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February 8, 2006, 10:46 PM CT

DNA repair mystery solved

DNA repair mystery solved
Cancer Research UK researchers believe the final piece of the picture of how cells fix a severe type of DNA damage - thereby reducing the chances that the cells become malignant - will fall into place tomorrow (Friday) when they publish their latest findings in the journal Cell*.

Professor Steve Jackson, based at Cambridge University, discovered the first component of one particular DNA repair process over ten years ago. More pieces were found, and eventually researchers thought they had the whole process mapped out. But recent evidence came to light that suggested there was still one bit missing. Now Prof Jackson has finished what he started by discovering a new molecule that completes the picture.

The molecule is called XLF** and while it may have a role in causing cancer, it can possibly also be targeted by new cancer therapys - for example, blocking the action of XLF in cancer cells could 'soften up' the cells and allow radiotherapy to deliver more easily a knockout blow.

Prof Jackson said: "You could say we went fishing. We know molecules in these processes tend to bind together in order to work, so Peter Ahnesorg - a PhD student in my laboratory - used an established component of the repair pathway as bait and cast it into a sea of proteins. Then he pulled out the bait and examined what was stuck to it.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink


February 6, 2006, 11:33 PM CT

Connection Between Dementia And Cancer

Connection Between Dementia And Cancer
By expressing a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease in the brain of the fruit fly, scientists have demonstrated an intriguing link between neuronal death and proteins previously associated with cancer.

The findings are reported by Vik Khurana, Mel Feany, and his colleagues from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Burnham Institute.

Neurons in the brain generally do not divide. It is therefore perplexing that in Alzheimer's disease, and other dementias associated with a protein called tau, dying neurons actually re-express proteins normally seen during cell division or in cancer. It has previously been unclear whether such cell-division proteins cause neuronal death, protect neurons from death, or are irrelevant.

In the present work, the scientists used a fruit-fly model of Alzheimer's disease to examine the relationship of cell-division proteins to neurodegeneration. The power of this model, which recapitulates key features of the human disease, lies in the ability to use genetic tools to establish a causal correlation between a molecular pathway and neuronal death. Khurana and his colleagues found that, as in human disease, abnormal expression of cell-cycle proteins accompanied neuronal death in their fly model. Most importantly, loss of neurons could be prevented when the cell cycle was genetically blocked or when flies were fed anticancer drugs. Cell-cycle activation depended upon a hyperactive cell growth molecule, TOR (target of rapamycin), also known to be abnormally activated in Alzheimer's disease. By establishing these causal connections, this study suggests that anticancer drugs are potential therapies for Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. More broadly, the results point to an intriguing correlation between cancer and dementia, two of the most important diseases in the elderly.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink


January 26, 2006, 4:23 PM CT

Hunting For Cancer Cure

The New Cancer Hunters Image courtesy of IsraCast
Scientists from the Hebrew University have succeeded in isolating a variant of the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV-HUJ), which commonly affects birds, in order to specifically target cancer cells. The research, which has already cleared the first phase of clinical trials, is already patented and if all goes well it might receive an approval for clinical use, changing the way we think about viruses forever.

Professors Amos Panet and Zichria Zakay-Rones, from the Department of Virology at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, have been involved during the past five years in research that could create a new and effective weapon in the fight against cancer, as well as change the way we look at viruses. As an obligatory parasitic entity with no independent life of its own, a virus must enter a living cell in order to multiply. The viral life-cycle begins when the virus inserts its genetic material into the host's cell, forcing it to replicate the virus' components, and eventually leading to the death of the cell. The NDV-HUJ virus, discovered by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem team, acts in a similar way, except for its outstanding preference for infecting malignant cells. NDV-HUJ is a natural variant of NDV (Newcastle Disease Virus) which commonly affects birds. Being an attenuated variant (e.g., weakened virus), it is innately preferentially targets and replicates in certain types of tumor cells, leaving normal cells almost unaffected.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink


January 23, 2006, 7:21 PM CT

Developing The World's First Cancer Vaccine

Developing The World’s First Cancer Vaccine
Professor Frazer
The Australian newspaper's Australian of the Year recipient is not just leading the world with his research, he is changing it and hopes others will be inspired to do the same.

University of Queensland scientist Professor Ian Frazer today received the prestigious award for developing a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer - the world's first ever cancer vaccine. He was a joint recipient of the award with Professor Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren who received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005 for their research on stomach ulcers.

