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Archive for the ‘Cancer Screening’ Category


Responses to the #COVID-19 outbreak from Oncologists, Cancer Societies and the NCI: Important information for cancer patients

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

UPDATED 3/20/2020

Among the people who are identified at risk of coronovirus 2019 infection and complications of the virus include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, who in general, can be immunosuppressed, especially while patients are undergoing their treatment.  This has created anxiety among many cancer patients as well as their care givers and prompted many oncologist professional groups, cancer societies, and cancer centers to formulate some sort of guidelines for both the cancer patients and the oncology professional with respect to limiting the risk of infection to coronavirus (COVID19). 

 

This information will be periodically updated and we are working to get a Live Twitter Feed to bring oncologist and cancer patient advocacy groups together so up to date information can be communicated rapidly.  Please see this page regularly for updates as new information is curated.

IN ADDITION, I will curate a listing of drugs with adverse events of immunosuppression for people who might wonder if the medications they are taking are raising their risk of infections.

Please also see @pharma_BI for updates as well.

Please also see our Coronavirus Portal at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

For ease of reading information for patients are BOLDED and in RED

ASCO’s Response to COVID-19

From the Cancer Letter: The following is a guest editorial by American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO. This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. A full list of our coverage, as well as the latest meeting cancellations, is available here.

 

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) presents unprecedented challenges to the cancer care delivery system.

Our patients are already dealing with a life-threatening illness and are particularly vulnerable to this viral infection, which can be even more deadly for them. Further, as restrictions in daily movement and social distancing take hold, vulnerable patients may be disconnected from friends, family or other support they need as they manage their cancer.

As providers, we rely on evidence and experience when treating patients but now we face uncertainty. There are limited data to guide us in the specific management of cancer patients confronting COVID-19 and, at present, we have no population-level guidance regarding acceptable or appropriate adjustments of treatment and practice operations that both ensure the best outcome for our patients and protect the safety of our colleagues and staff.

As normal life is dramatically changed, we are all feeling anxious about the extreme economic challenges we face, but these issues are perhaps even more difficult for our patients, many of whom are now facing interruption

As we confront this extraordinary situation, the health and safety of members, staff, and individuals with cancer—in fact, the entire cancer community—is ASCO’s highest priority.

ASCO has been actively monitoring and responding to the pandemic to ensure that accurate information is readily available to clinicians and their patients. Recognizing that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that limited oncology-specific, evidence-based information is available, we are committed to sharing what is known and acknowledging what is unknown so that the most informed decisions can be made.

To help guide oncology professionals as they deal with the impact of coronavirus on both their patients and staff, ASCO has collated questions from its members, posted responses at asco.org and assembled a compendium of additional resources we hope will be helpful as the virus spreads and the disease unfolds. We continue to receive additional questions regarding clinical care and we are updating our FAQs on a regular basis.

We hope this information is helpful even when it merely confirms that there are no certain answers to many questions. Our answers are based on the best available information we identify in the literature, guidance from public health authorities, and input received from oncology and infectious disease experts.

For patients, we have posted a blog by Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham, chair of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee. This can be found on Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website, and it provides practical guidance to help patients reduce their risk of exposure, better understand COVID-19 symptoms, and locate additional information.

This blog is available both in English and Spanish. Additional blog posts addressing patient questions will be posted as new questions are received and new information becomes available.

Find below a Tweet from Dr.Markham which includes links to her article on COVID-19 for cancer patients

https://twitter.com/DrMarkham/status/1237797251038220289?s=20

NCCN’s Response to COVID-19 and COVID-19 Resources

JNCCN: How to Manage Cancer Care during COVID-19 Pandemic

Experts from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA)—a Member Institution of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®)—are sharing insights and advice on how to continue providing optimal cancer care during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. SCCA includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The peer-reviewed article sharing best practices is available for free online-ahead-of-print via open access at JNCCN.org.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources for the Cancer Care Community

NCCN recognizes the rapidly changing medical information relating to COVID-19 in the oncology ecosystem, but understands that a forum for sharing best practices and specific institutional responses may be helpful to others.  Therefore, we are expeditiously providing documents and recommendations developed by NCCN Member Institutions or Guideline Panels as resources for oncology care providers. These resources have not been developed or reviewed by the standard NCCN processes, and are provided for information purposes only. We will post more resources as they become available so check back for additional updates.

