Joshalyn Mills of Branford and Nancy Witz of Kensington had the best possible results after being treated in clinical trials with immunotherapy drugs for aggressive breast cancer: Their tumors were eliminated. But while there are dramatic successes with immunotherapy drugs, there are also many failures, and researchers are trying to find out why in hopes of expanding the drugs’ effectiveness. Cutting-edge immunotherapy drugs use a person’s own immune system to fight disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the drugs in 2011 for cancer treatment. Success has occurred in about 15% to 20% of patients with cancers such as melanoma, lung, kidney and bladder, according to a report by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
“Potentially preventable” cancer deaths plunged in Connecticut over the last decade, according to a federal study, with two rural counties, Litchfield and Windham, experiencing a nearly 49 percent decrease, the best in the nation. Though cancer deaths fell overall in the United States, the trend in rural areas was not universal. In neighboring Massachusetts, for example, preventable cancer deaths rose in non-metropolitan areas. “The disparities were quite stark,” said Dr. Macarena Garcia, a senior health scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead author of the study. In general, cancer patients in rural areas, where residents tend to be older, sicker and poorer, die sooner than urban dwellers, Garcia noted.
Black women with breast cancer fare worse than other women when treated with early chemotherapy, according to new research from the Yale Cancer Center. Typically, black, Hispanic and Asian women are more likely to undergo neoadjuvant chemotherapy, or chemotherapy prior to surgery, than white women because they are more likely to develop advanced-stage breast cancer. But the new study found that black women are less likely to benefit from the treatment. The finding is significant because it proves further research is needed, and could impact how future research and treatment options are pursued for black women, said Brigid Killelea, the study’s first author and associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine. “African American women didn’t respond as well to the chemotherapy when a pathologist looked at the tumors under a microscope after [subsequent] surgery,” she said.