Awareness

Scientists of the Next Generation

As children we have all been to the doctor, visited the dentist, perhaps even sat in the cockpit of a plane. Anyone ever sit in front of a cryo-electron microscope, play with the dials on a mass spectrometer, or manipulate the genetic code? Most of us probably did not have that opportunity. I surely did not. So how will children, that is, our next generation of scientists, even consider being a scientist without ever knowing what a scientist does?

I am a cancer biologist with a lab focused on cancer metastasis (spread of the cancer). We study how cancer metastasis occurs in subtypes of patients to develop new treatments designed for these particular patients. On the side, I have also traveled throughout Georgia visiting over 3,000 students in K-12th grade to teach them about science and scientists. I have had the fortunate experience of visiting over 40 schools ranging from urban to rural, and public to private. I can state with 100% certainty that children are extremely interested in real science. Whether it has been high school assemblies or elementary school STEM fairs, students (adults too) are excited, enthusiastic, and most of all curious. They are curious not just about science itself, but what a scientist is and what a scientist does.

This signals to me that we need to make science more accessible. City wide science fairs, STEM fairs in school, career days, Twitter chats (#scistuchat), and experiential science in the classroom are excellent approaches. But scientists too need to open up their labs to reach out as well. We, as a professional group, need to show that we are not a bunch of mad scientists in the lab running through billows of smoking Erlenmeyer flasks trying to cure cancer. Instead we are well-coordinated teams of researchers and clinicians, working in fields that include math, engineering, informatics, surgery, and genetics that share a common goal of helping humans.

So, to all scientists out there, I propose to just take out your phone and record a 1-minute, impromptu lab tour, and send it to social media (#labtour). This gives anyone access through the locked lab doors to see what we do and who we are. My lab’s really quick video is posted here and embedded below.

The next generation of scientists are sitting out there right now learning in our classrooms. Within their minds are new treatments for cancer, novel screening approaches for neurodegenerative diseases, ideas for space exploration, and new robotic technologies. It is up to teachers, scientists, families, and communities to engage these students, make science more accessible, and let them know what is out there. I believe that if they can know the names and abilities of every single super-hero, princess, and cartoon character by age 7, they can surely know the parts of a cell. Let’s challenge them and see what we get!

About Dr. Marcus


Adam Marcus, PhDAdam Marcus received his PhD in cell biology from Penn State University in 2002 and went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer pharmacology at Emory University. Dr. Marcus is an Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and has developed his own laboratory which focuses on cell biology and pharmacology in lung and breast cancer. Dr. Marcus’ laboratory studies how cancer cells invade and metastasize using a combination of molecular and imaging-based approaches. For more information about Dr. Marcus and his outreach and research efforts, please use the related resources links below. You can also follow Dr. Marcus on Twitter @NotMadScientist.

Related Resources

It’s Melanoma Awareness Monday: Reduce Your Risk

melanoma awarenessDid you know that melanoma cases in the United States are growing faster than any other cancer? Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be deadly if it spreads throughout the body. It usually grows near the surface of the skin and then begins to grow deeper, increasing the risk of spread to other organs. Detecting and removing a malignant melanoma early can result in a complete cure. Removal after the tumor has spread may not be effective.

Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, including areas that are difficult for self-examination. Many melanomas are first noticed by other family members.

Most patients with early melanoma have no skin discomfort whatsoever. See a doctor when a mole suddenly appears or changes. Itching, burning or pain in a pigmented lesion should cause suspicion, Visual examination remains the most reliable method for identifying a malignant melanoma.

Avoiding exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the best way to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers. Melanoma Monday is May 4th so here are a few tips for reducing your risk:

  • Avoid direct exposure between 10am and 4pm, opt for shade
  • Cover up with clothing (broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, etc.)
  • Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every day (including lip balm with SPF 30)
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to the entire body, 30 minutes prior to going outdoors; reapply every 2 hours or after excessive sweating or swimming
  • Keep newborns out of the sun; if it cannot be avoided use a sunscreen with physical blockers to exposed areas (see below)
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Remember water, sand, and snow reflect the sun; and clouds allow 70-80% UV penetration

Have fun this summer, but remember these tips for sun safety.

