Addition of Immunotherapy Boosts Pediatric Cancer Survival

Administering a new form of immunotherapy to children with neuroblastoma, a nervous system cancer, increased the percentage of those who were alive and free of disease progression after two years. The percentage rose from 46 percent for children receiving a standard therapy to 66 percent for children receiving immunotherapy plus standard therapy, according to the study in the Sept. 30, 2010, New England Journal of Medicine. The randomized phase III clinical trial was coordinated by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a national consortium of researchers supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the NIH.

Vitamin D Status is Not Associated with Risk for Less Common Cancers

Despite hopes that higher blood levels of vitamin D might reduce cancer risk, a large study finds no protective effect against non-Hodgkin lymphoma or cancer of the endometrium, esophagus, stomach, kidney, ovary, or pancreas. In this study, carried out by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and many other research institutions, data based on blood samples originally drawn for 10 individual studies were combined to investigate whether people with high levels of vitamin D were less likely to develop these rarer cancers. Details of these analyses appear as a set of papers in the June 18, 2010, online issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, and in print in the July 2010 issue.

“We did not see lower cancer risk in persons with high vitamin D blood concentrations compared to normal concentrations for any of these cancers,” said Demetrius Albanes, M.D., NCI, one of the study investigators. “And, at the other end of the vitamin D spectrum, we did not see higher cancer risk for participants with low levels.”

Diet Quality Worsens as Alcohol Intake Increases

According to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), people who drink more are also likely to eat less fruit and consume more calories from a combination of alcoholic beverages and foods high in unhealthy fats and added sugars.

Alcoholic drinks

New Approach to Immune Cell Analysis Seen as First Step to Better Distinguish Health and Disease

Investigators have developed a new mathematical approach to analyze molecular data derived from complex mixtures of immune cells. This approach, when combined with well-established techniques, readily identifies changes in small samples of human whole blood, and has the potential to distinguish between health and disease states.

Led by Mark Davis, Ph.D., and Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University, Calif., the team of investigators received support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as well as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute, all part of the National Institutes of Health. Details about their work appear online at Nature Methods.

“Defining the status of the human immune system in health and disease is a major goal of human immunology research,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “A method allowing clinicians to accurately and quickly characterize the many different immune cells in human blood would be a valuable research and diagnostic tool.”

Over the past 15 years, the technology for gene expression microarrays, which allow investigators to identify and measure relative amounts of many different genes in parallel, has advanced tremendously. Today researchers can measure nearly every gene in the human genome using very small amounts of blood. However, blood contains numerous types of immune cells, such as lymphocytes, basophils and monocytes, and when microarray analysis is performed on this mixture, the interpretation of the results becomes problematic.

Antibodies Against Abnormal Glycoproteins Identified as Possible Biomarkers for Cancer Detection

Scientists have found that cancer patients produce antibodies that target abnormal glycoproteins (proteins with sugar molecules attached) made by their tumors. The result of this work suggests that antitumor antibodies in the blood may provide a fruitful source of sensitive biomarkers for cancer detection. The study, supported in part by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in the Feb. 15, 2010 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Cancer cells secrete mucins into the bloodstream