Robyn Stoller, Author at NFCR - Page 3 of 6

Robyn Stoller

7 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Health

When it comes to a diet rich in cancer-fighting foods, most experts agree that it should consist of a predominantly plant-based diet as fruits and vegetables. Since June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month, it’s the perfect time to incorporate more healthy eating habits into your daily routine.

Fruits and vegetables provide the essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and disease-fighting phytochemicals our bodies need to thrive. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help to reduce our risk of heart disease, eye disease, high blood pressure and stroke, ease digestive problems, aid in healthy weight management and prevent certain types of cancer.

Research has shown that maintaining a healthy weight throughout life can lower your risk of breast, uterine, prostate, lung, colon, kidney, pancreatic, esophageal, multiple myeloma, gallbladder, gastric, ovarian and thyroid cancers. Furthermore, people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of many serious health conditions, including cancers. In fact, obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

Although it may seem simple to follow the USDA guidelines and eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, less than 30% of Americans do it. Here are 7 simple strategies to boost your fruit and vegetable consumption:

1.  Keep fruits and veggies where you can see them. Whether you store your produce on the counter or in the fridge, placing them where you can easily see them increases the likelihood that you’ll actually eat them. To keep your produce as fresh as possible, follow these guidelines from Real Simple Magazine.

2.  Double the veggies. Most recipes call for a specific amount of vegetables. When it comes to something like soups, salads or casseroles, adding even more vegetables can enhance the flavor of your meal and boost its nutritional content.  Consider adding vegetable toppings to your pizza, sandwich or favorite pasta dish.  In these instances, more really is better.

3.  Blend a smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat. They’re easy to make and are a perfect portable breakfast and satisfying snack. Try our Green Goddess Smoothie. It’s delicious and nutritious!

4.  Eat a rainbow. Choosing a variety of different-colored whole foods throughout the day and week doesn’t just make for beautiful meals—it’s a good way to make sure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients that can help prevent cancer, as well as other health concerns.  The deeper the color, the greater concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. Try our Rainbow Salsa with grilled chicken or fish tonight.

5.  Go meatless on Mondays. Join the “Meatless Monday” Movement and replace meat with vegetables one day a week. Salads and stir fries are two ideas for getting tasty vegetables on your plate. Try our Brazil Nut Pesto served over for extra cancer-fighting power.

6.  Make a few simple swaps. Grab an apple or an orange instead of cookies or substitute cucumbers and baby carrots for crackers. Dip them in guacamole or to add even more fruits and vegetables.

7.  Roast away. If you aren’t a fan of raw veggies, try roasting some squash, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or eggplant. Long exposure to high heat will cause these foods to caramelize, which enhances their natural sweetness and reduces bitterness. Our Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash & Toasted Almonds is truly delicious.

Preventative Cancer Research

A proactive way to reduce the number of patients dying from cancer is to prevent the disease from developing in the first place. That’s why NFCR-funded scientists have been investigating cancer prevention methodologies – and specifically links between nutrition and cancer – for decades. 

Scientist Dr. Helmut Sies¸ whose work has been funded by NFCR for over 30 years, discovered that the antioxidant lycopene, a micronutrient found in tomatoes and other foods, can reduce the damaging effects of oxygen produced by our body’s essential metabolic processes. Lycopene has strong skin cancer prevention effects.

His most recent research has been focused on selenium, a trace metal found in certain foods that is essential for good health. There is evidence that selenium improves human health and helps prevent cancer – specifically colon cancer.  *Prevention tip: Read about how to add selenium to your diet.

Additionally, during his career, Dr. Sies studied essential fatty acids that can prevent inflammation and cellular signaling pathways in cancer development, and looked at the role of nitric oxide in cancer and heart disease-related events.

Dr. Michael Sporn, whose research was supported by NFCR, is known as the “Father of Chemoprevention” because his work led to the development of several synthetic triterpenoid compounds. These compounds are a class of chemical agents that have potent preventative effects against several types of cancer, including breast, lung and pancreatic cancers. For individuals with a family history (or are otherwise at high risk of developing these diseases), the promising results of Dr. Sporn’s research offers hope that their chances of developing cancer could be dramatically reduced with the use of chemoprevention.


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Attacking Metastatic Tumors in the Brain

Targeting HER3 could cripple metastatic cancers that have spread to the brain.

