This week’s BioBlog focuses on cancer – new drugs, advances in diagnosis and disease tracking, and improvement in healthcare and treatment access for patients. Medicare has agreed to pay for important testing to match drugs to patients with advanced cancer, and Blue Cross is launching new projects aimed at reducing disparities in healthcare due to geographic location. This and more in this week’s Innovation partners BioBlog.


Targeting a Signaling Pathway with a Diabetes Drug may be a Potential Strategy in Treating, Preventing Pancreatic Cancer Progression

New research from the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey explores the use of the diabetes drug metformin and its impact on pancreatic cancer. New findings include targeting a certain signaling pathway with metformin, which may prevent and/or treat pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. These findings will be presented at a poster session at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting being held in April in Chicago.

Improved capture of cancer cells could aid in disease tracking

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and University of Wisconsin-Madison have demonstrated improved methods of capturing free-floating cancer cells that are cast-off from tumors, and circulating in the blood. Accurately counting these cast-off cells may be an additional method by which researchers can track or screen for disease.

New Blue Cross Blue Shield Association initiative takes aim at social determinants of health

Blue Cross has launched a new initiative that seeks to address geographical barriers to healthcare access and social determinant of health. The project includes other companies as well such as CVS Health, Lyft and Walgreens. Fitness, transportation, and pharmacy “deserts” are being investigated based on zip codes with the goal of addressing the needs of people in specific areas who do not have access to healthcare. Lyft, for example, is a transportation company that could provide rides to and from medical appointments.

Drug Combination Reduces Number of Colorectal Polyps in Patients with Hereditary Cancer Syndrome

A new analysis of a prevention clinical trial reveals that a two drug combination of erlotinib (Tarceva) and sulindac (Aflodac) substantially decreased the number of colon polyps in people with a hereditary condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Patients receiving this combination had less than a third the number of polyps after 6 months of treatment than patients who received placebos. The new analysis was published February 8 in JAMA Oncology.

New iPad App Could Improve Colon Cancer Screening Rates

What if doctors could make booking a cancer screening test as easy as booking a hotel room online? Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center embarked on an ambitious project to find out. They developed an iPad App to enable patients to book colon cancer screening tests. Initial results indicate that the app doubled the number of people scheduling colon cancer screening tests.

Some Breast Cancer Patients Missing Out on Genetic Counseling

Genetic testing has become increasingly important in the detection and treatment of cancer, especially breast cancer. However, many patients who could benefit from genetic screening and counseling aren’t receiving it. A University of Michigan study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates a significant gap between testing, counseling, and information sharing among patients undergoing genetic testing.

U.S. to cover advanced genomic testing for Medicare cancer patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said that diagnostic laboratory tests using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) would be covered by the government healthcare program. In a move aimed at helping Medicare-eligible patients with advanced cancer, the U.S. government agreed to pay for tests that help match patients with the drugs most likely to provide benefit.