Monthly Archives: September 2014

Glioblastoma multiforme: a new weapon in the surgeon’s arsenal

Molecular ThoughtsGlioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a devastating form of brain cancer that usually results in death within 15 months of diagnosis. Tumor cells at the margins of these brain tumors often invade surrounding tissues, and this means that they can be difficult to remove completely. If a patient is able to undergo surgery, the goal is to remove as many malignant cells as possible without affecting parts of the brain that are necessary for other essential neurological functions. Currently, surgeons have no way of knowing for sure that they’ve removed all of the cancerous cells. But new research could change that.

The day before surgery, a patient would be injected with nanoprobes that migrate to the tumor cells. These nanoprobes don’t affect normal brain tissue. Then, during surgery, the surgeon would use a device that detects these nanoprobes to determine whether they had successfully removed all of the malignant cells. The device looks like a laser pointer, and in laboratory studies with mouse models of human GBM, researchers were able to remove all of the malignant cells from the mice!

This may be ready for human clinical trials relatively quickly, and it’s possible that it could be helpful in the treatment of other types of brain cancer as well. Read more about it here:

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2014/acs-presspac-september-3-2014/handheld-scanner-could-make-brain-tumor-removal-more-complete-reducing-recurrence.html

 

Salamanders: The future of wound healing

salamanderSalamanders are pretty awesome. They can regenerate limbs that have been lost, and they’re able to heal body parts even after pretty significant damage. So it’s not a stretch to think that these small amphibians are providing some inspiration for the next generation of wound healing therapies in humans.

Researchers discovered a peptide in salamander skin called tylotoin that promotes wound healing. In laboratory studies, this peptide also promoted wound healing in mice with skin wounds. Tylotoin works by increasing the motility and production of certain types of cells, and as a result, skin cell regeneration and tissue formation around the wound occur more quickly.

Pretty amazing! And this type of research illustrates the importance of animal models in several different ways. Researchers were able to isolate this specific protein from the salamander AND prove its effectiveness on the mouse. Hopefully, unlocking the salamander’s secrets will also be able to help humans recover from injuries more quickly. Read more about it here:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-09/foas-ssp090214.php

Cancer that glows in the dark

pixabay green lightsGlow in the dark tumors: it sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but actually, the use of a dye that glows under infrared light could drastically improve surgical outcomes for cancer patients and reduce the chance of recurrence.

Often, surgical removal is difficult because doctors can’t always be certain of the location of tumor margins. So researchers tested a dye that is already approved by the FDA and glows green under infrared light.This dye concentrates in cancerous tissues, so when the surgeon shines an infrared light on the surgical area, the tumor cells will glow.

Working with mice, they found that this dye helped them ‘highlight’ tumors before they were visible to the naked eye. Veterinarians then used the dye on several pet dogs with lung cancer before surgery, and found that it improved visibility of the tumors.

After proving the effectiveness of this dye in mice and dogs, human clinical trials were approved, and the dye actually helped doctors visualize human tumors as well as diagnose patients more accurately. This is a great example of research progressing from bench to bedside. Read more about it here:

http://www.alnmag.com/news/2014/07/cancer-glow-improves-surgical-outcomes?et_cid=4073942&et_rid=655142386&location=top

Bees are creating a buzz in cancer research

pixabay beesIf you’ve ever been stung by a bee, you know how painful it is. It’s hard to imagine that bee venom could save lives, but actually, new research is showing that bee venom has been able to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells!

Bee venom contains proteins that can attach to cancer cells and block tumor growth. Unfortunately, using bee venom by itself can cause unwanted problems- think about that bee sting! Bee venom can damage nerve and heart cells. So researchers got creative and figured out a way to harness the positive effects of bee venom without the nasty side effects.

Honeybee venom contains a substance called melittin that can prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Researchers were able to synthesize melittin in the laboratory and pack the toxin into nanoparticles. These particles evade the immune system, and they deliver the toxin right to the cancer cells. This doesn’t affect normal tissue, and doesn’t have the toxic effects of pure venom.

Hopefully, after animal testing, this treatment will prove to be effective, and it can proceed to human trials in the next three to five years. Read more about bee venom in cancer research here:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/buzz-over-bee-venom-in-cancer-research/