Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Will FDA obey Trump, take step backward?

Researcher warns of using under-tested drugs, cites futile treatment on his father 

Dr. Cary Gross
Can some cancer treatments do more harm than good?

Absolutely, indicates Cary Gross, professor of medicine and cancer researcher at the Yale University School of Medicine, in a recent article in The Washington Post.

Gross cites the case of his own 80-year-old father, who'd been treated for Hodgkin's disease and couldn't walk because of weakness when his oncologist suggested a new, expensive, risky drug that was covered by insurance.

The oncologist was afraid chemo might do more harm than good but believed the "targeted therapy" treatment that used antibodies to kill only cancer cells would work.

Although the tumors shrunk at first, and Gross' father regained some strength, he experienced mild pain in his feet after a few months, followed by more severe shooting pains through his legs. Those side effects, Gross wrote in his article, again prevented him from walking and kept him bed-bound.

He subsequently died.

"The Food and Drug Administration had approved the treatment based only on a small study of about 100 patients, one-third of whom demonstrated complete remission," Gross reported.

"Although side effects were rare, the average age of patients in the study was 31. This is typical of cancer-treatment studies, which most often test new drugs in younger and healthier people — not older people with lots of medical conditions."

Gross expresses fear that "unfortunately, our government's commitment to evaluating new drugs is about to take a step backward. At a recent meeting with pharmaceutical company executives, President Trump announced he would be cutting regulations 'at a level nobody's ever seen before.'"

The FDA, he contends, "shouldn't shy away from requiring thorough evaluation of new drugs. The same level of enthusiasm and funding that goes into developing new treatments should be invested in testing whether they are safe and effective in patients outside of the initial small trials. Under-tested drugs with unclear safety profiles and efficacy should not be given to broad swaths of the population."

Other illustrations of clinic trials and their aftermath can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Monday, February 20, 2017

64 percent more likely to succumb to disease

Being socially isolated may markedly raise risk of women with early breast cancer dying

Is being isolated socially a killer?

Very possibly.

An article by Liz Szabo of Kaiser Health News cites a recent study that "patients with early breast cancer who are socially isolated have a higher risk of dying from their disease."

According to the story, women with fewer social ties "were 43 percent more likely to see their breast cancer return, 64 percent more likely to die from breast cancer."

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and published in the journal Cancer, considered ties of friends, family and community and religious groups.

As well as spouses or romantic partners.

Dr. Wendy Chen
The study's co-author, Wendy Chen, a breast cancer medical oncologist at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, clearly stated, however, that the findings do not prove "strong social support actually prolongs life."

Still, she said, they should be a reminder to physicians to evaluate more than their patients' physical health.

Szabo's story postulates that patients with stronger social ties not only receive moral support but encouragement to check out symptoms, to exercise, to eat healthier and to take meds.

Those patients also receive practical assistance, it adds, like picking up prescriptions, cooking meals and providing transportation to doctors' appointments.

The study looked at 9,267 women in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project, which combined four studies of women from five U.S. states and China. Doctors, the Kaiser Health News story indicated, "followed women for a median of 10 years."

Isolated women, researchers found, also "were heavier, more likely to smoke, less likely to exercise and less likely to undergo chemotherapy, even if this treatment would have been appropriate for them."

Just under 250,000 American women are predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer annually, with more than 40,000 expected to die from it.

A closer look at the ups and downs of the disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Similar to females in poor developing nations

Racial gap widening in cervical cancer deaths — to the detriment of black women

A widening racial gap has been found in regard to cervical cancer deaths.

With black women being on the short end of the stick.

Over all, according to an article in The New York Times by Jan Hoffman late last month, a study published in the journal Cancer has determined that "the death rate…is considerably higher than previously estimated."

Hoffman's story says researchers have reported that "the rate which black American women are dying from the disease is comparable to that of women in many poor developing nations" in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The article notes that "what makes the findings especially disturbing…is that when screening guidelines and follow-up monitoring are pursued, cervical cancer is largely preventable."

Some experts say the expected repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which covers screening, is likely to make matters worse.

The new study, which looked at data from 2000 to 2012, showed the mortality rate for blacks was 10.1 per 100,000, compared to 4.7 for white women.

Anne F. Rositch, Ph.D.
Anne F. Rositch, Ph.D., lead author and an assistant epidemiology prof at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explained that women who'd had hysterectomies — which almost always remove cervixes — were excluded from the study.

The racial disparity, it was speculated, reflected "unequal access to screening, ability to pursue early-warning test results, and insurance coverage."

"Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers touches on studies that show other racial disparities.