Jell-O-like Substance Attracts, Kills Cancer Cells
Chasing cancer cells with chemotherapy drugs can save lives, but there’s no guarantee that the treatment will kill every run-away cancer cell in the body.
What if, instead of hunting those metastatic cells, a treatment could lure them out of hiding — every last one of them — and eliminate them in one swift blow? Yong Wang, associate professor of bioengineering at Penn State, has created such a therapy — a tissue-like biomaterial that attracts cancer cells, like bits of metal to a magnet, and entraps them.
Every Thursday, Laboratory Equipment features a Scientist of the Week, chosen from the science industry’s latest headlines. This week’s scientist is Thomas Bosch from Kiel Univ. He and a team found that cancer has existed for as long as multi-cellular life.
Scientists have known for decades that cancer can be caused by genetic mutations, but more recently they have discovered that chemical modifications of a gene can also contribute to cancer. These alterations, known as epigenetic modifications, control whether a gene is turned on or off.
Analyzing these modifications can provide important clues to the type of tumor a patient has, and how it will respond to different drugs. For example, patients with glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, respond well to a certain class of drugs known as alkylating agents if the DNA-repair gene MGMT is silenced by epigenetic modification.
A team of MIT chemical engineers has now developed a fast, reliable method to detect this type of modification, known as methylation, which could offer a new way to choose the best treatment for individual patients.
Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists say. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins would otherwise cause.
The report was part of the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). “We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory,” says Dipanjan Pan, from the Univ. of Illinois, who led the study. “These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.”
Evidence Shows Sunscreen Use in Childhood Prevents Cancer
Research conducted at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research, has established unequivocally in a natural animal model that the incidence of malignant melanoma in adulthood can be dramatically reduced by the consistent use of sunscreen in infancy and childhood.
According to senior author John VandeBerg, the research was driven by the fact that, despite the increasing use of sunscreen in recent decades, the incidence of malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, continues to increase dramatically. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 75,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.
Lung cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than the next three most common cancers combined — colon, breast and pancreatic. The reason for the striking mortality rate is simple: poor detection. Lung cancer attacks without leaving any fingerprints, quietly afflicting its victims and metastasizing uncontrollably — to the point of no return.
Now a new device developed by a team of Israeli, American and British cancer researchers may turn the tide by both accurately detecting lung cancer and identifying its stage of progression. The breathalyzer test, embedded with a “NaNose” nanotech chip to literally “sniff out” cancer tumors, was developed by Prof. Nir Peled of Tel Aviv Univ.’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Hossam Haick of the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology and Prof. Fred Hirsch of the Univ. of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.
No Link Found Between Soy, Endometrial Cancer Risk
Researchers have found no evidence of a protective association between soy food and endometrial cancer risk, says a new study published inWiley’s BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Soy foods are an almost exclusive dietary source of isoflavones, a plant-derived estrogen. Some studies have highlighted their potential cancer protective properties, however, research looking at the link to endometrial cancer has been inconsistent.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have developed and tested a vaccine that triggered the growth of immune cell nodules within pancreatic tumors, essentially reprogramming these intractable cancers and potentially making them vulnerable to immune-based therapies.
In their study described in today’s issue of Cancer Immunology Research, the Johns Hopkins team tested the vaccine in 39 people with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer. The disease becomes resistant to standard chemotherapies and is particularly lethal, with fewer than 5 percent of patients surviving five years after their diagnosis.
Ban on Pavement Sealant Significantly Impacted Lake
In 2006, Austin, Texas, became the first city in the country to ban a commonly used pavement sealant over concerns that it was a major source of cancer-causing compounds in the environment. Eight years later, the city’s action seems to have made a big dent in the targeted compounds’ levels — researchers now report that the concentrations have dropped significantly. They published their study, which could have broad implications for other jurisdictions and public health, in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Peter Van Metre and Barbara Mahler from the U.S. Geological Survey point out that in 2005, researchers figured out that pavement sealants made from coal tar were contributing high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the environment. This is a serious public concern because studies have shown that PAHs cause cancer in animals, and they likely impact human health as well.
Physical activity after breast cancer diagnosis has been linked with prolonged survival and improved quality of life, but most participants in a large breast cancer study did not meet national physical activity guidelines after they were diagnosed.
Moreover, African-American women were less likely to meet the guidelines than white women. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings indicate that efforts to promote physical activity in breast cancer patients may need to be significantly enhanced.
Scientists have routinely used mice to replicate aspects of human breast cancer in an effort to find a cure to the most common type of cancer among women. But how effective are these preclinical models in actually mimicking the disease and giving scientists the ability to develop real comparisons?
Eran Andrechek, a physiology professor in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State Univ., has discovered that many of the various models used in breast cancer research can replicate several characteristics of the human disease, especially at the gene level.
New findings about the biological links between obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also shed light on the connection between obesity and cancer, says a scientist at The Univ. of Texas at Dallas. In a study published in Cell, UT Dallas’ Jung-whan (Jay) Kim and colleagues at UC San Diego found that a protein called HIF-1 alpha plays a key role in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in obese mice.
The researchers genetically engineered mice to lack the HIF-1 alpha protein within the animals’ fat cells, or adipocytes. The animals still made HIF-1 alpha in other types of cells and tissues in their bodies. Although the mice became obese when fed a high-fat diet, they did not develop insulin resistance and diabetes to near the extent that genetically normal, obese mice did.