Archive for October, 2010

Scientists are now hopeful for treating certain cancers including the breast cancer at the molecular level. The startling new discovery about a protein known as Rictor has revealed that it plays a vital role in destroying  AKT like oncogenes.  The study had been conducted by the researchers associated with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).  The details of their findings have been published in the ‘Molecular Cell’  of September 2010.

The AKT like oncogenic structure has been named as SGK1 and resembles the former quite closely revealed Wenyi Wei, one of the senior authors of the study. Wei went on to add that while the two proteins  were found to be very closely related, they do have a crucial difference as well. AKT is a long living protein while SGK1 has a very short life span making it more powerful!

Previous study results had already discovered that mTORC2, a multi protein complex formed by Rictor has the potential to activate both AKT and SGK1. The research team led by Wei found that the SGK1 levels kept increasing even when Rictor was absent. This presented a dilemma as the scientists failed to understand how the levels increased when protein kinase was not present. The results showed that the levels were not actually enhanced but it was the SGK1 which lived for a longer period. This suggested that Rictor had a prominent role in destroying SGK1.

The significance of this particular find can have an enormous impact. SGK1 plays an important role in cell growth and cell death and  is frequently  associated with human cancer. Marion Zatz of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) believes that detecting the faulty regulation of Rictor can help us to form a better understanding of cancer thereby improving our ability to treat the disease.

The exact role of the SGK1 in the growth of cancerous tumors is, however, still not very clear.

Source: Public release by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on 28th October 2010

Researchers have now been able to find a way of decreasing pediatric bone cancer by blocking a particular signaling pathway.

The pre clinical studies carried out on mice by the researchers of the University of Texas, MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, Houston showed that the blocked Notch pathways help in limiting the metastases of the lung by fifteen times. The results of the research were presented verbally at the 42nd Congress of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology, last Sunday.

The results further revealed that the metastases of osteosarcoma, the commonest type of bone cancer in young children, can actually be controlled by tweaking the Notch pathway and the Hes1 gene.

Almost 400 children and teenagers below 20 years of age are diagnosed with osteosarcoma every year and most of them already have metastases formed before being diagnosed. The cancer usually spreads to the lungs which is the predominant reason for at least 35% of the pediatric patients dying due to bone cancer.

Dennis Hughes, the leader of the research team and assistant professor associated with MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital said that the results from blocking the Notch in mice have indeed been encouraging making them interested in finding out more about the process of metastasis. He hopes that this will enable them to discover additional therapies for preventing the spread of cancer.

The prognosis of the patient can also depend on the expression of Hes1 genes. He conducted a small study wherein he found that 39% of the patients with higher expression levels of Hes1 survived for a decade whereas the percentage was much higher constituting almost 60% for
patients with a lower level.

The research results also show that the HDAC inhibitors increase the Notch pathway in osteosarcoma cells with low Hes1 expression. For cells with high Hes1 expression and
maximized Notch, HDAC inhibitors cause death.

Source: Public Release By University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center on 25th October 2010.

Carcinoma of the pancreas is considered to be one of the most lethal forms of the disease. However, the researchers explained that the disease killed swiftly simply because its slow progression caused the most obvious symptoms to remain undetected until it was too late.

Dr. Bert Vogelstein the leader of the study and associated with the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore said that the detection of the cancer within the first 20 years will provide the doctors a chance of curing it completely by means of surgery.

Vogelstein’s team conducted a joint research with the British researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Cambridge University. They dug through various pancreatic tumors by collecting the tissue samples as soon as the autopsies were conducted on patients who had succumbed to the carcinoma of the pancreas.  Tissues from the surgically removed cancerous tumors were also studied. These samples had been taken from three patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The researchers published their findings in two papers of the ‘Nature’ journal. They tried to clock the evolution of the tumor at the molecular level by utilizing the various mutations of the tumors. The DNA mutations can be calculated perfectly and the researchers could easily identify the mutations due to pancreatic cancer. The DNA from
the primary tumors were then compared to the secondary ones that had developed in the liver or elsewhere in the body.