About Dr. Chen

chen, suephySuephy Chen, MD, MS, began practicing at Emory Healthcare in 2000 and has been board certified in dermatology since 1997. In addition to melanoma, Dr. Chen has clinical interests in pruritus, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.
Dr. Chen is a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is also a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Society for Investigative Dermatology, and the Women’s Dermatology Society. In addition, she is a founding member of the Pigmented Lesion Group of the Melanoma Prevention Working Group.

Dr. Chen earned her Doctor of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her internship at the Beth Israel Hospital, a Harvard University teaching hospital, before continuing on to a dermatology residency at Emory University Hospital. She obtained her Master of Science in Health Services Research at Stanford University and completed her fellowship at Stanford Hospital.

Dr. Chen is interested in quantifying the burden of skin disease, particularly the quality of life and economic burden on both patients and society as a whole. She is also interested in testing new technologies in the delivery of dermatologic care. She has contributed to numerous phase I-IV clinical studies of novel therapeutic regimens for the treatment of both inflammatory skin disorders and skin cancers.

Related Resources

Dermatologist #1 Skin Care Rule – Wear Sunscreen!
Top 5 Skin Protection & Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for UV Safety
Skin Cancer Chat

Kidney-Saving Robotics & Education

Saving kidneys from cancerous tumors and stones using minimally invasive techniques is my specialty. I’ve performed nearly 200 kidney operations in the last year alone and I recently launched a robotic kidney tumor program for Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Kidneys are essential to life but most people aren’t aware of their extraordinary function until there’s a problem. As a vital organ, kidneys are a filter for the body and they make urine to rid the body of waste toxins.

How would you know if you have a possible kidney concern? Check for a change when going to the bathroom. Kidney cancers in the early stages usually do not cause any signs or symptoms, but patients will sometimes experience signs that should be brought to a doctor’s attention, such as:

  • Noticing blood or very dark urine
  • Flank/back pain on one side (not caused by injury)
  • A mass (lump) on the side or lower back
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss not caused by dieting
  • Fever that is not caused by an infection and doesn’t go away

Contact your doctor if you see changes like these. Recognizing your body’s warning signals can reduce your risk of serious disease, but the best option of all is prevention.

Kidney cancer prevention starts with smoking cessation and being aware of any history of kidney cancer in your family. The National Cancer Institute also identifies obesity as a known risk factor for kidney cancer, so take steps to manage your weight, exercise as a doctor prescribes for your individual condition, and eat whole foods that are rich in nutrients. Everyone should get regular check-ups.

When tumors or stones do develop, my job is to preserve this vital organ by using a minimally invasive procedure such as laparoscopic or robotic surgery (see video below). Not every tumor in the kidney is cancerous so options other than removing the entire kidney should be evaluated. Emory surgeons have been pioneers in using technologies like these to do organ-sparing cancer surgeries and complex stone surgeries.

As a specialist, I typically see patients after they are found to have a tumor or mass in the kidney or start experiencing symptoms. Let’s make prevention a part of your routine.

See Dr. Pattaras discuss this special type of organ-sparing robotic surgery:

About Dr. Pattaras

pattarasJohn G. Pattaras, MD, FACS, is an Associate Professor of Urology at the Emory University School of Medicine, Chief of Emory Urology services at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery.

As the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Dr. Pattaras started laparoscopic and robotic urologic surgery program at Emory University. Over the past 14 years, the program has expanded to become the premier laparoscopic and robotics program in Atlanta serving patients from Georgia, neighboring states as well as international patients. The program offers highly specialized minimally invasive surgery that includes organ-sparing cancer surgery and complex stone surgery. Patients attending Emory Urology for cancer treatment have the unique opportunity to be cured of their disease while at the same time preserve their vital organs, their functionality and quality of life.

Dr. Pattaras is a diplomate of the American Board of Urology (2002) a Fellow of the American College of Surgery.

In addition to his dedication to Emory patients, Dr. Pattaras is also involved in humanitarianism outside Emory. On an annual basis, he volunteers his time to organize and head a team of Emory medical students to Haiti. The team provides free urologic care including surgical treatment to indigent Haitian patients with urologic conditions.

