Rare Mutation May Extend Survival in Lung Cancer Patients with Brain Metastases

“Most patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has metastasized to the brain have a dire prognosis. But Yale researchers have identified a subset of those patients with a rare genetic mutation who are living significantly longer than patients without the mutation.

“The findings were published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and will be presented Monday, Oct. 19 at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

“NSCLC accounts for 85% of all lung cancers, with 30%-50% of patients developing metastatic disease to the brain. Typically, patients with this diagnosis die of the disease within seven months. However, patients with the rare ALK mutation, which is found in just 5% of NSCLC cases, are living an average of four years, with the disease controlled in the brain nearly a year after their initial treatment, said the study’s lead author Kimberly Johung, M.D., assistant professor of therapeutic radiology.”

Breast Cancer Survivors Gain Weight at a Higher Rate than Their Cancer-Free Peers

“Breast cancer survivors with a family history of the disease, including those who carry BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, gained more weight over the course of four years than cancer-free women—especially if they were treated with chemotherapy, according to a prospective study by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers.

“Data from earlier studies suggest that breast cancer survivors who gain weight may have a higher risk of having their cancer return, the researchers say, noting that gains of 11 pounds or more are also associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“For the study, the researchers reviewed a baseline questionnaire and a follow-up one completed four years later by 303 breast cancer survivors and 307 cancer-free women enrolled in an ongoing and long-term study at the Kimmel Cancer Center of women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Study participants completed a baseline and at least one follow-up questionnaire between 2005 and 2013, and one-quarter of the subjects were premenopausal.”

Gene Changes ID Resistant Prostate Cancer

“Any alteration in a genetically unstable region of prostate cancer cells significantly increased the odds of treatment failure, according to a preliminary study that suggests the potential for a test to identify treatment-resistant disease. Treatment failure within 5 years occurred in 36% of intermediate-risk patients with alterations in common fragile sites (CFSs) versus 10% in similar patients with no CFS alterations. Multivariate analysis showed that even one CFS alteration almost tripled the 5-year risk of treatment failure, Alireza Fotouhi Ghiam, MD, of the University of Toronto, reported here at the American Society for Radiation Oncology meeting.”

PTEN Breakthrough Could Lead to More Effective Targeted Therapies

For a long time, researchers have been investigating PTEN, a tumor suppressor gene that is mutated or missing in close to half of all advanced cancers. Without a healthy, functioning PTEN gene, cancer can become endlessly surviving, allowing tumors to grow and spread quickly and more aggressively. Recent research has determined that a new wave of drugs could begin to target PTEN-deficient cells. Researchers report that certain drugs act to make these cells, which previously had been totally resistant to treatment, vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation. Following up with chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions could therefore prove to be effective in attacking some of the most lethal types of cancer.

Multidisciplinary Team Tackles Personalized Medicine for Melanoma Patients with Normal BRAF Gene

A group of melanoma researchers and clinicians have received funding to address an important question in melanoma treatment: are there molecular targets for melanomas that do not harbor a mutation in the BRAF gene? And can we identify drug candidates for these new molecular targets? The Stand Up to Cancer (SUC2) philanthropic program and the Melanoma Research Alliance are jointly funding the 3-year, eight-institution endeavor. Continue reading…

Tracking Resistance to Cancer Therapies Without Tumor Access

Clinicians would like to be able to monitor whether a cancer patient’s tumor has acquired a resistance mutation as a result of targeted therapy. Knowing early if resistance has developed would allow patients to switch therapies and to curb tumor growth. But taking repeated tumor samples is problematic for many reasons. Biopsies are invasive and some tumors are inaccessible. Another issue is that tumors are mosaics of many different types of cells that are constantly evolving—since biopsies take time in the clinic and only sample a small part of a tumor, they may also not be representative of what is going on with the biology of the entire tumor mass. Continue reading…

Plexxikon updates Zelboraf Phase 1 data on BRAF V600E mutation-positive melanoma

Plexxikon today announced that updated Phase 1 clinical data of Zelboraf (vemurafenib) were presented at the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) 2012 Congress, held November 8-11 in Los Angeles, CA.

Combined BRAF and MEK Inhibition Improves Outcome in Metastatic Melanoma

The combination of dabrafenib and trametinib is safe and effective in BRAF-mutant melanoma.

Watchdog approves skin cancer drugs ipilimumab and vemurafenib

Patients with an advanced form of skin cancer were given new hope today after the health watchdog recommended that two life-extending treatments should be available on the NHS.