Botox for Stomach Cancer? No, But the Research is Fascinating

Editor’s note: This article clarifies misleading claims made by other sources that Botox can now be used to treat cancer. However, the claims are based on research that is still very interesting. Read the article to separate the fact from the fiction. 

“Amid continuing tales of global woe, Thursday morning’s news carried one of those quirky ‘fancy-that!’ medical research stories that often captures the imagination, but which can inadvertently raise false hope in patients.

“According to several news outlets, Botox injections – better known for their face-freezing properties – ‘could be used to treat stomach cancer’. The Irish Independent’s headline even went so far as to say it was a ‘highly effective’ treatment.

“As is so often the case, that’s going way beyond what the underlying research actually found: the study was mainly carried out in mice, and doesn’t yet prove that Botox could help stomach cancer patients.

“But with that important caveat out of the way, the research itself is worth a closer look. It highlights a very poorly studied but fascinating topic – the potential link between the body’s nervous system and the way cancer develops…

“As a result of their findings, the Norwegian researchers have started a very small-scale clinical trial, in very advanced stomach cancer patients, to begin to test the idea that injecting Botox into stomach tumours might be helpful.”


Gene Mutation May Lead to Treatment for Liver Cancer

Editor’s note: Cancer is caused by genetic mutations that lead to excess cell growth and tumor formation. Scientists have identified many specific cancer-causing mutations, and drugs have been developed to target and treat tumors with some of these specific mutations. Researchers recently discovered that two mutations—IDH1 and IDH2—can lead to the development of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA). The discovery could open up new treatment options for some patients who have these mutations. Indeed, there are ongoing clinical trials testing new drugs in patients with IDH1 and IDH2 mutations.

“Two genetic mutations in liver cells may drive tumor formation in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA), the second most common form of liver cancer, according to a research published in the July issue of the journal Nature.

“A team led by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Harvard Medical School has discovered a link between the presence of two mutant proteins IDH1 and IDH2 and cancer. Past studies have found IDH mutations to be among the most common genetic differences seen in patients with iCCA, but how they contribute to cancer development was unknown going into the current effort.

“iCCA strikes bile ducts, tube-like structures in the liver that carry bile, which is required for the digestion of food. With so much still unknown about the disease, there is no first-line, standard of care and no successful therapies.

” ‘iCCA is resistant to standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation,’ said Josep Maria Llovet, MD, Director of the Liver Cancer Program, Division of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and contributing author. ‘Understanding the molecular mechanism of the disease is the key to finding a treatment that works.’ ”


Study Identifies Novel Genomic Changes in the Most Common Type of Lung Cancer; TCGA Finds Mutations in a Key Cancer-Causing Pathway, Expanding Targets for Existing Drugs

Editor’s note: Cancer is caused by genetic mutations that lead to excess cell growth and tumor formation. Scientists have identified many specific cancer-causing mutations, and drugs have been developed to target and treat tumors with some of these specific mutations. Researchers recently found mutations in lung adenocarcinoma tumors that they had not seen in that type of cancer before. The discovery could eventually lead to new treatment options for some patients who have these mutations.

“Researchers from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network have identified novel mutations in a well-known cancer-causing pathway in lung adenocarcinoma, the most common subtype of lung cancer. Knowledge of these genomic changes may expand the number of possible therapeutic targets for this disease and potentially identify a greater number of patients with treatable mutations because many potent cancer drugs that target these mutations already exist.

“TCGA is jointly funded and managed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both part of the National Institutes of Health. A TCGA analysis of another, less common, form of lung cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, was reported in 2012.

“In this new study, published online July 9, 2014, in the journal Nature, researchers examined the genomes, RNA, and some protein from 230 lung adenocarcinoma samples. In three-quarters of the samples, the scientists ultimately identified mutations that put a cell signaling pathway known as the RTK/RAS/RAF pathway into overdrive.”


Scientific Breakthrough Could Lead to New Ovarian Cancer Treatments

“The cause of a rare type of ovarian cancer that most often strikes girls and young women has been uncovered by an international research team led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), according to a study published online by the renowned scientific journal, Nature Genetics.

