Your Wednesday news summary: November 19, 2008

Today’s reports cover such items as:

  • Disparities in cancer mortality between blacks and whites in the USA
  • Body mass, body fat distribution, and risk for prostate cancer
  • Risk for cancer in male carriers of BRCA mutations
  • A five-SNP genetic marker set and prostate cancer risk
  • Final results of the atrasentan trial in non-metastatic, HRPC patients
  • Is a rising plasma PDGF level an indicator for docetaxel failure?

Delancy et al. have published a review of continuing disparities in cancer mortality between black and white patients in the USA, including disparities in mortality from prostate cancer. They report that these disparities have decreased significantly overall in the time period studied (1975-2004), particularly with respect to male patients. However, the evidence is less compelling for cancers in which early diagnosis is screening-dependent (such as prostate cancer).

It has long been argued that body size affects risk for prostate cancer. Pischon et al. have investigated whether it is really body size (as measured by body mass index or BMI) or distribution of body fat that may be the critical factor. Using data from the 129,502 men without cancer at baseline enrolled from 8 countries in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, the authors have been able to derive data suggesting that abdominal adiposity (the amount of fat in the lower abdomen) may be associated with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer, and that this association may be stronger among individuals with a lower BMI. They acknowledge, however, that this finding needs confirmation in future studies.

Mohammed and Apffelstaedt have reviewed the limited available information on the cancer risks of men carrying BRCA mutations and provided recommendations for counseling males with these mutations. The reported risks for prostate cancer (as well as breast, pancreatic, gastric and hematologic cancers) are higher in male BRCA mutation carriers vs non-carriers. The risks for prostate cancer  (and pancreatic cancer) are especially increased in male BRCA2 mutation carriers under age 65.

A Healthday article discusses research presented Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual conference on cancer prevention in Washington, D.C. The research, presented by Veda N. Giri of the Fox Chase Cancer Center, addresses the potential to use five genetic markers to assess whether a man is at high risk to develop prostate cancer. The five “single nucleotide polymorphisms” (often called SNPs or “snips”) appear to have the greatest potential in identifying prostate cancer in men of African ethnicity or a family history of prostate cancer.

Nelson et al. have finally published the full results of the negative Phase III trial of atrasentan in men with non-metastatic, hormone-refractory prostate cancer. The trial was seriously impacted by the patient drop-out rate in the USA. Although atrasentan demonstrated a numeric delay in time to progression (TTP) vs placebo, and disease progression occurred in fewer patients in the atrasentan group than in the placebo group, the trial was not able to demonstrate statistically significant in improvements in TTP or survival.

Mathew et al. have reported that rising plasma levels of an enzyme known as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) during treatment may signal resistance to treatment with docetaxel in patients with metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer.

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