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cancer

Scientists Turn Brazilian Tree Bark Into Promising Treatment for Leukaemia

in Enviroment/Health 184 views

Compounds from a Brazilian tree bark can now be used to treat acute myeloid leukaemia after a new technique that delivers it straight into the cancer cell.

The disease has a survival rate of around 20% after five years, and there is a high occurrence of relapse.

Caused by an abnormal increase in the number a type of immature blood cells, it is an aggressive cancer and the most common form of acute leukaemia in adults.

Scientists identified a compound from the bark of the lapacho tree called β-lapachone which controls the increase in the number of cells involved with cancer, however it was toxic to other cells as well.

“It’s important to find new therapeutic strategies for acute myeloid leukemia,” Professor Gonçalo Bernardes, a reader in Chemical Biology and a Royal Society University Research Fellow and a Fellow of Trinity Hall College, Cambridge said. “There are a lot of natural compounds with medicinal value that can’t be used as therapies at the moment due to toxicity and negative effects in healthy cells.

“In our work, we used these natural compounds and modified them in a way that controls their negative effects and allows us to take advantage of their therapeutic value.”

The team modified the compound to shield the body from its negative effects until it is delivered to the heart of the cancer cell.

“The compound that we explored in this study, called β-lapachone, is a promising drug to treat leukaemia, but its reactive properties could have undesirable effects,” Prof Bernardes who is also group leader at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) and co-leader of the study added.

“In this work, we combined two strategies to minimise the negative effects of the compound.

“On one side, we added a chemical group to this compound that protects from its reactive properties. It acts like a mask that covers the toxicity of the drug.

“This mask is released in a more acidic environment, that corresponds to the interior of cells.

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Light Therapy is Harnessed to Target and Kill Cancer Cells in World First

in Health 468 views

An innovative light-activated therapy could help detect and treat an aggressive brain cancer type, a new study shows.The ‘photoimmunotherapy’ combines a special fluorescent dye with a cancer-targeting compound, which together boosts the body’s immune response.

In studies in mice, the combination was shown to improve the visibility of cancer cells during surgery and, when activated by near-infrared light, to trigger an anti-tumor effect.

The treatment, studied by an international team of researchers from the The Institute of Cancer Research and the Medical University of Silesia could ultimately help surgeons to remove brain cancers like glioblastoma more effectively, and boost the body’s response to cancer cells that remain after surgery.

Lighting-up brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, also known as GBM, is one of the most common and aggressive types of brain cancer. New ways to improve surgery could help patients live for longer.

Surgeons often use a technique called Fluorescence Guided Surgery to treat diseases like glioblastoma and other brain cancers, which uses dyes to help identify the tumor mass to be removed during surgery.

But due to these tumors growing in sensitive areas of the brain like the motor cortex, which is involved in the planning and control of voluntary movements, glioblastoma surgery can leave behind residual tumor cells that can be very hard to treat—and which mean the disease can come back more aggressively later.

The new research builds on Fluorescence Guided Surgery using a novel technique called photoimmunotherapy (PIT).

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Handheld Device Painlessly Identifies Skin Cancer

in Health 274 views

Skin biopsies are no fun: doctors carve away small lumps of tissue for laboratory testing, leaving patients with painful wounds that can take weeks to heal. That’s a price worth paying if it enables early cancer treatment. However, in recent years, aggressive diagnostic efforts have seen the number of biopsies grow around four times faster than the number of cancers detected, with about 30 benign lesions now biopsied for every case of skin cancer that’s found.

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology are now developing a low-cost handheld device that could cut the rate of unnecessary biopsies in half and give dermatologists and other frontline physicians easy access to laboratory-grade cancer diagnostics. “We aren’t trying to get rid of biopsies,” said Negar Tavassolian, director of the Bio-Electromagnetics Laboratory at Stevens. “But we do want to give doctors additional tools and help them to make better decisions.”

The team’s device uses milimeter-wave imaging—the same technology used in airport security scanners—to scan a patient’s skin. (In earlier work, Tavassolian and her team had to work with already biopsied skin for the device to detect if it was cancerous.)

Healthy tissue reflects milimeter-wave rays differently than cancerous tissue, so it’s theoretically possible to spot cancers by monitoring contrasts in the rays reflected back from the skin. To bring that approach into clinical practice, the researchers used algorithms to fuse signals captured by multiple different antennas into a single ultrahigh-bandwidth image, reducing noise and quickly capturing high-resolution images of even the tiniest mole or blemish.

Spearheaded by Amir Mirbeik Ph.D. ’18, the team used a tabletop version of their technology to examine 71 patients during real-world clinical visits, and found their methods could accurately distinguish benign and malignant lesions in just a few seconds. Using their device, Tavassolian and Mirbeik could identify cancerous tissue with 97% sensitivity and 98% specificity—a rate competitive with even the best hospital-grade diagnostic tools.

“There are other advanced imaging technologies that can detect skin cancers, but they’re big, expensive machines that aren’t available in the clinic,” said Tavassolian. “We’re creating a low-cost device that’s as small and as easy to use as a cellphone, so we can bring advanced diagnostics within reach for everyone.”

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Screening For Breast Cancer Might Soon Use Simple Blood Test Following Milk Discovery

in Health/People 357 views

Breast cancer screening could be done via a blood test in the future, following a major breakthrough.

Scientists say a simple blood test for women of all ages could one day be possible—making mammograms history—because a new set of protein biomarkers was identified by using human breast milk.

Study lead author Danielle Whitham, a doctoral candidate at Clarkson University in the state of New York, said, “Although mammograms are a useful tool for catching breast cancer early, they aren’t typically recommended for low-risk women under 40.”

“Because the biomarkers we found in breast milk are also detectable in blood serum, screening could potentially be done in women of any age using blood or breast milk.”

The newly identified biomarkers are for a specific type of cancer called invasive ductal carcinoma—one of the most common types of breast cancers.

However, the researchers say that their approach could be used to identify biomarkers for other types of breast cancer, too.

“If our future studies are successful, it could change how women are monitored for breast cancer and aid in earlier diagnosis,” adds Whitham.

“This could even lead to a higher survival rate in women.”

For the study, breast milk samples were obtained from three women diagnosed with breast cancer and three women without cancer.

The researchers compared the relative levels of certain proteins between the two groups to identify differences in the women with cancer.

Their analysis revealed 23 proteins that were dysregulated. All the proteins that showed differences were previously shown to play a role in cancer or tumor development.

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Magnesium May Prime the Immune System to Fight Cancer and Infections

in Food/Health 1,538 views

A simple mineral we all learned about in high school PE class could be the active ingredient in a new method of cancer treatment and prevention. In this way, magnesium has gone from being something to help us play sports longer to something that lets us play life longer.

That’s because magnesium acts like a bridge between killer T cells, a critical immune system weapon, and cancerous cells by binding to a protein on the T cell’s exterior called LFA-1, which allows them to then hone in on cancer cells which in turn have many ways to disguise themselves ordinarily.

Cell-surface binding and receptor proteins are areas of key interactions in studying physiological effects, and the COVID-19 pandemic taught many people how important these interactions, sometimes called docking, can be to our health.

The research came from a recent paper published in Cell, which found that killer T cells were only able to eliminate cancerous or infected cells in rats if their LFA-1 proteins had bound with free available magnesium.

In light of their discoveries, the research team from Switzerland looked at past studies of cancer immunotherapies and found that low-magnesium concentrations were strongly linked to a more rapid progression of disease. In addition, they found that influenza and other viruses spread faster in mice that were fed a magnesium deficient diet.

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