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9 Must-Know Facts About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) continues to affect millions of men and women worldwide, and understanding the disease and what we can do to prevent it is the first step toward a cure.

Colorectal Cancer Statistics

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S.
  • Although the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for the past 30 years, it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
  • The overall lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: 1 in 21 for men and 1 in 23 for women.[i]
  • There are currently more than one million colorectal cancer survivors in the U.S.[ii]

Here’s a list of nine facts you need to know about colorectal cancer. And make sure you read about related work by NFCR-funded scientists Dr. Wei Zhang, Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Dr. Laurence Hurley and Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng.

1. With regular screenings, colorectal cancer is preventable.

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. In many cases, a screening can prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective.

Studies show that regular screening could prevent 1/3 of colorectal cancer deaths in the U.S. The five-year survival rate is 90% if detected early.[iii]

2. Age is the #1 risk factor for colorectal cancer.

90% of colorectal cancer cases appear in men and women 50 years old or older, and the risk for developing this cancer increases with age. Yet, like most disease trends, this isn’t absolute – younger people can get colorectal cancer too.

3. There are warning signs, but not EARLY warning signs.

Like lung cancer and cervical cancer, colorectal cancer can be hard to detect in its earliest stage. Symptoms can include a change in bowel habits; blood in the stool; diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way; frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps; weight loss for no known reason; nausea, tiredness and vomiting.[iv] If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

4. Lifestyle choices impact colorectal cancer risk.

Many lifestyle-related factors are directly linked to colorectal cancer risk. Obesity not only increases your risk of having colorectal cancer by 30%,[v] but it also increases the likelihood of poor treatment outcomes and complications.[vi] Smoking also increases your risk of developing and dying from this type of cancer. One recent study reported that patients with colon cancer who smoke were 14% more likely to die from their colon cancer within five years than patients who had never smoked.[vii]

Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, lack of exercise and diets high in red and processed meats. Additionally, cooking meats at a very high temperature can create chemicals on your food that may increase your cancer risk.

5. Family history matters.

People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, offspring) who has colorectal cancer have two to three times risk of developing this disease.[viii] A personal or family history of polyps (adenomas) also puts you at higher risk – especially if the polyps are large or if there are many of them.

6. Health conditions can increase your risk.

Your risk of colorectal cancer increases if you have the following conditions: Type 2 diabetes; inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease; and having an inherited syndrome like Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch Syndrome.[ix]

7. Regular colorectal cancer screenings typically begin at age 50.

Because polyps tend to be seen most often in people 50 years of age and older, experts recommend universal screening for colorectal cancer beginning at this age. If you are under 50 and have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors, talk to your doctor about when you should start regular screening.

8. There are different screening options.

Screening tests can include: colonoscopy; sigmoidoscopy; barium enema; CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy; and at-home tests like the fecal occult blood test, fecal immune testing or stool gene testing.[x] Talk to your doctor to see what screenings are most appropriate for you given your family history, age and lifestyle choices. For more information on cancer screenings, please refer to our.

9. Research helps us attack colorectal cancer – and all types of cancer.

NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research that has the potential to save lives. Our scientists are conducting a wide range of cutting-edge research focused on improving diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer – and all types of cancer.

Studying the system of genes that form colorectal cancer

NFCR Fellow Dr. Wei Zhang

NFCR-funded scientist, Dr. Wei Zhang, is the Director of the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Precision Oncology Initiative. Dr. Zhang has vast experience identifying biomarkers and genes in colorectal cancer. His current research team is studying how gene expression, gene amplification and mutations relate to and regulate each other. Using data from next-generation sequencing, Dr. Zhang’s team is identifying the genetic drivers or growth-promoting genes of a patient’s cancer.

Dr. Zhang has previously identified microRNAs (miRNAs) as biomarkers to improve colorectal cancer prognosis and predict treatment response. He used blood samples from healthy donors and patients with stage I through IV colorectal cancer, and confirmed that one microRNA molecule – miR-141 – may predict the outcome for stage IV colorectal cancer patients.

Chinese herbal medicine curbs colorectal cancer treatment side effects

NFCR Fellow Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng

For approximately 20 years, with NFCR support, Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng, of Yale University’s School of Medicine, has explored the therapeutic properties of PHY906, a Chinese herbal medicine formula. Dr. Cheng and his laboratory team have discovered that cancer treatment with PHY906, combined with chemotherapy, alleviates
the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy for colon and rectal cancer patients. Moreover, their research demonstrated that PHY906 also has its own, solo anti-tumor attributes. If there is continued success in clinical trials, PHY906 could become one of the first FDA-approved oral herbal medicines for anti-cancer treatment.

