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:
Now that summer’s here, have you noticed that the mosquitoes are out in full force? Did you know that mosquitoes cause more human suffering and disease than any other organism on the planet? Over 750,000 people a year die from mosquito-borne illnesses, and it’s not just humans that are affected! Mosquitoes spread dog heartworms, Eastern equine encephalitis, and many other diseases that affect our pets and local wildlife. But there might soon be a solution!
Researchers have figured out a way to genetically engineer mosquitoes that could dramatically reduce or eliminate some mosquito-borne illnesses. In these mosquitoes, when sperm is produced, the X chromosome that the male would normally pass on to its female young is destroyed, so 95% of the time they only have male offspring. Why does this matter? Well, male mosquitoes don’t bite- the females do. Females spread disease, and one female can lay up to 3,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime.
Hopefully, this type of pest control could eliminate many mosquito-borne illnesses. But could this type of gender control work in other species? Could this research have applications in the understanding and management of X-linked diseases? What do you think?
That’s the goal: “a single-shot cure for cancer.” For Stacy Erholtz, a 49-year-old cancer patient battling multiple myeloma, a heavy dose of the measles virus put her in complete remission!
Mayo Clinic researchers injected patients with an engineered measles virus that is similar to the measles vaccine. But this wasn’t your normal vaccine; the virus was engineered to make it toxic only to cancer cells, and Stacy was given enough to vaccinate 10 million people.
The measles virus makes cancer cells group together and explode. This gets rid of the cancer cells and triggers the immune system to react against them. For Stacy, it worked. One other patient in the trial experienced a reduction in bone marrow cancer and tumor growth, but cancer returned after 9 months.
While success in one patient doesn’t prove that researchers have found this single-shot cure, it’s definitely a proof of concept. The virus killed cancer cells while leaving other body cells unharmed, and while cancer patients have been treated with viruses in the past, this is the first time that a patient with full-body cancer has experienced remission after virotherapy.
When you have the flu, what’s one of the first things you do? If you’re like most people, you take something to reduce your fever. But new research suggests that this could be more harmful than you might think.
Your body’s temperature rises for a reason. When your body senses infection, your brain detects telltale chemical signals in your bloodstream and your body temperature rises. The theory is that your body is trying to fight off bacteria and viruses that are sensitive to temperature changes. Often, though, our first instinct is to get our body temperature back to normal, and we turn to ibuprofen or other fever-reducing drugs (antipyretics) for relief.
Research 40 years ago showed that patients taking antipyretics shed more virus particles than those who didn’t. But new influenza research in ferrets looks at the possible impact on the general population, and suggests that use of these drugs could lead to a 1-5% increase in cases of the flu.
While there’s definitely more work to be done, just keep in mind that your decision to medicate could affect the people around you, as well. What do you think? What do YOU do when you have a fever?
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.