Are Profit Margins Dictating Cancer Treatment Recommendations?

“We’re asking surgeons to buy a device that takes away profit margins and their next case but makes life and recovery easier for the patient. Why, in Israel and Europe, where no one is rewarded monetarily for second surgeries, do they embrace this tool?”

Man holding cash.
Are profit margins dictating cancer treatment?

That’s the telling question Newport Beach, California cancer surgeon Dr. Alice Police asked the Orange County Register while discussing the reluctance of U.S. hospitals and cancer surgeons to use a game-changing new breast cancer surgery tool that dramatically reduces the need for repeat surgeries.

Using the new MarginProbe System, surgeons can test removed tissue in the operating room to determine whether all cancer cells have been excised and, if necessary, remove additional tissue during a single surgery, negating the need for subsequent surgeries. While the cost of using the device is high, FDA approval means costs are covered by Medicare and most major health insurers. So why have only 4 U.S. hospitals purchased the MarginProbe System in the 8 months since FDA approval?

Dr. Michael J. Stamos of the University of California-Irvine Medical Center said UCI purchased the device “to improve patient care.” While admitting that the hospital loses money when repeat surgeries are not needed, he told the Register, “You have to look beyond the current economics and more at favorable outcomes.”

Concern that profit margins may be affecting hospitals’ and surgeons’ reluctance to adopt this new cancer treatment tool calls into question broader treatment recommendations made by practitioners of traditional Western medicine. Do profit margins play a role in their failure to offer cancer patients effective alternative cancer treatments from which they will not profit?

Holistic Approach to Cancer Treatment Needed to Address Tumor Complexity

image of DNA
Tumor complexity is tied to unexpected diversity at the cellular level.

“Tumors evolve on a very simple principle; it is all about the survival of the nastiest,” Paul Workman of the British Institute of Cancer Research in London recently told The Guardian.

Their killer survival instinct may be what allows cancer tumors to eventually overwhelm traditional cancer treatments – typically within 6 months — and find new ways of replicating cancer cells. As noted in our previous post, achieving long-term remission of advanced cancer tumors and standard therapy-resistant tumors requires multiple attack paths to counteract the surprising  ability of cancer cells to change attack mode when cancer treatment interferes with their ability to reproduce.

Cancer-causing agents initiate tumor growth in several ways:

  • Trigger cells to divide and spread uncontrollably;
  • Turn off cell mechanisms that normally halt cell division; or
  • Block the DNA repair mechanisms that maintain cell health.

Given the flexibility of cancer cells to change behavior when denied their preferred method of attack, study researchers believe that a multi-pronged treatment program must be employed to effectively counteract all possible growth methods. For many cancer researchers, including those involved in the London study, this means developing new cancer drugs and chemotherapy protocols that could deliver multiple drugs simultaneously or in rapid succession in a manner similar to that used to fight HIV.

The problem with limiting cancer treatment to drugs is one of scope. Of the 23,000 human genes mapped 150 have been identified as cancer-causing agents; but drug treatments are available for only 15. Issels integrative immunotherapy looks beyond drugs, employing a variety of treatment methods that work with the body to effectively attack cancer on multiple fronts.

Unexpected Cancer Tumor Complexity Requires New Treatment Protocols

Cancer tumors are considerably more genetically complex than thought.

Unlocking the body’s genetic code has led to myriad discoveries that are transforming medicine. One unexpected discovery is that cancer tumors are considerably more genetically complex that previously believed, causing researchers to rethink current traditional methods of treating cancer.

“Until recently, it was assumed cancer cells were more or less identical clones of each other. We have found this is not true. Cells, taken from a single tumor from one person, can have many different genetic alterations within them,” Chris Jones of the Institute of Cancer Research in London told The Guardian.

Mapping of the human genome opened the door to targeted cell therapy. Of the body’s 23,000 genes, scientists found 150 genes with mutations that could trigger cells to create cancerous tumors. Scientists found that the various triggering mechanisms could be targeted and tumor growth slowed or halted using new cancer drugs that redefined chemotherapy. Now instead of a blanket approach that killed healthy cells along with the cancerous ones, specific drugs could be used to target cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

Initially, patient response to these new targeted drug treatments was impressive. However, in many cases cancer returned 6 months after treatment; but this time tumors were drug-resistant. What scientists discovered surprised them. When drugs blocked one path to tumor development, cancer cells demonstrated their genetic complexity by finding a new path.