Related Resources

5 Early-Distress Warnings of Digestive Cancer

pancreatic cancer live chatWhen you think of digestion you probably don’t think about the pancreas, but it sits right behind the stomach and works to provide essential digestive functions. The pancreas, only about 4- 6 inches long, is widely known for producing insulin, an important hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, but it also assists the body in the absorption of nutrients into the small intestine.

Pancreatic cancer increases with age and most people are between 60 to 80 years old when diagnosed. Early pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms, however there are five early warning signs that we can all be aware of to better advocate for our health.

  1. Yellow eyes or skin.  The pancreas uses a greenish-brown fluid made in the gallbladder, called bile, to help the small intestine in digestion. If a tumor starts in the head of the pancreas, it can block or press on the bile duct and cause bile to build up. This back-up causes yellow discoloration, called jaundice.
  2. Belly pain.  Pain has been described as distressing, as compared to a sharp cramp or ache. Pain may go away when you lean forward because it and spreads toward the back.
  3. Change in stool.  Pale, floating, smelly stools. Or dark stools. Let your stool be a guide. If a pancreatic tumor prevents digestive fluids from reaching the intestine, the result is an inability to digest fatty foods. Anytime there is a change with digestion then check in with your doctor. It may not be a sign of digestive cancer, but you do need to be aware of your own body function to determine what is or is not “normal.”
  4. Lack of appetite.  Or sudden, unexplained weight loss. A drop in appetite and a tendency to feel full after eating very little is something to be aware of. Again, it may not be alarming but you do need to be aware of your own body function to determine what is or is not “normal.”
  5. Diabetes, especially if unexpected from regular check-ups.  Most diabetes diagnoses are not due to pancreatic cancer; however, research studies show that pancreatic cancer patients have a higher rate of diabetes diagnosis than the general populace. Knowing your family history of pancreatic cancer and having a baseline of regular screening will help your doctor evaluate if additional tests should be done.

Being an advocate for your health starts with healthy behaviors; tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, accounts for 20-30% of pancreatic cancer. Knowing risk factors you should avoid (such as smoking) and being aware of what your body is signaling will help you in early detection as well as potential outcome.

Management of cancer requires a multidisciplinary team of healthcare specialists. Winship’s pancreas cancer team includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists as well as pain specialists, nutritionists and social workers. For patients with early stage pancreatic cancer, the Whipple surgical procedure is the best option for long-term survival. Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University surgeons perform a large number of Whipple procedures every year; a high volume of these procedures directly translates into the expertise needed to perform the procedure safely. According to published data, mortality rates from Whipple surgery are four times lower at hospitals performing a high volume of the procedure, such as Emory. Some patients may be candidates for laparoscopic or robotic surgery, which may improve both recovery and cosmetic appearance after surgery. Winship at Emory surgeons are leading the world in this area as well. If diagnosed with cancer it’s important to get to Winship, first.

Continue learning about pancreatic with a conversation; all are welcome to attend an online open-forum discussion about pancreatic cancer. We will answer your questions about pancreatic cancer risk factors, symptoms and therapy on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at noon.

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About Dr. El-Rayes

Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistBassel El-Raye, MD, is the Director of the GI Oncology Clinical and Translational Research Program, Associate Cancer Research Director for Clinical Research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Professor of Hematology and Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. El-Rayes earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and doctoral degree from the American University of Beirut. He then completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at Wayne State University, Detroit. He was on faculty at Wayne State University Karmanos Cancer Institute from 2003-2009. Dr. El-Rayes clinical interests include gastrointestinal malignancies specifically pancreatobiliary and neuroendocrine cancers. He is principle investigator on multiple investigator initiated trials. He has served on the gastrointestinal committee for Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) and Radiation Oncology Cooperative Group (RTOG). He currently serves on the National Cancer Institute Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET) Task Force. He also serves as Co-chair of Hoosier Oncology Group (HOG) Cancer Research Network – Gastrointestinal Clinical Trials Working Group. Dr. El-Rayes is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Clinical Scholar. He has published over 90 peer reviewed articles in elite journals including Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research.

