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Research Briefs

Network - Fall 2011

Study on risk of secondary cancers from radiation treatments

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and MD Anderson have found that a relatively small number of secondary cancers develop from radiation therapy.

The results of the long-term, large-scale retrospective study were published in the March 30, 2011, edition of Lancet Oncology.

Since more than half of cancer patients receive radiation as part of their treatment, the findings are noteworthy.

Of the 647,672 patients with solid cancers in NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database, an estimated 3,266 patients (8%) developed a second solid cancer that could be related to their radiation treatment.

Though there are potential confounding variables, or interference by other variables that may distort the association being investigated, the study results indicate that radiation treatment benefits far outweigh the risks that patients will develop secondary cancers.

A changing landscape for melanoma

The first positive, randomized vaccine study for advanced melanoma, and one of the first in cancer overall, has shown the benefit of using the body’s own defense system to attack tumor cells without destroying healthy tissue.

Researchers reported the vaccine — when combined with the immunotherapy drug Interleukin-2 — improved response rates and progression-free survival in a randomized Phase III clinical study. Results were published in the June 2, 2011, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers. In 2010, more than 68,130 people were diagnosed in the United States alone.

“This is a very exciting time for the field of melanoma. During the past few years, the entire landscape has changed,” says Patrick Hwu, M.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson’s Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology and the study’s senior author.

“Now our focus will need to turn toward studying these novel therapies in combination and continue our quest for better vaccines. We must also research ways to make the study inclusive of more metastatic melanoma patients.”

CT screening can detect lung cancer earlier

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) revealed that computed tomography (CT) is a more effective method of detecting small lung cancers than the standard chest X-ray, and this earlier detection may reduce lung cancer-specific mortality by 20%.

As one of 33 participating sites in the NLST, 
MD Anderson has developed a lung screening program with $400 CT scans for current or former smokers 50 years of age or older who've smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for at least 20 years.

The program also offers access to other services through the Cancer Prevention Center, including risk assessment counseling for those found not to have lung cancer and low-cost tobacco cessation programs to help smokers quit.

To schedule a screening, contact askMDAnderson at 1-877-632-6789.


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