Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Studies Reveal Many Advances in Thyroid Cancer Research

As an overview of medical research on thyroid cancer for 2010, EmpowHer published the top findings in the field. Among several advances in research, one important finding was that thyrotropin suppression therapy may not be necessary.

Researchers found in a randomized controlled trial in October that this therapy does not significantly increase disease-free survival time, according to the news source. They discovered that when the thyroid is completely removed, patients are often given synthetic thyroid hormones at high enough doses to suppress production of TSH, which is also called thyrotropin.

In addition, scientists found that Hashimoto's thyroiditis is associated with thyroid cancer. Researchers suggested observation of patients with Hashimoto's disease for development of the condition. This year, studies also revealed that ultrasound is effective for diagnosing medullary thyroid carcinoma.

Thyroid cancer is the fastest-growing cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates that 44,670 new cases will be diagnosed nationwide this year. Additionally, the National Cancer Institute reports that there are 19,500 thyroid cancer diagnoses in the U.S. annually, and up to 1,500 will die from it. While the disease appears most often in people over 30, thyroid cancer can occur at any age.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Scientists Look for Repeats in DNA as Evidence of Radiation Exposure in Thyroid Cancer

It has been known for some time that exposure of the head and neck to radiation therapy increases the subsequent risk of thyroid cancer. Now, a pair of researchers from Germany and the UK are looking into the likelihood that papillary thyroid cancer - which features DNA changes that were once thought to be due to aging - can be caused by radiation exposure.

Their results, which appeared in the journal Clinical Oncology, suggest that it may be feasible to test papillary thyroid cancer samples for copy number alterations (CNAs), which could indicate damage caused by ionizing radiation.

CNAs are variations in the sequence of base pairs found in the DNA of a human cell. While some CNAs are relatively harmless, others may cause serious health risks.

The authors of the new study noted that when scientists sequence the genes of tumor cells, CNAs are often found within their DNA. That principle holds true for papillary thyroid cancer, which is the most common type of thyroid cancer, according to the Columbia University Medical Center.

Papillary thyroid tumors account for at least 70 percent of all diagnosed cases of thyroid cancer, the Center specifies. In the new medical review, the authors suggested that researchers consider looking for the CNAs that papillary thyroid cancer cells have in common, since their discovery might provide biomarkers that diagnosticians could use to determine how the cancer originated.

They said that the only effective way to determine which CNAs are radiation-related is to compare the sequencing results from a number of closely related cancer study cohorts. By "closely related," the researchers meant that papillary cancer CNAs should be studied based on samples taken from patients who are very similar in age, health status and genetic background.

The team also made suggestions for maximizing the potential of comparative genetic study, such as sequencing DNA with the best integrity or the least degradation from fresh biopsies or blood samples.

Researchers concluded that compiling a list of radiation-caused CNAs will have a number of benefits in the detection and treatment of papillary thyroid cancer.  Currently, nearly 1,700 Americans die of thyroid cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Retreats and Getaways For Cancer Patients and Survivors

A growing body of clinical research shows that our innate ability to heal is deeply intertwined with a fundamental human desire for meaning, purpose and fulfillment. The data emerging from conventional medical research facilities around the world validates what many Eastern and Western mystical traditions have known for centuries: that the body’s physical recuperative abilities can be enhanced by integrative medical approaches that also facilitate mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.

