Posts Tagged ‘cancer treatment’

Beating Breast & Prostate Cancer with the Help of 11 Alive News

There are over 5 million people in the U.S. battling breast and prostate cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting American women. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the U.S. So how can we take action to help the 5 million+ already fighting a battle against breast or prostate cancer, and how do we increase awareness and healthy habits to help lower incidence rates in the future?

One of the most important steps we can take in the fight against cancer is education. That’s why we’re partnering with 11 Alive News to bring our community an informative special covering both breast and prostate cancer, including insights from our team at the Winship Cancer Institute on cancer screening, prevention, risk, diagnosis, treatment options, and survivorship.

Cutting Edge Cancer Treatment SpecialIf you didn’t already know it, as an Atlanta resident, you have Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute designated cancer center in your back yard. As such, the  And did you also know that the cancer research that’s produced at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is used not only to advance technology and treatment options for cancer patients, but also to serve as an educational foundation to help our community make smart decisions when it comes to their health? As a leading cancer institute its our goal to raise community awareness around cancer through education.

11 Alive will feature their special on beating breast and prostate cancer on Saturday, October 8th at 8:00pm EST. If you’re able to, we highly encourage you to check it out. We’ll be tweeting live during the special, so if you’re watching it, you can join the discussion with us and the 11 Alive crew as well! Simply use the hashtag #cuttingedgemed If there are any questions we can’t answer for you, we’ll get you answers from our doctors. If you have questions now, you’re more than welcome to leave them in the comments below, and we’ll get in touch with our doctors to get you answers. Hope to see you on Twitter on the 8th!

Dietary Recommendations & Nutrition for Cancer Patients – Keep Your Body Strong During Cancer Treatment

dietary recommendations for cancer patientsMost of us know that fruits, veggies and whole grains are important parts of a healthy diet, but you may not know that people diagnosed with cancer have very different nutritional needs from the average adult. In fact, many cancer treatments can make it difficult for cancer patients to get enough nutrition, and, for some, can even make it difficult just to eat. Cancer patients, especially those undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, can combat some of the weakness and fatigue with nutrition that strengthens their health.

While cancer treatments are designed to obliterate cancerous cells, they also can kill off healthy cells in the process. As a result of this healthy cell damage, side effects, such as those that pose a barrier to eating, can present themselves. Dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, constipation and changes in a patient’s taste, smell and general appetite are not uncommon. While these symptoms can make it difficult or unappealing to eat, some cancer treatments also can result in changes inside the body that hinder the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients being consumed. Both the decline in ability or desire to eat, and the decline in the body’s ability to properly absorb food can add to the already ever-present sense of fatigue and weakness facing many cancer patients. So the question is, what can cancer patients do from a nutritional standpoint to support their body in beating the fight against cancer?

  • Start eating healthy before treatment starts – building strength prior to cancer treatment is key. It will help you build a foundation and do a better job of maintaining strength during treatment.
  • Eat extra protein and calories – cancer patients often need more calories, specifically, calories from protein than non-cancer patients. Higher protein levels help support your strength and aid in fighting fatigue and weakness.
  • Recognize patterns – you may notice as a cancer patient that your appetite is strongest, for example, in the mornings. If that’s the case, prioritize taking in more calories during that time.
  • Talk with a dietitian – most cancer treatment programs will (and should) include the opportunity for cancer patients to consult with a registered dietitian. Seek advice from your treatment team, including your doctors and nurses, and if available to you through your treatment plan, your dietitian. They can help make specific recommendations based on your body and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
  • Lots of liquids – whenever you’re able, take in as much healthy liquid as possible, especially water. Hydration is key to your body being able to perform at its optimal state and fight infection
  • Don’t make your immune system work any harder – some cancer treatment options can compromise the immune system of cancer patients and make it harder to fight off infection. Make sure to pay special attention to food handling, cooking and storing techniques. If you are a cancer patient, avoid buffets and buying food in bulk from bins that can increase the bacteria to which you are exposed. Similarly, stay away from unpasteurized liquids, raw fish and other foods and drinks that can expose you to increased and potentially harmful bacteria.

