Posts tagged ‘cancer’

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.

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.


US researchers engaged in studying the risks of cancer associated with radiation exposure revealed that the victims of the atomic blasts who had survived one incidence of cancer face a potential risk of developing the deadly disease for the second time. The study was a collaborative effort by the ‘Radiation Effects Research Foundation’ and the ‘National Cancer Institute’.

The scientists made use of the information received from various Japanese nationals who had survived the atomic bomb blast. The results of exposure to other sources of radiation, including medical imaging on these victims, were studied later on.

Dr. Christopher Li, associated with the ‘Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’, led the study. He said that the risk of developing cancer for the second time on being exposed to radiation is quite similar to that of the first cancer. The results of the study have been published in the journal of ‘Cancer Research’.

The breast, lung, bladder, colon and thyroid are particularly radiation sensitive areas and, evidently, cancer survivors usually have a high risk for developing a second cancer in these areas of the body, Dr. Li added.

The study involved analyzing the data from a group of atomic holocaust survivors from Japan. They were monitored from 1950 to 2002.  The results held special significance as 1,088 of the 10,031 cancer survivors went on to develop the disease for a second time.

Dr Li stated that such survivors who have a history of being exposed to radiation need to be monitored constantly.  He also admitted that it was difficult to estimate the amount of radiation for World War II survivors as their entire body had been exposed to radiation, whereas, it is a limited area that receives the radiation in the course of cancer treatments or even medical imaging. He, however, believed that the findings from this study would be true for all kinds of radiation exposure known to be linked to cancer.


A recent study revealed that men above the age of 55 with low scores obtained during the first screening procedure of prostate cancer detection have been found to benefit the least by repetition of the procedure.

The research study results published in ‘Cancer’ showed that for men with the lowest base level of PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen, a total of 24,664 of them would have to be checked and 724 prostate cancer cases treated in order to prevent just one death.  For men with the highest levels of PSA, on the other hand, the figures are much lower with 133 screenings and 60 cancer treatment for preventing a single death from prostate cancer.

The study results are important as they reveal how to screen patients in order to detect the indications of prostate cancer during its early stages. It also takes a look at the ways to avoid false indications, thereby making it possible to avoid a lot of unnecessary tests and treatment procedures. The research also tried to identify the patients for whom an additional screening would be beneficial. The results were based on the PSA levels of the individuals tested.

Otis Brawley, the Chief Medical Officer associated with the American Cancer Society of Atlanta said that the study results hinted that men above the age of 50-55 with low PSA levels are not likely to develop prostate cancers which are harmful or life threatening. He added that they have now realized the futility of intensive screening, especially for men who do not benefit from the treatment.

He also said that a man of 50-55, with low PSA levels can choose to wait for another 5 to 6 years before undergoing another PSA test. It may not be mandatory even then and he has the option of foregoing the additional PSA screening altogether.


A special issue of the European Journal of Cancer commented on the increased incidence of cancer despite the mortality rate from cancer being reduced considerably. The figures show an increase from 2.1 million cases in 2002 to a staggering 2.8 million in 2008. The economic recession will also affect the amount of money going into cancer research, feels Dr. José M. Martin-Moreno and his colleagues of the University of Valencia, Spain. The donations from public organizations have gone down, along with substantial cut backs in cancer research projects by various pharmaceutical companies.

The researchers also point to the fact that the safety guards against exposure to deadly carcinogens are likely to be reduced as well, especially for those who work in smaller companies and in developing countries. A Korean study, conducted back in the 90s, hints that incurring a recurring expenditure for health safeguards are not considered to be mandatory, especially when it can help to avoid bankruptcy. The effect thus gets compounded in industries where the contamination by carcinogens tends to be high, like the mining industry.

Dr. Martin-Moreno further elaborates that the prevention of cancer is also dependent on a number of other factors. Life style habits, occupation, environment, and genetics, all play a part in proper prevention of cancer. Being exposed to infections as well as access to the preventive measures are also influencing factors.

The editors of the publication go on to emphasize the importance of four of the most important risk factors; smoking, alcohol, obesity, and an inactive life, physically.  A paper by Dr. Esther de Vries and fellow researchers also describes the impact that weight gain and physical inactivity have on colon cancer. The data was retrieved from the cancer registries of seven European countries, namely, The Netherlands, Spain, Latvia, Czech Republic, UK, France, and Denmark.

Colon cancer is the second most common incidence of cancer in Europe, as well as the second most common cause of cancer related deaths. Dr. Renehan states that adopting weight reduction measures would prove to be more effective for men while increased levels of physical activity works better for women in preventing colon cancer.

The ECCO President, Professor Michael Baumann, hopes that this special issue will help the policy makers to reflect on the dangers of the rising incidence of cancer and take effective preventive measures, instead of being concerned with short term cost cutting strategies.

Source: European Journal of Cancer, volume 46, issue 14 (September 2010), “Implementing Cancer Prevention in Europe”.

Kim J, Paek D. Safety and health in small-scale enterprises and bankruptcy during economic depression in Korea. J Occupational Health 2000; 42(5): 270-5.

Removing the Fallopian tubes completely may be safer that just clipping or burning them following a hysterectomy or ligation, said a researcher at Vancouver General Hospital.

Sarah Finlayson, a gynecological oncologist at the hospital, says the tubes are the site for origination of ovarian cancer.

