Three December news briefs from Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology:

1. In 2013, cancer became the world’s second leading cause of death, behind cardiovascular disease.1 This is expected; we know life expectancy is rising and cancer incidence with it.  According to the newest study from the Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration, worldwide cancer cases rose by 33% during 2005–2015.  Aging contributed most (16%) to the increase, followed by population growth (13%) and worsening incidence rates (4%).  The burden of cancer was measured not only by incidence, but also mortality, years lived with disability, years of life lost, and disability-adjusted life-years for 32 cancer types, across 195 countries and territories, over 1990–2015.2

2. New precision medicine trial designs for cancer include umbrella and basket trials.  In an umbrella trial, patients with the same cancer type (e.g., breast or lung) are recruited.  After having their tumor genotyped, patients are assigned a drug according to the unique genetic defect in their cancer.  In a basket trial, patients are recruited on the basis of a common genetic mutation (e.g., EGFR).  No matter the tissue of origin for their cancer, they receive the same test drug.  Each of these new trial designs could help determine treatments for small (1–2%) patient populations with a particular cancer type and bring new drugs to market sooner than traditional trials.3

Image description not available.
JAMA Oncol. Published online December 8, 2016.

3. A dental tumor was found in a 255-million-year-old fossil from an ancestor to today’s mammals.  The ancient animal, a Gorgonopsian, appeared well before modern humans (100,000 to 200,000 years ago4), but after the separation of reptile and mammal branches (320 million years ago) on the evolutionary tree.  The creature and its entire subgroup are now extinct.  The tumor, an odontoma, is the earliest known case in the evolutionary history of mammals.5

Sketch of an extinct animal.
Artist’s sketch of a Gorgonopsian.


References and credits:






Snowflake picture credit:  Kenneth G. Libbrecht

Gorgonopsian sketch credit:  CCA 3.0/Dmitry Dogdanov