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News Highlights

August 24, 2016

SMOKERS WITH NEWLY DISCOVERED GENETIC MARKERS HAVE HIGHER LUNG CANCER RISK

HONOLULU – University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers discovered new genetic markers associated with a fast rate of nicotine metabolism, which potentially leads smokers to smoke more, thereby, increasing their risk for lung cancer.

Dr. Loïc Le Marchand, a professor and leading epidemiologist in the UH Cancer Center's Epidemiology Program, and his colleagues, identified differences in the CYP2A6 gene that are associated with a high rate of nicotine metabolism. Smokers who have these CYP2A6 markers may smoke more cigarettes and/or inhale a greater amount of nicotine per cigarette than smokers who metabolize nicotine less rapidly, in order to maintain stable levels of nicotine in the blood.

"Smokers adjust the way they smoke to satisfy their craving for nicotine. Nicotine is the highly addictive component in cigarettes that makes people want to smoke. Smokers with the genetic markers we discovered, smoke more extensively in order to keep their nicotine levels high and achieve the desired effects of nicotine in the brain," said Dr. Le Marchand.

"This new finding could identify smokers who are at greater risk for lung cancer. The knowledge of these markers will help doctors and public health leaders improve strategies for cancer prevention, a major focus of research at the UH Cancer Center. In addition, application of this research may improve the survival and quality of life of lung cancer patients, since continued use of tobacco products after diagnosis is known to correlate with poor outcomes," said Dr. Randall F. Holcombe, incoming director of the UH Cancer Center.

Smoking exposes individuals to tobacco-derived carcinogens. The increased exposure that occurs in individuals with the specific genetic markers leads to an increased risk for lung cancer, according to the study.

The Multiethnic Cohort Study
Le Marchand's findings published in Cancer Research used data from the UH Cancer Center's Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC) and an international consortium of lung cancer genetic studies. Smokers are about 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer in their lifetime compared to non-smokers (Hawaii Tumor Registry). Smokers identified as being at high risk for the disease could be offered regular screenings by low-dose CT scans.

Le Marchand collaborated with University of Minnesota and University of Southern California researchers to evaluate nicotine metabolism among 2,239 smokers participating in the MEC Study.

"We were able to translate differences in lung cancer risk that we first observed among Hawai'i's ethnic groups into information that has implications for the occurrence and prevention of a common and very deadly cancer."

Lung Cancer in Hawai'i
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Hawai'i, with 776 new cases and 526 deaths every year. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer remains very low at 18 percent (Hawaii Tumor Registry).

The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center through its various activities, cancer trial patients and their guests, and other visitors adds more than $54 million to the O'ahu economy. This is equivalent to supporting 776 jobs. It is one of only 69 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute. Affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, the center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, and improved patient care.
Learn more at www.uhcancercenter.org. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UHCancerCenter. Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.

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News Highlights

July 20, 2016

Remembering U.S. Rep. K. Mark Takai

It is with great sadness that we note the death of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Takai was a champion for cancer research and Hawai'i.

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Courtesy: congress.gov

In a message just weeks ago, he shared his support for the Cancer Moonshot Summit at Kakaʻako.

His message read, "I will never forget receiving the news that I had a tumor in my pancreas. Now that I am fighting my own battle with pancreatic cancer, I am truly fortunate and grateful that there are those who have devoted their lives to finding a cure. Each breakthrough in cancer research leads us one step closer to ending cancer."

We at the University of Hawaiʻi are committed to continuing our efforts to find more effective treatments and earlier detection methods for cancers including those of the pancreas.

Every year in Hawaiʻi, there are about 225 newly diagnosed cases of the devastating disease and some 182 deaths. (Source: Hawaii Tumor Registry data from 2009-2013)

Pancreatic cancer is more common with increasing age and slightly more common in men than women, according to National Institutes of Health.

The thoughts of us at the UH Cancer Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine are, first and foremost, with Rep. Takaiʻs loving family and friends.

Inspired anew by Congressman Takaiʻs support while on Capitol Hill, we will never give up the battle to eliminate cancer.

