Cancer research: Where are we headed?

May is National Cancer Research Month

cancer research

In 1928, Sweden became the first country to issue a postage stamp commemorating the fight against cancer. On April 1, 1965, the United States issued its first anti-cancer commemorative stamp, pictured above. Source: Taub, Marvin. “Cancer Stamps: 50 Years in the Crusade Against Cancer Through Stamps,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, v.28,no.3, May/June 1978, 164-169.

In 1971 President Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act which officially launched the “war on cancer.” It earmarked a budget of $100 million towards cancer research and the promise to find new treatments for the second leading cause of death in America at that time.

“One of the most important things that came out of the National Cancer Act is that we started to do a lot of basic science to study the disease … today cancer is thought of as a molecular disease within a cell, whereas in the old days, cancer was thought of as a disease of tumors of tissue,” says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

So where has this science taken us 44 years later? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer still remains the second leading cause of death after heart disease. However, all is not lost, we’ve come a long way in 44 years!

Unlike the 1970s, when hardly anyone who had cancer was considered a survivor, we now have more than 14 million cancer survivors in the United States, and that number is projected to increase as our baby-boomers age. While survivors are increasing in numbers, we have also made progress in cancer prevention though screening and early detection programs, specifically in colon and cervical cancer.

As Dr. Brawley’s comments above reflect, we have continued to advance our understanding of cancer at the molecular level. This knowledge in turn has led to new developments in targeted therapy, vaccine therapy and immunotherapy. Continue reading

Prostate cancer trial recruiting men who want to get off the bench and become true champions

prostate clinical trial May2015 postPat Riley, president and head coach of the Miami Heat, once said “There’s always the motivation of wanting to win. Everybody has that. But a champion needs, in his attitude, a motivation above and beyond winning.” Widely regarded as one of the greatest National Basketball League coaches of all time, Riley knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a champ.

Participating in clinical trials is a lot like being on a sports team. For most of the time, there’s no way to know if the trial is winning, losing or even making a score. Participants’ commitment and endurance may be tested through extra travel and Continue reading

Cell hunters: the quest to diagnose pancreatic cancer early

Part 2: Sunitha Nagrath, Ph.D.

pancreatic cancerEditor’s note: Cell Hunters is a series focusing on members of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center. One diagnostic tool they are advancing involves detecting pancreatic cancer cells in the bloodstream before any sign of cancer is obvious through current diagnostic techniques. The successful hunt for these cells would result in a tool for earlier detection, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Most other cancers have multiple choices for both early detection tools and treatment options. In the case of pancreatic cancer, there is no early detection tool yet, but one Continue reading

The search is on – finding a clinical trial that’s right for you

clinical trialsMaybe you’re a patient who has exhausted all your treatment options, or you’re looking for a specific type of treatment not yet approved or offered as standard of care. You seek a second opinion at a major cancer center only to learn they aren’t offering a study, or you don’t qualify for the intended study or treatment.

What do you do? There are several steps and resources that can help you find the trial that best meets your needs. Continue reading

Cell hunters: the quest to diagnose pancreatic cancer early

Part 1: Diane Simeone, M.D.

pancreatic cancer cells

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blogs that focus on members of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center. Led by an inter-disciplinary team of scientists and clinicians, the Center holds the promise to significantly change the bleak statistics associated with this disease by revolutionizing pancreatic cancer care. One diagnostic tool they are advancing involves detecting pancreatic cancer cells in the bloodstream before any sign of cancer is obvious through current diagnostic techniques. The successful hunt for these cells would result in a tool for earlier detection, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

The first thing you notice about Diane Simeone, M.D., the Lazar J. Greenfield Professor of Surgery and director of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, is her tireless passion for finding better ways to detect and treat pancreatic cancer. So far, the survival prospects for this disease are dismal, she’ll tell you. Continue reading

Conquering cancer through innovation and collaboration: the year in review

new-year2014 was another year of discovery and innovation at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center as we work toward our goal of conquering cancer. Here are summaries of select clinical, laboratory and population collaborations by Cancer Center members that will benefit cancer patients everywhere:

  • March 25, 2014: 25% of breast cancer survivors report financial decline due to treatment, and the financial impact varied greatly by race. “As oncologists, we are proud of the advances in our ability to cure an increasing proportion of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. But as treatments improve, we must ensure that we do not leave these patients in financial ruin because of our efforts,” says study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil. In a second study, Dr. Jagsi found
    Continue reading