A Diagnostic & Imaging Week

A National Cancer Institute (NCI; Bethesda, Maryland) report has found that high rates of cervical cancer are indicators of larger problems in access to healthcare, such as medical care access, cultural issues and health communication and education issues.

The report by the NCI, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH; also Bethesda), also found that cervical cancer mortality, which is higher in certain geographic areas and populations, is a marker for other health disparities.

The authors of the new report, compiled by the NCI's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) and titled "Excess Cervical Mortality: A Marker for Low Access to Healthcare in Poor Communities," conclude that the nation's public health system must improve its delivery of cervical cancer education, screening and treatment and related healthcare to women at risk.

Despite the decline in deaths from cervical cancer overall, patterns of high cervical cancer mortality have existed for decades in specific geographic areas and populations, according to the NCI. Those groups with the highest mortality rates include African-American women in the South; Hispanic women along the Texas-Mexico border; white women in Appalachia; American Indians of the Northern Plains, Vietnamese American women and Alaska Natives.

To examine the underlying causes of such disparities in healthcare, CRCHD began the Cervical Cancer Mortality Project, which is being carried out in two phases. In the first phase, researchers reviewed the literature and analyzed both historical and current data on cervical cancer incidence, screening, treatment and mortality in the U.S.

Analysis of the literature showed the women suffering from high cervical cancer mortality share several life conditions; they tend not to have a usual source of healthcare; have lower rates of preventative services, including cancer screening; have low incomes and educational levels; and live in regions with high rates of screenable and treatable diseases, such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cerebrovascular disease and infant mortality.

New Lead Reported in Tumor Angiogenesis

Scientists supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a unit of NIH, reported that they have added a key new piece to the puzzle of how tumor cells induce new blood vessels to form and fuel their abnormal growth.

The scientists found that in addition to the strategy of secreting proteins to trigger angiogenesis, tumor cells also physically attach to a protein displayed on the surfaces of cells that line the walls of our blood vessels. The physical interaction, like a finger pushing a button, sends a signal within those cells to grow and sprout new capillaries.

While technical in nature, the finding has potentially "major implications for antiangiogenic therapy," the NIDCR said.

Dr. Cun-Yu Wang, a scientist at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and senior author of the paper, said the findings "suggests a future antiangiogenic strategy of blocking not only the secreted molecules but also the cell-to-cell contact."

Wang also said the early data suggest the "intriguing possibility" of directing growth-inhibiting drugs at the normal blood vessel cells to stop angiogenesis.

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