Office of Research & Development



Cancer icon

VA has a broad array of research on cancers common in the Veteran population. These include diseases such as prostate, lung, colorectal, bladder, kidney, pancreatic, esophageal and breast cancer, as well as lymphomas and melanomas. VA researchers conduct lab experiments aimed at discovering the molecular and genetic mechanisms involved in cancer; epidemiologic studies looking at the causes of disease; clinical trials to evaluate new or existing treatments; and studies focused on improving end-of-life care.

Examples of VA Research Advances

Lab test may predict invasive breast cancer—The presence of three proteins in biopsied tissue may help to predict when a noninvasive type of breast tumor may lead to more serious, invasive cancer. Researchers with VA and the University of California, San Francisco, studied 1,162 women who had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Over eight years, 170 of them went on to develop invasive breast cancer. The biopsies of women with invasive cancer were more likely to test positive for a set of three proteins. Other proteins predicted a recurrence of DCIS. More studies in this area could give women with DCIS personalized information about future risk, which would help tailor treatment options.

One drug, many uses—A drug that has shown promise in early clinical trials for at least three other cancers also may be effective against a common type of esophageal cancer, suggests a study at the Kansas City (Mo.) VA Medical Center. The study focused on 2-methoxyestradiol, or 2ME2, a naturally occurring derivative of estrogen that causes cancer cells to self-destruct. It also blocks the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors. The researchers identified the molecular pathways through which the drug acts on Barrett's esophageal adenocarcinoma cells. This cancer affects fewer women than men, possibly because women's bodies produce more 2ME2.

Phone and Internet support—Pain and depression are common symptoms in people with cancer, but they often go undertreated. A collaborative "telecare" approach that involves the Internet and telephone calls can help patients cope with these issues, says a study at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. Researchers enrolled 405 cancer patients. About half got usual care. The other half regularly reported symptoms through phone messages or over the Internet. They also received phone calls from a nurse that provided information and encouragement. Each patient's oncologist evaluated the symptom information and used it to help make treatment decisions. Over 12 months, the "telecare" group had less pain and fewer symptoms of depression.