mouse.jpgWhile scientists hotly debate the existence of cancer stem cells, three related new studies, all conducted on mice, provide some supporting evidence.

Stem cells are the foundation for healthy cell growth in the body. Some researchers believe that malignant stem cells also exist -- so-called cancer stem cells that generate tumors and resist treatment by simply re-growing afterward.

MIT researchers show how estrogen protects women from the gastric inflammation that can lead to cancer.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Several types of cancer, including stomach, liver and colon, are far more common in men than in women. Some scientists have theorized that differences in lifestyle, such as diet and smoking, may account for the discrepancy, but growing evidence suggests that the differences are rooted in basic biological differences between men and women.

Adding to that evidence, a new study from MIT shows that treating male mice with estrogen dramatically lowers their rates of stomach cancer — specifically, cancers caused by chronic infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.

Researchers have found that one particularly aggressive type of blood cancer, mixed lineage leukemia (MLL), has an unusual way to keep the molecular motors running. The cancer cells rely on the normal version of an associated protein to stay alive.

MLL happens when a piece of chromosome 11 breaks off at the normal MLL-associated gene. The broken gene attaches itself to another chromosome, resulting in a fusion protein that eventually causes uncontrolled growth of blood cells.

by Hilary Parker

A team of scientists from Princeton University and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey has embarked on a major new project to unravel the secret lives of cancer cells that go dormant and self-cannibalize to survive periods of stress. The work may help produce new cancer therapies to stem changes that render cancer cells dangerous and resistant to treatment.

"We want to know: What role is this self-cannibalization playing in the middle of a tumor?" said team member Hilary Coller, an assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton. "To treat cancer, it may be that you want to get rid of this ability in tumor cells, so we're searching for inducers and inhibitors of this process."

A protein acting as a switch to activate the cell death process may prove to be an effective targeted treatment for killing cancer cells.

University of Michigan researchers discovered that the protein called RIP plays a role in mediating both the life and death of squamous cell carcinoma cancer cells, said Yvonne Kapila, associate professor, Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at the School of Dentistry.

This is key because cancer cells elude the normal cell death process. If that process could be activated artificially by a targeted introduction of RIP into cancer patients, those cells could be destroyed before they circulate out of control in the body, Kapila said.

By Steve Benowitz

Researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores UCSD Cancer Center have shown one way in which gliomas, a deadly type of brain tumor, can evade drugs aimed at blocking a key cell signaling protein, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR),that is crucial for tumor growth. In a related finding, they also proved that a particular EGFR mutation is important not only to initiate the tumor, but for its continued growth or “maintenance” as well.

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