Monthly Archives: September 2009

Hormone therapy nearly doubles risk of death from lung cancer, study says

By Thomas H. Maugh II

Hormone replacement therapy, already linked to increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke, nearly doubles a woman’s risk of dying from lung cancer, researchers reported Saturday in a finding that may be the final blow for a therapy that is already in rapidly declining use.

The findings “seriously question whether hormone-replacement therapy has any role in medicine today,” Dr. Apar Kishor Ganti of the University of Nebraska Medical Center wrote in an editorial accompanying the online publication of the report in the medical journal Lancet.

The link to lung cancer “is yet another reason to not use hormone replacement therapy if it can be avoided,” said Dr. Mark Faries, director of translational tumor immunology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, who was not involved in the research. “It raises the bar for deciding to do HRT.”

The findings come from the Women’s Health Initiative, a large study originally begun in 1991 to demonstrate, in part, that the administration of a combination of estrogen and progestin could relieve debilitating symptoms of menopause and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The hormone replacement part of the study, which enrolled more than 16,000 women, was halted prematurely after about 5 1/2 years when it was observed that the risks far outweighed any potential benefits.

Not only did the therapy not protect against heart disease and stroke, but it also yielded questionable improvements in quality of life and produced a small but statistically significant increase in the risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer. Several subsequent reports have shown that the rate of breast cancer rose by at least 15% during the 1990s when HRT was blooming, then dropped sharply when many women abandoned the treatment after a 2002 report on the subject.

Treatment with estrogen has a deleterious effect on breast cancer patients because the hormone binds to estrogen receptors on tumor tissue, accelerating its growth. Recent laboratory studies have shown that lung tissue also has estrogen receptors and that the accelerated growth is even more dramatic in lung tumor cells, according to Dr. Richard J. Pietras, who directs the Stiles program on oncology at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Among other effects, the hormone promotes the growth of blood vessels that nourish growing tumors.

“We’ve been suspecting for a long time that this is an area we need to investigate,” Pietras said. The need is especially dramatic because the incidence of lung cancer in women has been growing, and more women die from it than from breast, ovarian and colon cancers combined. About 99,000 women are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and 71,000 die from it.

The first results from the Women’s Health Initiative suggested that the hormones might have an effect on lung cancer. To further explore a link, Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and his colleagues studied the women in the initiative for an additional 2 1/2 years.

At the end of the eight-year period, they found that 109 women who received the estrogen and progestin treatments had been diagnosed with lung cancer, compared with 85 in the group that received a placebo — a modest 23% increase in incidence.

The difference was more dramatic when they considered deaths. In the group receiving hormone therapy, 73 women died, compared with 40 in the placebo group, a 71% increase. The increase in lung cancer deaths accounted for half of the overall increase in deaths in the women receiving hormone therapy, Chlebowski said. The effect was most pronounced for so-called non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common form in women. There were 62 deaths from this type of tumor in women receiving hormones, compared with 31 deaths in the placebo group.

“The important thing is this is the identification of a new, lethal side effect of estrogen plus progestin use,” Chlebowski said. The findings “have special significance” for women who are now or have been heavy smokers, he said.

Women who were smokers at the time and who took hormone therapy had a 1% chance of dying from lung cancer in five years. Women who had smoked in the past had about half that risk. “About half the post-menopausal women in the United States would fall into either category,” he said.

The findings suggest that the hormones do not cause lung cancer, but that they accelerate the growth of existing tumors, making them more aggressive and more likely to metastasize, Chlebowski said.

Lung cancer is “a very potent, brutal disease,” said Dr. Glen Justice, director of the MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley. “The real take-home message here is that you have got to have a very good reason for going on hormones because we now know that there are so many negative effects.”

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times,0,909650.story

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Posted by on September 20, 2009 in cancer news


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Tips for avoiding high risk of pancreatic cancer

Tips for avoiding high risk of pancreatic cancer
Written by: Andy Mac Laughlin

Many everyday items contribute significantly to vulnerability.

With the recent publicity given pancreatic cancer following the tragic death of Patrick Swayze, has posted six ways to protect against the disease.

Among the top five leading cancers in the U.S., people suffering from diabetes, gall bladder disease, celiac disease and liver damage are particularly succeptible. Many household items increase the risk, and their list focuses on items that require note.

