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The Lead

Diagnosing cancer with help from bacteria

May 28, 2015 11:31 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of California at San Diego have devised a new way to detect cancer that has spread to the liver, by enlisting help from probiotics, beneficial bacteria similar to those found in yogurt. Many types of cancer, including colon and pancreatic, tend to metastasize to the liver. The earlier doctors can find these tumors, the more likely that they can successfully treat them.

Device captures rare circulating tumor cell clusters

May 21, 2015 7:41 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

The latest version of a microfluidic device for capturing rare circulating tumor cells is the...

Study: Vitamin B3 may help prevent certain skin cancers

May 13, 2015 6:05 pm | by Marilynn Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

For the first time, a large study suggests that a vitamin might modestly lower the risk of the...

Improved way to assess cancer risk of pollutants

May 11, 2015 9:16 am | by Gail Wells, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Oregon State Univ. have developed a faster, more accurate method to assess cancer...

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Combination treatment strategy to “checkmate” giloblastoma

May 11, 2015 8:09 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Therapies that specifically target mutations in a person’s cancer have been much-heralded in recent years, yet cancer cells often find a way around them. To address this, researchers identified a promising combinatorial approach to treating glioblastomas, the most common form of primary brain cancer.

New blood tests, liquid biopsies, may transform cancer care

May 11, 2015 4:04 am | by Marilynn Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care. The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself. A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance.

Naked mole-rats’ anti-cancer gene

May 6, 2015 8:37 am | by Will Hoyles, Public Relations Manager, Queen Mary Univ. of London | News | Comments

Naked mole-rats are unusual in many ways as a result of adaptations to living underground, with extreme longevity and a lack of the normal signs of ageing. Their resistance to cancer has been linked to the production of a substance called high molecular mass hyaluronan (HMM-HA), and mutations in the HAS2 gene that produces it.

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Brain tumors may be new victims of Ebola-like virus

April 16, 2015 11:55 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Brain tumors are notoriously difficult for most drugs to reach, but Yale Univ. researchers have found a promising but unlikely new ally against brain cancers, portions of a deadly virus similar to Ebola. A virus containing proteins found in the Lassa virus not only passed through the formidable blood-brain barrier but destroyed brain tumors in mice, according to research released in the Journal of Virology.

Inhibitor for abnormal protein points way to more selective cancer drugs

April 16, 2015 8:20 am | by Dave Zobel, Caltech | News | Comments

Nowhere is the adage "form follows function" more true than in the folded chain of amino acids that makes up a single protein macromolecule. But proteins are very sensitive to errors in their genetic blueprints. One single-letter DNA "misspelling" (called a point mutation) can alter a protein's structure or electric charge distribution enough to render it ineffective or even deleterious.

Recruiting the entire immune system to attack cancer

April 14, 2015 11:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The human immune system is poised to spring into action at the first sign of a foreign invader, but it often fails to eliminate tumors that arise from the body’s own cells. Cancer biologists hope to harness that untapped power using an approach known as cancer immunotherapy. Orchestrating a successful immune attack against tumors has proven difficult so far, until now.

Researchers find protein that may signal more aggressive prostate cancers

April 14, 2015 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan researchers have discovered a biomarker that may be a potentially important breakthrough in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer. Biomarkers in the body are analogous to the warning lights in cars that signal something might need repairing. In our bodies, they indicate if something's wrong or if we're about to get sick or if we're predisposed to certain illnesses.

Gold by special delivery intensifies cancer-killing radiation

April 14, 2015 7:47 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a promising new way to increase the effectiveness of radiation in killing cancer cells. The approach involves gold nanoparticles tethered to acid-seeking compounds called pHLIPs. The pHLIPs (pH low-insertion peptides) home in on high acidity of malignant cells, delivering their nanoparticle passengers straight to the cells’ doorsteps.

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A digital field guide to cancer cells

April 9, 2015 10:10 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists are mapping the habits of cancer cells, turn by microscopic turn. Using advanced technology and an approach that merges engineering and medicine, a Yale Univ.-led team has compiled some of the most sophisticated data yet on the elaborate signaling networks directing highly invasive cancer cells. Think of it as a digital field guide for a deadly scourge.

Biologists identify brain tumor weakness

April 9, 2015 7:31 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Biologists have discovered a vulnerability of brain cancer cells that could be exploited to develop more-effective drugs against brain tumors. The study found that a subset of glioblastoma tumor cells is dependent on a particular enzyme that breaks down the amino acid glycine. Without this enzyme, toxic metabolic byproducts build up inside the tumor cells, and they die.

