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A glimpse into the future IV – Cancer Research

uramchoe_collageSince May is recognized by the United States Congress as National Cancer Research Month, I’m dedicating this edition of “A glimpse into the future” to the men and women working tirelessly to address cancer prevention, diagnostics, treatment, and survivorship.  This post is also dedicated to my mom who is a cancer survivor and has been in remission for over eight years.  She is a woman of immense faith, courage, and inner strength and a great inspiration to me.

  1. Cancer rates have been predicted to grow dramatically over the next 20 years. The number of new cancer cases diagnosed annually in the United States will increase by 45 percent, from 1.6 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030, with a dramatic spike in incidence predicted in the elderly and minority populations.  The overall population is expected to grow by 19 percent during the same period (from 305 million to 365 million).  These statistics were presented by researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.  Regarding disease-specific findings, the leading cancer sites are expected to remain constant – breast, prostate, colon and lung. However, cancer sites with the greatest increase in incidence expected are: stomach (67 percent); liver (59 percent); myeloma (57 percent); pancreas (55 percent); and bladder (54 percent).  These findings also highlight that the cost of cancer care is growing at a rate that may not be sustainable and a dire need of new medical oncologists entering the health care system.
  2. The “longevity” protein takes on tumors. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Oncology have identified another anti-cancer effect of the “longevity” protein SIRT1. By speeding the destruction of the tumor promoter c-Myc, SIRT1 curbs cell division. The study was published in the Journal of Cell Biology. The yeast and nematode equivalents of SIRT1 are fountains of youth that stretch lifespan. Whether SIRT1 slows aging in mammals isn’t certain, but it’s beneficial in other ways. The protein tunes up metabolism, reducing blood levels of glucose and insulin, and might forestall neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and ALS.  Yuan et al. determined SIRT1’s effect on the transcription factor c-Myc, whose expression surges in many breast, colon, and liver cancers. The two proteins are tangled in a regulatory loop, the team found. c-Myc latched onto SIRT1’s promoter, spurring cells to manufacture more SIRT1. In turn, SIRT1 detached acetyl groups from c-Myc, hastening its breakdown.
  3. Brain tumor growth may be fought by reversing the effects of an altered enzyme. An international team of scientists from the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, the University of North Carolina and several institutions in China have explained how a gene alteration can lead to the development of certain types of brain tumors – low grade gliomas and secondary glioblastomas, and they have identified a compound – alpha-KG – that could staunch the cancer’s growth. The researchers have shown that when a mutated enzyme fails to do its job, the development of tumor-feeding blood vessels increases, allowing more nutrients and oxygen to fuel cancer growth. They have also shown in the laboratory that they could reverse the mutant enzyme’s effects, effectively blocking this process, called angiogenesis, and provide a potential future treatment strategy against some types of brain tumors. They reported their findings in the journal Science.
  4. The inhibitor of an insulin-like growth factor receptor may reduce the growth of pancreatic cancer. Researchers at Amgen are testing a fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits the activity of insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1 and IGF-2) and appears to reduce pancreatic cancer cells in early testing, according to a report in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, and less than 4 percent of the 200,000 patients diagnosed annually live more than five years. The only available clinical treatment is gemcitabine, but this has yet to show a survival benefit. It is known that insulin-like growth factors play a role in cancer development, particularly in mediating cell survival. According to Amgen, AMG 479, a fully human anti-IGF-1 monoclonal antibody, is the first drug that specifically targets the receptor for these growth factors without cross-reacting with the closely related insulin receptor.
  5. Some promise seen in treating previously drug-resistant prostate cancer. A new therapy for metastatic prostate cancer has shown considerable promise in early clinical trials involving patients whose disease has become resistant to current drugs.  According to research presented in Science Express, the drugs are second-generation antiandrogen therapies that prevent male hormones from stimulating growth of prostate cancer cells. The new compounds – manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Medivation and known as MDV3100 and RD162 – appear to work well even in prostate cells that have a heightened sensitivity to hormones. That heightened sensitivity makes prostate cancer cells resistant to existing antiandrogen therapies.  Of 30 men enrolled in a multisite phase I/II trial designed to evaluate safety, 22 showed a sustained decline in the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in their blood. Phase III clinical trials are planned to evaluate the drug’s effect on survival in a large group of patients with metastatic prostate cancer.

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