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Concept: Neoplasm


Background The goal of screening mammography is to detect small malignant tumors before they grow large enough to cause symptoms. Effective screening should therefore lead to the detection of a greater number of small tumors, followed by fewer large tumors over time. Methods We used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program, 1975 through 2012, to calculate the tumor-size distribution and size-specific incidence of breast cancer among women 40 years of age or older. We then calculated the size-specific cancer case fatality rate for two time periods: a baseline period before the implementation of widespread screening mammography (1975 through 1979) and a period encompassing the most recent years for which 10 years of follow-up data were available (2000 through 2002). Results After the advent of screening mammography, the proportion of detected breast tumors that were small (invasive tumors measuring <2 cm or in situ carcinomas) increased from 36% to 68%; the proportion of detected tumors that were large (invasive tumors measuring ≥2 cm) decreased from 64% to 32%. However, this trend was less the result of a substantial decrease in the incidence of large tumors (with 30 fewer cases of cancer observed per 100,000 women in the period after the advent of screening than in the period before screening) and more the result of a substantial increase in the detection of small tumors (with 162 more cases of cancer observed per 100,000 women). Assuming that the underlying disease burden was stable, only 30 of the 162 additional small tumors per 100,000 women that were diagnosed were expected to progress to become large, which implied that the remaining 132 cases of cancer per 100,000 women were overdiagnosed (i.e., cases of cancer were detected on screening that never would have led to clinical symptoms). The potential of screening to lower breast cancer mortality is reflected in the declining incidence of larger tumors. However, with respect to only these large tumors, the decline in the size-specific case fatality rate suggests that improved treatment was responsible for at least two thirds of the reduction in breast cancer mortality. Conclusions Although the rate of detection of large tumors fell after the introduction of screening mammography, the more favorable size distribution was primarily the result of the additional detection of small tumors. Women were more likely to have breast cancer that was overdiagnosed than to have earlier detection of a tumor that was destined to become large. The reduction in breast cancer mortality after the implementation of screening mammography was predominantly the result of improved systemic therapy.

Concepts: Tumor, Neoplasm, Metastasis, Epidemiology, Mammography, Oncology, Breast cancer, Cancer


We report the discovery that strains ofStaphylococcus epidermidisproduce 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP), a molecule that inhibits DNA polymerase activity. In culture, 6-HAP selectively inhibited proliferation of tumor lines but did not inhibit primary keratinocytes. Resistance to 6-HAP was associated with the expression of mitochondrial amidoxime reducing components, enzymes that were not observed in cells sensitive to this compound. Intravenous injection of 6-HAP in mice suppressed the growth of B16F10 melanoma without evidence of systemic toxicity. Colonization of mice with anS. epidermidisstrain producing 6-HAP reduced the incidence of ultraviolet-induced tumors compared to mice colonized by a control strain that did not produce 6-HAP.S. epidermidisstrains producing 6-HAP were found in the metagenome from multiple healthy human subjects, suggesting that the microbiome of some individuals may confer protection against skin cancer. These findings show a new role for skin commensal bacteria in host defense.

Concepts: Adenosine triphosphate, Neoplasm, Tumor, Bacteria, Enzyme, DNA polymerase I, Cancer, DNA


The relationship between body size and prostate cancer risk, and in particular risk by tumour characteristics, is not clear because most studies have not differentiated between high-grade or advanced stage tumours, but rather have assessed risk with a combined category of aggressive disease. We investigated the association of height and adiposity with incidence of and death from prostate cancer in 141,896 men in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort.

Concepts: Neoplasm, Tumor, Nutrition, Prostate cancer, Oncology, Epidemiology, Obesity, Cancer


Background Somatic mutations have the potential to encode “non-self” immunogenic antigens. We hypothesized that tumors with a large number of somatic mutations due to mismatch-repair defects may be susceptible to immune checkpoint blockade. Methods We conducted a phase 2 study to evaluate the clinical activity of pembrolizumab, an anti-programmed death 1 immune checkpoint inhibitor, in 41 patients with progressive metastatic carcinoma with or without mismatch-repair deficiency. Pembrolizumab was administered intravenously at a dose of 10 mg per kilogram of body weight every 14 days in patients with mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancers, patients with mismatch repair-proficient colorectal cancers, and patients with mismatch repair-deficient cancers that were not colorectal. The coprimary end points were the immune-related objective response rate and the 20-week immune-related progression-free survival rate. Results The immune-related objective response rate and immune-related progression-free survival rate were 40% (4 of 10 patients) and 78% (7 of 9 patients), respectively, for mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancers and 0% (0 of 18 patients) and 11% (2 of 18 patients) for mismatch repair-proficient colorectal cancers. The median progression-free survival and overall survival were not reached in the cohort with mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancer but were 2.2 and 5.0 months, respectively, in the cohort with mismatch repair-proficient colorectal cancer (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.10 [P<0.001], and hazard ratio for death, 0.22 [P=0.05]). Patients with mismatch repair-deficient noncolorectal cancer had responses similar to those of patients with mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancer (immune-related objective response rate, 71% [5 of 7 patients]; immune-related progression-free survival rate, 67% [4 of 6 patients]). Whole-exome sequencing revealed a mean of 1782 somatic mutations per tumor in mismatch repair-deficient tumors, as compared with 73 in mismatch repair-proficient tumors (P=0.007), and high somatic mutation loads were associated with prolonged progression-free survival (P=0.02). Conclusions This study showed that mismatch-repair status predicted clinical benefit of immune checkpoint blockade with pembrolizumab. (Funded by Johns Hopkins University and others; number, NCT01876511 .).

