Androgen Deprivation Therapy—To Wait, or Not to Wait?


Every year, tens of thousands of patients diagnosed with localized prostate cancer are treated with some form of radiation therapy to kill cancer cells or with surgery to remove the cancerous prostate gland. After these invasive treatments, patients are monitored for disease progression with various tests, such as imaging (scans) and regular measurements of a protein called prostate-specific androgen (PSA) in the blood. Unfortunately, many patients find themselves in an ambiguous situation: their PSA levels are rising, but imaging tests fail to detect a return of their cancer. Continue reading…


Aggressive Prostate Cancer Makes Use of Bad Cholesterol


For many years it has been known that cancer cells store and use fat molecules differently from the way normal cells do. Fat molecules, also called lipids, tend to accumulate in so-called lipid droplets within cells. These droplets can be seen under a microscope with special staining methods, but the precise mixture of the different kinds of lipids in an individual cell is difficult to analyze. Now, researchers have developed a new imaging technique called Raman spectromicroscopy, which allows for detailed analysis of lipids on a single-cell level. Continue reading…


Novartis Revolutionizes Clinical Trials for Targeted Cancer Drugs


Someone had to do it; now it looks like Novartis may be the first. The pharma company’s new series of clinical trials, SIGNATURE (also known as, ‘bring the protocol to the patient,’ or  ‘P2P’), is recruiting patients with different cancers to receive investigational targeted drugs selected to match the distinct genetic changes found in each patient’s tumor. Continue reading…


The Pitfalls of Androgen Deprivation Therapy


For men with advanced prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is usually the initial treatment of choice. ADT slows the growth of prostate tumors and can even make them shrink. But unfortunately, the results of ADT are short-lived; tumors can develop resistance to ADT and grow back, sometimes stronger than before. Scientists are hard at work to figure out the underlying mechanisms of ADT resistance and how to bypass it. Continue reading…


Compassionate Drug Access: A Real Option for Cancer Patients?


A recent New York Times article tells the story of one woman’s quest to gain access to an experimental drug to treat her deadly cancer. Her story is familiar to many of us who have heard similar tales; a cancer patient runs out of treatment options, but with the help of proactive oncologists is able to receive a new, investigational drug; that is, a drug not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This last-resort treatment approach is known as compassionate use or, as the FDA prefers to call it, expanded access. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains: Continue reading…


Scientists Discover Why Combo Treatment Works for People with High-Risk Prostate Cancer


The vast majority of high-risk prostate cancer cases are caused by abnormally high activity of a protein called the androgen receptor. Present in many prostate cells, androgen receptors detect androgen hormones (including testosterone), and in response, turn on or off genes. Genes that are regulated by androgen hormones are critical for the development of the prostate and maintenance of its function. But when the androgen receptor is overly active, which can occur via several different processes in the aging prostate, it can activate genes that can lead to uncontrolled proliferation of prostate cells. This contributes to the development of aggressive prostate cancer. Continue reading…


The Cancer Biomarker Problem


In 2008, Dr. Charles Sawyers, currently the president of American Association for Cancer Research, wrote an article for the journal Nature entitled: ‘The Cancer Biomarker Problem.’ This excellent paper clearly explains what cancer biomarkers are, outlines the different categories of biomarkers, and emphasizes how important biomarkers are in the field of targeted therapies. Predictive biomarkers are indispensable tools that should direct the rational use of targeted drugs in cancer patients. There are additional types of biomarkers, including some that could help evaluate the course of cancer progression or help determine the effective dose of an investigational drug. But this post focuses on predictive biomarkers. Continue reading…


New Ways to Talk About Cancer: Comics, Cartoons, and the Graphic Novel


Nancy K. Miller is a literary scholar, memoirist, and the author or editor of more than a dozen books. Her new memoir, Breathless: An American Girl in Paris, will be published this fall.

In December 2011, she was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer. She started documenting the experience in cartoons using watercolor, collage, and photographic images. Most recently, she presented her cartoons about her experience of cancer at the 4th International Conference on Comics and Medicine held in Brighton, England, in July. Continue reading…


Popular Diabetes Drug Shows Promise for Prostate Cancer


Metformin is a drug frequently prescribed to treat diabetes, particularly for overweight patients. It works by curbing glucose production in the liver. Metformin is an older drug that was originally developed in the 1920s, but it was abandoned for many years because the clinical focus shifted to insulin for diabetes treatment.  However, the drug later made a comeback, and now metformin is the most frequently prescribed drug for type II diabetes. Continue reading…