Lipids Take the Lead in Metastasis

Although metastasis is the leading cause of death among people with cancer, for the most part, researchers are stumped about which molecular signals allow malignant cells to leave primary tumors and start new ones. Two studies published in Nature this month highlight roles in metastasis for an unexpected group of molecules—lipids.

Read at The Scientist

New target gives hope for better treatments for incurable myeloma

Researchers have discovered a new target for treating treating multiple myeloma, an incurable bone marrow cancer.

The research revealed that the majority of myelomas rely on a protein called MCL-1 to stay alive. Potential drugs that inhibit MCL-1, which are in pre-clinical development, may be a promising new treatment for multiple myeloma.

Each year more than 1700 Australians are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of immune cells called plasma cells. Currently available treatments are only able to halt the progression of the disease and relieve symptoms, but cannot cure the disease.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers Dr Jianan Gong, Dr David Segal, Ms Yuan Yao, Professor Andrew Roberts and Professor David Huang, working with researchers at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash University and theAlfred Hospital, investigated the ‘survival proteins’ that keep myeloma cells alive, allowing the cancer to persist.

Read at Walter+Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Setting the Body’s ‘Serial Killers’ Loose on Cancer

After a long, intense pursuit, researchers are close to bringing to market a daring new treatment: cell therapy that turbocharges the immune system to fight cancer.

BETHESDA, Md. — The young surgeon was mystified. A fist-size tumor had been removed from the stomach of his patient 12 years earlier, but his doctors had not been able to cut out many smaller growths in his liver. The cancer should have killed him, yet here he lay on the table for a routine gallbladder operation.

The surgeon, Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, examined the man’s abdominal cavity, sifting his liver in his fingers, feeling for hard, dense tumors — but he could find no trace of cancer.

It was 1968. Dr. Rosenberg had a hunch he had just witnessed an extraordinary case in which a patient’s immune system had vanquished cancer. Hoping there was an elixir in the man’s blood, Dr. Rosenberg got permission to transfuse some of it into a patient dying of stomach cancer. The effort failed. But it was the beginning of a lifelong quest.

Read at NYT

What Is Immunotherapy? The Basics on These Cancer Treatments

Some of the most promising advances in cancer research in recent years involve treatments known as immunotherapy. These advances are spurring billions of dollars in investment by drug companies, and are leading to hundreds of clinical trials. Here are answers to some basic questions about this complex and rapidly evolving field.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy refers to any treatment that uses the immune system to fight diseases, including cancer. Unlikechemotherapy, which kills cancer cells, immunotherapy acts on the cells of the immune system, to help them attack the cancer.

What are the types of immunotherapy?

Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors are the most widely used form of immunotherapy for cancer. They block a mechanism that cancer cells use to shut down the immune system. This frees killer T-cells — a critically important part of the immune system — to attack the tumor. Four checkpoint inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and are on the market. They are given intravenously.

Read at NYT

Researchers show porous silicon nanoparticles could be harmless to diagnose and treat cancer

The Lomonosov Moscow State University researchers in collaboration with their German colleagues have succeeded in proving that silicon nanoparticles can be applied to diagnose and cure cancer. For the first time the ability of particles to penetrate into the diseased cells effectively and dissolve completely after delivering the drug was shown. The details of the research are presented in the article published in the latest issue ofNanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nano.2016.04.004

The scientific direction of the team is called theranostics. This term means a combined ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnostics’, denoting the process of simultaneous detection and treatment of the disease. One of its applications is spotting a range of oncologic diseases with the help of nanoparticles filled with medicine for their targeted delivery into a cancer cell. Nowadays a lot of such nanoparticles do not meet the requirement of biocompatibility. According to one of the researchers, Liubov Osminkina (senior research fellow, Physics Department of Lomonosov Moscow State University), some of the nanoparticles can act quickly, deliver the drug accurately, cure a number of diseases, but months later a patient may suffer from liver, kidney, lung pains, or even headache.

 

Read at News Medical

World Health Organization Drops Coffee’s Status as Possible Carcinogen

Move comes 25 years after group said beverage may lead to bladder cancer

 

Coffee drinkers have gotten some good news.

Twenty-five years after classifying coffee as a possible carcinogen leading to bladder cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm has reversed course, saying on Wednesday that coffee is not classifiable as a carcinogen.

