Last Sunday, 60 Minutes profiled John Kanzius, an inventor who may have come up with one of the most promising breakthroughs in cancer research in years. It’s still in the experimental stage and much research needs to be done, but if future clinical trials are successful, the Kanzius Machine will destroy cancer cells throughout the body without need for drugs or surgery.
Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a set of genetic disorders that can cause tumors to develop and grow along various types of nerves. The tumors may also affect the development of non-nervous system tissues such as skin and bone.
There are three types of NF tumors that result from mutation or loss of different tumor suppressor genes:
- Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is the most frequent inherited cause of brain and nerve tumors. One in every 3,000 children is born with NF1, making it also one of the most common inherited human diseases worldwide. Enlargement and deformation of bones may also occur. Approximately 50% of people with NF1 also have learning disabilities. NF1 is caused by a mutation or loss of the tumor suppressor gene NF1.
- Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is much rarer, occurring in one in 25,000 births. NF2 is characterized by the development of multiple tumors on the cranial and spinal nerves. The hallmark of NF2 is the formation of tumors that affect auditory nerves. Hearing loss beginning in the teens or early twenties is typically the first symptom of NF2. NF2 is caused by a mutation or loss of the tumor suppressor gene NF2.
- Schwannomatosis is even rarer than NF2, affecting one in 40,000 individuals. SImilar to NF1 and NF2, Schwannomatosis tumors can develop on cranial, spinal and/or peripheral nerves. Although patients with Schwannomatosis do not have learning disabilities, they experience chronic pain and occasionally numbness, tingling and weakness. The candidate Schwannomatosis tumor suppressor gene is named INI1.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently published its third annual Clinical Cancer Advances report, Clinical Cancer Advances 2007: Major Research Advances in Cancer Treatment, Prevention and Screening . It was developed under the guidance of a 21-person editorial board consisting of leading oncologists and cancer specialists, including specialty editors for each of the disease-specific and issue-specific sections. The report highlights 6 major advances in cancer research in 2007 and describes an additional 18 other findings of significant importance, demonstrating the pace of progress being made in cancer prevention, screening, treatment, epidemiology and survivorship.
With all the recent discussion and debate by the presidential candidates regarding healthcare issues, I thought a study published last month in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians was quite timely. The study, titled Association of Insurance with Cancer Care Utilization and Outcomes, presents evidence that lack of adequate health insurance coverage is associated with reduced access to care and poorer outcomes for cancer patients . The article further presents data on the association between health insurance status and screening, stage at diagnosis and survival for breast and colorectal cancer.