Cancer retreats can be beneficial to a patient's healing process and helpful for caregivers. They provide a nurturing environment, often in a beautiful setting, that promotes stress relief, understanding your feelings, and learning how to cope with a cancer diagnosis in your life. Retreats and camps can be for patients, caregivers, family members, cancer survivors and even healthcare professionals who take care of cancer patients. Check with the program you wish to attend to determine who is eligible to participate and the per person cost.
  • A New Beginning Cancer Retreat holds free retreats year-round in Ellston, Iowa, for cancer survivors of all ages. Family members and friends are also welcome with a charitable contribution requested. For more information, go to or call 641-772-4276.
  • ACS Adventure Weekends offers two retreats per year at the Sargent Center for Outdoor Education near Peterborough, New Hampshire for women with breast cancer. $15. 800-ACS-2345,
  • Dream is a free camp located near Missoula, Montana, for children age 6-17 and young adults age 18-25 with cancer. Camps are held in January and each summer with adult retreats held in the fall. There is a cost for adult retreats. For more information, go to or call 406-549-5987.
  • Camp Sunshine summer camp in Decatur, Georgia, for children with cancer is complemented by year-round programs for the rest of the family. For more information, call 404-325-7979 or go to
  • Commonweal Cancer Help Program retreats are held throughout the year near Bolinas, California. Some scholarships are available. For more information, contact Waz Thomas, program coordinator, at 415-868-0970 or go to
  • Harmony Hill offers 3 day retreats for women survivors, caregivers, lesbians, minority women and men in Olympic Peninsula, Washington. FREE. 360-898-2363, 
  • Hilltop Retreat - 2 day spiritual weekend of renewal sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. Contact Mary Riley at 507-288-8354, $25.Life Beyond Cancer Participants will be selected based on their willingness to take what they have learned back to their communities and become involved in efforts to help others dealing with cancer. Scholarships are available. For more information, go to
  • Life Choices Wellnes Center A renewal retreat for women with breast cance in Saluda, North Carolina. 1-800-439-0083, sliding scale. One week retreats.
  • Mending in the Mountains retreat for women survivors at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. To assist survivors in rediscovering joy and hope in life; to offer tools for empowering survivors to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of cancer recovery; and to provide nurturing support from others dealing with similar life challenges. For further information please call The Big Sky Cancer Recovery and Resource Center at (406)388-4988
  • Planet Cancer provides free weekend retreats for young adult cancer patients and survivors. The retreats are developed locally with the goal of growing a nationwide support network of young adults with cancer. For more information, call 512-481-9010 or e-mail 
  • Second Wind Retreat located 2 hours north of Atlanta, GA. Rent-free use of cottage to those in cancer treatment. Medical referral needed. 404-348-4986 or 
  • Ski to Live - a 4-day skiing and snowboarding retreat for survivors and their families in Snowbird, Utah. Some scholarships available. Kristen Ulmer, 801-733-5003,
  • Smith Farm Cancer Help Program Retreat is a week-long retreat in Comus, Maryland, for cancer survivors (spouses are welcome) held throughout the year. Scholarships are available. For more information, go to or call 202-483-8600.
  • Stowe Weekend of Hope - One weekend each spring, the town of Stowe, Vermont opens its 55 hotels and lodges to cancer survivors and their families at no charge. AMTRAK provides a limited number of free seats for survivors to get to Stowe from Washington, DC. 1-800-GO-STOWE, 
  • Sunstone Cancer Support Foundation offers numerous cancer retreats in Tucson, Arizona, year-round for cancer survivors and their families. Partial scholarships are available. For more information, go to or contact Nan Rubin at 520-749-1928.

Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund is working to develop and launch an access to care grant program for thyroid cancer patients and survivors nationwide. Please consider supporting our unique initiative that includes a set aside fund for healthcare access to assist thyroid cancer survivors with medical costs associated with follow up treatment, annual exams,  diagnostics and medications. 

SJCCFThyNet is a project of United Charitable Programs Inc., a 501(c) 3 Public Charity and as such all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gene alteration identified that predisposes to syndrome with high risk of cancer

Researchers have identified a new genetic alteration that predisposes individuals to Cowden syndrome, a rare disorder that is characterized by high risks of breast, thyroid and other cancers, according to preliminary research published in the December 22/29 issue of JAMA.

A majority of patients with Cowden syndrome, which occurs in approximately 1 in 200,000 live births, and a small minority of patients with Cowden-like syndrome, have mutations in the tumor suppressor PTEN gene. These mutations are associated with increased risk of various malignancies, approximately 10 percent lifetime risk for thyroid cancer, and as much as 50 percent lifetime risk for female breast cancer over the general population, according to background information in the article.

 "A large heterogeneous group of individuals with Cowden-like syndrome, who have various combinations of Cowden syndrome features but who do not meet Cowden syndrome diagnostic criteria, have PTEN mutations less than 10 percent of the time, making molecular diagnosis, prediction, genetic counseling, and risk management challenging."

Other mechanisms of loss of function could result in underexpression of PTEN or of KILLIN, a novel tumor suppressor gene lying right next to PTEN, which may account for the remainder of Cowden syndrome and Cowden-like syndrome.

