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Minorities Less Likely to Get Genetic Testing

It is an accepted truth that the availability of and access to affordable health care can have a significant impact on cancer patients’ care and health outcomes. Unfortunately, that means that many Americans are falling through the cracks. Minority communities statistically live in lower socioeconomic conditions, with less access to health care than white communities. High co-pays, medication costs and prohibitive hospital bills can discourage cancer patients from receiving the best care possible. While cancer financial assistance programs exist to help cancer patients navigate the financial burdens of cancer, the disproportionate impact of cancer on financially disadvantaged communities continues to be a serious challenge. A new study from the Yale University Cancer Center found that black and Hispanic women with breast cancer were less likely than white women to undergo a genetic test that can help doctors create an action plan. The report focused on Oncotype Dx, which helps doctors understand the genetic impact of early-stage breast cancer, information that can determine whether chemotherapy or other approaches would be most effective. The test can also suggest if the patient is at a high risk for recurrence once the cancer cells are eliminated. In a study of 8,000 Connecticut women, more than 51 percent of white women who would be good candidates for the test received it, compared to just 47 percent of Hispanic women and 44 percent of black women. The disparity was also present for women who didn’t fall within the guidelines for the test but received it anyway — 21 percent of white women, and just 9 percent of black and Hispanic women. While the test itself...

Certain Cancers Can Crave Sugar

Just as some humans have more of a sweet tooth than others, it turns out some types of cancer cells may crave sugar more strongly than others. The connection between sugar intake and cancer has long been the focus of research aimed at providing help for cancer patients and those at risk — and a new study shows just why it should be. According to a report featured in Nature Communications, the sugary appeal of sweets may be putting people at increased risk for cancer growth and recurrence. Researchers at University of Texas at Dallas sought to investigate if there are any differences in sugar dependence among two types of lung cancer: adenocarcinoma (ADC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC). During their work, the scientists discovered that a protein involved with sugar transport was present at much higher levels in SqCC than ADC. That elevated level increases the cells’ “appetite” for sugar, the researchers found, and fuels cell growth. The scientists also found high dependence on sugar in other types of squamous cell cancers, including esophageal, cervical, head and neck. So how can this information provide help for cancer patients? First, the data has prompted researchers to consider new therapies, including one that would inhibit levels of the protein that carries glucose. In initial tests with such an inhibitor, researchers found slowed — though not completely halted — growth of SqCC. Scientists are now in the midst of organizing a large animal study on lung cancer using a sugar-restricted diet. Depending on those outcomes, scientists could use the data to develop new recommendations — which can offer dietary help for...

New Research Could Provide Assistance for Cancer Patients

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...

Those Without Financial Resources for Cancer Patients May Skip Meds

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...

Exercise Can Provide Help for Breast Cancer Patients Against Recurrence

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...

Music Therapy Can Help Provide Relief for Cancer Patients

Music’s impact on our society is vast, and varied. It inspires and energizes crowds, from sports fans to concertgoers. It tells stories in ways that language cannot. And it unifies people across cultures, communicating messages where words are not needed. It also can be an individual source of comfort, an idea that has taken hold for people facing cancer. Singing in a choir, even for just one hour a week, can provide help for cancer patients — on social, emotional and even physical levels, according to new research. Tenovus Cancer Care and Royal College of Music and Imperial College in Wales teamed up to explore a choir’s impact on people dealing with cancer, either directly or through relatives. Investigators tested saliva samples from choir performers for a stress hormone, and found that stress levels were down after singers performed. In addition to negatively impacting one’s outlook, stress has been proven to suppress the immune system, researchers said. While stress relief can’t actually cure a disease, it can certainly alleviate the symptoms and get patients on the right track to health. That’s a lesson Huntsman Cancer Institute is already putting into practice. Beth Hardy is a music therapist at HCI. There, she creates individualized music plans for each patient; she writes songs with some, plays music for others and incorporates it into therapy plans for others. The impact is noticeable. Music’s relaxation power is evident when patients drift off to sleep during sessions. Focusing on a musical activity also distracts patients from the pain they’re experiencing, which can decrease their need for some medications and improve their mood. Hardy has...