BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Cancer (Page 1 of 4)

Will Microscopic Worms Replace Dogs in Sniffing Out Cancer?

It is very rare that doctors are able to find cancer at its early stages, however, on the rare occasion that they do there is a much higher chance that the patients survive. You may be asking yourself: Why isn’t there a way to find this cancer earlier inorder to save more lives? A recent study shows that microscopic worms are able to sniff out cancer as early as stage 1. While dogs are also able to smell cancer from human breath, urine, and blood, keeping cancer sniffing dogs in a lab is not practical. These tiny worms create a more practical solution to this problem. 

Specifically, lung cancer is found by doing a biopsy or different kinds of imaging tests. However, these kinds of tests are not able to detect lung cancer until it is in its later stages and more severe. As we learned in AP Biology, cancer is caused by cells that uncontrollably divide. In normally dividing cells there are checkpoints the cell must pass in order to divide. These checkpoints are at the G1, S, and G2 phases. If the cell needs to divide there will be an influx of cyclin concentration and MPF activity. Cyclins are proteins that control the progression of the cell through its checkpoints by activating cyclin-dependent kinases. MPF, or maturation promoting factors, promotes the cell’s entrance into the M phase from the G2 phase. In cancer cells there is a genetic mutation, sometimes it is hereditary, however it can also be caused by caused by tobacco smoking, radiation, etc. This genetic mutation causes these proteins to not work properly. Because of the malfunction of these proteins, cells do not know when to stop dividing and continue to divide. 

A team of scientists from Myongji University in Korea found a type of worm called C. elegans that is attracted to the floral scent of lung cancer cells. 

Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite adult-en

During their experiment, scientists placed the worms in a center chamber. On each side of the chamber was a petri dish, one with lung cancer cells and one with normal cells. The scientist found that these worms were more likely to move towards the lung cancer cells than the regular cells. Now, researchers hope to increase the accuracy of the worm’s attraction to the lung cancer cells and use these worms to detect lung cancer during its early stages. Worms that have already been exposed to the lung cancer cells will be used to detect cancer in patients urine, saliva, and even their breath. These researchers will continue to work with doctors to test their theory and see if these microscopic worms will replace dogs in sniffing out cancer.

 

Can Cancer Cell’s Medication Immunity Be Stripped?

Cancer is one of the hardest diseased to fight. If a tumor begins to grow inside of a patient, they may be given drugs to fight off the corrupt cells. The problem with this is that the cancer cells could become immune to these drugs. Through the use of CRISPR. In Novel Crispr imaging technology reveals genes controlling tumor immunity, a new way of fighting cancer is revealed. Instead of targeting the whole tumor, Perturb-map marks cancer cells and the cells around cancer cells. Once this is completed, it is able to identify genes controlling cancer’s ability to become immune to certain drugs.

Mitosis appearances in breast cancer

To fight cancer cells, scientists use thousands of CRISPRs at the same time. This identifies every gene in a sequence and allows them to be studied. Through Perturb-map, scientists can now dive deeper and find where the cell immunity to drugs originates. A certain pathway in the cell is controlled by the cytokine interferon gamma or IFNg, and a second is by the tumor growth factor-beta receptor or TGFbR. When the cell had a gene with TGFbR2 or SOCS1, the latter of which regulates IFNg, tumor cells grew. When the cell lacked one of these, it shrunk. Moreover, it was discovered that tumors with SOCS1 were susceptible to attacks by T cells, but TGFbR cells had immunity against them. This stayed true even when both types of cells lived in the same environment. With findings like these emerging more and more, the future of cancer treatment is looking brighter than ever.

Chromosome DNA Gene unannotated

CRISPR Causes Cancer, Sort Of

          Scientific researchers are always looking for ways to improve modern science and help create new treatments. Currently, CRISPR, “a powerful tool for editing genomes,” holds the ability to help advance medicine, specifically gene editing, so long as the kinks in this specific method are worked out. One of these problems is the DNA damage caused by CRISPR “activates the protein p53,” which tries to protect the damaged DNA. This raises not one, but two concerns as present p53 can diminish the effectiveness of this technique, however when there is no p53 at all cells grow rapidly and become cancerous. As we learned in AP Biology class, typical cells communicate through chemical signals sent by cyclins that ensure the cell is dividing the right amount. Cancer cells, however, contain genetic mutations that prevent them from being able to receive these signals and stop growing when they should. “Researchers at Karolinska Institute” have discovered that “cells with inactivating mutations of the p53 gene” have a higher survival rate when contingent on CRISPR. To further their research, they discovered genes with mutations similar to those of the p53, and also “transient inhibition” of the gene could help prevent “the enrichment of cells” that are similar. Although seeming antithetical, these researchers proved that inhibiting p53 actually makes CRISPR work better and prevent enrichment of mutated p53 and other similar genes. 

CRISPR logoDNA animation

           These results give crucial information, helping advance CRISPR and make it more usable in current medicine. Additionally, the researchers have uncovered the possibility that the damage CRISPR causes to DNA might be key in creating a better RNA sequence (the RNA sequence tells us the “total cellular content of RNAs”) guide, showing where DNA should be changed. In future tests, these researchers want to try and get a better idea of when the enhancement of mutated p53 cells from CRISPR becomes a problem.    

CRISPR Causes Cancer? Or Does It?

CRISPR illustration gif animation 1

The ground-breaking scientific break through of gene editing is finally here with the technique called CRISPR. CRISPR, or gene cutting, is the method of cutting a strand of DNA and letting the DNA repairer function repair the cut by itself. But it is at this instant where scientists introduce some changes to the genes, which the DNA will reproduce; DNA naturally grows back the mutated Genes. This CRISPR sounds great in the world of science, where certain genes can be modified onto a person. Though there are different opinions on gene-modifying, CRISPR has yet to be fully perfected. One of these hurdles is P53; a tumor suppressing protein. P53 is known as the “guardian of the genome” as this protein determines “whether the DNA will be repaired or the damaged cell will self-destruct” (MEDICINEPLUS). While this is good news, it is observed that “a dataset of >800 human cancer cell lines identified additional factors influencing the enrichment of p53-mutated cells.”(aacrjournals). So a lot of cancer cells have had a mutated P53 protein. So why does this happen? Why is the guardian of the genome being mutated?