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Metastasis, Neoplasm, Oncology, Colorectal cancer, Immune system, Mutation, Cancer


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are important targets for cancer biology studies. To further elucidate the role of CTCs in cancer metastasis and prognosis, effective methods for isolating extremely rare tumor cells from peripheral blood must be developed. Acoustic-based methods, which are known to preserve the integrity, functionality, and viability of biological cells using label-free and contact-free sorting, have thus far not been successfully developed to isolate rare CTCs using clinical samples from cancer patients owing to technical constraints, insufficient throughput, and lack of long-term device stability. In this work, we demonstrate the development of an acoustic-based microfluidic device that is capable of high-throughput separation of CTCs from peripheral blood samples obtained from cancer patients. Our method uses tilted-angle standing surface acoustic waves. Parametric numerical simulations were performed to design optimum device geometry, tilt angle, and cell throughput that is more than 20 times higher than previously possible for such devices. We first validated the capability of this device by successfully separating low concentrations (∼100 cells/mL) of a variety of cancer cells from cell culture lines from WBCs with a recovery rate better than 83%. We then demonstrated the isolation of CTCs in blood samples obtained from patients with breast cancer. Our acoustic-based separation method thus offers the potential to serve as an invaluable supplemental tool in cancer research, diagnostics, drug efficacy assessment, and therapeutics owing to its excellent biocompatibility, simple design, and label-free automated operation while offering the capability to isolate rare CTCs in a viable state.

Concepts: Tumor, Neoplasm, Chemotherapy, Lung cancer, Metastasis, Breast cancer, Oncology, Cancer


BACKGROUND: Regardless of the availability of therapeutic options, the overall 5-year survival for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer remains less than 5%. Gum resins from Boswellia species, also known as frankincense, have been used as a major ingredient in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat a variety of health-related conditions. Both frankincense chemical extracts and essential oil prepared from Boswellia species gum resins exhibit anti-neoplastic activity, and have been investigated as potential anti-cancer agents. The goals of this study are to identify optimal condition for preparing frankincense essential oil that possesses potent anti-tumor activity, and to evaluate the activity in both cultured human pancreatic cancer cells and a xenograft mouse cancer model. METHODS: Boswellia sacra gum resins were hydrodistilled at 78 [degree sign]C; and essential oil distillate fractions were collected at different durations (Fraction I at 0–2 h, Fraction II at 8–10 h, and Fraction III at 11–12 h). Hydrodistillation of the second half of gum resins was performed at 100 [degree sign]C; and distillate was collected at 11–12 h (Fraction IV). Chemical compositions were identified by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS); and total boswellic acids contents were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Frankincense essential oil-modulated pancreatic tumor cell viability and cytotoxicity were determined by colorimetric assays. Levels of apoptotic markers, signaling molecules, and cell cycle regulators expression were characterized by Western blot analysis. A heterotopic (subcutaneous) human pancreatic cancer xenograft nude mouse model was used to evaluate anti-tumor capability of Fraction IV frankincense essential oil in vivo. Frankincense essential oil-induced tumor cytostatic and cytotoxic activities in animals were assessed by immunohistochemistry. RESULTS: Longer duration and higher temperature hydrodistillation produced more abundant high molecular weight compounds, including boswellic acids, in frankincense essential oil fraactions. Human pancreatic cancer cells were sensitive to Fractions III and IV (containing higher molecular weight compounds) treatment with suppressed cell viability and increased cell death. Essential oil activated the caspase-dependent apoptotic pathway, induced a rapid and transient activation of Akt and Erk1/2, and suppressed levels of cyclin D1 cdk4 expression in cultured pancreatic cancer cells. In addition, Boswellia sacra essential oil Fraction IV exhibited anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities against pancreatic tumors in the heterotopic xenograft mouse model. CONCLUSION: All fractions of frankincense essential oil from Boswellia sacra are capable of suppressing viability and inducing apoptosis of a panel of human pancreatic cancer cell lines. Potency of essential oil-suppressed tumor cell viability may be associated with the greater abundance of high molecular weight compounds in Fractions III and IV. Although chemical component(s) responsible for tumor cell cytotoxicity remains undefined, crude essential oil prepared from hydrodistillation of Boswellia sacra gum resins might be a useful alternative therapeutic agent for treating patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer with poor prognosis.

