Colorectal Cancer News in Brief: July 7

News in Brief catches up today after celebrating the Fourth of July with swimming, sailing, and time with family.  We hope you had as good a time relaxing as we did.

Research shows that children whose parents have cancer have more social and psychological problems, mice who are fed a high-fat Western-style diet don’t benefit from exercise and develop more colon polyps, and adding irinotecan to 5FU after surgery to remove liver mets adds no benefit but has more serious side effects.

The VA is upgrading equipment to sterilize endoscopes and train staff to clean them properly with $26 million from its reserve funds.  Two scientists at MIT are sampling and freezing their own stools each day to study changing patterns of millions of  microbes in the intestinal tract.

Research Reports

  • Children whose parents whose parents have cancer have more psychological and social problems than peers with healthy parents, particularly boys between 6 and 11 and adolescent girls.  There appear to be more problems when fathers are ill.  Children internalize their problems when parents are depressed and act them out when there problems with family functioning.  Writing in Cancer (online June 10,2009) Mikael Thastum, PhD and his team said, “The results indicate the need for a family-oriented approach to psychological support of cancer patients.”
  • Even treadmills don’t help mice who eat a high fat “Western Diet.”  Mice specially bred to develop colorectal tumors got fatter and developed 75 percent more polyps than mice who ate healthy chow.    They also had signs of inflammation and immune system suppression. Running on a treadmill didn’t reduce the number of polyps, amount of inflammation, or reduced immune function.    Similar mice who were fed the healthier diet had fewer polyps, less inflammation, and reduced immune system changes when they exercised.  Kristen A. Baltgalvis and her team at the University of South Carolina discuss their mouse studies in the July 1, 2009 issue of Cancer Prevention Research.
  • Adding irinotecan to continuous infusion 5FU with leucovorin didn’t improve either disease-free or overall survival after surgery to remove liver mets.  Median time before cancer got worse was 21.6 months for LV5FU alone compared to 24.7 months with FOLFIRI.  In addition, serious side effects were more common with FOLFIRI (47 percent vs 30 percent).  The most common was grade 3 or 4 low white cell counts (neutropenia), with 23 percent of patients on FOLFIRI having them compared to 7 percent who received LV5FU.  Marc Ychou and colleagues report their results in Annals on Oncology, online June 30, 2009.

Other Headlines

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is providing $26 million from its reserve funds for sterilizing equipment for endoscopes. Funds will be available immediately to be sure that the right equipment is available to clean and disinfect reusable medical devices. In addition, money will go toward training and enforcing stricter guidelines for cleaning scopes that examine the throat, ears, and colon. Read the story from WBIR-TV in Knoxville, TN.
  • Two scientists at MIT are collecting and freezing their own bowel movements every day to study changes in the many microbes that live in human intestines.  They’re also keeping track of over 100 measures of daily health — diet, exercise, blood pressure, mood, etc — to see if they have any impact.  After collection is complete, they plan to use a new system they are developing to quickly and cheaply analyze RNA in the communities of microbes.  Graduate student  David Lawrence told The Scientist, “The point is to figure out the normal dynamics of what’s probably the densest microbial community in the world.”

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