Hear More from Dr. Kucuk on Nutrition for Cancer Patients in the Podcast Below:


For more tips and nutrition information for cancer patients, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has a great ebook, “Eating Hints,” that offers lots of information, ideas, and recommendations on how cancer patients can better cope with their disease through nutrition.

You also can learn more right here at home from Winship at Emory’s Nutrition Services program.

Can Lung Cancer Mortality Be Reduced by 20%? Answer May Be ‘Yes’

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD, Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) this week that low-dose CT scanning of smokers reduced deaths from lung cancer is a major step forward in the cancer research world – and really, in the world at large, considering the high human and financial toll that this disease imposes.

Lung cancer remains the nation’s number one cancer killer, claiming more lives than the next three most common cancer killers — prostate, breast and colorectal cancers – combined. In the U.S. alone, over 157,000  people died from the disease in 2010. That’s more than 3,000 people per week.

One reason for this devastating toll is that no reliable screening test has existed to detect the disease in its early stages. Most cases are diagnosed only after symptoms appear. If   lung cancer could be diagnosed before symptoms appear, the cure rate should be much higher.

The article in the NEJM shows there is reason for hope. A study conducted at 33 cancer centers nationwide, including Winship, enrolled more than 53,000 people at high risk of developing lung cancer between August, 2002 and April, 2004. They were randomly assigned to receive either low-dose CT scanning or a chest X-ray as a means to detect lung cancer. Data were collected on the participants through 2009. The findings were significant. Deaths from lung cancer were reduced by 20 percent in the group who underwent the low-dose CT scans.

If we could reduce lung cancer mortality in the U.S. by 20 percent, we’d be saving 30,000 lives a year.

Even so, the findings published in NEJM may not result in an immediate change in CT scan screening guidelines for lung cancer. Screening guidelines of any kind require additional study and evaluation. Further analyses of this trial will also be required.

We have made tremendous strides in the treatment of lung cancer, but we also know that the real breakthroughs will happen when we are able to prevent its development or establish the earliest possible diagnosis. The dialogue on how best to implement low-dose CT scan screening for lung cancer should begin now.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Associate Vice President, Cancer, Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Chair of Radiation Oncology

Common Cancer Drugs in Short Supply

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD, Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute

Hundreds of common intravenous medications are in short supply, according to recent reports. 21 of these commonly used generic drugs in the reported shortage are used to treat cancer, which is obviously a concern for oncologists, cancer patients, and their families.  Although the 21 generic drugs represent only a fraction of the chemotherapy drugs available, the shortage is still very much a concern at Winship Cancer Institute and other cancer treatment centers across the country. Some of the drugs, such as cytarabine, doxorubicin and etoposide, are very commonly used in a number of cancers we treat frequently at Emory. The medication shortage has caused delays in patients across the country starting their cancer treatment and has required that treatment teams substitute medications used in treatment. This is less than ideal.

The reasons behind this medication shortage are complex. In November, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) held a meeting to discuss the drug shortages, and the American Society for Clinical Oncology was one of the sponsors. One of the cancer treatment medication shortage reasons cited is that some manufacturers have difficulty complying with Good Manufacturing Practices, principles relating to the safe manufacture of drugs and medical devices that is overseen by the FDA . This results in production stoppages or recalls. The group also noted that the FDA needs more authority to require generic drug makers to notify the agency six months in advance if it intends to stop making a drug.

Another reason for the shortage in cancer drug availability has to do with supply chain management. The efficient, cost-saving “just-in-time” method of delivering and acquiring goods in contemporary business – which means that a provider intentionally keeps inventory low to avoid costly warehousing and storage of products – may actually be contributing to the shortage. With all these factors (and more) at work, it’s surprising that these drug shortages don’t happen more often.