"In the context of a difficult-to-recognize syndrome, identification of additional cancer predisposition genes would facilitate molecular diagnosis, genotype-specific predictive testing of family members who are as yet clinically unaffected, genetic counseling, and medical management," the authors write.

Included in the objectives of a study conducted by Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., of the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues, was to determine the likelihood of KILLIN as a predisposition gene in patients with Cowden syndrome or Cowden-like syndrome, because of its similar function to PTEN.

The study included analysis of nucleic acids from 123 patients with Cowden syndrome or Cowden-like syndrome and 50 unaffected individuals without PTEN variants, which were genetically analyzed for expression of PTEN and KILLIN from August 2008 - June 2010. Prevalence of cancers between groups was compared.

Among the findings of the researchers was that KILLIN is a predisposition gene for Cowden syndrome and Cowden-like syndrome. Individuals with KILLIN-promoter methylation (turns gene off) had a 3-fold increased prevalence of breast cancer (35/42 vs. 24/64) and a greater than 2-fold increase of kidney cancer (4/45 vs. 6/155) over individuals with germline (the cell line from which egg or sperm cells [gametes] are derived) PTEN mutations.

"By discovering another cancer predisposition gene, we have added to the sensitivity of molecular diagnosis and predictive testing becomes possible. Importantly, genetic counseling and gene-informed risk assessment and management become evidence based," the researchers write. "The current national practice guidelines for individuals with PTEN germline mutations includes heightened surveillance of the female breasts and thyroid, but do not have awareness of renal cancer risk.

If our observations of 2- to 3-fold increased risks of renal and/or breast cancer with KILLIN germline methylation over those of PTEN mutation holds, then extra vigilance for the organs at risk, breast and kidneys, is warranted. The KILLIN-associated breast cancer risks would parallel those conferred by germline BRCAl/2 mutations."

"If these data can be and must be replicated independently, then a hypothetical schema for prioritizing gene testing could be as follows:

(1) individuals with classic Cowden syndrome should be offered PTEN testing first;

(2) those found not to have germline PTEN mutations should then be offered KILLIN epigenetic [affects expression of genes without mutation] analysis, in the setting of genetic counseling; and

(3) individuals with classic Cowden syndrome without germline PTEN mutation (80 percent are mutation-positive) and without KILLIN epigenetic inactivation (half of the 20 percent should have KILLIN epigenetic inactivation) should then be offered SDHB/D [a type of genes] testing (10 percent of the 20 percent should have SDHB/D mutation).

Altogether, therefore, PTEN, KILLIN, and SDHB/D should then account for 92 percent of all classic Cowden syndrome," the authors write.

SOURCE: JAMA and Archives Journals

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Drug-like compound stops thyroid overstimulation

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have identified a compound that prevents overproduction of thyroid hormone, a finding that brings scientists one step closer to improving treatment for Graves' disease.

In Graves' disease, the thyroid gland never stops. Thyroid-stimulating antibodies bind to receptors, activating them to keep the thyroid hormone coming and coming - like a broken traffic light stuck on green - and causing the body problems in regulating energy, controlling other hormones and maintaining cells throughout the body.
Attacking the problem at its root cause, lead researcher Susanne Neumann, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) have identified a chemical compound that binds to the receptors and acts as an antagonist, keeping the stimulating antibodies from their work and potentially allowing the thyroid cells to revert to normal function.

The findings, published this month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, establish the effect of the receptor antagonist on human thyroid cells. The antagonist has not yet been tested in animals or people and still has multiple steps of toxicology and safety testing before it may be ready for human trials.

Though treatments are available for hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease, including surgery, radioactive iodine, and antithyroid drugs, the relapse rates for these treatments are 5 percent, 21 percent and 40 percent, respectively, and each comes with unfavorable side effects.

"Our goal is to develop an easily produced, orally administered, safe and effective drug with few to no side effects that can be used in place of some of the more invasive treatments of hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease," said Marvin Gershengorn, M.D., chief of the Laboratory of Endocrinology and Receptor Biology within NIDDK's intramural research program and the senior author on the paper.

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder, causing the body's immune system to act against the body's own cells and organs. Graves' disease typically first occurs in people under 40 and affects approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population, with women five to 10 times more likely than men to have Graves' disease.

