Study Examines Effect of Cancer Treatment on COVID-19 Mortality

TUESDAY, Sept. 22, 2020 — Cancer patients treated one to three months prior to COVID-19 diagnosis and those treated with chemoimmunotherapy have the highest 30-day mortality, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology, held virtually from Sept. 19 to 21.

Trisha M. Wise-Draper, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center, and colleagues examined outcomes related to systemic cancer treatment within one year of laboratory-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection. Data were analyzed for 3,920 patients as of July 31, 2020.

The researchers found that 42 percent of the patients received systemic anticancer treatment within 12 months and 159 distinct medications were administered. Patients treated within one to three months prior to COVID-19 had the highest rates of COVID-19-associated complications; all-cause mortality was 26 percent in this group. By most recent treatment type, 30-day mortality was 20, 18, 17, 29, 20, and 11 percent for chemotherapy, immunotherapy, chemoradiotherapy, chemoimmunotherapy, targeted therapy, and endocrine therapy, respectively. The standardized incidence ratio for mortality was lowest for endocrine treatments and highest for chemoimmunotherapy or chemotherapy less than two weeks before COVID-19 diagnosis. Targeted agents within three to 12 months also had a high standardized incidence ratio. Mortality was 14 percent for patients untreated in the year prior to COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Targeted therapies, especially those causing immune cell depletion, used one to three months before [the diagnosis of] COVID-19, are associated with very high mortality, up to 50 percent,” Wise-Draper said in a statement.

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Darolutamide boosts survival in nonmetastatic prostate cancer

(HealthDay)—For men with nonmetastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer, the risk for death is significantly lower for those receiving darolutamide versus placebo, according to a study published in the Sept. 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Karim Fizazi, M.D., from the University of Paris-Saclay, and colleagues randomly assigned 1,509 men in a 2:1 ratio to receive either darolutamide or placebo (955 and 554 patients, respectively) while they continued to receive androgen-deprivation therapy. Unblinding of the treatment assignments occurred after the primary end point analysis was found to be positive, and patients from the placebo group were permitted to cross over and receive open-label darolutamide.

At the time of unblinding, all 170 patients who were still receiving placebo crossed over to receive darolutamide; 137 who had discontinued placebo before unblinding received at least one other life-prolonging therapy. The researchers found that at three years, overall survival was 83 and 77 percent in the darolutamide and placebo groups, respectively. The risk for death was significantly lower in the darolutamide group versus the placebo group (hazard ratio, 0.69). With respect to all secondary end points, including time to first skeletal event and time to first use of cytotoxic chemotherapy, darolutamide was associated with significant benefit.

“An overall survival benefit was observed even though more than half the patients in the placebo group received subsequent treatment with darolutamide or another life-prolonging therapy,” the authors write.

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Biomarker reveals how aggressive biliary tract cancer is in patients

The cancer called biliary tract cancer (BTC) is not the most widespread form of cancer. In western countries, about 1.6 in 100.000 gets the diagnose every year. It is, however, a very aggressive form of cancer.

The majority of patients with BTC are diagnosed with advanced disease and has an average survival of only 1 year from initiation of chemotherapy. With such narrow survival windows, it is crucial to improve our understanding of the disease.

Now, researchers from Biotech Research & Innovation Centre at the University of Copenhagen and Herlev and Gentofte Hospital along with collaborators from Rigshospitalet and Sygehus Lillebaelt have identified a biomarker that can tell doctors how aggressive a patient’s disease may be.

“We have found a biomarker that reliably predicts how aggressive a patients disease will evolve, which in the future could help doctors in the hospitals make the right decisions about chemotherapy for the benefit of each BTC patient,” says Jesper Andersen, Associate Professor at BRIC.

Biomarkers can used for more than the diagnosis

The researchers measured the levels of two inflammatory proteins and a biomarker commonly used in pancreatic cancer before and during chemotherapy in patients with advanced BTC and found that patients with higher levels of these markers before chemotherapy had a lower survival rate. Especially one protein called IL6 (interleukin-6) proved to be superior to the other markers in predicting those patients at greatest risk of death.

