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.

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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Malignancy, MSI Status, and the Microbiome

The human microbiome – the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that live inside and on the surface of our bodies – has garnered significant scientific interest in recent years. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which was launched in 2007, seeks to characterize the diverse microbiota to help understand how these microbes impact human health and disease. Initial results from the HMP predict that over 10,000 microbial species coexist within the human ecosystem.

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Party with a Purpose Joins AACR to Support Prostate Cancer Research

For the third year running, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has been selected as the beneficiary of the 18th annual Party with a Purpose, a cause-driven gala in Philadelphia that supports lifesaving cancer research. Funds raised at this year’s event will be dedicated to research focused on prostate cancer. This common cancer is estimated to affect nearly 165,000 men in 2018, according to recent statistics.

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What is Convergence? How Can It Further Cancer Research?

The 30th Anniversary AACR Special Conference Convergence: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Prediction in Cancer is focusing on a relatively new interdisciplinary field that seeks to further cancer research through the use of mathematics and computation, among other disciplines.

We had the opportunity to speak with both co-chairs about convergence and several areas of interest that will be discussed at the upcoming meeting, to be held Oct. 14-17 in Newport, Rhode Island.

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