The organization also said that coffee has no carcinogenic effects on other cancers, including those of the pancreas and prostate, and has even been seen to reduce the risk of liver and uterine cancers.

The agency is finally joining other major research organizations in those findings. Numerous studies in recent years have shown no conclusive link between cancer and coffee and have actually shown protective benefits in certain types of cancer.

The about-face by the WHO came after its International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed more than 1,000 studies that showed coffee is not a cancer culprit.

Dr. Dana Loomis, the IARC official who was responsible for the evaluation, told a group of reporters on Wednesday that the body of scientific evidence on coffee had become much larger and stronger since 1991, when the IARC first classified coffee as a possible carcinogen. He said the positive associations between coffee and bladder cancer upon which the previous classification was based were confounded by, among other things, the fact that some cancer patients in those studies also smoked.

Dr. Loomis said it is not the first time the IARC has downgraded the cancer risk of a substance “but it happens seldom.”

 

Read at Wall Street Journal

The Two Faces of Fish Oil

The discovery of a tumor-protecting role for a fatty acid found in fish oil has sparked debate about the product’s safety.

 

Emile Voest, a professor of medical oncology and medical director of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, has spent his career studying the tumor microenvironment—cancer’s cellular backdrop, implicated in everything from a tumor’s structural support to its protection from the immune system and its resistance to cancer-treating drugs.

But it came as some surprise, Voest says, when, in the mid-2000s, he and his colleagues identified two obscure polyunsaturated fatty acids—16:4(n-3) and KHT—that seemed to induce chemoresistance in tumor-bearing mice. “It was not what I was expecting at all,” says Voest. “We had no clue what fatty acids were [or] how they worked.”

The researchers found that human mesenchymal stem cells (multipotent stromal cells already implicated in drug resistance) injected into tumor-bearing mice began secreting these fatty acids when the animals were administered cisplatin—a platinum-based drug used to treat various types of cancer. These platinum-induced fatty acids (PIFAs) had no effect on tumor growth, but neutralized the cytotoxic effects of cisplatin on tumor cells, hinting at a possible mechanism of chemoresistance in human patients receiving platinum-based therapies.

 

Read at The Scientist

It’s Not Cancer: Doctors Reclassify a Thyroid Tumor

An international panel of doctors has decided that a type of tumor that was classified as a cancer is not a cancer at all.

As a result, they have officially downgraded the condition and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat.

Their conclusion — and the data that led to it — are reported Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology. The change is expected to affect about 10,000 of the nearly 65,000 thyroid cancer patients a year in the United States. It may also offer grist to those who have been arguing for the reclassification of some other forms of cancer, including certain lesions in the breast and prostate.

Read at The New York Times

Scientists ‘find cancer’s Achilles heel’

Scientists believe they have discovered a way to “steer” the immune system to kill cancers.

Researchers at University College, London have developed a way of finding unique markings within a tumour – its “Achilles heel” – allowing the body to target the disease.

But the personalised method, reported in Science journal, would be expensive and has not yet been tried in patients.

Experts said the idea made sense but could be more complicated in reality.

However, the researchers, whose work was funded by Cancer Research UK, believe their discovery could form the backbone of new treatments and hope to test it in patients within two years.

They believe by analysing the DNA, they’ll be able to develop bespoke treatment.

People have tried to steer the immune system to kill tumours before, but cancer vaccines have largely flopped.

 

Link to full article on BBC

Cancer researchers claim ‘extraordinary results’ using T-cell therapy

This is unprecedented’ says researcher after more than half of terminally ill blood cancer patients experienced complete remission in early clinical trials

A scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T-cell).
A scanning electron micrograph of a human T-cell. ‘T-cells are a living drug, and in particular they have the potential to persist in our body for our whole lives,’ said researcher Chiara Bonini. Photograph: Alamy

Scientists are claiming “extraordinary” success with engineering immune cells to target a specific type of blood cancer in their first clinical trials.

Among several dozen patients who would typically have only had months to live, early experimental trials that used the immune system’s T-cells to target cancers had “extraordinary results”.

In one study, 94% of participants with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) saw symptoms vanish completely. Patients with other blood cancers had response rates greater than 80%, and more than half experienced complete remission.

Link to full article at The Guardian