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:
Salamanders 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:
Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain tumor. Glioblastomas are difficult to treat, very aggressive, and survival rates aren’t very good. But researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm have found a potential silver bullet- a substance called Vacquinol-1 that makes glioblastoma cells explode and die!
So how does it work? This molecule alters the cancer cells so they can’t control the substances being carried into the cell from the outside. This results in a large number of vacuoles forming inside the cell, and eventually, the cell explodes.
To develop this treatment, researchers used cell cultures and exposed tumor cells to different molecules. Once they found molecules that killed the tumor cells, they did more research to narrow down potential candidates for a treatment. They identified a single molecule that they wanted to pursue, and through further studies in mice, they found that tumor growth was reversed and the mice survived for longer than those in control groups.
This could potentially work on other types of cancer cells, too, but until clinical trials proceed, researchers won’t know. The hope is to get this treatment into clinical trials quickly, because this is definitely a novel approach to attacking this type of tumor! Read more:
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!
Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that can be difficult to treat. The tumors are often located in inaccessible areas, making surgery impossible. So researchers in Atlanta got creative and figured out a way to make the cancer cells more accessible. And their technique is not unlike the concept of a mouse trap- but for this one, rats helped figure it out!
Glioblastoma cells migrate along nerves and blood vessels. And researchers used that information to their advantage by creating a small rod that mimics the shape of these nerves and blood vessels. Through animal studies in rats, they’ve shown that the cancer cells then ‘take the bait’ and migrate along this rod. At the end of the rod, the cells are met with a cancer-killing drug. So instead of delivering drugs to the tumor, the tumor comes to the drug!
This could make a huge difference for patients with inoperable tumors. Not only could this cancer cell “mouse trap” lure cells into an area that would be easier for doctors to access, but it could also work by shrinking slow-growing tumors to the point where they wouldn’t be able to do as much damage. Let’s hope that this treatment makes its way into human trials quickly!
A good night’s sleep may be more important than you think! New research suggests that interrupted sleep can affect the immune system’s ability to fight off early stage cancers. Tumors in mice that experienced poor quality and intermittent sleep grew faster and invaded surrounding tissues more aggressively than tumors in control mice.
But don’t worry- it’s not all bad news. Although the results of this study weren’t exactly encouraging for the 70 million Americans suffering from sleep problems, researchers were able to identify specific cells in the immune system that drive tumor growth- and this could ultimately help a lot of people.
This is a case where animal studies were really important. Tumor growth can be affected by many different factors, so in controlled research environments, extra precautions can be taken to make sure that only specific variables are introduced. And in this situation, when the only variable in the study was sleep, the results of the study are especially relevant.
Could treatments for cancer patients have a higher success rate if the patients are well-rested? Are patients suffering from insomnia due to chronic pain at a higher risk for developing cancer? Can sleeping with a TV or radio on disrupt your sleep enough to cause health problems? Until we know… try to catch some extra zzz’s tonight, it can’t hurt!