Cancer Research Blog Carnival #7

Reading time: 8 – 14 minutes

Welcome to the 7th edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival, a blog carnival devoted to cancer research. This edition includes some great articles on cancer research ethics, cancer therapeutics, cancer stem cells, cancer genetics and cancer biology.

There’s a revolution occurring on the Web: those “authoritative” articles written on traditional, static websites are being replaced with blogs, wikis and online social networks. In the sphere of health, medicine and information technology, this “real-time Web” consists of many who are professionals in the field; their posts are listed below.
In the digital age, these are the characteristics of new media: recent, relevant, reachable and reliable.

I believe it’s important to maintain perspective on the significance of cancer research and the impact it has on patients. As such, this months edition of the Cancer Research Carnival includes narratives from some people affected by the disease. I think their stories will inspire us all with their determination and courage, and serve as motivation to continue searching for therapies to combat cancer.cancer-research-logo.jpg
How is research progressing on the battle against cancer?

The latest American Cancer Society (ACS) annual cancer statistics report finds that cancer deaths have decreased by 18.4% in men and 10.5% in women since mortality rates began to decline in the early 1990s [1]. However, despite a declining death rate, there was an increase in the number of cancer deaths in 2005 compared to 2004. The ACS says that it’s [2]:

… important to understand that for the number of cancer deaths to decrease, the decline in the overall cancer mortality rate must be large enough to offset the increasing numbers due to growth and aging of the population.

Over the last 15 years, researchers have been making progress. Although the rate of decline in cancer deaths in 2005 wasn’t enough to exceed population factors, cancer mortality rates continue to decrease. Indeed, between 1990/1991 and 2004, over a half million deaths from cancer were averted [2].

With these statistics in mind, let’s get to the research highlighted in this months edition of the Cancer Research Carnival.

Cancer Research Blog Carnival #7

Adventures in Ethics and Science

A recent New York Times essay by Andrew Vickers ponders why cancer researchers are so reluctant to share their data [3]. Dr. Janet Stemwedel discusses the essay, asking Should Researchers Share Data?


Autophagy, the self-removal of cellular components, is frequently observed in tumor cells following radiotherapy. Researchers have found that inhibition of genes associated with autophagy results in enhanced cytotoxicity of radiotherapy to otherwise resistant carcinoma cells [4]. Kamel talks about Autophagy and Radiation Resistance.

Mark’s Daily Apple

Increased body-mass index (BMI) is associated with the risk of some types of cancer. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Lancet journal last month assess the strength of associations between BMI and different sites of cancer [5]. Mark’s Daily Apple reports there’s a Higher Cancer Risk if You’re Fat and questions whether public education on the risks of obesity is truly enough.

The Pink Tee Shirt

Beep Beep – Emmy describes what it’s like to be living with breast cancer.

Stage 4 cancer is like a hungry coyote out there, watching, setting traps.
I wonder when he will catch me.

Cancer and Your Genes

Two papers in the February 28th issue of Nature provide understanding into a subset of breast and ovarian cancers, the action of drugs used to treat them and a novel mechanism of drug resistance to chemotherapy [6-7]. Dr. Matt Mealiffe reviews the articles and their significance, describing the Mechanism of Cisplatin-Resistance in BRCA2-Related Ovarian Cancers.

Cancer Genetics

SNPs (pronounced “snips”) are DNA sequence variations that occur when a single nucleotide in the genome is altered, producing different alleles (meaning sequences that code for the same gene). Two papers in the March issue of Nature Genetics identify multiple new SNPs associated with prostate cancer [8-9]. Ramunas breaks it down, describing Prostate Cancer — Old & New SNPs and deCODEPrCa.

Eye on DNA

As research identifies more disease-associated SNPs, new genetic tests allow consumers to test themselves for disease susceptibility. Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei discusses this competitive market, reporting that deCODE Launches PrCa Prostate Cancer DNA Test.

Mystery Rays from Outer Space

Although it’s widely accepted that metastasis is a late event in cancer progress, a recent study demonstrated that tumor cells can spread systemically from early alterations in breast cancer [10]. Dr. Ian York deliberates Early Metastasis.

Z-Mail 101

David’s daughter Beth presents her thoughts on the situation her Aunt Wendy is in as she battles colon cancer.

You have to live life day by day and for each moment. Enjoy what you have in front of you and not take for granted the little things. We’re all going to die at some point; cancer patients just have more information.

