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November 2011

U-M Surgeon Travels to Africa to Find Origins of Highly Aggressive Breast Cancer

African American women have a lower lifetime incidence of breast cancer compared to white American women, yet, surprisingly, they are more likely to lose their lives to the disease. Dr. Lisa Newman, former U-M professor of surgery and former director of the Breast Care Center, has dedicated her career to finding out why. Her innovative research to discover the origins of a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that disproportionately affects African American women, called triple-negative breast cancer, aims to uncover links to breast cancer patients in West Africa.

New Endowment Supports Music Therapy Program

More than a thousand U-M cancer patients each year rely on the Comprehensive Cancer Center's innovative music therapy program to reduce anxiety, ease pain and nausea, and improve their quality of life during cancer treatments. Now, thanks to the vision and generosity of Bill and Dee Brehm, this program will continue to lift the spirits and wellbeing of cancer patients, in perpetuity.

Patients' Underlying Health Linked to Worse Outcomes for Melanoma

It's not how old but how frail patients are that can predict how well they will fare after a melanoma diagnosis. In fact, young patients in poor health may have worse outcomes than older patients in good shape.

Urine test detects prostate cancer risk, U-M study finds

A new urine test can help aid early detection of, and treatment decisions about, prostate cancer, according to a new study conducted by U-M prostate cancer researchers. The test supplements an elevated prostate specific antigen, or PSA, screening result, and could help some men delay or avoid a needle biopsy while pointing out men at highest risk for clinically significant prostate cancer.

Researchers ID Promising Pancreatic Cancer Screening Marker

U-M pancreatic cancer researchers have identified a protein that shows distinct changes in structure between pancreatic cancer, non-cancerous diseases, and normal blood serum. The protein also changes from early stage pancreatic cancer to advanced disease. The finding suggests a blood test could serve as a potential screening tool to detect pancreatic cancer -- which has the worst prognosis of any cancer type -- at an earlier, more treatable stage.

New Cancer Drug Discovered

Researchers at the U-M's Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new drug called AT-406, which has the potential to treat multiple types of cancer. U-M's study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, showed that AT-406 effectively targets proteins that block normal cell death from occurring. Blocking these proteins caused tumor cells to die, while not harming normal cells. The researchers believe the drug could potentially be used alone or in combination with other treatments.

Groundbreaking Research

Breast cancer researchers at the University of Michigan recently garnered a $3.5 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure® to study cancer stem cells in an aggressive subtype of breast cancer that disproportionately affects African-American women, called triple-negative breast cancer.

A Message from our Director (2011)

In this issue, you can read about our significant new discoveries in breast, prostate and pancreas cancers, as well as compelling new findings on melanoma outcomes. These are just a few examples of the groundbreaking research underway at U-M.