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Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on November 15, 2019


From the latest report on the “State of Lung Cancer” to NASA-style workouts for patients with cancer, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.

A childhood cancer medication that has been in short supply since earlier this year will be back in production beginning in 2020.

The pharmaceutical company Teva USA announced Wednesday that it will resume production of vincristine, an injectable chemotherapy drug used to treat 80% of childhood cancer cases. In March, Teva decided to halt production citing that Pfizer, another pharmaceutical company, produced more of the drug.

Health care professionals and parents called for action, sending petitions to the White House and Teva. Many are glad to hear about Teva’s decision, but the company has not confirmed a production start date.

The “State of Lung Cancer” report released by the American Lung Association this week found an increase in the number of people surviving lung cancer in the United States.

The report showed that the five-year survival rate is 21.7%, up from 17.2% 10 years ago. However, lung cancer survival rates still vary greatly depending on where a person lives, according to the findings. For instance, Utah has the lowest lung cancer rates compared with Kentucky, which has the highest.

“The report found that lung cancer rates for every measure vary significantly by state, and that every state can do more to defeat lung cancer, such as increasing the rate of screening among those at high risk, addressing disparities in receipt of treatment, decreasing exposure to radon and secondhand smoke and eliminating tobacco use,” the researchers concluded.

Google’s new partnership with one of the country’s largest nonprofit health systems has sparked a federal inquiry.

The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services said it wants to learn more about the “mass collection of individuals’ medical records (by Google and Ascension) to ensure that HIPAA protections were fully implemented.”

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported on Google’s “Project Nightingale” in collaboration with Ascension, which operates 2,600 facilities in 21 states. The partnership has allowed the tech giant to collect identifiable health data on 50 million Americans, including those with cancer, without their knowledge or the knowledge of their doctors in an effort to build tools that can offer new insights and care suggestions for patients.

It’s a concept that sounds out of this world, but researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center believe a NASA-style workout program may benefit patients with cancer.

The researchers explained in commentary published in Cell that astronauts experience similar side effects during a space flight as patients do while undergoing chemotherapy, such as changes in muscle density and in the immune system, as well as a “space fog,” which is similar to chemo brain that patients often describe after treatment.

To help combat these effects, astronauts are given individualized exercise programs before, during and after a mission.

The researchers are testing the exercise regimen in a clinical trial by conducting a cardiorespiratory fitness test, providing treadmills to patients in their homes and remotely monitoring them using iPads. Although the routine is typically done three to five times a week, researchers explained that the regimens are not one-size-fits-all.

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