About Dr. Kooby

David Kooby, MDDavid A. Kooby, MD, FACS, specializes in laparoscopic/robotic and open surgical treatment of liver, bile duct, pancreas, stomach, and colon tumors/cancers. He also has expertise with tumors and diseases of the spleen, adrenal glands, and retroperitoneum. He has taught many national courses on laparoscopic resection of the liver, pancreas, and colon, and is frequently invited to speak at national conferences. He received his MD at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical College, Brooklyn, NY, in 1994; completed his surgical residency at Vanderbilt University, where he won medical student and resident teaching awards. He completed both bench research and clinical fellowships at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY. He was recruited by Emory in 2003, and is currently an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology, Director of Surgical Oncology at Emory/Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Director of Minimally Invasive GI Surgical Oncology. He serves on several national committees including the task force charged with updating the staging of hepatobiliary malignancies for the American Joint Committee on Cancer’s Cancer Staging Manual, the research and education committee for the American Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, and the Hepatobiliary Working Group for the Society of Surgical Oncology. He is leader in multicenter clinical research and is a national leader in minimally invasive pancreatic surgery.

Related Resources

Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle
An Intro to Pancreatic Cancer Part I: Stats, Types, & Risk Factors
Steve Jobs, Pancreatic Cancer & the Whipple Procedure

Screenings Help Catch Head and Neck Cancers

head and  neck cancer screeningsA recent study reported in JAMA Otolaryngology found that most Americans know little to nothing about head and neck cancers and could not name the most common symptoms and risk factors. This is a problem. If you wait months or even years to get a sore in your mouth or swelling in your neck checked by a doctor, you could be ignoring a sign of head and neck cancer that’s progressing. And, as with many other forms of cancer, the earlier a head and neck or oral cancer is diagnosed, the less invasive the treatment is and the higher the chance of cure. As a doctor who sees many patients with these cancers, one message comes through loud and clear: don’t ignore symptoms.

On April 17th, doctors and staff with Emory’s Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery will hold a free head and neck screening at Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM). This is a chance for patients who might be suffering any symptoms or have any of the stated risk factors for head and neck cancer, to have a simple, free exam. This involves a physical exam of the neck and inside the mouth, including the middle throat, soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils. As a best practice, Emory Healthcare suggests this screening procedure should also be a part of a routine dental visit.

Get a Free Head and Neck Screening on April 17th:

Emory University Hospital Midtown
Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery
9th Floor, suite 4400
550 Peachtree Street, NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Date: 4/17/2015
Time: 8:00 AM- 12:00 PM

This is a first come – first serve walk in clinic. No Appointment Necessary.

For more information:
Phone: (404) 778-3381
Email: meryl.kaufman@emoryhealthcare.org

Important Information on Head and Neck Cancers:

Head and neck cancer involves skin or mucosal surfaces of the head and neck and includes cancers of the mouth, throat, nasal sinuses, skin of the head and neck and cancers of the major salivary glands. Head and neck cancers account for approximately 3% of cancers diagnosed every year in the United States and affect more than twice as many men as women.

Symptoms of head and neck cancer vary somewhat by site but often include non-healing ulcers in the mouth, unexplained loosening of the teeth, and pain that does not improve. Patients with cancers of the throat or salivary glands will often come in with a painless lump in the neck that does not resolve with antibiotics. Other patient will have ear pain or difficulty and/or pain when swallowing.

Potential Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer:

Head and neck cancer has historically been most associated with tobacco and alcohol abuse, and may also be associated with marijuana use. Recently, the human papilloma virus (HPV), a virus commonly passed during sexual activity, has been widely implicated in cancers of the tonsils and base of tongue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV usually goes away by itself and does not cause health problems, but may be responsible for a growing number of oral cancers. Other risk factors include poor oral hygiene, radiation exposure, and Epstein-Barr Virus (Mononucleosis).

Every year, the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance promotes an awareness week in April that is highlighted by free head and neck cancer screenings all across the country. Our own free screening at EUHM is open to anyone in the community and we enthusiastically invite you to participate. We look forward to providing you with the opportunity to proactively advance your health on April 17!

