April 23, 2010
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Iron Man 2: Actually, this is about IRP2 – Iron Regulatory Protein 2. Ok, not quite as exciting as the superhero movie but it is interesting/unexpected that overexpression of IRP2 promotes cancer cell growth. In contrast, the very similar IRP1 protein suppresses tumour growth. The difference seems to lie within a 73 amino acid sequence in IRP2 that is required for its growth promoting properties. It is a long stretch to try to make any link between iron intake and cancer based on this preliminary study but it does warrant further research to understand the roles of IRP1 and IRP2. Dr. Kostas Pantopoulos (McGill University) published his study in PLoS One.
Not All Herpes are the Same: There are many different strains of herpes viruses, each with slightly different properties and responses to drugs. Human herpesvirus 6A and 6B (HHV-6A, HHV-6B) variants are prime examples of this. Classic anti-viral drugs based on type 1 Interferon (IFN) are effective against HHV-6A infected cells but not cells infected with HHV-6B. Dr. Louis Flamand’s group at Université Laval’s Centre de Recherche en Rhumatologie et Immunologie (CRRI) worked out some of the molecular details explaining this difference. They mapped a 41 amino acid region in the IE1 protein that is present only in the HHV-6B strain, which acts to block any further genetic responses to the IFN drugs. These small differences between herpes strains make it difficult to effectively treat infected patients but research such as this one are very important to identify how to better target each specific strain. The study is reported in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Hippos are Your (Kidney’s) Friend: Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a common genetic disease affecting an estimated 12.5 million people worldwide and is the forth leading cause of kidney failure. Researchers are unraveling the key molecular players involved in PKD. In this study, Dr. Liliana Attisano’s team (University of Toronto) took a closer look at the Hippo pathway and identified a new function for the transcriptional activator, TAZ. TAZ modulates the beta-Catenin/Wnt signalling pathway, which is important in development and morphogenetic events. Mouse knockouts that do not express TAZ develop polycystic kidneys and demonstrate the role that these pathways play in kidney disease. This study is reported in the latest edition of Developmental Cell.
Ovarian Cancer Cells Avoid Death: Researchers studying ovarian cancer determined the mechanism by which ovarian cancer cells thrive. The sequence goes like this: ovarian cancer ascites triggers an adhesion protein called alphavbeta5 integrin; this activates FAK phosphorylation and correlates with Akt activation; the Akt pathway inhibits the molecular events leading to cell death or apoptosis. Thus, ovarian ascites confers protection against cell death. This study reveals some possible key target points for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Dr. Alain Piche at the Université de Sherbrooke describes his work in the journal Oncogene.
June 21, 2009
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Take a Chance on Rats: Fiona Zeeb in Catharine Winstanley’s lab at UBC has created a rat experimental model for gambling that attracted some news coverage. Unlike previous rat gambling experiments, this model responds to human physiological moderators of gambling behaviour, like serotonergic and dopaminergic agents, suggesting that it will be a useful system for future investigations. Here’s the (free) full paper from this week’s Neuropsychopharmacology.
Thank You for the GWAS: A study led by Katherine Siminovich (cross-appointed (at least) at U of T, Mount Sinai and the Liver Center at Toronto Western Hospital) was published in The New England Journal of Medicine this week identifying 13 loci across the HLA class II region that were associated with primary biliary cirrhosis.
Does Your Mother Know (there’s no obvious link between fibrinolytic defects and the risk of ovarian cancer): A PLoS One paper authored by Yaakov Bentov in Robert Casper’s lab at the Lunenfeld dismantles one widely speculated etiology of ovarian cancer. The hypothesis — “that the inefficient removal of the blood clots and fibrin products which are deposited in the vicinity of the ovary by retrograde menstruation might be associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer” — was not disproven, but none of the functional variants in the fibrinolytic sytem examined by Bentov et al. showed any significant association with risk of ovarian cancer.
April 21, 2009
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A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting this week showed benefits to patients from using molecular profiling to customize chemotherapy regimens.
The pilot study, with Daniel Von Hoff, M.D. as the senior investigator, used immunohistochemistry and microarray profiling to select treatment regimens for 66 patients who had ovarian, colorectal, breast and other cancers. The data compared progression-free survival and tumor size after the patients moved to a new treatment regimen with the same patients’ progression before molecular profiling. Forty percent of patients in the trial survived at least 15 months compared to 20 percent of the control population.
A story in Forbes notes personalized cancer treatment data in a colon cancer study and two glioblastoma studies that were also presented at the AACR meeting.