(1): Alcohol and hard liquor, which damage the liver and pancreas.

(2): Cigarettes, an environmental trigger for pancreatic cancer among predisposed patients.

(3): Soda, and foods that raise insulin blood levels, as pancreatic cancer is among the many disease risks for people with a high insulin blood level.

(4): Non-stick pots, some experts link these to the chemical PFOA, which has proved cancerous in animal studies.

(5): Soft plastics, many contain phthalates (teething rings, water bottles, etc.) which many research articles link to cancer.

(6): Animal and trans fats, as a study in June 2009 showed a direct relationship between pancreatic cancer and dairy or red-meat derived fats.

The warning is rather frightening, as many of the items are so commonplace. Forewarned is forearmed though, and better awareness may save lives.

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Posted by on September 20, 2009 in cancer news


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FDA says Glaxo vaccine blocks cancer-causing virus

WASHINGTON — A vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline successfully blocks the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

In documents posted online, the FDA said Cervarix — Glaxo’s vaccine against human papilloma virus or HPV — successfully blocked the two most cancerous strains of the virus nearly 93 percent of the time.

The main study of the vaccine enrolled more than 18,000 women who either received Cervarix or a sham treatment. The FDA said the vaccine appears to fight the HPV virus for more than six years, based on company data. Side effects were minor, such as pain and swelling at the injection site.

The agency will ask a panel of vaccine experts next week whether Cervarix should be approved for girls and women ages 10 to 25. The FDA is not required to follow the group’s advice, though it usually does.

A positive review from the agency will clear the British drugmaker’s vaccine to compete in the U.S., though it could face an uphill battle against Merck’s blockbuster vaccine Gardasil, which has been on the market here since 2006.

Besides having a three-year head start, Gardasil also defends against two more HPV types that cause 90 percent of genital warts, something Cervarix does not target.

Cervarix already is approved in nearly 100 other countries, but has been delayed in the U.S. since 2007 when the FDA said it needed additional data.

Earlier studies of Cervarix showed a higher number of muscular and neurological problems among patients who used the vaccine compared with the alternate treatment.

The FDA said Friday it asked outside experts to examine more recent data from the company to see if Cervarix could have caused those problems.

“The conclusion in the case of each of these efforts was that the data are not sufficient to establish a link,” the agency said in its review.

The FDA said it would ask Glaxo to report any continuing problems in a follow-up study planned for after the vaccine’s launch.

About 6 million people in the U.S. each year contract HPV, which usually causes no symptoms and clears up by itself. While there are about 40 strains of the virus that are spread through sexual contact, only about 15 cause cancer in men and women.

Last year nearly 4,000 women died of cervical cancer.

“Protection against cervical cancer is a very important health need for girls and young women, and we believe Cervarix has an important role to play in addressing this,” said Glaxo spokeswoman Lisa Behrens.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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Posted by on September 5, 2009 in cancer news


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Ernie Harwell, the 91-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers has inoperable cancer

Ernie Harwell, the 91-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers, said Friday that he has inoperable cancer.

Harwell said he has a tumor near a bile duct. He says he knows he may go through some painful days but is in good spirits and appreciates the good wishes he has received from hundreds of fans.

Harwell spent 42 of his 55 years as a broadcaster calling Tigers games, from 1960 to 2002. He said he has been “flattered” to hear so many people tell him about the role his voice played in their lives.

“It’s a great honor to be part of the family like that,” Harwell said. “It was fun. You love these things. You can’t take them too seriously. . . . So-called fame is fleeting.”

Harwell was born Jan. 25, 1918, in Washington, Ga., and began his broadcasting career in 1940 as a sports commentator for WSB radio in Atlanta. He later broadcast for the Brooklyn Dodgers and was replaced by Vin Scully.


Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore will sit out the rest of the season because of soreness in his left elbow that will require arthroscopic surgery. . . . Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano is out indefinitely because of a sore left knee. Cubs Manager Lou Piniella said at some point the club will “revisit” the situation, but he’s not sure when. . . . New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who is suffering from a sore left groin and has not pitched since Tuesday, will throw in the bullpen today and could be ready to return to the mound Sunday, Manager Joe Girardi said. . . . New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana returned to Citi Field three days after undergoing season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow and said he felt better and was confident he would be ready for spring training next year.

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Posted by on September 5, 2009 in cancer news


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