Targeted drug treatment and key colorectal cancer gene

(Left to Right) NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies Co-Directors Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and Dr. Laurence Hurley

The c-Myc gene is a cancer-causing gene (or oncogene) that is amplified in colorectal cancer and is a tough molecule in terms of finding targets for drug development. NFCR-sponsored scientists Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and Dr. Laurence Hurley are creating drugs to block large clusters of DNA called “super enhancers,” which control the expression of a network of genes – including the critical and seemingly-undruggable c-Myc gene.

Shutting down colorectal cancer through the blood stream

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak

Dr. Harold Dvorak received funding from NFCR for over 30 year and is responsible for the discovery of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). His discovery fostered the entire field of vascular biology and led to the development of VEGF-targeting anti-angiogenic drugs. Unlike other anti-cancer drugs that aim to directly kill tumor cells, drugs that target VEGF cut off the blood supply that tumors need to survive.
In 2004, the VEGF-targeting drug Avastin® was approved by the FDA for the treatment of colorectal cancer. More than 280 clinical trials are currently investigating the use of Avastin® in over 50 tumor types.

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[i] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

[ii] https://www.ccalliance.org/get-information/what-is-colon-cancer/statistics/

[iii] https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/wellness/e-over50-1/e-over50-4/

[iv] https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq

[v] https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet

[vi] https://www.aacrfoundation.org/Science/Pages/obesity-and-your-cancer-risk.aspx

[vii] http://www.news-medical.net/news/20170208/Smokers-more-likely-to-die-from-colon-cancer-than-non-smokers-study-shows.aspx

[viii] https://www.ccalliance.org/get-information/what-is-colon-cancer/statistics/

[ix] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html

[x] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/early-detection/screening-tests-used.html

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Cancer-Curbing Cauliflower: Your Carb Replacement

Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables in the cruciferous family and can be used to replace carbohydrates – anything from starchy potatoes to rice.

cauliflower diagram

Cauliflower’s impressive array of nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals – help keep our immune system healthy and strong.

Studies have shown that eating three to five servings of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and kale each week can significantly lower your risk of developing cancer.[1]

Cauliflower Fried Rice

(Adapted from Skinny Taste)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 small onion, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 scallions, diced, whites and greens separated
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce, or more to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Remove the core and let the cauliflower dry completely.
  2. Coarsely chop into florets, then place half of the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is small and has the texture of rice or couscous – don’t over process or it will get mushy. Set aside and repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
  3. Combine egg and egg whites in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Season with salt.
  4. Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium heat and spray with oil.
  5. Add the eggs and cook, turning a few times until set; set aside.
  6. Add the sesame oil and saute onions, scallion whites, peas and carrots and garlic about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Raise the heat to medium-high.
  7. Add the cauliflower “rice” to the saute pan along with soy sauce. Mix, cover and cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.
  8. Add the egg then remove from heat and mix in scallion greens.

 

[1] https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet

 

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8 Proactive Cancer-Preventing Pointers

Over 14 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer this past year, according to the World Health Organization. And the numbers are expected to increase by 70% over the next 20 years. [1] With cancer continuing to affect the lives of so many people, it’s important to understand what steps we can take to prevent or reduce cancer risk.

Quick stats:

  • Research has shown that at least 1/3 of all cancer cases are preventable. [2]
  • Last year, over 1.6 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer – that means more than 500,000 cases could have been avoided. [3]
  • Scientists are actively studying different ways to help prevent cancer, including changes in diet and lifestyle, chemoprevention (medicines that treat precancerous conditions or keep cancer from starting) and much more. Read about related work by NFCR-funded scientists Dr. Helmut Sies and Dr. Michael Sporn.

1. Stop smoking

no more smokingA single cigarette contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, including 70 cancer-causing chemicals. [4]  Research has linked smoking with 14 different types of cancer including lung, colon, pancreatic, liver, esophageal, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, stomach, cervical and rectal caners, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.

Quitting reduces your risk even if you’ve smoked for years. Talk to your doctor about strategies or free support systems that can help you quit. Also, avoid second-hand smoke whenever possible – it can be just as damaging as personally smoking.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of many serious health conditions, including cancers.