Professor Frazer, who founded and leads UQ's Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research, is also the 2006 Queensland Australian of the Year and is consequently in the running for the Australian of the Year Award, which will be announced at Parliament House on January 25.

He said The Australian's award and the nomination for Australian of the Year were both a tremendous honour and responsibility.

"It gives me a great opportunity to promote science and specifically biomedical research and it also gives me an opportunity to talk with people about how they can contribute through their own work to the community," he said.

"You can get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of doing good for others.

"I think society has become very focused on self and on consumerism and what I'd like to see in addition to this concept of financial benefit is the concept of social credit - doing things that are of benefit to others.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink


January 22, 2006, 8:02 PM CT

New Generation Of PET-CT Scanners

New Generation Of PET-CT Scanners PET/CT scanner
Image courtesy of Medical College of Georgia
UW Medical Center is the first hospital in the country to install a new-generation PET/CT imaging system designed to help physicians detect, diagnose and monitor therapy of cancer and other diseases, including heart disease and neurological disease, more accurately and earlier in the disease process.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans are both standard imaging tools that physicians use to pinpoint disease states in the body. A PET scan demonstrates the biological function of the body before anatomical changes take place, while the Computerized axial tomography scan provides information about the body's anatomy such as size, shape and location.

The new generation PET/CT is a fusion of the high-speed, high-resolution capabilities of a Computerized axial tomography scanner with the metabolic and physiologic capabilities of a PET scanner, said Dr. Paul Kinahan, associate professor of radiology and director of PET/CT physics for UW Medical Center.

"By combining these two scanning technologies, a PET/Computerized axial tomography scan enables physicians to more accurately diagnose and identify cancer, heart disease and brain disorders," said Dr. Satoshi Minoshima, professor and vice-chair for research at the UW Department of Radiology.........

Posted by: Sue      Permalink


January 18, 2006, 7:57 PM CT

Engineer, Dentist, And Veterinarian Building Bone

Engineer, Dentist, And Veterinarian Building Bone
Oral and pharyngeal cancers rank among the most prevalent worldwide, eventhough they account for only about three percent of all cancers in the United States. Unfortunately, most oral cancers are detected at advanced stages when combinations of surgery and radiation are required, and the most recent studies show the five-year survival rate of 53 percent has not changed in the past 30 years.

If two Virginia Tech researchers, collaborating with the American Dental Association (ADA), are able to successfully construct a tissue engineered composite material for oral reconstructions, these dismal statistics might yield a better outcome.

The repair of the diseased tissue in these cancers often requires reconstruction of the bone, and Brian Love, professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech and principal investigator on a National Institutes for Health (NIH) grant, believes "substantially better clinical outcomes for all oral constructions could result if a more viable scaffold material were used that was capable of faster and higher quality bone formation."

Love and the team are looking at amorphous calcium phosphates (ACPs) as inorganic host materials in the rebuilding of tissue. ACPs, in the presence of cells that make bone (called osteoblasts), are believed to "more readily" provide the host material for new bone formation in tissue engineering than other choices, Love explains.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink


January 9, 2006, 11:49 PM CT

Gene Mutation Means Poor Outcomes In Thyroid Cancer

Gene Mutation Means With Poor Outcomes In Thyroid Cancer Thyroid gland is located on both sides of the neck
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that a mutation in the gene that triggers production of a tumor growth protein is linked to poorer outcomes for patients with papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). A report on the study is published in the recent issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Mingzhao Xing, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the multi-center study. "This discovery should help physicians rate risk levels for patients with PTC," he says.

The gene, called BRAF, is part of a signaling pathway that, when activated, is known to cause tumor growth, and mutations in BRAF have been linked to a variety of human cancers, the scientists say.

For the study, Xing and his colleagues looked at information from 219 PTC patients from 1990 to 2004. The relationship among BRAF mutations, initial tumor characteristics, cancer recurrence and clinical outcomes was analyzed.

