June 5, 2020
June 5, 2020
A pilot study conducted in the United Kingdom (U.K.) is examining the potential of genetic screening to detect prostate cancer. Researchers took saliva samples from 307 healthy men ages 55-69 and studied 130 genetic changes that can indicate an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Researchers used the data to create a risk profile for each participant. Those who fell in the top 10% of risk (26 out of the 307) were asked if they wanted additional screening. Eighteen men agreed and went on to receive both an MRI and a biopsy. Seven of them were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The lead investigator, Ros Eeles, said, “Our pilot study assessed men’s genetic risk by testing for more than 130 genetic changes that have been linked to prostate cancer. We showed that genetic barcoding of men can safely and effectively identify those at the highest level of risk for prostate cancer, so they can be targeted for follow-up checks.”
One of the participants whose prostate cancer was diagnosed during the study talked about his experience. “Whilst the realization that I have cancer came as a shock, I feel better knowing that it has been identified at a very early stage. I also feel that I am now in a much better position to make an informed decision about any future treatment options,” he said. “I also like the fact that being part of this trial will make a difference for many men in the future.”
His cancer was described as the size of a grain of sand.
After the success of the pilot study, another study is slated for an additional 5,000 men from across the U.K.
A cohort study published in The Lancet highlighted the connection between cancer and mortality rates from COVID-19. Researchers investigated records of patients (ages 18 years and older) with confirmed cases of COVID-19 (either current or previous infections). Records were pulled from the U.S., Canada and Spain through the COVID-19 Cancer Consortium Database. The goal was to examine mortality within 30 days of diagnosis of the virus.
The findings show cancer patients had a 13% mortality—almost twice that of the general population at 6%. But the results were not what the investigators expected. When comparing the populations, cancer patients had the same risk factors for severe outcomes, including age, smoking, diabetes and obesity—meaning mortality was tied to cancer-specific factors, such as tumor type, status (remission, active but stable, active progressive), type of therapy and recent surgeries.
More research is needed to fully understand the connection between higher COVID-19 mortality rates in cancer patients, but the data showed that cancer treatments didn’t weaken the immune system to the point that it could no longer fight off the virus.
“Fortunately, the data didn’t show an increased risk of death for patients receiving cancer treatments who were otherwise healthy,” said Dr. Reuben Mesa, a researcher on the study. “This suggests that patients can continue receiving treatment during the pandemic using extreme caution, which is what we did here. We had clear protocols in place to protect patients as they continued their treatment.”
Dr. Mesa also noted there has been a large increase in missed screenings and urged patients to maintain those appointments—with appropriate safety measures. “Don’t cancel [your cancer screenings]. Don’t push it off until 2021. Go ahead and get that done,” he said.
The Prevent Cancer Foundation® believes cancer screenings are critically important. If you have missed a screening during the pandemic, please visit our website to learn more about cancer screenings and COVID-19.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a draft recommendation regarding tobacco cessation in adults, including those who are pregnant.
The USPSTF continues to say health care providers should ask all adult patients about tobacco usage and encourage them to quit with behavioral interventions or any FDA-approved cessation method. For those who are pregnant, the USPSTF recommends providers ask them to quit and that patients seek behavioral interventions only.
The draft recommendation also says there is insufficient evidence on the benefits or harms of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as a safe and effective cessation method, citing the lack of clinical trials to determine their efficacy. It recommends health care providers direct patients to FDA-approved methods.
If you would like to submit comments, the comment period is open until June 29, 2020, at 8:00 p.m.