As the congressman said earlier this year, when he announced that the UH Cancer Center and JABSOM were awarded Department of Defense (DoD) grants for cancer research and career development,

"… I have a strong appreciation for the dedicated researchers that are working towards a cure," said Takai.

Mahalo and Aloha, Congressman Takai.

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News Highlights

August 8, 2016

New E-cigarette Regulations Begin

The FDA finalized a rule extending regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (E-Cigarettes), e-pipes, and all other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).

According to the FDA it now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of ENDS. This includes components and parts of ENDS but excludes accessories.

ENDS uses liquid containing nicotine, as well as varying compositions of flavorings propylene glycol, glycerin, and other ingredients. The liquid is heated into an aerosol that the user inhales.

According to the FDA beginning August 8, 2016 retailers must:
  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase any tobacco product.
  • Only sell tobacco products to customers age 18 or older.
  • Do NOT sell tobacco products in a vending machine or self-service display unless in an adult-only facility.
  • Do NOT give away free samples of newly-regulated tobacco products, including any of their components or part

"The deeming regulations are a step in the right direction because they should make e-cigarettes less accessible to adolescents. Research in Hawai'i and elsewhere has shown that adolescents who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking tobacco cigarettes. Thus restricting access by young persons has a sound rationale for improving public health and is likely to have positive consequences for adolescents. However at this time the FDA has not proposed any regulations about marketing of e-cigarettes," said Thomas Wills, PhD, the interim director of the UH Cancer Center's Prevention and Control Program.

"We know that advertising for cigarettes historically had a large impact on teenagers (the Virginia Slims campaign for girls and the Joe Camel ads for boys) and there is extensive marketing of e-cigarettes that can be viewed by younger audiences, so this is still a gap in the regulations."

Dr. Wills has done extensive research on e-cigarettes. He has been called upon for comment about ENDS' by many national news outlets including USA Today and The New York Times. Dr. Wills' research interests are in etiology and prevention studies of tobacco and alcohol use, with a focus on early adolescence. This research involves the application of theoretical models that include individual vulnerability characteristics, social processes, and environmental variables, and their interactions, to the onset of smoking and drinking.

The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center through its various activities, cancer trial patients and their guests, and other visitors adds more than $54 million to the O'ahu economy. This is equivalent to supporting 776 jobs. It is one of only 69 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute. Affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, the center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, and improved patient care.
Learn more at www.uhcancercenter.org. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UHCancerCenter. Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.

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News Highlights

June 30, 2016

UH CANCER CENTER HOSTS CANCER MOONSHOT SUMMIT

University of Hawai'i Cancer Center hosted one of hundreds of summits held around the country on June 29 in conjunction with the Cancer Moonshot Summit held in Washington, DC. The goal of the Cancer Moonshot is to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care over the next five years and to ultimately end cancer as we know it.

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Vice President Joe Biden
"The Moonshot cannot be achieved by one person, one organization, one discipline, or even one collective approach," Vice President Biden said. "Solving the complexities of cancer will require the formation of new alliances to defy the bounds of innovation and accelerate the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and — ultimately — a cure. It's going to require millions of Americans speaking Up and contributing what they're able. That's what the Cancer Moonshot Summit is all about."

Goal of the Summit
The Cancer Moonshot Summit was aimed at creating action and fostering collaborations around the goals of the Cancer Moonshot. The Summit will be the very first time that stakeholders representing all types of cancers will convene under one national charge. Attendees at Summits across the nation include leaders representing the entire cancer community–including researchers, doctors, scientists, philanthropists, community oncologists, advocates, patients, and survivors.

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"I will never forget receiving the news that I had a tumor in my pancreas. Now that I am fighting my own battle with pancreatic cancer, I am truly fortunate and grateful that there are those who have devoted their lives to finding a cure. Each breakthrough in cancer research leads us one step closer to ending cancer," said Congressman Mark Takai.

"This nationwide collaboration to both find a cure for cancer and help us deliver innovative treatments more broadly will get us closer to finding better treatments for Hawai'i residents. We must improve our efforts to fight the disease that is the second leading cause of death in Hawai'i," said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine and interim director of the UH Cancer Center.

For additional photos from the event, click here

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