News Reports: May 2007

By Querida Anderson, Prachi Patel-Predd, Nick Rose, Diane West, and John D. Zoidis, MD
Published: Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010
Preventive Health Exams May Lead to Cancer Screenings

A new report by researchers at the University of California, Davis (UCD), shows that health plan members who receive regular preventive exams are more likely to undergo screening for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers. The UCD researchers, led by Joshua Fenton, presented their findings in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers evaluated 64,288 people age 52 to 78 who were enrolled in a Washington State health plan from 2002 to 2003. This population included 39,475 enrollees eligible for colorectal cancer screening, 31,379 women eligible for breast cancer screening, and 28,483 men eligible for prostate cancer screening. The researchers divided the patients into two groups—those who had a preventive health exam or general physical during the two-year period and those who did not. About half of the patients had a preventive health exam from 2002 to 2003.

After controlling for factors that influence cancer screening rates, such as patient demographics and historical use of medical care, the researchers found that patients who received general health exams were significantly more likely to undergo cancer screening. Men and women who had a general checkup were more than three times as likely as the others to receive colorectal cancer screening, and men were three times as likely to be tested for prostate cancer.

The corresponding difference was smaller in women eligible for breast cancer screening—about 74% of women who had general health exams got screened as compared to about 56% of women who did not have general checkups. This is because the Washington State health plan “has a longstanding, innovative breast cancer screening program that operates independently of primary care,” Fenton told Oncology & Biotechnology News. Women receive mailed reminders about mammography and can schedule mammograms without a physician’s referral. “This may diminish the impact of a physical on mammography in this population,” he said.

In addition to reinforcing the value of health plan coverage for regular wellness visits, these results should provide a significant lesson to doctors and patients. Some doctors have questioned the value of regular check-ups, Fenton said, but check-ups may give them time to think about prevention and recommend screening tests. In comparison, the study suggests that visiting the doctor only when ill does not have the same effect. “Doctors may simply be too busy to be effective advocates of prevention when they’re taking care of acute or chronic illness,” Fenton said.

                                                                                                                                                              – Prachi Patel-Predd

Canine Cancer Vaccine Being Investigated for Use in Humans

    First therapeutic vaccine approved by FDA in either animals or humans

A joint research effort between one of the nation’s leading cancer centers and a major veterinary hospital has yielded a DNA-based therapeutic vaccine to treat melanoma in dogs. Researchers hope the breakthrough will open the door for treatment in humans as well.

The vaccine recently received conditional approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), making it the first therapeutic cancer vaccine approved in the United States to treat cancer in either animals or humans.

“Both humans and dogs develop this cancer in exactly the same way,” said Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok, an oncologist at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who handled the human arm of the laboratory research. “By conducting trials in humans and in animals that live in the same surroundings as humans, there can be a synergy that we hope will result in improved cancer treatment for all.”

With the USDA’s conditional approval, the vaccine will be marketed for veterinary use while additional safety and efficacy tests are conducted.

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