than 110,000 dentists – excluding specialists — and over 200,000 hygienists in the United States, and they already have the skills needed. Dentists routinely administer intra- and extra-oral injections to provide anesthesia, so any additional training would be minimal. In California, for instance, dentists will do four hours of online training before joining the vaccination effort.

California currently plans to utilize dentists just as extra manpower at vaccine clinics. But dental offices, too, will be valuable in vaccinating hard-to-reach populations.

Dental offices and clinics are a safe location. Despite early concerns that they might be particularly vulnerable to aerosol-borne transmission of the novel coronavirus, evidence is mounting that transmission at dental sites is rare. As in medical settings, precautions such as using PPE and increasing ventilation are effective. Nearly all dental practices and clinics have reopened to provide care. And that has been essential during the pandemic: Treating damaged teeth, tooth decay, gum disease and oral sores before they become acute prevents patients from going to emergency departments because of dental pain.

Interrupting community spread, however, is the chief imperative to prevent Covid-19 cases from overwhelming hospitals today. And that means adding vaccines to dental services.

Inoculating patients who are already in chairs for dental visits could improve vaccine acceptance. At the health center where I work, a simple workflow change for preventive tooth sealant placement nearly doubled the number of eligible children treated, from 37 percent to nearly 78 percent. Rather than schedule a separate appointment, sealants were applied during the kids’ initial or recall visits. Fewer visits meant greater acceptance of the treatment and higher rates of completion. The same could be true for vaccines.

Community dental clinics also serve hard-to-reach patients — minorities, immigrants, impoverished people — those who may be hesitant to seek out the vaccine because of historical injustices, fear of deportation or lack of health insurance. But dental providers have often earned trust through longstanding service in these communities. Ongoing quality improvement studies at our health center, for instance, document no racial/ethnic bias in treatment by dental providers. When patients are treated with respect regardless of their ability to pay for services, they may be more willing to accept a vaccine that will protect them, their families and their communities.

Many states have suspended regulations and expanded the scope of dental practices to combat the pandemic. To help ensure health equity and successfully immunize the whole US population, all states ought to enlist dental providers to administer Covid-19 vaccines as well.

This article is part of “Reset: The Science of Crisis & Recovery,” an ongoing Knowable Magazine series exploring how the world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, its consequences and the way forward. “Reset” is supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 


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2021-02-08T12:25:34-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

Using proteogenomics to improve the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma

Source:, Baylor College of Medicine
Author: Molly Chiu

Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), the sixth most common epithelial cancer worldwide, are treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In addition, targeted agents, including an EGFR monoclonal antibody (mAb) inhibitor and two programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitors, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for HNSCC treatment, but response rates are moderate.

In this study, researchers led by Baylor College of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University and the National Cancer Institute’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) investigated what new insight proteogenomic analysis might offer into understanding why certain patients respond to certain treatments while other patients do not. They propose that their findings may help better match patients to an appropriate course of treatment in the future.

Building a proteogenomic profile
The team profiled proteins, phosphosites (a site on a protein associated with phosphorylation) and signaling pathways in 108 human papillomavirus-negative HNSCC tumors in order to understand how genetic aberrations drive tumor behavior and response to therapies.

“We found three subtypes of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and each subtype may be a good candidate for a different type of therapy – EGFR inhibitors, CDK inhibitors or immunotherapy,” said Dr. Bing Zhang, lead contact of the study and professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center and the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor. “We also identified candidate biomarkers that could be used to match patients to effective therapies or clinical trials.”

Finding effective biomarkers
One important finding involved matching HNSCC patients to EGFR mAb inhibitors. Cetuximab, an EGFR mAb medication, was approved by the FDA in 2006 as the first targeted therapy for HNSCC, however the success rate for this treatment is low. Moreover, EGFR amplification or overexpression cannot predict response to EGFR mAbs. In this study, researchers found that EGFR ligands, instead of EGFR itself, act as the limiting factor for EGFR pathway activation. When ligand is low, the downstream pathway will not be triggered, even if EGFR protein is highly overexpressed.

“Tumors with high EGFR amplification do not necessarily have high levels of EGFR ligands, which may underlie their lack of response to EGFR mAb therapy.” The team confirmed this hypothesis by analyzing previously published data from patient-derived xenograft models and a clinical trial.

Additionally, tracking a key tumor suppressor known as Rb (retinoblastoma), the research team identified a striking finding that suggests that Rb phosphorylation status could potentially be a better indicator of a patient’s response to CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy. The study showed that the many mutations in the genes regulating CDK4/6 activity were neither necessary nor sufficient for activation of CDK4/6.

Immunotherapy insights
The research team also found important insights into the effectiveness of immunotherapy. PD-1 inhibitors target the interaction between immune checkpoints PD-1 and PD-L1, but success rates of immunotherapy are low, even when PD-L1 expression is used for patient selection. The researchers examined tumors with high expression of PD-L1 and found that when a tumor overexpresses PD-L1, it also upregulates other immune checkpoints, thus allowing the tumor growth despite the use of PD-1 inhibitors.

‘Immune-cold tumors’ are tumors that contain few if any infiltrating immune T cells. Examination of how a tumor becomes immune-cold showed that the problem stems from a flaw in its antigen presentation pathway, a first step toward triggering an immune response against tumor antigens. In immune-cold tumors multiple key gene components of the antigen presentation pathway were deleted. As a result, although tumor antigens are being expressed, the immune system is not able to recognize them on the surface of cancer cells and therefore fails to activate the body’s defense system against the tumor. These deletions have the potential to be effective targets for future therapies.

“This study extends our biological understanding of HPV-negative HNSCCs and generates therapeutic hypotheses that may serve as the basis for future studies and clinical trials toward molecularly-guided precision medicine treatment of this aggressive cancer type,” said Dr. Daniel W. Chan, co-corresponding author of the study, professor of pathology and oncology, and director of the Center for Biomarker Discovery and Translation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Find all the details of this study and a full list of contributing authors in the journal Cancer Cell.

This work was supported by grants U24 CA210954, U24 CA210985, U24 CA210972, U24 CA210979, U24 CA210986, U24 CA214125, U24 CA210967, and U24 CA210993 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC), by a Cancer Prevention Institute of Texas (CPRIT) award RR160027, by grant T32 CA203690 from the Translational Breast Cancer Research Training Program, and by funding from the McNair Medical Institute at the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation.

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2021-02-04T21:09:30-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

Patients with oral cancer may get relief from dry mouth through MU research

Author: Tia Alphonse

Gary Rackers bit his tongue one night, and it began to bleed. Thinking it wasn’t serious, he waited a couple of weeks, but something still didn’t feel right.

So, he asked his wife to take a look. She was shocked, Rackers said. His tongue was black.

After seeing his family physician and a local ear, nose and throat doctor in Jefferson City, Rackers was referred to Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. There, he connected with a physician who specialized in surgical treatment for patients with head and neck cancers. He was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma — a common oral cancer. The doctor ended up surgically removing half of Rackers’s tongue and nearly all of his teeth, and he began radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Since then, Rackers said he‘s had 33 radiation treatments and three rounds of chemotherapy. He is pleased and proud of the work his physician did, he said. Because of her, he’s in the recovery phase: “I’m doing good…and I’m feeling good.”

Many head and neck cancer patients like Rackers lose their ability to produce saliva after radiation treatment. He said it doesn’t affect him much during the day, but his mouth gets quite dry at night. Dry mouth frequently disturbs his sleep, he said, causing him to often fetch water or juice for relief.

“If I could get through the night,” he said, the days are easy.

MU researcher and former dentist Olga Baker hopes to help patients like Rackers by dedicating her efforts to something most of us take for granted — saliva. Through her research, she hopes to find better solutions to combat dry mouth, particularly among cancer patients whose glands have been destroyed by radiation therapy.

