Friday, June 3, 2011

Thank you

Like students, professors enjoy some classes better than others. And so it is with me: I very much enjoyed our class this quarter. Thank you so much for making it fun and enjoyable, engaging and interesting. I feel like I learned quite a bit from your blogs and wikis. It was very fun teaching this class in large part because of your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn about cancer. Those of us who have devoted our lives to cancer research realize just what an incredibly pernicious and "clever" disease cancer is. I hope you came away with that appreciation as well.

One more favor if you have the time. I didn't ask for a narrative evaluation, but if you wouldn't mind commenting to this post with any constructive criticism or especially favorable insight, I would greatly appreciate it (please login as guest to preserve anonymity if you want).

Finally, let me wish you luck with your upcoming final exams. Best wishes also for a fun and relaxing summer. See you next fall.

Dr. Islas

P.S. Please feel free to blog about anything interesting you happen to read, see or hear this summer—especially if it's cancer-related. Your accounts will stay open indefinitely.

Advances in Cancer Genomics

The genetic basis behind cancer formation implies that to fully understand the disease and effectively treat it, we must first gain an extensive knowledge of the driving genetic mechanisms which bestow upon cancer its defining characteristics. Beginning with the ambitious effort put for by the Human Genome Project, gene sequencing technologies have seen enormous improvements in speed, accuracy and cost effectiveness.

Tumors Beware!

In Dr. Shwartz's lecture, she discussed how delivery was a major problem for cancer treatment. I found a science article claiming that there may be a new way to attack cancer. Cancer drugs are able to penetrate just a few cells into the tumor, but now biologists have discovered a molecule that aids cancer treatments reach deeper into tumors. This has been used only on mice so far and has yet to be tested on humans. Tumors impede drugs in two ways. First, the vessels of tumors are not permeable enough to let drugs inside. Secondly, fluid does not tend to flow towards tumors, it flows away. A new peptide called iRGD can get inside tumors when attached to a cancer drug.

My phone told me I have cancer!

I found a very interesting science article on a very innovative smart phone application that can diagnose whether a person has cancer or not. Using this device, physicians can tell within an hour whether a tumor is cancerous. This new device has advantages over the current way oncologists are diagnosing cancer; these lab tests may be uncertain and take up to a few days.
    Ralph Weissleder, a physician/ scientist, and his team at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston developed a device which acts as a tiny nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine. Researchers found a way to attach magnetic particles to proteins which are then picked up by the machine from an array of chemicals, similar to those found in a tumor. This device is convenient in size, being much smaller than an NMR found in a lab.

Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients

During the extent of this quarter, I have had to do a lot of research both for my Wiki page as well as research for the blogs which I wrote. With plenty of information on different types of cancers, their treatments, prevention, and research being conducted to reduce incidence and death, I never ran into information about therapies for minimizing the discomforts of cancer and its treatment. Chemotherapy is an aggressive form of treatment which many cancer patients choose to fight against there cancer. However, because of its aggressive nature, it affects both cancerous and normal cells. One large negative side affect of chemotherapy is neutropenia, which is a reduction in white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections. Any form of cancer and the treatments which are available are not forgiving to the human condition, and when individuals fight their battle against cancer for any extended period of time, it is only natural that they are weakened and fragile at the end of their course. Can individuals truly 'recover' from cancer after the extent of damage their body as gone through? Curious to see what options are available for both current patients and survivors, I research different forms of therapies which can help patients recover some physical as well as mental health.

A Cancerless Mammal; The Naked Mole-Rat

During my time as an employee at a vet hospital, I have seen rat after rat undergo surgery to remove massive tumors covering the body. It made me curious as to what made rats so susceptible to these tumors. My curiosity diverged me, however, to the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) which has been identified as a cancer resistant mammal. Naked mole-rats have a very long life span compared to other rodents, some being known to live past 3o years. Since cancer is the disease of aging, it is significant that this species during its lifespan evades cancer. This species is now being further studied to determine the mechanism by which this occurs and if by understanding the process in naked mole-rats, we can potentially mimic the process the humans.

Genetically Modified Cancer?

“Many scientists claim that the ingestion of genetically engineered food is harmless. Recent evidence, however, shows that there are potential risks of eating such foods as the new proteins produced in such foods could… contain less isoflavones, an important phytoestrogen present in soybeans, believed to protect women from a number of cancers.” [1] This statement jumped out when reading it as assigned reading for another class. Genetically modified food has been met with much criticism due to its unnatural method of enhancing the rate and efficiency of agriculture. As the quote above proclaims this technology compromises the nutritional value of food and thus elevates our susceptibility to cancer, but can this be scientifically proven?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sorry not about Cancer, but something interesting about Schizophrenia

“Postnatal NMDA receptor ablation in corticolimbic interneurons confers schizophrenia-like phenotypes” is an extremely fascinating article. The article is about postnatal inhibition of NMDAR activity in the corticolimbic GABAergic interneurons in mice causing the mice to have symptoms of schizophrenia. There is NR1 subunit of the NMDAR receptors which was selected for deletion, but not all the NMDAR receptors loss the function of the NR1. Only 40-50% of the NR1 subunit of the NMDAR receptors was deleted in the cortical and hippocampal intereneurons in mice. The reason for the deletion of NR1 is that they are assessing their theory that schizophrenia is not a hyperfunction, but a hypofunction of the interneurons.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In with the Old Drugs

Cisplatin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic, has always had a severe side effect. Although a potent chemotherapy drug, cisplatin has been known to cause severe kidney damage, leading to renal failure in many patients that take the drug. Although previously, doctors simply measured creatinine levels to gauge whether the nephrotoxic effects were taking place and tried to counteract them when they were found, now there may be a solution to this side effect. The Journal of Clinical Investigation recently published an article in which they articulate that using another drug in concert with cisplatin can help reduce renal damage. Researchers found that by inhibiting PKC-δ, the damages to the kidney were significantly reduced.

The Perfect Human Size (according to science!)

It's common knowledge that one's physical fitness is generally a good indicator of his or her health. People who are overweight are at many heightened health risks, when compared to their fitter counterparts, including: heart attack, stroke, joint/muscle pain, and numerous others, including cancer. Indeed, in the wonderful presentation from last Friday about the risk factors of pancreatic cancer, diet and obesity were two of the main points that were presented. Thus, when I read one particular article by the NIH, entitled, "NIH study identifies ideal body mass index;  Overweight and obesity associated with increased risk of death", my interest was piqued. I think that having a  
specific goal that people can shoot for is wonderful- having a target like, "losing five pounds of fat" is usually much more feasible and effective than an abstract goal, like "getting in shape."


Tumor-cell detector, using carbon nanotubes... Impressive Innovation!

It seems that everyday there is something new about cancer. I am definitely astonished by all the different types of devices that are used to detect cancer cells in different parts of our bodies. Just to name a couple, there are Positron Emission Tomography (PET), lasers, electronic nose, and Canon’s advanced breast scanner detector. But most recently, there has been one device that has impressed many doctors and scientists.