Monthly Archives: September 2013

Alzheimer’s cure from a repurposed drug?

Alzheimer's disease symbol message conceptThe Alzheimer’s Society is working to identify drugs that are already on the market and used to treat other conditions that might have the potential to treat or cure dementia. A drug called Liraglutide, which is currently used to help patients manage their diabetes, will soon enter clinical trials in human patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Studies in mice showed that the drug might be able to reverse damage caused by Alzheimer’s in patients in the later stages of the disease. While many drugs and treatments aim at preventing medical problems, this is one drug that could benefit patients currently suffering from Alzheimer’s. The drug helps reduce plaque build-up in the brain, and patients will be recruited for clinical trials in only a few weeks. Pretty awesome!

Check out the article here:

To learn more about the clinical trial, click here:

How To Save A Life

iStock_000016358177XSmallHope. Possibilities. Second chances. Research is responsible for all these things. Do you really know what it takes to save a life? Take just a moment to watch this short video clip. Please share with your friends and family. Without research, your life as you know it would not be possible. When your friend celebrates their cancer-free anniversary; when a child can grow up without contracting polio or measles; when your sister can give birth to a child after being declared ‘infertile’; when you can provide your family pet with a heartworm preventative; when you reach for an aspirin to ease a headache- think of the research behind these miracles!

Alzheimer’s answers… from a mouse?

iStock_000010554751XSmallIn order for medical breakthroughs to take place, animal research is necessary. While there are many great examples of this, one example that is of particular interest to me is Alzheimer’s Disease. It has been confirmed that mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease closely simulate the human disease and are therefore essential to the advancement of treatments and possible cures.

Why mice, you ask? Well, mice reproduce quickly and have short generation times, so it is much easier to study the effects of treatments and therapies if you only have to wait three months for a mouse to develop Alzheimer’s. In humans, once you begin to develop the disease, it is impossible to tell the exact cause. It could be due to genetics, diet, exercise (or lack thereof), a combination of all of these things, or none of these things. There is no way of looking back at an Alzheimer’s patient’s habits and lifestyle and use that information to draw conclusions on possible preventative therapies for future patients, because life has far too many variables.

By removing these variables and using genetically identical mice that are predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s, researchers can determine which drugs and therapies work and which ones don’t. I think that makes these mice pretty awesome.

Leukemia: Improving efficiency of bone marrow transplants


Photo from

Photo from

New information from research in Toronto could help improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants for patients suffering from leukemia (and other cancers and immune disorders). Studies in mice, which were confirmed with samples from humans, showed that stem cells from bone ends are better at regenerating blood cells and immune system cells than the stem cells located in the shafts of bones. Not only are these cells better at regenerating, but they also work more efficiently and for longer periods of time than cells from the middle of the bones.

If doctors are able to collect stem cells that are more efficient, bone marrow transplants could not only be improved, but may be able to be effective for more people. The next step is to investigate the best ways of retrieving these superior stem cells. It’s exciting research, and could prove to really make a difference in bone marrow transplant methods. Stay tuned!

Ovarian cancer: Could you be saved by a dog?

Sad puppyOver 14,000 women die each year from ovarian cancer, which often avoids detection until it has spread. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers are working hard to train dogs to detect ovarian cancer. The hope is that through studying disease-detecting capabilities in dogs, researchers will be able to develop a sensor that can detect cancer at early stages. With a sense of smell about a million times superior to a human’s, dogs have been used to detect bombs, drugs, insect infestations, and low blood sugar in diabetics. The dogs at U Penn are highly accurate at correctly identifying samples containing cancer cells. The goal is to study how the dogs identify these signals from different types of ovarian cancer samples and different compounds that change in ovarian cancer, and hopefully use this information to develop technology that could change a cancer patient’s prognosis through early detection. Talk about research in animals benefiting people- this is awesome!

Breast cancer patients: Lymphedema therapy proves successful in mice

The human lymphatic system

The human lymphatic system

Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have discovered that a protein called IL-7 (a protein that regulates T-cells and is important in immune defense) could possibly be the answer to a treatment for lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition that is caused by impaired lymphatic system function. Breast cancer treatment is the most common cause of lymphedema in the U.S. (tumor removal often damages lymph tissue and vessels), but it also has other causes, including parasite infection. Characterized by swelling in the extremities, currently there is no treatment or cure for lymphedema, and patients must rely on physical therapy and compression of the affected extremity to relieve symptoms. In mouse studies, mice with functioning IL-7 receptors were shown to have much better lymphatic drainage than mice that were modified to lack a functioning IL-7 receptor. Mice with increased production of IL-7 showed an increase in lymphatic drainage, and normal, healthy mice given the protein also showed an improvement in lymphatic drainage function. Researchers can now use these findings to develop new experiments to possibly create a treatment with IL-7 that could either help prevent lymphedema or treat existing lymphedema. Is it is estimated that 140-250 million people are affected worldwide by lymphedema, so a potential for a new treatment is very encouraging. Even more encouraging is the fact that IL-7 is already being tested in clinical trials for other indications, so if further research shows promise, a treatment could be closer than you might think!

Leukemia: A promising new therapy is in the works

child with cancerThis is incredible- researchers at the University of Ottawa have developed a therapy that can kill human blood cancer cells in the laboratory AND successfully eradicate leukemia in mice with few side effects.
Currently, “replicating viruses” are often used for treating leukemia. These are viruses that have been tailored to target cancer cells- but the problem is that the viruses will then replicate and cause viral infections.
UV light was used to transform replicating viruses into non-replicating particles that can still enter cancer cells, kill them, and stimulate a strong immune response from the body. This new therapy is very safe at high doses, worked well in the mouse model, and also killed leukemia cells in the laboratory in blood samples from human leukemia patients who had not responded to other treatments.
Normal blood cells were unharmed. In the mouse studies, 80% of the mice who underwent this treatment had higher survival rates, 60% were CURED, and all untreated died within 20 days.
Steps will now be taken to calculate dosages needed for human patients- and if this works, there may be real hope for leukemia patients who haven’t responded to treatment as well as patients who must face the debilitating side effects of current cancer therapies.

Have you had any personal experiences with side effects of leukemia therapies?