About Dr. El-Deiry

Mark El-Deiry, MDMark W. El-Deiry, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, in the Emory University School of Medicine. He also serves as Chief of the Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology, and Director of the Head and Neck Oncology Surgery Center. He is a member of the surgical team that specializes in treating patients with head and neck cancers including complex microvascular reconstructive surgery.

El-Deiry and the entire head and neck team are interested in promoting screenings that help detect head and neck cancers in early stages. His research interests include quality of life in head and neck cancer survivors and quality outcomes involved with treating patients with advanced stage head and neck cancer.

Related Resources

Takeaways from Dr. Saba’s Head and Neck Cancer Chat

HPV-Related Head and Neck Cancers on the Rise

HPV and Head and Neck Cancer Chat

Taking a Stand in Favor of E-Cigarette Regulation

e-cigarette regulationIt has taken us over 50 years of careful regulation with tremendous pushback to strip the tobacco companies of their ability to aggressively and falsely market cigarettes as safe products. The advent and popularity of e-cigarettes could wipe out much of that progress and endanger an entire generation of young people who are attracted to the slickly packaged cartridges, marketed to a youthful generation as a safe alternative to tobacco burning cigarettes.

I firmly believe that the United States Food and Drug Administration should have full authority to regulate e-cigarettes; the same full authority the agency currently has to regulate regular tobacco products. E-cigarettes are not made up of benign compounds. In fact, some of the ingredients such as formaldehyde are known carcinogens. With recent introductions of e-cigarettes from big tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, I believe they will pose some of the same risks as tobacco-burning projects unless they are regulated.

We know that nicotine is highly addictive, whether it is delivered from an e-cigarette, a regular cigarette or a patch. There is some data that nicotine may promote certain cancer signaling networks. There is also some very good evidence in young people that nicotine can cause the rewiring of the brain circuitry. Of greatest concern is recent data obtained from careful studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that show that people who use e-cigarettes are twice as likely to consider smoking tobacco burning products. In my view, this makes e-cigarettes a Trojan Horse that allows tobacco products into the lives of young people without the proper FDA regulation.

The full range of health risks posed by e-cigarettes is unclear because they have not been fully studied. Just because we don’t have all the scientific evidence does not mean that e-cigarettes should get a free or easy ride. They should be held to the full high bar, especially because we don’t currently understand all of the dangers they pose.

My biggest concern about e-cigarettes is that they are easily marketed to teens and young adults. The campaigns seem to be working since e-cigarette use has almost tripled in the last three years. Only 19% of Americans are active cigarette smokers, but that’s still far too high in my book. We should be concerned as a society that smoking rates will increase as a result if e-cigarettes continue to be sold without any regulation. E-cigarettes are a step backward in our goals to move towards a tobacco free society.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Professor and Chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, and executive associate dean for research of Emory University, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

Related Resources

Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle

Lung Cancer Progress Made, But We’re Not There Yet

CVS Stops Cigarette Sales

Working During Cancer Treatment

Working with CancerTo work, or not to work, during cancer treatment is often a very real decision that patients must make. Some patients need to continue working during treatment for financial support, or to keep their insurance coverage, or just an overall desire to continue working. Working during treatment can be difficult depending on the type of treatment a patient receives, but also on the type of work a patient does. For example, a patient who can work from home may be able to continuing working whereas a patient with a job that requires more physical demands may be unable to continue working. Here are a few things to remember when working during cancer treatment:

  • Discuss your job situation with your medical team. It is important for your medical team to be aware of your desire or need to work during treatment. This may help in determining a treatment schedule that works best for you in order to continue working. Also, discussing the type of work you do with your medical team will allow them to provide you with appropriate information about how your treatment may affect your ability to perform the duties of your job.
  • Depending on your level of comfort, talk with your employer or human resource department about your diagnosis and treatment schedule. This will allow you to discuss any accommodations you may need in order to complete your job tasks. This is also an opportunity to discuss the possibility of working from home.
  • Consider utilizing the Family Medical Leave Act, if you are eligible. This important legislation was put in place in order to protect patients when they must leave work in order to receive medical care. Consult your human resources department for additional guidance in determining if you are covered through this.
  • Consult your human resource department regarding possible short-term or long-term disability benefits you may have available. There may be times in which patients are unable to work due to lengthy hospitalizations or because their medical team advises against it. In instances such as these, you may consider utilizing your short-term and long-term disability benefits in order to continue receiving some income.
  • If you are comfortable, talk with your coworkers about your diagnosis and treatment. Coworkers can be a strong source of support and encouragement during these difficult times. This may also help in developing a work schedule that works for you during treatment.
  • Talk with the social worker at your oncology office. Social workers may be able to help problem solve any concerns or issues you may be having with your employer.