Results showed a "significant association" between BRAF mutation and spread of the cancer from the thyroid, lymph node metastasis, and advanced tumor stage at the time of surgery to remove the malignant thyroid gland. The thyroid, a gland located beneath the voice box (larynx) that produces thyroid hormone, helps regulate body cell growth and metabolism. Results also showed that, given an average follow-up of three to four years, 25 percent of patients with BRAF mutations experienced tumor recurrence compared to 9 percent without evidence of BRAF mutations.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink


January 9, 2006, 11:29 PM CT

Molecule From The Sea Kills Cancer Cells

Molecule From The Sea Kills Cancer Cells 
Sea sponge porifera one type of sea sponge
A natural chemical made by a New Zealand sea sponge exerts its deadly effects on cancer cells by preventing the cells' protein-building machinery from turning on, Johns Hopkins researchers report in the Dec. 9 issue of Molecular Cell.

The chemical's anti-cancer effects have been known since 1991, but this is the first comprehensive report to show how the molecule, known as pateamine A (PatA), stalls the growth of so-called eukaryotic cells -- cells that have membranes and a nucleus.

"Agents that interfere with protein production in bacteria are already useful antibiotics, but this is the first small molecule found to interfere specifically with the earliest steps of protein production in human cells," says the study's leader, Jun Liu, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences.

Eventhough any clinical applications of PatA or related molecules are likely a number of years away, Liu notes, PatA's abilities offers researchers the chance to probe the earliest steps in protein production and the biology of so-called "suicide" in human cells.

"The whole idea of chemical biology is that we can use active molecules like PatA as bait to fish out their biological targets, which sheds light on normal biology and can clarify why the molecules' interaction is important," says Liu, whose research has focused on using chemical biology to study the regulation of the immune system. "This is incredibly powerful as researchers begin creating networks, not just linear pathways, of biological understanding".........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink


January 9, 2006, 11:00 PM CT

Telomerase And More

Telomerase And More
With seed money from Johns Hopkins Institute of Cell Engineering, a Johns Hopkins geneticist and her team have discovered a critical link between the health of stem cells and the length of the chromosome ends within them.

Chromosome ends, or telomeres, are repetitive stretches of DNA that protect chromosomes in much the same way as plastic tips on shoelaces prevent the fabric from fraying. Each time a cell divides, its chromosome ends get a little shorter, and eventually the cell can no longer divide because its critical genetic information is exposed. In stem cells, however, a protein called telomerase normally maintains the telomeres' length, allowing the cells to divide indefinitely.

Now, the Hopkins scientists report that mice engineered to have just half the normal amount of telomerase can't maintain their stem cells' chromosome ends, showing that a little telomerase isn't enough. In these "half-telomerase" mice, their telomeres shortened over time, bringing an early demise to stem cells that replenish the blood supply, immune system and intestine, the scientists report. Moreover, offspring of these mice bred to have normal levels of telomerase still exhibited early loss of stem cells, the scientists report in the Dec. 16 issue of Cell.

"These offspring have what we have called 'occult' genetic disease -- their genetic make-up is perfectly normal, but they still have the physical problems of their parents," says Carol Greider, Ph.D., director and professor of molecular biology and genetics in the Johns Hopkins Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences. "This phenomenon could complicate the hunt for disease genes."........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink


January 4, 2006

Surprising Rapid Emotional Recovery Of Breast Cancer Survivors

Surprising Rapid Emotional Recovery Of Breast Cancer Survivors Researcher Tiffany Tibbs discusses breast cancer treatment with a patient.
Contrary to psychologists' expectations, breast cancer survivors don't experience an extended emotional crisis after their treatment regimens end, according to a new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The study appears in the January issue of Supportive Care in Cancer.

"We thought we'd find that women do worse psychologically after treatment," says Washington University psychologist, Teresa L. Deshields, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine. "That's the clinical lore. After all, many of the patients referred to us are the ones struggling at the end of treatment. But our study shows that within two weeks most women adjust very well to survivorship".

The research team surveyed 94 women drawn from patients of the radiation oncology practice at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The women, averaging 55 years of age, had stage 0, I, II or III breast cancer and at the start of the study were completing the last of a six- to seven-week course of daily radiation treatments.

The women were surveyed five times: on their last day of radiation treatment, two weeks later, several days before their first follow-up appointment (four to six weeks post-treatment) and at three and six months. The survey measured patients' depressive symptoms and quality of life (the quality of life measurement quantifies a set of attributes that include physical, social/family, emotional and functional well-being, and breast-cancer-specific concerns).

For the group of breast-cancer survivors, the average score for indications of depression was heightened at the end of treatment compared to a group of healthy men and women. A higher score on the depression index indicates more severe depressive symptoms.........

Emily      Permalink



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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