To control weight gain, eat more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout life can lower your risk of breast, uterine, prostate, lung, colon, kidney, pancreatic, esophageal, gallbladder and thyroid cancers. [5]

 3. Know your family history

family history formApproximately 5 to 10% of all cancers are considered hereditary, which means you may be at greater risk for some cancers if you have a personal or family history of cancer or certain diseases. [6] Genetic counseling and testing may be recommended for people with a strong family history of cancer. Click here for more information on genetic testing.

4. Practice safe sunning

Skin cancer rates are on the rise and sunscreen has been proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer. 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 durisafe sunningng the winter months.

Also 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%. [7]

 5. Limit your alcohol intake

Although moderate alcohol use has possible health benefits, it’s also not risk-free. Excessive alcohol use can cause liver damage, heart problems and increases your risk of breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx and liver cancers. [8]

To reduce your lifetime risk of cancer: On average, men should not consume more than two drinks per day and women should not consume more than three drinks per week.

 6. Limit red and processed meats

Research shows that people who eat more red meat (beef, pork and lamb) and processed meats (like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and salami) have a higher risk of developing colorectal and prostate cancers. [9] Although there is not scientific consensus, the observed increased risk may be explained by high iron and fat content in red meat and/or the salt and nitrates in processed meat.

Need some red meat alternatives? Try some of our favorite cancer-fighting recipes tonight like Rainbow Salsa (with grilled fish or chicken) and Pumpkin Soup (with a Garlic, Kale and Sesame Topping).

7. Get moving every day

get moving every dayStudies conclusively show that exercise helps relieve stress, weight gain and reduces cancer- related risks. It can even help cancer survivors live longer! So get out there and dance, run, bike or walk. Exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes every day has many benefits.

8. Schedule your screenings

Regular cancer screenings help with early detection and prevention. Screening tests include mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, pap smears for cervical and uterine cancer, body checks for skin cancer and more. Talk to your doctor to see what screenings are appropriate for you given your family history, age and lifestyle choices. For more information on cancer screenings, please refer to our Cancer Detection Guidelines.


Preventative Cancer Research

The best 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-sponsored researchers have been investigating links between nutrition and cancer as well as drug development to prevent cancer for decades. 

dr siesScientist Dr. Helmut Sies¸ whose work was funded by NFCR, discovered the antioxidant lycopene, a micronutrient found in tomatoes and other foods. Lycopene has strong skin cancer prevention effects. Today, his research is 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 – and Dr. Sies has been researching the molecular basis for this.

*Prevention tip: Read how to add selenium to your diet

 


dr spornDr. Michael Sporn, whose work was supported by NFCR, is known as the “Father of Chemoprevention” because his research led to the development of several synthetic triterpenoid compounds, which are a new class of chemical agents with 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 may be dramatically reduced by the use of chemoprevention.

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Tasty Tomatoes: Anti-Cancer Attributes & A Healthy Recipe

While people debate the age-old question about whether tomatoes are a fruit or vegetable, here’s an undisputed fact: Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, and the antioxidant lycopene.

Studies show that lycopene may help prevent prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. The powerful antioxidant can 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.

 

What Types of Tomato Products Should I Eat?

Lycopene is a lipid-soluble compound, which means that consuming it with fat (oil) increases its bioavailability. So you will obtain more lycopene from the fresh tomatoes in your salad when they are paired with a full fat dressing ins
tead of reduced fat dressing.

Additionally, our bodies extract the most benefit of the lycopene from processed tomato products, such as tomato paste, sauce and ketchup. So keep the tomato-y condiments on hand for a healthy boost!

Need a tomato-heavy recipe suggestion? Try the delicious fish recipe below. Bon appétit!


Sear-Roasted Halibut with Tomato & Capers 

Adapted from Fine Cooking

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2  tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb thick skinless halibut fillet (or other mild white fish, like cod), cut into 4 even pieces
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, capers, oregano, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
  3. Season the fish with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and dredge it in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil in a 12-inch (preferably nonstick) ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the fish, evenly spaced, and cook without touching until it browns and releases easily from the pan (check by gently lifting one of the corners), about 3 minutes. Flip the fish, sprinkle the garlic around it, and cook until the garlic just starts to brown on some edges, about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour the tomato mixture around the fish and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until the fish is just firm to the touch and opaque when you pry open a thicker piece with a paring knife, 3 to 6 minutes.
  5. Let the fish rest for a couple of minutes and then serve with the tomato mixture spooned over it.

