New research is showing that exposure to dim light at night may negatively impact the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments. In a laboratory setting, dim light exposure during night cycles made human breast tumors in rats more resistant to doxorubicin, a standard chemotherapy for breast cancer.
But why? Well, it’s all about melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced naturally by the body during dark periods at night. In this research study, exposure to light at night disrupted rats’ melatonin cycles. Half of the rats, however, received melatonin supplements to make up for this. Researchers found that the tumors grew almost three times faster in rats that did not receive supplements, and their tumors were completely resistant to doxorubicin. It seems that the presence of melatonin helped support higher levels of active doxorubicin in the breast cancer cells, and prevented enzymes from breaking it down and making it less effective.
At this point, researchers aren’t ready to make supplementation recommendations for human breast cancer patients. And if the effects of melatonin ARE similar in humans, recommendations for supplementation would need to be carefully monitored. If disrupting the natural melatonin cycle can cause the body to react to cancer treatments differently, then incorrectly supplementing could also cause undesired effects. However, since this isn’t the first time that dim light exposure at night has been shown to have negative effects, it’s possible that this research could prompt patients to be more aware of light exposure disruptions during night cycles.
Read more about it here: http://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=608#.VC9VpPldWSo
Dogs are often called man’s best friend. In this case, dogs are helping humans more than you might think! Dogs can be a great model for understanding cancer, because they develop cancer spontaneously, and in this case, cocker spaniels may be able to help researchers better understand human breast cancer.
Recently, the epigenome of the cocker spaniel has been characterized. Researchers compared dog and human epigenetic changes, and found that when looking at breast cancer, the same regions of DNA are affected in dogs and humans.
So, why is this important? Discovering common mechanisms can help both humans and dogs in future research studies. It’s possible that targeting these epigenetic changes could help slow disease progression, and dogs may be able to help us understand this faster. And ultimately, understanding more about the connection between canine and human cancer will benefit both species.
Read more about this research here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/ibri-deg100214.php
If 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:
A trial at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine is introducing a groundbreaking treatment for dogs suffering from osteosarcoma. Dogs in the trial are receiving an experimental vaccine that trains the immune system to recognize tumor cells and to kill them- and it’s working!
More than 10,000 dogs are diagnosed each year with osteosarcoma, which is an aggressive type of bone cancer. Most dogs die within a year of diagnosis, but in this trial, many of the dogs in the study have survived for more than two years. Check out this video to see an update on Denali, a therapy dog enrolled in the trial.
The biology of canine osteosarcoma is the same as the biology of these tumors in children, so the information gained from this study could one day help children with osteosarcoma. There are also types of breast cancer that have similarities to osteosarcoma, so the human benefits aren’t limited to one type of cancer.
Researchers are looking for more dogs with osteosarcoma to participate in this trial. Does your dog qualify? If so, check out the link here for more information.
A pill intended for leukemia treatment may soon make a big difference for patients suffering from a variety of cancers. These drugs worked so well against leukemia that during trials, patients taking placebo pills were switched over to the real drug!
Cancer cells produce an enzyme called p110. This enzyme suppresses immunity, making it hard for the body to fight back against disease. The drug works by blocking that enzyme so the body can fight back more efficiently.
It turns out that this pill could be effective against a wider range of cancers than previously thought. Through research in mice with a variety of cancers, survival rate was greatly increased. Mouse studies indicate that this could be an effective treatment against breast cancer by not only minimizing the spread of the disease, but also by improving survival rates after removal of breast tumors!
P110 inhibitors could quickly become part of cancer treatments, as the drugs are already being successfully used on cancer patients. It will be interesting to see if administration of this drug for other types of cancer will be as successful as animal trials. Read more about it here:
Cancer cells, unfortunately, can be pretty efficient at spreading. This is partly due to their “sticky” characteristics, which makes them better at invading new areas in the body. But researchers in London have identified a gene that is responsible for making breast cancer cells sticky- and this could be a big deal!
