Mutational Signature Links Red Meat Consumption to Colorectal Cancer

A study published recently in Cancer Discovery identified a molecular link between consumption of red meat and development of colorectal cancer. (Cancer Discovery is published by the American Association for Cancer Research [AACR], which also publishes Cancer Today.) In the study, researchers sequenced the DNA of matched normal and colorectal cancer tissue from 900 people who participated in the Nurses’ Health Studies and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All study participants had provided information on their diets, lifestyles and other factors over several years prior to t​heir diagnosis. Researchers discovered a mutational signature in colon cells that was associated with consumption of red meat, but not with consumption of poultry or fish, or other lifestyle factors. In addition, this signature was also associated with cancer-driving mutations that are often seen in colorectal cancers. “We have known for quite a while now that environmental factors, including diet, can impact colorectal cancer incidence” said researcher Marios Giannakis in an interview posted June 28 on Healio. He also explained the study findings in-depth in the AACR blog Cancer Research Catalyst, noting, “Our study identified for the first time an alkylating mutation signature in colon cells and linked it to red meat consumption and cancer driver mutations. Our data further support red meat intake as a risk factor for colorectal cancer and also provide opportunities to prevent, detect and treat this disease.”​

FDA Approves Component for Use in Treating Common Childhood Cancer

On June 30, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Rylaze (asparaginase erwinia chrysanthemi [recombinant]-rywn) as a component of a multiagent chemotherapy regimen to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and lymphoblastic lymphoma in patients with hypersensitivity to E. coli-derived asparaginase. The only other drug approved by the FDA for patients with allergic reactions to the E. coli-derived product has been in global shortage since 2016. “It is extremely disconcerting to patients, families and providers when there is a lack of access to critical drugs for treatment of a life-threatening, but often curable cancer, due to supply issues,” said pediatric hematologist-oncologist Gregory Reaman, associate director for pediatric oncology in the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, in an FDA statement. “Today’s approval may provide a consistently sourced alternative to a pivotal component of potentially curative therapy for children and adults with this type of leukemia.” ALL, the most common type of childhood cancer, is diagnosed in 5,700 people in the U.S. each year. Approximately half of them are children.

Most Patients With Cancer Show Good Response to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

A study published recently in Cancer Cell found that 94% of patients with cancer had a high antibody response three to four weeks after receiving both doses of the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 prevention. The study looked at the immune responses of 131 patients with cancer in the U.S. and Switzerland. Consistent with earlier findings, patients with hematological malignancies were less likely to show as strong a response as patients with solid tumors. In fact, patients in the study who had been treated with Rituxan (rituximab), a monoclonal antibody used to treat hematological malignancies, showed no antibody response within six months of vaccination. Those treated with chemotherapy had an antibody response, but it was not as robust as that of the general population. “How that relates to protection against COVID-19, we don’t know yet,” said researcher and study author Dimpy P. Shah of the Mays Cancer Center, which is part of UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, in a media release. Two mRNA vaccines are approved for use against COVID-19 in the U.S., those produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The study did not include the non-mRNA vaccine approved for use in the U.S. manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. 

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