Vogelstein formulated a plan of creating a family tree noting the mutations of the genes in successive generations.  However, the most difficult part appears to be screening for pancreatic cancer.  The tumors can hardly be spotted before they get to be too big and even then the process for removing them is complicated indeed.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69Q4JB20101027

Adopting certain lifestyle changes goes a long way in prevention of cancer, particularly colon cancer say the scientists. Resorting to a healthy diet, abstaining from alcohol and smoking along with exercising daily can actually protect you against bowel cancer.

Scientists from Denmark found out that the incidence of colon cancer can be reduced by as much as 23% by keeping the waist circumference and intake of alcohol in check. Regular  physical activity, eating healthy food and refraining from smoking are other factors that have a direct bearing on the risk of contracting bowel cancer.

Anne Tjonneland attached to the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology of the Danish Cancer Society was the leader of the study conducted. She revealed that the results corroborated the fact that even a minimum change in lifestyle habits can be effective in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.

Statistics show that colorectal or bowel cancer is actually responsible for the deaths of almost half a million people every year, worldwide.

The study consisted of observing a total of 55,487 men and women, aged 50-64 from all across the world. They had never been diagnosed with cancer before. The researchers followed their lifestyle habits for 10 years before arriving at the conclusion.  The researchers also helped them to alter their lifestyle for better by recommending the measures proposed by the World Cancer Research Fund, World Health Organization as well as the Nordic Nutrition.

The results of the study were published in the British Medical Journal which showed 678 of them being diagnosed with cancer during the follow up.

The scientists then arrived at the conclusion which showed that almost 13% of the incidences could have been avoided had the participants followed just another extra guideline. The rate would have gone up to 23% had they followed all five of the recommendations.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69P5C220101026 

Adopting certain lifestyle changes goes a long way in prevention of cancer, particularly colon cancer say the scientists. Resorting to a healthy diet, abstaining from alcohol and smoking along with exercising daily can actually protect you against bowel cancer.

Scientists from Denmark found out that the incidence of colon cancer can be reduced by as much as 23% by keeping the waist circumference and intake of alcohol in check. Regular  physical activity, eating healthy food and refraining from smoking are other factors that have a direct bearing on the risk of contracting bowel cancer.

Anne Tjonneland attached to the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology of the Danish Cancer Society was the leader of the study conducted. She revealed that the results corroborated the fact that even a minimum change in lifestyle habits can be effective in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.

Statistics show that colorectal or bowel cancer is actually responsible for the deaths of almost half a million people every year, worldwide.

The study consisted of observing a total of 55,487 men and women, aged 50-64 from all across the world. They had never been diagnosed with cancer before. The researchers followed their lifestyle habits for 10 years before arriving at the conclusion.  The researchers also helped them to alter their lifestyle for better by recommending the measures proposed by the World Cancer Research Fund, World Health Organization as well as the Nordic Nutrition.

The results of the study were published in the British Medical Journal which showed 678 of them being diagnosed with cancer during the follow up.

The scientists then arrived at the conclusion which showed that almost 13% of the incidences could have been avoided had the participants followed just another extra guideline. The rate would have gone up to 23% had they followed all five of the recommendations.

 

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69P5C220101026  

 

Women, who are considered to have a breast or ovarian cancer risk often miss diagnosing it early enough. This could well be for the fact that the family history on the father’s side is often not taken into account.

Researchers associated with Lancet Oncology say that the women are more likely to refer to the disease on their mother’s side of the family. Consequently, the incidences of women having maternal histories of cancer are referred almost five times more than others by their family doctors.

A charity associated with cancer in the UK also stated that the history of the father is often overlooked especially when it is a case of breast or ovarian cancer. Studies have revealed that almost 5% to 10% of such cancers are usually associated with genetic inheritance. A significant amount of the genetic risk manifests itself as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 defect. This is associated with the possibility of the concerned woman being diagnosed by breast or ovarian cancer in her life time.