Concepts: Tumor, Neoplasm, Chemotherapy, Cell cycle, Oncology, Apoptosis, Pancreatic cancer, Cancer


Kinase inhibitors are effective cancer therapies, but tumors frequently develop resistance. Current strategies to circumvent resistance target the same or parallel pathways. We report here that targeting a completely different process, autophagy, can overcome multiple BRAF inhibitor resistance mechanisms in brain tumors. BRAF(V600E)mutations occur in many pediatric brain tumors. We previously reported that these tumors are autophagy-dependent and a patient was successfully treated with the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine after failure of the BRAF(V600E) inhibitor vemurafenib, suggesting autophagy inhibition overcame the kinase inhibitor resistance. We tested this hypothesis in vemurafenib-resistant brain tumors. Genetic and pharmacological autophagy inhibition overcame molecularly distinct resistance mechanisms, inhibited tumor cell growth, and increased cell death. Patients with resistance had favorable clinical responses when chloroquine was added to vemurafenib. This provides a fundamentally different strategy to circumvent multiple mechanisms of kinase inhibitor resistance that could be rapidly tested in clinical trials in patients with BRAF(V600E) brain tumors.

Concepts: Neoplasm, Inhibitor, Medicine, Enzyme inhibitor, Oncology, Brain tumor, Tumor, Cancer


Acquired resistance is one of the major barriers to successful cancer therapy. The development of resistance is commonly attributed to genetic heterogeneity. However, heterogeneity of drug penetration of the tumor microenvironment both on the microscopic level within solid tumors as well as on the macroscopic level across metastases may also contribute to acquired drug resistance. Here we use mathematical models to investigate the effect of drug heterogeneity on the probability of escape from treatment and the time to resistance. Specifically we address scenarios with sufficiently potent therapies that suppress growth of all preexisting genetic variants in the compartment with the highest possible drug concentration. To study the joint effect of drug heterogeneity, growth rate, and evolution of resistance, we analyze a multi-type stochastic branching process describing growth of cancer cells in multiple compartments with different drug concentrations and limited migration between compartments. We show that resistance is likely to arise first in the sanctuary compartment with poor drug penetrations and from there populate non-sanctuary compartments with high drug concentrations. Moreover, we show that only below a threshold rate of cell migration does spatial heterogeneity accelerate resistance evolution, otherwise deterring drug resistance with excessively high migration rates. Our results provide new insights into understanding why cancers tend to quickly become resistant, and that cell migration and the presence of sanctuary sites with little drug exposure are essential to this end.

Concepts: Lung cancer, Breast cancer, Brain tumor, Benign tumor, Neoplasm, Tumor, Oncology, Cancer


Background Antibodies that block programmed death 1 (PD-1) protein improve survival in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) but have not been tested in resectable NSCLC, a condition in which little progress has been made during the past decade. Methods In this pilot study, we administered two preoperative doses of PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab in adults with untreated, surgically resectable early (stage I, II, or IIIA) NSCLC. Nivolumab (at a dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight) was administered intravenously every 2 weeks, with surgery planned approximately 4 weeks after the first dose. The primary end points of the study were safety and feasibility. We also evaluated the tumor pathological response, expression of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), mutational burden, and mutation-associated, neoantigen-specific T-cell responses. Results Neoadjuvant nivolumab had an acceptable side-effect profile and was not associated with delays in surgery. Of the 21 tumors that were removed, 20 were completely resected. A major pathological response occurred in 9 of 20 resected tumors (45%). Responses occurred in both PD-L1-positive and PD-L1-negative tumors. There was a significant correlation between the pathological response and the pretreatment tumor mutational burden. The number of T-cell clones that were found in both the tumor and peripheral blood increased systemically after PD-1 blockade in eight of nine patients who were evaluated. Mutation-associated, neoantigen-specific T-cell clones from a primary tumor with a complete response on pathological assessment rapidly expanded in peripheral blood at 2 to 4 weeks after treatment; some of these clones were not detected before the administration of nivolumab. Conclusions Neoadjuvant nivolumab was associated with few side effects, did not delay surgery, and induced a major pathological response in 45% of resected tumors. The tumor mutational burden was predictive of the pathological response to PD-1 blockade. Treatment induced expansion of mutation-associated, neoantigen-specific T-cell clones in peripheral blood. (Funded by Cancer Research Institute-Stand Up 2 Cancer and others; number, NCT02259621 .).

Concepts: Neoplasm, Tumor, Cancer staging, Adenocarcinoma, Non-small cell lung carcinoma, Oncology, Lung cancer, Cancer


Abnormal vascularization of solid tumours results in the development of microenvironments deprived of oxygen and nutrients that harbour slowly growing and metabolically stressed cells. Such cells display enhanced resistance to standard chemotherapeutic agents and repopulate tumours after therapy. Here we identify the small molecule VLX600 as a drug that is preferentially active against quiescent cells in colon cancer 3-D microtissues. The anticancer activity is associated with reduced mitochondrial respiration, leading to bioenergetic catastrophe and tumour cell death. VLX600 shows enhanced cytotoxic activity under conditions of nutrient starvation. Importantly, VLX600 displays tumour growth inhibition in vivo. Our findings suggest that tumour cells in metabolically compromised microenvironments have a limited ability to respond to decreased mitochondrial function, and suggest a strategy for targeting the quiescent populations of tumour cells for improved cancer treatment.

Concepts: DNA, Benign tumor, Neoplasm, Cellular respiration, Mitochondrion, Tumor, Oncology, Cancer