How does chemo brain work? One cancer drug might interfere with brain signaling


For the millions of people treated for cancer, “chemo brain” can be an unnerving and disabling side effect. It causes memory lapses, trouble concentrating, and an all-around mental fog, which appear linked to the treatment and not the disease. Although the cognitive effects often fade after chemotherapy ends, for some people the fog persists for years, even decades. And doctors and researchers have long wondered why. Now, a new study suggests an answer in the case of one chemotherapy drug: Brain cells called microglia may orchestrate chemo brain by disrupting other cells that help maintain the brain’s communication system. Read more



Mutation-counting blood test could predict if cutting-edge immunotherapies can beat a cancer

Some cancers generate the seeds of their own destruction. Certain random mutations that accumulate in rapidly dividing tumor cells can spur the immune system to attack the cancer. Researchers are now learning that the extent of such mutations can predict whether a cancer will respond to new, powerful, immune-based therapies. A recently unveiled blood test for this so-called tumor mutational burden (TMB) could help make it a practical tool for guiding cancer treatment. Read more.


The Million-Dollar Cancer Treatment: Who Will Pay?

The emergence of genetics-based medicines is pushing the cost of treating certain diseases to new levels, forcing hospitals and health insurers to reckon with how to cover total costs per patient approaching a million dollars.

The therapies deliver new genes or genetically altered cells to tackle some of the hardest-to-treat diseases, including in children. They come at a high price: Novartis AG listed its newly approved cell therapy for cancer at $475,000, while Gilead Sciences Inc. priced its rival drug at $373,000.

But the price of the drugs is just the beginning, hospitals and insurers say. Administering these therapies can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the tab, including lengthy hospital stays and use of other services and medicines. Read more.


Slowing Down Circulating Tumor Cells for Capture

For some time, researchers have recognized the potential utility of tracking circulating tumor cells (CTCs) for the study of metastasis. However, how to best identify these cells amongst the millions of healthy cells circulating in the blood has posed a problem. Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have demonstrated a method for identifying large numbers of the cells in cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. Read more.


Popular Joint Supplement Linked to Melanoma Growth in Mice

A new research study has shown that chondroitin sulfate, a dietary supplement taken for osteoarthritis, selectively promotes growth of a specific type of melanoma cell in mice. Approximately half of melanoma cells have the B-raf gene mutation known as V600E. The research team confirmed that chondroitin sulfate increases growth of melanoma cells with the mutation but other melanoma cells were unaffected. The findings have not been confirmed in human studies but oncologists and individuals with melanoma should still be aware of the risk of taking the supplement. The study was published in Molecular CellRead more.

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