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Theories abound about how best to curb the growth of cancer cells. One body of thought about a decade ago focused on “starving” cells — an approach that had many hopeful but was ultimately unsuccessful. Recent research, however, adds new dimensions to the theory, which has many in the scientific community working toward breakthrough assistance for cancer patients. ‘Starving’ cancer The original research approached cancer cells with a basic truth about all human cells: The main ingredient needed for growth is oxygen. A tumor essentially is “fed” through oxygen in the blood vessels but is so dependent on oxygen that it begins to grow its own blood vessels to keep itself supporters. Researchers initially thought that if they could interrupt that growth process, they could effectively starve the tumor of oxygen and kill it. A series of anti-angiogenesis drugs sought to do just that, but researchers found that, when the oxygen supply was lessened, cells were ready with a back-up plan: Protein production went into overdrive to protect the cells. The reactions that followed are known as hypoxia, and that’s where scientists are now focusing their efforts. A new approach Researchers are now working to curb some of the reactions that occur during hypoxia. Particularly, they’re focusing on the production of the proteins HIF-1 and HIF-2, which can help cancer cells thrive and multiply, even when oxygen levels are low. Several years ago, scientists at the University of Texas discovered what could be HIF-2’s Achilles’ heel: The protein has a large cavity inside of it. That revelation led to the development of the drug PT2399, which burrows into and... read more
The climbing costs of cancer treatments are causing some people, especially younger folks, to alter their pill regimens to protect their financial health — but they may be doing serious harm to their physical health. According to a national study, about a third of cancer patients under 65 years old in some way changed their medication because of financial reasons; only about 20 percent of Americans without cancer changed up their meds because of money. How people adjusted their regimens varied, researchers found. Some cancer patients delayed filling a prescription until they were able to save more. Others cut down on their prescribed amounts to stretch their batch of medicine out longer. Some patients looked for cheaper alternative therapies, avoiding their prescribed pills altogether. The finding is in line with growing research that excessive cancer-care costs are particularly impactful on younger populations. One study found that nearly half of adult cancer patients reported a “high financial burden” from cancer treatment, and that number increased the younger the patient was. Stress over cancer-related finances isn’t just an emotional concern; research has pointed to a trend called financial toxicity, in which worries over health-care costs can have a direct impact on a patient’s physical health. The research suggests the need for financial resources for cancer patients to help them focus their efforts on managing their illness, without the distraction of finances. For instance, LifeCredit offers living benefit loans that enable cancer patients to receive up to half of their insurance policy’s death benefit. Financial resources for cancer patients can be life-saving, which is why it’s important that health-care providers are aware... read more
Exercise is one of the most universal recommendations for reducing health risks. From diabetes to heart disease to joint problems, breaking a sweat has been shown to help protect people from an array of health conditions. It’s also being looked to by those who are on the mend from medical issues, particularly people who have conquered a cancer diagnosis. Benefits of exercise A new study is touting exercise as providing the greatest amount of help for cancer patients in their recovery process. The Canadian-based research focused on female survivors of breast cancer, examining the impact of a range of lifestyle factors on the patients’ risk for recurrence or death. Women were able to significantly reduce their risk of breast cancer returning, and of a recurrence being fatal, by incorporating workouts into their routines. Those who had at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week, or 75 minutes of intense activity per week, showed the best results. While exercise can offer help for cancer patients looking to stay on the right track, getting active after major surgery or treatments like chemotherapy can be both a physical and emotional challenge. Researchers suggested health-care providers can be particularly influential in explaining the benefits of exercise to their patients and working with them to develop routines that fit into their daily lives. Other helpful choices Weight management often goes hand in hand with exercise, and the researchers not surprisingly found that as well in this study. The report indicates that weight gain of at least 10 percent after a breast cancer diagnosis enhances both recurrence and mortality rates. Obese... read more
Getting a successful outcome from a cancer-research study is just one step of a very long process. Key in that journey to providing assistance for cancer patients is replication — that the research can be conducted again, with the same results. If replication fails, does that mean success is out of reach? That’s a question researchers are trying to answer. The issue was recently tackled by the Center for Open Science. After seeing a trend of cancer research not being able to be replicated, COS undertook its own study. So far, researchers completed five of 50 replication attempts, and found three of the studies showed markedly different results from the originals. Of those, two had already progressed to the point where scientists were testing the experiments on people, instead of lab animals, a multi-million-dollar undertaking. So where did things go wrong? That’s still up for debate. According to analysis by NPR, there are a number of possible explanations: Biological variations among lab animals involved Laboratory techniques may be slightly different The definition of “replication” isn’t clearly or universally defined While there’s no firm answer yet on what could be causing the studies to lack agreement, what is clear is that more research is needed to ensure that studies aiming to provide assistance for cancer patients are making the most of researchers’ resources. “I think it’s too early for us to know whether this approach is the right approach or the best approach for testing the reproducibility of cancer biology,” University of Texas researcher Sean Morrison told NPR about the replication study. “But it will be a data point, and... read more
Cancer is costly. That’s an unfortunate reality in America, but it’s one that health-care professionals are more readily recognizing. In a recent survey by the Association of Community Cancer Centers, 83 percent of providers cited rising drug costs as the greatest challenge in their cancer programs. While that number is staggering, it’s even more impactful when taken in context; last year, only 45 percent of providers named drug prices as the biggest obstacle. While patients are increasingly struggling with rising drug prices, providers are also being hit with financial hardships stemming from skyrocketing costs. More than 65 percent of survey respondents reported that they’re not being adequately reimbursed by insurance companies for their support services — everything from patient navigation to providing financial resources for cancer patients. Providers are responding to these trends in a few ways. About 64 percent of those surveyed advocated for insurance programs to be more transparent with their clients, so patients aren’t blindsided by unexpected costs. To that front, ACCs Financial Advocacy Network is working to heighten education about financial resources for cancer patients through such initiatives as its new Patient Assistance App. The program puts the power into the hands of patients, letting them research their options to make more informed financial decisions. According to the survey, physicians are also taking a more hands-on role in that process: More than 75 percent of respondents actively inform their patients about drug-replacement programs, and over 60 percent supply financial advisors. As the survey demonstrated, the cost of cancer care is an obstacle for patients’ financial and physical health, as well as the success of cancer... read more
The focus after a cancer diagnosis is often on improving a patient’s physical health. While remission should be the number-one priority for cancer patients, achieving that physical goal can’t overshadow the need for adequate mental care as well. A new resource guide from the American Cancer Society and National Institute of Mental Health emphasizes that mental-health awareness can provide help for cancer patients on their road to complete healing. Cancer patients may be at risk for depression for a number of reasons: Diagnosis and subsequent treatment has limited the ability to engage in previous routines and activities Physical changes impact self-confidence and esteem Uncertainty about the future can create fear and anxiety The guide suggests a number of nontherapeutic and therapeutic exercises that make mental-health help for cancer patients a reality. Nontherapeutic tools: Exercise appropriate to one’s physical capabilities A diet tailored to the patient’s needs by a nutritionist A strong network of family, friends and others who can provide support and help for cancer patients adjusting to the changes caused by diagnosis Therapeutic tools: Anti-depressant medications prescribed by a patient’s doctor Collaborative therapy like support groups One-on-one therapy with a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker Cognitive-behavioral therapy to teach a patient how to manage emotions and responses Physical health may be at the center of a cancer patient’s vision, but incorporating strategies for improved mental health can make that goal a bit clearer. Learn how we can help lower stress financially. Life Credit CompanyWe are a licensed consumer lender that is dedicated to providing financial assistance for patients who are facing serious illness. With a Living Benefit Loan,... read more