“A common misperception may be that biomarkers are mainly needed to diagnose a specific cancer type, but diverse biomarkers are also needed to guide clinical decision-making throughout each patients’ individual journey. These types of prognostic and predictive biomarkers deserve increased attention, in particular as they are playing important roles in the increasingly individualized management of more common cancer types”, says Jesper Andersen.

There are several markers to predict patients at greatest risk of death, however it was confirmed that the prognostic information provided by measuring IL-6 is not captured by other inflammatory markers already in routine clinical use. For instance, about 10 percent of the population does not express the marker that is normally measured (CA19-9) to predict the patient clinical outcome. Therefore, the course of disease cannot be predicted for these patients using CA19-9, for which IL-6 may be used instead.

Inhibiting IL-6 may improve response to chemotherapy

By inhibiting signaling of the protein IL-6 in a mouse model of human BTC, researchers discovered that the response of mouse tumors to chemotherapy significantly increased.

“Our data suggests that inhibiting IL-6 signaling may extend therapeutic benefit compared to chemotherapy alone. However, this will require careful evaluation in randomized clinical trial settings. Such a trial is currently ongoing at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital and results from this and potential future trials will contribute to our knowledge in regards to the potential of targeting the IL-6 pathway in patients with BTC”, says Jesper Andersen

Large sample size made possible through collaboration

Researchers studying BTC face a data-challenge since only 1.6 per 100,000 of Western populations are diagnosed with BTC annually. This makes it difficult to collect comprehensive amounts of patient data. Therefore, one of the key strengths of this study lies in the patient numbers attained and analyzed in this rare cancer demographic, amounting to 1590 serum samples from 452 patients with advanced BTC.

Furthermore, the study explores advanced BTC patients who represent the majority of patients at diagnosis, while the majority of previous BTC studies published to date have focused on early stage disease.

“It is imperative to increase representation of these patients with the worst prognosis in subsequent studies. These studies should also include longitudinal sampling throughout the patient’s clinical history, as we have done here”, says Jesper Andersen, group leader at BRIC.

The sample size achieved in this study was only made possible through the comprehensive collaboration between Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, Rigshospitalet and Sygehus Lillebaelt in Denmark.

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Major trial uses blood test to match women with breast cancer to precision treatments

A blood test that can identify a variety of mutations in advanced breast cancer can reliably match women to effective targeted treatments, early results of a major clinical trial reveal.

The plasmaMATCH trial provides the strongest evidence yet that simple blood tests known as ‘liquid biopsies’ can benefit women with breast cancer by tracking their disease as it evolves and directing them to the most effective treatments.

Researchers showed that the blood test is now reliable enough to be offered to patients on the NHS once it has passed approval, raising the prospect of a major reshaping of care that could speed up access to the best available drugs.

A team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, analysed blood samples from more than 1,000 women with breast cancer that had recurred after treatment or spread to another part of the body. The aim was to see whether the blood test could help improve treatment for the significant proportion of women whose breast cancer is caused by one of a variety of rarer mutations—as opposed to better-known defects like BRCA mutations.

The plasmaMATCH trial was largely funded by Stand Up To Cancer, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, with additional support from AstraZeneca, Breast Cancer Now and Puma Biotechnology, and the new findings are published in The Lancet Oncology today (Thursday).

Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden were able to reliably detect mutations found in tumour DNA that had been shed into the bloodstream of women with advanced breast cancer. They then went on to match patients to targeted treatments according to the specific mutations in the tumour DNA.

The researchers looked at three targetable defects in genes called HER2, AKT1 and ESR1, which are known to drive breast cancer. A total of 142 women with these detectable mutations were then given experimental drugs targeted against the specific characteristics of their cancer.

Women with ESR1 mutations were treated with fulvestrant, while women with HER2 mutations received neratinib on its own or with fulvestrant. Women with AKT1 mutations were split into two groups, according to whether their cancer was oestrogen receptor positive or not, and were treated with capivasertib plus fulvestrant, or with capivasertib on its own.

Researchers found that some women with HER2 and AKT1 mutations responded to the treatments assigned to them—suggesting that liquid biopsies can successfully match patients with certain rare forms of advanced breast cancer to more effective treatments.

Five out of 20 women with rare HER2 mutations who were matched to neratinib saw a beneficial response—meaning cancer growth was slowed or stopped, or tumours were shrunk.

Meanwhile, four out of 18 patients with AKT1 mutations responded to capivasertib. However, the treatment targeting the ESR1 mutation was not found to be effective.

