Tag: cancer

Drug Jelly May Replace Insulin Injections for Diabetics

By Breanna Draxler | January 28, 2013 5:19 pm

Blood sugar testing. Image courtesy of Ververidis Vasilis / shutterstock

As a sugar-rich foodstuff, jelly is not often seen as a good thing for diabetics. But a new gel-based method for administering drugs could cut back on injections for diabetics and virtually eliminate their blood sugar highs and lows. Scientists have come up with a new gelatinous drug form that releases a slow but regular dose of an insulin-regulating hormone. In mice, it kept glucose levels down for five straight days—120 times longer than the hormone alone. And the method could be used to deliver drugs to treat cancer and other diseases as well.

Peptide drugs are an up-and-coming method used to treat a number of diseases. There are currently 40 peptide drugs on the market, and 650 more are being clinically tested, so the pharmaceutical industry is investing a lot in the future of these treatments. One peptide drug, used to treat diabetes, relies on weekly injections of tiny plastic capsules filled with the peptide that causes insulin to be released slowly over the course of the week. This means far fewer injections than diabetics’ typical insulin regimen, but the injections are painful due to the large needles required to fit the capsules. Side effects like nausea are common. Plus the production is complicated because the drug and its capsule must be synthesized separately and then combined.

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Quadruple Helix Detected in Human DNA

By Breanna Draxler | January 21, 2013 3:05 pm

The quadruple helix structure is shown at the left. Fluorescent markers on the right show where the helix appears on an individual chromosome (top) and in cells (bottom).

What does DNA look like? According to the biology textbooks of the last half century, it consists of a twisting ladder of base pairs: A with T and C with G. But a new study in Nature presents evidence that some human DNA may actually have four strands instead of two, and researchers say the quadruple helix may be linked to cancer.

The now-ubiquitous double-helix structure was first published in the journal Nature in 1953 by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick from the University of Cambridge. Nearly 60 years later, scientists from the same institution have published a paper in the same journal, but their results suggest that there may be more to the structure of DNA than their predecessors thought.

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MORE ABOUT: cancer, DNA

“Chemo Brain”: Another Side Effect of Chemotherapy

By Lisa Raffensperger | December 28, 2012 11:00 am

Among the many unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy treatment, researchers have just confirmed another: chemo brain. The term refers to the mental fog that chemotherapy patients report feeling during and after treatment. According to Jame Abraham, a professor at West Virginia University, about a quarter of patients undergoing chemotherapy have trouble focusing, processing numbers, and using short-term memory.

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MORE ABOUT: cancer, chemotherapy, memory

Genetically Engineered T-Cells Rescue Another Leukemia Patient

By Breanna Draxler | December 10, 2012 3:41 pm

Leukemia cells.

A cancer-treating technique being studied at the University of Pennsylvania has had dramatic results for some of the patients involved. Thanks to an experimental leukemia treatment the team first tried last year, 7-year-old Emma Whitehead is now in remission, the scientists have reported at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology this week. She is one of a dozen patients that have undergone the treatment; a third of those patients are now cancer-free.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

The Secret of the Blind Mole Rat’s Cancer Resistance Revealed

By Breanna Draxler | November 8, 2012 9:44 am

blind mole rat
Engraved illustration of Nehring’s blind mole rat, Spalax typhlus
Pall.

Naked mole rats are well-known wunderkind around here—numerous studies have revealed that the weird subterranean critters don’t feel pain from acid, are massively long-lived for rodents, and don’t seem to get cancer. But an evolutionarily distant relative, the blind mole rat, also has a few tricks up its, er, sleeves: It shares the naked mole rats’ resistance to cancer, but through a completely different mechanism. Now a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps explain what’s protecting them.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World

Watch This: 5 Men Knowingly, Intentionally Stand Directly Under a Nuclear Explosion