Documents

Links

National Cancer Institute Response to COVID-19

More information at https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus

What people with cancer should know: https://www.cancer.gov/coronavirus

Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov

Get the latest research information from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus

 

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know

ON THIS PAGE

Both the resources at cancer.gov (NCI) as well as the resources from ASCO are updated as new information is evaluated and more guidelines are formulated by members of the oncologist and cancer care community and are excellent resources for those living with cancer, and also those who either care for cancer patients or their family and relatives.

Related Resources for Patients (please click on links)

 

 

 

Some resources and information for cancer patients from Twitter

Twitter feeds which may be useful sources of discussion and for cancer patients include:

 

@OncLive OncLive.com includes healthcare information for patients and includes videos and newsletters

 

 

@DrMarkham Dr. Markham is Chief of Heme-Onc & gyn med onc @UF | AD Med Affairs @UFHealthCancer and has collected very good information for patients concerning #Covid19 

 

 

@DrMaurieMarkman Dr. Maurie Markman is President of Medicine and Science (Cancer Centers of America, Philadelphia) @CancerCenter #TreatThePerson #Oncology #Genomics #PrecisionMedicine and hosts a great online live Tweet feed discussing current topics in cancer treatment and care for patients called #TreatThePerson Chat

UPDATED 3/20/2020 INFORMATION FROM NCI DESIGNATED CANCER CENTERS FOR PATIENTS/PROVIDERS

The following is a listing with links of NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and some select designated Cancer Centers* which have information on infectious risk guidance for cancer patients as well as their physicians and caregivers.   There are 51 NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers and as more cancer centers formulate guidance this list will be updated. 

 

Cancer Center State Link to COVID19 guidance
City of Hope CA Advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers
Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA CA Cancer and COVID19
UCSF Hellen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CA COVID-19 Links for Patients and Providers
Lee Moffit FL Protecting against Coronavirus 19
University of Kansas Cancer Center* KS COVID19 Info for patients
Barbara & Karmanos Cancer Institute (Wayne State) MI COVID19 Resources
Rogel Cancer Center (Univ of Michigan) MI COVID19 Patient Specific Guidelines
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center (MO) Coronavirus
Fred & Pamela Buffet CC* NE Resources for Patients and Providers
Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ NJ What patients should know about COVID19
Memorial Sloan Kettering NY What COVID19 means for cancer patients
Herbert Irving CC (Columbia University) NY Coronavirus Resource Center
MD Anderson Cancer  TX Planning for Patients, Providers
Hunstman Cancer Center UT COVID19 What you need to know
Fred Hutchinson WA COVID19 What patients need to know

 

 

Please also see related information on Coronavirus 2019 and Cancer and Immunotherapy at the following links on the Open Access Online Journal:

Volume Two: Cancer Therapies: Metabolic, Genomics, Interventional, Immunotherapy and Nanotechnology in Therapy Delivery 

at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/biomed-e-books/series-c-e-books-on-cancer-oncology/volume-two-immunotherapy-in-cancer-radiation-oncology/

AND

Coronavirus Portal

 

 

 

 

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Google AI improves accuracy of reading mammograms, study finds

Google AI improves accuracy of reading mammograms, study finds

Google CFO Ruth Porat has blogged about twice battling breast cancer.

Artificial intelligence was often more accurate than radiologists in detecting breast cancer from mammograms in a study conducted by researchers using Google AI technology.

The study, published in the journal Nature, used mammograms from approximately 90,000 women in which the outcomes were known to train technology from Alphabet Inc’s DeepMind AI unit, now part of Google Health, Yahoo news reported.

