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A Cancer Kill Switch

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a way to trigger an ancient cancer "kill switch" hidden...
Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a way to trigger an ancient cancer “kill switch” hidden in our genes(Credit: ralwel/Depositphotos)

Cancer is one of our most persistent enemies, but while we now have advanced immune systems to fight the good fight, how did early multicellular life manage to stave it off? A genetic “kill switch” seems to have been the original weapon of choice, and now researchers at Northwestern University believe they’ve discovered a way to trigger that mechanism. This knowledge could potentially pave the way to a therapy where cancer cells commit suicide, which would be impossible for cancer cells to adapt a resistance to. read more

STINGel Doesn’t Give Cancer a Chance

A scanning electron microscope image of the injectable cancer-fighting hydrogel, dubbed STINGel
A scanning electron microscope image of the injectable cancer-fighting hydrogel, dubbed STINGel(Credit: Hartgerink Research Group/Rice University)

The cure for cancer might have been inside us all along – our own immune system. The trick is to give it a boost to find and destroy those rogue cells, and that’s the focus of the field of immunotherapy. To that end, a new hydrogel has been developed that can be injected directly to the site of a tumor, where it stays to slowly release its payload of immunotherapy drugs for longer.

Put the two into a ring, and the immune system will win every round against cancer. To give itself a fighting chance, the Big C instead focuses its attention on stealth attacks, using a variety of tactics to evade detection by the immune system until it can grow strong enough to overwhelm the body. read more

Wearable Technology Can Spot Cancer

Wearable technology that can predict cancerous growths ‘several months’ before they form are just around the corner, according to one technology expert.

Nokia’s chief says the firm is working on a scanning device that will pick up on biomarkers that indicate the conditions needed for abnormal cell growth to happen.

A number of other medical innovations have also been envisaged that will make use of ultra-fast 5G mobile internet networks in the future.

That includes remote surgery conducted from across the world, as well as ambulances that are able to transmit data to a hospital ahead of its arrival.

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A Cancer Vaccine Could be Coming

A golden nanostar, seen here under an electron microscope, is a key part of a new ...
A golden nanostar, seen here under an electron microscope, is a key part of a new treatment that might eventually lead to a cancer vaccine (Credit: Duke University)

In experiments on mice, researchers at Duke University have found that combining two different techniques for fighting cancer is more effective than either treatment is on its own. In one case, the mouse’s immune system not only destroyed the tumor, but stayed strong enough to ward off a later injection of cancer cells, raising hopes that the strategy could one day lead to a viable cancer vaccine.

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Magnets can Spot Cancer

Tiny magnetic beads coated in sugar could help doctors to check if a cancer has spread. Once injected into the patient, the beads can be detected using a handheld magnetic wand — similar to a metal detector — and are used to identify the lymph nodes nearest to the cancer.

The lymph nodes form part of the lymphatic system, which drains fluid from tissues all over the body back into the bloodstream. If cancerous cells get into this system, the disease can then spread to other parts of the body.

The key to determining if cancer has spread is identifying the sentinel node — the lymph node that is nearest the tumour.

Tiny magnetic beads coated in sugar could help doctors to check if a cancer has spread
Tiny magnetic beads coated in sugar could help doctors to check if a cancer has spread

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Cancer Drug Kills Every Kind of Tumor

 

Stanford University scientists have discovered a single drug that has killed or shrunk every kind of cancer tumor it has been used against — a new anti-cancer weapon that some have described as a kind of medical Holy Grail.
 
The drug blocks a protein produced in large amounts by cancer cells — called CD47 — that keeps the body’s immune system from fighting tumors. By shutting down the CD47 production, the new antibody drug effectively leaves cancer cells vulnerable to the body’s own natural defense mechanisms.

Tests of the drug found that it destroyed several kinds of human cancer cells transplanted into mice — including breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors — by prompting the rodents’ immune systems to kill the cancer cells.Continue Reading

 

Live to 150 Years Old?

New drug being developed using compound found in red wine ‘could help humans live until they are 150

Drugs that could combat aging and help people to live to 150-years-old may be available within five years, following landmark research.

The new drugs are synthetic versions of resveratrol which is found in red wine and is believed to have an anti-ageing effect as it boosts activity of a protein called SIRT1.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has been testing the medications on patients suffering with medical conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The work proves that a single anti-ageing enzyme in the body can be targeted, with the potential to prevent age-related diseases and extend lifespans.

As each of the 117 drugs tested work on the single enzyme through a common mechanism, it means that a whole new class of anti-aging drugs is now viable, which could ultimately prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Genetics professor David Sinclair, based at Harvard University, said: ‘Ultimately, these drugs would treat one disease, but unlike drugs of today, they would prevent 20 others.

‘In effect, they would slow ageing.’