The newly discovered compound, which is a receptor antagonist, may have the added benefit of helping those with eye problems caused by Graves' disease - called Graves' ophthalmopathy - experienced by more than 25 percent of people with the disease. Eye problems may include painful swelling in the eye sockets, double vision, tears or itchy eyes, and protruding eyes with swollen eyelids that can't be easily shut, increasing the risk for eye diseases. Because the swelling in the eyes is thought to be associated with the same overstimulation of receptors caused by the same thyroid-stimulating antibodies as in the thyroid, the potential thyroid treatment may have the added benefit of treating the eye problems as well.

The Gershengorn team is also at work on the flip side of thyroid regulation. By researching the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor, they're hoping to use drug-like compounds to stimulate this receptor to treat people with thyroid cancer, who need more stimulation of thyroid cancer cells to increase the efficacy of iodine radiation. They've tested their discovery in mice and hope to perform pre-clinical studies and to develop human trials in the foreseeable future.

More information:

* Go to to learn more about Graves' disease.

* Go to   to read the journal abstract.

* Go to   to learn about clinical trials.

The NIDDK, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, see

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

SOURCE: The National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Understanding Cancer Care Disparities Today

While the United States offers the most advanced cancer treatment in the world, issues of race, culture, demographics, education, economic status, institutional prejudice and discrimination have lent themselves to the reality that not all Americans are offered the same resources for cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment or follow-up. But in the past decade, cancer disparities in minority and underserved groups have become the focus of many of us in the cancer community.

Many of us acting as patient advocate pioneers in the nonprofit sector and/or medical field have implemented unique programs to improve cancer prevention through health education initiatives, access to care grants and programs, post treatment follow-up education and outreach in our communities and through social media networks. Many of us are very passionate and motivated by our own personal experiences or the experience of friends, family and loved ones.

While much attention has been focused in recent years to federal and state governments that provide nonprofits, medical clinics, hospitals and teaching institutions with annual grants and funding to create programs that assist the indigent with access to care and address the multicultural and psychosocial issues of general health education and cancer prevention the truth is these initiatives are simply not enough and have fallen short again and again from their stated goal -- they have made tremendous progress in their public relations and media image yet continue to "educate" patients "after the fact" and/or provide inadecuate services to their "target market".

In addition, research funded by the government aims to find underlying causes and solutions to overcome the barriers to equal cancer treatment (access to care) for all Americans. The statistics that prompted this funding initiative have been gathered by various entities for a number of years and will continue to be gathered, at the very least, for the next decade. The National Cancer Institute's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (, created to "reduce the unequal burden of cancer in our society" has gathered statistics showing that while all deaths from cervical cancer are preventable, 4,000 American women died of the disease as early as 2005.

What's more, researchers even know the predominant demographics of these women: African American women in the South, Hispanic women (specially along the Texas-Mexico border), Vietnamese women and Caucasian women in Appalachia and the rural Northeast. These findings should give us some pause for reflection and the clearly profound message the research has unwittingly revealed to us all. This is the United States of America yet we continue selectively ignore to openly discuss the racial divide that exists even in our most basic of human needs and rights, which is preventive healthcare.

Another study found that African American patients are less likely than whites to receive recommended chemotherapy for stage 3 colon cancer. Indeed, an African American man is more likely to die of cancer than his caucasian counterpart despite an overall decline in the rate of death from cancer. African Americans (regardless of sex) experience higher mortality with cancers of the prostrate, colon, breast, cervix and lung than a white patient with a comparable tumor and medical history !

Native Americans, which include more than 560 federally recognized tribes that speak 217 native languages, have the poorest survival rates from all cancers combined than any other ethnic groups here in the United States of America. Similarly, less educated Americans who live in rural areas are less likely to have a family doctor and follow prevention and screening recommendations for the general population.

Statistics for the Hispanic population are equally disappointing. According to data compiled by the Intercultural Cancer Council ( cervical cancer incidence is two to three times higher in Hispanic women than in white women and only 38 percent of Hispanic women age 40 and older have regular mammograms. While Hispanics represent about 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 25% (percent) of the country's uninsured.

According to a report on cancer health disparities commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2005, minority and underserved populations are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from preventable cancers and be diagnosed with late stage disease for cancers that are detectable through screenings at an early stage !