(Bethesda, MD, June 5, 2017) Rakesh Jain, PhD, Director of the Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and supported by the National Foundation for Cancer Research, has discovered a novel mechanism behind the resistance to HER2- or PI3K-targeted therapies, and a treatment strategy that may overcome treatment resistance. This significant finding was reported in the latest issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Rakesh Jain’s discovery could be very important for cancer patients whose cancers have spread to the brain.  About 20% to 25% of all breast cancers have an excess of a protein known as Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2). HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer spreads more quickly than other types of breast cancer, and while several targeted therapies are now available to treat HER2+ breast cancer, putting this cancer into remission for years or longer in many patients, up to 50% of patients treated with these targeted therapies eventually develop brain metastases, which are inevitably fatal.

This research project directed by Dr. Jain may have unlocked a key as to why brain metastases are resistant to HER2+ targeted therapies, and have uncovered a potential treatment strategy to overcome this resistance.

Using tumor models and human cancer samples, the researchers found an overexpression of Human Epidermal Grown Factor Receptor 3 (HER3) in breast cancer-associated brain lesions, and that inhibiting HER3 could help overcome treatment resistance.  Dr. Jain’s team found that using drugs that target HER3 combined with those that target HER2 significantly slowed brain metastatic tumor growth and improved survival of the tumor models.  These results are the collaborative efforts between Rakesh Jain and Jeffrey A. Engelman, MD, PhD,  Global Head of Oncology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (formerly with the MGH Cancer Center), an expert in targeted therapies and co-senior author of the publication.

Cancer therapies that target specific proteins often fail to reign in tumors that have metastasized to the brain, and Rakesh Jain’s collaboration with Jeffrey Engelman could well have revealed the mechanism behind therapeutic resistance of brain metastases in HER-2 positive breast cancer.  This breakthrough research “has identified new treatment strategies to overcome this problem which is often lethal to the patients,” says Dr. Jain. “We believe our discovery could have a substantial impact on the future development of therapeutic strategies and ultimately, patient survival from this deadly disease.”

Dr. Jain hopes that clinical trials and future therapeutic strategies for metastatic breast cancer will include HER3 targeted therapies in treating brain metastasis in HER2+ (or PIK3CA mutant) breast cancer.  And since HER3 has been associated with treatment resistance in several types of cancer, this discovery could potentially benefit a much broader group of patients.

“The impact of the microenvironment on tumor growth is a major focus of Rakesh Jain’s research, and NFCR is proud to have supported his research since 1998,” says Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of NFCR.  Research cures cancer, and “NFCR’s support of outstanding scientists like Rakesh Jain is making possible whole new approaches to treating cancer, giving hope and promise to patients with cancer.”

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research

The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading cancer research charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer. NFCR promotes and facilitates collaboration among scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery from bench to bedside. NFCR is committed to Research for a Cure – cures for all types of cancer. For more information, visit or call (800) 321-CURE (2873).

Media Contact:
Hali Hartmann
443 474 6294

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Non-Invasive Liquid Biopsy Uncovers Key Information to Treat Cancer

A liquid biopsy can provide valuable insight into how to best fight cancer. This noninvasive diagnostic is particularly helpful for patients who cannot undergo a surgical biopsy or whose tumor sample has been exhausted. In the not-too-distant future, liquid biopsies may be used to guide cancer treatment decisions and even screen for tumors that are not yet visible through imaging.

Liquid biopsies are a non-invasive alternative to surgical biopsies which enables doctors to discover a range of information about a tumor through a simple blood sample. In addition to providing a current picture of a patient’s cancer, liquid biopsies can be used for early detection of cancer, to monitor responses to treatment, give an early warning about possible recurrence and help explain why some cancers are resistant to treatment.

New study released by Dr. Wei Zhang

NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Wei Zhang of the Precision Oncology Center of Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center (WFBCCC) just released the latest results of his study using liquid biopsies in a paper entitled “Circulating mutational portrait of cancer: manifestation of aggressive clonal events in both early and late stages” which was published in the Journal of Hematology & Oncology.