 

P53 mutations are “missense mutations,” meaning they mutate in relation to a gene being edited, which creates different amino acids. By creating a whole new set of amino acids, the cell completely changes and in this case, mutates the P53. By mutating the P53 protein, P53 can no longer stop the cell division cycle, immensely increasing the chance of cancer cells. Although I make CRISPR sound like a dangerous operation to do(*I am not a scientist*), Researchers at Karolinska Institutet say to” have found new links between CRISPR, p53 and other cancer genes that could prevent the accumulation of mutated cells without compromising the gene scissors’ effectiveness.”

Another new research point mentions that although a lot of P53 mutations occur when subject to CRISPR, “cells with mutations are there from the start.” This is still a huge unknown to scientists, as CRISPR does cause P53 to mutate, there are already mutated P53 cells beforehand. Though this does prove that P53 is affected by other factors instead of only affected by CRISPR. Scientists still have much to uncover about gene-editing and in the future, they could possibly change somebody’s genes for a good cause.

 

 

 

Scientists can now ‘supercharge’ cancer-fighting T Cells

Scientists at Yale University have identified a way to “supercharge” tumor-attacking T Cells, a finding that may not only improve the effectiveness of a promising type of cell-based cancer immunotherapy, but also expand the number of cancers it can treat. Most people are familiar with cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But, a newer option called immunotherapy, is getting well-deserved recognition across the cancer community. These drugs teach the immune system how to recognize and kill cancer cells, equipping it to hone in on diseased cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

First, blood is drawn from the patient and sent to a lab. At the lab, the T cells are separated from the blood and ‘supercharged’ with a gene that generates chimeric antigen receptors (CAR), which allow the T cells to bind to cancer cells and destroy them. Hundreds of millions of these T cells are synthesized in the laboratory to create a personalized, well-armed immune defense. Finally, the patient’s newly modified T cells are returned to the clinic and reinfused into the patient, seeking and destroying cancer cells in the patient’s bloodstream. The discovery can advance CAR-T cell therapy, which harnesses the immune response of T cells to cancers by introducing tumor-detecting molecules into the cells. In the last decade, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved six CAR-T cell therapies to treat B cell lymphomas and multiple myeloma. But despite early successes, the effectiveness of the treatment tends to diminish over time, which has launched a search for ways to boost function of T cells.

Researchers have devised an ingenious way to efficiently scan the genome of CD8 T cells for specific genes that might enhance the cells’ ability to attack cancer cells. They developed a new kind of genome-wide gain of function screen to find a molecular enzyme that acts like a foot on a gas pedal to increase metabolic activity in T cells.

They found high levels of activity in several genes, including PRODH2, a gene involved in cell metabolism, stimulate increased CAR-T cell activity in mouse models used to study three different types of cancers, including solid-tumor breast cancer. The findings show it is possible to produce hyper-metabolic CAR-T cells that outperform existing cell therapies. Using these systems and findings, I believe future studies can test the newly identified types of metabolically enhanced CAR-Ts in clinical settings, to identify other T cell super-chargers, and to extend cell-based immunotherapy to different cancer types, especially solid tumors.

Cancer In Humans VS. Plants

Cancer is a disease that has ranked 2nd in the deaths of the US only falling behind to heart disease. In our AP Biology class, we learned that cancer in humans is caused by a cell that has a genetic defect that is multiplying too quickly causing clumps and tumors. Whilst this has been devastating to humans and other animals for years, how does it affect plants that are another kind of multi-cellular organism?

An article that highlights the effects of cancer on plants states that cancer in plants acts differently than cancer in humans. Within plants, the cells aren’t moving so it can’t affect many other tissues like in animal cells. Furthermore, plants, specifically trees, don’t have any vital organs whereas with humans if cancer reaches an organ such as the Brain or the Liver we will die, however, if cancer reaches a branch the tree can simply grow a new one. In a New York Times article, C. Claiborne Ray states that “Excess plant cell production in the form of galls sometimes benefits future generations of insects” This relationship is not seen in Animals and can really help the wasps as they lay their eggs in the fast-growing tissue. Cancer in plants can almost be seen as helpful to the environment.

Cancer stem cells model

Cancer in humans is vastly different because there is no upside to having cancer as an animal. Cancer in animals is caused by an old cell not dying but instead rapidly multiplying and thus creating an abundance of defective cells that cause things such as tumors and if it were to reach your vital organs you would most likely die. In humans, the only real way to treat cancer so far is to use Chemotherapy. This method of treatment is very basic as it doesn’t distinguish between what fast-growing cells are which and kills any cell that is growing too fast. It is not 100% effective nor is it side effect free. The patient’s hair falls off as hair is very fast-growing and the therapy believes that it is cancer cells so they kill it off.

In conclusion cancer in Humans and Plants are similar at the beginning with things such as how they contract cancer and what exactly happens. However, the effects for plants are severely less than the effects on humans. While plants cancer gives a nice home for wasps to lay eggs as well as simply give the plant a minor bump. Human cancer is a devastating disease that caused the death of millions. Let me know what you think down below!

 

T-Cells: A New Fighter Against Cancer?

Cancer is something that most have heard of, and worry about. There are so many different types of cancer, and they are all taken extremely seriously due to it being able to cause more harm if left unattended to. When people think of cures and treatments for cancer, the most common one that is used across many different kinds is chemotherapy. While useful, it is not always effective, and it does not work on every type of cancer. Despite chemotherapy being the leading treatment against cancer, there are talks of a new treatment that may treat all cancer.” 