Finlayson pointed to work by a team of Canadian researchers which found cutting the tubes could, in fact, reduce the number of ovarian cancer casualties by 30%. She added that the finding was a lucky one since the researchers were engaged in studying the women carrying the BRCA gene, which is known to be associated with the triggering of breast cancer. Earlier, it was believed that ovarian cancer originated in the ovaries. However, recent research reveals that this particular form of cancer occurs in the fallopian tubes, which has been overlooked as a possible source up until now. The gynecologists associated with the ‘Ovarian Cancer Research Program’ at the Vancouver General Hospital as well as the BC Cancer Agency are now urging medical professionals to change their standard practice of leaving the tubes intact after a hysterectomy or ligation.

Statistics reveal that ovarian cancer affects about 70% of women in Canada, with only 37% of them surviving beyond five years after diagnosis. Women with mutated BRCA gene have a greater possibility of developing cancer of either the ovaries or the uterus, and the organs are usually removed as a form of precaution against cancer.

Pathologist Blake Gilks also added that a woman may not have a history of ovarian cancer in her family yet she and her progeny might be at risk. It is possible to screen them genetically and take adequate measures now.


Deviation of a tumor suppressing gene has been found to be associated with ovarian cancer. The cancerous cells are said to be the result of an endometriosis turning into cancer.  Two different studies have reported similar facts where the mutated form of the gene ARID1A was found in 50% of all clear cell ovarian carcinomas.  The results of one of the studies have also reported finding the particular gene in 30% of all endometrioid carcinomas with none being obvious in serious cases of ovarian cancer.

An abnormal chromatin remodeling has been held responsible by the researchers involved in both the studies. This is being considered as the primary factor for the development of cancer from endometriosis.

David G. Huntsman, MD, author of the online publication of the study result in the New England Journal of Medicine, said that the mutations of the gene ARID1A along with the loss of the BAF250a expressions in the tumors were a surprising find in two of the patients. The same loss in contiguous endometriosis, atypical in nature, was not evident in the distant lesions of endometriosis. This led the researchers to believe that it was, in fact, an early step during the transformation of endometriosis to cancer.

Dr. Huntsman also elaborates on the effectiveness of this study and hopes that the discovery would enable the physicians use it as a tool for screening endometriosis patients who have a high risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Another study by Siân Jones and his team of colleagues associated with Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Cente, Baltimore, Maryland, also reported finding four different mutated genes in ovarian clear cell cancers. Of these, 2 of them had been previously known to scientists while ARID1A and PPP2R1A are new finds in the category. The results of this particular study had been published on the same day as that of the other one in Science.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine  published online on September 8, 2010.

Science. 2010; published online on September 8, 2010

A majority of women who have been diagnosed with colon cancer after menopause are likely to die if they do not maintain a healthy body weight before being diagnosed with carcinoma. These findings from a study were reported in the current issue (September) of the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The journal is published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

The researchers discovered that women who did not enjoy good health and were either obese or underweight faced an increased risk of death. The mortality rate also went up for women who had a history of abdominal obesity before being diagnosed with colon cancer.

According to Anna E. Prizment, a post doctoral fellow attached to the epidemiology and community health unit of the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, abdominal obesity can well be an indicator of the rate of mortality from colon cancer.  A healthy body weight is crucial for women who have already had their menopause, she added. It might also help in the treatment of colonic cancer and help the patient to evade death in the eventuality of being diagnosed with cancer later in life. She also stated that it was not clear whether losing weight after the diagnosis actually helped. It might just be a case of ‘too little too late’ by then. It is, therefore, important to keep a check on the body weight throughout one’s lifetime.

Prizment, along with her colleagues, retrieved the data of 1,096 patients from Iowa Women’s Health Study. The study observed 289 of them dying due to colon cancer out of the 493 who eventually died. The patients had been observed over a period of 20 years.  The study results further elaborated on the fact that the mortality rate for obese woman with BMI levels exceeding 30 kg/mg2  was increased by  45% whereas it was found to be over 89% in case of underweight women with BMI levels below 18 kg/mg2.

The study results also hinted at increased hormonal levels leading to a more aggressive form of cancer in obese women particularly those with abdominal obesity. They are also considered to have a higher risk of developing colon cancer.

Prizment has encouraged further studies on the effect of obesity particularly abdominal obesity on the prognosis of colon cancer after the diagnosis.

Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (September Issue)

Cancer patients go through a harrowing time especially when the dreaded disease reaches its terminal stage. The psychological effect on the patients range from anxiety to acute depression and no amount of drugs can actually negate the effects.

The results of a recent study published by the Archives of General Psychiatry hinted that patients suffering from cancer can hope to benefit if administered with the hallucinogen Psilocybin or ‘magic mushrooms’ as commonly known. This LSD like drug is believed to ease anxiety to a great extent, especially during the last stages of cancer.

The study was conducted by Dr. Charles Grob, associated with the Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, as well as the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.  Twelve patients were subjected to a dosage of 0.2 milligrams/kg of active Psilocybin or 250 mgs of Niacin, which acts as a placebo, in a random manner. It consisted of two, six hour sessions with a gap of several weeks in between. Both the physiological aspects, like blood pressure, rate of heart beat, etc. as well as psychological ones like depression, anxiety and mood swings were noted carefully.  The results were assessed before and after the tests and were also monitored week by week initially. The participants were then monitored on a monthly basis for a period of six months.

The researchers observed an improvement of mood with no associated bouts of depression. They say, “We also observed no adverse psychological effects from the treatment. All subjects tolerated the treatment sessions well, with no indication of severe anxiety or a ‘bad trip.’”  The results revealed that the mood enhancement commenced from the second week itself and reached a satisfactory point at the end of six months.

Despite the study results being promising, no follow up studies have been initiated as yet. Similar studies by researchers had to be abandoned in the 70s when the rampant use of LSD on the streets caused the federal agencies to put a stop to it.


Archives of General Psychiatry. Published online September 6, 2010. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116. Available at