In this study, Dr. Zhang and his team isolated circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from the plasma of 177 patients diagnosed with cancer at both early and advanced stages. The majority of these patients (103 patients) had lung cancer, while the remaining 74 patients had been diagnosed with other solid tumor cancers including head and neck, colorectal, pancreatic, gastric and other cancer types. The team then performed next generation DNA sequencing to identify mutations in a panel of key cancer-causing genes from the plasma samples.  Key findings include:

  • Mutations in TP53, EGFR, and KRAS genes were most prevalent in this study, and mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, and ATM were found in 18.1% of cases.
  • Mutation rates (number of mutations) of ctDNA were similar in early (I and II) and late stage (III and IV) cancers.
  • Patients with higher mutation rates had significantly higher mortality rates.
  • Lung cancer of never smokers exhibited significantly higher ctDNA mutation rates as well as higher EGFRand ERBB2 mutations than ever smokers.
  • Mutations of key genes found in the tumor tissue could remain in circulation even after frontline radiotherapy and chemotherapy, suggesting these mutations represented resistance mechanisms.
  • Five lung cancer patients known to have EGFR mutations in their tumor were monitored through multiple plasma sampling and ctDNA tests over time. Results showed distinct changes in ctDNA mutation portraits that are consistent with cancer progression or response to EGFR drug treatment.  This experiment further substantiated the benefits of repeated liquid biopsy as a substitute of invasive tumor biopsy for continued disease monitoring and treatment adjustment based on changes in gene mutations of the tumor.

    Bench to bedside: Integrating research into today’s treatments

    Wei ZhangDr. Zhang’s research demonstrates that liquid biopsy can be an effective, non-invasive, pain-free tool to identify driver mutations or mutations that sensitize or resist treatments as well as monitor cancer progression. Detection of ctDNA (circulating tumor DNA) in a liquid biopsy can also be a non-invasive early detection method for screening high risk populations such as smokers leading to real-time changes in treatment.

    In certain instances, such as with many lung cancers, new gene mutations occur as the cancer is treated or even progresses. To assess these changes, new tumor sample is needed, but repeated surgical biopsies are risky, painful and often times, simply not feasible to obtain. On the other hand, a liquid biopsy would allow doctors to obtain multiple samplings over a period of time easily and without harm to the patient.

    Liquid biopsy will become a powerful next generation tool that may lead to a brighter future in patient care‑  one where early diagnosis  and the delivery of more effective treatments could be managed with a simple blood draw.


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Meet Carmen Rice: A Courageous and Inspirational GBM Survivor

This year marks the 13th anniversary of Carmen Rice’s survival from Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) – the deadliest brain cancer that is widely regarded as incurable and universally fatal. GBM kills 91% of patients within three years of diagnosis and NFCR is part of a robust, international coalition working on innovative ways to research the disease. In the cancer research world, too often stories do not have optimistic endings, which is why our work continues until we find cures. Yet Carmen’s thirteen-year survival is nothing less than miraculous and we are truly honored to share her incredible story with you.

Carmen’s Story

In 2004, Carmen Rice began experiencing severe headaches, nausea and dizziness.  She remembers having lunch in a local restaurant and a moment later waking up in the hospital bed not knowing what happened or how she got there. She had a grand mal seizure.  Scans revealed a small brain tumor.  Days later, Carmen underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor.

The tumor removed proved to be GBM, a very aggressive, malignant tumor. Carmen was told she had only six months to live. Terrified, yet determined to beat this, she began an aggressive treatment regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.

Carmen remained in remission until 2008, when during a routine check-up, a new growth appeared in the same site as the original tumor. Since GBMs tend to return to the same site as the original tumor, Carmen and her doctors assumed this was a recurrence. In December 2008, Carmen underwent her second brain surgery. She spent Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital praying that she would once again recover. Her prayers were answered when the final pathology reported that this new growth was not malignant.
“There are amazing new discoveries being made each day. Thank you NFCR, donors, advocates, doctors and scientists for saving the lives of so many people like me. You give me hope and inspiration to move forward.” –Carmen Rice

(Left to Right) NFCR CEO Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., NFCR President Dr. Sujuan Ba, Carmen Rice and Darrell Rice.

Fast forward to today, Carmen continues to live a happy, healthy and active life. She enjoys every moment and is an enthusiastic speaker within the cancer community, inspiring others with her positive outlook and message of hope. Carmen talks about how grateful she is to NFCR for the groundbreaking research done in the GBM field.

In her latest speech about her survival story, Carmen passionately discussed NFCR and her support of our work – specifically GBM AGILE.  Carmen is confident – as are we – that together we will find a cure for GBM.

Today’s Research Will Lead to Tomorrow’s Cures


Led by the best and brightest cancer researchers, GBM AGILE is a revolutionary global collaboration to test and develop new brain cancer treatments.  Its personalized approach will allow us to accelerate the discovery of targeted treatments for individual patients.

