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New drugs show promise for prostate cancer

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, February 22, 2007   
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   

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Scientists identify yeast protein   

BALTIMORE, -- U.S. scientists studying how yeast makes   
cholesterol have identified a protein whose human counter-   
part controls cholesterol production and metabolism. The   
collaborative study was conducted by investigators at   
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt   
University, Indiana University and the Eli Lilly Co. "Dap1   
controls the activity of a clinically important class of   
enzymes required for cholesterol synthesis and drug metab-   
olism," said Johns Hopkins Assistant Professor Peter   
Espenshade. "We're excited because, although we originally   
identified this protein in yeast, humans not only have the   
same protein, but it works the same way." The search for   
Dap1 began with the hunt for factors that influence the   
actions of a large family of enzymes called cytochrome   
P450. Those enzymes control many life-sustaining chemical   
reactions in humans and other animals. "Understanding the   
molecular underpinnings of so-called pharmacogenetic   
variation will have a big impact on the future of   
medicine," Espenshade said. The research appears in the   
February issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.   


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Chemo drug may hike tumor immunity   

NEW YORK, -- U.S. scientists have discovered a chemotherapy   
drug might enhance patients' immunity to tumors, helping   
them to more effectively fight the disease. Rockefeller   
University researchers have found that a chemotherapy drug   
called bortezomib can kill multiple myeloma cells -- cancer   
in immune cells in bone marrow -- in culture in such a way   
that it elicits a response by memory and killer T cells.   
Until recently it's been thought radiation therapy and   
various forms of chemotherapy were separate but equal   
treatments. Now, however, new research is beginning to   
show it's not just killing the cancer cells that matters   
-- it's also important as to how they are killed. A study   
by Associate Rockefeller University Professor Madhav   
Dhodapkar, postgraduate fellow Radek Spisek and col-   
leagues shows bortezomib kills tumor cells in such a way   
that it might allow the immune system to recognize them.   
The study is detailed online in the journal Blood.   

New drugs show promise for prostate cancer   

LOS ANGELES, -- U.S. oncologists say a new class of target-   
ed anti-cancer drugs shows promise in prolonging the lives   
of patients with recurrent prostate cancer. The research by   
scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles   
show a molecular targeted compound called pertuzumab blocks   
the human epidermal growth factor receptor family by bind-   
ing to and inhibiting the function of HER2 receptors,   
interrupting a key pathway that leads to cancer growth.   
"Advanced prostate cancer is difficult to treat and the   
drug therapies currently available to these patients have   
not been very effective, especially in patients whose   
disease has progressed after chemotherapy treatment," said   
Dr. David Agus, principal investigator of the study. Agus   
said the theory is that by significantly slowing pro-   
gression of the cancer, patients will experience a good   
quality of life for a longer period of time. "Ultimately,   
we hope drugs like pertuzumab will help us reach the point   
where cancer can be viewed as a lifetime disease to be   
managed much like AIDS is looked at now," he added. "This   
would be major shift from the current paradigm for cancer   
treatment, and is a promising area of research." The   
study appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.   

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Scientists find origin of ulcer bacteria   

CAMBRIDGE, England, -- A British-led team of international   
scientists has discovered the bacteria causing stomach   
ulcers has been present in humans for more than 60,000   
years. The finding, say the researchers, not only furthers   
the understanding of a disease causing bacteria but also   
offers a new way to study the migration and diversifica-   
tion of early humans. The scientists from the University   
of Cambridge, the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and the   
Hanover Medical School, compared DNA sequence patterns of   
humans and the Helicobacter pylori bacteria known to cause   
most stomach ulcers. They found the genetic differences   
between human populations that arose as they dispersed   
from Eastern Africa over thousands of years are mirrored   
in H. pylori. Human DNA analysis has shown that along the   
major land routes out of Africa human populations become   
genetically isolated -- the further from Eastern Africa a   
population is the more different genetically it is compar-   
ed to other human populations. Other research has shown   
gradual differences in European populations, presumed to   
be the result of Neolithic farmers moving northwards. The   
H. pylori research team found nearly the same genetic dis-   
tribution patterns in their results. The study appears   
in the journal Nature.   
Artificial cells may revolutionize therapy   

PITTSBURGH, -- U.S. medical researchers predict artificial-   
ly created cells might be a new therapeutic approach for   
treating diseases in an ever-changing world. Carnegie   
Mellon University's Philip LeDuc, an assistant professor   
of mechanical and biomedical engineering, posits the ef-   
ficacy of using man-made cells to treat diseases without   
injecting drugs. "Our proposal is to use naturally avail-   
able molecules to create pseudo-cell factories where we   
create a super artificial cell capable of targeting and   
treating whatever is ailing the body," said LeDuc. "The   
human cell is like a bustling metropolis, and we aim to   
tap the energy and diversity of the processes in a human   
cell to help the body essentially heal itself." LeDuc and   
his team want to use the cell's microscopic package of   
tightly organized parts to improve medical treatments. For   
example, he proposes using the processes in a cell, such   
as the membrane, to create an enclosed functioning environ-   
ment for a nanofactory. Then, by using other biologically   
inspired processes such as molecular-binding and transport,   
the pseudo-cell can target, modify and deliver chemicals   
that the body needs to function properly. The novel pro-   
posal appeared in the January edition of the journal   
Nature Nanotechnology.   


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 Lack of sleep can affect learning   

BOSTON, -- U.S. scientists have determined sleep depriva-   
tion impairs memory for subsequent experiences by alter-   
ing the function of the hippocampus. Sleep researchers   
have known sleep occurring after an experience can be   
critical to learning and memory but in the new study   
Matthew Walker and colleagues at Harvard University   
Medical School found sleep before an experience is also   
critical for the normal functioning of memory systems.   
The scientists deprived people of a night's sleep and   
then asked them to observe and remember a large set of   
picture slides for a subsequent recognition test. Follow-   
ing a full night's sleep, the subjects were queried about   
the slides. The researchers found sleep-deprived subjects   
showed decreased activity in the hippocampus -- a brain   
region important for memory -- relative to control sub-   
jects who were not sleep-deprived while viewing the pic-   
tures; sleep-deprived people also had poorer subsequent   
recall abilities. The relationship of activation in other   
brain areas to activation in the hippocampus was also   
altered, suggesting sleep deprivation alters memory-encod-   
ing strategies, the researchers reported. The study   
appears in the March issue of the journal Nature Neuro-   

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