Cancer headlines this past month included two studies on colonoscopy, a screening tool for colon cancer. The first study looks at the long-term benefits of colonoscopy and found that 50 percent of colon cancer cases were avoided by a single colonscopy. In the Cancer News Review podcast, William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center reminds us that colonoscopy is used for both screening and treatment, when precursor cancer lesions called polyps are snipped off during the procedure. The second study compared fecal occult blood tests with colonoscopy. Researchers found that one-third of people prescribed fecal occult tests are compliant in taking the test as compared with one-quarter of people scheduled for colonoscopies. Nelson says people may be more likely to engage in a program that invovles stool testing rather than colonoscopy. Both of the tests detected equal cases of colon cancers, but colonoscopy found twice the number of adenomas (polyps that can later become cancer). Nelson says that new technologies are needed to improve on these tests.
Nelson also reviews a study of a drug called venurafenib, which "stops the 'go' switch that drives melanoma cells to divide, accumulate in large numbers and spread throughout the body." Half of melanoma patients have this "go" switch. The study shows that melanoma cells become resistant to the drug within an average of six to seven months, and new additive treatments are needed to improve survival.
Finally, Nelson notes a new study from Johns Hopkins scientists that adds to the rapidly changing environment of cancer genome sequencing. The study introduces a tool called pyromaker that helps make sense of certain sequencing results.
0:20 Colonoscopy reduces colon cancer death
1:20 At least fifty percent of expected deaths avoided
2:22 In cancer world how can we say disease is eradicated
3:20 Fecal occult blood versus colonoscopy
4:23 Colonoscopy found about twice as many polyps
5:14 Melanoma and venurafenib
6:14 How long to become resistant?
7:04 Enables gene sequencing on the go
8:03 Can make sense of the 3 billion pieces of information