The AI system was then used to analyze images from 28,000 other women and often diagnosed early cancers more accurately than the radiologists who originally interpreted the mammograms.

In another test, AI outperformed six radiologists in reading 500 mammograms. However, while the AI system found cancers the humans missed, it also failed to find cancers flagged by all six radiologists, reports The New York Times.

The researchers said the study “paves the way” for further clinical trials.

Writing in NatureEtta D. Pisano, chief research officer at the American College of Radiology and professor in residence at Harvard Medical School, noted, “The real world is more complicated and potentially more diverse than the type of controlled research environment reported in this study.”

Ruth Porat, senior vice president and chief financial officer Alphabet, Inc., wrote in a company blog titled “Breast cancer and tech…a reason for optimism” in October about twice battling the disease herself, and the importance of her company’s application of AI to healthcare innovations.

She said that focus had already led to the development of a deep learning algorithm to help pathologists assess tissue associated with metastatic breast cancer.

“By pinpointing the location of the cancer more accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, care providers might be able to deliver better treatment for more patients,” she wrote.

Google also has created algorithms that help medical professionals diagnose lung cancer, and eye disease in people with diabetes, per the Times.

Porat acknowledged that Google’s research showed the best results occur when medical professionals and technology work together.

Any insights provided by AI must be “paired with human intelligence and placed in the hands of skilled researchers, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others,” she said.

Anne Stych is a staff writer for Bizwomen.
Industries:

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An Intelligent DNA Nanorobot to Fight Cancer by Targeting HER2 Expression

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

HER2 is an important prognostic biomarker for 20–30% of breast cancers, which is the most common cancer in women. Overexpression of the HER2 receptor stimulates breast cells to proliferate and differentiate uncontrollably, thereby enhancing the malignancy of breast cancer and resulting in a poor prognosis for affected individuals. Current therapies to suppress the overexpression of HER2 in breast cancer mainly involve treatment with HER2-specific monoclonal antibodies. However, these monoclonal anti-HER2 antibodies have severe side effects in clinical trials, such as diarrhea, abnormal liver function, and drug resistance. Removing HER2 from the plasma membrane or inhibiting the gene expression of HER2 is a promising alternative that could limit the malignancy of HER2-positive cancer cells.

 

DNA origami is an emerging field of DNA-based nanotechnology and intelligent DNA nanorobots show great promise in working as a drug delivery system in healthcare. Different DNA-based nanorobots have been developed as affordable and facile therapeutic drugs. In particular, many studies reported that a tetrahedral framework nucleic acid (tFNA) could serve as a promising DNA nanocarrier for many antitumor drugs, owing to its high biocompatibility and biosecurity. For example, tFNA was reported to effectively deliver paclitaxel or doxorubicin to cancer cells for reversing drug resistance, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have been modified into tFNA for targeted drug delivery. Moreover, the production and storage of tFNA are not complicated, and they can be quickly degraded in lysosomes by cells. Since both free HApt and tFNA can be diverted into lysosomes, so,  combining the HApt and tFNA as a novel DNA nanorobot (namely, HApt-tFNA) can be an effective strategy to improve its delivery and therapeutic efficacy in treating HER2-positive breast cancer.

 

Researchers reported that a DNA framework-based intelligent DNA nanorobot for selective lysosomal degradation of tumor-specific proteins on cancer cells. An anti-HER2 aptamer (HApt) was site-specifically anchored on a tetrahedral framework nucleic acid (tFNA). This DNA nanorobot (HApt-tFNA) could target HER2-positive breast cancer cells and specifically induce the lysosomal degradation of the membrane protein HER2. An injection of the DNA nanorobot into a mouse model revealed that the presence of tFNA enhanced the stability and prolonged the blood circulation time of HApt, and HApt-tFNA could therefore drive HER2 into lysosomal degradation with a higher efficiency. The formation of the HER2-HApt-tFNA complexes resulted in the HER2-mediated endocytosis and digestion in lysosomes, which effectively reduced the amount of HER2 on the cell surfaces. An increased HER2 digestion through HApt-tFNA further induced cell apoptosis and arrested cell growth. Hence, this novel DNA nanorobot sheds new light on targeted protein degradation for precision breast cancer therapy.

