New drug ‘wakes up’ immune system to fight one of deadliest cancers

IMM-101 drug has extended lives of people with metastatic pancreatic cancer and appears to have no side-effects

A new drug that “wakes up” the immune system to attack cancer has extended the lives of people with metastatic pancreatic cancer and has no side-effects, raising hopes for a new and powerful tool against the most intractable form of the disease.

The drug, IMM-101, is considered groundbreaking because pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body usually kills within a few months.

The patients who were given the new immunotherapy drug actually felt better than those who were on standard chemotherapy, said Angus Dalgleish, professor of oncology at St George’s, University of London, who led the research.

Dalgleish is excited by the potential of the immunotherapy drug, although the trial is relatively small, involving 110 people. Only 18% of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer are alive after one year and 4% after five years, so new treatments for the disease are badly needed.

Read at The Guardian

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


Baby girl is first in the world to be treated with ‘designer immune cells’

Genetically engineered cells successfully used to treat aggressive form of childhood leukaemia, but landmark treatment had only been tested on mice

A baby girl with aggressive leukaemia has become the first in the world to be treated with designer immune cells that were genetically engineered to wipe out her cancer.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London treated the girl two months ago and stressed that it could be more than a year before they know for sure whether the therapy has cured the disease, or simply delayed its progression.

Link to full article at The Guardian

US approval for drug that turns herpes virus against cancer

Imlygic, which bursts melanoma cells open and triggers immune response, can shrink localised tumours but is not proven to extend life, says FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a first-of-a-kind drug that uses the herpes virus to infiltrate deadly skin cancer tumours, reducing their size in some cases.

The FDA is allowing the injectable drug Imlygic, made by Amgen Inc, to be used at first only on melanomas that cannot be removed surgically. The company said a single course would cost about $65,000 depending on the length of the treatment.


Link to The Guardian article

So you’re related to Charlemagne? You and every other living European…

The advent of cheap genetic sequencing has given birth to a burgeoning ancestry industry. But before you pay to spit in a tube, let me give you a few facts for free


Sometimes I get asked if I’m related to the great physicist Ernest Rutherford. His discoveries about the atomic nucleus gave birth to physics in the 20th century. He is the father of nuclear physics, with labs and atoms named after him.

I’m not related to him. I can reveal however that I am a direct descendent of someone of similar greatness: Charlemagne, Carolingian King of the Franks, Holy Roman Emperor, the great European conciliator. Quelle surprise!

But we are all special, which means none of us are. If you’re vaguely of European extraction, you are also the fruits of Charlemagne’s prodigious loins. A fecund ruler, he sired at least 18 children by motley wives and concubines, including Charles the Younger, Pippin the Hunchback, Drogo of Metz, Hruodrud, Ruodhaid, and not forgetting Hugh.


Full Story at The Guardian

Discovery uses virus to boil water three times faster

A combination of nanotechnology and a virus found on tobacco could save huge amounts of energy in industrial processes


Scientists have found a way to boil water faster, although they admit the discovery is unlikely to revolutionise tea-making.

The technology works by coating a heating element with a virus found on tobacco plants. The coating dramatically reduces the size and number of bubbles that form around the element as it gets warmer. Air pockets caused by bubbles temporarily insulate heating elements from the surrounding water, slowing down the transfer of heat.

A coating made from the tobacco virus tripled the efficiency of boiling water, scientists said, which could save vast quantities of energy in industrial power plants or large-scale electronic cooling systems.

Leaf with tobacco mosaic virus

A tobacco leaf infected with the tobacco mosaic virus. Photograph: Drexel University

“Even slight improvements to technologies that are used so widely can be quite impactful,” said Matthew McCarthy, an engineer at Drexel University in Pennsylvania.

Controlling the formation of bubbles would also help guard against a scenario called “critical heat flux” that is undesirable – sometimes disastrous – in industrial boilers. This happens when so many bubbles are forming that they merge into a blanket surrounding the element, meaning that it can no longer transfer heat to the water.

“What happens then is the dry surface gets hotter and hotter, like a pan on the stove without water in it,” said McCarthy. “This failure can lead to the simple destruction of electronic components, or in power plant cooling applications, the catastrophic meltdown of a nuclear reactor.”


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Alzheimer’s breakthrough as ultrasound successfully treats disease in mice

Rodents found to have improved memories after ultrasound treatment, without any apparent damage to brain tissue


Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound.

While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze.


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New arthritis implant hailed as ‘magic’

Trial of electronic device leads to improvement in more than half of patients, raising hopes for an alternative to medicines


A new treatment for arthritis sufferers has been hailed as “magic” by a woman who had a pioneering electronic implant fitted.

Monique Robroek, who took part in a study at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, told Sky News she had seen a major improvement in her condition, having previously required the strongest drugs to help ease her pain.

“I have my normal life back,” she said, having had the implant fitted a year ago. “Within six weeks I felt no pain. The swelling has gone. I go biking, walk the dog and drive my car. It is like magic.”


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Electrical brain stimulation beats caffeine – and the effect lasts longer

Half an hour of brain stimulation on sleep-deprived military staff improved their performance twice as much as caffeine


Researchers in the US have used electrical brain stimulation to boost the vigilance of sleep-deprived military personnel working on an airforce base.

Experiments on 18 to 42-year old men and women on active duty found that half an hour of electrical brain stimulation improved their performance twice as much as caffeine, and the effect lasted three times as long.

Scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Carlisle, Ohio, are exploring the potential of brain stimulation to help analysts who spend hours poring over images to identify military targets.

“In the air force we do a lot of intelligence missions and we have a lot of analysts on the back end who are looking for targets, which can be vehicles, buildings or whatever,” said Andy McKinley, who led the research with Lindsey McIntire, a psychologist at Infoscitex, a technology company in Dayton.

“This type of image analysis task is not well suited to automation. There’s no computer algorithm that can go in and autoselect targets for you, it’s a human endeavour. If we can help people pay attention for long periods of times, that‘s really important,” he added.


Full story at The Guardian

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for locating brain’s GPS

John O’Keefe, May-Britt and Edvard Moser found how the brain creates a map to enable us to navigate our environment


British-US scientist John O’Keefe and married couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser from Norway have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the brain’s “inner GPS”.

The “place cells” and “grid cells” they discovered make it possible for our brains to work out where we are .

The Nobel Assembly said the discoveries show how the brain creates “a map of the space surrounding us and how we can navigate our way through a complex environment.” O’Keefe, of University College London, discovered the first component of this positioning system in 1971 when he found that a certain type of nerve cell was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room.

Thirty-four years later May-Britt and Edvard Moser, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, identified another type of nerve cell that generates a co-ordinate system for precise path-finding, the assembly said.


Read full story at The Guardian


Cambridge Biomedical