This global coalition has attracted over 150 participants from more than 40 leading cancer institutions across three continents. It implements a new generation of clinical trials – called “adaptive trials” – which allow patients to be enrolled more quickly, receive treatment with multiple anti-cancer drugs simultaneously and does not require years of follow-up to determine whether a new experimental treatment is beneficial. This revolutionary approach accelerates research for curing the aggressive form of cancer GBM and will serve as a new clinical research model for combating other cancers as well. As a founding member of the coalition, NFCR has continued to take a leading role in this unprecedented effort. It is anticipated that patient enrollment may start in the fall of 2017. Stayed tuned!

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Highlights of ASCO 2017

Founded in 1964, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO®) is the world’s leading professional organization for physicians and oncology professionals caring for people with cancer. Each year, tens of thousands of oncology professionals, cancer researchers and patient advocates gather at The ASCO Annual Meeting  to discuss the latest in research in treatment and patient care. Clinical trial results and updates showcased at ASCO represent the significant progress made each year in the fight against cancer. This year, more than 38,000 oncology professionals from around the world will attend the ASCO Annual Meeting from June 2-6, 2017.

Congratulations to Dr. Robert Bast on becoming a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology!

NFCR-funded scientist and Giant of Cancer Care Dr. Robert Bast will be honored as a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO) at this year’s opening ceremony.  This prestigious award recognizes men and women for their extraordinary volunteer service, dedication and commitment to ASCO, the specialty of oncology and most importantly, the patients with or at risk for cancer.

Dr. Bast is best known for developing the OC125 (CA125) monoclonal antibody in 1981 that led to the production of the CA125 radioimmunoassay – the first useful biomarker for monitoring the course of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. Since this discovery, Dr. Bast and his team have been evaluating ways CA125 can be used to screen for ovarian cancer. In one instance, results from a large clinical trial involving 200,000 women in the United Kingdom showed that Dr. Bast’s “two-step” approach for the early detection of ovarian cancer – using CA125 detection and sonography – effectively reduces fatalities by 20%.

Dr. Alice Shaw Presents….

NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Alice Shaw has been selected to make several key presentations at ASCO 2017 where she will discuss how discoveries in the laboratory can be turned into new treatment strategies to benefit patients in the clinic.

In one session on Sunday, June 4, Dr. Shaw will discuss incorporating liquid biopsies into practice. Liquid biopsies are being used to identify targetable genetic mutations as well as to monitor treatment for emerging resistance.  This noninvasive diagnostic is particularly helpful for patients who cannot undergo a biopsy or whose tumor sample is exhausted.

On Tuesday, June 6, Dr. Shaw will present her most recent findings in the session on Lung Cancer—Non-Small Cell Metastatic. Dr. Shaw focuses much of her research on drug resistance, a devastating problem for many cancer patients.  Although many genetically targeted drugs are effective at first, they almost always stop working as cancers can activate so-called “escape pathways.” Dr. Shaw is leading her research team at Massachusetts General Hospital to develop new strategies to overcome lung cancer treatment resistance – specifically for non-small cell lung cancer with ALK genetic mutation..

To learn more about Dr. Shaw’s NFCR-funded research and how her work is impacting today’s cancer treatments, click here.

Dr. Jim Allison Presents Novel Approaches to Immunotherapy in Solid Tumors

This year, Dr. Jim Allison, the inventor of immune checkpoint blockade for cancer, will discuss novel approaches to immunotherapy in solid tumors on Friday, June 2 in an extended education session “On the Shoulders of Giants: Historical Approaches to Immunotherapy in Solid Tumors.”

The 2014 recipient of our Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research, Dr. Allison uncovered how to activate the immune system to target malignant tumors. His pioneering work ultimately led to ipilimumab (Yervoy®)—the first FDA-approved immunotherapy drug to extend lives for people with advanced melanoma. Today, numerous immune checkpoint inhibitors are available, many of which have the potential to be more effective and less toxic than standard treatments. Because of his discoveries, Dr. Allison was named as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people for 2017.

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Simple, Sensational Cancer-Fighting Salsa

Snacking on salsa is a simple and tasty way to add cancer-fighting fruits and veggies to your diet.  With a variety of ingredients from tomatoes, jalapenos or habanero peppers to mangoes, pineapples, strawberries and even beans, salsa can spice up meal-time.

Salsa is not just a savory dip for chips or tacos- it’s also a delicious topping served over chicken, fish and even scrambled eggs.

Try our Sensational Salsa below. It contains two of our favorite cancer-fighting foods- tomatoes and hot peppers. Also give our nutritious, delicious Rainbow Salsa a try- you won’t be disappointed!