 

It was previously reported that tFNA was degraded by lysosomes and could enhance cell autophagy. Results indicated that free Cy5-HApt and Cy5-HApt-tFNA could enter the lysosomes; thus, tFNA can be regarded as an efficient nanocarrier to transmit HApt into the target organelle. The DNA nanorobot composed of HApt and tFNA showed a higher stability and a more effective performance than free HApt against HER2-positive breast cancer cells. The PI3K/AKT pathway was inhibited when membrane-bound HER2 decreased in SK-BR-3 cells under the action of HApt-tFNA. The research findings suggest that tFNA can enhance the anticancer effects of HApt on SK-BR-3 cells; while HApt-tFNA can bind to HER2 specifically, the compounded HER2-HApt-tFNA complexes can then be transferred and degraded in lysosomes. After these processes, the accumulation of HER2 in the plasma membrane would decrease, which could also influence the downstream PI3K/AKT signaling pathway that is associated with cell growth and death.

 

However, some limitations need to be noted when interpreting the findings: (i) the cytotoxicity of the nanorobot on HER2-positive cancer cells was weak, and the anticancer effects between conventional monoclonal antibodies and HApt-tFNA was not compared; (ii) the differences in delivery efficiency between tFNA and other nanocarriers need to be confirmed; and (iii) the confirmation of anticancer effects of HApt-tFNA on tumors within animals remains challenging. Despite these limitations, the present study provided novel evidence of the biological effects of tFNA when combined with HApt. Although the stability and the anticancer effects of HApt-tFNA may require further improvement before clinical application, this study initiates a promising step toward the development of nanomedicines with novel and intelligent DNA nanorobots for tumor treatment.

 

References:

 

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b01320

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27939064

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11694782

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27082923

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25365825

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26840503

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29802035

 

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Single-cell RNA-seq helps in finding intra-tumoral heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Pancreatic cancer is a significant cause of cancer mortality; therefore, the development of early diagnostic strategies and effective treatment is essential. Improvements in imaging technology, as well as use of biomarkers are changing the way that pancreas cancer is diagnosed and staged. Although progress in treatment for pancreas cancer has been incremental, development of combination therapies involving both chemotherapeutic and biologic agents is ongoing.

 

Cancer is an evolutionary disease, containing the hallmarks of an asexually reproducing unicellular organism subject to evolutionary paradigms. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a particularly robust example of this phenomenon. Genomic features indicate that pancreatic cancer cells are selected for fitness advantages when encountering the geographic and resource-depleted constraints of the microenvironment. Phenotypic adaptations to these pressures help disseminated cells to survive in secondary sites, a major clinical problem for patients with this disease.

 

The immune system varies in cell types, states, and locations. The complex networks, interactions, and responses of immune cells produce diverse cellular ecosystems composed of multiple cell types, accompanied by genetic diversity in antigen receptors. Within this ecosystem, innate and adaptive immune cells maintain and protect tissue function, integrity, and homeostasis upon changes in functional demands and diverse insults. Characterizing this inherent complexity requires studies at single-cell resolution. Recent advances such as massively parallel single-cell RNA sequencing and sophisticated computational methods are catalyzing a revolution in our understanding of immunology.

 

PDAC is the most common type of pancreatic cancer featured with high intra-tumoral heterogeneity and poor prognosis. In the present study to comprehensively delineate the PDAC intra-tumoral heterogeneity and the underlying mechanism for PDAC progression, single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) was employed to acquire the transcriptomic atlas of 57,530 individual pancreatic cells from primary PDAC tumors and control pancreases. The diverse malignant and stromal cell types, including two ductal subtypes with abnormal and malignant gene expression profiles respectively, were identified in PDAC.

