Friday Frontline: Drinking Coffee Associated with Longer Survival in Patients with Colorectal Cancer, California Wildfires Damage Pediatric Cancer Summer Camp and More

September 18, 2020

From new research finding an association with longer survival in patients with colorectal cancer and the amount of coffee they drink in a day to the historic wildfires in northern California damaging, and possibly destroying, a summer camp for pediatric patients with cancer and more, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

New research suggests that drinking coffee may be associated with longer survival outcomes and a lower risk of cancer progression in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who reported drinking two to three cups of coffee a day had a higher association with living longer overall and had a longer time before their disease worsened compared with patients who didn’t drink coffee, according to data published in JAMA Oncology.

“Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as a potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial,” explained the study’s senior author Dr. Kimmie Ng, an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in an interview.

Patients who drank an even greater amount saw a higher benefit as well. According to one of the study authors, there are several compounds in coffee that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be active against cancer.

While cancer death rates have been dropping in the past 20 years, the racial disparities in cancer death remain stark for Black Americans.

In a report published by the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers highlighted the stark gaps between Black and white patients with cancer, including, Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer compared with white women.

Moreover, the report highlighted clinical research gaps for Black Americans as research is more predominantly conducted with white patients, which means treatments that are designed to be targeted therapeutics are likely not effective in many patients.

“By teasing out those differences, perhaps we can come up with different ways to diagnose and treat cancer in tailored ways,” said the report’s co-author Dr. John Carpten in an interview. “If we can do that, we can ensure access to cancer treatment innovations across all people.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted cancer centers around the country, it has delayed the progress of cancer research. In some cases, forcing trials to restart.

To maintain safety for patients and staff at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer research was delayed, and, in some hospitals, oncologists had to return to the ER to help patients who contracted the infection.

At the Cincinnati Children’s Research Lab, research that required organoids was delayed in March due to the pandemic. Organoids are a representation of tissue that are used to grow a copy of patient’s cancer and test treatments to kill the cancer cells. However, these organoids require constant attention and two months away from the lab led to the organoids dying. According to Dr. Susanne Wells, head of Cincinnati Children’s Research, it’ll take months to years to get back to where they were in March with the organoid research.

"It doesn't matter how much work you've lost, you have to restart it and you have to fit it in the same timeframe with the same funding," cautioned Wells.

A legal settlement is disbanding a fundraising operation that allegedly scammed millions of dollars out of people donating to help multiple causes, including cancer.

The settlement was part of a lawsuit filed by the offices of the Attorney General from Virginia, New York, Minnesota and New Jersey and the Federal Trade Commission against the operation that comprised multiple companies under owner Mark Gelvan and his associates Thomas Berkenbush, William English and Damian Muziani. According to the lawsuit, the charities claimed to use donations for homeless veterans, retired and disabled law enforcement officers, breast cancer survivors and others.

“Sham organizations that solicit funds from kind-hearted Virginians, who think they are giving to important causes like veterans charities or cancer survivors, are despicable and must be held accountable for their deceptive practices,” said Attorney General Mark Herring in a statement.

Gelvan and his Outreach Calling, Inc. Outsource 3000, Inc., and Production Consulting Corp companies are subject of monetary restitution of $56 million.

One a California’s historic wildfires that has been burning through the state since August has scorched a camp for pediatric patients with cancer.

Camp Okizu hosts approximately 700 children with cancer each year, along with their families, to provide a respite and vacation from hospital visits by creating a traditional summer camp experience. The camp community also honors their camp members lost to cancer by planting new trees in their memory.

"It is devastating," camp Board Member Hanna Malak said in an interview. "I think I'm going through the stages of loss and feel like I'm still in denial. It's still hard to believe, but we are staying positive and are especially thankful no one was hurt."

As of now, it is not clear if there is anything left of the 32-cabin camp, but executives of the camp have been informed that there was significant damage.


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