In addition, these populations receive either no treatment or treatment that does not meet current standard of care practices and die of generally curable cancers because they do not have the benefit of coordinated specialty care early on in their cancer journey. What's more co-existing disorders are often untreated, they don't receive the benefit of adecuate pain management and/or palliative care.

The research in cancer healthcare disparities continues as the healthcare reform debate rages on. It may be many decades years, even decades before we fully understand and address this aspect of our national health crisis but as of today the general consensus is that there are multiple contributors to healthcare disparities ranging from language issues to biases based on cultural or racial differences, the complexity of the current healthcare system combined with the simple economics equated to the number of uninsured in America today versus the cost of effective cancer care.

No matter what you choose to believe as an individual, I, as a cancer survivor, caregiver and patient care advocate - see the issue clearly defined and ever present everydat as one of the simplest things to ignore and "dress-up" behind all the excuses, complicated research and political debate -- it boils down to the almighty dollar and something as basic as free access to community health education programs.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thyroid Cancer a Concern Decades After Childhood Radiation

When children are exposed to head and neck radiation, whether due to cancer treatment or multiple diagnostic CT scans, the result is an increased risk of thyroid cancer for the next 58 years or longer, according to University of Rochester Medical Center research.

The study is believed to be the longest of any group of children exposed to medical irradiation and followed for thyroid cancer incidence. It was published in the December 2010 edition of the journal, Radiation Research.

The data also might provide some insight about why the rates of thyroid cancer continue to rise, as the general public is increasingly exposed to higher doses of radiation through more frequently used imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT), said lead author Jacob Adams, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at URMC

"Ionizing radiation is a known carcinogen and, in fact, about 1 million CT scans are performed every year on children five years or younger," Adams said. "Although CTs and other imaging tests are an important diagnostic tool and radiotherapy is an important treatment modality for cancer, with everything comes a risk. Our study attempted to measure the very long-term impact on thyroid cancer from medical irradiation. Our findings strongly suggest that those individuals exposed to irradiation from multiple CT scans to the head, neck and chest during early childhood and individuals treated with radiotherapy to the upper body as children have a lifelong increased risk of thyroid cancer."

Adams and colleagues indirectly evaluated the future risks of modern patients by assessing the rates of thyroid cancer in a group that was treated with lower-dose chest radiotherapy in Rochester, N.Y., between 1953 and 1987. The cohort had been treated during infancy for an enlarged thymus, a condition that physicians used to believe was a health problem. None of the radiation administered was for cancer, and thus the research is not confounded by a susceptibility to the disease.

Adams re-surveyed the population between 2004 and 2008, and compared the health status of the group to their siblings who had not received radiation. Thyroid cancer occurred in 50 of the 1,303 irradiated patients compared to only 13 of the 1,768 siblings. The association between radiation and thyroid cancer remained strong even after researchers accounted for other factors that could contribute to thyroid cancer risk.

Radiation doses in the mid-century group overlapped with current medical practices; however, in general, higher doses and less precision were used years ago. Doses at the lower end of the study cohort were comparable to a diagnostic pediatric chest CT given today, the study said. Not surprisingly, researchers found that thyroid cancer risk increased with higher doses of radiation.

The Rochester study confirmed the findings of a pooled review of five earlier population studies, and adds to the literature by showing that, at least in children, the risk of cancer due to radiation exposure continues for a median of 57.5 years.

The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute funded the study.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center

Friday, December 3, 2010

e-Fundraising Magazine Subscription Drive!

It's that time again! Welcome to our e-Fundraising Magazine Subscription Drive, this year you can purchase or renew subscriptions to your favorite magazines and publications (like Women's Health, Shape, Prevention,  TIME,  Sports Illustrated and more) at up to 85% off, or if you prefer you can enjoy exclusive offers on cookie dough, eCertificates. and much more. 

Each time you make a purchase, Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund will receive up to 40% of the total sales price as a donation to support thyroid cancer patients and survivors nationwide!

Thyroid Cancer is the fastest increasing newly diagnosed cancer in America today, regardless of age, sex, race or ethnic background. Women are 3 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer and sadly, childhood cancer survivors are also at an increased risk of developing the condition. They need our help and we need your support.

Don't delay renew your favorite magazine subscriptions today or browse our e-shop. You can also support Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund by sharing this page and spreading the word to friends and family. We appreciate any help you can provide in helping us reach our fundraising goal.

Thank You!