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What's new at
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
and its World Wide Web Site
March, 1999

Welcome to Lately@MSKCC!

In this issue

-Hepatitis-C and Cancer

-New Treatment Recommendations for Cervical Cancer

-MSKCC Colon Cancer Lecture Live on the Web 

It might seem strange to read about hepatitis in a
newsletter from a cancer center, but some types of hepatitis
can lead to cancer, and one of those is the hepatitis-C virus
(HCV). HCV is of particular concern to doctors today because
of the large number of people estimated to be infected in the
United States and around the world. As many as four million
Americans may carry HCV, but few of those carrying the virus
even know it.  Without a blood test, there is little to
suggest to most people with HCV that they have a dangerous
virus in their bodies. Often, the first sign of infection is
liver damage, which can include liver cancer. 

Despite the large number of people who may carry HCV, the
virus does not spread easily. You can't get it from shaking
hands with or kissing an infected person. One way you can get
it, though, is through a blood transfusion or an organ
transplant from an infected person. If you had a blood
transfusion, or major surgery that might have involved a
blood transfusion, before 1992, you should be checked for
HCV. Before 1992 blood used for transfusions wasn't checked
for HCV, because the virus was unknown. (Remember, those at
risk are those who received blood, not blood donors. Blood
donation, which is always done with sterile needles, poses
very little risk of any kind of infection.) There are also
other ways people can get infected with HCV, such as using
needles shared with an infected person to inject drugs, or
sexual contact with an infected person. 

HCV is a slow-acting virus. It can take several decades to
do any harm or cause any symptoms. So, a diagnosis of HCV
doesn't mean a person has liver damage. If doctors find that
a patient is infected with HCV, they will check his or her
liver for any signs of damage so that it can be treated as
early as possible. HCV's attack on liver tissue causes
cirrhosis, or the scarring of liver tissue. Besides being a
dangerous condition itself, because cirrhosis prevents the
liver from working properly, it can lead to liver cancer.

Doctors will usually treat patients who have HCV with a
combination of the drugs alpha-interferon and ribavirin.
Often, these drugs can wipe out the virus. Unfortunately,
this treatment doesn't work for everyone, and researchers are
working on developing other therapies.  

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center now has a hepatitis-C
program to screen for HCV and to treat patients infected with
the virus. Our Web site has more information about this
important effort to treat a potentially dangerous virus.



*New Treatment Guidelines for Invasive Cervical Cancer*

The National Cancer Institute sent out a special
announcement on February 22 to doctors around the country,
about important discoveries in the treatment of cervical
cancer. This is cancer that starts in the cervix, the narrow
opening of the uterus. In 1999, an estimated 12,800 cases of
invasive cervical cancer are expected to occur in the United
States. About 4,800 women will die from the disease.

Until now, the standard treatment for cervical cancer has
been surgery or radiation therapy, depending on the stage of
the disease. Several new studies have shown that, for
patients requiring radiation therapy, adding chemotherapy to
the radiation treatment can offer significant benefits. In
these studies, the risk of death from cervical cancer was
reduced by 30 to 50 percent by giving chemotherapy along with
radiation therapy.

The NCI's Web site has more information about these


For more information about cervical cancer and other
gynecological cancers, you can read our Gynecological Cancers



*Colon Cancer: What Every Man and Woman Should Know*
Log on to our live Webcast to hear medical experts from
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center discuss the latest
developments in prevention, early diagnosis, diet, and new
treatment options. Web listeners will be able to suggest
questions for the panel. If you're in the New York City area,
come join us in person.

Tuesday, March 30, 1999
6:00 to 8:00 p.m
Moderator: Dr. Robert C. Kurtz
Speakers: Dr. Jose G. Guillem and Dr. Eileen M. O'Reilly

In Case You Missed It...
These items were mentioned in the last issue of
Lately@MSKCC, but we wanted to make sure our new subscribers
didn't miss them.

*Free Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Computer Program*
Many women overestimate their breast cancer risk. To help
women accurately assess their risk, the National Cancer
Institute created the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Model,
free risk-calculating software. (The program is available for
both PC and Macintosh computers.) Soon, the NCI will also
release the Tamoxifen Risk/Benefit Assessment Tool to help
women decide whether they would benefit from taking the drug
Tamoxifen to reduce their breast cancer risk.

*Interview with Dr. Richard S. Tunkel*
"As methods to diagnose and treat cancer have improved, more
people have become cancer survivors. They and their doctors
have been focusing greater attention on improving quality of
life. I'm happy to say that rehabilitation can help counter
many physical difficulties faced by patients with cancer." -
Dr. Richard S. Tunkel, Director of Rehabilitation Services at
Memorial Sloan-Kettering. 

*Spotlight on Dr. Mercedes Castiel*
Dr. Mercedes Castiel's work focuses on the general
gynecologic care of cancer patients at MSK, as well as women
who are at high risk for breast, ovarian, or colon cancers.
Much of her work involves hormone replacement therapy in
young women who are experiencing early-onset menopause caused
by cancer therapy, and in women in their 50s who have reached
menopause naturally. 


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Note: The information in Lately@MSKCC and at
http://www.mskcc.org is not intended as a substitute for
medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as
an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A
physician should always be consulted for any health problem
or medical condition.


Copyright (C) 1999, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
For information about republishing information from
Lately@MSKCC, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Web
site at http://www.mskcc.org, or other MSKCC publications,

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