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, and the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. Lycopene may also help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Plus, there’s some evidence that cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast and cervix can be reduced with increased lycopene intake.

The active ingredient in hot peppers, capsaicin, has anticancer, antiulcer and antibacterial properties. Lab studies have shown capsaicin to shrink prostate, lung, breast and pancreatic cancer cells. TIP: the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Bell peppers contain little to no capsaicin, while some varieties of habanero contain so much it would cause your skin to blister.

Sensational Salsa

Adapted from Simply Recipes


2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb to 1 1/2 lb), stems removed

1/2 red onion

2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile (stems, ribs, seeds removed), less or more to taste

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of dried oregano (crumble in your fingers before adding), more to taste

Pinch of ground cumin, more to taste


  1. Start by roughly chopping the tomatoes, chiles, and onions. Be very careful while handling the chile peppers. If you can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for more heat. (Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours.)
  2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse only a few times, just enough to finely dice the ingredients, not enough to purée. If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely dice by hand.
  3. Place in a serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If it’s not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add a little more ground cumin.
  4. Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.

Fun Facts About Salsa

  • May is National Salsa Month
  • Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”.
  • In 2003, chips and salsa were designated as the Official State Snack of Texas.
  • Tomatoes and jalapenos are actually fruits, not vegetables.
  • For a list of 22 of the world’s hottest peppers, click here.
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4 Must-Know Facts About the Deadliest Brain Tumor

Glioblastoma multiforme- also known as GBM– is the most lethal form of brain cancer in adults. This devastating brain cancer spreads into other parts of the brain very quickly and is usually not surgically curable. Typically, radiation and chemotherapy are given with the hopes of delaying tumor progression. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with GBM, here are 4 important facts you need to know:

Brain Tumor Statistics

  • GBM kills 95% of patients within five years of diagnosis, with more than half dying within the first 15 months after diagnosis.
  • Although GBM can occur in any age group, it is most common in adults between the ages of 45-70.[i]
  • This year, more than 12,000 people living in the U.S. and tens of thousands more worldwide will receive a diagnosis of GBM. [ii]

1. Connect with a doctor(s) who specializes in GBM.

As with any rare or aggressive cancer, it’s best to seek care from a doctor who spends all of his or her time treating that particular disease. When it comes to GBM, there are many nuances to both its diagnosis and treatment that require expert knowledge.  Second opinions are also extremely important as they will either confirm what you’ve already been told or present different options to weigh.

2. Know the facts.

GBMs are extremely complex tumors.  Complete surgical removal of the entire tumor is extremely difficult because these tumors have finger-like tentacles that extend into surrounding normal brain tissue.  GBMs are also made up of a wide mix of different cell types that often differ from patient to patient.  Additionally, when GBMs recur or grow back—and they almost always do–the molecular profile of the tumor changes dramatically.  As a result, response to treatment varies considerably and today’s five-year survival for GBM is less than 5%.

3. With GBM AGILE, the future looks promising.

Currently there is no cure for GBM.  Although there have been hundreds of standard clinical trials for GBM, survival rates for patients with GBM have not improved in any meaningful way in more than 30 years… GBM AGILE brings tremendous hope to patients battling GBM today.

What is GBM AGILE?

Over 150 researchers from more than 40 leading cancer institutions across four continents have come together to find cures for GBM by launching the first-ever global, adaptive clinical trial that will revolutionize how brain cancer treatments are tested and developed. This new type of clinical trial platform is called GBM Adaptive Global Innovative Learning Environment, or GBM AGILE for short. By offering the ability to access to the newest, most promising treatments quickly and in real-time, GBM AGILE will provide people living with brain cancer new hope where little currently exists. While adaptive trials are not yet commonplace, Congress and the FDA are focused on accelerating their development to benefit patients, including GBM AGILE.

4. NFCR is attacking GBM head on.

With GBM AGILE, medical research is being transformed right now by the biggest global collaboration in the history of brain cancer research. NFCR has provided seed funding for this revolution and as part of the executive steering committee, is helping to develop and manage this groundbreaking adaptive trial protocol.

The GBM AGILE team is currently in discussion with the USA’s FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to create a process that will make it faster for patients to access the promising drugs that are being tested in this clinical trial. This will be done by allowing seamless transition from Phase II to Phase III of the trial which does not traditionally happen in the current clinical trial format. The protocol is nearly complete, and patient enrollment is expected to begin in January, 2018 giving patients worldwide the best chance to treat their disease.

