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Study finds potential target for rare tissue cancer
Date: 2013-12-26 13:23:56

Research published in the online journal Cell Reports reveals that a team of scientists from the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center discovered a new method through lab tests to treat an incurable type of tissue cancer. The researchers found that removing a specific protein may completely eliminate the cancer.

Led by Lu Le, Ph.D., the team discovered that impeding the function of the protein BRD4 resulted in the death of cancer cells in an animal model of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, or MPNSTs. These growths are aggressive sarcomas that develop sporadically around the nerves. Half of MPNST cases occur in patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 3,500 people. Typically, surgical removal has been the preferred treatment method for MPNST despite its level of difficulty due to the location of the tumors near the nerves. While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are alternative options, their effectiveness is restricted.

Learning about NF1... Full Story

Researchers discover cause of aging that may be reversible
Date: 2013-12-24 15:42:54

Findings published in the December issue of Cell detail the astounding results from lab tests conducted to determine the cause of aging in mammals. Led by David Sinclair, Ph.D, the team was able to restore cell communication pathways that breakdown and essentially discovered a possible method of reversing the aging process.

"The aging process we discovered is like a married couple - when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down. And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem," explained Sinclair, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

Inside cells, mitochondria carry out essential functions for the body by generating chemical energy and communicating with the nucleus. As this cellular conversation breaks down, the process of aging begins to accelerate. This dysfunction of cells is what causes age-related medical conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. According to the team, scientists have always been hesitant to believe the effects of getting physically older could be reversed due to the theory that these diseases centered around aging are the result of irreversible mutations at the genetic level.

Working with SIRT1... Full Story

New method could make chemotherapy more effective against pancreatic cancer
Date: 2013-12-24 10:47:22

Researchers from the University of Manchester who conducted numerous lab tests have discovered a potential new method that makes chemotherapy treatments more effective against pancreatic cancer. An aggressive cancer with limited options for treatment, the scientists believe they have found a strategy that kills cancer cells without damaging healthy ones.

Led by Jason Bruce, M.D., from the Physiological Systems and Disease Research Group, the team discovered that cancer cells in the pancreas possibly have their own energy supply that maintains low levels of calcium and keeps the cancer alive. To examine their hypothesis, the researchers used cells from human tumors and blocked the two energy sources that operate within them.

Mitochondria and glycolysis are the two main sources of energy in cells, with the former generating about 90 percent of the cells' energy. However, there is a shift in the cells toward glycolysis as the main source when it comes to pancreatic cancer. In their tests, the team blocked the two sources and made an exciting discovery. The results, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, showed that when glycolysis was blocked, the calcium pump became inhibited, which caused a toxic overload of calcium and the death of cells.

"It looks like glycolysis is the key process in providing ATP fuel for the calcium pump in pancreatic cancer cells. Although an important strategy for cell survival, it may also be their major weakness. Designing drugs to cut off this supply to the calcium pumps might be an effective strategy for selectively killing cancer cells while sparing normal cells within the pancreas," explained Bruce.

The threat of pancreatic cancer... Full Story

New treatment for pancreatic cancer developed by UK researchers
Date: 2013-12-20 10:35:10

Following lab tests that used a drug that erodes the barrier surrounding cancer tumors, researchers have possibly discovered a new method for cancer treatment. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienes this procedure permits the human body's immune system to attack and destroy pancreatic cancer cells.

The team of scientists from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge developed a technique that allows cancer-attacking T cells to pass through the tumors' protective barriers and destroy the malicious cells. Initial tests of the treatment, combined with an antibody that blocks a second target, resulted in almost total elimination of cancer cells in only one week. The success of this method is not restricted solely to pancreatic cancer tumors, as it could potentially be used in other types of cancers.

Led by Douglas Fearon, Ph.D., the research team established that the barrier was created by a specific protein that materialized from a connective tissue cell called carcinoma-associated fibroblast, or CAF. The protein coated the cells and acted like a biological shield that drove away T cells. This effect was counteracted by the implementation of the drug, which prevented the T cells from interacting with the protein.

"We observed that T cells were absent from the part of the tumor containing the cancer cells that were coated with chemokine, and the principal source of the chemokine was the CAFs. Interestingly, depleting the CAFs from the pancreatic cancer had a similar effect of allowing immune control of the tumor growth," explained Fearon.

In the past, patients with pancreatic cancer have not responded positively to immunotherapy, even though it is an effective form of treatment for other solid tumors. Much like the animal form of pancreatic cancer that the researchers tested, the tumors in humans also create this barrier.

By administering the drug along with immunotherapy antibodies, the scientists enhanced the activation of the T cells. This resulted in the size of the tumor and the number of cancer cells decreasing immensely. Within one week, the remaining tumor was left with nothing but premalignant and inflammatory cells.

This new combination treatment of immunotherapy and the drug allows the patient's body to fight cancer with its own immune system. Potentially, it could greatly improve future treatment of solid tumors.