Terra Sigillata

The internet is increasing used as a source of health information. A current study of quality criteria for online content, specifically for breast cancer information, finds that most resources are accurate [11]. However, websites that contain information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) were likely to contain inaccurate statements. Abel Pharmboy suggests we Beware of Alternative Medicine Sites Offering Breast Cancer Advice.

Doctor David’s Blog

An investigation examining the role of BRCA1 in human mammary stem cell fate found that BRCA1 plays a critical role in the differentiation of ER-negative stem/progenitor cells to ER-positive luminal cells [12]. Dr. David Loeb reviews study and discusses Cancer Stem Cells and Familial Cancer Risk for Breast Cancer.

Gene Sherpas: Personalized Medicine and You

Men with a family history of prostate cancer have a much greater risk of developing the disease than men with no family history. A systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated that the risks are greatest for relatives of those diagnosed when they were young and those with more than one affected relative
[13]. The Dr. Steve Murphy evaluates the study and its shortcomings, discussing the New England Journal, Prostate Cancer and Babel.

Britannica Blog

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has been conducting research on the increased risk of cancer in night-shift workers as well as the increased cancer risk in painters and firefighters [14]. Kara Rogers reviews the biology of melatonin secretion and disruption of circadian rhythms, writing about Cancer on the Night Shift: Why Night Workers Are at Risk.

Chrysalis Angel

Chrysalis Angel worries when she hears the word “cured” and reminds us all to Remain Vigilant.

Stay on top of your check ups, follow the recommendations of your doctors, do your own breast self exams. Take back your life and your health. You can only do that by remaining vigilant. Then, get out, enjoy your life and loved ones. Make your life as much of what you want it to be as you can, and maybe someday soon, there will be an absolute cure for cancer.


Thanks to everyone that contributed articles — it’s been a pleasure to host this months edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival. Be sure to take a moment and let your fellow bloggers know this issue is available so that everyone’s hard work can be appreciated and enjoyed by all. You can find more information about the carnival as well as the hosting schedule and past editions at the Cancer Research Blog Carnival.


  1. Cancer Facts & Figures 2008. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2008.
  2. Report Says Half a Million Cancer Deaths Have Been Averted Since Death Rate Drop. American Cancer Society Press Release. 2008 Feb 20.
  3. Vickers A. Cancer Data? Sorry, Can’t Have It. The New York Times. 2008 Jan 22.
  4. Apel et al. Blocked autophagy sensitizes resistant carcinoma cells to radiation therapy. Cancer Res. 2008 Mar 1;68(5):1485-94.
    View abstract
  5. Renehan et al. Body-mass index and incidence of cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. Lancet. 2008 Feb 16;371(9612):569-78.
    View abstract
  6. Edwards et al. Resistance to therapy caused by intragenic deletion in BRCA2. Nature. 2008 Feb 28;451(7182):1111-5. Epub 2008 Feb 10.
    View abstract
  7. Sakai et al. Secondary mutations as a mechanism of cisplatin resistance in BRCA2-mutated cancers. Nature. 2008 Feb 28;451(7182):1116-20. Epub 2008 Feb 10.
    View abstract
  8. Eeles et al. Multiple newly identified loci associated with prostate cancer susceptibility. Nat Genet. 2008 Mar;40(3):316-21. Epub 2008 Feb 10.
    View abstract
  9. Thomas et al. Multiple loci identified in a genome-wide association study of prostate cancer. Nat Genet. 2008 Mar;40(3):310-5. Epub 2008 Feb 10.
    View abstract
  10. Hüsemann et al. Systemic spread is an early step in breast cancer. Cancer Cell. 2008 Jan;13(1):58-68.
    View abstract
  11. Bernstam et al. Commonly cited website quality criteria are not effective at identifying inaccurate online information about breast cancer. Cancer. 2008 Feb 11;112(6):1206-1213 [Epub ahead of print].
    View abstract
  12. Liu et al. BRCA1 regulates human mammary stem/progenitor cell fate. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Feb 5;105(5):1680-5. Epub 2008 Jan 29.
    View abstract
  13. Johns and Houlston. A systematic review and meta-analysis of familial prostate cancer risk. BJU Int. 2003 Jun;91(9):789-94.
    View abstract
  14. Straif et al. Carcinogenicity of shift-work, painting, and fire-fighting. Policy Watch, The Lancet Oncology. 2007 Dec;8(12):1065-1066.
About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.