 

The researchers found that the heterogenous malignant subtype was composed of several subpopulations with differential proliferative and migratory potentials. Cell trajectory analysis revealed that components of multiple tumor-related pathways and transcription factors (TFs) were differentially expressed along PDAC progression. Furthermore, it was found a subset of ductal cells with unique proliferative features were associated with an inactivation state in tumor-infiltrating T cells, providing novel markers for the prediction of antitumor immune response. Together, the findings provided a valuable resource for deciphering the intra-tumoral heterogeneity in PDAC and uncover a connection between tumor intrinsic transcriptional state and T cell activation, suggesting potential biomarkers for anticancer treatment such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

 

References:

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31273297

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21491194

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27444064

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28983043

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24976721

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27693023

 

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That is the question…

Anyone who follows healthcare news, as I do , cannot help being impressed with the number of scientific and non-scientific items that mention the applicability of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (‘MRI’) to medical procedures.

A very important aspect that is worthwhile noting is that the promise MRI bears to improve patients’ screening – pre-clinical diagnosis, better treatment choice, treatment guidance and outcome follow-up – is based on new techniques that enables MRI-based tissue characterisation.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging device that relies on the well-known physical phenomena named “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance”. It so happens that, due to its short relaxation time, the 1H isotope (spin ½ nucleus) has a very distinctive response to changes in the surrounding magnetic field. This serves MRI imaging of the human body well as, basically, we are 90% water. The MRI device makes use of strong magnetic fields changing at radio frequency to produce cross-sectional images of organs and internal structures in the body. Because the signal detected by an MRI machine varies depending on the water content and local magnetic properties of a particular area of the body, different tissues or substances can be distinguished from one another in the scan’s resulting image.

The main advantages of MRI in comparison to X-ray-based devices such as CT scanners and mammography systems are that the energy it uses is non-ionizing and it can differentiate soft tissues very well based on differences in their water content.

In the last decade, the basic imaging capabilities of MRI have been augmented for the purpose of cancer patient management, by using magnetically active materials (called contrast agents) and adding functional measurements such as tissue temperature to show internal structures or abnormalities more clearly.

 

In order to increase the specificity and sensitivity of MRI imaging in cancer detection, various imaging strategies have been developed. The most discussed in MRI related literature are:

  • T2 weighted imaging: The measured response of the 1H isotope in a resolution cell of a T2-weighted image is related to the extent of random tumbling and the rotational motion of the water molecules within that resolution cell. The faster the rotation of the water molecule, the higher the measured value of the T2 weighted response in that resolution cell. For example, prostate cancer is characterized by a low T2 response relative to the values typical to normal prostatic tissue [5].

T2 MRI pelvis with Endo Rectal Coil ( DATA of Dr. Lance Mynders, MAYO Clinic)

  • Dynamic Contrast Enhanced (DCE) MRI involves a series of rapid MRI scans in the presence of a contrast agent. In the case of scanning the prostate, the most commonly used material is gadolinium [4].

Axial MRI  Lava DCE with Endo Rectal ( DATA of Dr. Lance Mynders, MAYO Clinic)

  • Diffusion weighted (DW) imaging: Provides an image intensity that is related to the microscopic motion of water molecules [5].

DW image of the left parietal glioblastoma multiforme (WHO grade IV) in a 59-year-old woman, Al-Okaili R N et al. Radiographics 2006;26:S173-S189

  • Multifunctional MRI: MRI image overlaid with combined information from T2-weighted scans, dynamic contrast-enhancement (DCE), and diffusion weighting (DW) [5].

Source AJR: http://www.ajronline.org/content/196/6/W715/F3

  • Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) MRI: Assessing tissue oxygenation. Tumors are characterized by a higher density of micro blood vessels. The images that are acquired follow changes in the concentration of paramagnetic deoxyhaemoglobin [5].