Related NFCR Research

NFCR-funded researcher Dr. Helmut Sies, a world-renowned scientist in the field of cancer prevention, discovered that lycopene has the highest antioxidant capacity of carotenoids (colorful pigments in fruits and vegetables).

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The Man Who Halted the Growth of Tumors: Dr. Harold F. Dvorak

ASG Winners: Then & Now

The Szent-Györgyi Prize was established in honor of Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, co-founder of NFCR, to recognize outstanding scientific achievement in the war against cancer. Ten years later, “ASG Winners: Then & Now” looks at these winners, their extraordinary contributions and how their discoveries have made possible new approaches to treating cancer.

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak at the ASG Ceremony in 2006

The first winner of the Szent-Györgyi Prize was Harold F. Dvorak, MD, distinguished Mallinkrodt Professor of Pathology Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and former chief of the Department of Pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In 1983, Dr. Dvorak was the first to demonstrate that tumor cells secrete a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), known at the time as vascular permeability factor or VPF. Dr. Dvorak’s seminal discovery provided the molecular basis for the field of angiogenesis and helped pave the way for researchers to develop anti-angiogenesis treatments to halt and even reverse tumor growth. Today, anti-cancer therapies that work by inhibiting angiogenesis are among the most promising new approaches to treating cancer.

What is Angiogenesis?

Like all living tissues, tumors need a steady supply of blood to survive. Blood vessel formation, or “angiogenesis,” makes it possible for tumors to grow and spread. If cancer researchers knew the mechanisms by which tumors acquire additional blood vessels, they might discover new strategies to block this process and literally starve tumors to keep them from growing.

Dr. Dvorak’s Discovery of VEGF

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak in the laboratory

While conducting research supported by NFCR, Dr. Dvorak discovered that cancerous tumors make and secrete VEGF. This was how tumors acquire and form new blood vessels. VEGF is the way tumors grow and spread. Tumors differ from healing wounds: As soon a wound is healed, VEGF production is turned off abruptly. Tumors, on the other hand, continue to make large amounts of VEGF. This, in essence, keeps the VEGF Production in an “on position” so that cancer cells grow and spread. This explained how malignant tumors differed from those of normal tissue in both structure and function. “Hal Dvorak’s contributions to the field of cancer research are legendary,” says NFCR President, Sujuan Ba, PhD. Dr. Dvorak’s groundbreaking discovery has changed the face of cancer research and led to the development of VEGF-targeting anti-angiogenic drugs such as bevacizumab or Avastin®. In 2004, Avastin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Today’s Impact

The 2006 ASG Prize Selection Committee Chairman, Daniel Von Hoff, MD, now Director of Translational Research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona, said, “Without Dr. Dvorak’s fundame

(From left to right) Dr. Daniel Von Hoff,
Dr. Harold F. Dvorak and Dr. Sujuan Ba
at the ASG Ceremony in 2006

ntal discovery we would probably not have had the therapeutic agent Avastin (bevacizumab), which has had a tremendous impact on improving survival for patients with advanced colorectal cancer, breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and renal cell carcinoma. In addition, other small molecules which inhibit VEGF have also shown outstanding clinical antitumor activity with dramatic therapeutic effects for patients worldwide.” Today in the U.S., in addition to colorectal cancer, Avastin is FDA-approved for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and certain types of cervical and ovarian cancers.  More than 280 clinical trials are currently investigating the use of this particular anti-VEGF agent in over 50 tumor types.

Recent Blood Vessel Research

Dr. Dvorak’s recent research projects have led to the identification and characterization of at least six different kinds of blood vessels in tumors. While current anti-angiogenic therapies primarily act against only one of them, his latest discoveries provide opportunities for new types of treatments. His research group has already discovered the new therapeutic targets on the other five vessel types and they are aiming to improve the effectiveness of anti-angiogenic therapy by attacking the entire tumor environment. “Dr. Dvorak’s initial discovery helped to take cancer investigations in a whole new direction,” said Jeffrey S. Flier, MD, the 21st Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University, “an endeavor he continues to this day.”

Related Content

 Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi  

 

Learn more about the Nobel-Prize Winning Co-Founder of NFCR: Albert Szent-Györgyi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the ASG Prize 

 

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NFCR’s Genomics Newsroom: Using Molecular Imaging to Guide Cancer Therapy

What is “genomics”?