“By applying its groundbreaking work in genomics, TGen led a study that included Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; Evergreen Hematology and Oncology, Children’s Hospital of Alabama, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, British Columbia Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia, and the University Health Network-Toronto.

“The findings revealed a “genetic superhighway” mutation in a gene found in the overwhelming majority of patients with small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type, also known as SCCOHT.”

Editor’s note: While this story does not highlight any immediate new treatment strategy for women with SCCOHT, it describes the discovery of a genetic mutation that may be the underlying cause of the disease, and could soon lead to better treatments.


Researchers Develop Process to Help Personalize Treatment for Lung Cancer Patients

“Moffitt Cancer Center researchers, in collaboration with the Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium, have developed a process to analyze mutated genes in lung adenocarcinoma to help better select personalized treatment options for patients. Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer in the United States with approximately 130,000 people diagnosed each year.

“The study, published in the May 21 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, investigated 10 highly mutated and altered genes that contribute to cancer progression, termed oncogenic driver genes, in more than 1,000 lung cancer patients. Patients with adenocarcinoma have a high probability of having mutated oncogenic driver genes in their tumors.”

Editor’s note: More and more, doctors are prescribing personalized cancer treatments based on genetic mutations found in patients’ tumors. Learn more about personalized medicine for lung cancer in The Basics.


Exact Outline of Melanoma Could Lead to New Diagnostic Tools, Therapies

“A specific biochemical process that can cause normal and healthy skin cells to transform into cancerous melanoma cells has been found by researchers, which should help predict melanoma vulnerability and could also lead to future therapies. They discovered in this situation that the immune system is getting thrown into reverse, helping to cause cancer instead of preventing it.”


Genome-wide Consequences of Deleting Any Single Gene

“Loss or duplication of chromosome segments can lead to further genomic changes associated with cancer. However, it is not known whether only a select subset of genes is responsible for driving further changes. To determine whether perturbation of any given gene in a genome suffices to drive subsequent genetic changes, we analyzed the yeast knockout collection for secondary mutations of functional consequence. Unlike wild-type, most gene knockout strains were found to have one additional mutant gene affecting nutrient responses and/or heat-stress-induced cell death. Moreover, independent knockouts of the same gene often evolved mutations in the same secondary gene. Genome sequencing identified acquired mutations in several human tumor suppressor homologs. Thus, mutation of any single gene may cause a genomic imbalance, with consequences sufficient to drive adaptive genetic changes. This complicates genetic analyses but is a logical consequence of losing a functional unit originally acquired under pressure during evolution.”


Genome-wide Consequences of Deleting Any Single Gene

“Loss or duplication of chromosome segments can lead to further genomic changes associated with cancer. However, it is not known whether only a select subset of genes is responsible for driving further changes. To determine whether perturbation of any given gene in a genome suffices to drive subsequent genetic changes, we analyzed the yeast knockout collection for secondary mutations of functional consequence. Unlike wild-type, most gene knockout strains were found to have one additional mutant gene affecting nutrient responses and/or heat-stress-induced cell death. Moreover, independent knockouts of the same gene often evolved mutations in the same secondary gene. Genome sequencing identified acquired mutations in several human tumor suppressor homologs. Thus, mutation of any single gene may cause a genomic imbalance, with consequences sufficient to drive adaptive genetic changes. This complicates genetic analyses but is a logical consequence of losing a functional unit originally acquired under pressure during evolution.”


Genome-wide Consequences of Deleting Any Single Gene

“Loss or duplication of chromosome segments can lead to further genomic changes associated with cancer. However, it is not known whether only a select subset of genes is responsible for driving further changes. To determine whether perturbation of any given gene in a genome suffices to drive subsequent genetic changes, we analyzed the yeast knockout collection for secondary mutations of functional consequence. Unlike wild-type, most gene knockout strains were found to have one additional mutant gene affecting nutrient responses and/or heat-stress-induced cell death. Moreover, independent knockouts of the same gene often evolved mutations in the same secondary gene. Genome sequencing identified acquired mutations in several human tumor suppressor homologs. Thus, mutation of any single gene may cause a genomic imbalance, with consequences sufficient to drive adaptive genetic changes. This complicates genetic analyses but is a logical consequence of losing a functional unit originally acquired under pressure during evolution.”