In the last couple of years, medical opinion leaders are offering to use MRI to solve almost every weakness of the cancer patients’ pathway. Such proposals are not always supported by any evidence of feasibility. For example, a couple of weeks ago, the British Medical Journal published a study [1] concluding that women carrying a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes who have undergone a mammogram or chest x-ray before the age of 30 are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who carry the gene mutation but who have not been exposed to mammography. What is published over the internet and media to patients and lay medical practitioners is: “The results of this study support the use of non-ionising radiation imaging techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging) as the main tool for surveillance in young women with BRCA1/2 mutations.”.

Why is ultrasound not mentioned as a potential “non-ionising radiation imaging technique”?

Another illustration is the following advert:

An MRI scan takes between 30 to 45 minutes to perform (not including the time of waiting for the interpretation by the radiologist). It requires the support of around 4 well-trained team members. It costs between $400 and $3500 (depending on the scan).

The important question, therefore, is: Are there, in the USA, enough MRI  systems to meet the demand of 40 million scans a year addressing women with radiographically dense  breasts? Toda there are approximately 10,000 MRI systems in the USA. Only a small percentage (~2%) of the examinations are related to breast cancer. A

A rough calculation reveals that around 10000 additional MRI centers would need to be financed and operated to meet that demand alone.

References

  1. Exposure to diagnostic radiation and risk of breast cancer among carriers of BRCA1/2 mutations: retrospective cohort study (GENE-RAD-RISK), BMJ 2012; 345 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e5660 (Published 6 September 2012), Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5660 – http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e5660
  1. http://www.auntminnieeurope.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=wom&pag=dis&itemId=607075
  1. Ahmed HU, Kirkham A, Arya M, Illing R, Freeman A, Allen C, Emberton M. Is it time to consider a role for MRI before prostate biopsy? Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2009;6(4):197-206.
  1. Puech P, Potiron E, Lemaitre L, Leroy X, Haber GP, Crouzet S, Kamoi K, Villers A. Dynamic contrast-enhanced-magnetic resonance imaging evaluation of intraprostatic prostate cancer: correlation with radical prostatectomy specimens. Urology. 2009;74(5):1094-9.
  1. Advanced MR Imaging Techniques in the Diagnosis of Intraaxial Brain Tumors in Adults, Al-Okaili R N et al. Radiographics 2006;26:S173-S189 ,

http://radiographics.rsna.org/content/26/suppl_1/S173.full

  1. Ahmed HU. The Index Lesion and the Origin of Prostate Cancer. N Engl J Med. 2009 Oct; 361(17): 1704-6

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Gender of a person can affect the kinds of cancer-causing mutations they develop, according to a genomic analysis spanning nearly 2,000 tumours and 28 types of cancer. The results show striking differences in the cancer-causing mutations found in people who are biologically male versus those who are biologically female — not only in the number of mutations lurking in their tumours, but also in the kinds of mutations found there.

 

Liver tumours from women were more likely to carry mutations caused by a faulty system of DNA mending called mismatch repair, for instance. And men with any type of cancer were more likely to exhibit DNA changes thought to be linked to a process that the body uses to repair DNA with two broken strands. These biases could point researchers to key biological differences in how tumours develop and evolve across sexes.

 

The data add to a growing realization that sex is important in cancer, and not only because of lifestyle differences. Lung and liver cancer, for example, are more common in men than in women — even after researchers control for disparities in smoking or alcohol consumption. The source of that bias, however, has remained unclear.

In 2014, the US National Institutes of Health began encouraging researchers to consider sex differences in preclinical research by, for example, including female animals and cell lines from women in their studies. And some studies have since found sex-linked biases in the frequency of mutations in protein-coding genes in certain cancer types, including some brain cancers and advanced melanoma.