When she practiced dentistry, Baker said she encountered many patients who struggled with dry mouth. Although the condition is often viewed as insignificant, those who underproduce saliva often develop mouth sores, cavities and a host of other issues. Baker said she has even worked with patients who have trouble talking because their inner cheeks stick to their teeth without natural lubrication from saliva. She has also treated patients who feel as if they are choking at night without the fluid to keep their airways moist.

Multiple groups of people suffer from chronic dry mouth. Patients who undergo radiation treatment for neck and head cancer are among a common group that often loses the function of salivary glands. After treatment, many of these glands stop working and can no longer naturally produce saliva, Baker said. She has seen patients who suffer from Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation that destroys the salivary glands. Other patients are born without functioning salivary glands at all.

“For these patients, there is no cure,” Baker said. “So, we’re working on different options.”

In the past, she worked to produce artificial saliva from plant-based resources and researched resolvins, lipids derived from the Omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in fish oil. This can be a potential treatment for dry mouth in Sjögren’s syndrome patients. These kind of solutions provide temporary relief, working as a spray that can be applied throughout the day to mimic the effects of saliva lubrication.

Baker’s current research into saliva production is dedicated to finding a more long-term solution to dry mouth, specifically for patients whose glands have been destroyed by radiation therapy. The therapy Baker is researching uses a specialized hydrogel that targets the affected glands. She has zeroed in on a protein called laminin-111, which is important to the embryonic process and has long been associated with regenerative properties. Baker said her previous research found that the protein helped restore salivary gland function when only single molecules were used.

She looked at recent studies on the way trimers, a combination of three molecules of a given protein, could give greater results than single molecules. She became interested in testing trimers of laminin-111 on salivary glands to see whether the protein could further restore salivary function in mice.

The experiment tested mice that had undergone radiation treatment and lost salivary function. Proteins from the treatment are put into hydrogels to make a more efficient delivery system. The gel was applied to the mice, and their saliva secretion was monitored. The treatment has proved effective in mice that lose salivary gland function due to radiation. Baker said the next step is to expand her research into larger animals and ultimately do clinical trials on human patients.

Meanwhile, Rackers is adjusting to his recovery. He said he no longer eats spicy foods, and he can’t stand the tanginess of condiments like barbecue and mustard. He can, however, still enjoy most foods.

“Tonight, I’m making smoked sausage, fried potatoes and steamed vegetables,” he said. “And I can eat that.”

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2021-02-04T20:59:31-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

Distinct subtypes and potential treatment options found in analysis of head and neck cancers

Author: Matthew Fowler

Data published in the journal Cancer Cell presented possible new treatment options and elaborated on the contributions of key cancer-associated genes, phosphosites, and signaling pathways in human papillomavirus (HPV)­–negative head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC).1

The data systematically recorded information regarding the disease, with multi-omic analysis determining 3 distinct subtypes with high potential for treatment with respective available therapeutics.

“This study extends our biological understanding of HPV[-negative] HNSCC and generates therapeutic hypotheses that may serve as the basis for future preclinical studies and clinical trials toward molecularly guided precision treatment of this aggressive cancer type,” wrote the investigators.2

The first subtype, called CIN for “chromosome instability”, was determined to have the worst prognosis. It was associated with the larynx, a history of smoking, and increased instability of chromosomes. The research team suggested that this cancer type would respond best to CDK4/6 inhibitor treatment given its relation to aberrations of the CCND1 and CDKN2A genes as well as a high activity of the CDK4 and CDK6 enzymes.

The investigators analyzed a number of protein elevations of basal factors in the second subtype discovered, which was in turn called Basal. These represent the most basic proteins necessary for gene transcription activation. The subtype had both high activity in the EGFR signaling pathway and high expression of the AREG and TNFA molecules. This led the investigators to suggest that treatment with monoclonal antibodies targeting EGFR would best treat this subtype.

