Patrick Cox's Tech Digest - View by Tag "cancer"

GDF11: Good for the Head and the Heart

September 17, 2014

When you think of heart disease, heart attacks probably come to mind first. Like most things biological, however, there’s more to the story. The most common sort of heart failure is actually caused by a process whereby the walls of the heart thicken and slow down. This is often called diastolic heart failure or cardiac hypertrophy.

Berries in Cancer Therapy Experiment

September 18, 2014

University of Southampton and King’s College Hospital researchers report successful tests in the Journal of Clinical Pathology which suggest that chokeberry supplementation could assist current chemotherapy treatments. In early-stage laboratory tests, chokeberry extract combined with chemotherapy drugs killed more cancer cells than chemo drugs alone. It’s believed that compounds in the berries called polyphenols could play a role in killing cancer cells. The next step for this research is to determine if the positive data collected so far translates to tests in humans.

Preventing “Genomic Parasites” from Causing Age-Related Diseases

September 25, 2014

University of Rochester researchers, discussing their work in Nature Communications, report that retrotransposons, commonly called “jumping genes” may become active as the body ages and proteins designed to keep them contained begin to serve other functions. In theory, when the Sirt6 protein is “called away” to repair DNA damage elsewhere, retrotransposons can play a role in the development of age-related diseases such as cancer. In future studies, scientists will determine if increasing Sirt6 protein can serve the twofold purpose of keeping DNA damage in check and prevent “jumping genes” from initiating damage.

Survival Molecule Helps Cancer Cells Hide from the Immune System

October 8, 2014

Ohio State University scientists have revealed in Cell Reports that a molecule known as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) can assist cancer cells by cutting off the immune system’s ability to respond to tumor development. NF-kB’s role in developing cancers has been known for years, but this new research suggests that NF-kB could control immune system suppression genes which allow growing cancers to evade an immune system response. NF-kB also has useful functions, such as assisting in DNA repair in normal cells.

Promising Hybrid Delivery System for DNA Vaccines Developed

December 1, 2014

University of Buffalo scientists, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal the creation of a promising new delivery mechanism for DNA vaccines. To this point, developing DNA vaccine technology has proven problematic because most fail to properly engage the immune system to create antigens, which prevent disease onset. This new research, however, uses a hybrid approach that combines bacterial cells and polymer shells capable of targeting immune cells and delivering DNA material to the nucleus of those cells. With further testing, next-generation DNA vaccine technology could be used to help prevent cancers, hepatitis, malaria, and the flu among other diseases.

Innate Immune System Condemns Weak Cells to Their Death

December 5, 2014

University of Zurich and Columbia University scientists, writing in the journal Science, discuss new findings related to how the innate immune system controls the discarding of weak cells to amplify overall tissue fitness. Typically, this cellular selection process helps prevent breakdown and keep organs and tissues functioning properly. In some cancers, however, the cancer cells present as stronger than normally strong health cells, and thus eliminate healthy tissue as the cancer begins to grow. Better understanding of how the innate immune system regulates this process could lead to earlier cancer cell detection and treatment.

Experience Counts with Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer

December 10, 2014

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center researchers, writing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, report that the level of experience a treating hospital has in radiation therapy for head and neck cancers can directly affect patient outcomes. Patients studied who received treatment at less experienced centers have more recurrence of cancers and a lower five-year survival rate than those who were treated at more experienced hospitals. While not an indictment of less experienced hospitals per se, this research does show that with hard to treat cancers, patient outcomes improve if the treating site has long experience specific to that form of cancer.

SyAM Molecules Could Give Antibodies a Run for Their Money

December 19, 2014

Yale University scientists, writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, discuss the creation of synthetic molecules that mimic the targeting and response function of antibodies. These molecules can attach to both disease cells and disease-response cells, and show the potential to be useful in precise immune response targeting for, among a variety of diseases, certain forms of cancer. With further testing, this new synthetic antibody technology could help the immune system destroy cancers at their earliest stages.

Biological Bad Luck Blamed in Two-thirds of Cancer Cases

January 2, 2015

Reuters reports that an examination of 31 cancer types by Johns Hopkins University scientists, published in Science, reveals 22 types of cancers predominantly occur due to genetic “bad luck” and are not typically caused by poor lifestyle decisions. In total, the researchers attributed 65% of cancers to essentially random genetic mutations, which take place over time. While lifestyle choices certainly do a play a significant role in the development of some cancers, this new research shows just how strongly genetic randomization figures in cancer development.

Changing the Odds at the Big Casino

May 1, 2015

I remember a public service announcement (PSA), probably by the American Cancer Society, that aired on television when I was three or four. I clearly recall a picture on screen of five people sitting around a dinner table. The picture was starkly black and white, and a voiceover announced grimly, “One in five people will die of cancer.”

Faking Fasting and the Hunger Games

August 7, 2015

For the first time in history, Americans have begun to voluntarily cut back on calorie intake. The reduction is less than a hundred calories per person over the last decade, but it is sufficiently significant to have produced palpable health benefits. If you have the econometric gene, you’re probably wondering if this trend was caused by the Great Recession. The answer, according to the researchers whose article was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is no.

The New(est) War on Cancer

January 15, 2016

In the president’s State of the Union speech, he vowed to cure cancer, likening the effort to a new moonshot. I have no doubt he’s sincere, just as he was sincere when he promised that the Affordable Care Act would reduce healthcare costs without the need to give up our doctors or insurance plans. I assume he was sincere the last time he launched a new effort to cure cancer as well. That was in 2009. By doing so, he joined with Presidents Nixon and Clinton who also launched wars on cancer.

Macrophages, Obesity, FGF21, and the Arrival of Winter in the Subtropics

January 22, 2016

Winter has come to South Florida at last, along with quite a few of our Canadian friends. For the first time this year, I’ve turned on central heating. I’ve even worn pants a few times. Typically, we resist running the heater until we absolutely have to. Part of the reason is that South Floridians tend to view the arrival of cold weather from the north as free air conditioning. Personally, I look forward to colder temperatures because of recent research regarding brown fat and metabolic disorders (basically obesity).

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