Researchers have been studying the biology for tumor cells for several decades. However, for many cancers a cure remains elusive. We cover some updates on cancer research in this article that are making news in the research community.
Results of the AURORA US study on MBC have been published.
The AURORA US Metastasis Project, along with the AURORA EU project is an ambitious project on the profiling of metastatic cancer and the tumor subtypes. The AURORA US results were recently published. The multidisciplinary team of researchers was supervised by Charles Perou (University of North Carolina). The team studied 55 women with metastatic breast cancer (51 primary cancers and 102 metastases) by a range of RNA and DNA sequencing methods. The study reveals expression subtype changes. Approximately 30% of samples coincided with DNA clonality shifts, especially involving HER2.
Furthermore, downregulation of estrogen receptor (ER)-mediated cell–cell adhesion genes through DNA methylation mechanisms was observed in the metastases. Not surprisingly, the researchers also observed changes in the tumor microenvironment among different tumor subtypes.
While HER2 is already implicated in metastatic breast cancer immunotherapy, the findings from this research open a path for treating metastatic breast cancer patients with novel combination therapies that target HER2 and other agents.
Sleep and metastasis: It’s a strange relationship
We’ve all read about the clichéd health benefits of sleep. There is also a documented relationship between sleep disorders and different cancers. However, recent research suggests that sleeping can speed up metastasis, especially in the case of breast cancer.
Research suggests that Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) – the cancer cells that break off a tumor and spread to other parts of the body – spread faster during sleep. The precise timings behind the CTC spread are unknown. Researchers assume that CTCs continue to break off a main tumor and spread continuously over time. It has been observed that mouse models of CTC movement bear a striking resemblance to the same in breast cancer patients. Mice are nocturnal animals that sleep during the day. But when their blood was tested for CTCs during the daytime, the results indicated an unusually high number of CTCs.
But what does this mean for cancer therapy? The team of scientists who had published the findings last year recommend clinicians to optimize cancer diagnostics and therapies by taking into consideration the time at which biopsies are taken, or when medications are given. They’re also interested in similar reports for other cancer types.
Identifying metastatic prostate cancer genes
Efforts have been underway to identify gene expression patterns of prostate cancer. A team of researchers from University of California at Riverside and Guangzhou Medical University have attempted to identify genes that functionally account for the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer.
The team transfected immunocompromised Nu/Nu mice with DU145 cells containing lentivirus packaged with the genome-wide knock-out library. They then collected tissues from the lung various intervals after the inoculation to analyze lung metastasis caused by prostate cancer cell lines. Their experiment was controlled against a control cell line.
Analyzing the enriched sgRNA sequence data revealed that the abundance of sgRNAs significantly changed in the primary tumor and micro-metastasis site. The team identified fifteen genes linked to the sgRNAs, showing that knocking out effects on any of these genes could increase the potential of invasion and metastasis of experimental cells.
The teams research, published in the Bentham journal Current Cancer Drug Targets is yet another example of the combination of CRISPR-Cas9 knock-out screening technology with highthroughput sequencing analysis to identify genes linked to metastatic cancers.
For further reading, explore latest articles in some of the leading oncology journals from Bentham Science:
Gene Therapy for Epilepsy
Over the years, researchers have been trying to find ways to treat epilepsy, a disease characterized by seizures due to excitatory neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Current medications focus on either control extra excitation in brain neurons, or increasing inhibitory activity to prevent seizures. But these treatments are not a cure, and they have side effects on the rest of the central nervous system. With gene therapy, a viral vector can be introduced into the brain to target the mechanisms which can reduce epilepsy symptoms. Scientists at the university of Lund co-founded the CombiGene venture to commercially implement gene therapy technology for this purpose. Their initial strategy revolved around overexpressing the NPY protein (heavily expressed in epilepsy patients as a natural response) through the introduction of the relevant gene along with the gene for the inhibitory receptor (Y2) in mouse models. This NPY–Y2 combination therapy, also called CG01, works on other rodent models and has also been replicated in human brain cells taken from epilepsy patients. While several challenges remain amidst the different research avenues through which gene therapy can be used to treat epilepsy, researchers are optimistic about starting human clinical trials in some years.
Also read our Oncology Article Collection.
New books on cancer research from Bentham Science: