Archive for November, 2010

In a paper ready to be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, a group of researchers from the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), at the University of Utah, have recognized a ‘trigger mechanism for a quality control checkpoint at the concluding part of a cell disintegration process’.  This particular study is the first of its kind shedding a new ray of light on the formation of cancerous cells.

Addressing the vital issue of the origin of cancer, which is the central emphasis of major cancer researches, Katharine Ullman, Phd, Professor from the Department of Oncological Science, says, ‘..its usually when some normal process that’s vital for cell division is somehow not carried out properly’. The senior author on this paper further states that ‘Mistakes at this stage of quality control and this particular trigger could be one of the contributing factors to the initiation of cancer. It’s not going to be the only one, but it will help us ask additional important questions about how cancer forms’.

Ullman’s research mainly focuses on a particular cellular structure called NPC (nuclear pore complex) that is implanted within the membranes of the cell nucleus which plays a fundamental role in cell nuclear organisation. Examining a few cells reduced of NUP 153( a component of NpC), the researchers came to the conclusion that cell division process suffered from an erroneous nuclear reformation. Ullman opines, ‘We found that in its absence, a set of architectural elements at, and associated with, the nuclear pore weren’t being put back together correctly during nuclear reformation’ , and at the same time discovering another protein, Aurora B acting as a hindrance to cell formation process.

The team is further extending their research to trace out the details of molecular connection between the NUP 153 and Aurora B to explore the latent molecular pathway in between, which might be a revelation in the whole domain of cancer research.

Most cancers are diagnosed when the disease has progressed far ahead despite the availability of sophisticated cancer screening solutions. The latest study conducted by the Centres for Decease Control (CDC) has revealed that in the United States, almost half of the cervical and colorectal cases of cancer are detected when the decease is in the advanced stages. The same applies to nearly a third of all cases of breast cancer. These cancers are treatable and can be prevented provided they are diagnosed in the early stages, thus saving many valuable lives.

According to Dr. Marcus Plescia, MPH, Director, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, “the report causes concern because so many preventable cancers are not being diagnosed when treatment is most effective. More work is needed to widely implement evidence-based cancer screening tests which may lead to early detection and, ultimately, an increase in the number of lives saved.”

The data from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries, its Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Surveillance, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute was examined by the researchers.

The main aim of the study was to find out how prevalent was the use of screening solutions and how widespread were cases of late stages of breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. The study was based on factors such as demographics, ethnicity, age, gender and race in the various states between the years 2004 to 2006.

The report revealed that the occurrence of advanced stages of colorectal cancer was high among black adults. As compared to a malignancy rate of 92.6 in white males, black males had a malignancy rate of 114.0. Similarly among women, black women led with a rate of 85.6 while white women had a lower rate of 68.6.

The states which had the highest cases of advanced colorectal cancer were Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Connecticut, Maine, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Louisiana.


Researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered a unique imaging technique that uses laser light to spot cancer cells. The NIVI (Nonlinear Interferometric Vibrational Imaging) technique is fast and accurate and can produce easy to read color coded images of tissues, outlining clear tumor boundaries, with more that 99% confidence, in less than five minutes.

According to professor and physician Stephen A. Boppart, who is affiliated with the university’s Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, this could be an unprecedented breakthrough in the diagnosis of cancer. He further added that the NIVI process of diagnosis would be much more quantitative and rapid compared to the current methods, which are subjective and time consuming.

In another ground breaking research, a team of scientists at the University of Washington, have found out a stabilizing set up, which could help cells to distribute their genetic material accurately, while splitting into new cells, which in turn could reduce cancer cells. The process is known as the finger-trap tension process. It is an amazingly simple method that controls the movement of cells in a human body.

According to Sue Biggins, a senior author and an investigator in the Basic Science Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seatle, cancer cells contain wrong numbers of chromosomes. An understanding of how to control chromosome separation can help control the defects before they occur. Biggins further adds that the knowledge would also help in targeting and preventing the unbalanced chromosomes from dividing any more.

The researchers are working on improving and broadening the application of their method.


We have known since a considerable span of time that cancer could be barred by eating five portions of  fruits and vegetables. According to a latest European Epic (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer) study conducted by researchers from 10 different nations, a greater emphasis is being laid on eating a variety of fruits rather than the mere quantity, which further helps to reduce the risk of cancer by 23%.

Maria Jose Sanchez Perez, the co-author of the study and the director of the Granada Cancer Registry at the Andalusian School of Public Health , tells SINC, ‘Aside from the amount consumed, its also important to take into account the variety. A varied diet reduces the risk of developing this cancer, above all in smokers’.

A significant finding from this study is definitely good news to smokers all over the globe. The results of the study brings forward the fact that ‘For every two additional units of different kinds of fruits and vegetables in the diet, the risk of lung cancer falls significantly by 3%. So if smokers increase the variety of fruits they eat they could have a lower risk of developing this kind of cancer’.

The research finds out that the risk of developing epidermoid carcinoma of the lung is greatly reduced by consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, thus cutting down the risk of lung cancer amongst smokers by 9%.  Despite the sense of respite in the findings, Maria strongly reinstates the fact that the best way of evading lung cancer is to abstain from smoking completely.


A recent study by the Mayo clinic presented at the Society for Neuro oncology annual scientific meeting  and Education day at Montreal, has revealed an extraordinary fact that children with low-grade brain tumors (gliomas) gain a much better prospect of survival with aggressive surgery. Moreover, the application of radiation therapy to an incomplete surgery provides the same results as should have been in case of a complete removal  surgery.

The study’s foremost pioneer, Nadia Laack, says ‘This study further reinforces Mayo Clinic’s practice of aggressive surgical resection’.  She further opines, ‘we found that when compared to previous studies, more children are now able to have complete removals, most likely due to the fact that we have better neuro-surgical techniques and better imaging techniques that help guide the surgeons’.

Now to establish their findings , Dr Laack with a few other researchers categorized 127 consecutive pediatric patients with WHO’s grade I and grade II low-grade gliomas who have  had treatment at the Mayo clinic between 1990 and 2005. According to the outcome of this experiment, 89% of the patients are surviving more than 10 years later.

Dr Laack merrily concludes, ‘This is great news for families because it shows that even if a complete surgery is not possible , adding radiation to a less -than complete surgery reduce their chances of tumor progression to yield the same outcome as if there was  a complete removal’.

Source :

A pioneering study from UC Davis Cancer Centre by Allen M. Chen and his fellow researchers has revealed the fact that for cancers of the head and neck, those who have never smoked have much better survival rates than smokers after the application of radiation therapy. This unique research outcome is one of its kind, probing into prognosis variations resulting from a patient’s smoking history.

According to Chen, ‘There is something unique about the biology of head and neck cancers among non-smokers that makes them more amenable to cure by radiation therapy’. He further states, ‘These tumors just melt after a few doses of radiation. If we could understand why, there would be important implications for new drugs and treatments’.

Chen brings across a few possible explanations which might enlighten cancer research and treatments. His foremost suspect for propelling this difference in radio therapy reception amongst patients is human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease primarily associated with head and neck cancer of never-smoking patients.

Chen said, ‘The most common theory is that these tumors express a characteristic viral antigen on the cell surface that makes the immune system recognise the cancers more readily, which may enhance the effects of radiation’.  A further theory by Chen implies that non-smoking patients carrying HPV-related tumors have lesser number of mutations in key  genes critically responsible for radiation purposes.

To further impose his insinuations empirically, Chen compared 70 smoking patients diagnosed with non-metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth and throat from the UC Davis Department of Radiation Oncology with another 70 non-smoking patients, considering the subjects evenly on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, stage of disease, history of treatment and primary tumor sites.  The results turned out to be immensely impressive.

Chen’s study revealed that 14 of the 70 never-smokers experienced a reappearance of the disease as compared to the 26 patients having a smoking history. Furthermore, 82 percent of the non-smokers continued to be free from the disease after a period of three years as compared to the smoker patients. Most importantly, the patients who never had a smoking history underwent minimal treatment complications than the smokers.

Chen’s analysis is proving to be a groundbreaking incident in the history of cancer research and treatment. His subsequent endeavour is to identify biological or genetic differences among smoking and never-smoking head and neck cancer patients who are undergoing radiation therapy. He announces, ‘We are in the process of conducting several laboratory experiments designed to better understand why cancers arising from never smokers are so exquisitely radiosensitive.’ This might be the answer to all queries regarding differences in prognosis.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Oncology

Amgen, the giant biotech drug manufacturers disclosed that the federal health regulators have approved the use of its bone strengthening drug for treating patients with advanced cancer. The frequency of fractures along with other skeletal problems can be relieved by using the bone enhancing agents say the FDA.

The federal body has also cleared the use of the drug denosumab for patients with solid tumors which are cancerous in nature. The FDA was satisfied by its efficacy only after observing the results from three different studies. The authorities are now convinced that denosumab functions well in ridding the body of bone related complications and is almost akin to Novartis’ Zometa as far its effectiveness is concerned. The clinical program took into account almost 50 different types of tumor in 5,700 patients with bone metastases.

The drug denosumab is already being marketed by Amgen as Prolia. However, it is sold as a drug for reducing the effects of menopause induced osteoporosis now. The company has decided to sell the same drug under the name Xgeva for cancer related bone complications.

