Tag Archives: Cancer Research Advancement

Specialized DNA Nanobots Close Cancer Tumor’s Blood Supply

Specialized DNA Nanobots Close Cancer Tumor's Blood Supply
Specialized DNA Nanobots Close Cancer Tumor’s Blood Supply

Robotics has made quite a splash in manufacturing and industrial applications, and now it’s on the brink of a breakthrough in a completely different arena. Future cancer treatment options may include an army of tiny tumor-fighting nanobots.

Biochemistry Meets Industrial Technology

The concept is in the preliminary stages, so real-life use is still far off on the horizon. Scientists are encouraged by the results of a study that was recently published in Nature Biotechnology.

Researchers conducted the test on a group of mice with human breast cancer tumors. Specially engineered DNA nanobots containing a payload of thrombin, an enzyme that causes blood to clot, were then injected intravenously into the affected mice.

Once inside, the nanobots delivered the thrombin directly to tumor-associated blood vessels, where they induced intravascular thrombosis. As a result, cancer cells were deprived of their blood supply and ultimately died off.

Sparing Healthy Cells

While scientists welcome any advancement in cancer treatment, one particular aspect of DNA nanobots is especially promising. During testing on the mice, the nanobots focused exclusively on cancer cells. There was no damage to healthy cells, unlike results often found in traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.

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Liquid Biopsy Test for Cancer Has Problematic Accuracy Results

Liquid Biopsy Test for Cancer Has Problematic Accuracy Results
Liquid Biopsy Test for Cancer Has Problematic Accuracy Results

Early detection improves the chances of successful cancer treatment, so recent news of a “liquid biopsy” has encouraged the medical community. Unfortunately, the test is showing unacceptable levels of accuracy, leaving the procedure a long way from any real-world applications.

Controlled vs. Real World Conditions

CancerSEEK uses a blood sample for a battery of tests to measure tumor biomarkers and identify cancer-associated DNA mutations. During clinical studies, researchers obtained some promising results.

By the team’s own admission, the conditions were optimized to facilitate detection of cancer. Even so, most of the cancers detected were late-stage while the goal of screening was to find cancer in the early stages.

Accuracy problems in less-controlled environments became more clear in a 2017 study involving 40 prostate cancer patients who underwent liquid biopsies to fine-tune their therapy programs. Each sample was sent to two different labs with similar technology, but the results differed for more than half of the patients.

Are Liquid Biopsies the Answer?

Researchers are also questioning the full value of a positive result. While the test may detect the presence of cancer, it gives no clues as to the location of the tumor, unlike traditional screenings such as mammograms and CT scans.

Scientists will no doubt continue to study the science behind liquid biopsies, as detection of circulating tumor DNA can have other applications. The question remains whether liquid biopsies have a viable future as useful cancer screening.

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Research Studies Now Under Way to Starve Cancer Tumors

Research Studies Now Under Way to Starve Cancer Tumors
Research Studies Now Under Way to Starve Cancer Tumors

According to a popular old wives’ tale, you should starve a cold and feed a fever. Scientists working on immunotherapy for cancer are taking that advice a step further as they develop a new treatment that “starves” tumors to death.

Cutting Off Cancer’s Fuel Source

Glutamine is an amino acid found throughout the body, with the largest concentrations in blood and bone. While glutamine plays a major role in cellular synthesis of proteins, it also provides fuel for the rapid cell division of many types of cancer.

A research team at Vanderbilt University in Nashville began exploring the idea of blocking glutamine from cancer cells as a possible form of treatment. They focused on ASCT2, a protein that transports glutamine to cancer cells as well as other parts of the body.

The scientists created an ASCT2 inhibitor called V-9302. In testing on both mice and cancer cells developed in vitro, V-9302 was able to stop tumor growth by increasing oxidative stress on cancer cells, leaving them to eventually die off.

Using PET Imaging to Trace Tumors

As the team noted in their report, the next step is to find a way to determine how effective the inhibitors are in restricting glutamine access. The researchers suggested using positron emission tomagraphy (PET) scans to spot increases in glutamine metabolic rates.