Researchers also validated the findings by checking tissue samples from the patients to confirm that the liquid biopsies had correctly identified the presence or absence of the mutations in over 93% of cases—sufficiently accurate to implement in routine care.

The team believes that findings from the plasmaMATCH trial will help make a strong case for the adoption of liquid biopsies into clinical practice for patients with advanced cancer—a case strengthened by the fact that liquid biopsies are easier to take, faster to analyse and less painful for patients than standard tissue biopsies.

Liquid biopsies also offer a more dynamic alternative that could keep track of cancers as they evolve over time and their range of mutations changes.

For the targeted drugs that have shown initial promise in this study, the next step is to carry out larger clinical trials to assess whether they are better than existing treatments. The hope is that larger trials will lead to more targeted treatments being approved, providing new treatment options for patients with rare subtypes of breast cancer.

Study leader Professor Nick Turner, Professor of Molecular Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Head of the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at The Royal Marsden, said:

“Our findings show that simple blood tests can quickly and accurately tell us the genetic changes present in a patient’s cancer, and use that information to select the most suitable available treatment.

“Using a liquid biopsy could be particularly important for patients with advanced breast cancer, to help select the most appropriate treatment.

“Tests that detect tumour DNA in the blood have huge potential and could transform how doctors select targeted therapies for patients with advanced cancer. Our study shows that these liquid biopsies can pick up the mutations that drive a patient’s breast cancer, and can successfully match patients with the best available precision medicine for their cancer.”

Study co-leader Professor Judith Bliss, Professor of Clinical Trials at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Director of its Cancer Research UK-funded Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit, said:

“The plasmaMATCH trial platform has allowed us to look at the activity of various different treatments at the same time. This efficient trial set-up has been a success and it is already starting to bring patients closer to new targeted treatments.”

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“It’s exciting to see the first results emerging from the pioneering plasmaMATCH trial. The findings demonstrate the powerful potential of liquid biopsies to pick up mutations that although individually rare can collectively play an important role in causing many breast cancers. Crucially, the study shows that matching women to the best available precision medicine for their tumour, using a blood test rather than an invasive tissue biopsy, can have real clinical benefits.

“These findings should lay the foundation for liquid biopsies to become a standard part of patient care for patients with breast cancer, and help accelerate women’s access to the best available precision medicines.”

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said:

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Small molecule treatment reduces colon cancer metastasis

When cancer metastasizes and spreads throughout the body, it can severely change the prognosis of the disease. It is estimated that metastasis is responsible for 90 percent of cancer deaths.

University of Chicago Medicine investigators have found a new way to slow the metastasis of colon cancer: by treating it with a small molecule that essentially locks up cancer cells’ ability to change shape and move throughout the body.

In a mouse model, the molecule cut the rate of cancer metastasis in half. Though more research is needed, the result could ultimately become a new therapy that, when combined with radiation and chemotherapy, could help provide better outcomes for several types of cancer.

“It’s a very promising approach,” said Ronald Rock, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago and co-author of the paper. “It appears to be broadly applicable. If you can improve outcomes by 5 or 10 percent, that will help a lot of people.”

The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Rock co-authored the paper with Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, Daniel K. Ludwig Distinguished Service Professor of Radiation and Cellular Oncology and Chair of the Department of Radiation and Cellular Oncology at UChicago.

“It’s a new area of cancer treatment, and we’re really excited to see how far this can go,” Weichselbaum said.

For cancer cells to disseminate from a tumor throughout the body, they must remodel their structure and increase their deformability to essentially crawl through tissue and worm their way into the bloodstream.

But Weichselbaum, whose research focuses on metastasis, wanted to find a way to stop that process in its tracks. He and Rock began to study a small molecule called 4-hydroxyacetophenone (4-HAP), which activates a protein in the cancer cell called nonmuscle myosin-2C (NM2C). That protein is one of the machines that allows the cell to deform and travel. When activated, it becomes locked in place, ensuring that the cancer cell cannot travel.

The investigators studied this process at both the molecular level and using human colon cancer tumors in a mouse model, and found that it significantly limited the cancer’s ability to metastasize to other parts of the body, while leaving healthy cells alone. The rate of metastasis was cut in half, compared to non-treated colon cancer.