Immune, the final subtype, was discovered among patients who did not smoke and had high expression of multiple immune checkpoint proteins. The data suggest patients with this subtype would respond best to immune checkpoint inhibitors.

The overall data found high potential for treatment response in 32% of patients with the CIN subtype, 62% of those with the basal subtype, and 83% with the immune subtype.

“This study extends our biological understanding of HPV-negative HNSCCs and generates therapeutic hypotheses that may serve as the basis for future studies and clinical trials toward molecularly guided precision medicine treatment of this aggressive cancer type,” Daniel Chan, PhD, principal investigator on the trial and director of the Center for Biomarker Discovery and Translation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

The team also determined that there were 2 modes of activation of EGFR. This determination suggests a potentially new way to stratify this cancer type based on the number of molecules bound to EGFR. Moreover, the investigators concluded that the loss of the ability to produce immune responses is credited to the widespread deletion of immune modulatory genes.

Investigators from both the United States and Poland analyzed 110 treatment-naïve primary HNSCC tumors and matched blood samples. A total of 66 tumors matched normal adjacent tissues.

“We have made the primary and processed datasets available in publicly accessible data repositories and portals, which will allow full investigation of this extensively characterized cohort by both the HNSCC and broader scientific communities. We also expect wide application of the demonstrated proteogenomics framework to future studies of HNSCC and other cancer types,” the investigators concluded

1. Huang C, Chen L, Savage SR, et al. Proteogenomic insights into the biology and treatment of HPV-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer Cell. January 5, 2021. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2020.12.007

2. Researchers create comprehensive database of head and neck cancers. News release. Hopkins Medicine. January 7, 2021. Accessed January 25, 2021.

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2021-02-03T10:49:17-07:00February, 2021|Oral Cancer News|

How much does drinking alcohol contribute to US cancer burden?

Author: Kristin Jenkins

The first study to estimate the alcohol-related cancer burden on a state-by-state basis provides more evidence that the drinking habits of Americans account for a “considerable” proportion of cancer diagnoses and deaths, researchers say.

“In the United States, on average, alcohol consumption accounts for 4.8% of cancer cases and 3.2% of cancer deaths,” concludes Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and colleagues.

However, the proportion was higher for specific cancer types, with alcohol consumption accounting for an estimated 12.1% of female breast cancers, 11.1% of colorectal, 10.5% of liver, and 7.7% of esophageal cancers, the study showed.

In addition, in 46 states, alcohol accounted for ≥ 45% of oral cavity/pharyngeal and ≥ 25% of laryngeal cancer diagnoses.

The study was published online January 19 in Cancer Epidemiology.

“Implementing state-level policies and cancer control efforts to reduce alcohol consumption could reduce this cancer burden,” the researchers comment.

They noted that restrictive policies on alcohol sales are associated with a reduction in cancer mortality rates and that a recent study showed increasing alcohol controls by 10% was associated with an 8.3% relative decrease in the oropharyngeal cancer mortality rate.

Separating Drinking From Smoking
The study is also one of a growing number to evaluate alcohol consumption and cancer risk in nonsmokers, said Mary Beth Terry, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York City, when approached for comment.

“This is important because the much larger effects of smoking and cancer risk have made it challenging in the past to evaluate the full impact of alcohol consumption,” she told Medscape Medical News. “In the past it was hard to calculate population-attributable fractions for alcohol because a large part of the population smoked and drank.”

“This was a very comprehensive analysis,” added Terry, who was not involved with the study. She pointed out that the authors used sales data in combination with self-reported alcohol consumption “to adjust for the fact that most alcohol consumption is severely underreported.”

For the study, researchers analyzed age-, sex-, and state-specific cancer incidence and mortality data (2013-2016) from the US Cancer Statistics database in adults 30 years of age and older. They also estimated state-level, self-reported age- and sex-stratified alcohol consumption using Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys for 2003-2006 .

Large Variation Between States
The study also showed that state-specific estimates for incident cancer cases and cancer deaths varied widely, ranging from 2.1% to 5.0% in men, and from 1.4% to 4.4% in women.

