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.

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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How Can We Use Technology to Advance Population Science Research?

There has been a rapid expansion of technology in recent years, from artificial intelligence to intensive genetic sequencing to wearable trackers of fitness and health. How all of this technology can be effectively incorporated into population sciences research is an area of active inquiry.

To facilitate discussion and showcase research in this area, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is hosting a conference, Modernizing Population Sciences in the Digital Age, in San Diego from Feb. 19-22. This four-day meeting will include discussions about the best use of mobile technology, how to best leverage large datasets, and how to incorporate modern technologies into existing and upcoming studies.

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Carl June, MD, Talks CAR T-cell Therapies at AACR Conference

One of the most watched areas in the immuno-oncology field is the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Carl June, MD, professor in immunotherapy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, is a pioneer in the CAR T field; he helped to treat the first child with CAR T-cell therapy, which was experimental at the time. Emily Whitehead, who was treated with CAR T cells in 2012 for acute lymphoblastic leukemia after she relapsed twice following treatment with chemotherapy, remains in complete remission today.

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How Can We Turn “Cold” Pancreatic Tumors “Hot”?

Pancreatic cancer remains a challenging disease to treat, with a five-year survival rate of less than 9 percent, according to recent statistics. Unlike many other cancers, which can now be treated with checkpoint blockade immunotherapy, pancreatic cancer often does not respond to this type of treatment. One potential reason for this lack of efficacy is that pancreatic tumors tend to be nonimmunogenic, meaning that the cancer fails to elicit a strong immune response.

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