Timing of inflammation determines whether potentially cancerous mutations may arise.

new study from MIT reveals one reason why people who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases such as colitis have a higher risk of mutations that cause cancer. The researchers also found that exposure to DNA-damaging chemicals after a bout of inflammation boosts these mutations even more, further increasing cancer risk. The findings confirm a longstanding theory about why inflammation and cancer are linked, and offer possible ways to help prevent and treat cancer, says Bevin Engelward, an MIT professor of biological engineering and senior author of a Jan. 15 PLoS Genetics paper describing the findings. 

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.

Researchers have identified a gene that may play a role in the growth and spread of a childhood cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, which develops in the body's soft tissues. The finding has revealed a potential new target for the treatment of this disease. The study, by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, components of the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues at The Children's Hospital in Westmead, Australia, and the Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, was published online Oct. 5, 2009, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

wolf reikby Monya Baker

The Babraham Institute researcher discusses ELF5, needed technological advancements and the next steps for his research

Wolf Reik studies at the Babraham Institute at the University of Cambridge. In a recent review,1 he and colleagues discussed how pivotal epigenetic regulators nudge cells into lineage decisions. Nature Reports Stem Cells talked to him about his work and philosophy as a scientist.


by Monya Baker

Inhibitors of the protein survivin might lower tumour risk

The ability of embryonic stem cells to form noncancerous tumours called teratomas is one of their defining traits. It is also a frightening one, particularly for those who hope to develop therapies from the cells. New research from Nissim Benvenisty and colleagues at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem helps to explain why human embryonic stem cells can form teratomas and may provide a way to keep teratomas in check1.

Researchers say cells were poorly characterized prior to transplantation

Foetal stem cells transplanted to a boy with a hereditary neurodegenerative disease have grown into noncancerous tumours in his brain and spinal cord. Though the poorly documented procedure did not occur as part of a clinical trial, it marks the first reported case of a brain tumour resulting from stem cell transplantation and highlights potential risks of cell-based therapies.

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