A woman having a family history of cancer is therefore at a risk and can take the necessary precaution by being referred for genetic testing in order to find out whether she has the defect.

Jeanna McCuaig, the leader of the research team and attached to the Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto  found out that in spite of the chances of inheriting a defective gene from the father and mother being 50-50, the maternal history is the only one taken into consideration most of the time. A study of records from their own clinic showed the disparity in referral rates.

The reason for overlooking the paternal history might be due to ignorance feel the researchers. McCuaig stated knowing of two prominent cases where the women concerned were falsely reassured despite having a history of BRCA2 gene mutation and incidences of breast/ovarian cancer in their paternal families.

Dr Caitlin Palframan said that it was important to understand the importance of paternal family history of cancers as the faulty genes can be inherited from either side of the family.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11607396

The October issue of the ‘Journal of Urology’ carried the results of a study conducted by the researchers associated with the Children’s Hospital, Boston. The study showed the effectiveness of using a cholesterol lowering drug in reducing the size of an enlarged prostate. The experiment was carried out on hamsters. The drug had a similar effect to a benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) treating drug.  A combination of both the drugs proved to be doubly effective found the researchers.

Keith Solomon, the lead author and member of the Orthopedic Surgery department at the  Children’s Hospital said that the results of the study point to the fact that lowering cholesterol might have a reducing effect on BPH. Other means of decreasing the cholesterol levels like exercise and diet might also go a long way in reducing BPH. The mechanism of the process is yet to be discovered says Solomon.

The development of BPH is manifested by an enlarged prostate and occur in elderly males above 50. The treatment followed currently consist of both medical and surgical procedures which target the prostate reducing the associated symptoms significantly. However, a number of side effects are also evident in most of the patients treated by the traditional methods.

The team of researchers led by Solomon tested the efficacy of a FDA approved cholesterol reducing drug, Ezetimibe against that of Finasteride which is a standard drug used to reduce BPH.  Both the drugs reduced the enlarged prostate significantly while they worked even better in combination.

Dolores Di Vizio, the co-author of the study made a startling discovery when she observed that Finasteride caused atrophy of the prostate gland while Ezetimibe did not. This proved that the cholesterol reducing drug utilized a unique mechanism of inhibiting the BPH said Michael R. Freeman, another co-author in the project.

This particular therapeutic effect of hypercholesterolemic  drugs was, in fact, commented upon by Carl Schaffner almost 40 years earlier. The professor emeritus attached to the Rutgers University had reported similar results by using a different drug on pre clinical models.


Source: Ezetimibe reduces enlarged prostate in an animal model of benign prostatic hyperplasia, Journal of Urology, October 2010

Public Release by Children’s Hospital, Boston on 21st October 2010

Dako, the accepted global leader in the field of tissue based diagnostics, has received the go ahead from FDA to expand its use of HercepTest(TM) and HER2 FISH pharmDx(TM) Kit. The patients that can now be tested also include those diagnosed with gastroesophageal junction and metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma, both of which are types of stomach cancer.

Identification of patients likely to be cured by Herceptin (trastuzumab) can be done by Dako’s diagnostic tests as well. The FDA has also accepted the fact that the patients with HER2-positive metastatic stomach cancer or gastroesophageal junction carcinoma can be treated effectively with a combination of Herceptin and chemotherapy. Recent clinical study results show that using the combination can result in a longer survival time than treating the HER2-positive metastatic stomach cancer patient with chemotherapy alone.

Sunil S. Badve, Professor at Indiana University, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine (USA) and a diplomat of the American Board of Pathology, says that Dako’s kit of HercepTest(TM) and HER2 FISH pharmDx(TM) can prove to be advantageous in identifying those metastatic stomach cancer patients who can be treated with HER2 targeted Herceptin  therapy. These diagnostic kits help in the selection of the appropriate treatment for about 22% of 21,130 US citizens who are diagnosed with stomach cancer every year.

