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
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:
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:
Cancer patients with their own mouse avatars? It sounds bizarre, but this is actually pretty incredible. Patients can have their own tumor cells grafted into nude mice to determine the best treatment for their particular cancer. For difficult cancer cases, this could give patients and doctors much-needed information.
These nude mice can grow human tumors in their bodies because they don’t have an immune system to reject the cancer cells. Researchers can then try several different treatments to determine the best course of action. For a human patient dealing with cancer that’s difficult to treat, doctors often need to take their best guess as to the most appropriate treatment. By using mouse avatars, the hope is that some of the guesswork is removed, and doctors can tailor their approaches based on results in personalized mouse studies.
This procedure is still experimental, and not without its challenges, but hopefully with time and promising results, mouse avatars will help more and more patients win their battles against cancer.
Not all cases of breast cancer are the same, and patients can require very different treatments depending of the type of tumors involved. Because different types of tumors contain different receptors, it’s important to tailor the treatments in order to be as effective as possible. Now, researchers have found that a virus could prove to be an effective treatment for patients with triple-negative breast cancer, which is extremely aggressive and difficult to treat.
Adeno-associated virus type 2, or AAV2, is a virus that doesn’t cause illness in humans. It does, however, kill cancer cells without affecting normal cells. In cell cultures, AAV2 wiped out 100% of the targeted cancer cells! As an added bonus, when cancer cells were infected with AAV2, more proteins that promoted healthy cell growth were produced!
In mice with tumors derived from human breast cancer cells, researchers saw amazing results after injecting AAV2- tumors shrank, the mice didn’t show any signs of illness, and they all survived through the study, unlike the untreated mice. This research could mean hope on the horizon for patients with triple-negative breast cancer! Read more about it here:
Researchers at Michigan State University have finally identified the genetic mutation that causes albinism in Doberman Pinschers. The same gene can also cause a form of albinism in humans. This gene mutation results in a missing protein that is necessary for cells to be pigmented. And unfortunately, both dogs and humans with albinism can experience sun sensitivity and are at a higher risk for skin tumors. But identifying the genetic culprit behind the condition is a big deal!
This gene can be carried without being expressed, which means that a dog that doesn’t exhibit albinism could pass the gene to its offspring. This research could help improve Doberman breeding programs by identifying the genes to select away from. Healthier dogs are good for everyone!
Humans and animals are more similar than you may think when it comes to genes, diseases, and illnesses. In this particular case, the genetic variance that causes albinism is similar in dogs and in humans. It’s possible that this knowledge could allow researchers to look at possible ways of preventing skin tumors in dogs with albinism, and then translate those results into treatments for humans!
If you’ve peed on a stick, you’re either a woman who has tried to determine your ovulation or pregnancy status, or a significant other who wanted to know what would happen if YOU peed on the stick. Either way, if you’ve done it, you know that it is NOT awesome. No matter how hard you try, it’s just about impossible to pee on that damn absorbent tip without peeing all over your hand. Seriously- NOT awesome.
But that’s about to change. Researchers have developed a test that could detect cancer- and it’s as easy as peeing on a stick. Tumor proteins are harder to detect than pregnancy hormones, so here’s how it works: a patient would get an injection of a biomarker that would interact with tumor cells. Cancer cells produce specific kinds of proteins that alter the biomarker, and that interaction is detected when the patient pees on a stick. The whole process takes about an hour.
If you don’t think that’s awesome, read the last paragraph again. This test has been successful in animal studies, and could be a useful diagnostic tool that doesn’t require expensive equipment or trained personnel to perform it.
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!
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that’s found in many of the products we use every day. It’s an endocrine disruptor, so it can interfere with the hormones in your body. It’s used to make many plastics and resins, and you’ll find it in food cans, water bottles, dental fillings, DVDs and CDs, cash register tape, and much more. Previous research has shown that BPA can- and does- leach into food products, but until now, there hasn’t been a direct link established between BPA and cancer. BPA has been linked to plenty of other health issues, though.
Now, new research from the University of Michigan shows a direct link between BPA exposure and liver cancer. Pregnant mice were fed a diet containing human-relevant amounts of BPA during their pregnancy and while they were nursing their pups. And the babies of these mice were much more likely to develop liver tumors than control mice- it seems that the developing pups weren’t able to rid their systems of the chemical as efficiently as adults.
What does this mean for you? Pay attention to food labels! Look for BPA-free products, limit the amount of food you eat from cans and plastic containers that contain BPA, and be especially careful when you’re pregnant and when you have children in the home. Diet and health fads may come and go, but as we learn more about BPA, the news only gets worse. Read about the study here: