J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The dean of the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences is joining other university deans in urging the federal government to rethink its approach to fighting cancer.

The federal Cancer Moonshot Task Force was launched earlier this year with $1 billion to develop new ways to detect and treat cancer. But in a letter sent earlier this week to task force leader Vice President Joe Biden, U of L Dean Craig Blakely and 71 other deans said they were concerned the approach misses the mark.

“We urge you to pay careful attention to the balance between treatment and prevention-related investments,” the letter said.

Blakely said he supports the federal government investing in cancer research, but the initiative is missing a meaningful contribution to prevention.

Each year, the Food and Drug Administration approves dozens of drugs, but often those medicines don't make a huge difference to people with disease. That's because these "new" drugs are often very much like existing medicines — or are, in fact, existing medicines, approved for a slightly different purpose.

But every now and then the FDA approves a truly new drug. And that's the story of Pfizer's palbociclib, brand name Ibrance, which the agency approved for the treatment of a common form of advanced breast cancer.

Two Elizabethtown cancer doctors are being sued for allegedly extending chemotherapy treatments in order to make more money.

Six former patients and the estates representing two other patients are suing Doctors Yusef Deshmukh and Rafiq Rahman, accusing the two of diluting the drugs used to treat their cancers, so that the treatment period would be made longer. The Courier-Journal reports the alleged actions by the doctors between 2006 and 2014 allowed them to improperly bill Medicaid and other programs for reimbursements.

Deshmukh and Rahman are already under investigation by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure related to the allegations.

The suit asks for unspecified damages and says the patients were made to unnecessarily retain catheters and ports inside their bodies.

The defendants have not yet filed a legal response to the suit. Meanwhile, the doctors accused in the suit are allowed to continue their practice, and their clinic remains open.

Effort Launched to Raise $1M for Cancer-Screening Van

Jan 7, 2015
The University of Louisville

A new campaign has been launched hoping to raise $1 million for a mobile cancer-screening unit in underserved areas of Kentucky.

Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear announced the effort Tuesday and said Churchill Downs has committed $90,000 and Kroger $25,000 for the van.

The mobile unit will provide free or reduced-cost cancer screenings.

Beshear appeared in Frankfort with representatives of the Kentucky Cancer Program, the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center and KentuckyOne Health.

A portable mammography unit already serves the state with breast cancer screenings. Beshear said the new effort intends to expand the service to screen for six additional forms of cancer.

Beshear's office said the van will focus on cancer prevention education and offer screenings for breast, cervical, colon, lung, prostate, skin and head/neck cancer.

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

A first-of-its-kind collaboration in Kentucky is aimed at detecting lung cancer earlier and increasing survivorship rates.

The $7 million effort announced Wednesday in Frankfort is being funded through a grant made by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

The effort is called the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative, and is a joint effort between the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky, and the Lung Cancer Alliance. Lung cancer takes an especially heavy toll in the commonwealth, as the state leads the nation in the number of lung cancer cases.

The collaboration will bring together health experts tasked with creating new ways to detect lung cancer at earlier stages in order to increase survivorship. Another goal is to improve the quality of life of lung cancer patients and their caregivers.

Many Kentuckians who lack health insurance can receive free colon cancer screenings through their local health department. The program is jointly funded through the state and private donations, and targets Kentucky residents who meet certain age and income guidelines.

Madeline Abramson, wife of Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, is speaking out on behalf of colon cancer awareness in Kentucky. Mrs. Abramson is honorary chair of the Kentucky Cancer Program’s “Dress in Blue Day”, a program aimed at educating the public about colon cancer.

She says the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation can often be detected and treated through screenings.

“It’s unusual to have a screening test where the cancer or pre-cancerous node can be taken care of at that time," Abramson told WKU Public Radio.

Abramson says some people are embarrassed to talk about the disease in the same way many refused to openly discuss breast cancer decades ago.