Company studies indicate that at least 50% of all cancer patients experience a weakening of their bones once the disease advances beyond the primary affected organ and reaches the skeletal system. The procedure of treatment by the drug will be in the form of monthly injections administered by a registered medical professional. Xgeva will work by blocking the activity of a particular protein which is known to break down the bone cells.


A new study recently found out about the ultra violet rays that harm the human skin. It hints at the solar rays being as harmful even when the temperatures tend to dip outside. However, most people are unaware of the dangers, with skiers and mountaineers going blissfully unprotected when it comes to taking care of their skin.

The researchers discovered the UV radiation to be similar on a mountain top and a sandy beach at the height of summer.

The leader of the research team Peter A. Andersen found evidence of UV rays bouncing off the snow clad mountains even at that elevation. Consequently, the skiers get bathed in radiation said Andersen, who is associated with the School of Communication, San Diego State University, California.

The oncologists say that UV related skin cancers are the deadliest of all, killing about 8,700 Americans every year.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation of New York, skin cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting at least 20% of the entire American population.

The study involved the researchers visiting 32 different mountain resorts with the objective of measuring the UV levels there. A total of 4,000 UV readings were amassed during the duration of the study with some of the readings being focused at the sun while the others were taken away from the sun and from the snow reflecting the sunlight. The research team also interviewed the visitors on the chairlifts and found out about degree of sun protection taken by them.

The researchers found that most of the ski resorts had multiple readings of 10 UV index, which is considered to be quite high as per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s UV index.  The UV levels atop a ski resort can be as high as that on a Hawaii beach on a bright and sunny day depending on the weather conditions, concluded Andersen.


Researchers have now discovered an ideal way of detecting the advanced ovarian cancer by checking the point mutations, which is actually a mis-spelling in a single character of the  genetic code  leading to the development and growth of the cancerous cells. The technique employed successfully for the detection is known as OncoMap. This finding opens up the possibilities of personalized treatment wherein the cancerous tumor can be targeted for each patient, their mutations checked and specific drugs given to stop further growth of the tumor.

The researchers are expected to present the details of how the use of OncoMap can help them to identify the mutations in cancerous tumor samples obtained from women with advanced, high grade, serous  ovarian cancer. The procedure wil be explained at the Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics to be held at Berlin on 17th November 2010. The presentation will be included in the 22nd EORTC-NCI-AACR [1] Symposium there.

Dr Ursula  Matulonis of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute,  Boston, USA,  along with  her colleagues utilized the OncoMap to find out the various mutation status of the high grade, serous ovarian cancer which are not caused by the mutations in the inherited BCRA ½ genes. The researchers found the KRAS, BRAF, CTNNB1 and PIK3CA mutations which had previously been linked to ovarian cancer. They also found  KRAS and PIK3CA to be quite common while the  BRAF mutations were rarer. The researchers also identified low frequency of such mutations in a number of other oncogenes.

The study also revealed that it was possible to use the OncoMap in order to identify a specific mutation within the oncogenes of an affected woman. Targeting the gene by known drugs will then help to keep a check on the cancer. The members involved in the study now hope to utilize the OncoMap as a clinical test resource in order to obtain the genetic information of the patients. The treatment would be based on the information thus obtained and would be totally personalized.

Source: Public Release by ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation on 16th November, 2010

US researchers stated that the patients diagnosed with heart ailments often have to undergo a number of imaging tests, all of which put them at a serious risk for developing cancer.

An advanced type of stress test known as myocardial perfusion imaging or MPI in short expose at least 30% of the patients to radiation amounts that can be considered above normal.  Dr. Andrew Einstein along with his colleagues expressed concern over this issue stating that the cumulative dosage for radiation is fraught with associated risks and need to be decreased. This statement has been published in the Journal of American Medical association as well.

The results of a study conducted jointly by the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Columbia University Medical Center was disclosed at the American  Heart Association meeting held in Chicago. The study comes after another study conducted by the Yale University which discovered almost 10% of the heart patients under the age of 64 to have had radiation therapy over a period of 3 years. The recent study aimed to find out the amount of cancer risk associated with these heart scans.

Einstein and his associates went over the data colected from about a 1000 patients at the Columbia University’s Medical Center in the year 2006. They also found out about the various heart scans as well as other tests that involved radiation in order to arrive at the conclusion. The medical records were also checked to decipher the reason for the heart scans. The study results showed that scans are quite common with 18.2% of the heart patients having to undergo at least 3 MRI while the number went up to five for 5% of the heart patients.

Radiation amounting to 50 millisieverts is considered to be a health hazard while a dosage that supasses 100 millisieverts can enhance the risk of cancer substantially said the researchers.