By Sophie Bushwick | July 19, 2012 2:24 pm

On this date in 1957, five Air Force volunteers and one photographer stood next to a sign labeled “Ground Zero. Population: 5” and watched a two-kiloton nuclear bomb explode 18,500 feet over their heads. (The height listed at the beginning of the video is incorrect.) Before the dangers of radiation exposure were fully understood, the government undertook many such tests to determine the effects of atomic weapons. This particular trial was an attempt to prove that exploding nuclear missiles in the atmosphere could be relatively safe. While the men in this video were not greatly affected by the blast—at least three, including the cameraman, lived past age 80—many other people exposed to fallout from nuclear tests developed cancer. Check out the full story behind the video at NPR.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology

Amazing Shrinking Nanoparticles Could Sneak Into Tumors & Kill Them

By Sophie Bushwick | June 22, 2012 11:42 am

shrinking nanoparticle
In the presence of ultraviolet light, the nanoparticle
shrinks from 150 to 40 nanometers.

As anyone who has played with a powerful laser or just suffered a bad sunburn can attest, light has an impressive power to physically change objects. And now we know that light can make nanoparticles expand and contract like miniature Hoberman Spheres. MIT and Harvard researchers engineered nanoparticles that shrink to less than a third of their original size when exposed to ultraviolet rays; in the darkness or under visible light, they open back up to their more stable, larger size.

Nanoparticles have been touted as an effective way to deliver cancer-killing drugs straight to tumors without harming healthy cells in the process. But the structure of a tumor can block all but the smallest particles—those less than 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter)—from penetrating to the cancer’s heart. To deliver drugs to the entire tumor, the researchers suggest that the particles could be deployed while UV light keeps them in their smaller form, about 40 nanometers. Then, when the UV light is switched off, the particles will open to their full 150-nanometer size and release the drugs.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology

16% of Cancers Are Caused by Viruses or Bacteria

By Veronique Greenwood | May 9, 2012 3:03 pm

cancers
Where viruses and bacteria cause cancer

Strictly speaking, cancer is not contagious. But a fair number of cancers are clearly caused by viral or bacterial infections: lymphomas can be triggered by the Epstein-Barr virus, which also causes mononucleosis. Liver cancers can be caused by Hepatitis B and C. Cervical cancers can be caused by human papillomavirus, the major reason behind the development of a vaccine against it.  For some of these cancers, nearly 100% of the cases have an infectious link—when researchers check to see if a virus or bacterium is working in the tumor or has left signs of its presence in a patient’s blood, the answer is nearly always yes.

A new paper in The Lancet takes a look at the very best data on the prevalence of infection-caused cancers and comes up with some striking numbers. Overall, they estimate that 16% of cancer cases worldwide in 2008 had an infectious cause—2 million out of 12.7 million.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

Nanoparticles Give Cancer Drugs Better Aim

By Veronique Greenwood | April 5, 2012 3:49 pm

drug
The nanoparticle. ACUPA is a protein that helps the particle attach to cancer
cells; the red and blue pieces are polymers that make up the particle’s shell.

One of the persistent problems in cancer treatments is that try as we might, it’s hard to get drugs to attack just tumors: they nearly always attack patients’ healthy cells too. Finding ways to get drugs to kill tumors, and tumors alone, is a major area of research, and a recent trial in Science Translational Medicine indicates that one promising strategy, encasing the drug in a tiny particle that dissolves when it reaches a tumor, works better than just using the drug alone.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

"Death Star" of Medical Technology: Proton-Beam Therapy Shows "All the Problems" in US Healthcare

By Sarah Zhang | March 27, 2012 12:20 pm

spacing is important

Proton-beam therapy is massively expensive—$100+ million facilities, each treatment twice as much as radiation—and not proven to be any safer or more effective than other cancer treatments. So why are U.S. hospitals racing to build new proton-beam facilities?

Financial incentives, and the wrong ones, according to a skeptical piece at Bloomberg. To house the 200-ton cyclotron that accelerates protons to 93,000 miles per second, the facilities have to be as big as football fields, with 16-feet-thick concrete walls. Hospitals can afford to build them because proton-beam therapy is “extremely favorably reimbursed” by Medicare and many private insurance companies, says Sean Tunis, CEO of the Center for Medical Technology Policy. To foot the construction bill, hospitals will have to push the treatment aggressively to cancer patients.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology
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