 

But the present study is the most comprehensive study of sex differences in tumour genomes so far. It looks at mutations not only in genes that code for proteins, but also in the vast expanses of DNA that have other functions, such as controlling when genes are turned on or off. The study also compares male and female genomes across many different cancers, which can allow researchers to pick up on additional patterns of DNA mutations, in part by increasing the sample sizes.

 

Researchers analysed full genome sequences gathered by the International Cancer Genome Consortium. They looked at differences in the frequency of 174 mutations known to drive cancer, and found that some of these mutations occurred more frequently in men than in women, and vice versa. When they looked more broadly at the loss or duplication of DNA segments in the genome, they found 4,285 sex-biased genes spread across 15 chromosomes.

 

There were also differences found when some mutations seemed to arise during tumour development, suggesting that some cancers follow different evolutionary paths in men and women. Researchers also looked at particular patterns of DNA changes. Such patterns can, in some cases, reflect the source of the mutation. Tobacco smoke, for example, leaves behind a particular signature in the DNA.

 

Taken together, the results highlight the importance of accounting for sex, not only in clinical trials but also in preclinical studies. This could eventually allow researchers to pin down the sources of many of the differences found in this study. Liver cancer is roughly three times as common in men as in women in some populations, and its incidence is increasing in some countries. A better understanding of its aetiology may turn out to be really important for prevention strategies and treatments.

 

References:

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00562-7?utm_source=Nature+Briefing

 

https://www.nature.com/news/policy-nih-to-balance-sex-in-cell-and-animal-studies-1.15195

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26296643

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/507939v1

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25985759

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Protein kinase C (PKC) isozymes function as tumor suppressors in increasing contexts. These enzymes are crucial for a number of cellular activities, including cell survival, proliferation and migration — functions that must be carefully controlled if cells get out of control and form a tumor. In contrast to oncogenic kinases, whose function is acutely regulated by transient phosphorylation, PKC is constitutively phosphorylated following biosynthesis to yield a stable, autoinhibited enzyme that is reversibly activated by second messengers. Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that another enzyme, called PHLPP1, acts as a “proofreader” to keep careful tabs on PKC.

 

The researchers discovered that in pancreatic cancer high PHLPP1 levels lead to low PKC levels, which is associated with poor patient survival. They reported that the phosphatase PHLPP1 opposes PKC phosphorylation during maturation, leading to the degradation of aberrantly active species that do not become autoinhibited. They discovered that any time an over-active PKC is inadvertently produced, the PHLPP1 “proofreader” tags it for destruction. That means the amount of PHLPP1 in patient’s cells determines his amount of PKC and it turns out those enzyme levels are especially important in pancreatic cancer.

 

This team of researchers reversed a 30-year paradigm when they reported evidence that PKC actually suppresses, rather than promotes, tumors. For decades before this revelation, many researchers had attempted to develop drugs that inhibit PKC as a means to treat cancer. Their study implied that anti-cancer drugs would actually need to do the opposite — boost PKC activity. This study sets the stage for clinicians to one day use a pancreatic cancer patient’s PHLPP1/PKC levels as a predictor for prognosis, and for researchers to develop new therapeutic drugs that inhibit PHLPP1 and boost PKC as a means to treat the disease.

 

The ratio — high PHLPP1/low PKC — correlated with poor prognoses: no pancreatic patient with low PKC in the database survived longer than five-and-a-half years. On the flip side, 50 percent of the patients with low PHLPP1/high PKC survived longer than that. While still in the earliest stages, the researchers hope that this information might one day aid pancreatic diagnostics and treatment. The researchers are next planning to screen chemical compounds to find those that inhibit PHLPP1 and restore PKC levels in low-PKC-pancreatic cancer cells in the lab. These might form the basis of a new therapeutic drug for pancreatic cancer.

 

References:

 

https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2019-03-20-two-enzymes-linked-to-pancreatic-cancer-survival.aspx?elqTrackId=b6864b278958402787f61dd7b7624666

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30904392

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29513138

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18511290

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28476658

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28283201

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24231509

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28112438

 

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