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7 Facts You Need to Know About Brain Tumors

What is Brain Tumor?

  • Of the nearly 80,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 32% are considered malignant – or cancerous.
  • Overall, the chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in his or her lifetime is less than 1%.
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the deadliest type of brain cancer, accounting for 45% of all malignant brain tumors.

Here’s a list of seven facts you need to know about brain tumors. And make sure you read about the work NFCR is doing to combat the deadliest brain cancer with GBM AGILE.

1. Primary brain cancer is rare.

primary malignant brain tumor is a rare type of cancer accounting for only about 1.4% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.  The most common brain tumors are known as secondary tumors, meaning they have metastasized, or spread, to the brain from other parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts, colon or prostate.

2. The cause of brain cancer is usually unknown.

Most people diagnosed with a primary brain tumor do not have any known risk factors. However, certain risk factors and genetic conditions have been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing one, including:

  • The risk of a brain tumor increases as you age.
  • People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation—such as radiation therapy used to treat cancer and radiation exposure caused by atomic bombs– have an increased risk of brain tumor.[i]
  • Rare genetic disorders like Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis (NF1 and NF2) may raise the risk of developing certain types of brain tumors. Otherwise, there is little evidence that brain cancer runs in families.[ii]

3. Typically brain tumors don’t have obvious symptoms.

Headaches that get worse over time are a symptom of many ailments including brain tumors. Other symptoms may include personality changes, eye weakness, nausea or vomiting, difficulty speaking or comprehending and short-term memory loss.

Even benign or non-cancerous tumors can be serious and life threatening. If you experience these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away. 

4. Brain tumors can occur at any age.

Primary brain tumors—those that begin in the brain—can develop at any age, but they are most common in children and older adults. While brain tumors are one of the most common cancers occurring in children 0-14 years, the average age of diagnosis is 59 years. [iii]

5. Cell phones aren’t proven to cause brain cancer.

Although long-term studies are ongoing, to date there is no definitive evidence that cell phone use increases the risk of cancer. However, if you are concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer, consider limiting your use of cellphones — or use a speaker or hands-free device.

6. Survival rates vary.

There are different types of primary brain cancer and survival rates vary significantly depending on the type of cancer. Some types of brain cancer, such as meningioma, anaplastic ependymoma and oligodendroglioma, are highly treatable, while others are less responsive to treatment.

7. With GBM AGILE, the future looks promising.

Glioblastoma multiforme (also known as GBM) is the deadliest of all (primary) brain cancers and is widely regarded as incurable and universally fatal, killing 95% of patients within five years of diagnosis.

To combat this deadly disease, NFCR is part of a robust, international coalition working on innovative ways to defeat GBM utilizing a rigorous adaptive trial platform known as GBM AGILE (Adaptive Global Innovative Learning Environment).  Led by some of the best and brightest brain cancer researchers in the world, GBM AGILE is re-engineering the way clinical trials are conducted to develop more effective treatments faster than ever before.

To learn more about adaptive clinical trials and GBM AGILE, click here.

In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack brain cancers – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.

Dr. Rakesh Jain is a leader in the field of tumor biology – specifically in anti-angiogenic therapy, which looks at thwarting certain types of blood vessel formation. Dr. Jain has been studying the role angiogenesis plays in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the deadliest form of brain cancer. Dr. Jain’s research is helping doctors better tailor the use of anti-angiogenic therapies by identifying the characteristics that cause resistance for GBM patients. Dr. Jain and his team have identified molecular resistance pathways that may direct the development of new drugs that target these pathways and could extend the benefits of anti-angiogenic therapies for patients.
Because GBM invades healthy tissues near the tumor, Dr. Jain’s current NFCR-funded research is focused on testing inhibitors that could prevent invasion. Vessel co-option is a process by which cancer cells migrate through and around nearby healthy tissue. Dr. Jain is identifying genes and pathways that facilitate vessel co-option in order to prevent invasion and improve GBM therapies.

The Director of NFCR’s Scientific Advisory Board, Dr. Web Cavenee, has partnered with NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Paul B. Fisher to discover a new pharmacological agent that could – with additional chemistry – lead to a new drug to prevent radiation-induced invasion of GBM cells. The researchers have tested their pharmacological agent in combination with radiation and have seen profound survival benefits in pre-clinical models.