Cancer develops when genetic material (DNA) becomes damaged or changed. We know some cancer- causing genetic changes are acquired (i.e. smoking), while others are inherited. Studying cancer genomics explores the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. Advances in understanding how cancer behaves at the genomic and molecular level are helping oncologists treat cancer with greater success. This is the key to precision medicine, treating each individual’s cancer as unique.

Guiding Cancer Therapy Using Molecular Imaging

Molecular-genetic imaging (also known as molecular imaging) combines conventional anatomic imaging (MRI, CT, PET or ultrasound) with genomic testing and enables doctors to literally see cancer at its molecular or genetic level. Because of this, molecular imaging has the potential to characterize the genotype and phenotype of cancer as well as predict response rates and likely outcomes to selected treatments… all without the need for tissue samples that would be obtained through surgery or biopsy.

Molecular imaging is emerging as yet another tool doctors can use to help choose the most effective treatment(s) for individual patients.  With molecular imaging, doctors can provide more personalized, effective treatments to their patients.

Genomic Testing

While traditional methods treat cancer based on the body part where the cancer first originated, genomic testing looks at cancer on the gene level. Genomic testing reveals the unique genomic drivers or the driver genes for each patient’s cancer.

When combined with the molecular imaging technology, deeper and more detailed information that is specific to an individual cancer patient could be obtained and analyzed by the oncologists, which empowers them to design optimal, individualized therapies to maximize treatment success.

Click here to learn more about genomic testing.

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Attention Women: 6 Must-Know Facts About Cervical Cancer

With cervical cancer continuing to affect women worldwide, it’s important to understand the disease known as a “silent killer” and what we can do to improve our chances of beating it.

Quick stats:

  • Women of all ages are at risk of cervical cancer.
  • In the United States, an estimated 13,000 women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2016 and more than 4,000 women will die as a result of this diagnosis.
  • Although the number of new cases has been declining over the past decades thanks to the Pap screening, cervical cancer is still the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide.[1]

Here’s a list of six facts you need to know about cervical cancer:

1.  HPV is the #1 cause of cervical cancer.

To find a cure, it’s vital to know the causes. Most cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another through sexual activity.  Both men and women can be infected with HPV. It can be present for years without causing any symptoms and can be passed on to others without knowing.

The Centers for Diseases Control reports more than 20 million people are currently infected with HPV worldwide and another 6.2 million will contract the virus each year.[2] HPV has also been linked to other cancers including cancer of the throat, penis, anus, vulva and vagina.

2. Most cervical cancer cases are preventable.

Because cervical cancer is typically caused by HPV, the simplest way to prevent cervical cancer is to prevent HPV infection in the first place. Since 2006, a highly effective HPV vaccination has been used. Just like other vaccines, the HPV vaccine helps your immune system create an antibody response that protects your body against the infection. This vaccination is administered in two or three shots over a six-month period to both males and females between the ages of 9-26.[3]

Routine Pap testing is the best way to detect abnormal changes to the cervix before they develop into cancer. Much like removing polyps to prevent colon cancer, treating these abnormal cells can help prevent cervical cancer from forming. More than half of the women in the United States who get cervical cancer have never had or rarely had a Pap test.[4] The Pap test can also identify cervical cancer early – when it is in its most curable stage.

3. Only certain strains of HPV cause cancer.

HPV is serious – but not always a cancer indicator. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Most men and women who have ever had sex will get HPV at some time in their lives. And while there are strains that can cause cervical cancer and make it the top cause of the disease, as mentioned above, most HPV infections go away without treatment and are not linked to cancer.

 4. Smoking and other factors increase risk of cervical cancer.

Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking weakens your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight HPV infections on its own.

There is also evidence that long-term use of oral contraceptives as well as being overweight increase risk of cervical cancer.

Women with a sister or mother who had cervical cancer are two to three times more likely to develop the disease. Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of cervical cancer.

5. There are warning signs, but not early warning signs.

Cervical cancer often presents no symptoms in its early stages, which is why it is often referred to as a “silent killer.” But as the disease progresses, warning signs may present themselves. Examples include pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, painful urination, unusual discharge, abnormal menstrual cycles, pain or bleeding after sex, anemia, urinary incontinence, and back pain.[6] If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

6. Genomics research helps us attack cervical cancer – 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 and away from the old “location-based” research approaches.

   Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D.