The team envisions using this molecule in tandem with chemotherapy and radiation to create a more effective cancer-killing treatment.

“Using this molecule means there are fewer cancer cells traveling in the body, so they would be easier to kill with radiation or chemotherapy,” Weichselbaum said. “It we can decrease the spread, we have a better chance of curing the patient.”

The molecule could be an improvement over other treatments for metastasis, like kinase inhibitors, which are the basis of many chemotherapies. Those treatments work by targeting the enzymes that allow cancer to proliferate, but many times, cancer cells just find a workaround.

“With our approach, we’re essentially pouring sand right into the machine,” Rock said. “There’s no way for the cell to get around it. The engine is not going to run.”

Though the experiment was conducted on colon cancer, these preliminary results show that the molecule could work on several types of cancer that metastasize. Next the team hopes to find other molecules that could also inhibit NM2C to create a multi-layer approach for hindering metastasis. That’s important for up-and-coming physicians like Darren Bryan, MD, a former UChicago Medicine surgery resident and first author on the paper.

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Changes in gut microbiota can greatly impact alcohol-related liver disease and cancer risk

The importance of gut microbiota in alcohol-related liver disease and liver cancer has been demonstrated in two studies presented at the Digital International Liver Congress 2020. The key role of microbial biodiversity in the gut was highlighted in a study of fecal microbial transplantation. The technique shows promise as an intervention to improve some aspects of alcohol-related liver disease. A second study used a mouse model to associate changes in gut microbiota with the action of key signaling molecules, mediating the risk of hepatocarcinogenesis.

In recent years, imbalances in gut microbiota, or dysbiosis, have been implicated as contributing to alcoholic liver disease. In cases of chronic alcohol use, reactive oxygen species produced by alcohol metabolism can lead to chronic intestinal inflammation, which in turn can increase gut permeability and alter microbiota composition. This includes expansion of inflammation-associated bacteria such as Proteobacteria, and reduction of protective species such as Faecalibacterium. Increased gut permeability is believed to lead to translocation of gut bacterial DNA and endotoxins to the liver. The latter, in particular, are thought to induce pro-inflammatory toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling pathways that are associated with hepatocarcinogenesis.

The importance of gut microbiota raises the possibility manipulating it to improve patient outcomes. The first study tested whether fecal microbial transplant (FMT), the transfer of fecal bacteria from a healthy individual to a patient, could reduce cravings for alcohol as the first step for use in subsequent larger trials. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized pilot clinical trial, 20 patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and liver cirrhosis, all of whom had tried several options to quit alcohol unsuccessfully, were given FMT or placebo, with FMT shown to reduce alcohol cravings as well as total and psychosocial sickness impact profile at day 15 post-treatment. A corresponding significant increase in microbiota diversity was seen in FMT patients compared with baseline (p=0.02), including a higher relative abundance of Odoribacter. Alistipes and Roseburia were also more abundant in patients given FMT compared with placebo at day 15.

“FMT was safe and is shown to have an impact on reducing short-term alcohol cravings and improving psychosocial quality of life in patients with cirrhosis and AUD,” said study presenter Dr. Jasmohan S Bajaj of McGuire VA Medical Center, U.S. “The relative abundance of short-chain-fatty-acid-producing bacteria identified in patients with higher diversity after FMT demonstrates that altering the gut-brain axis is a potential avenue to alleviating AUD in those with cirrhosis.”

A second study explored how gut microbiota may affect the process of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. The study used mice genetically engineered to develop steatohepatitis (NEMO-hepa mice). By crossing these mice with others with inactivated genes involved in the inflammatory response to bacteria, and then altering the gut microbial balance with broad-spectrum antibiotics, the research team showed that knocking out the NLRP6 receptor (a key mediator of colonic homeostasis that can cause intestinal dysbiosis if deficient) leads to more severe steatohepatitis and a higher tumor burden. The degree of intestinal barrier permeability was highly correlated with tumor burden as well as several indicators of inflammation in the liver. Crucially, this immune phenotype could be transferred to other mice by FMT, provided they had functional TLR4 signaling, and could be reversed if the transplanted microbiota were depleted with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

“Strikingly, we also found that replacing depleted Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria in the guts of these mice helped ameliorate their inflammation and steatohepatitis,” said Dr. Kai Markus Schneider of University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Germany. “This knowledge of how short-term changes to microbiota reshape the hepatic tumor microenvironment has the potential to reveal new therapeutic options for cancer prevention and therapy.”

