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A Gut Feeling: Bacteria in Your Gut May Affect Cancer Treatment

The human gut contains hundreds of species bacteria, which are known to contribute to various bodily functions (such as digestion, of course!) but they also shape our immune system. Now, recent research has revealed how our microbiomes (the abundant bacteria living in our bodies) may affect the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) in cancer treatment. How it started: about two years ago, an… Read more »

Can You Improve Your Response to Certain Immunotherapy Drugs?

Cancer treatments that use a strategy called immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) have entered clinical practice in a big way, with six drugs now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a variety of cancers. These drugs release “brakes” on the immune system, boosting its ability to kill cancer cells. Specifically, they target the proteins PD-1 or CTLA-4, which are found on… Read more »

Clinical Trials Test Treatments for High-Grade Brain Tumors

With a few exceptions, glioblastoma (GBM) remains largely incurable, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved few treatments for the disease. Surgery (when feasible), radiation, and temozolomide are used in most patients. But even if a newly diagnosed tumor can be surgically excised, recurrences are too common. In this blog post, I simply list some of the new treatments available in… Read more »

Do You Have Pain, Cancer, or Diabetes? Your PBM May Now Be Your Doctor for These Illnesses.

A Q&A with Charles L. Bennett, MD, PhD, MPP; Smart State and Frank P and Jose M Fletcher Chair, Medication Safety and Efficacy, Smart State Center of Economic Excellence, University of South Carolina and the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Email: charlesleebennett@gmail.com Originally published December 27, 2017 Q: The opioid epidemic is now a public health… Read more »

Encouraging and Paying for Clinical Trials, Right to Try, and Expanded Access: Part One

A Q&A with Mark Shapiro, PhD, Vice President of Clinical Development at xCures, Inc., Partner at Pharma Initiatives; mshapiro@xcures.com Q: Treatment of Americans with advanced cancer is complex and challenging and can be very expensive. Many urge greater participation of such patients in clinical trials. In general, who pays the expenses of clinical trials? And, specifically, how are the costs for Right to Try and expanded-access approaches… Read more »

Finally: An Active Prostate Cancer Drug That Doesn’t Target Androgen

Most of the recent developments in prostate cancer treatment have addressed the timing and duration of androgen deprivation, who should receive radiation treatments, and the timing of the few available chemotherapy options. But this month’s big news is a welcome change: metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancers (mCRPCs) that harbor mutations in BRCA2 or one of a few other genes have a remarkable response to olaparib (Lynparza), a drug that inhibits the enzyme PARP1.

How to Learn About Cancer in a Classroom: Shaping Compassionate Doctors

The patients and caregivers we serve here at Cancer Commons rely on their doctors to provide expert, compassionate care. Building the skills to give such care can begin early in a doctor’s education. Here, for a change of pace, our Curious Dr. George asks a future doctor about a unique experience that helped her learn how to connect with cancer patients. Marin Langlieb is… Read more »

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Melanoma: New Directions

The drugs pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015, respectively. These two competing blockbuster drugs are already changing the outlook in metastatic melanoma, previously considered to be a fatal disease. Known as ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors,’ they work by releasing ‘brakes’ on a patient’s own immune system, freeing it to attack tumors. In the wake of their success, researchers are now taking immune checkpoint inhibition in new directions.

Is Cancer the Best Way to Die?

In 2014, the prestigious medical research journal The BMJ published a controversial piece called “Dying of cancer is the best death.” Here, our Curious Dr. George asks the author of that piece, Richard Smith, CBE, FMedSci, if and how his thoughts on death have since evolved. Dr. Smith was Editor of The BMJ from 1991 to 2004 and is currently Chair of the Lancet Commission… Read more »

Melanoma: New Drugs and New Challenges (Part 1 of 2)

New targeted and immunotherapy drugs have changed the diagnosis of metastatic melanoma from a death sentence into a disease that can potentially be managed and even cured. Nevertheless, these new drugs do not work in all patients, or they may stop working after a transient response. This post (part one of two) will describe ongoing efforts to find drug combinations with higher efficacy than single drugs and decipher the mechanisms underlying drug resistance.