BBC reported a study done that mentioned that there may be A newly-discovered part of our immune system could be harnessed to treat all cancers.” However, before we look at this new possible treatment, we should first dive into how chemotherapy works. Chemotherapy is the process in which we use drugs to destroy cancer cells. While it can not always completely destroy cancer cells, it still aims to either keep the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and/or making new cells. The drugs in chemotherapy are meant to attack rapidly dividing cells, which is usually what cancer falls under. Despite this seeming all great, there are some drawbacks. Other rapidly dividing cells in our body include the lining of our stomach and hair, which is why some people lose hair and have digestive problems when undergoing chemotherapy. With all this in mind, it is important to note that chemotherapy is not always used for the destruction of cancer, but sometimes to weaken it in order to work as an aid to other treatments. All of this goes to show chemotherapy’s versatility, accessibility, and utility.

Now that we know the traditional treatment to most cancers, chemotherapy, we can look at the potentially new treatment and how well it works and if it is the new best option.

This new study uses our immune system to help treat cancer, whereas chemotherapy uses drugs. These researchers studied how the immune system naturally responded to cancerous tumors. Normally, T-cells are used to fight all kinds of infections, but are not always effective against combating cancer. However, the T-cells that the researchers have discoveredcould attack a wide range of cancers.” They even stated that there’s a chance to treat every patient.” What made this T-cell different is that its receptors, which are what allow normal T-cells to detect certain infections, are able to detect most cancerous cells. Not only could they detect them, but they can kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells. This particular T-cell interacts with a molecule called MR1, so they are trying to figure out how to pair these together consistently, reliably, and safely. 

This cancer treatment seems to work during all stages of the cancer cell’s life. Normally, as we learned in bio class, cancer cells are typically created from a gene mutation in either the oncogene or tumor-suppressor genes. These genes normally stop or terminate the soon to be cancer cell, but when mutated they can not do their job properly, thus leading to a cancer cell being created and duplicating unchecked. Once it is at this stage, the T-cells are able to do their work. I think that this is an interesting treatment as it can be used to help treat most stages of cancer, and could potentially be taken pro-actively in order to activate these T-cells in the body, making them always ready to fight off any cancerous cells. I believe that this could make it a safer, and more proactive version of chemotherapy. 

This new cancer treatment might seem promising, but there is no timeline on when a mass-produced reliable treatment using this method will be complete. Despite this, it is important to know that this could hopefully be an option for many in the future, and can hopefully combat and win the worldwide fight against cancer. 

 

Cellular GPS: A New Cancer Treatment

In recent years, it is estimated that 40% of people will face cancer during their lifetime. Still, there exist few reliable treatments for cancer, whereby it has become one of the leading causes of death in the world. Ideally, if a tumor is confined to one area of the body and is easily accessible, doctors may simply try to remove it with surgery. However, tumors are usually widespread and not so easily identifiable, whereby doctors turn to treatments such as chemotherapy which causes mass death of both healthy and unhealthy cells throughout the body. Nonetheless, scientists have discovered a potentially more targeted treatment for cancer, involving guiding magnetic seeds to tumors and burning them.

Bodily cells undergo the cell cycle, a controlled series of stages referred to as interphase, mitosis, and cytokinesis. Interphase is comprised of the G1, S, and G2 phases where cells perform normal activities, grow, undergo DNA replication, and duplicate organelles. Next, mitosis marks the division of the nucleus while cytokinesis marks the division of the cytoplasm. During this process, there are “checkpoints” at the end of the G1 phase, G2 phase, and mitosis. For example, maturation-promoting factors may trigger a cell’s passage through the G2 checkpoint if it has successfully duplicated and grown or stop a cell’s passage through this gateway if it has incorrectly copied itself. Cancer is caused when mutations in certain genes cause uncontrollable cell growth; this unchecked and rapid division causes many cells to pack closely together into tumors which hijack bodily functions, ultimately proving fatal unless treated.

Recently, researchers have proposed a new method to treat cancer patients, especially those with tumors in hard-to-reach places like the cranium. This treatment would send a highly magnetic thermoseed into one’s body which would be remotely heated once at the site of the tumor. Here, like driving a car on a loopy road, a doctor would use an MRI scanner to carefully guide the magnetic seed through the patient’s body. MRI scanners are reliable tools in scanning the location of tumors, so they would accurately pinpoint where to target and where to avoid with the thermoseed. Thus, this controlled method of eradicating tumors poses less of a threat with regard to damaging the body as a whole or even damaging surrounding tissues.

Although the prospect of such innovative research for remedies fuels optimism, it surely raises the question of which patients should undergo the new thermoseed treatment rather than well-trusted treatments like chemotherapy or open surgery. According to the study, this method would be greatly influential in treating glioblastoma, a common brain cancer. With traditional open brain surgeries, patients merely survive a year to a year and a half on average. Moreover, side effects are always a large risk with many current cancer treatments. However, I believe that killing the tumor remotely with a thermoseed and MRI has the potential to be a breakthrough, successfully eliminating the tumor and posing fewer long-lasting effects. While this treatment is still an idea at the beginning stages of research, its projected benefits make me optimistic about its future.

What do you think? Will this proposed cancer treatment be the reliable cure scientists have been looking for or a futile treatment that only reminds us of the challenge we are up against?

New research exposes and demonstrates how damaged cells survive the cell cycle

In recent news, the Center for Cancer Research have recently discovered a previously unknown phenomenon, which allows certain cells to continue through the cell cycle despite experiencing DNA damage. This also includes past natural safety checkpoints within the cell cycle that are designed to stop the problem from occurring. On January 13, 2021 researchers, in Science Advances, suggested that the timing of DNA damage was crucial for determining whether a faulty cell would survive the cycle.