The proportions of alcohol-attributable cancer tended to be higher in New England and the western states and lower in the midwestern and southern states, with two notable exceptions. Delaware had the highest number of alcohol-related cancer cases (6.7%) and deaths (4.5%) among men and women combined, and Utah had the lowest (2.9% and 1.9%, respectively).

The magnitude of the state-to-state variation in cancer burden left the researchers “a bit surprised,” Islami told Medscape Medical News.

“The proportion of cancer cases and deaths attributable to alcohol consumption among women was about three times higher in Delaware than in West Virginia,” he said.

He noted that in the last decade, alcohol consumption among women has increased. “This may make our results even more relevant,” Islami said.

Many adults have limited awareness of the cancer-related risks of alcohol consumption, Islami commented. Others may not take the association seriously but “many pay attention to their doctor’s health recommendations,” Islami said. “Clinicians could have an important role in increasing awareness of the cancer-related risks of alcohol consumption, which could result in a reduction in alcohol-related cancer burden.”

Overall, the proportion of alcohol-attributable cancer cases and deaths was not substantially different from that reported in their 2017 study of national-level estimates, the investigators said. That study was based on sales-adjusted 2013-2014 contemporary exposure data from the National Health Interview Survey. It showed that alcohol consumption accounted for an estimated 5.6% of incident cancer cases and 4.0% of cancer deaths.

“More research is needed to monitor alcohol consumption and the alcohol-related cancer burden to evaluate state-based policies and cancer control efforts,” said Islami. “Further research is also needed to fine-tune proven interventions to increase their efficacy and to identify other effective interventions.”

‘Best Not to Drink Alcohol’
In the meantime, a new, stronger directive on alcohol consumption was issued by the ACS last year (June 2020) in an update of its Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, the first since 2012.

That guideline recommends “it is best not to drink alcohol,” as previously reported by Medscape Medical News, although it also included the previous recommendation, that men should limit their daily intake to two drinks and women to one drink.

“Guidelines are based on the best available data, but risk does depend on many things, including underlying susceptibility,” Columbia’s Terry told Medscape Medical News. Emerging epidemiological data indicates that independent of daily alcohol consumption, binge drinking may be associated with increased risk of some common cancers, such as breast cancer.

“Alcohol metabolites are known carcinogens. It may be easier to convey a public health message focused on the harmful effects of binge drinking than in a specific daily amount,” Terry said.

Until then, evidence is growing for another disturbing trend: increased alcohol consumption to cope with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Last spring, with many parts of the country in lockdown, 14% of Americans who participated in a national survey said they were drinking significantly more alcohol compared with the same time in 2019. As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the results showed these increases were most evident in adults aged 30-59, women, and non-Hispanic Whites.

“Alcohol consumption can have significant negative health consequences, so this information suggests another way that the pandemic may be affecting the physical and mental health of Americans,” lead investigator Michael Pollard, PhD, sociologist at the RAND Corporation, said at the time.

More recently, a commentary for Medscape Medical News by F. Perry Wilson, MD, Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, also highlighted increased drinking. Published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, a survey of 1928 affluent Americans who sheltered in place for an average of 4 weeks showed 60% who self-identified as binge drinkers reported significantly increasing their alcohol intake, as did about 30% of nonbinge drinkers. Depression was the only common factor statistically linked to increased drinking among binge drinkers.

“I think we need to consider that increased alcohol abuse is a potential harm of the social isolation that COVID-19 has forced upon us,” Wilson commented.

And what about physicians? Are they drinking more during the pandemic?

Apparently not. Nearly half of the 12,000 physicians surveyed for Medscape’s Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2021 said they consume less than one drink of alcohol per week and 24% who said they never touch the stuff.

The study was funded by the ACS. Islami and colleagues were all employed by the ACS at the time of the study. The study authors and Terry have also reported no relevant financial relationships.

Cancer Epidemiol. Published online January 19, 2021. Abstract

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