Tag Archives: cancer research

Molecularly Targeted Therapy – Considered Exciting Cancer News

Molecular Targeted Therapy Hit the Bulls Eye!
Molecular Targeted Therapy Hit the Bulls Eye!

Traditional cancer treatments often attack both cancer and healthy cells, resulting in debilitating side effects such as fatigue and weight loss. Doctors are excited about a revolutionary cancer treatment that specifically targets cancer cells.

Cancer Treatment that “Hits the Bullseye”

As implied by the name, molecularly targeted therapy involves drugs designed at the molecular level of the cell to attack and destroy specific types of cancer. Glivec (or Gleevec), also known as STI571, is the pioneering drug in this promising new therapy.

These so-called “designer drugs” begin with the identification of an abnormal molecule unique to a particular type of cancer. Scientists can then create a drug that interferes with the function of that molecule.

Glivec: Targeting Leukemia

Glivec has been found to be effective against chronic myeloid leukemia, also known as CML. Dr. Brian Druker, who led the research on Glivec, discovered that scientists have previously used STI571 to treat a rare gastrointestinal cancer that shares an enzyme related to one in CML.

Dr. Druker, who also serves as director of the leukemia program at the Oregon Health Sciences University, believes that STI571 can lead the way in finding the abnormalities in other types of cancer so they can also be treated with molecularly targeted therapy.

FDA approval of Glivec was fast-tracked and the drug is now available from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

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The Connection Between Tumors and Blood Vessels

Stop Cancer
Stop Cancer

The medical community has long believed that cancer cells support their growth by generating blood vessels. A recent study suggests that blood vessels may actually begin the cycle of tumor development.

“Hijacking” Blood Vessels for Tumor Development

According to cancer biologist Dr. Lan Ko, one of the authors of the study, the team found evidence that blood vessels can create tumors. In turn, the cancer cells then produce blood vessels to further sustain their growth.

Researchers focused on GT198, a gene generally found in low levels within the body. It has a natural ability to repair DNA and regulate stem cells, but in mutated form it creates cancer cells.

Pericytes, found in the outer layer of blood vessels, resemble stem cells in the way they can form different types of tissue. During the study, researchers found abnormally high levels of GT198 in pericytes supporting a number of human tumors.

Even more surprising was that the GT198 was located in the pericytes’ cytoplasm instead of the nucleus. This enabled malignant pericytes to multiply into cancer cells and detach from blood vessels to promote spread of the tumors.

Application for Cancer Treatment

As Dr. Ko explained, these results indicate that GT198 is a viable target for immunotherapy for cancer treatments. Further testing will explore use of existing cancer drugs and development of new ones.

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How the Presence of Estrogen Protects Women from Gastric Inflammation Leading to Cancer

Advanced Cancer Research
Advanced Cancer Research

In the past, scientists have attributed gender discrepancies in cancer rates to lifestyle differences. Recent evidence strongly indicates that the cause may actually lie in biological differences instead.

This theory was bolstered by the results of an MIT study involving male mice infected with H. pylori, a bacterium that can lead to gastric cancer. More than 50 percent of people around the globe are infected with H. pylori, and while many remain asymptomatic, gastric cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

How Gastric Cancer Develops

H. pylori infections are controlled by the body’s immune system, but a common side effect is gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach. The result is conditions that lead to the development of gastric cancer.

Studies have indicated that estrogen can protect women from gastritis, lowering their gastric cancer risk. Conversely, Tamoxifen and other drugs that block estrogen have been linked to higher risk of gastric cancer in women.

Testing the Theory

The mice in the MIT study were treated with estrogen, Tamoxifen or both. None of them developed cancer despite a prior history of gastritis, suggesting that Tamoxifen in the stomach may mimic rather than block estrogen. In the untreated control group, 40 percent of the mice developed gastric cancer.

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Scientists Uncover a Key Step in Lung Cancer Progression Which May Lead to New Treatments

Advanced Cancer Research
Advanced Cancer Research

Approximately 40 percent of lung cancer cases in the United States involve an aggressive form called adenocarcinoma. Researchers recently identified a vital step in this cancer’s development that could be the key to successful early cancer treatment.

The Path from Benign to Malignant

Lung adenocarcinoma gets its name from adenomas, which are a form of benign tumors. Scientists believe that lung adenocarcinomas begin as adenomas that transition to the more aggressive type.

A team of researchers at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research set out to study the process behind the change from benign to malignant. According to lead author Tuomas Tammela, at some point the tumor cells begin acting like stem cells, allowing for rapid reproduction.

Flipping the Switch

Wnt is a signaling pathway that maintains cells in a stem cell-like state. The team focused on the activity of this pathway in a group of mice programmed to develop lung adenomas that were likely to progress to adenocarcinomas.

While they found that the Wnt pathway was not active in the adenomas, about five to 10 percent of the cells turned it on during the transition. When the mice received cancer treatment that interfered with the Wnt proteins, tumor growth was halted and the mice lived 50 percent longer.

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Built to Spread, Cancer May Change Genome to Proliferate More Easily

Stop Cancer
Stop Cancer

Researchers already know that cancer cells are often able to evade detection by the body’s disease-fighting immune system. A recent study shows they may also streamline their genomes for faster replication.

The good news? This information can be used to predict whether a tumor will be vulnerable to DNA-damaging immunotherapy for cancer.

What Is Ribosomal DNA?

Ribosomal DNA, which is present in both healthy and cancerous cells, is the key. This DNA carries the code for ribosomes, which produce the proteins that are responsible for many cell functions.

Copies of these DNA sequences are subject to constant expansion and contraction. A research team at the Stowers Institute, led by Jennifer L. Gerton, Ph.D., set out to show that cancer cells would select for expansion for more rapid proliferation.

A Surprising Discovery

Amazingly, after examining DNA in normal and cancer cells in both humans and mice, the team discovered that the cancer cells held fewer copies of ribosomal DNA. Despite this fact, the cells were able to efficiently make more ribosomal RNA and synthesize more protein.

Dr. Gerton theorizes that less DNA to copy enables faster replication. The side effect of this downsizing is a greater sensitivity to DNA damage, which Dr. Gerton’s team demonstrated by treating the cancer cells with four different DNA-damaging drugs.

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Zika Virus and Brain Cancer – New Research is Underway

Could There be a Connection Between Zika and Brain Cancer?
Could There be a Connection Between Zika and Brain Cancer?

The Zika virus is back in the news, but this time the stories are positive. Researchers in the UK are planning a groundbreaking test to determine whether the Zika virus can destroy brain tumor cells.

Thinking Outside the Box

Cancer Research UK uses its Pioneer Awards to encourage innovation that could lead to game-changing new methods in the fight against cancer. Dr. Harry Bulstrode of the University of Cambridge is the most recent recipient.

The target of Dr. Bulstrode’s test is glioblastoma, the most aggressive and commonly occurring form of brain cancer. Laboratory research will be conducted on tumor cells in mice.

Why the Zika Virus?

Immunotherapy for cancer and other current treatments have two major drawbacks:

• The treatments are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier.

• Low doses must be administered to avoid harming healthy tissue.

The Zika virus has neither of these restrictions. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and target cancer cells rather than healthy ones.

While Zika virus infection in pregnant women causes severe disabilities in babies by attacking stem cells in developing brains, it generally causes only mild flu-like symptoms in adults who have fully developed brains.

The crucial difference is that glioblastoma cells have a similar makeup to cells in developing brains. Dr. Bulstrode is hopeful that the Zika virus can be used to attack the tumor cells and spare healthy tissue.

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