August 11, 2014
New research from the university teams associated with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project, published in the journal Cell, suggests classifying cancer types by molecular composition could be more beneficial than grouping them based on tissue of origin, which is the current standard for cancer classification. In short, the composition of certain cancers shows striking similarities even though the cancers originate in different parts of the body. By reclassifying those cancers from a molecular standpoint rather than point of origin, new drug development techniques and methods for enrolling patients in clinical studies could lead to better, more effective cancer treatments.
August 27, 2014
New work from UC Davis researchers, appearing in the journal Nature Communications, discusses the growing field of using nanotechnology to not only locate but also treat a variety of cancers. In the near future, the research suggests, specifically designed cancer-fighting nanotech particles will be able to travel through a patient’s body harmlessly, hone in on cancer cells, and then release anti-cancer payloads that eliminate developing tumors. The attached article serves as a good primer on nanotechnology breakthroughs and their potential usefulness in treating cancer, which has recently displaced heart disease as the number one killer in several countries.
September 22, 2014
Louisiana State University scientists, writing in the journal Immunity, reveal that the Chop inflammatory protein suppresses the collection of T cells around tumors that could fight developing cancers. The researchers also found that when the Chop protein was removed, T cells could better identify and fight against tumors. In future testing, this new work suggests inflammatory proteins such as Chop can be selectively targeted with immunotherapy treatments that shut down inflammation responses and give the body’s natural immune defenses a better chance at fighting cancers.
September 23, 2014
Purdue University researchers, writing in the Journal of Controlled Release, discuss the creation of a nanotech device capable of simulating a cancer tumor’s “microenvironment.” Using this new device, the team will be able to better study the cellular barriers to some cancer treatments and devise new ways to attack cancer cells that work around these barriers. One avenue of research will be to study misshapen and irregular blood vessels surrounding tumors, which could have pores large enough to allow targeted cancer drugs to pass through.
September 26, 2014
University of Missouri scientists have revealed in the journal PLOS ONE a common molecule found in some bacteria that’s vital to communication between bacteria cells could be used to prevent cancer cells from metastasizing. In their tests, the research team introduced O-DDHSL communication molecules to pancreatic cancer cells and found that the cancer cells did not migrate and even began to die. When an efficient delivery method for these molecules can be found for human trials, this new research could lead to improvements in cancer treatments.
September 26, 2014
In other cancer-related work, Salk Institute researchers report in Cell that a synthetic form of vitamin D weakened the exterior of pancreatic cancer cells, thus making those cells more vulnerable to established cancer treatments. Typically, tumors have inflamed and dense exteriors as a result of the repair mechanism known as fibrosis. By weakening difficult to treat pancreatic cancer cells using a modified form of vitamin D, however, the hope is that this research will lead to new ways to attack other cancer types, such as lung, liver, and kidney.
October 16, 2014
New research appearing in ACS Nano from University of Massachusetts Medical School scientists reveals a unique nanoparticle that could greatly improve the usefulness of photodynamic therapy (PTD) in cancer treatment. Typically, a harmless but light-sensitive drug is given, and the PTD laser-light therapy produces singlet oxygen in cells, which destroys cancer cells while leaving most other cells unharmed. This new nanoparticle “relay,” however, shows promise to allow the PTD therapy to reach deeper into the body and attack tumors conventional PTD therapy cannot treat.
October 22, 2014
Salk Institute and UC Santa Cruz researchers, releasing data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal how slight RNA variations in cancer cells help tumors become resistant to treatment. By locating this RNA “switch,” the researchers suggest cancer tumors could be stopped from making these small changes, which would in theory increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments like chemotherapy. The teams made this discovery by examining over 80,000 pieces of RNA in cancer cells to determine which changes took place in remaining cells after a course of chemotherapy.
October 27, 2014
University of Montreal scientists have developed a new nanotechnology device capable of accurately measuring levels of methotrexate, a powerful but also highly toxic substance used in many cancer treatment regimens, in the body. While effective at killing cancer cells, methotrexate and drugs like it can also destroy normal, healthy cells and must be constantly monitored to make certain patients are receiving exactly the right dosing. This new nanotechnology-driven device could more quickly and at lower cost track methotrexate in the blood compared to current technologies. It also return results to doctors in less than 60 seconds.
October 27, 2014
Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers report in the journal Stem Cells the creation of special, engineered stem cells which are capable of releasing toxins that kill brain cancer cells in a test on mice. The toxins produced by the engineered stem cells had no effect on healthy cells in the brain, nor the engineered cells themselves. The next step of this breakthrough research is to test the safety of the procedure in humans, and then determine if similar technology could be used to treat other forms of brain cancer or cancers in general.
October 30, 2014
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center scientists have revealed in the journal Nature the creation of fully functional human stomach tissue using pluripotent stem cells. This new work gives researchers a 3D model which could be used to study cancers and could also lead to advances such as using stem cells to create new lung or pancreas tissue. Furthermore, better understanding of diseases in the stomach could lead to new drugs and treatments to more effectively combat everything from diabetes to ulcers.
November 11, 2014
North Carolina State University scientists have developed a nanoscale drug-delivery mechanism using polyethylene glycol, which can carry multiple cancer drugs at the same time and potentially deliver them directly to cancer cells. The polymer structure enclosing the drugs acts as a kind of shell, and can be injected into the bloodstream where it then travels to porous cancer cells. With further development, this technology could, in time, lead to more precise cancer drug dosing and reduce the side effects of conventional cancer treatment.
November 24, 2014
University of Chicago scientists, writing in the journal Immunity, reveal the discovery of a protein pathway in the body that identifies and can assist in shutting down developing cancer tumors. The stimulator of interferon genes, or STING pathway, locates infections and also developing cancers, then signals the body’s immune system to respond. The researchers found that with targeted radiation therapy, STING could be modulated to respond more strongly to the presence of cancers. This work also opens up the possibility of boosting the STING pathway with drugs designed to amplify immune function in those with deficient STING response.
November 24, 2014
UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center scientists, writing in the journal Nature Communications, discuss how the PKM2 enzyme can control the division of tumor cells. By studying PKM2’s role in normal cell division and also how it impacts gene expression, the researchers were able to isolate PKM2 in brain cancer tumors in mice as well as in pancreatic cancer tests and in melanoma. Further work to determine how PKM2 malfunctions and leads to spreading cancers could yield new drugs that help treat a variety of tumor types.
January 5, 2015
Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center, writing in the journal Cancer Discovery, report new advances in targeting telomerase with small molecule drugs to destroy cancer cells and slow down tumor growth. In a mouse study, the researchers found that the 6-thiodG molecule slowed the growth of cancer tumors by signaling to the cancer cell via the telomere that damage had taken place to the cell itself, causing it to stop dividing and eventually die. With further research, this new method of telomerase targeting could prove useful in new cancer treatments.
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.”