When cells begin to divide and replicate as part of their natural cycle, they transition from their resting state to one called the G1 phase. In this phase, cells have several important checkpoint mechanisms to ensure that the cell is healthy enough to proceed onto the next stage of the cell cycle. If/when these mechanisms fail due to genetic mutations, cells can progress through the G1 phase unobstructed, which can ultimately lead to cancer.

It was previously believed that cells with DNA damage could not pass through these safety checkpoints in the G1 phase and that the cells would either repair the DNA damage or die. However, scientists helped uncover evidence proving that cells with damaged DNA can actually progress past these critical checkpoints. A team of scientists studied individual cells for days at a time, using live cell time-lapse microscopy, single-cell tracking software, and fluorescent biosensors to detect the cell’s safety checkpoint mechanisms. They added a substance to induce DNA damage for cells of different ages in the cell cycle. Strikingly, the majority of cells seemed to ignore the DNA damage because they failed to trigger the checkpoint between G1 and the next phase, and proceeded into the next phase anyway.

Further investigation revealed that the timing of DNA damage during the cell cycle influenced the likelihood that damaged cells would slip past the checkpoints. The researchers found that the cell’s response to DNA damage is relatively slow compared to the speed of the cell cycle. This means if cells were already very close to the next phase of the cell cycle at the time DNA damage happened, they were more likely to continue into that phase. If the cells were still early in the G1 phase, they were more likely to revert back to a resting state. These observations are a form of inertia, where the cell will continue moving towards the next phase regardless of safety checkpoint signals.

It was also discovered that cells which were genetically identical were more likely to share the same cell cycle fate than non-identical cells. This suggests that factors specific to the cells themselves influence their fate during the cycle, rather than random chance. More studies are needed to understand how these findings apply to cancer. Testing is also extremely important in order to fully understand what the long-term consequences of the checkpoint failures are and find out if the cells that entered the next phase despite considerable DNA damage can become cancerous and eventually form a tumor, which, in my opinion and most likely the opinion of others, will be groundbreaking for cancer research.

Why Cucumbers Are So Cool

Cucumber in the marketJessie Szalay and Callum McKelvie outline in ​livescience why cucumbers actually relate to the phrase, “cool as a cucumber”. Not only are cucumbers a healthy option in the kitchen, but their numerous health benefits on a molecular level also contribute to their greatness.

Cucumbers are 95% water, therefore containing many hydrating benefits and nutrients for our bodies. According to Lemond, “we can get 20-30 percent of our fluid needs through our diet alone”. Cucumbers are a really good way to up our intake of fluids in our daily diet. Cucumbers became categorized as a superfood in 2019, accrediting their nutritional benefit to a higher status. Phytonutrients are health-promoting substances found in plant foods. Cucumbers are a really good source of phytonutrients, containing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.

When breaking down the individual benefits of the cucumber, the peel and the seeds offer the most nutrients for our bodies. Containing a good source of fiber and beta-carotene, which is “an antioxidant that helps with immunity, skin, eye, and prevention of cancer”. The seeds also contain a good source of minerals and calcium. 

Cucumbers aid in cancer prevention. They contain two phytonutrients compounds that are associated with anti-cancer benefits called lignans and cucurbitacins. Pharmaceutical companies have been looking into cucurbitacins as they think they can aid in new cancer-fighting drugs. They have found that the cucurbitacins “can help block the signaling pathways that are important for cancer cell proliferation and survival”. They can also inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. But, overall the current evidence doesn’t suggest that Cucumbers reduce/kill lung cancer cells.

They also can benefit our bone health. Vitamin K is essential to bone health, and one cup of cucumber contains ~19% of the daily intake recommendation of vitamin K. Vitamin K may lead to reduced fracture rates, increase bone density, and can positively affect our bone’s calcium balance. Our body uses vitamin K when building bones, studies have shown that a higher intake of vitamin K leads to a reduced risk of hip fractures in both elderly women and men.

Furthermore, cucumbers also keep our hearts healthy. Ware said “eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk for many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity”. Cucumbers have a pretty high level of potassium which is helpful in this regard. Potassium is essential in maintaining good heart health, so adding a bit more cucumber a day is just one step towards a healthy heart. Studies have been done that prove that those “who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium each day lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease… compared to those who took 1,793 mg per day”. Cucumbers also promote vasodilation which is the widening of the blood vessels, linking it to low blood pressure. As mentioned previously, the vitamin K content in cucumbers also is known to be essential in the blood-clotting process.

Pickling is the process of preserving edible products in an acid solution to prevent spoiling. Pickles are either fermented or non-fermented. Fermented pickles are soaked in brine (water saturated with salt). Different types of pickles are soaked in different solutions, thus the difference in taste. As we learned in AP Biology this year, lactic acid fermentation is done by bacteria and animal muscle cells. Fermentation occurs when there is no oxygen available or an organism didn’t evolve to use oxygen. In bacteria, lactic acid can convert milk products to cheese, yogurt, etc. In pickling fermentation, the cucumbers are soaked in an acidic liquid to achieve a sour flavor. The sour flavor/fermentation process is a result of a chemical reaction between the food’s sugars and naturally present bacteria. “Commonly planted varieties of pickling cucumber include Royal, Calypso, Pioneer, Bounty, Regal, Duke, and Blitz” according to Szalay and McKelvie. My dad and I have made pickles before and they were delicious, like cucumbers, pickles also have several health benefits. Fermented food in general is really good for our body and acts as a natural probiotic. ​​This means that they can restore the balance of the bacteria in our gut, support our digestive health, and can even alleviate any digestive issues.

Let me know in the comments your favorite ways that you include cucumbers/pickles into your diet, I am always looking for new ideas. Hopefully, after reading this you will add some more cucumbers into your daily diet, because I know I will!

