Karen Olsen, PhD

Karen Olsen, PhD, is a science writer at the AACR, where she facilitates the communication of the latest cancer research to the general public and to the trade press. Before joining the AACR, Olsen completed her postdoctoral training at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, where she investigated the role that epigenetic regulators play in cancers and neuronal disorders. She received her doctorate in chemistry from Purdue University, where she focused on integral membrane proteins associated with disease. Olsen lives in Center City Philadelphia.

How Can Identifying and Measuring Exposures to Environmental Carcinogens Help Prevent Cancer?

A recent estimate suggests that more than 40 percent of cancers could be prevented. Modifiable factors linked to cancer include tobacco use, obesity, alcohol consumption, and exposure to ­environmental carcinogens, which are substances in our surroundings that can cause cancer and may facilitate progression of the disease.

Environmental carcinogens could be present in our air, water, or food. While some of these carcinogens have been identified, scientists believe that current measures to mitigate our exposures are inadequate. Other carcinogens present in our environment have yet to be fully defined.

To address these issues, the AACR is hosting a conference focusing on Environmental Carcinogenesis: Potential Pathway to Cancer Prevention next week in Charlotte, North Carolina. This meeting will review current advances in the field with the goal of sparking ideas and discussion about novel ways to prevent cancer.

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From the Journals: Editors’ Picks for May

Every month, the editors from the eight AACR journals select one “must read” article from each issue, which we highlight on this blog. For May, research articles span from an investigation of enzalutamide resistance in prostate cancer to an examination of how distance to care affects treatment initiation and completion among patients with cervical cancer living in urban and rural areas. As usual, all articles summarized here are freely available for a limited time.

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From the Journals: Editors’ Picks

As a regular feature on this blog, we spotlight 10 “must read” articles selected by our editors from each journal issue published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). For the month of April, articles span from a preclinical study of a selective HER-2 inhibitor to a report on the prevalence of cancer risk factors and screening rates in the United States. As always, all articles summarized here are freely available for a limited time.

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AACR Annual Meeting 2019: Manipulating the Immune System in Cancer Therapy

Cancer immunotherapy research has exploded in recent years. This treatment utilizes a patient’s own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. While many successful immunotherapeutic regimens have relied on checkpoint inhibition, other immunotherapeutic approaches, such as adoptive cellular therapies (ACT), the use of bispecific antibodies, and targeting components of the tumor microenvironment, are showing promise in a variety of cancer types.

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AACR Annual Meeting 2019: Recent Progress For Patients With Hard-to-treat and Rare Cancers

Recent advances in cancer research has led to enormous progress against many cancer types. From 1991 to 2015, we witnessed a 26 percent reduction in the U.S. cancer death rate, representing over 2 million lives saved. Deaths from several common cancers, including breast, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers, have declined in recent years, which is attributed to smoking cessation, advances in early detection, and treatment improvements.

Progress against many other cancers, however, has been much slower. Death rates for some types of cancer, such as esophageal cancer, have increased in certain populations, and pancreatic cancer is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality by 2030.  

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March Editors’ Picks from AACR Journals

Back for March are the editors’ picks from the portfolio of scientific journals published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). This month, articles include results from two clinical trials, two preclinical pancreatic cancer studies, and more. As always, articles summarized here are freely available for a limited time.

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Recent Advances in Colorectal Cancer Research

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. More than 50,000 people are estimated to have died from colorectal cancer in the United States last year, according to federal statistics.

Colorectal cancer typically begins as a slow-growing, noncancerous polyp which, over time, can progress to invasive cancer. If a cancerous polyp isn’t removed, it can penetrate the lining of the large intestine, allowing the cancer to spread to other organs through blood or lymph vessels. With screening, it is possible to detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous. An increase in colorectal cancer awareness and screening has most likely contributed to the overall reduction in colorectal cancer incidence in the last 30 years.

As March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve put together a selection of recent colorectal cancer studies across the AACR portfolio along with screening recommendations and risk factors associated with this disease.

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Hyperglycemia and Aggressive Prostate Cancer Risk

Rates of diabetes in the United States are increasing. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 23 million Americans received a diagnosis of diabetes in 2015, in contrast to 1.6 million Americans in 1958. Our risk for diabetes increases as we age; over 25 percent of those ages 65 or older had diabetes in 2015, according to the CDC.

Diabetes is a risk factor for several types of cancer, including liver, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers. While this association is complex, some possible biological links include insulin resistance and hyperglycemia.

Previous work to understand the relationship between hyperglycemia and prostate cancer risk and mortality have yielded mixed results. A recent study published in Cancer Prevention Research evaluated whether hyperglycemia, as measured through multiple biomarkers, is associated with prostate cancer incidence and mortality.

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AACR Journals Editors’ Picks for February

As a regular post on this blog, we feature the 10 articles chosen by our editors from all journal issues published each month by the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR). For February, these articles span from a review of recent preclinical studies focused on brain metastases to a first-in-human immunotherapy trial. As always, articles highlighted here are freely available for a limited time.

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