Tuesday, August 29, 2023

'New frontier' blood tests to find cancer may create risks for patients, N.Y. Times story says

Blood tests that detect cancer can create risks for those who use them, according to a story by Gina Kolata a while back in The New York Times.

The article indicates that "the tests screen for cancers that often go undetected, but they are expensive and some experts worry they could lead to unnecessary treatments without saving patients' lives."

Some companies, Kolata's piece says, aren't waiting for Food and Drug Administration approval before they sell the tests. One of the companies, Grail, is selling an annual version, and a second company, Exact Sciences, plans to do the same, using a loophole provision "known as laboratory developed tests."

The tests, the story contends, "are a new frontier in screening. Companies developing them say they can find dozens of cancers."

Supporters of the tests insist they can "slash cancer death rates by finding tumors when they are still small and curable. But a definitive study to determine whether the tests prevent cancer deaths would have to involve more than a million healthy adults randomly assigned to have an annual blood test for cancer or not. Results would take a decade or longer."

While standard screening tests "are commonly used to detect cancer of the breast, colon, cervix and prostate," Kolata's article notes, "73 percent of people who die of cancer had cancers that are not detected by standard test."

The story quotes Dr. Tomasz Beer a cancer researcher at Oregon Health & Science University who is directing a Grail-sponsored study of the test. "We're at a point now where the blood tests are in their early days," he says, but "I think there's promise for a real impact."

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch
Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a senior investigator in the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, raises a red flag: "Grail proposes to test every Medicare beneficiary every year, making it the screening test that could bankrupt Medicare."

Among other risks the story attributes to some doctors are that "some will have a positive test, but doctors will be unable to locate the cancer. Others will be treated aggressively with surgery or chemotherapy for cancers that, if left alone, would not have grown and spread and may even have gone away."  

Dr. Barnett Kramer, former director of the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute and a member of the Lisa Schwartz Foundation for Truth in Medicine, according to Kolata's story, "fears that the tests will come into widespread use without ever showing they are beneficial" and hopes that "we are not halfway through a nightmare." 

Once the tests are being used broadly, he adds, "it is difficult to unring the bell."

More information about clinical trials can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Crucial climate push by Biden in Louisiana's 'cancer alley' is under fire from environmentalists

Activists are afraid Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding carbon storage in Louisiana's "cancer alley" could perpetuate fossil fuel industry.

That's one of the main thrusts of a story by Timothy Puko in recent editions of The Washington Post.

Carbon capture, according to the Post, is a process that has experts fighting one another. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said "developing new technology to capture or remove carbon is essential for limiting rising world temperatures in line with the 2015 Paris climate accord."

Many environmental-justice advocates, the article also notes, "object to carbon capture projects, especially in a region where petrochemical plants often sit next to black churches and schools, and high cancer rates have led to the nickname 'Cancer Alley.'"

The Biden administration sees carbon capture "as a key tool to reduce emissions from businesses that have few other options," the Post piece reports.

Beverly Wright, PhD
Puno's story quotes Beverly Wright, PhD, a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice in east New Orleans, as saying, "What they're trying to do to Louisiana now is I think the worst of anything we've been exposed to because of all the uncertainly. In the real world, this is an experiment, and this experiment is going to be conducted on the same communities that have suffered from the oil and gas industry."

On the other hand, just last month a different U.S. climate supervisory panel postulated that some of "these technologies are unproven and 'pose unknown environmental and social risks.'"

Additional information on EPA regs can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

New study shows cancer among younger women in U.S. is on the rise, Washington Post reports

Some of the biggest increases in disease among younger Americans, a new study shows, is in those diagnosed with gastrointestinal and breast cancers. 

According to a story by Lindsey Beyer in today's editions of The Washington Post, endocrine cancers are also on the rise in that grouping — especially, like the other cancers, among women.

The study, published today in JAMA Network Open, showed that cancers "among people younger than 50 have increased slightly overall, with the largest increases [19 percent] among those age 30 to 39." 

Dr. Paul Oberstein
"It's important to do more research to understand why this is happening," Beyer's story quotes Dr. Paul Oberstein, director of the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program at NYU Langone's Perlmutter Cancer Center who was not involved in the study, as saying. "If we don't understand what's causing this [increased] risk and we can't do something to change it, we're afraid that as time goes on, it's going to become a bigger and bigger challenge."

Experts, the article indicates, say possible reasons behind the trend include "rising obesity rates and lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, sleeping poorly and being sedentary." 

Environmental factors, "including exposure to pollutants and carcinogenic chemicals, also probably play a role," the story continues.

The study, for which researchers analyzed data from more than 560,000 patients in the United States with early-onset cancer, also showed that cancers among older adults have declined.

Dr. Daniel Huang
According to Dr. Daniel Huang, assistant professor at the National University of Singapore and a transplant hepatologist at the National University Hospital, who is the senior author of the study, breast cancer accounted for the highest number of cancers cases in younger people — an increase of about 8 percent in the 10-year period examined (between 2010 and 2019).

More information about disease research can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Artificial intelligence improves breast cancer detection rate by 20 percent, Politico reports

The detection rate of breast cancer can go up 20 percent when AI is used, according to a story this week on the Politico website.

Ashleigh Furlong's article says the results from a study in Sweden "show the potential of using artificial intelligence in mammography."

The study, the first "randomized controlled trial" to look at using AI in breast cancer screening, showed that interim results have indicated "that using AI-supported analysis of mammograms alongside either of two radiologists was as good as using two radiologists without AI and led to 20 percent more cancers being detected," the story contends.

A significant reduction in workload for radiologists reportedly occurred, Furlong's piece continues, "with the doctors having to spend 44 percent less time reading mammograms."

The still-ongoing trial looked at more than 80,000 women.
Kristina Lang

Despite the positive findings, the story says, lead author Kristina Lang maintains that the results "are not enough on their own to confirm that AI is ready
to be implemented in mammography screening" outside clinical trials yet because additional screenings are necessary. 

The story also quotes Stephen Duffy, professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary University of London, as saying that there could be concern that using AI might over-detect harmless lesions.

More information about global research is available in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.