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Methodist studies lung cancer vaccine in largest lung cancer trial ever

An investigational drug being studied at The Methodist Hospital may vaccinate people against lung cancer. The vaccine trial is the largest study ever conducted on treatment for lung cancer.

“Previous studies have indicated that this new drug may teach a patient’s own body to fight lung cancer in the same way that it fights an infection by germs or viruses,” said Dr. Shanda Blackmon, surgical oncologist at The Methodist Hospital. “Because cancer is produced by a patient’s own body, the immune system does not recognize the cancer cells as it would recognize germs or viruses. It needs to be trained to do so.”

As part of the trial, study participants will be injected with a protein that is found in the tumor so that researchers can study whether the patient’s immune system will then recognize and destroy cells with this protein. In this way, it is hoped that recurrence of cancer will be delayed or prevented. The study will test that hypothesis

The study drug is called an antigen-specific cancer immunotherapeutic (ASCI). By incorporating a protein specific of the cancer, this drug will use the immune system to fight the cancer.

Even after complete removal of a lung tumor and affected lymph nodes, there is still a risk that the cancer will return. This risk is considered to be high enough to require additional treatment, such as chemotherapy, after surgery. However, even with the most aggressive chemotherapy, the cancer returns in many patients.

About the study

The purpose of this study is to test an investigational product called MAGE-A3 ASCI to see if it may prevent recurrence of cancer after surgery has been done. Both patients who receive chemotherapy after surgery and those who receive surgery without chemotherapy will be included in this study. This study will enroll approximately 2,270 subjects with MAGE-A3 positive non-small cell lung cancer. This study will involve hospitals all over the world.

UTMB study identifies women at risk of gaining excessive weight with injectable birth control

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have identified women who are likely to gain weight while using depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, more commonly known as Depo-Provera or the birth control shot. These findings dispel the myth that all women who use DMPA will gain weight and will help physicians to counsel patients appropriately. DMPA users whose weight increased by 5 percent within the first six months of use, called “early gainers,” are at risk of continued, excessive weight gain. While 75 percent of users gained little or no weight, the early gainers averaged weight gain of 24 pounds over three years.

“DMPA-related weight gain is linked to increased abdominal fat, a known component of metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of obesity-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes,” said corresponding author Dr. Abbey Berenson, professor in UTMB’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.

The researchers recommend that physicians tailor counseling based on women’s risk factors, closely monitor weight at each threemonth follow-up visit and suggest a different contraception method to patients who gain significant weight within the first six months of use.

Researchers found that early gainers exhibited three major risk factors: A body mass index under 30, having children before starting DMPA and a self-reported increase in appetite after six months of DMPA use. They found that those who had gained more than 5 percent of their body weight within six months, or after just two injections of DMPA, continued to gain significant weight during the next 30 months.

While previous studies have associated birth control-related weight gain with a higher BMI, Berenson’s study suggests that a lower BMI — under 30 — is more predictive. “The amount of DMPA administered to a woman does not change based on weight, as occurs with some medications,” Berenson said. “The drug may be more concentrated in the tissue of a woman with a BMI under 30 and may contribute to excessive weight gain, but more research is needed.” The biological mechanism of DMPA-related weight gain is still unknown, but researchers note that possible mechanisms include glucocorticoid-like activity, how the body breaks down simple carbohydrates such as glucose, and DMPA-associated interference with insulin action. Previous findings seem to argue against the theory that weight gain could be due to the drug’s perceived effects on increased caloric intake and decreased energy expenditure, but ongoing research is needed to confirm or discount varying possible explanations.

This study builds upon UTMB research released earlier this year that found DMPA users gain significant weight not seen among women using oral or nonhormonal contraception.