A western Kentucky dermatologist says he sees multiple cases of skin cancer a day as the U.S. Surgeon General is warning of a steady increase of people with the disease.

The University of Louisville

One of Kentucky’s most well-known cancer treatment centers is receiving a multi-million dollar grant to find new treatments and vaccines.

The James Graham Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville announced Friday that they have been given a three-year, $5.5 million dollar grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The Center’s director, Doctor Donald Miller, says the grant will help continue a partnership between U of L and Owensboro Health that is exploring the use of plant-based pharmaceuticals and vaccines.

“We have two vaccines--one for cervical cancer, one for colon cancer that are ready to move forward  into early phase clinical trials, and this grant will primarily support the testing of those vaccines over the next three years,” Dr. Miller said.

The grant will also seek to further develop plant-based drugs that would allow a higher concentration of anti-cancer drugs to be delivered to tumors.

Women are often told they don't have to get a Pap test for cervical cancer if they're over 65, but the data behind that recommendation might underestimate their cancer risk, researchers say.

That's because many studies don't take into account that many women have had hysterectomies. The surgery removes a woman's risk of cervical cancer; no cervix, no cancer. And 20 percent of the women over age 20 in this study said they had had that surgery.

Bill Aimed at Minors and Tanning Beds

Mar 11, 2014

The Kentucky House has passed a measure aimed at blocking minors from using tanning beds. The measure cleared the House on a 61-31 vote Monday and now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Representative David Watkins of Henderson. He cites rising rates of skin cancer, especially among young women, as the reason for his proposal to keep people under the age of 18 from becoming customers at tanning facilities.

The bill would make exceptions for minors who have been prescribed the use of tanning beds by physicians.

The American Cancer Society is looking for participants in the Warren County region to take part in a national cancer prevention study. The group wants 300 people ages 30 to 65--who have never had a cancer diagnosis--to schedule appointments for the enrollment period of Nov. 20-22. 

Those who are interested in participating can follow this link to learn more about what's known as the Cancer Prevention Study 3.

Participants will give a blood sample and have their waists measured, and will fill out a questionnaire about their health history and lifestyle. After that, those involved in the study will report any health changes through either mail or email.

"And from that we hope to learn more about possible links between cancer risks and lifestyle choices that people make, the environment where they live and work, and also even genetics," said Eric Walker, with the Mid-South Division of the American Cancer Society, Inc., based in Paducah.

A public-private partnership to fight colon cancer in Kentucky appears to be gaining steam.

The Kentucky Cancer Foundation is nearing its goal of matching $1 million that Gov. Steve Beshear was able to set aside for colon cancer screening in the state budget.

Beshear and health officials provided an update on the initiative to fight cancer in a state that ranks among the worst in the nation for the disease.

Some 500 uninsured Kentuckians have already been screened for colon cancer through the initiative. That number is expected to reach 2,000 by next June.

Of those who have undergone colonoscopies, 25 percent were found to have pre-cancerous polyps that were removed to prevent the development of cancer.

The program is targeting uninsured Kentuckians between the ages of 50 and 64.

Try to imagine someone who is supremely calm while at the same time bursting with energy, and you've got a pretty good idea of what Jim Olson is like.

He's a cancer researcher, physician, cyclist, kayaker and cook, not always in that order. He approaches each activity with incredible passion.

But to really understand Olson, you have to watch him in action with patients.

An internationally-recognized cancer research team is leaving one Kentucky university for another.

A group of top researchers is leaving the University of Louisville for the University of Kentucky, one month after UK announced it was becoming home to the state’s first National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

The Courier-Journal reports the four researchers will establish the UK Center for Regulatory and Environmental Analytical Metabolomics, or UK-CREAM. The center is expected to bring to UK over $17-million in federal funding over five years.

Officials at UK say they didn’t actively recruit the U of L researchers, but were instead approached by them.

One of the researchers, Andrew Lane, said he and colleagues made the move because UK was in “an expansion phase, particularly in cancer, which is very attractive to us.”