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Mum's pain as son diagnosed with cancer weeks after twin died from brain tumour

When Jack Parton started experiencing back pain and tiredness, doctors initially thought it was due to grief.

The 12-year-old lost his twin brother Ben to a brain tumour just a few weeks before.

But just a fortnight after Ben’s funeral in December last year, the family were given the heartbreaking news that Jack had leukaemia – a type of blood cancer.

The boys’ mum, Julie, 51, from Cannock, Staffordshire, said: It’s almost impossible to put into words how horrendous this has been.

‘Having gone through everything with Ben and, just as we were grieving his loss, it was a hammer blow to find out only two weeks after his funeral that Jack was also fighting cancer.’

The boys were revising for their SATs in March last year when Ben started to complain about headaches.

Soon he was also vomiting but his mum thought he’d caught the sickness bug going around school. When it didn’t get better, she took him to hospital.’

She explained: ‘We were waiting for an appointment at the opticians but I took him to the urgent care clinic at Walsall Manor Hospital where he was checked over and we were reassured to be told he had gastroenteritis.

‘The sickness would stop and start again a couple of days later and by mid-April Ben had lost quite a bit of weight and was struggling to move his right arm so it was back to urgent care where I was told, once again, it was a stomach bug. We were given antacid medication and told to seek a paediatric referral through our GP.

‘I felt everyone was dragging their feet and, with Ben still poorly, I took him to A&E once again where we were told his blood results were fine and we were sent on our way.’

Just four days later, Ben collapsed and the family had to call an ambulance. He was given a CT scan, which showed he had a brain tumour.

24 hours later, he had surgery to remove the tumour and a biopsy revealed he had a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Sadly, his family where told just 20% of patients live beyond five years of their diagnosis.

He was scheduled to have radiotherapy four weeks later but a scan before showed the tumour had already grown back, which meant more surgery.

Ben started 30 sessions of radiotherapy on 3 July followed by four cycles of chemotherapy in September, but by the second round, it was clear the treatment wasn’t working.

Sadly, the cancer spread and Ben passed away eight months after his diagnosis in December 2019.

The heartbroken family prepared to lay Ben to rest but at the same time, Jack started to feel very tired.

Doctors thought it might be the post traumatic stress of losing his twin but genetic testing raised the alarm.

Julie explained: ‘During Ben’s many tests it had been discovered that he had a genetic disorder which meant his TP53 gene, a tumour suppressor, was faulty.

‘And it was during screening to see if Jack was similarly affected that the alarm bells started to ring. We were told that his symptoms were not neurological so, mercifully, he didn’t have a brain tumour.

‘However, when we were immediately recalled to the hospital and told to bring an overnight bag, I was so scared.’

Jack had to have treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where his brother had gone just the year before.

Amazingly, Jack is now cancer-free but will have to stay on chemotherapy tablets for two-and-a-half years to stop it coming back.

Julie said: All things considered, Jack is doing well although some days are incredibly tough. He misses Ben so much and would give anything for them to be on PlayStation together.’

She is campaigning with the charity Brain Tumour Research and is urging people to make a difference by signing a petition to increase the national investment into brain tumour research to £35 million a year which would bring parity of funding with other cancers such as leukaemia, breast and prostate.

‘Thanks to the investment in research, Jack and other leukaemia patients now have hope of a cure. Ben was not so lucky, he never really stood a chance,’ Julie said.

‘Historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours and treatment options remain very limited and survival rates very poor.’

According to Brain Tumour Research, more children and adults under the age of 40 die of a brain tumour than any other cancer

Since national cancer spend records began in 2002, £680 million has been invested in breast cancer, yet only £96 million in brain tumours – a difference of £35 million a year over 17 years.

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours.

The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia.

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Dancing with the Stars Judge Len Goodman Reveals He Had Skin Cancer Removed from His Face



According to the Mayo Clinic, "You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation."

It's also important to pay attention for any "suspicious changes" as "early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment."