Antibody Engineering
At NFCR’s Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering (CTAE), the research being conducted may end up being applicable for different types of cancer, not just renal cell carcinoma (one cancer-type the research is centered around). The NFCR CTAE – is affiliated with Dr. Wayne A. Marasco’s Laboratory in the Department of Cancer Immunology & AIDS of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a teaching hospital affiliate of Harvard Medical School. The NFCR CTAE focuses on targeted immunotherapy and treatments through engineered human antibodies.

Dr. Marasco has had great success developing antibodies that attach to carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX), an important tumor-associated protein highly expressed in renal cell carcinoma – the most common type of kidney cancer. Once attached, the CAIX antibody can halt abnormal cancer growth. Current NFCR research by Center Director Dr. Marasco and his team combines CAIX antibody with immune response activators to more effectively treat renal cancer. Moreover, there is demonstrated expression of CAIX in cervical, breast, ovarian, and lung cancers, in addition to various other types.

Research like Dr. Marasco’s has the potential to move quickly from its focus on one cancer type to diagnostic and treatment applications for many cancer types, such as cervical cancer.

       Harold F. Dvorak, M.D.

Tumor Angiogenesis
Thirty years ago, NFCR scientist Dr. Harold F. Dvorak made the landmark discovery of the vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF), which plays a central role in angiogenesis, the process by which tumors recruit blood vessels to supply the nutrients they need to grow and survive. Dr. Dvorak’s breakthrough led the research community to develop inhibitors of VEGF. One anti- VEGF targeted cancer therapy created has treated over 1.5 million patients with various types of primary and metastatic cancers. In 2014, this anti-VEGF antibody combined with chemotherapy was approved by FDA to treat patients with persistent, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer. A comprehensive clinical program with more than 280 ongoing studies is investigating the use of the anti-VEGF antibody in over 50 tumor types, including more trials to treat patients with cervical and uterine cancers.

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[1]  http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/detailedguide/cervical-cancer-key-statistics
[2]  http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/features/hpv-cervical-cancer-vaccine-15-facts#1
[3]  https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-vaccine-young-women.htm
[4]  http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044199.pdf
[5]  http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/detailedguide/cervical-cancer-risk-factors

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2017: The Year of Cancer Genomics

A look at major genomic trends shaping healthcare

We are on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. Innovations developed in research laboratories are improving treatments for patients today. By focusing on the genetic makeup of cancer cells – rather than the part of the body where someone’s cancer originated – doctors are beginning to personalize and improve
treatments for individual patients.

“For years, NFCR has been supporting molecular profiling and next-generation sequencing to better diagnose and treat cancer patients with targeted cancer therapies – and it looks like 21st century medicine will be about cancer genomics,” said Franklin Salisbury, Jr., CEO of NFCR. “As we start to move away from the old ‘location-based’ approaches of treating cancer, at NFCR we are excited that doctors everywhere are using targeted cancer therapies to better treat all types of cancer.” He adds: “21st century medicine has embraced genomic technology and the cancer field is at the forefront of these efforts to better treat cancer by looking at the genetic aspects of the disease.”

Below is an excerpt on what to expect in the field of cancer genomics from Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. The article is titled: “A Look Ahead: Seven Trends Shaping Genomics in 2017 and Beyond.”

Advances in Genome Sequencing, Pharmacogenomics, Gene Editing, and Biometric Wearables Will Provide New Pathways to Better Health

Genomics research holds the key to meeting many of the global healthcare challenges of the years ahead. In the last few years, costs for genetic testing have plummeted, as advances in sequencing technology have made individual genome sequencing economically feasible. Remarkable advances in genomics technologies, including pharmacogenomics, direct-to-consumer genomics, and wearable data-collection devices are leading to large pools of stored data.

Using in-memory computing technology, researchers are able to analyze and use this genomic data in innovative ways, leading to extraordinary changes in the way healthcare is delivered today. Some of these advancements are happening now, as liquid biopsy DNA tests emerge as noninvasive screening options for early cancer detection. And revolutionary gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 may soon offer innovative ways to modify genes to treat rare genetic diseases. 

