It’s Not Cancer: Doctors Reclassify a Thyroid Tumor

An international panel of doctors has decided that a type of tumor that was classified as a cancer is not a cancer at all.

As a result, they have officially downgraded the condition, and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat.

Source: It’s Not Cancer: Doctors Reclassify a Thyroid Tumor

News worth passing onto anyone you know who is currently dealing with thyroid issues.

Big Names Gamble Big Bucks on Blood Tests for Early Cancer Detection

Forget biopsies, ultrasounds, mammograms, pap smears, rectal exams, and other unpleasant cancer screenings—the race is now on for simple, affordable blood tests that can detect all sorts of cancers extremely early.

Source: Big names gamble big bucks on blood tests for early cancer detection

This kind of screening is of a very different type to PSA or mammography, where many things can cause elevated PSA or high radio opacity in breast tissue. You are looking either for circulating tumor cells, or as in the Grail case, nucleic acid fragments from said cells. You sequence the DNA you have, looking for known oncogenic mutations. If you find them, the patient has cells with active oncogenes in them. As some oncogenes are known to be particularly deadly, mutant KRAS for instance, they would presumably be prioritized. I would worry more about false negatives than false positives with this technology, as it would presumably not be able to pick up lesser known mutations, and might be completely blind to tumors caused for example by gene amplification.

Why screen early? There are some very rapid cancers, and there are some which appear to be very rapid because they are diagnosed very late. Many of these cancer, pancreatic (and KRAS) being a poster boy ,have been around and undetected for many years, yet the average patient only survives about 6 months after diagnosis. For these cancers, this kind of screening could be a real lifesaver. The average ovarian tumor is 400 grams when detected, and survival is then usually a brutal land war.

We might start screening and then find out tumors can be detected in everyone. This would give us useful data on how frequently cancers arise, and how frequently they are overcome by the immune system. In such a case we would learn not to treat everyone, but maybe wait until certain thresholds were exceeded. Or, since we know what the mutations are the tumor carries, we could use highly targeted immunotherapies, with low toxicity. Everything is impossible to implement perfectly on day 1, but take a look at the landscape, try some things, and learn, and a decade later you have made real progress.

Antioxidants May Lead to Cancer Spread, Study Says

Since the term “antioxidants” made the leap from the realm of biochemistry labs and into the public consciousness in the  1990s, Americans have come to believe that more is better when it comes to consuming the substance that comes in things like acai berries, green tea and leafy veggies.

A provocative new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature raises important questions about that assumption.

Source: The latest study about antioxidants is terrifying. Scientists think they may boost cancer cells to spread faster.

This article leaves off a couple of important points on the research

  1. Anti-oxidants increase the rate at which metastases form, and do not appreciably affect the growth of the primary tumor.
  2. The study focused on melanoma xenografts only, some of which are highly metastatic. This will probably apply to other kinds of cancer as well, but that needs to be more fully investigated.
  3. N-acetylcysteine isn’t just an antioxidant.

Here’s the journal article itself (behind a paywall).

Sound Waves Separate Rare Cancer Cells From Blood

Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are a rare type of cancer cell that are found in the blood stream of patients with localized tumors. Successful separation of CTCs from blood could serve as a liquid biopsy to help diagnose cancer and monitor treatment progress. A deeper understanding of CTCs could also lead to a better understanding of the most deadly cancer process: metastasis, where cancer cells leave established tumors and migrate to other locations in the body.

Source: Sound waves separate rare cancer cells from blood

It’s a proof of concept.