Previously NFCR-funded scientist Dr. W.K. Alfred Yung’s research focused on drugs that target a gene called PI3K, which is a key factor in about 30% of GBM cases. His team collected glioma stem cells (GSCs) from GBM patients and developed a special panel of cell lines to investigate patterns of resistance to P13K inhibitors. The researchers are figuring out the molecular profile of these GSCs to identify potential targets for drug development. Results from the P13K studies have shown that the molecular profile of GSCs contain increased levels of Wee-1, which is a protein that controls cell division and growth. Following these results, the team then combined a P13K inhibitor with a Wee-1 inhibitor and found there was a greater inhibition of cell growth and the cancer cells were induced into cell suicide. Plus, when they tested the same inhibitors on complex GBM tumor models, they discovered similar benefits. These findings reveal molecular targets and designs for combination therapies that could lead to new treatments for GBM patients.


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2017 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research Awarded to Michael N. Hall

More than 170 guests enjoyed a fabulous Monday evening at the National Press Club recognizing Michael N. Hall, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel in Switzerland, as the 2017 recipient of the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research presented by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR). Attendees of the festivities included many world-renown research scientists, biopharmaceutical industry leaders, policy makers, the 2017 Prize Selection Committee, NFCR board of directors, donors and supporters.

Pictured above from left to right: Mary-Claire King, Michael Hall, Sujuan Ba

This year’s prize recognizes Dr. Hall for his breakthrough discovery of target of rapamycin (TOR), one of the most important cancer cell targets in the modern era of oncology.

Dr. Hall’s research shows that, as a central controller of cell growth and metabolism, TOR plays a key role in development and aging. When dysregulated, disorders such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity can occur. These findings have reshaped our understanding of cell growth and has had a significant impact in how disease is studied and treated.

Today, TOR inhibitors are used to treat kidney, breast, brain and pancreatic cancers, and numerous clinical trials are currently underway testing TOR inhibitors in the treatments of many types of cancer.

The dinner celebration featured a rare opportunity to hear from and ask questions of an esteemed panel of leading cancer research scientists. Moderated by last year’s prize winner, Dr. Mary-Claire King of University of Washington, Dr. Hall was joined on stage by Webster K. Cavenee, Ph.D., Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Chi Van Dang, M.D., Ph.D., Abramson Cancer Center at University of Pennsylvania; and William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. The panelists and an enthusiastic audience discussed many intriguing topics, including how nutrient uptake influences cancer and its treatment, and how a new clinical trial model, GBM AGILE, could reshape clinical testing of new treatments for aggressive brain tumors and potentially other types of cancer.
“The award of the 2017 Szent-Györgyi Prize to Dr. Hall is a wonderful recognition of his breakthrough discovery of TOR which has made possible many of today’s advanced anti–cancer therapies. His pioneering research is a great example of how laboratory research at the fundamental stage can impact cancer treatment and care for many patients around the world.”
Dr. Sujuan Ba, NFCR President


The evening was jazzed up not only by intellectual conversation, but also by live jazz music and solo piano performed by students from the Landon School in Bethesda, MD. The performance entertained guests throughout the evening, while marking the launch of “Arts4TheCure”- a new fundraising platform established at NFCR that provides youth and young adults the opportunity to raise awareness and funds to support cutting-edge cancer research through fine arts and performing arts.

We congratulate Dr. Hall again on winning the 2017 Szent-Györgyi Prize, and look forward to another great ceremony next year!

About Michael N. Hall, Ph.D.

Michal N. Hall, Ph.D., is Professor of Biochemistry at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel in Switzerland. In 1991, Dr. Hall demonstrated that a central controller of cell growth and metabolism existed, which he later named target of rapamycin (TOR). Prior to his discovery, a central controller of cell growth was not thought to exist. His discovery has revolutionized the study and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and more. Dr. Hall is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards for his groundbreaking research, including the Cloëtta Prize for Biomedical Research (2003), Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2009), Marcel Benoist Prize for Humanities or Science (2012), Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2014), and the Canada Gairdner International Award (2014).

About the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

The Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research was established by the National Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of its co-founder, Albert Szent-Györgyi, M.D., Ph.D., recipient of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

NFCR is committed to upholding Dr. Szent-Györgyi’s vision of curing cancer through innovation and collaboration. As part of this commitment, NFCR has established this prize to honor scientists who have made extraordinary progress in cancer research and to focus attention on the essential role of basic research in finding the still elusive answers to the mysteries of cancer.