What is immunotherapy?... Full Story

DNA clamp could improve cancer screening methods
Date: 2013-12-19 16:20:13

Lab tests as part of an international research project have helped design a DNA clamp that detects genetic mutations with greater efficiency than ever before. These results could vastly improve quick screening of genetic diseases such as cancer and provide advances in the field of nanotechnology.

"The results of our study have considerable implications in the area of diagnostics and therapeutics because the DNA clamp can be adapted to provide a fluorescent signal in the presence of DNA sequences having mutations with high risk for certain types [of] cancer," explained Francesco Ricci, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

A growing number of mutations have been identified as risk factors for the development of serious diseases, including cancer. Previous groups have attempted to design an effective and inexpensive method to quickly detect these malicious mutations, but this DNA clamp is one of the first successful attempts. The clamp designed by Ricci's team distinguishes between both mutated and non-mutated strands of DNA with improved efficiency. This is especially significant because it allows for better specificity for determining what kinds of cancer patients have or are at risk of developing.

Working with a triple-helix... Full Story

Link found between blood cancer in women and airborne allergens
Date: 2013-12-17 11:47:49

A research team looking into the interaction between cancer and the immune system has discovered a link between blood cancer risk in women and a history of airborne allergies. The lack of an association with men suggested that a possible gender-specific function in chronic stimulation of the immune system might lead to the development of blood-related cancers.

Published in the American Journal of Hematology, the study showed the immune system's probable role in causing cancer and is a central point of scientific interest. Materials for the study were gathered from previous lab tests on voluntary participants.

To get their results, Mazyar Shadman, Ph.D., and his team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center drew on a large sample of men and women who were part of the VITamins and Lifestyle study, which examined the association between cancer risk and supplement use. The participants, aged 50 to 76 years old, answered a questionnaire that centered on three major factors: diet, health history and cancer risk factors, and medication and supplement use. They also provided personal information such as age, race/ethnicity, diet, medical history and family history of lymphoma.

Finding the link... Full Story

Drug cuts cases of breast cancer in half
Date: 2013-12-12 12:10:04

A study conducted by a team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London showed that breast cancer development in high-risk women decreased by 53 percent when taking the drug anastrozole. These findings could lead to a new option in cancer prevention for postmenopausal women.

Published in the Lancet, the study gathered nearly 4,000 female participants who were postmenopausal and had high risk of developing breast cancer. Half of the women were given a placebo pill, while the rest were given 1 milligram of anastrozole every day. Lab tests were conducted and reviewed for five years, and the researchers reported that 85 women in the placebo group developed breast cancer, compared to only 40 in the anastrozole group.

"This research is an exciting development in breast cancer prevention. We now know anastrozole should be the drug of choice when it comes to reducing the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with a family history or other risk factors for the disease. This class of drugs is more effective than previous drugs such as tamoxifen and crucially, it has fewer side effects," explained lead researcher Jack Cuzick, Ph.D.

Some side effects from estrogen-depriving drugs include sharp aches and pains, however, they found that the anastrozole group had similar reactions compared to the placebo group. This likely meant that the effects were not drug related and that worries in the past about the possible side effects were overemphasized.

"This landmark study shows that anastrozole could be valuable in helping to prevent breast cancer in women at higher than average risk of disease. We now need accurate tests that will predict which women will most benefit from anastrozole and those who will have the fewest side-effects," affirmed Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK.

The next step for these researchers will be to recommend that anastrozole be added to doctors' lists of drugs for breast cancer prevention.

"By including this drug in their clinical guidelines, more women will benefit from this important advancement in preventive medicine," concluded Cuzick.

Currently, the drug Arimidex is prescribed to patients for breast cancer prevention, as it inhibits estrogen in postmenopausal women. Following the results of this study, the usage of anastrozole as treatment could begin to rise.

Menopause and cancer risk... Full Story

Hope for treating childhood tumor found through gene sequencing
Date: 2013-12-10 14:59:45

A cancer that is most commonly found in the muscle and soft tissues of children may have a new treatment available after gene sequencing lab test results were released this month. The findings, published in the scientific journal Cancer Cell, bring fresh hope to those with the rare and fast-spreading tumor.

Members of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project found that by using drugs that intensify a process called oxidative stress, the cells of rhabdomyosarcoma died off. Additionally, the drugs could fortify the efficacy of chemotherapy against the tumors from the soft tissue cancer.

Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen and the body's ability to repair the damage. This study offers the first insight into the benefits of using drugs already on the market to treat cancer cells. Following gene sequencing of the rhabdomyosarcoma tumor, the team was also able to provide new clues as to why tumors come back even after treatment.

"Overall, survival for patients with recurrent rhabdomyosarcoma is just 17 percent, and until now nothing was known about how tumors evolve in response to therapy," said Michael Dyer, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study and a member of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology.