A New Hope For Remission

Cancer is defined as a disease that is caused by cells dividing uncontrollably and spreading to nearby tissue. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body and it is made up by a build up of cells called a tumor. Cancer lives throughout recorded history just as it does today, an unsolved mystery. The earliest findings of tumors and cancer can be found in ancient Egyptian Mummies, and the first recordings were found in 3000 BC in Egypt. Although they didn’t refer to it as cancer, they described it as 8 cases of tumors that were surgically removed. The words, “there is no treatment,” were written in those early recordings. They couldn’t be more wrong! I’ll let it slide though because their technology was 5000 years behind ours. There are in fact many treatments in the world for cancer and there are new ones being discovered every day. While there may not be a cure for cancer, there are many treatments that show more and more signs of remission.

What Treatments Are Available?

The most common and well known treatment for cancer is Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that relies on the injection of chemicals to kill all of the fast growing cells in the human body. Chemotherapy is somewhat of a flexible treatment because it doesn’t have to be the primary treatment. Chemotherapy can be used without using other treatments, after using other treatments, and to prepare you for other treatments. While this may sound very appealing and hopeful, the success rate of Chemotherapy isn’t as high as we’d like it to be. The success rate varies, but it’s evident that as the severity of the cancer increases, the effectiveness of treatment decreases. Furthermore, the side effects of chemotherapy are not only excruciating, but scarring. As stated, the treatment attacks all of the fast growing cells, including hair, skin blood intestinal cells. This will cause hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, easy bruising and fever.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy.png

There are other treatments for cancer that are not related to Chemotherapy, such as surgery, targeted therapies, and supportive care. Surgery is one of the biggest options for early stage cancers that are not blood cancers. Surgically removing the tumor from the body is the motive of this form of treatment. One must take into account the size, location and stage of the tumor in question. Targeted therapies (precision medicine) are tailored to specific patients. Through this therapy, scientists are able to find five or six gene processes that essentially turn a cancer “on or off.” While supportive care isn’t exactly considered medicine, forms of meditation and fitness are said to ease the effects of cancer and cancer treatment.

A New Hope

Through extensive research and testing, a new hope for remission has been discovered. Immunotherapy is a known, newer method of treating cancer that, instead of directly killing the cancer cells, boosts one’s immune system and natural defenses. This is a type of biological therapy because it uses substances made from living organisms as treatment. A recently discovered form of Immunotherapy called  CAR T-cell therapy has proven to show a lot of promise. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that kills cells infected with a pathogen. In this new therapy, doctors take blood from the patient and separate the T-cells from it. They then genetically change these cells so that they specifically attach to a protein on cancer cells. After expanding the number of T-cells, the doctors inject them back into the body. This treatment, however, is not without its side effects. As these T-cells cells multiply, they release cytokines into the blood, causing nausea, vomiting, fever, headaches, and diarrhea. How has CAR T-cell therapy been effective? An experiment was done in 2010 on two individuals with Chronic lymphocytic leukemia using CAR T-cell therapy. Just after this experiment, both patients saw complete remission in their cancer. And now ten years later, these two individuals show complete remission. Although more research needs to be done, CAR T-cell therapy proves to be an effective, long term treatment for cancer.

 

 

 

 

Are We One Step Closer To Eradicating Cancer?

Could you imagine if the scientists of today were able to produce a 100% percent effective treatment of all cancers? Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have made a discovery that brings us one step closer. They had a breakthrough in the treatment of neuroblastoma, an aggressive solid cancer often found in children. When neuroblastoma is discovered in a patient’s nervous system, it is disguised so the immune system won’t attack it. The researchers have found that with the help of engineered CAR-T cells, treatment is possible for some leukemias and solid cancers, and hopefully every cancer in the future. T cells created in your body come from the thymus and have the sole purpose of floating around your body until they recognize a foreign antigen on the surface of a cell. They then get to work killing the host cells and activating other immune cells. Cytokines are released, creating a cell-mediated immunity. But because cancer cells do not appear as foreign to our immune systems, they are able to grow unchecked and can kill the patient. CAR-T cells are made from the patient’s own T cells and are “re-engineered” to see certain proteins on the surface of a cancer cell as foreign. When the CAR-T cells are searching for a cancer cell, they locate fragments of the proteins which are normally used as indicators through peptides on the major histocompatibility complex(MHC). The CAR-T cell then attacks cancer and hopefully kills the cancer cell. Neuroblastoma has proven difficult to cure with immunotherapy due to its low MHC levels. Neuroblastoma is a tumorous cancer that is most commonly found on the adrenal glands, but it is classified as an aggressive tumor due to its ability to metastasize. It is driven by modifications of gene expression that advance uncontrollable tumor growth.

CAR T-Cell Therapy

This recent advances in CAR-T therapy have led to breakthroughs in the treatment of leukemia, but the CHOP researchers are focused on neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma presents a tricky challenge of how to connect CAR-T cells to destroy the cancer cell. The reason for this problem is that most of the proteins that the cell requires for survival and the growth of the tumor are inside the nuclei or the cell itself. After much research, they discovered peptides on the surface of the cell that can be targeted by peptide-centric chimeric antigen receptors (PC-CARS), activating the immune response to destroy the tumor. This is very similar to the receptor-mediated endocytosis we have studied in class. Two cells come together by recognizing indicators on the outside of the cell. Pushing through all the obstacles presented by the difficulty of locating and connecting with a neuroblastoma cell, the researchers at CHOP wanted to ensure that the CAR-T cells they sent into a patient’s body did not attach to similar peptides that exist in normal tissue, to avoid cross-reactivity. To do this, the researchers got rid of the MHC molecules present on the neuroblastoma cell to determine which peptides were present and at what population levels. They used a genomic database to do this. To pinpoint a perfect CAR-T cell, they filtered the peptides against the database of MHC peptides on normal human tissues, thus destroying any CAR-T that targeted a peptide with a parent gene from normal tissues. The final peptide discovery was an unmutated peptide of neuroblastoma cells that comes from the PHOX2B, which is a neuroblastoma dependency gene. They created a PC-CAR that was targeted to attack cells with this peptide on its surface. They discovered that not only does it locate the cancer cell, but it is able to do so with patients of more diverse genetic lineages. After this discovery, the researchers decided to first test their theory on mice, to prove that the PC-CAR can completely destroy the neuroblastoma tumors while not attacking normal cells in the mouse.

