cancer immunotherapy


Roundup: Major U.S. Trial to Test Anti-Tumor Drug Combinations; Exercising in Afternoon is Best for Diabetics; and More News

U.S. Launches Largest Cancer Initiative to Test Drug Combinations Targeting Certain Tumors

The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH),  has launched a "large precision medicine" cancer trial to test the effectiveness of treating adults and children with new drug combinations that target specific tumors with genetic changes.

The U.S. initiative is known as the Combination Therapy Platform Trial with Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice -- or ComboMATCH. The NIH describes it as the "largest of its kind to test combinations of cancer drugs guided by tumor biology."

The project's goal is to find more promising treatments that can advance to larger, more precise clinical trials beyond ComboMATCH.

“With ComboMATCH, we’re hoping that by attacking both the genetic driver and the mechanisms of resistance, we will obtain more durable clinical responses and more benefit to patients,” said Jeffrey Moscow, M.D., of the Investigational Drug Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis and a co-leader of ComboMATCH, in a statement.

ComboMATCH will cover numerous phase 2 treatment trials that will each evaluate a drug combination --  either two targeted drugs or a targeted drug plus a chemotherapy drug. "Some trials will include patients with specific changes in their cancer cells, no matter where the cancer arose in the body, whereas others will enroll patients with specific cancer types," the NIH states.

The tested combinations will include both U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs and investigational treatments from pharmaceutical companies. "Hundreds of thousands of potential drug combinations exist, so one challenge has been to narrow down and prioritize the most promising ones," the NIH states.

For Diabetics, Exercising in the Afternoon Provides Best Improvement in Blood Sugar Levels

The benefits of regular exercise for everyone – but especially for those with type 2 diabetes – are well established when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels and lowering the risk of health complications. A new study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, finds that exercising in the afternoon provided the most significant management and improvement of blood glucose levels.

Research from investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Joslin Diabetes Center, part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, used data from the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study, a randomized controlled trial that analyzed the impact of intensive lifestyle interventions in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and overweight or obese. The goal was to track the development of cardiovascular disease over time.

“In this study, we shown that adults with type 2 diabetes had the greatest improvement in glucose control when they were most active in the afternoon,” said co-corresponding author Jingyi Qian, Ph.D., from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at the Brigham, in a statement. “We’ve known that physical activity is beneficial, but what our study adds is a new understanding that timing of activity may be important too.”

Researchers reviewed physical activity data from the first and fourth years of the Look AHEAD study, which included data on more than 2,400 participants. During the study, participants wore a waist accelerometry recording device to measure physical activity.

“When the Brigham and Joslin team reviewed the data from year 1, they determined that those who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the afternoon had the greatest reduction in blood glucose levels,” states a news release on the study. “Upon comparing the data from year 4, the afternoon group maintained a reduction in blood glucose levels. In addition, the afternoon group also had the highest chance of stopping their glucose-lowering/diabetes medications.”

Physicians urge patients with diabetes to take part in regular physical activity to manage their blood glucose levels. Elevated blood glucose levels can put people with type 2 diabetes at risk of heart disease, vision impairment, and kidney disease.

Artificial Sweetener May Negatively Affect DNA, Gut Bacteria, New Study Finds

Previous and ongoing studies have suggested links between regular consumption of artificial sweeteners and weight gain, metabolic disorders, type-2 diabetes, alteration of gut bacteria and even a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and dementia.

A new study finds that a widely used sweetener, sold under the trade name Splenda, is “genotoxic” -- meaning it breaks up DNA, possibly leading to serious disease, according to researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Previous work by the same researchers found that several fat-soluble compounds are produced in the gut after sucralose ingestion. One of these compounds is sucralose-6-acetate, which can cause a “leaky gut,” the study said.

“A leaky gut is problematic, because it means that things that would normally be flushed out of the body in feces are instead leaking out of the gut and being absorbed into the bloodstream,” said Susan Schiffman, corresponding author of the study and an adjunct professor in the joint department of biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a statement.

The paper, “Toxicological and pharmacokinetic properties of sucralose-6-acetate and its parent sucralose: in vitro screening assays,” is published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says sucralose is safe. The agency states that it “continues to monitor the latest science available on sweeteners in a variety of ways.”

Physicians and dietitians generally agree that everyone should monitor and reduce the amount of artificial sweeteners in the diet because these sugar substitutes can cause more cravings for unhealthy sweet foods.

Earlier this year in a separate study, researchers found that a sugar substitute known as erythritol – an artificial sweetener which is added to “low-calorie” products -- has been linked to a higher risk of blood clotting, stroke and heart attack in a new study. This substance is a form of sugar alcohol, which is commonly used to add bulk to other sugar substitutes such as stevia, monk-fruit or keto-based products.

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