Written by Victoria Forster
A new research study has identified a potential new target for therapies that could be used in triple-negative breast cancer, while sparing healthy cells.
The work published in Nature Communications by a U.S.-China team, led by researchers at Scripps Research in California, shows how a protein called Rad52 might be a new therapeutic target in some types of cancer. Rad52 participates in the repair of a certain type of DNA damage called a double-strand-break. Repairing DNA may seem like a good idea and in healthy cells it is, but in cancer cells, it can actually keep them alive in a damaged state and prevent therapies from working properly.
One cancer type that the researchers believe a Rad52-targeting drug might be useful in is that of triple-negative breast cancers, an aggressive form of the disease that affects an estimated 28,000 Americans per year. This type of breast cancer also has a lower survival than many other types, with 77% of women with triple-negative breast cancer surviving for 5 years or more, compared to 93% of women with other types of breast cancer. Read more.
Written by Eric Hamilton
In the treatment of cancer, chemotherapy is a cleaver, not a scalpel. By attacking rapidly dividing cells, chemotherapy effectively fights tumors, but it also ravages healthy cells in the gut, bone marrow, the scalp and other organs, leading to severe side effects. These toxic chemicals save lives, but at a great cost to patient well-being.
In an effort to tip the balance toward the upsides of chemotherapy, Glen Kwon, a professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, is turning to nanoparticles capable of enhancing these drugs’ therapeutic properties.
In new work recently published in the journal ACS Nano, Kwon’s lab developed a stabilized form of a common chemotherapy agent, gemcitabine, and encased it in nanoparticles capable of slowing down their release. In mouse models of human lung cancer, the improved drug inhibited tumor growth more effectively than standard gemcitabine. Read more.
Scientists have designed a special type of drug that helps the body eat and destroy cancerous cells.
The treatment boosts the action of white blood cells, called macrophages, that the immune system uses to gobble up unwanted invaders. Tests in mice showed the therapy worked for aggressive breast and skin tumours, Nature Biomedical Engineering journal reports.
The US team behind the study hope to begin human trials within a few years. Read more.
Written by Nadia Whitehead,UA College of Medicine
Lifelong cytomegalovirus infection may boost the immune system in old age, when we need it most, according to a study led by University of Arizona researchers.
Our immune system is at its peak when we’re young, but after a certain age, it declines and it becomes more difficult for our bodies to fight off new infections. Read more.
Written by Andy Fell
Rhesus macaque monkeys infected in utero with Zika virus develop similar brain pathology to human infants, according to a report by researchers at the California National Primate Research Center and School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, published June 20 in Nature Communications.
Rhesus macaques may be a suitable model system to study how Zika virus infection during pregnancy affects the fetus and to find ways to prevent, diagnose, mitigate or treat it, said Koen Van Rompay, research virologist at the CNPRC. Read more.
The Secret to Living Longer? It’s in your gut.
New research, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that fruit flies fed a combination of probiotics and an herbal supplement called Triphala led longer, healthier lives.
“The fruit fly is a powerful model system since it retains 70% of the core biochemical pathways in humans; however is simpler allowing researchers to more easily delineate signaling pathways. The same goes with the gut microbiome. In humans, there are thousands of species working together to elicit an effect whereas in flies, there are only 10-20 active species allowing us to study more specifically the impact of a supplemented probiotic on the Drosophila physiology,” Susan Westfall, a former Ph.D. student at McGill University and lead author of the study, explained to ALN. Read more.
Written by Keridwen Cornelius
Stephen Johnston dreams of a future in which humans could protect themselves against all types of cancer with a single shot. As the biochemist envisions it, this prophylactic injection would train the immune system to pick off cancerous cells before they could mobilize into malignancies. The catch: many oncology specialists insist this is scientifically impossible.
Critics of the concept say tumor cells are too genetically complex to be consistently thwarted by zeroing in on any one target. Yet Johnston and colleagues at Arizona State University have been working on an experimental inoculation for the past 12 years. They tested blood from hundreds of humans and dogs with cancer to identify potential vaccine targets, then came up with vaccine cocktails and experimentally tested them in hundreds of mice with tumors. The researchers believe they have now identified a recipe that has the right stuff to keep tumors from forming. Johnston says his vaccine cocktail instructions remain unpublished because he made a strategic decision not to release them before securing intellectual property rights. Read more.
Written by John Perritano
Can you imagine biting into a succulent piece of chocolate cake and not craving more? What if you popped a piece of sweet, sweet candy in your mouth, only to spit it out because it tasted bitter? Scientists at Columbia University have found a way to stop mice from craving, or even tasting, sugary and bitter treats. The research could prove beneficial in treating obesity and eating disorders in humans.
The human brain is hardwired to enjoy the pleasing, almost euphoric effect of food, especially sugar. Here’s why: The minute you take a bite of a cookie or some other food, specialized cells on the tongue react with what you just ate. Each of these so-called receptor cells is programmed to respond to one taste — sweet, sour, bitter, salty or umami (savory). The receptor cells then take that information and send it to specific regions of the brain. Consequently, we can identify the taste — allowing us to respond appropriately. We might say “yum” when eating a candy bar or pucker our lips when sucking on a lemon. That’s because taste is closely tied to our emotions. Every bite produces a variety of memories, reactions and thoughts. We might remember a pleasant experience at a birthday party where cake and candy were served, or how tart grandma’s lemonade really was. Read more.
Written by: Bob Yirka
Two teams of researchers, one working in the U.S., the other in Italy, have come up with new ways to avert cytokine release syndrome (CRS) in leukemia patients who undergo CAR T-cell therapies. In the first, the researchers working at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York developed a mouse model to replicate the conditions under which CRS develops. They were able to isolate a key molecule involved in the syndrome and then found a drug that blocks it. The second team developed a different mouse model and found the same molecule involved. But instead of blocking it, they genetically modified the T-cells to prevent CRS from arising in the first place. Both have published their results in the journal Nature Medicine. Cliona Rooney and Tim Sauer with Baylor College offer a News & Views piece on the work done by the two teams in the same journal issue. Read more.
Written by PLOS
New research in mice suggests that chronic infection with intestinal worms indirectly reduces the number of cells in lymph nodes near the skin, inhibiting the immune system’s response to the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine for tuberculosis. Xiaogang Feng of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues present these findings in PLOS Pathogens.
Many people worldwide receive the BCG vaccine to boost their immune response to bacteria that cause tuberculosis, lowering risk of the disease. Previous studies have shown that the vaccine, which is injected into the skin, is less effective in people with chronic intestinal worm infections, but the reason for this inhibition was unclear. Read more.