A significant number of large-scale genomic projects are already underway, pointing toward positive advancements in 2017. Here’s a look at seven major trends that will shape the healthcare and life science markets in the field of genomics:

1. Integration of Genomic Data into Clinical Workflows

While major clinical centers such as Stanford Health Care and many cancer research centers are using genomic data to personalize treatments, the use of genomics in clinics nationwide is not yet commonplace.  This will change in 2017… [click here to read full article]

2. On the Rise: Pharmacogenomic

Researchers have already identified a few hundred genes that are related to drug metabolism, and are continuing to identify more …  [click here to read full article]

3. Emergence of Advanced Genomic Editing Techniques

This has great potential, ranging from creating a better food supply in agriculture to correcting specific mutations in the human genome …  [click here to read full article]

4. Noninvasive Cancer Screening

Another key disease-fighting tool to watch in 2017 is DNA liquid biopsy testing: a cancer-screening test based on a simple blood draw …  [click here to read full article]

5. More Direct-to-Consumer Genetics

Companies such as 23andMe offer direct-to-consumer testing, allowing people to explore their genetic makeup. The company provides a test that includes 65 online reports of ancestry, personal traits …  [click here to read full article]

6. Growth of Newborn Genetic Screening Programs

Within the next 10 years, it is quite possible that every new baby will have their genome sequenced … [click here to read full article]

7. Integration of New Data Streams

Population health management may be where analytics bring the broadest rewards, as new data streams that include wearables data, genomics (proteomics and metabolic) data, and clinical data converge to provide a better picture of a patient’s health … [click here to read full article]

As the costs for genetic testing continue to drop and these genomic technologies advance, healthcare will transform, more cures will be discovered and the millions of people worldwide will benefit.

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Party4Life 2016 & the Lucy Fund

Ongoing Fundraising Efforts Seek to Find a Cure for Metastatic Cancer

Over eight years ago, Lucy Stanovick began efforts to educate others about metastatic cancer and fund research to find cures. Her story in terms of an unfortunate diagnosis may be common, but her story of giving and organizing is truly unique. To this day, over $200,000 has been raised in Lucy’s name for the National Foundation for Cancer Research. This is her story…

Lucy’s Story

Lucy Stanovick found out she had Stage IV metastatic breast cancer on April 1, 2008 – she was just 42 years old. Lucy was an English professor, writer, devoted wife and mother of two and she was – understandably – blindsided by this diagnosis. She had always been health-conscious, did self-exams and received yearly mammograms, yet cancer still found its way in. In fact, her previous mammogram in July 2007 came back normal – no signs of cancer. Less than one year later, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
Lucy did not sit idly by as she fought her own health battles. For the next four years, Lucy educated the public about metastasis and became involved in initiatives aimed to stop the spread of cancer. It was Lucy’s goal to see metastatic cancer become chronic, not deadly, so that one day when someone you love walks into a doctor’s office and gets told they have metastatic cancer, the prognosis will not be terminal.  Sadly, as the summer of 2012 came to an end, so did Lucy’s life—she passed away at the age of 46.

Lucy’s Legacy

Metastasis causes more than 90% of cancer-related deaths, but receives less than 5% of the funding.

To educate others and raise money for research, Lucy gathered friends and family in 2008 for an all-day, all-night affair she called Party4Life.  Two years later, in partnership with NFCR, Lucy created the Lucy Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research. These efforts have since grown to include even more events and a larger community of supporters dedicated to advancing leading-edge research for metastatic breast cancer.

Lucy selflessly fought for future generations. Her passion lives on and your generous support helps keep her spirit alive.

Party4Life 2016

This year’s Party4Life was hosted by Lucy’s son’s coed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, at his alma mater, Susquehanna University.

Under the leadership of Chapter President Vickie Smith, Party4Life incorporated the theme of Monsters University and featured food, games, speakers, and all around fun!

To support their incredible fundraising efforts and support metastatic cancer research, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/Party4Life.

RESEARCH TO STOP METASTASIS

Dr. Danny Welch directs the NFCR Center for Metastasis Research in its investigations of cancer biology related to metastasis. Dr. Welch and his team have identified genes regulating metastasis, particularly metastasis suppressors; investigated the interactions between metastases and their surrounding tissues, especially for bone metastasis; and are now working to translate their findings into clinical practice.

Through research, they identified genetic changes that predict whether patients will or will not develop metastasis. At least some of these changes occur in mitochondria – where cells convert nutrients into energy. These results could determine that a simple blood draw and analysis of mitochondrial DNA – which is present in every cell and which is small enough to be rapidly analyzed – could be used to help doctors guide their strategies to treat patients.

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Sarah’s Story: Dr. Civin’s Cancer Research “Saved My Life”

Sarah’s Story

Sarah Byrd says she owes her life to Dr. Curt Civin, a pediatric oncologist specializing in leukemia research at the University of Maryland whose work is funded by NFCR.