Although working during cancer treatment may be challenging, it does not have to be impossible. Just talking with others about this may help you get the assistance you need.

About Joy McCall, LCSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

Additional Resources

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Fundamental Science Can Transform Cancer Care Worldwide

World Cancer Day is February 4, and it is an important reminder that cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% in the next two decades. This gives us all the more reason to recognize the progress that has been made because of discoveries by fundamental, or basic, cancer researchers. Our task now is to bring the benefits of that work to patients around the world. Check out this short video where Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, Deputy Director of Winship Cancer Institute discusses these discoveries in fundamental cancer research:

The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day, “Not Beyond Us,” highlights solutions that are within our reach. In that spirit, we celebrate 2014 as a landmark year for cancer research, discovery, treatment and prevention. Important progress was made in a number of areas: screening and prevention of cancers, development of novel targeted therapies for cancers, and immunotherapy of a number of previously resistant diseases. Over the past year, we saw at least a half dozen new approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) of new, improved, potent targeted therapies, chemotherapies, and immunotherapies for cancer, whose impact is most acutely felt in societies in North America, Europe, Eastern Asia, Australia and South America. Our therapeutic resources have been significantly advanced by these discoveries, all of which spring from major biologic breakthroughs in the laboratory. What should the next steps be in ensuring that the powerful tools of genomic medicine, immunology, and molecular imaging continue to flourish and impact cancer patients worldwide? How do we make sure that personalized, precision medicine can be practiced to benefit oncology patients globally?

Fundamental to progress in cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention is continued investment in fundamental cancer research. In a decade in which the growth of real federal funding for basic and translational research in cancer has slowed noticeably in the United States, this challenge has been counterbalanced on some levels by substantial increases in investment in basic and translational research in Asia (China and India in particular), Europe (Germany and Great Britain in particular), and Australia. Nonetheless, research conducted in United States laboratories remains the major driver of cancer discovery in the areas of genomics, immunology, and prevention, and in the translation of these discoveries from the bench to the bedside, aided by accelerated developments in the biotech and pharmaceutical world. On-going support for researchers in the fundamental sciences will ensure that these new discoveries will continue to substantially enhance our therapeutic and preventive arsenal against cancer. Fundamental science is vital to the global war against cancer.

As discoveries accelerate, and increasing numbers of affordable new treatment modalities are brought into the clinic, making an impact on diseases from Africa and Australia, through Asia and Europe, and all the way to the Americas, we must continue to support, guard, and mentor our treasure trove of outstanding scientists and clinical investigators. Over the next several decades, these individuals will be the key to sustaining and accelerating the major advances that are being made against cancer. Discoveries in the labs of outstanding scientists in basic immunology, genomics, glycomics and metabolomics, and in understanding the biologic behavior of normal, pre-malignant, and cancerous cells, pave the way for clinical translations that improve the prevention and therapy of our global population as a whole.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, professor and chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, and executive associate dean for research of Emory University, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

HPV-Related Head and Neck Cancers on the Rise

Head Neck CancerHead and neck cancer causes almost 200,000 deaths each year and is now recognized as one of the major health concerns both in the United States and worldwide. In particular, there has been a noted increase in the incidence of oropharynx cancer (OPC), mainly tonsil and base of tongue cancers, that are linked to infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV).

