2013 proved to be a landmark year for cancer research news coming out of the Texas biotech and life sciences spheres. With the year-end news that Science had proclaimed cancer immunology the scientific breakthrough of the year — a field championed by Dr. James Allison at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — it’s no wonder that cancer research was a major news focus in the Lone Star State this year.
The complexion of Texas biotech and life sciences continues to change year after year, diversifying and leading in new areas of research and drug development. Thanks to MD Anderson, UT Southwestern, Baylor College of Medicine and a number of Texas-based, early stage drug development companies, cancer research is one of those areas.
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The following are the top ten cancer-related BioNews Texas stories for the year 2013, based on the number of unique views of any given cancer news article:
(by Anna Ishibiashi)
While glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a relatively rare form of cancer, it was anticipated that there would be about 23,000 new cases of GBM in 2013. Considering that most patients die within 15 months of a GBM diagnosis, the disease has posed a particular challenge to cancer researchers in developing potent treatment for the disease that can extend the life expectancy of those who have it, and in some cases eradicate the disease. The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a project developed to catalogue genetic mutations in cancer, reported the new findings in October about genetic abnormalities that drive GBM. As a result of this study, the research team at team at TCGA, with more than 100 scientists from 14 institutions, specifically targeted the disease as part of their overarching project to create a genetic roadmap of cancer. This five-year scientific and clinical sojourn, which was reported on in detail of the October, 2013 edition of Cell, provides the most complete genetic profiles of glioblastoma multiforme to date.
9. UT Southwestern Researchers Find Overexpressed Protein to Be Responsible in Certain Thyroid Cancers
(by Ayesha Khan)
Another cancer research study reported in October, this time in the online journal of Cancer Cell, revealed how investigators at UT Southwestern have uncovered crucial, new revelations regarding a special protein that is associated with deadly forms of thyroid cancer and many other cancers in human body. The researchers identified a protein that was once considered a “CNS-specific” protein, but now has been observed to be an over-expression of this protein that is associated with medullary thyroid carcinoma (by hyper-secreting certain neuroendocrine hormones), thanks to a series of experiments conducted on laboratory mice.
8. UT MD Anderson Cancer Center’s James Allison One Of Three Scientists to Receive Novartis Prizes for Immunology
(by Charles Moore)
As mentioned in the introduction of this article, the story of Dr. James Allison and the advancement of cancer immunology was a major story in science in 2013. The story even made BioNews Texas‘ Top 10 science stories list for 2013. This particular article, which covered the news of Dr. Allison winning the prestigious Novartis Prizes for Immunology at the 15th International Congress of Immunology for groundbreaking research into the biology of immune system T-cells, was just one of a series of articles highlighting a year marked by awards and recognition for his research.
7. New Brain Cancer Drug Enhances Radiation Treatment, UT Southwestern, VCU Collaboration Reveals In Preclinical Trials
(by Ayesha Khan)
In a second article covering research advancements into better understanding glioblastoma multiforme, researchers from University of Texas Southwestern collaborated with VCU Massey Cancer Center and VCU School of Medicine on the development of a novel drug that increases the sensitivity of deadly brain tumors to radiation. The drug showed remarkable results in extending survival in mouse models of human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) when given as an adjuvant to radiation therapy. It is also worth noting that, in a year where MD Anderson led in breakthrough Texas cancer research news, UT Southwestern’s cancer research department made the BioNews Texas top-10 cancer stories list twice — an impressive feat for the industry-leading hospital and research complex.
(by Ayesha Khan)
Breast cancer is the second most common and third deadliest malignancy throughout the world, and in particular, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) remains one of the most difficult to treat forms of breast cancer, in spite of advanced diagnostics, early screening, and improved therapeutics. This year, however, researchers and investigators at the University of Houston (UH) made substantial inroads into better understanding the patho-physiological characteristics of TNBC in order to develop functional therapies for the management and treatment in patients. TNBC was another popular area of focus in Texas cancer studies this year, but this particular report was among the most popular.
(by Charles Moore)
As represented in BioNews Texas‘ Top 10 science stories list for 2013, breast cancer genomics testing and BCRA1 were big keywords this year in large part due to actress Angelina Jolie’s preventive double mastectomy to head off the probably of developing the disease later in her life. Her decision led to thousands of other women across the U.S. enquiring about the same BRCA 1 and BRCA2 tests that Ms. Jolie underwent to make her own decision — a trend that insurance companies find troubling. Charles Moore’s report on the issue covered how some health insurers are balking at providing coverage for genetic counseling and testing to identify mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that are known to increase risk of breast cancer in women, since the testing in and of itself is expensive, and that less expensive “genomic counseling,” which seeks to better quality patents for the testing based on family history of breast cancer, might become a stopgap measure for insurers to control costs.
(by Anna Tan)
Year after year, the rise of obesity in American society becomes an increasingly concerning health trend, contributing to a wide range of deadly and debilitating diseases. In a May article from Anna Tan, Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., Director of MD Anderson’s new Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship and professor of Behavioral Science, explains that obesity ranks nearly the same as tobacco use among major risk factors for cancer. Her research indicates that, in 2007 alone, more than 50,000 new cases of cancer in women (7 percent) and 34,000 new cases in men (4 percent) were caused by obesity. She adds the fact that obese patients also tend to fare worse in cancer management modalities such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, since the condition contributes to an overall level of poor health.
(by Michael Nace)
Research into cancer treatment strategies involving the lymph nodes continues to be a particular focus among researchers. A recent study from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, covered by BioNews Texas back in April, reveals that colon cancer could be arrested by removing lymph nodes. The findings of the study show that the more lymph nodes that are taken out of the patient’s body, the slower the colon cancer spread, and the higher the survival rate of those that contracted the disease. The findings were corroborated by a survey of 17 different studies from around the world. The results were similar across the board.
2. MD Anderson, Texas Medical Center Researchers Frustrated Over Lack Of New Cancer Drugs For Children
(by Michael Nace)
No scientific research focus has more funding or attention than cancer research. And yet, in spite of the billions of dollars bound up in cancer research and drug development, studies and developments for treating cancers that disproportionately affect children remain consistently underfunded. Dr. Eugenie Kleinerman, head of MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital, remarked in this article from May that, ”I’ve been frustrated for 28 years,” adding that, “There has been one new drug for pediatric cancer that has been approved in the past 20 years in this country.”
1. New Children’s Vaccine For Ewing’s Sarcoma To Be Tested At Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers, Thanks To New Funding
(by Michael Nace)
The most read cancer related news article of the year on BioNews Texas directly relates to the issues put forth in our second-most read article on a lack of children’s cancer research. This article on the testing of a new children’s vaccine for Ewing’s Sarcoma at Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers in Dallas was published at the beginning of December, and yet it received more viewership than articles published as far back as April, thanks to a viral sharing of the article among people on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites in search of promising, new treatments for this disease. The article itself reported on how Mary Crowley recently received $500,000 in new funding in order to develop an innovative, new pediatric cancer research initiative involving a clinical trial for a new Ewing’s Sarcoma vaccine. The article featured a direct link to Mary Crowley’s information page on the clinical trial, which received the largest number of clicks than any other similar link on the BioNews Texas platform.
To be sure, cancer research and treatment is a big business in Texas. Fortunately, the business also fuels one of the most important humanitarian endeavors facing the world today: to get a handle on how to treat and eventually cure cancer in all of its forms. Texas continues to produce leading research into finding a cure for cancer, and BioNews Texas will continue to cover the cancer research news coming out of the Lone Star State as it becomes available.