Sarah ByrdSarah, a 35 year old living in Atlanta, is now five years in remission from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma because of a bone marrow stem cell transplant made possible by Dr. Civin’s work decades before. “It saved my life,” says Sarah, who at one point was in so much pain she begged her doctors to put her in a coma. Thanks to Dr. Civin’s research, today she is not just a survivor, but thriving.

Dr. Civin revolutionized the field of leukemia with his breakthrough discovery of CD34, the first – and still best – marker of hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells ever found. His subsequent isolation of CD34+ stem cells opened entirely new approaches to leukemia treatment – leading directly to cures for patients like Sarah. The CD34+ transplantation technology, created by a team of scientists in Dr. Civin’s laboratory, has been widely applied and thousands of patient’s lives have been saved because of this new approach to treating cancer.

Sarah ByrdFor Sarah Byrd, Dr. Civin’s CD34+ stem cell transplant followed rounds of radiation and targeted chemotherapy. It was not an easy procedure to go through, but it was worth the challenges and the effort because, in the end, it was effective. Sarah also understands and explains how it was not only a difficult procedure to endure, but also to develop. “I wasn’t just sitting in a hospital randomly and the drugs just happened to work,” said Sarah. “No. There were tons and tons and tons of effort made to create these specific drugs that saved my life.”

Since the discovery of CD34, and in part because of it, the relative five-year survival rates for all types of leukemia have increased dramatically. Sarah’s life moves forward; she’s currently a store manager at Bottega Veneta. But she’s still fully aware there is so much more to do. “I want there to be a cure,” she says. “Research is everything.”

Today’s Research Will Lead to Tomorrow’s Cure

And now, for so many patients suffering from cancer and still waiting for a cure, Dr. Civin’ current research may once again hold the key. He has recently discovered a new class of cellular molecules called microRNA’s. These tiny bits of RNA – previously thought to be “molecular sawdust” – have been found to play a key role in stopping tumors from forming.

Dr. Curt CivinDr. Civin discovered that MicroRNAs influence which of each cell’s genes are made into proteins. If expressing individual genes can be likened to turning on light switches one at a time, microRNAs can be thought of as flipping circuit breakers, switching on entire buildings at once. In the cancer cell, entire pathways or sets of pathways  involved in cell growth or division can be activated by a single microRNA. A single microRNA may be able to shut down a cancer cell.

And this is research NFCR is funding. Dr. Civin is now focused on one such microRNA, called miR-34. When a mutant cell contains enough miR-34, a molecular self-destruct sequence is initiated that destroys the cell in a process called apoptosis. It has been discovered that miR-34 is absent, or present at only extremely low levels, in most leukemia cells. Dr. Civin’s new research strategy is to restore miR-34 to patients’ leukemia cells and “reset” their normal tumor suppression functions. The hope is that restoring miR-34 could activate the leukemia cells’ own natural machinery to induce their self-destruction.

Innovative Research: From Malaria Treatment to Cancer-Fighting Possibilities

Scouring the libraries and databases of existing clinical drugs, Dr. Civin’s team identified a set of drugs that were able to increase the amount of miR-34 in target cells. The most promising of these drugs came from an unexpected source – the Artemisia annua plant that has been used as a remedy for malaria. Dr. Civin has discovered that these Artemisinins increase the levels of miR-34 in leukemia cells and inhibit their growth. Even more, Dr. Civin has discovered these Artemisinins  can also achieve this result in leukemia cells with the mutant p53 gene — giving hope to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients with the worst prognoses.

Dr. Curt CivinThis could be another breakthrough discovery by Dr. Civin. Artemisinins are the first class of drugs that up-regulate miR-34 in a way that is both independent of p53 and safe for clinical use. Clinical trials testing the efficacy of Artemisinins in AML patients will be underway in the near future, bringing this new treatment into the clinic. Additionally, Dr. Civin is combining Artemisinins with established and emerging anti-leukemia drugs and showing enhanced anti-cancer effects.

What future might Dr. Civin’s research hold? Could this drug or approach be applicable to other types of cancer? Are there other microRNAs that are critical for cancer? Might there be other cancer drugs — safe, effective, and readily available — waiting for scientists like Dr. Civin to repurpose them? With your support and by working together, these questions can be answered. From research discoveries to new treatments, Dr. Civin’s work has both exemplified and advanced the mission of NFCR: Research for a Cure.

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