Cancer genes turned off in deadly brain cancer

April 6, 2015 10:55 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified a small RNA molecule called miR-182 that can suppress cancer-causing genes in mice with glioblastoma mulitforme (GBM), a deadly and incurable type of brain tumor. While standard chemotherapy drugs damage DNA to stop cancer cells from reproducing, the new method stops the source that creates those cancer cells: genes that are overexpressing certain proteins.

“Open” stem cell chromosomes reveal new possibilities for diabetes

April 2, 2015 12:08 pm | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Stem cells hold great promise for treating a number of diseases, in part because they have the unique ability to differentiate, specializing into any one of the hundreds of cell types that comprise the human body. Harnessing this potential, though, is difficult.

How a rare form a liver cancer arises

April 2, 2015 10:20 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the 1970s, epidemiologists found that workers in factories using vinyl chloride had unusually high rates of a rare form of liver cancer called angiosarcoma. Biologists later identified a mutation that appears to be associated with this cancer, which originates in cells of the blood vessels that feed the liver.

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Scientists reveal mechanism of natural product with powerful antimicrobial action

March 31, 2015 8:04 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have uncovered the unique mechanism of a powerful natural product with wide-ranging antifungal, antibacterial antimalaria and anticancer effects. The new study sheds light on the natural small molecule known as borrelidin.

New drug stalls estrogen receptor-positive cancer cells, shrinks tumors

March 31, 2015 7:43 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

An experimental drug rapidly shrinks most tumors in a mouse model of human breast cancer, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When mice were treated with the experimental drug, BHPI, the tumors immediately stopped growing and began shrinking rapidly.

MRI based on sugar molecule can tell cancerous from noncancerous cells

March 27, 2015 8:32 am | by Shawna Williams, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Imaging tests like mammograms or CT scans can detect tumors, but figuring out whether a growth is or isn't cancer usually requires a biopsy to study cells directly. Now results of a Johns Hopkins Univ. study suggest that MRI could one day make biopsies more effective or even replace them altogether by noninvasively detecting telltale sugar molecules shed by the outer membranes of cancerous cells.

Artificial sweetener could lead to new treatments for aggressive cancers

March 23, 2015 9:58 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Saccharin, the artificial sweetener that is the main ingredient in Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin and Necta, could do far more than just keep our waistlines trim. According to new research, this popular sugar substitute could potentially lead to the development of drugs capable of combating aggressive, difficult-to-treat cancers with fewer side effects.

Prices of cancer drugs have soared since 1995

March 18, 2015 7:37 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The prices of leading cancer drugs have risen at rates far outstripping inflation over the last two decades, according to a new study co-authored by an Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist. But the exact reasons for the cost increases are unclear. Since 1995, a group of 58 leading cancer drugs has increased in price by 10% annually, even when adjusted for inflation and incremental health benefits, the study finds.

When cancer cells stop acting like cancer

March 16, 2015 10:28 am | by Karen Teber, Georgetown Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Cancer cells crowded tightly together suddenly surrender their desire to spread, and this change of heart is related to a cellular pathway that controls organ size. These two observations are reported by researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Oncogene.

Clues about cancer risk from low-dose radiation

March 11, 2015 9:51 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered new clues about the risk of cancer from low-dose radiation, which in this research they define as equivalent to 100 millisieverts or roughly the dose received from ten full-body CT scans. They studied mice and found their risk of mammary cancer from low-dose radiation depends a great deal on their genetic makeup.

Magnetic material attracts attention for cancer therapy

March 5, 2015 9:23 am | by Monash Univ. | News | Comments

An extraordinary self-regulating heating effect that can be achieved in a particular type of magnetic material may open the doors to a new strategy for hyperthermia cancer treatment. Temperatures that can be tolerated by healthy body cells have long been known to destroy cancerous cells. An approach that uses magnetic particles introduced into tissue and heated remotely has found some success in treating cancer. 

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

Cancer drug first tested in dogs begins human trials

February 27, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A new drug that prompts cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells is now entering phase I clinical trials in humans. The drug, called PAC-1, first showed promise in the treatment of pet dogs with spontaneously occurring cancers, and is still in clinical trials in dogs with osteosarcoma.

Graphene shows potential as anticancer therapeutic strategy

February 25, 2015 8:11 am | by Jamie Brown, Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Univ. of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralize cancer stem cells while not harming other cells. This new development opens up the possibility of preventing or treating a broad range of cancers, using a non-toxic material.

Scientists discover protein’s role in several types of cancers

February 23, 2015 8:20 am | by Amy Adams, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A protein found in pancreatic tumors may lead to a new chemotherapy that is effective against many different kinds of cancers, but turning the discovery into a new drug has required a bit of chemistry know-how.

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