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American Association for Cancer Research, April 18-22, 2009

Last Updated: April 27, 2009.


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American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting

The American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting, which took place April 18 to 22 in Denver, attracted about 17,000 clinical oncologists, students, cancer survivors, advocates, and other health care professionals from around the world, and presented more than 6,000 abstracts. The meeting's theme was "Science, Synergy, and Success."

"We're seeing an explosion of research in imaging," said program chair Michael Caligiuri, M.D., of Ohio State University in Columbus. "We are now beginning to predict how patients will respond to treatment just from looking at the tumor and the tissues surrounding the tumor. Until now, we really didn't understand why maybe 20 percent of patients would respond to a therapy and the other 80 percent didn't. So these advances in the personalized approach to medicine are helping us to figure out who should be getting which treatment."

As an example, Caligiuri cited a study from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, showing that magnetic resonance perfusion-weighted imaging and vascular endothelial growth factor expression can accurately identify genetic mutations in malignant brain tumors.

"To my knowledge, this is the first demonstration that an MRI technique, or any imaging technique, can predict with very high specificity and positive predictive value the mutational status of a human tumor," one of the authors of the study said in a statement.


Caligiuri also cited research from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston showing that imaging and blood biomarkers together can identify patients with recurrent glioblastoma who are most likely to respond to cediranib treatment, even when assessments are conducted within one day of cediranib initiation.

"If this approach is validated in larger studies, we could use these tools to keep patients on therapies that their tumors respond to, and shift non-responders to other therapies much earlier," a co-author of the study said in a statement.


Another explosive area of research, Caligiuri said, is micro-RNA, which he described as "master switches for genes" and was the subject of hundreds of abstracts. "What's exciting is that we already know the drugs that will perfectly match the micro-RNA when it's either over-expressed or under-expressed. The challenge will be delivering that drug directly to the tumor cell. Once that's accomplished, I think we're going to make big strides in the treatment of cancer."

During the meeting, researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston presented a study showing that genetic variations in the micro-RNA processing pathway genes and binding sites predict both ovarian cancer risk and ovarian cancer survival. In ovarian cancer patients, for example, they found that median survival was significantly longer in women with the fewest unfavorable variations compared to those with the most unfavorable variations (151 months versus 24 months), and that some variations predict response to platinum-based chemotherapy.

"Our findings have the potential clinical application of indicating a patient's prognosis and showing who will respond to different therapies by analyzing a single blood sample," lead author Xifeng Wu, M.D., said in a statement. "We also will incorporate this genetic information with epidemiological information to build a comprehensive model to predict susceptibility to ovarian cancer."

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"Stem cell research was another major focus of the meeting," Caligiuri said. "We're realizing that there are more tumors with stem cells, including cancers of the breast, colon and brain, and that stem cells are also present in leukemia. We're realizing that the stem cell is the seed in the soil that's creating the weed. Having the technology to find that cell and open it up and finding that its DNA is different from all the other tumor cells in the person's body, is leading us to an incredibly important and exciting area, because if you can kill the seed, you're going to kill the weed."

One of the meeting's highlights, Caligiuri said, was a review of cancer stem cells and what makes them tick presented by John E. Dick, Ph.D., of the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada.

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AACR: HRT May Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

WEDNESDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- In older women, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help protect against colon cancer, but the mechanism is unclear, according to research presented this week at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held from April 18 to 22 in Denver.


AACR: Promising Advances Seen in Genetics Research

WEDNESDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Genetics research is providing important new insights into cancer prevention and treatment, according to five studies presented at a press briefing this week at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held from April 18 to 22 in Denver.

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AACR: Variants Increase 'Low-Risk' Patient Melanoma

TUESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Melanocortin-1 receptor gene MC1R variants are associated with an increased risk of melanoma in persons with a protective phenotype, according to research presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held from April 18 to 22 in Denver.

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AACR: Researchers Present Cancer Prevention Advances

MONDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Diet, lifestyle, and genetics interact in complex ways that may affect cancer development, according to five studies presented this week at a cancer prevention press briefing at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held from April 18 to 22 in Denver.

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AACR: Advances Show Promise for Variety of Cancers

MONDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Cutting-edge research is rapidly moving from bench to bedside in a variety of cancers, according to four studies highlighted this week at a press conference presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held from April 18 to 22 in Denver.

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AACR: Urine Test May Predict Lung Cancer Risk

MONDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- In smokers, urinary levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamine metabolites are associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, according to research presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held from April 18 to 22 in Denver.

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