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This Week in the British Journal of Cancer: Oct 25, 2011

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In the British Journal of Cancer this week, researchers in Japan report that the cytokine activin A inhibits tumor growth and suppresses tumor angiogenesis in gastric cancer. The team evaluated the effects of activin A on human umbilical vein endothelial cells in vitro and a gastric cancer cell line in vivo. They found that activin A potentially inhibits cellular proliferation and tube formation of the umbilical vein cells, and that it directly regulates p21 transcriptional activity. "Our findings highlight the suppressive role of activin A, unlike TGF-β, on tumor growth and angiogenesis in [gastric cancer]," the authors write.

Also in the British Journal of Cancer this week, an international team of researchers suggests that prognostic nomograms can be used to predict progression-free survival in recurrent ovarian cancer patients with platinum-sensitive disease. The team developed the nomogram — a device used for graphical calculations — to take into account significant predictors like tumor size, platinum-chemotherapy-free interval, CA-125, white blood count, and organ metastatic sites. When they applied their data to a patient cohort and validated their data, the team found the nomogram's 12-month progression-free survival predictions matched up well against actual survival. "This nomogram, using five pre-treatment characteristics, improves prediction of progression-free survival in patients with platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer having platinum-based chemotherapy," the authors write. "It will be useful for the design and stratification of patients in clinical trials and also for counseling patients."

Finally in the British Journal of Cancer , researchers in the UK conduct a mini-review of available literature to answer the question of whether aspirin has been overlooked as an adjuvant therapy for cancer. Aspirin inhibits the Cox enzyme, and regular aspirin use has been shown to decrease a person's risk of developing cancer, the authors write. "Aspirin has several additional mechanisms of action that may contribute to its anti-cancer effect," they add. "It also influences cellular processes such as apoptosis and angiogenesis that are crucial for the development and growth of malignancies." Concerns over the risk of hemorrhage have limited the use of aspirin as anything but a preventive agent, but recent evidence suggests the drug may also have a role as an adjuvant therapy for cancer patients, the team adds.

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