In July 2019, Goodman opened up to Hello! magazine about how he maintains an active and healthy lifestyle. He said he begins each day with a "nice, gentle stretch" and visits the gym two times per week.

"I go to the gym twice a week – I don't go for long; I go for about half an hour, that is all. I do a little bit of cardio on the cross trainer, or I have a little row, but I don't break into sweat, I might get a bit hotter," he said at the time. "I lift very light weights … and I find that is nice; I play golf too. Gentle exercise is good too, and walking is fabulous."

Goodman also detailed how he deals with aches and joint pains, saying: "Over the years, I had a few surgeries. I have had a knee replacement and a shoulder operation, and as you get older you get more aches and pains that are harder to shake off."

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While Dancing with the Stars has already announced the pro dancers who will be competing on the upcoming season, which will see Tyra Banks take on the role as host, the list of judges has yet to be confirmed.

Season 29 of Dancing with the Stars premieres Monday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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New connections reveal how cancer evades the immune system

If cancer is a series of puzzles, a new study pieces together how several of those puzzles connect to form a bigger picture.

One major piece is the immune system and the question of why certain immune cells stop doing their job. Another piece involves how histones are altered within immune cells. A third piece is how a cell’s metabolism processes amino acids.

“Nobody knew if those questions were all connected. We were able to place several of these puzzles together and see how it works,” says Weiping Zou, M.D., Ph.D., Charles B. de Nancrede and a Professor of Surgery, Pathology, Immunology and Biology at the University of Michigan and director of the Center of Excellence for Immunology and Immunotherapy at the U-M Rogel Cancer Center.

Zou is senior author on a paper published in Nature that includes multiple labs from the Rogel Cancer Center and collaborators from Poland.

The study found a connection between these three separate puzzles that suggests targeting the amino acid methionine transporter in tumor cells could make immunotherapy effective against more cancers.

It starts with T cells, the soldiers of the immune system. Cancer can turn these cells abnormal, preventing T cells from mounting an attack against it. The question is: what causes this?

Researchers looked at the tumor microenvironment, specifically how tumors metabolize amino acids. They found an amino acid called methionine had the most impact on T cell survival and function. T cells with low levels of methionine became abnormal. Low methionine in the T cells also altered histone patterns that caused T cells to be impaired.

Introducing tumor cells to the picture creates a fight between the tumor cells and the T cells for methionine. Over and over, the tumor cells win, taking the methionine from the T cells and rendering them ineffective.

Previous research has considered a systemic approach to starve tumor cells of methionine, with the idea that the tumor cells are addicted to it. But, Zou says, this study shows why that approach may be a double-edged sword.

“You have competition between tumor cells and T cells for methionine. The T cells also need it. If you starve the tumor cells of methionine, the T cells don’t get it either. You want to selectively delete the methionine for the tumor cells and not for the T cells,” Zou says.

In fact, the study found that supplementing methionine actually restored T cell function. High enough levels of methionine meant there was enough for both tumor cells and T cells.

One key is that tumor cells have more of the transporters that deliver methionine. The researchers found that impairing those transporters resulted in healthier T cells as the T cells could compete for methionine.

Zou was awarded a $3.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to advance this work.

“There are still a lot of mechanistic details we have not worked out, particularly the detailed metabolic pathways of methionine metabolism. We also need to understand how metabolism pathways may be different from tumor cells and T cells. We hope to find a target that is relatively specific to tumor cells so that we do not harm the T cells but impact the tumor,” Zou says. This work will be the focus of the new grant.

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Former Chopped Junior Champion Fuller Goldsmith, 16, Beats Cancer for the Fourth Time




Now, as he remains in remission, Fuller plans on attending culinary school and apprenticing under a top chef, according to the family. He hopes to open two restaurants in the future.

“It’s really rewarding to see kids like Fuller who are so driven toward their dreams that they don’t let cancer stand in their way,” Dr. Rebecca Gardner, one of Fuller’s oncologists at Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said. “They are undeterred in their desire to have a future.”

After returning to Alabama, Fuller has been documenting culinary creations on social media amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, the teen shared photos of several pasta dishes, as well as a shot of a pan seared steak with roasted potatoes and mushrooms.

"Hope you’re doing well dude! We haven’t heard from you," one fan commented.

Another wrote, "Looks great Chef! Hope you’re doing well!!!"

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