By switching off different genes in breast tumors that were grown in mice, they were able to identify a particular gene, called ST6GaINAc2 (we’ll call it ST6 for short), that contributes to tumor formation. When it’s active, ST6 prevents cancer cells from binding to the proteins that are responsible for giving them their sticky characteristics. But when ST6 gene activity is low, the cells pick up these proteins, become sticky, and spread more efficiently.
Figuring out how breast cancer spreads is really important. If researchers can identify patients with low ST6 gene activity, they might be able to treat these patients with a drug that can replicate ST6′s ability to make tumor cells less sticky. And preventing cancer cells from ‘sticking’ is good for everyone!
The bond between a mother and her child can be incredibly powerful. But research shows that it’s more than just emotional- a mother can carry a part of her child with her throughout her life!
During pregnancy, a mother provides her baby with warmth, safety, and essential nutrients. But it’s not all one-sided- the baby protects its mother, too! Through the blood exchange via the placenta, cells from the baby enter the mother’s bloodstream and can migrate through her body, ultimately settling in the heart, brain and other tissues.
This specific research study showed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier research has shown that fetal cells that remain in a mother’s tissues can help her fight off breast cancer, and research in mice showed that fetal cells literally helped heal a mother’s heart- when a pregnant mouse had a heart attack, fetal stem cells rushed to the area and began changing into new heart cells! That mother-child bond is stronger than you thought!
So if you’re a mom, regardless of where your child is, it might help you to know that a part of your child will always be in your heart- literally!
With increased breast cancer awareness and the growing number of diagnostic tools available- including MRI, mammograms, and genetic testing- more and more women are diagnosed with precancerous breast tissue. And unnecessary surgery and treatments are becoming more common, because doctors can’t accurately tell which of these women will actually go on to develop cancer.
But instead of using a “better safe than sorry” approach, researchers want to be able to determine which genes drive breast cancer- and stop them! Because the genes in cells work together in complex and sometimes unexplained ways, simply looking at genes that are activated as cancer develops doesn’t always work.
Using a combination of science, mathematics and engineering, researchers pinpointed a gene that had the strongest statistical link to breast cancer (HoxA1) by reverse-engineering gene networks. And by using a novel therapy to block this gene, they were able to reverse cancer cells in culture as well as prevent cancer development in mice! Pretty amazing- check it out!
Breast cancer treatment can come at such a huge cost that researchers are constantly looking for ways to prevent it. Could a breast cancer vaccine be possible?
In order to develop a vaccine, you need something to target- like a virus or bacteria. A virus called HMTV (human mammary tumor virus) is found in about 40% of breast tumors. Viruses can certainly cause cancer- look at HPV and Hepatitis B, for example. If researchers determine that HMTV causes cancer (this is yet unknown), they would have a target for vaccine development. So yes, a vaccine could be possible.
While scientists are already using personalized cancer vaccines for breast cancer patients, made from a patient’s immune cells (in the hope of preventing tumors from spreading), a true vaccine that could prevent breast cancer cases caused by a virus would be life-changing.
New grants from the National Breast Cancer Coalition and the Avon Foundation for Women will help researchers look for clues within tumor genomes. And undoubtedly, mouse models of breast cancer will be extremely important in the understanding and possible development of such a vaccine.
Breast cancer patients could one day be able to credit their survival to SHARKS! It has been known for years that sharks are resistant to cancer, and scientists are very interested in finding ways to understand the mechanisms behind this. Now, researchers are hoping to develop new drugs by using the antibodies found in shark blood!
To sum up the idea, certain molecules (called HER2 and HER3) are found in high levels in breast cancer and sit on the surface of cancer cells and signal them to grow and divide. The antibodies in shark blood have unique properties which could allow them to bind to these molecules and prevent this signaling process from occurring.
This 3-year study in Australia could lead to some interesting results… stay tuned!