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Common Acid Reflux Drug May Increase Stomach Cancer Risks

Common Acid Reflux Drug Make Increase Stomach Cancer Risks
Common Acid Reflux Drug Make Increase Stomach Cancer Risks

Acid reflux is a relatively common condition that affects a number of people worldwide. Evidence from recent studies suggests that one of the more widely-used acid reflux treatments may increase the risk of stomach cancer.

H. Pylori and Stomach Cancer

Around the globe, stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer causing the third highest number of cancer-related deaths. H. pylori, a bacterium found in two-thirds of the world’s population, is a major cause of ulcers and a significant risk for stomach cancer.

A 2016 review revealed an association between long-term use of proton pump inhibitors (PPI), a frequently prescribed treatment for acid reflux, and increased risk of cancer. Scientists remained uncertain because the review failed to distinguish between H. pylori and H. pylori-negative participants.

Can Acid Reflux Treatment Increase Stomach Cancer Risk?

In 2017, researchers at the University of Hong Kong set out to find some clarity on the issue. The team separated the study group into PPI users and those using another acid reflux drug known as H2 blockers.

Nearly 64,000 participants began with a seven-day course of triple therapy, which involves use of a PPI with two antibiotics to eradicate H. pylori. Results showed that, even in the absence of H. pylori, PPI usage more than doubled risk of stomach cancer while usage of H2 blockers demonstrated no increased risk.

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New Blood Test Created by Johns Hopkins to Screen for Eight Cancers

New Blood Test Created by Johns Hopkins to Screen for  Eight Cancers
New Blood Test Created by Johns Hopkins to Screen for Eight Cancers

Early detection often makes the difference in successful cancer treatment. Thanks to a newly developed blood test, doctors will soon be able to screen for eight of the more common types of cancer.

Focusing on Early Stage Cancer Detection

CancerSEEK was developed by a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. It screens for cancers of the ovaries, liver, stomach, pancreas, colorectum, lung and breast. Collectively, these types are responsible for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the United States.

Based on the idea that circulating tumor DNA mutations can be specific cancer markers, the researchers set out to study several hundred genes and 40 protein markers. They finally ended up with segments of 16 genes and eight proteins, with the small mutation panel minimizing the possibility of false-positive results.

According to Nickolas Papadopoulos, senior author of the study, the team was inspired by the concept of using combinations of drugs for cancer treatment. When the test was administered to 1,005 patients with non-metastatic cancer, its median overall sensitivity to cancer was 70 percent with only seven false-positives.

The Future of CancerSEEK

Researchers are proceeding to larger studies of CancerSEEK. They project that once the test is approved for use the cost will be less than $500, and primary care providers will be able to administer the test with other routine blood work.

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Immunotherapy: 2017’s Top Clinical Advance for Cancer Treatment

Immunotherapy: 2017's Top Clinical Advance for Cancer Treatment
Immunotherapy: 2017’s Top Clinical Advance for Cancer Treatment

The use of immunotherapy for cancer has been around for a long time, but it’s becoming more and more common. In fact, this form of treatment was named the 2017 Clinical Cancer Advance of the Year, which was mainly due to the increase in successful cases of treatment for cancers that are normally hard to treat.

Fine-Tuning Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy offers a non-toxic form of treatment, which doesn’t have the risk of side effects as chemotherapy and radiation do. Patients often turn to this type of treatment if they have not had success with conventional cancer treatments or they’re unable to tolerate the accompanying side effects.

Immunotherapy makes use of the immune system in order to find cancer cells and destroy them, rather than relying on chemicals or radiation. Researchers have been working on improvements in the way this type of treatment handles cancer, which has led to a higher number of successful treatments.

Good Candidates for Immunotherapy

Researchers have also been looking into who benefits from this type of treatment. Immunotherapy for cancer has been used successfully in cases that are considered hard to treat. However, certain types of immunotherapy treatments seem to be more effective for some patients but not others.

Researchers are conducting a number of studies to learn more about why certain individuals have greater benefit while undergoing specific immunotherapy treatment protocols. This research is expected to lead to improvements for those with cancers that are difficult to treat with traditional methods.

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