|Spring 2010-Research Briefs|
Three Cancer Center Members Named AAAS Fellows
Three researchers from the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center have been elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)—an honor bestowed upon members by their peers. The newly elected fellows are David Allison, Ph.D., of the Department of Biostatistics; Etty “Tika” Benveniste, Ph.D., of the Department of Cell Biology; and Ruiwen Zhang, Ph.D., of the Department of Toxicology and Pharmacology. All are senior scientists in the Cancer Center.
Initiative Reaches Out to Breast Cancer Survivors
UAB professors Patrick McNees, Ph.D., FAAN, and Karen Meneses, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, have received a three-year, $1.3-million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research to determine the cost-effectiveness of a telephone-supported intervention for rural breast cancer survivors developed by Ms. Meneses and colleagues under a previous grant.
The project continues providing care after breast cancer treatment for women who are vulnerable to being lost in transition, particularly the shift from treatment to survivorship, because they lack access to health care providers and services. This study hopes to demonstrate the benefits of providing survivors with competent, effective and informed care beyond their cancer treatment.
New Answers About Disparities in Colon Cancer Survival
UAB researchers have found that body-mass index (BMI) and coexisting medical conditions (co-morbidity) do not explain the decreased survival among African Americans with colon cancer as compared to Caucasians with the disease.
Researchers once thought that the racial disparity in survival following surgery for colon cancer was related to a high BMI and co-morbidity. But by analyzing data from nearly 500 colon cancer patients who had surgery at UAB between 1981 and 2002, researchers found that among patients with advanced stages of cancer, being underweight actually increased the risk of death by 87 percent, while being overweight decreased the risk of death.
“That was the surprising finding for us—that a high BMI was actually protective in patients with advanced-stage disease,” says Upender Manne, Ph.D., Cancer Center associate scientist and the study’s lead author. “Co-morbidity in cancer can have an important role, because it impacts everything from the timing of diagnosis to treatment decisions. Obviously, BMI and co-morbidity are not the answers we need to explain the survival disparity in colon cancer. Something else is going on.”
Early Referral Leads to Better Outcome for Sarcomas
UAB researchers have found that patients with a suspected benign soft tissue tumor who get an early referral to a cancer specialist have better outcomes if the tumor proves to be a malignant sarcoma, a type of cancer that develops in soft tissue such as muscle or cartilage.
The study found that men ages 20 to 40 who discovered a soft tissue mass were more likely to have that tumor removed during an unplanned procedure without consulting a cancer specialist. By doing so, these patients are at an increased risk for developing complications at the tumor site and may require additional treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy, because non-oncologic surgeons may leave parts of the tumor behind that can grow back. These complications can be avoided with early referral to a cancer specialist.
Arm Exercises Cut Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Lifting weights to build upper body strength can relieve some of the arm and hand swelling that occurs in breast cancer survivors who have had lymph nodes under their arms removed, according to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the study, women who did twice-weekly workouts while wearing a compression garment had less arm pain and swelling, a condition known as lymphedema, which affects more than 600,000 breast cancer survivors in the United States. The weights were increased gradually over the course of the study.
Lymph glands are needed to drain fluid from the body. Lymphedema occurs because these glands are often removed during breast cancer surgery to prevent the cancer from spreading. Many women are told not to lift anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds to avoid making the condition worse.
UAB Shines in Latest Rankings
More than two-thirds of the best doctors in Alabama practice at UAB, according to the 2009-10 edition of “The Best Doctors in America.” UAB has a total of 297 physicians on the list. Nearly 40 of those are members of the Cancer Center.
The Cancer Center was also one of eight UAB specialty programs to be listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” rankings. Routinely listed among the nation’s top 25 cancer programs, the Cancer Center came in 23rd this year. UAB Hospital was the only medical center in Alabama or Mississippi to appear on the U.S. News list.