Winship has been fortunate to have very aggressive leadership from our pharmacy and treatment teams to help manage the shortage of generic cancer treatment medications. So far, through careful management and monitoring of patient needs, very few patients have been affected by treatment changes or delays.  Each week, a team meets to assess each patient’s treatment plan, drug inventory to meet those plans, and how to make sure Winship has the drugs it needs, when it needs them. “One of the biggest things we’re doing is to really plan treatment in the context of the drug shortages,” said Donald Harvey, PharmD, director of the Phase 1 clinical trials unit at Winship. “And we’re doing everything possible to obtain inventory, including borrowing from other hospitals if we need to.”

Dr. Harvey, who also is president of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, also recently met with representatives from Sen. (R-GA) Johnny Isakson’s staff to make sure that Sen. Isakson knows of the severity of the shortage. In years past, “It would be unheard of to have 21 anti-cancer drugs on short supply,” Dr. Harvey said as he discussed the shortage. Cancer drugs represent about 11 percent of the drugs in short supply, he told the Senator’s staff on April 27, asking for the Senator’s support for a bill introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in February to help remedy the situation.

Our pharmacists and cancer treatment teams here at the Winship Cancer Institute are on top of this important issue, and I’ll keep you posted on updates that emerge. For more information on current drug shortages in general, visit: http://www.ashp.org/DrugShortages/Current/ For more on the recent announcement around shortages in cancer drugs, check out this release from Reuters.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Associate Vice President, Cancer, Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Chair of Radiation Oncology

Why a Pap Smear Might Not Catch All Cervical Cancers

Most women are familiar with the Pap smear, also known as the pap test. Most of us are also aware that the main goal of the Pap smear is to identify cancerous or abnormal cells that may turn into cancer after collecting them from the lining of the cervix. However, based on findings recently published in the International Journal of Cancer, Pap smears may not be the most reliable way to pinpoint cancer types that can often be harder to detect.

According to Kevin Ault, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory’s School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, the Pap smear is not always effective in the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma. Ault came to this conclusion after conducting a post-hoc analysis of Gardasil vaccine trials. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cervical cancer that begins significantly far up the cervical canal, an area that often is not sampled when a Pap smear is conducted.

Andenocarcinoma is the second most common type of cervical cancer, accounting for about 20 percent of all cervical cancer cases. While the overall incidence rate of cervical cancer is on the decline, Ault reports the proportion of andenocarcinoma cervical cancer is rising.

As the 8th most common type of cancer in American women, more than 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. Scientists believe that pre-invasive cervical cancer may develop over a period of months or years after the cervix is infected with the sexually transmitted HPV.

A leading expert and pioneer in the field of human papilloma virus (HPV), Ault suggests women might seek an HPV and Pap test at the same time. Why? A positive HPV test may be an indicator for early stages of adenocarcinoma cervical cancer that can’t be determined via a standard Pap test.

High-Impact Donation Helps the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory UniversityIf you’ve been following our cancer blog, you’ve probably seen some of our efforts to keep breast cancer awareness going not just in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but year round. The Winship Cancer Insitute of Emory University just received a truly generous gift that will make that fight, and the fight against breast cancer on the whole, a whole lot easier.

The Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation has generously committed $5 million to the Winship Cancer Institute. The commitment will name the Glenn Family Breast Program at Winship, establishing a fund to support patient care, research, education and community outreach.

More than 200,000 women in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. The gift bestowed upon Winship from the Glenn Foundation will allow the cancer treatment team at the Winship Cancer Institute to further advance results in the research and treatment of breast cancer.

Some of the initiatives in place to achieve this expansion of breast cancer research and treatment include:

  • A Strengthened Effort in Breast Cancer Biobanking: expand and strengthen breast cancer tumor banking efforts at the Winship Cancer Institute and leverage collaborations with the Avon Comprehensive Breast Center at Grady and Emory University Midtown Hospital.  This will make Winship’s breast cancer tissue bank among the most robust in the nation and will ensure full integration of patient outcomes.
  • High Risk Breast Cancer Care:  Building on its strength in assessing women at high risk for breast cancer or disease recurrence and its history of collaboration with other cancer centers, Winship will expand its multi-disciplinary approach to screen and care for more women.
  • Seed Grants:  Building on the success of the established Glenn Scholars program, these seed grants will support young investigators in their research in four critical areas: new therapeutics, early detection, health disparities and imaging.
  • Clinical Trials:  The Glenn Foundation grant will contribute to new clinical trials, including novel treatment trials such as those targeting women with high-risk breast cancer, such as triple negative disease and those women who currently lack access to quality breast health care and treatment.
  • Survivorship:  The gift will strengthen Winship’s survivorship program to include an online database to match patients and caregivers with trained peer partners who offer support and guidance throughout treatment.
  • Community Access:  Winship will build a stronger coordinated community outreach program to enhance access to cancer screening and early detection services throughout and beyond metro Atlanta.

We thank the Glenn Foundation for the very generous gift and look forward to seeing lots of great developments in the research and treatment of breast cancer from the Winship Cancer Institute.

Wear Purple to Show Your Support, November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Pancreatic CancerLung cancer gets a lot of attention during November, but did you know that November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month?

If you’ve seen a lot of people wearing purple this month, they’re doing it to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cancer killer in the United States. The color represents more than 32,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with the disease this year and almost as many who will die because of it by year’s end.

Pancreatic cancer affects the pancreas, an organ located in the abdomen that helps to make enzymes for food digestion. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect because the symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal discomfort are vague and associated with many other illnesses. When the pancreas produces too much insulin, other symptoms such as chills, diarrhea, general feelings of weakness, and muscle spasms may also be experienced. But these symptoms rarely occur in the early stages of the disease and they set in gradually, causing it to go untreated and producing devastatingly low survival rates.

If a doctor suspects pancreatic cancer, imaging tests may be done to gain a better view of the pancreas. But according to Charles Staley, MD, chief of surgical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute, “Pancreatic tumors are difficult to image because they don’t show up very well on CT scans and MRI.”

In an effort to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer in its earlier states, Emory researchers have tested a molecule that specifically binds pancreatic cancer cells to tiny “nanoparticles” made of iron oxide. The iron makes the particles clearly visible under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If the tumor can be imaged better, radiation or chemotherapy may be able to be put into these particles to deliver them directly to the tumor. This could eventually mean higher survival rates.

There is no proven way to prevent pancreatic cancer, but researchers have identified several risk factors. Smokers are two to three time more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers and African-Americans are diagnosed more frequently than other races. Increased age, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and a family history of pancreatic cancer are also common risk factors.

To hear more from Dr. Staley on how he treats patients with rare cancers, listen to his podcast.

You can also visit the Winship Cancer Institute’s website to get more resources on pancreatic cancer, including its diagnosis and treatment.

Welcome to the Emory Healthcare Cancer Blog!

Welcome to Emory Healthcare’s new cancer blog! We’re glad to be a part of the innovative developments taking place at Emory Healthcare and the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and we are looking forward to sharing helpful cancer information and resources with our community and the Web.

While cancer can be scary and overwhelming, we’re doing everything we can to help improve the quality of life and survivorship of our cancer patients at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

The posts you’ll find on this blog will come from physicians, patients, and staff of the Winship Cancer Institute and will span a broad range of topics. We will provide tips, advice, information about medical advances and new innovations in cancer treatment, survivorship resources, patient success stories and more.

The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer treatment center in Atlanta or the state of Georgia. As such, the cancer care provided by Winship at Emory is rooted in the latest medical research and advancements to ensure we provide the best possible patient care available.

Our goal is to treat cancer and seek the best possible outcomes for our patients, and to accompany our patients through their cancer journey from beginning to end, which often involves a lifetime of support. We want our patients to live the best quality life possible both during and after treatment and we are committed to providing the survivorship support and resources to help them do so.

Our cancer blog is an opportunity to bring awareness to the amazing medical advances in cancer treatment being made at Emory, but also to share success stories of our patients and their medical teams. We encourage you to subscribe to our blog feed and use the comments to share your feedback, questions, or suggestions for blog topics that interest you.