According to the National Cancer Institute, HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the US and more than half of sexually active people are infected with one or more HPV types at some point in their lives. Most HPV infections occur without any symptoms and go away without any treatment over the course of a few years. However, HPV infections sometimes persist for many years and can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

The human papilloma virus 16 (HPV16) infection linked to oropharynx cancers is a sexually transmitted virus that seems to affect mostly young Caucasian males. Traditionally the non-HPV related head and neck cancers are strongly linked to smoking, but patients with HPV related cancers are usually not tobacco users. HPV-related head and neck cancers are a distinct disease entity which has particular molecular, epidemiological, and clinical characteristics. Multiple studies have shown that HPV-related oropharynx cancers are easier to cure compared to the head and neck cancers caused by tobacco and alcohol use, but smoking still seems to affect the chances of curing patients with HPV related OPC. There is also recent evidence suggesting that smoking is linked to a higher risk of having HPV-related OPC.

Still, sexual transmission of HPV is believed to be the main risk factor for HPV-related head and neck cancers and oral sexual behavior has been linked to an increased risk of HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. For example, studies have shown the odds of developing oral HPV infection among a group of college-aged men increased with increases in the number of recent oral sex partners or open-mouthed kissing partners, but not vaginal sex partners.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two vaccines that are highly effective in preventing infection with HPV types 16 and 18. Because research clearly shows that vaccination makes a difference in preventing cervical cancer, which is very closely linked to HPV-16, the HPV vaccine has been recommended for girls aged 11 to 12. There is also a more recent recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for boys of the same age to receive the HPV vaccine. Even though vaccination for HPV-related oropharynx cancers has been an active area of research, the implementation of such an approach is still limited.

For the majority of cancers of the head and neck that do not originate from the area of the oropharynx (non-OPC), HPV does not seem to be a significant risk. However, of interest, HPV is still apparently linked to some patients who have non-OPC. The significance of this link is not clearly known and more studies are needed to understand the role of HPV in patients with non-OPC.

About Dr. Saba

Nabil Saba, MDNabil Saba, MD, FACP, is a nationally recognized expert in the treatment of head and neck and esophageal cancer. As principal investigator on several head and neck cancer trials, he has initiated studies focusing on novel approaches for treating these diseases. Dr. Saba is a member of the ECOG Head and Neck Cancer steering committee, and an elected member of the American Head and Neck Society (AHNS). He also serves on the American College of Radiology appropriateness criteria panel for Head and Neck Cancer.

Related Resources

Takeaways from Dr. Saba’s Head and Neck Cancer Chat
Local Firefighter Stomps Out Head and Neck Cancer

Getting the Best Cancer Treatments into Outlying Communities

Cancer Treatment in CommunitiesThe purpose of the community outreach program I oversee at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is to bring our clinical and population-based research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states in order to benefit patients in those areas. By partnering with community oncologists, we can offer our expertise and best practices to help them successfully treat patients with types of cancer that are less common or more difficult to treat.

A great example of this is a program we’ve developed to treat patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), an uncommon but highly aggressive disease. We actually call it the heart attack of leukemias because a third of the patients do not survive the first month of treatment. We have chemotherapeutic drugs that are very effective in treating APL, but because it is a rare condition, physicians who treat it in the community may not be familiar with the potential complications that patients may develop during treatment.

Yet it is a highly curable disease, and at Winship we have come up with a simple approach that is keeping these patients alive during the first, most crucial month. This method decreases mortality from an estimated 30 percent to less than five percent.

We started by taking a very complicated treatment algorithm and simplifying it to a page and a half, and then used that to develop a three-step process to help community oncologists treat patients quickly and effectively. As soon as we get a call from a community physician, we send the simplified algorithm via smart phone. Then we talk to the physician on the phone and figure out what the patient is going through. Lastly, we give them a treatment plan to get them through the first month and follow up with emails, phone calls or text messages.

We’re grateful that community doctors are receptive to the guidance offered by Winship. By taking swift action, they are giving their APL patients the best chance of survival. It’s extremely gratifying to see people in outlying parts of Georgia and South Carolina receive this treatment protocol and survive this disease.

Watch Dr. Jillella explain the way Winship is helping save patients’ lives following diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia in the video below:

About Dr. Jillella

Anand Jillella, MDAnand Jillella, MD, is a national leader in bone marrow transplantation and has led the development of a strategy to decrease induction mortality for acute promyelocytic leukemia. He leads the efforts of the Winship Cancer Network and is expanding Winship’s role in bringing clinical and population-based cancer research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states.