Despite setbacks from COVID-19 that delayed cancer screenings and created complications for research, scientists continue to learn more about the disease. Here is some of the most recent news focusing on cancer and disease research.
Many patients and providers postponed regular cancer screenings due to stay-at-home orders and fears of disease transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many restrictions ease around the country, healthcare providers are working to resume cancer screenings safely.
Many patients who recently became unemployed and lost their health insurance may be unsure about the cost of cancer screenings. Imaging centers may face a backlog of imaging appointments due to pent-up demand. Radiologists from the University of Michigan discuss these cancer screening challenges in their article in Radiology: Imaging Cancer.
Although cancer death rates have declined in the last 20 years, Black Americans still have the highest overall death rate from cancer of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. For example, Black and Caucasian women are diagnosed with breast cancer at roughly equal rates, but the mortality rate for Black women is 40 percent higher. Black men are also twice as likely to lose their battle with prostate cancer compared to Caucasian men. The American Association for Cancer Research issued a report highlighting these statistics.
Differences in education and income have been associated with the increased cancer deaths. Lower screening rates and lack of insurance among African Americans are other factors. White individuals are also more likely to participate in clinical research than Black participants, which may limit the clinical knowledge of how cancers may affect patients of different races.
A new imaging technique known as hyperpolarization, paired with MRI technology, could help doctors tell if breast cancer treatments are working. Hyperpolarization uses a strong magnetic field to magnetize molecules and assess whether cancer drugs are limiting tumor growth.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge took cancer cells from human patients and grew them in mouse avatars. The tumors that were resistant to a type of drug known as a PI3K inhibitor continued to generate FOXM1, a protein involved in regulating cell growth. The researchers’ hyperpolarization technique helped them visualize if the protein was present on patients’ images. If so, that could indicate that the drug was not working as it should.
Although this study was done on lab mice, researchers believe it could eventually reduce the amount of time patients have to wait to find out if a cancer drug is working. The scientists, writing Sept. 22 in Cancer Cell, suggest this method could even replace invasive biopsies.
As cancer research continues to advance, early screening and checkups remain the best way to find cancer early and begin treatment. If you are concerned about your risk of cancer, a cost-effective, full body MRI could help you stay informed about your health.