Three stories top the list of major developments in cancer research during the past month. Listen to these topics discussed in the most recent Cancer News Review podcast.
First, to treat or not to treat is the question for low-risk prostate cancer. Whether to give aggressive treatments for low-risk cancer contained within the prostate is a controversy that many experts in the field still debate. Prostate cancer expert and Kimmel Cancer Center director William Nelson reviews a study analyzing how treatment decisions for these cancers are made and how quality of life expectations are communicated. He says the current problem is that screening, which has helped decrease mortality from prostate cancer, has identified some men who could live their entire lives with prostate cancer but die of other causes. He believes there are certain groups of men who should consider active surveillance programs to carefully monitor low-risk, organ-confined prostate cancer.
Also topping the list of pivotal research this past month is the national study on low-dose, spiral CT scanning as a screening tool for lung cancer in heavy smokers. The findings, described in a previous Cancer Matters blog post, reveal fewer lung cancer deaths in the group of smokers receiving periodic low-dose spiral CT scans compared with those who received x-ray scans. Nelson calls it "an exciting finding," and suggests that we may now have a screening tool for lung cancer.
Finally, Nelson describes a review study analyzing all published research related to diabetes and breast cancer. The review showed that diabetic women with breast cancer experienced higher mortality than women without diabetes, but diabetes itself was not consistently associated with higher risk of death from breast cancer. Nelson says that the review study also showed that diabetes may influence the type of treatment breast cancer patients receive. Along those lines, Nelson points to additional research showing that the diabetes drug metformin may help improve outcome in people with both diabetes and cancer. He says the relationship between diabetes and cancer is one subject to keep our eye on.
0:10 Ongoing controversy regarding management of low risk prostate cancer
1:01 The quality of life issue is that aggressive treatment can lead to complications
2:00 With screening there is a clear reduction in prostate cancer mortality
2:54 For right now, a man with disease confined to his prostate gland
3:20 Use of screening CT in people at high risk for lung cancer
4:07 Should people who have smoked ask about low dose CT for screening?
4:31 Breast cancer and diabetes
5:05 Not consistently associated with death due to breast cancer but overall mortality
6:01 Metformin may improve outcome in cancer