This subject is very important to me, as I have had family members pass from cancer. My father’s work in biopharmaceuticals has imparted a deep understanding of cancer. Many long car rides to sports games listening in on conference calls has not only given me a grander understanding of the world of business but also how it can relate to science and beyond. This discovery is vital to the continuation of the world facing all the diseases and struggles that come with life.

 

Can Fruit Flies Really Help Cancer Research?

Fruit fly (7424411436)In a study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers identified similarities between fruit flies and humans with cancer and believe this research could lead to prolonging the lives of cancer patients. Cancer, a disease where cells “grow uncontrollably and spread”, was diagnosed in 18.1 million new cases and claimed the lives of 9.5 million new patients worldwide as recently as 2018. The Berkeley researchers took a new approach to tackle cancer by “launching an attack against the destructive chemicals cancer is throwing off.” They believe this new method could increase patients’ survival rate and overall health.

David Bilder, a UC Berkeley professor, stated that the goal of the research was “to help the host deal with the effects of the tumor, rather than killing the tumor itself”; this represents a different approach to cancer treatment since most current treatments focus on killing the tumor and the unhealthy cells. Conventional treatments create serious side effects in patients as the treatments impact healthy cells too. Bilder’s research attempts to interfere with the blood-brain barrier, a feature of the central nervous system which is key in regulating microorganism entry and exit from the bloodstream and interstitial brain fluid. It is believed that inflammation caused by tumors leaves the blood-brain barrier open, but interfering with that process might slow tumor growth allowing for improved patient quality of life and life expectancy. This process could eliminate the need for toxic drugs that harm healthy cells while targeting cancer cells.

During the research a few years ago, Bilder’s team also learned some interesting new information about the impact of insulin on cancer. They concluded that tumors in fruit flies release a substance that blocks the effects of insulin. Insulin, a type of protein that coordinates organism activities while maintaining normal blood glucose levels, is a crucial component of our body system. It allows cells to absorb glucose which can serve as energy or convert to fat if necessary. Without insulin, cells are unable to use glucose as fuel and bodies would start breaking down their fat and muscle resulting in weight loss. This can pose an issue because it could lead to cachexia (an effect of cancer where patients are unable to maintain weight) which sadly kills ⅕ of cancer patients. Although more research is needed to investigate the relationship between insulin and cancer in humans, sugar may play a role in the growth of cancer.

 

CSIRO ScienceImage 355 Representation of Insulin Structure

Insulin Structure

I believe that this new approach to cancer treatment is a fascinating angle to effectively treat cancer patients. As someone who has experienced cancer in two close family members, I know firsthand how draining the treatments are because they target healthy cells as well as cancerous ones; this treatment simply diminishes these side effects. As Bilder states, “We think this is a real blind spot that hasn’t allowed scientists to address questions about how the tumor is actually killing outside of its local growth.” It could offer a “complementary way of thinking about therapy.” It is great to see new ways of thinking address a disease that impacts so many people.

Is Your Cellphone Trying to Kill You?

The cellphone that you use everyday, whether it is for work or your enjoyment, can harm you without you even knowing. Cellphones give off a certain type of energy called radio-frequency waves that can increase your risk of brain tumors or other tumors in the head or neck area. Cell phones are given the ability to function because of cell towers. Cell phones send and receive signals from surrounding cell towers by using radio-frequency waves. Radio-frequency waves, however, are a form of non-ionizing radiation, which means they do not have enough energy to cause cancer directly damaging the DNA inside a cell. This relates to our biology class, as we are talking about how cells work inside the body. Although radio-frequency waves do not have enough energy to break through a cell to cause damage, if they did, they would have to pass through the plasma membrane, and then reach the nucleus in order to damage DNA.

The radio-frequency waves come from the cell phone’s antenna, located in the body of a hand-held phone. The waves are strongest at the antenna and lose energy quickly as they travel away from the phone. The phone is often held against the head when a person is on a call. The closer the antenna is to someone, the greater their expected exposure to radio-frequency waves. The body tissues closest to the phone absorb more energy from the waves than tissues farther away, giving you a higher risk of a form of brain cancer than something else. The amount of energy absorbed by someone from the radio-frequency waves can be influenced by a number of things, such as the model of phone you use, or the amount of time you use your phone. However, in studies shown in the first embedded link, there has been no clear answer of the correlation between cellphones and cancer. Overall, I feel that if there was a significant finding in these studies, there would be a huge spike of cases of brain tumors or brain cancers. I believe this is not something we should be worried about, and if it were to be a problem, I feel that there would have been a solution created already.

The Cell Superhero

Did you know that there is a cell that can help benefit patients with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer, and osteoarthritis? You must be thinking, what kind of cell can do all of this! The answer is a type of cell that has come into research relatively recently: Stem Cells.

Stem Cells are superheroes, in fact, they have a superpower – shapeshifting. Think of Stem Cells as the body’s raw materials. Under the correct conditions, Stem Cells divide to form what is commonly referred to as Daughter Cells. These Daughter Cells have the capability to become new Stem Cells or specialized cells with a more specific function. This is where shapeshifting comes in! Stem cells can morph into a variety of different specialized cells including blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells, and bone cells. The power to shapeshift is unique to Stem Cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new types of cells. 

Another important skill these microscopic organisms have is the power of replication. As most people learn, many Cells go through the process of Replication. However, this is not a skill muscle, blood, or nerve cells typically have. Stem Cells, conversely, divide all the time. How do these cells divide and replicate while conserving their differentiability? That is a question that many people are driven to answer. If we can discover how stem cells self-renew, this information can be applied to understand normal embryonic development, or misregulated as during aging, or even in the development of cancer.