The Szent-Györgyi Prize serves to stimulate the quest for continued investment in the pioneering research that will produce scientific breakthroughs and lead to a deeper understanding of the scientific concepts behind the genetics and molecular makeup of cancer. By calling attention annually to achievements in this area, it is our desire to heighten awareness of the kind of research and discovery that must be accomplished before we can hope to produce cancer cures.

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8 Facts You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

May is National Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Month and Melanoma Awareness Month. As skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and the most treatable, when caught early, it’s important to understand what you can do to protect yourself.


  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.
  • The 3 most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma– the most common type; squamous cell carcinoma– the second most common type; and melanoma – the least common yet deadliest type.
  • The overall lifetime risk of developing skin cancer is one in five (for both melanomas and non-melanomas).
  • The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 98% in the U.S. The survival rate falls to 62% when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 18% when the disease metastasizes to distant organs. [i]

Here’s a list of 8 facts you need to know about skin cancer. And make sure you read about related work by NFCR-funded scientists Dr. James Basilion and Dr. Daniel Von Hoff.

1.  The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) light

About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas have been linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. [ii] Early sun exposure, particularly frequent sunburns as a child, can also increase your skin cancer risks.

2. … but not all skin cancers are caused by the sun

Smokers are more likely to develop skin cancer, particularly on the lips. While areas of the body that have been treated with radiation are more prone to developing skin cancer, conditions that weaken the immune system-such as immune suppression therapy associated with organ transplantation and exposure to certain chemicals like arsenic, industrial tar and coal also increase the risk of skin cancer. And like most cancers, having a family history (of melanoma) increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

3. Melanomas can develop anywhere on your body

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body including eyes, scalp, nails, feet, mouth, and other places that are not exposed to the sun. These hidden melanomas are more common in people with darker skin. [iii]

4. Practice safe sunning

Sunscreen has been proven to reduce the risk of most skin cancers. While people with fair skin may be more likely to develop skin cancer due to sun exposure, people with darker skin tones are at risk as well. Sunscreen protects against sunburn as well as harmful ultraviolet rays that can wreak havoc on your skin on cloudy, overcast or winter days when there is no sunshine. It’s good to use sunscreen every day – even during the winter months.

When possible, limit your outdoor activities between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.

5. Avoid indoor tanning salons

Research has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Even one indoor tanning session can increase users’ risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%. [iv]

6. Regular skin checks are key

Regular checks by a doctor or nurse specialist, especially if you have a large number of moles or other risk factors, is key.

In addition, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you do a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin every month. See the ABCDEs of skin cancer for information on what to look for. Make sure to tell your doctor if you see any new, unusual or changing moles or growths on your skin.

While these skin checks will not prevent skin cancer from developing, they can help to catch it early when it is most easily treated.

7.  Kids can get skin cancer too

Melanoma accounts for up to 3% of all pediatric cancers. The treatment of childhood melanoma is often delayed due to misdiagnosis of pigmented lesions, which occurs up to 40% of the time. [v]

8.  Cutting-edge research is helping us attack skin cancer head on

James BasilionDr. James Basilion and his team at the NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging are developing new tools that literallychange the way doctors are looking at cancer. The team developed an imaging technique that may revolutionize cancer surgeries and be particularly helpful with treatments for skin cancers, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM – the most aggressive brain tumor) and with breast lumpectomies. This new technology allows surgeons to assess the margins of their surgeries as they are being conducted to see if the cancer cells have been removed. This could eliminate or dramatically reduce local tumor recurrence.

Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Co-Director of the NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies, has devoted his career to translational medicine – the movement of new therapies from the research institution to patient care – and has personally been a part of over 200 clinical trials. Dr. Von Hoff and his colleagues have conducted early clinical investigations of many new cancer agents, including: gemcitabine, docetaxel, paclitaxel, topotecan, irinotecan, fludarabine, mitoxantrone, dexrazoxane, nab-paclitaxel, vismodegib and others. NFCR’s support for Dr. Von Hoff’s research with gemcitabine was profoundly successful as it became the first drug to improve survival for pancreatic patients. Many treatments he worked on are now helping tens of thousands of patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma as well as breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, leukemia and pancreatic cancer today.

The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

When is a mole cancer? Look for these signs…

Asymmetry. One half doesn’t match the appearance of the other half.

Border irregularity. The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.

Color. The color (pigmentation) is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown and black are present. Dashes of red, white and blue add to a mottled appearance.

Diameter. The size of the mole is greater than 1/4 inch (6 mm), about the size of a pencil eraser. Any growth of a mole should be evaluated.

Evolution. There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such a itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding) or color of a mole.








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