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.

Drinking green tea could modulate the effect of smoking on lung cancer. Results of this hospital-based, randomized study conducted in Taiwan were presented at the AACR-IASLC Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer, held here from Jan. 11-14, 2010.

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths in Taiwan,” said I-Hsin Lin, M.S., a student at Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan. “Tea, particularly green tea, has received a great deal of attention because tea polyphenols are strong antioxidants, and tea preparations have shown inhibitory activity against tumorigenesis.” 

Implant-based cancer vaccine is first to eliminate tumors in mice

A cancer vaccine carried into the body on a carefully engineered, fingernail-sized implant is the first to successfully eliminate tumors in mammals, scientists report this week (Nov. 25) in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The new approach, pioneered by bioengineers and immunologists at Harvard University, uses plastic disks impregnated with tumor-specific antigens and implanted under the skin to reprogram the mammalian immune system to attack tumors. The journal article describes the use of such implants to eradicate melanoma tumors in mice.

People living in volcanic areas may be at a higher risk for thyroid cancer, according to a new study published online November 5 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The increasing incidence of thyroid cancer has been attributed to more sensitive screening, but recent evidence indicates that this may not be the only cause. Various environmental factors, such as those associated with volcanoes, have not been excluded as risk factors.

To study this, Gabriella Pellegriti, M.D., Ph.D., of the endocrinology division, University of Catania Medical School, Garibaldi-Nesima Hospital in Italy, and colleagues collected incidence [newly diagnosed cases] of thyroid cancers in Sicily from January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2004 to compare the cancer rates of residents living in the volcanic area of Mt. Etna of Catania with those in the rest of Sicily.

ian chin-sang There is an important gene in humans called PTEN that acts as a tumor suppressor. When the PTEN gene function is lost, it can lead to cancers. For example, 70-80 per cent of all prostate cancers have lost PTEN function. Another gene family, called Eph receptors, often shows high levels in cancers, but a connection between PTEN and Eph Receptors in cancer formation has never been shown. The Queen’s study shows the remarkable relationship between these genes in worms.

Two University of Rhode Island associate professors, biophysicists Yana Reshetnyak and Oleg Andreev, have discovered a technology that can detect cancerous tumors and deliver treatment to them without the harming the healthy cells surrounding them, thereby significantly reducing side effects. The URI couple has attracted more than $6 million in grants in four years. In addition, a number of health care and pharmaceutical companies have expressed interest in their work.

It is possible, says Andreev, that one day their detection method could be used as a universal procedure, similar to mammography or colonoscopies. Their harmless imaging test could locate a problem before the patient ever feels ill.

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