Lars Holmkvist, the CEO of Dako said that FDA’s approval  have recognized their commitment to developing quality diagnostic tools that aid in the treatment of cancer. The diagnostic kits along with the Herceptin® treatment have already revolutionized breast cancer treatment. He hoped that the same will hold true for HER2-positive stomach cancer.

The FDA approval is based on the screening process conducted on more than 3,700 patients at 122 different sites and across 24 countries. The positive results obtained at this International Phase III Study (ToGA) prompted the FDA to give its approval.

The Kit is available with the CE mark in the European Union.


Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS46062+21-Oct-2010+HUG20101021

The official American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), the International Journal of Radiation, Oncology, Biology, Physics carried a study report in its October issue which stated that proton beam therapy is  much more effective apart from being a safer method for treating  the non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients diagnosed with the inoperable Stage I of the disease.

Lung cancer remains the primary cause of cancer related deaths according to the American Cancer Society.  The commonest mode of treatment is to simply remove a part or whole of the affected lung. Radiation therapy usually serves the same purpose in cases of inoperable incidences of lung cancer.

Medical researchers of Japan tried to find out the advantages of treating NSCLC with the aid of proton beams as opposed to the more conventional treatment with external beam radiation. Stereotactic body radiation therapy which involves targeting a cancerous tumor with focused radiation beams are also used to remove the affected cells of NSCLC patients.

The patients diagnosed with NSCLC were treated with proton beams for over seven years from November 2001-July 2008. The doses differed according to the location of the tumors. The survival rates improved appreciably without any further progression of the disease. The rates were 88.7% and 97% respectively for patients receiving proton beams for peripheral and central tumors over a period of two years. Statistics for the conventional radiation therapy varies between 6% to 31.4% in five years whereas it is 54.7% in two years time for the Stereotactic body radiation.

Hidetsugu Nakayama, the leader of the study, associated with the Proton Medical Research Center in Tennoudai, Tsukuba, Ikbaraki, Japan concluded that proton beam therapy was indeed a much safer and superior means of treatment for inoperable Stage I NSCLC.  However, clinical trials for comparison of the method with Stereotactic body radiation is still required in order shed light on the survival benefits.

Source: News Release By Astro on 19th October 2010.

Scientists associated with the University of California, Irvine believe that skin cancer can be treated successfully with the aid of light.  The details of the research are likely to be revealed at the 94th annual meeting of the Optical Society (OSA) called Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2010 to be held on  Oct. 24-28. The Rochester Riverside Convention Center will serve as the venue for the meeting.  Photodynamic Therapy or PDT is a technique based on imaging the cancerous lesions with the help of LEDs.

The procedure for PDT involves injecting photosensitizing chemicals which are known to absorb light into the cancerous tumors. The tumors are then exposed to light thus allowing the chemicals to produce oxygen radicals from light thereby destroying the cancerous cells.  PDT has already been approved by the FDA as a suitable method for treating both esophageal as well as lung cancer.

Rolf Saager and Kristen Kelly, M.D attached to the Anthony Durkin laboratory, Beckman Laser Institute; UC Irvine along with Modulated Imaging Inc thinks that the lack of suitable imaging techniques which can target and monitor the efficacy of PDT might prove to be a hindrance in treating skin cancer effectively by PDT.

The team has now succeeded in creating a new technique based on spatial frequency domain imaging which consists of five differently colored LEDs.  The LEDs make distinct patterns while illuminating the skin revealing the underlying biochemistry of the skin tissues along with the various pigments.

The method was tried on a small group of skin cancer patients who were yet to begin treatment.  The entire procedure was over by 5 to 10 seconds and the results were revealed via 30 micron resolution images.  The details collected from the images showed the various optical properties of the lesions including the oxygenation of the skin tissues along with the distribution of the photosensitizing drug.

Saager and his associates hope that PDT would equip them with an effective way of targeting and optimizing a therapy for basal cell carcinoma, the commonest type of skin cancer.


Source: Public release By Optical Society of America on 18th October 2010.