Using their results, the researchers plan to expand their biopsies to rhabdomyosarcoma tumors that recur in patients.

"Studies like the current one involving rhabdomyosarcoma are giving us a close-up look at the way cancer evolves in response to treatment," explained fellow study author Richard Wilson, Ph.D., director of The Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Based on the blood testing and drug screening of tumor samples from patients, this study could lead to new options in therapies and cancer treatments.

Facts on rhabdomyosarcoma... Full Story

Lab tests with magnetic fields cure cancer in mice
Date: 2013-12-06 15:31:54

Scientific researchers at Nanoprobes, Inc. have been working with magnetic nanoparticles in a quest to cure cancer. The study, published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine, is one of the biggest breakthroughs in cancer research to date.

Senior scientist James Hainfeld, Ph.D., and his team have been working on a cure for cancer through magnetic nanoparticles for almost six years. Originally, it was hypothesized that by injecting iron particles into a cancerous tumor, the abnormality would cook itself and be destroyed. It was dangerous, as toxic levels of iron were needed to overload the tumors and it was harmful to the rest of the body. Hainfeld set out to make a nontoxic form of the particles in order to solve the problem. Working with fellow researcher Hui Huang, they were able to put a biocompatible shell on the outside of the nanoparticle, rendering it capable of safely traveling through the body.

Newly formed blood vessels on tumors tend to leak anything of a certain size into the blood. Knowing this through lab tests, Hainfeld sized his nanoparticles to slip from the blood vessels and attack the tumors.

Through blood testing, they found that the tumors developed a concentration of iron 16 times higher than the surrounding healthy tissue. Their next step was placing the mice inside an alternating magnetic field, with the hope of overheating and subsequently liquefying the tumors. Watching through an infrared camera, they saw the newly injected tumors spike to lethal temperatures while the rest of the body remained unharmed.

After an injection of the magnetic nanoparticles and a three-minute stint in a magnetic field, 80 percent of the cancer-laden mice were completely cured.

Good news for combination therapy... Full Story

New method of measuring breast density could improve screening processes
Date: 2013-12-04 10:13:29

According to a study revealed at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, lab tests show that changes in the density of women's breasts as they age have strong ties to the risk of breast cancer. Utilizing a new method of measurement and a focus group comprised of breast cancer patients and healthy women, the report was able to determine that women without cancer experienced a steady decline in breast density as they aged compared to those with cancer.

"Women under age 50 are most at risk from density-associated breast cancer, and breast cancer in younger women is frequently of a more aggressive type, with larger tumors and a higher risk of reoccurrence," stated Nicholas Perry, M.B.B.S., senior author of the study and director at the London Breast Institute in England.

The American Cancer Society recommended that women should get an MRI in addition to a full mammogram if they are at risk of breast cancer, as mammograms sometimes do not detect cancer given the density of a patient's breast. Even then, MRIs are only suggested for those at high risk of developing cancer.

Perry and his collaborators worked with nearly 600 participants, split evenly between women with cases of breast cancer and healthy patients. The women went through full mammograms, while the breast density was measured using a new system designed by the team at LBI.

"In general, we refer to breast density as being determined by mammographic appearance, and that has, by and large, in the past been done by visual estimation by the radiologist - in other words, subjective and qualitative," Perry explained.

Using a new system of density measurement, the researchers employed an algorithm that made breast density more assessable than it has been in the past. The updated formula could prove to be extremely beneficial in later screenings for breast cancer.

The future of testing for cancer... Full Story

Dietary changes could reduce risk of breast cancer
Date: 2013-12-03 13:37:49

Following research conducted in lab tests at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, NC, new studies have found a link between high cholesterol and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The presence of a molecule that imitates estrogen activity could be traced to tumor development in breast cancer tissue.

"What we have now found is a molecule - not cholesterol itself, but an abundant metabolite of cholesterol - called 27HC that mimics the hormone estrogen and can independently drive the growth of breast cancer," stated Donald McDonnell, M.D., senior author of the report and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke.

The lab test, conducted using mice that exhibit similar reactions to humans, concluded that 27HC had immediate association with tumor growth and expansion to other organs in the body. However, the researchers discovered that the introduction of antiestrogen medications such as statins substantially diminished the effects of 27HC. Almost three-quarters of breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, and with the discovery of 27HC, McDonnell and his team have identified a mechanism that attributes high levels of cholesterol to the risks of breast cancer.

Additionally, the researchers deduced that the elevated levels of 27HC also combat the effects of antiestrogen remedies like tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.

"Human breast tumors, because they express this enzyme to make 27HC, are making an estrogen-like molecule that can promote the growth of the tumor. In essence, the tumors have developed a mechanism to use a different source of fuel," said McDonnell.

These results suggest that the simple method of cholesterol testing, and staying on a healthy diet could help prevent the risk of breast cancer.

Reducing breast cancer risk... Full Story

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