Sure, Stem Cells have a superpower, but how can they use this power to help? Researchers and Doctors hope that studying stem cells can help with a wide range of things. One ability stem cells have is helping us better understand how diseases occur. Watching stem cells mature into bone, heart muscle, nerves, other organs, and tissue cells allows researchers and doctors to better understand how diseases develop in those regions. Additionally, Stem Cells serve as a good way to test new drugs for safety and effectiveness. New studies analyze how accurate drug testing is when stem cells are programmed into tissue-specific cells to test new drugs. If this form of testing proves to be effective in the future, it can prevent harm to test-subjects that would otherwise be the first guinea-pigs.  Alike most cells, stem cells have organelles. These cells have well-developed Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum, Golgi complexes, lysosomes and so much more. How stem cells have the ability to shape-shift remains a mystery, they contain similar organelles to other common cells. Studying these mysteries can uncover a variety of information helpful in the medical field and possibly allow scientists to develop their own synthetic superheroes in the future.

Stem Cells have infinite potential ways that they can be used in the medical field. The small superheroes are currently battling the issue of damaged cells and are used in something referred to as Stem Cell Therapy. Stem Cell Therapy is a type of regenerative medicine. Stem Cell Therapy allows for damaged tissue to be repaired by stem cells or their derivatives. This therapy is the next step in organ transplantation. Stem cells will be used in place of donor organs which are in limited supply. Unlike organs that come from human bodies, stem cells are grown in labs giving them the ability to be produced on a much larger scale. These stem cells are then manipulated to specialize in specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells. These specialized cells are then implanted into a person where these healthy cells can contribute to the repairing of defective tissue. 

Stem Cells are being used right now! Bone marrow transplants are a type of stem cell transplant. These cells replace cells that might have been damaged by chemotherapy or disease. They also can serve as a way for the donor’s immune system to fight some types of cancers and blood-related diseases. The stem cells used from these treatments are adult stem cells.

How many types of these superheroes are out there? Researchers have found several sources of stem cells. These shapeshifters are compartmentalized into the following categories: Embryonic, Adult, and Perinatal stem cells. You may be wondering what is the difference between all of these stem cell types? These categories can be explained simply through two identifying factors – location and ability. Embryonic cells 3-5 day old embryos. They have the ability to divide into more cells and become any type of cell in the body. Perinatal Cells also have the ability to change into specialized cells, but they come from the amniotic fluid as well as umbilical cord blood. Finally, Adult Stem Cells are cells that are located in most adult tissues. Until recently, it was believed that Adult Stem Cells were limited to the type of cell they become. Researchers previously thought that they could only create similar types of cells. However, new evidence suggests that Adult Stem Cells can create other types of cells and this hypothesis is still being examined.

You may be wondering why these superheroes are not frequently being used if they have so much potential. The use of Stem Cells is unfortunately controversial. Embryonic Stem Cells originating from early-stage embryos raises ethical questions. Guidelines for human stem cell research in 2009. These guidelines determine how these cells are used in research and recommend how they should be obtained.

So, there you have it! There are small superheroes that have the potential to do so much. Who knows what they will begin battling next!

The Microwave. Cancer Causer? Or Convenient Cooking Appliance?

What is the Microwave?

So I’ll assume you all know what a microwave generally is. That black white or silver box on your kitchen counter that heats up your pasta at 1am. Letting you know its done with an alarm that’s far too loud. But what is it actually? How does it work? As stated in the first paragraph of this article, the discovery of the microwave was just an accident. The Microwaves emitted by various pieces of equipment were enough to heat foods and in the case of the story from the article, melt the scientist’s snack. The production of the microwave blew the minds of many. Providing a quick and easy way to near-instantly heat your food.

(microwave)

How Could It Be Bad for You?

Throughout my life, my father has always told me not to stand directly in front of the microwave while it was on. No matter how much I liked watching my snack spin and spin and spin in the magical machine, the thoughts of the horrifying radiation hurting me overtime was enough to deter me. But it is, in fact, untrue that microwaves cause cancer or any type of injury/illness due to its radiation. The device would need to be putting out much higher frequency wavelengths, not the microwaves that your microwave lets leak out through the door.

 

 

 

(Wave Structure) 

Is Your Microwave Killing You?

No, the answer is most likely no. More of the issue is what you are putting into the microwave. Putting metal in the microwave can be a terrible idea. Speaking from experience I’ve seen silverware spark in the microwave. Depending on the type of silverware and variety of utensil it may not go as poorly but never the less is a bad idea to try. Also, many sources suggest against putting plastic into the microwave just because of the interaction high heat and soft plastic can have together. As well as possibly melting, there is some interesting research to see if the heat will cause chemicals to leach into your food. Something that only sounds like a bad thing for human health. So is your microwave killing you? Most likely not, just use some common sense when reheating your leftovers in the middle of the night.

How Ionizing Radiation Damages Genetic Material and Causes Cancer

 

All around us there is ionizing radiation. It comes from the sun as Ultraviolet rays, in medical equipment as X-rays or Gamma rays, or even from lightning bolts. But what is Ionizing radiation and why is it considered so dangerous. Ionizing radiation is a form of high energy that removes electrons from materials that it comes into contact with. When ionizing radiation comes into contact with cells, it damages them by either directly breaking the bonds between DNA or by ionizing water. Ionized water creates free radicals that then move around and damage DNA. The damage DNA then leads to cancer, but it has never been discovered what types of cancer ionizing radiation causes. However the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has finally been able to identify two types of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. From previous studies, it has been revealed that radiation damage on DNA leaves a specific fingerprint. By mapping the DNA damage found in cancer cells that were caused by radiation and comparing them to regular cancer cells, the scientists found two mutational patterns that were common in all forms of radiation induced cancers. The first pattern is a deletion of small DNA bases. The second pattern is called balanced inversions, which is where a middle piece of DNA is cut out and attached back to the end. Balanced inversions are not found naturally and can only be caused by radiation damage. From this discovery, scientists hope to be able to identify radiation caused tumors against regular tumors. This may help in finding a specific and more effective cure for the different kinds.

E-cigarettes linked to cancers and other illnesses

New York State just placed the first temporary ban on the distribution of flavored e-cigarettes. Although this motion was repealed last week due to the “state’s executive overreach” (Tony Abound of Vapor Technology Association), the ban will be rediscussed on October 18th. Actions to reduce use of e-cigarettes are gaining momentum. This is in part due to a recent article discussing a study involving mice, which linked e-cigarette smoke to lung adenocarcinoma and bladder urothelial hyperplasia.

Just published two days ago, Moon-shong Tang, PhD of NYU School of Medicine, studied the affect of e-cigarette smoke on forty mice. Over a 54 week period of exposure, the results were both shocking and devastating. Twenty-three of the forty mice (57.5%) developed bladder urothelial hyperplasia (lack of cytologic atypia in thickened urothelium), changes in gene multiplication, and cancerous abnormal tissue growth. In addition, nine of the mice (22.5%) developed lung adenocarcinomas, a divison of lung cancer. Although the study was restricted due to the small trial size and the full-body smoke exposure opposed to inhalation, it is still prevalent to consider this trail in the dangers of e-cigarettes.

Once nicotine enters a cell, nitrosation (addition of a nitrosonium ion) converts nicotine to nitrosamines, a proven carcinogen. Although a 2017 study revealed nitrosamines in e-cigarette smokers was 95% less than in tobacco smokers, a new study proves mammalian cells already contain nitrosonium which react with inhaled nicotine to produce nitrosamines. Nitrosamine is unable to leave the cell, and therefore is undetectable by blood tests.

E-cigarettes have infiltrated todays society, specifically affecting teenagers and young adults. With appealing flavors and attractive packaging, e-cigarettes has swayed away from helping recovering smokers, to targeting young individuals, who generally have never smoked a cigarette before. I was not surprised to hear this trial’s results, as teenagers across the country have been experiencing hospitalization due to collapsed lungs and other illnesses related to e-cigarettes. I urge everyone to consider the consequences of e-cigarettes before using one.

For more details involving the trail, click here.

 

 

Can you get a disease from being outside?

The Alzheimer’s diseases and several genetic defects have been identified to connect with early onset family genetics. In this study chemists, toxicologists, and biologists have researched the environmental effects connected with health issues. The researchers examined the point that the human race would have all gone extinct if our bodies didn’t have the ability to metabolize, absorb, or excrete trace substances. In 2005, there was a lot of talk about the “exposome” causing many diseases. This research topic is very  interesting because it explains that everything you are exposed to can cause cancer. The fact that our exposome is everything we contact in our lives is concerning. Average light, invisible car exhaust and ambient street noise are all linked to birth defects. And now Alzheimer’s has been statistically linked to the environment.

Although Alzheimer’s is generally linked with age, researchers also believe it is linked to living in cities and poorer neighborhoods. According to new research unveiled at a recent global gathering of Alzheimer’s experts in London, stressful life events, poverty and racial inequities contribute to dementia risk in late life. A Study at the University of Wisconsin looked at levels of socioeconomic disadvantages such as poverty, education, housing, and employment to determine whether there was a stronger link to developing Alzheimer’s than by chance alone. They found that people in poor neighborhoods had worse cognitive performances in all aspects, which is linked to the fact that they had disproportionately higher levels of the Alzheimers disease biomarker in their spinal fluid. This could be considered an example of the effects that their exposome pose on their health. For example, in poorer neighborhoods, they have less access to healthy foods, safe exercisee options and healthy environments. This unhealthy environment leads to increased risk of diabetes,  cancer, and early death.

Vaccines for Cancer?

We all know that Cancer is a genetic disease that really can’t be cured, but what if we could develop a Vaccine, like one for a virus, that would target the cells around it to target the cancer? That’s what Professor Darrell Irvine at MIT and his students are trying to accomplish. 

Professor Irvine is working on a vaccine that boosts T-Cells, which is a lymphocyte created in the Thymus along with Epithelial cells to boost immune response. The technique is called CAR-T Cell therapy, and it works by boosting anti-tumor T Cell populations, and using these enhanced populations to fight solid tumors. Before Dr. Irvine’s work, the therapy was unable to target any type of cancer that wasn’t Leukemia. The therapy had a difficult time working on solid tumors because they would attach the T cells to an antigen on the surface of B cells, but the immunosuppressive environment created by the tumor would kill the cells before they could reach the tumor.

But, the researchers at MIT decided to give a vaccine to the lymph nodes, which are host to an abundance of immune cells, instead. Dr. Irvine’s hypothesis was that attaching them to the lymph nodes rather than B cells would give them the proper priming cues to prevent them from dying when they reached the tumor, and he was right. To actually get the vaccine to the lymph nodes the researchers used a technique MIT had developed a few years prior where they attach the vaccine to a lipid tail, which would then bond with albumin, a protein found in the bloodstream, and would then get an uber straight to the lymph nodes. In research in mice, the vaccine has been shown to drastically increase T cell response, and two weeks after treatment and being given a booster vaccine the CAR-T cells made up nearly 65% of the T cells found in the mice. This boost in T cell population resulted in complete obliteration of breast, melanoma, and glioblastoma tumors in 60% of mice.

This success rate is unlike any other treatment for Cancer currently available, and since it is given in a vaccine, memory T cells will be able to detect tumors in the future and destroy them before they become dangerous, just like how regular vaccines work. Between the success rate and the fact that the vaccine will be able to destroy future tumors, there is nothing really like this around for Cancer treatment, and I’m very excited to see the possibilities this has. And the fact that something like a vaccine, which is only capable to treat viruses, can possibly help fight against a genetic disease is also very intriguing.

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