The target enzyme, SIRT1, is switched on naturally by calorie restriction and exercise, but it can also be enhanced through activators.

The most common naturally-occurring activator is resveratrol, which is found in small quantities in red wine, but synthetic activators with much stronger activity are already being developed.

Although research surrounding resveratrol has been going on for a decade, until now the basic science had been contested.

Despite this, there have already been promising results in some trials with implications for cancer, cardiovascular disease and cardiac failure, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, fatty liver disease, cataracts, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, sleep disorders and inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, arthritis and colitis.

Professor Sinclair said: ‘In the history of pharmaceuticals, there has never been a drug that tweaks an enzyme to make it run faster.’

Positive: Scientists have been testing the medications on patients suffering with medical conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease (file picture)
 Scientists have been testing the medications on patients suffering with medical conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease (file picture)

The technology was sold to GlaxoSmithKline in 2008.

Four thousand synthetic activators, which are 100 times as potent as a single glass of red wine, have been developed – with the best three being used in human trials.

Writing in the journal Science, Professor Sinclair, who suggests the first therapeutic to be marketed will be for diabetes, said: ‘Our drugs can mimic the benefits of diet and exercise, but there is no impact on weight.’

Limited trials have been carried out in people with type 2 diabetes and the skin inflammatory disease, psoriasis.

Scientists found that there were benefits to the metabolism in the first group and a reduction in skin redness in the second.

The drugs can be administered orally, or topically.

So far, there have been no drugs developed to target ageing skin, but one major skin care range has developed a creme with resveratrol in it.

Anti-aging: Drugs to target ageing skin have not yet been developed, but one major skin care range has created a creme containing resveratrol
 Drugs to target ageing skin have not yet been developed, but one major skin care range has created a creme containing resveratrol

While any drug would be strictly prescribed for certain conditions, Professor Sinclair suggests that one day, they could be taken orally as a preventative.

They could therefore be used in the same way as statin drugs are commonly prescribed to prevent, instead of simply treating, cardiovascular disease.

In animal models, overweight mice given synthetic resveratrol were able to run twice as far as slim mice and they lived 15 per cent longer.

Professor Sinclair added: ‘Now we are looking at whether there are benefits for those who are already healthy.

‘Things there are also looking promising. We’re finding that aging isn’t the irreversible affliction that we thought it was.

‘Some of us could live to 150, but we won’t get there without more research.’

Attribution: Lucy Crossley, Daily Mail

Killer T Cell

No, it’s not the name of a rap artist.

Scientists have created cells capable of killing cancer for the first time.

The dramatic breakthrough was made by researchers in Japan who created cancer-specific killer T cells.

They say the development paves the way for the cells being directly injected into cancer patients for therapy.

Scientists have created cells capable of killing cancer for the first time. Pictured: microscopic cells being cultured to kill cancerScientists have created cells capable of killing cancer  for the first time. Pictured: microscopic cells being cultured to kill  cancer

The cells naturally occur in small numbers,  but it is hoped injecting huge quantities back into a patient could turbo-charge the immune system.

Researchers at the RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology revealed they have succeeded for the first time in creating cancer-specific, immune system cells called killer T lymphocytes.

To create these, the team first had to reprogram T lymphocytes specialized in killing a certain type of cancer, into another type of cell called induced pluripotent stem cells  (iPS cells).

These iPS cells then generated fully active, cancer-specific T lymphocytes.killer-t-cell

These lymphocytes regenerated from iPS cells  could potentially serve as cancer therapy in the future.

Previous research has shown that killer T  lymphocytes produced in the lab using conventional methods are inefficient in  killing cancer cells mainly because they have a very short life-span, which  limits their use as treatment for cancer.

To overcome the problems, the Japanese researchers, led by Hiroshi Kawamoto reprogrammed mature human killer T lymphocytes into iPS cells and investigated how these cells differentiate.

The team induced killer T lymphocytes  specific for a certain type of skin cancer to reprogram into iPS cells by exposing the lymphocytes to the ‘Yamanaka factors’ – a group of  compounds that induce cells to revert back to a non-specialized, stage.

Japanese researchers who created cancer-specific killer T cells (pictured) say the development paves the way for the cells being directly injected into cancer patients for therapyJapanese researchers who created cancer-specific killer  T cells (pictured) say the development paves the way for the cells being  directly injected into cancer patients for therapy

The iPS cells obtained were then grown in the lab and induced to differentiate into killer T lymphocytes again. This new batch of T lymphocytes was shown to be specific for the same type of skin cancer as the original lymphocytes.

They maintained the genetic reorganisation, enabling them to express the cancer-specific receptor on their surface. The new T lymphocytes were also shown to be active and to produce an anti-tumor compound.

Doctor Kawamoto said: ‘We have succeeded in the expansion of antigen-specific T cells by making iPS cells and differentiating them back into functional T cells.

