Other highlights in the November 19 issue of JNCI

November 18, 2003

Study Exposes Racial Disparities in Treatment Outcomes Black men tend to have poorer overall survival than white men after being treated for localized prostate cancer, according to a new study, which also found that the disparity is greatest among men who undergo surgery.

In a study that examined the records of 5,747 black men and 38,242 white men with clinically localized prostate cancer, Paul A. Godley, M.D., Ph.D., of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues found that overall median survival time for black patients was 1.7 years less than that for white patients. Among patients who received surgery, black patients survived a median 1.8 years less than white patients (10.8 years vs. 12.6 years, respectively). The differences in median survival between black and white patients were smaller among patients treated with radiation and among patients who received nonaggressive treatment.

The authors explain that black patients with locally advanced prostate cancer may have had less access to specialized radiation therapy, which is preferred over surgery. Alternatively, there may be biologic factors that affect response to prostate cancer treatment. "Researchers should continue to investigate racial disparities in treatment outcomes as well as the specific social, biologic, or environmental conditions that may be responsible for these disparities," the authors conclude.

Contact: Dianne Shaw, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, 919-966-7834, dgs@med.unc.edu.

Genetic Disorder May Predispose Patients to HPV-Induced Cancers The rare genetic disorder Fanconi anemia may be associated with an increased susceptibility to human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), according to a new study. David I. Kutler, M.D., and Bhuvanesh Singh, M.D., of the Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and their colleagues examined SCC samples from 24 patients with Fanconi anemia and 50 patients without Fanconi anemia, and found that 84% of samples from patients with Fanconi anemia contained HPV DNA, compared with only 36% of samples from patients without Fanconi anemia. Patients with Fanconi anemia and SCC were also more likely than patients without SCC to have a specific polymorphism in the p53 gene that may be associated with an increased risk for HPV-associated cancers.

Contact: Joanne Nicholas, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 212-639-3573, nicholaj@mskcc.org.

Study May Explain How Peptide Promotes Cancer Spread New research suggests that the small peptide thymosin beta4 stimulates cancer metastasis by activating cell migration and angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). Hee-Jae Cha and Hynda K. Kleinman, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and their colleagues showed that mice injected with cells derived from metastatic lung tumors that expressed thymosin beta4 developed larger tumors and more metastatic lung nodules than mice injected with cells that did not express thymosin beta4. Thymosin beta4 overexpression was associated with increases in cancer cell migration and the number of blood vessels in solid tumors, but had no effect of cell invasion, proliferation, or matrix metalloproteinase activity. In addition, overexpression of thymosin beta4 was associated with increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor, which is involved in tumor angiogenesis.

Contact: Bob Kuska, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 301-594-7560, kuskar@nidcr.nih.gov.

Moderate Drinking Associated with Higher Hormone Levels Postmenopausal women who consume moderate amounts of alcohol (roughly one to two drinks per day) may be at an increased risk for cancer because of increased blood serum levels of the fat hormone leptin, according to a new study. Mark J. Roth, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute, and his colleagues examined serum leptin levels in 53 healthy, nonsmoking postmenopausal women who received one drink (15 g of alcohol), two drinks (30 g of alcohol), or zero drinks per day to elucidate possible mechanisms by which alcohol may affect cancer risk. Women who consumed one or two drinks per day had higher serum leptin levels than women who consumed zero drinks per day. Younger women (ages 49 to 54) had a greater association between alcohol consumption and serum leptin levels than older women (ages 55 to 79). The authors say that more research is needed to determine whether alcohol consumption can potentiate the effect of serum leptin on cancer risk.

Contact: NCI Press Office, 301-496-6641, ncipressofficers@mail.nih.gov.

Titles of additional articles appearing in the November 19 JNCI:
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Note: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute is published by Oxford University Press and is not affiliated with the National Cancer Institute. Attribution to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is requested in all news coverage.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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