Colorectal Cancer News in Brief: September 19

In hospitals, clostridum difficile spores are found on bedrails and other objects in patient rooms.  Immune response, shown by lymphocytes in and near tumors predicts better outcomes for patients with colorectal cancer.

In other news, the NIH Medline Plus helps long-distance relatives for aging family, and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute studies of the effects of space radiation on the bones of astronauts during long voyages to the moon or Mars may benefit cancer patients on Earth who are getting radiotherapy.

Research Reports

  • When hospital patients have clostridium difficile infection, almost half the bedrails have positive traces of the bacteria.  Objects in patient’s room test positive for c. diff 50 percent of time, the same proportion as when bacteria are found on the patient’s skin.  Although healthcare staff may use gloves and gowns when they actually touch patients, they may not realize that they also carry the contamination out of the room when they come in contact with bedrails, bedside tables, call bells, and telephones.  Antiseptic soaps don’t destroy the bacteria’s spores — bleach is the only effective disinfectant.  Dubert M. Guerrero, MD, of Case Western Reserve’s University Hospitals in Cleveland reported a study that used gloves to pick up possible c. difficile contamination on patient skin and objects in the room at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy(ICAAC).  Meeting coverage of ICACC is available on MedPage Today, September 15, 2009.
  • An immune response in colorectal cancer tumors and the surrounding tissue strongly predicts survival at any stage.  When researchers in Paris found lymphocytes infiltrating tumors or the lymphatic, blood vessel, or nerve tissue around the tumor, prognosis for surviving the cancer was very good.  Low involvement of infiltrating lymphocytes predicted poor survival, even at every early stages. Jerome Galon and his colleagues have developed a simple immune score which may help identify high-risk patients, particularly in early stages where it is often difficult to decide on whether to have chemotherapy or not.  Galon has reported his research at the European Congress of Immunology in Berlin, September 16, 2009.

Other Headlines

  • The summer issue of NIH Medline Plus provides answers to the family question: “My father lives by himself almost a thousand miles from my home. What can I do to help him?” Among suggestions are to call people in his community including neighbors, his doctor, and his friends.  Be sure they know how to reach you.  Think about how to help out anyone who is caring for him now.  Put together a list of prescriptions.  Be sure that advance directives are in place, and that you have a copy and his doctor has one.
  • Research focused on helping astronauts reduce bone loss when exposed to radiation during long space flights may also help cancer patients with bones weakened by radiotherapy.  The National Space Biomedical Research Institute is studying bone loss from radiation and what treatments might reverse it.  In experiments with mice receiving low levels of radiation similar to what astronauts might be get during a flight to the Moon or Mars, bone destruction began within days of exposure.  Patients receive much higher amounts of radiation during cancer treatment.  Preliminary clinical trials in humans show a similar loss of bone mass and strength.

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