‘The next step will be to test whether these T cells can selectively kill tumor cells but not other cells in the body. If  they do, these cells might be directly injected into patients for therapy. This could be realized in the not-so-distant future.’

The findings were published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Dr Dusko Ilic, Senior Lecturer in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London, said: ‘The study tackled a novel, quite interesting approach to cell based therapy, something that we do not usually hear about.

‘Although this approach requires further verification and a lot of work needs to be done before we can think about clinical trials, the initial data are promising.

‘This pioneering work definitely provides a strong foundation to build and expand our knowledge about new opportunities in cell based therapy and personalized medicine.’

Attribution: Daily Mail

Act of God?

A Minnesota man with terminal cancer was miraculously cured while working to restore an old, abandoned church that needed as much as care as he did.

Greg Thomas of Montgomery, Minnesota, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his head and neck three years ago, KARE11 News reports. He has since had difficult swallowing and uses a feeding tube for nutrition.

Now, after spending months restoring the old wood-framed chapel, his cancer is believed to be in remission.

Serenity: Greg Thomas, a cancer survivor, works on restoring the 126-year-old church he stumbled uponGreg Thomas, a cancer survivor, works on  restoring the 126-year-old church he stumbled upon
Through the fields: Thomas walks with his dog Thomas walks with his dog

Thomas, who was 57 at the time of his diagnosis, was laid off from his job delivering propane.

‘When I found out that I had cancer, they told my family to go ahead and start planning my funeral,” he told KARE11.

To cope with his stress he started taking long walks though the countryside with his dog.

Thomas came across the old church during one of those walks. The foundation was decaying and the paint was  peeling.

An old chapel: The church was in need of much care when Thomas found itThe church was in need of much care when  Thomas found it

He attempted to go inside the chapel when he first noticed it, but it was locked. So he sat on the steps for a while.

Built in 1868 by Catholic Czech settlers who later moved to a bigger parish, the old Church had not housed a congregation in  more than a century.

One day, Thomas decided to reach out to the few people living close to the church.

Restoration: The church now sits in the same place with a new exteriorThe church now sits in the same place with a new exterior
Salvation: With his cancer in remission, Thomas continues to work on the churchWith his cancer in remission, Thomas continues to work on the church

He was out of work, and thought fixing up the structure would give him a sort of sanctuary.

‘He went to a neighbor and said he wanted to paint the church, and who does he talk to, so the neighbor sent him to talk to me,’ Don Rynda, treasurer of the foundation that keeps up the church cemetery’,  told KARE11.

Thomas went to repairing the church soon after.

Now the old chapel is freshly clothed in white and Thomas’s cancer is in remission.

Thomas said he plans to continue his work on the church, moving on to the roof and the interior next.

Attribution: Mail Online

New Cancer Detector

A groundbreaking device that can diagnose  cancer in just 20 minutes is being developed by British scientists.

The world’s first tumor profiler, as it is known, will allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to quickly identify all known types of cancer while the patient waits.

It is hoped the device, which will also gauge the correct drug to prescribe cancer sufferers, will be used within the next three years.

A British company has developed a device that can diagnose cancer in just 20 minutes - and decide the best drug for treatment

The device has been invented as part of a partnership between private firm QuantuMDx, Newcastle University and Sheffield University.

Scientists say the Q-Cancer device will have a dramatic impact on the rapid and accurate diagnosis of cancer.

Company officials said the device has the potential to prolong the lives of the 12 million newly diagnosed cancer sufferers around the world.

It will enable surgeons to immediately remove most, if not all of the tumor, and allow cancer specialists to prescribe the correct treatment regime according to the type of cancer developed.

The device makes use of advanced nanotechnology, analyzing submicroscopic amounts of tissue to work out the type of cancer, its genetic make-up and how far it has developed.

Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O'Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device
Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O’Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device

Professor Sir John Burn, the Newcastle University academic who is also medical director of QuantuMDx, said: ‘We have a world leading position to deliver complex DNA tumor testing to the routine pathology lab or even to the operating theatre.

‘A low-cost device requiring no technical expertise will extract, amplify and analyze tumor DNA to make sure the patient gets the right treatment first time and without delay.’

Chief executive Elaine Warburton said:  ‘Currently tumor samples are sent away to a centralized sequencing laboratory, which can take several weeks to turnaround results, usually at a very high price which is not routinely affordable to many.

‘As far as we are aware, QuantuMDx’s current underlying technologies, which can break up a sample and extract the DNA in under five minutes represents a world first for complex molecular diagnostics.

Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior  science information officer, said: ‘Using the latest technology to analyze tumors quickly and cheaply could make a real difference to cancer patients and we will watch these developments with interest. It will need thorough testing to show it meets the standards required  for routine use.’

Attribution: Anna Hodgekiss