The problem may be that traditional chemotherapy, even when targeted, is a destructive force designed to tear down the body. Issels personalized integrated immunotherapy, on the other hand, uses targeted cell therapies designed to build up the body’s immune system, strengthening its ability to fight cancer.

To be continued

Stress Gene Linked to Spread of Cancer

Man squeezing stress ball.
Stress genes may lead to cancer.

Stress can be a killer. Considered a contributing factor to many chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, a new study reported on has discovered a direct causal link between stress and the ability of cancer cells to metastasize and kill.

Researchers at The Ohio State University have linked the activation of the stress gene ATF3, a component of the body’s immune system, to the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body. Researchers believe the stress gene may also trigger metastasis in other types of cancer and could be a major cause of cancer fatalities.

The study emphasizes the critical link between cancer and the body’s immune system.

“If your body does not help cancer cells, they cannot spread as far. So really, the rest of the cells in the body help cancer cells to move, to set up shop at distant sites. And one of the unifying themes here is stress,” explained Tsonwin Hai, OSU professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry and the study’s senior author.

A normal stress response that occurs in cells of all types, activation of ATF3 triggers cell death, a therapeutic immune system response used to eliminate irrevocably damaged cells. However, the new study indicates that cancer cells are somehow able to co-opt ATF3, throwing the body’s normal immune system response into chaos which allows cancer cells to escape the tumor area and spread.

When cancer attacks, Issels integrated immunotherapy brings the immune system back into balance so it can more effectively protect the body against cancer stressors and prevent the activation of cancer triggers.

Innovative Cell Imaging Could Improve Personalized Cancer Care

Doctor looking through a microscope.
New Cancer Breakthoughs

One of the most challenging aspects of treating cancer is that, while there are commonalities, each person’s response to cancer and cancer treatments is unique. When cancer cells attack, some people are able to fight off cancer’s devastating effects and recover; others are not. Likewise, a cancer treatment that is effective in achieving long-term remission in one person may not be successful with another.

Biodynamic Imaging, an innovative cell imaging technique created by Purdue University researchers, may allow physicians to accurately determine the efficacy of cancer treatments on an individual. As Purdue research leader David Nolte told R&D Magazine:

“Technicians can use BioDynamic Imaging to measure tumor response to cancer therapy, such as metabolism and cell division. This can tell how well the drug is working and if there are side effects. Our approach is called phenotypic testing, which is more pertinent than genetic testing because it captures the holistic response of cancer to chemotherapy.”

The ability to determine individual response to chemotherapy, cancer vaccines and other cancer therapies could allow treatment teams to evaluate and identify more quickly treatment protocols that most benefit individual patients.

Early to recognize the uniqueness of each person’s response to cancer and cancer treatment, Issels Integrative Oncology began developing our innovative program of individualized immunotherapy more than 60 years ago. In six decades of successful practice, Issels cancer treatment teams have refined personalized cancer care and treatment using a holistic approach to boost immune response and fight cancer on multiple fronts. The success of our immunotherapy-based approach is evident in the many patient testimonials and documented case studies posted on our website.

Birth Defects Linked to Higher Cancer Risk

Smiling young doctor holding a beautiful newborn baby.
Certain types of birth defects are linked to a higher cancer risk.

Children born with major birth defects face many challenges as they move through life. A new study adds cancer to the hurdles they and their families must overcome. University of Utah researchers have found that children with certain types of birth defects have a somewhat greater risk of developing cancer, a risk that could impact the 120,000 (3%) of American children born with major birth defects every year.

The study found that non-chromosomal birth defects double cancer risk for children under the age of 15, although risk was greatest during the first 5 years of life. However, increased cancer risk was not universal and was not associated with the most common birth defects. According to study findings, increased cancer risk was limited to specific birth defects: cleft palate, eye defects, microcephaly and certain heart and kidney defects. All of the cancers associated with these birth defects were linked to immature cells that develop in early childhood.

While previous studies have documented increased cancer risk for children with Down’s syndrome, which is a genetic birth defect caused by the presence of an extra chromosome, this study focused on cancer risk for children born with structural birth defects unrelated to chromosomal abnormalities. It is hoped that study results will lead to improved treatment and long-term outcomes for children with birth defects.

Traditional medical treatments for children with cancer carry their own risks. As we reported earlier, one study found that children who undergo chemotherapy have a high risk of developing life-threatening chronic diseases during their adult years. Issels’ integrated immunotherapy cancer treatments offer effective alternatives to chemotherapy and radiation.