Colorectal Cancer News in Brief: May 8

This week a panda gets a colonoscopy, details are reported on swine flu cases, and information about acrylamide in food and cancer risk is reviewed.  The FDA says that the leucovorin shortage has been resolved and supplies are available.

We also found a study that used stereotactic body radiosurgery (SBRS) for tumors from cancer that had spread to the spine.  In other research, the number of lymph nodes recovered during colon and rectal surgery depends on the patient’s age, where the cancer was located, and how long the removed specimen was.

Research Reports

  • Radiation oncologists at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston successfully used stereotactic body radiosurgery (SBRS) to treat cancers that had spread to the spine. SBRS uses computers to precisely focus a narrow beam of high-dose radiation on the tumor.  Ninety-percent of treated patients had no progression of their spinal metastases after six months, 84 percent were progression-free at one year.  In addition, there was a substantial decrease in fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, drowsiness, and distress that lasted at least six months.  In reporting the results of the study at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in San Diego on May 6, Dr. Eric Chang said, “In conclusion, SBRS in patients with spinal metastases is a safe and effective treatment modality, yielding high 6-month and 1-year PFS rates and dramatic reductions in pain and symptoms related to the metastatic cancer.
  • The number of lymph nodes recovered for pathology examination during colon and rectal surgery depended on the patient’s age and the length of bowel removed and its location.  More nodes were found in younger patients and in the ascending and descending colons.  The possibility of testing more than 12 lymph nodes — the standard for quality colorectal cancer staging — was directly related to the length of the specimen.  Steven Shen, M.D., Ph.D., and his team at Methodist Hospital and Research Institute in Houston report their findings in the Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, May 2009.

Other Headlines

  • The New England Journal of Medicine has a complete and detailed article tracing all 642 identified cases of influenza H1N1 (swine flu) in the United States through May 5, 2009.  On March 30, a ten-year old child with asthma in San Diego county in California had fever, coughing, and vomiting and became Patient Number 1.  The child had not been exposed to swine, nor had a second California child diagnosed on March 28.  Both children recovered.  Among the identified patients, 40 percent were between 10 and 18, only 1 person was over 50.  Most common symptoms were coughing and fever in over 90 percent, with sore throats in about two-thirds.  One out of four had diarrhea and/or vomiting.  About 1 in 10 identified patients needed to be treated in a hospital, about half of those had other medical conditions.  The report was written by the Novel Swine-Origin Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Investigation Team from the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Tai Shan, a giant panda born at the National Zoo, skipped the Go-Lytely before his colonoscopy, but did fast for a day.  It took ten staff, including panda trainers and medical personnel, to get the animal ready for his test.  Doctors needed to see whether medicine for eosinophilic colitis had healed his colon. The Washington Post has the story.
  • The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has an editorial reviewing studies of acrylamide in diets and cancer. Acrylamide is a carcinogen formed when certain foods are fried or baked at high temperatures.  French fries and potato chips have the highest levels, but it is also in other foods including bread, cookies, cakes, and cocoa.  More than a third of food typically eaten every day contains some acrylamide.  However, no association between dietary intake of foods with acylamide and most cancers has been found, including four studies that included colorectal cancer.  The editorial, which is free on the JNCI website,  includes references to those studies.
  • The FDA listed the leucovorin shortage as resolved on April 27, 2007. Supplies “continued to be available” from both Bedford Laboratories and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

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