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VA Research Spotlight

Highlights of VA research on cancer

January 16, 2019

Cancer

Cancer Fact Sheet Cancer is a general term that includes more than 200 different diseases. In all forms of cancer, cells in the body grow and multiply abnormally, eventually taking over and destroying normal tissue. In 2014, the five most frequently diagnosed cancers among VA cancer patients were prostate, lung and bronchial, colorectal, urinary and bladder cancers, and skin melanomas. VA researchers have long been interested in exploring the causes of cancers, finding new treatments for different forms of cancer, and evaluating the effectiveness of existing treatments..


VA Research Infographic

Unnecessary Imaging for Prostate Cancer

VA Research Quarterly Update

Caring for prostate cancer survivors Caring for prostate cancer survivors
Dr. Ted Skolarus is a urologic oncologist—a physician who treats cancer of the urinary tract and male reproductive system. He is also an investigator at VA Ann Arbor Health Care System in Michigan. His research is focused on survivorship care for men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer. While survivors need to be monitored by their providers for cancer recurrence, there are also a number of quality-of-life issues that should be assessed by the medical team. (December 2018) Read more



VA partnership with NCI to boost Veteran access to clinical trials VA partnership with NCI to boost Veteran access to clinical trials
Veterans with cancer who receive care from VA will now have more access to the latest treatment options, thanks to a partnership between VA and the National Cancer Institute. The collaboration will make it easier for Veterans to join clinical trials sponsored by NCI's National Clinical Trials Network and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program. (August 2018) Read more



Veterans benefit from conservative management of prostate cancer Veterans benefit from conservative management of prostate cancer

Veterans with low-risk prostate cancer are increasingly choosing to skip immediate surgery in favor of less aggressive treatment, according to results from a study published in JAMA. Low-risk prostate cancer is slow growing and can often be treated safely through "watchful waiting." Researchers at VA NY Harbor Healthcare System conducted a study of more than 125,000 Veterans diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. They found that close to 60,000 Veterans were treated with a conservative approach. (August 2018) Read more



For low-risk patients, screening for lung cancer can be a choice For low-risk patients, screening for lung cancer can be a choice
Patient preferences should be considered when deciding to screen low-risk patients for lung cancer, according to the results of a study conducted by researchers at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. The investigators found that overall, the average person with a low-risk of lung cancer experienced a net benefit from lung cancer screening, even if that person felt negatively about screening. (August 2018) Read more

VA Research in Action

Precision Oncology Program Precision Oncology Program
VA patients nationwide with a common form of lung cancer now routinely have their tumors genetically sequenced to help determine the best therapy, thanks to a program initiated by researchers and clinicians in VA’s New England region. The program is one of several efforts launched by VA in the area of precision oncology.

VA Research Currents

Hormone analogs as medical treatment Hormone analogs as medical treatment
A manmade compound based on a brain hormone spurred the growth of cancer in Petri dishes but enigmatically had the opposite effect in mice. The compound and others like it are being looked at not only for their effect on cancer, but for their ability to regrow healthy tissue to heal damaged hearts and other organs. ... (11/06/2018)



Study finds shortcomings in how doctors talk about lung nodules Study finds shortcomings in how doctors talk about lung nodules Lung nodules are common, but most are benign. A new VA study points to deficiencies in how health care providers communicate with patients about the condition when it is detected.... (10/04/2018)



Smokers hazy on actual benefits of lung cancer screeningsSmokers hazy on actual benefits of lung cancer screenings

Many smokers seem to be confused about the actual benefits and limitations of lung cancer screenings, according to a study by the VA Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care in Seattle.... (07/24/2018)



Agent Orange presumption policy leads to higher VA health care useAgent Orange presumption policy leads to higher VA health care use
A VA study shows that for Vietnam Veterans, having a medical condition presumed related to Agent Orange exposure is linked to greater use of VA care, as per lawmakers' intent when they passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991.... (06/13/2018)



New prostate cancer technologies: Are they worth the price?New prostate cancer technologies: Are they worth the price?
New technologies have revolutionized the treatment of prostate cancer. However, the cost-effectiveness of these technologies, compared with more traditional treatments, has not been fully explored.... (05/24/2018)

VA Research News Briefs

Cisplatin superior to cetuximab for cancer treatment

Cisplatin superior to cetuximab for cancer treatment - Illustration: ©iStock/NerthuzIllustration: ©iStock/Nerthuz

(12/12/2018)
The drug cisplatin was superior to cetuximab in treating head and neck cancer along with radiation therapy, in a study by researchers from the Michael J Crescenz and James J. Peters VA medical centers. Both cisplatin and cetuximab are commonly given along with radiation therapy to treat head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The researchers looked at 4,520 cancer patients over a period of three years. They found that those on cetuximab had significantly inferior overall survival, compared with patients taking cisplatin. The results suggest that cisplatin is the most appropriate drug partner for radiation therapy, say the researchers. (Cancer, Oct. 20, 2018)



Fluorouracil cream may lower treatment cost for those at high risk for skin cancer

Fluorouracil cream may lower treatment cost for those at high risk for skin cancer - Photo: ©iStock/kali9Photo: ©iStock/kali9

(06/14/2018)
Treating patients at high risk for two skin cancer conditions with topical fluorouracil cream can provide cost savings, found a VA Palo Alto Health Care System study. Previous research shows that fluorouracil reduces incidence of keratinocyte carcinoma (nonmelanoma skin cancer) and actinic keratosis (a precancerous skin condition). Patients at high risk for the conditions applied either the fluorouracil or a placebo cream to their faces and ears for four weeks. After one year, those not using fluorouracil had more treatment visits for squamous cell carcinoma than those using it. Over three years, patients using fluorouracil had average treatment costs of $771 less per patient. (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 2, 2018)



Photodynamic therapy may effectively treat bladder cancer

Photodynamic therapy may effectively treat bladder cancer - Photo: ©iStock/wildpixelPhoto: ©iStock/wildpixel

(06/14/2018)
A group including a VA Northern California Health Care System researcher showed that a photodynamic therapy technique could effectively treat bladder cancer. In photodynamic therapy, medication that is activated by light and heat is injected into the body. The cancer site can then be exposed to light, which allows the cancer cells to be closely targeted. This process has significantly fewer side effects than treatments such as chemotherapy. The researchers used the drug 17AAG to target bladder cancer in animal models. They combined 17AAG with the organic compound nanoporphyrin. 17AAG is not very water-soluble. Combining it with nanoporphyrin allows it to be absorbed by cells more easily. The results show that the NP-AAG was effectively accumulated in cancer cells. A single intravenous injection followed by multiple light treatments over seven days effectively eradicated the tumors. This technique could dramatically improve bladder cancer management with minimal toxicity, say the researchers. (Nanomedicine, April 2018)

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