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Publication: Health Tips Weekly
Study discovers how cancer cells spread

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, April 24, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   

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         Study discovers how cancer cells spread
MONTREAL,  -- Canadian scientists say they've discovered 
cancer cells spread by releasing protein "bubbles" -- 
a finding that might alter our concept of how cancer
works. The discovery was made by Dr. Janusz Rak and collea-
gues at the Research Institute of the McGill University 
Health Center in collaboration with Dr. Ab Guha of the Univ-
ersity of Toronto. The researchers found cancer cells are 
able to communicate with their more healthy counterparts by 
releasing vesicles -- bubble-like structures containing can-
cer-causing proteins that can trigger specific mechanisms 
when they merge into non- or less-malignant cells. Rak said 
the finding demonstrates that cancer is a multi-cell proc-
ess, where the cells "talk" to one another extensively. 
"This goes against the traditional view that a single 'mut-
ated' cell will simply multiply uncontrollably to the point 
of forming a tumor," said Rak. "This discovery opens excit-
ing new research avenues, but we also hope that it will lead
to positive outcomes for patients." The study appears in the
online edition of the journal Nature Cell Biology.

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        Study reveals why cancer cells like sugar

DURHAM, N.C., -- U.S. medical researchers say they've disco-
vered why cancer cells like sugar so much -- a finding than 
might lead to better cancer treatments. Duke University 
School of Medicine Assistant Professor Jeffrey Rathmell and 
graduate student Jonathan Coloff found that tumor cells use
glucose as a way to avoid programmed cell death. The cancer 
cells make use of a protein called Akt that promotes glucose
metabolism. That, in turn, regulates a family of proteins 
critical for cell survival, the researchers said. In normal 
cells, growth factors regulate metabolism and cell survival,
they said. Removing those factors leads to loss of glucose 
uptake and metabolism, causing cell death. But they found 
cancer cells maintain glucose metabolism by utilizing Akt to
maintain glucose usage, thereby resisting cell death even 
when deprived of growth factors. The findings were presented
Tuesday in San Diego during the annual meeting of the Amer-
ican Association of Cancer Research.

        Childhood leukemia drug resistance studied

MEMPHIS, -- A U.S. study has revealed the basis of childhood
leukemia resistance to the anti-cancer drug methotrexate.
Scientists at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital say 
their findings provide new insights into the genomic basis 
of methotrexate resistance and differences in methotrexate 
response. The researchers said their study -- the first ana-
lysis of the genetic determinants of resistance to methotr-
exate in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL -- 
could offer a pathway to predicting such resistance and 
treatments to overcome it. Besides its use in ALL, metho-
trexate is widely used to treat other cancers and some auto-
immune diseases. However, until the new study there was no 
valid test for analyzing the genetic basis of resistance. 
Although 80 percent of children with the disease can be 
cured, determining the basis of drug resistance in the other
20 percent would help increase the cure rate. The research-
ers, led by Dr. William Evans, report their findings in the 
journal PLoS Medicine.         

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         Patients get heart valve without surgery
CHICAGO,-- U.S. cardiologists say they've developed a trans-
catheter heart valve replacement procedure for congenital 
heart disease that eliminates open-chest surgery. The inter-
ventional cardiologists from the Rush University Medical 
Center in Chicago -- one of three sites participating in the
study of minimally invasive pulmonic valve replacement -- 
said they successfully implanted the first three patients 
enrolled in the trial last Thursday. "We were able to suc-
cessfully implant the Edwards SAPIEN transcatheter heart 
valve percutaneously in the first three patients treated in
this trial," said Dr. Ziyad Hijazi, director of the Rush 
Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Disease. "Patie-
nts with congenital right ventricular outflow tract problems
typically face the burden of multiple open-heart surgeries 
throughout their lives, either to replace their 'native' 
diseased valves or, as they age, their bioprosthetic repla-
cement valves." Hijazi, Dr. Clifford Kavinsky and Dr. Zahid
Amin used a bovine pericardial heart valve replacement in a
procedure accomplished without requiring cardiopulmonary by-
pass or an open-chest incision. The study of 30 patients at 
the three hospitals will enable the collection of safety and
effectiveness data, ultimately in support of a U.S. Food and
Drug Administration commercial approval application.

        Synthetic gene therapy material is created

PHILADELPHIA, -- U.S. cardiology researchers report creating
a versatile synthetic material that can bind to a variety of
gene therapy vectors. The Children's Hospital of Philadelph-
ia scientists said their delivery technology can be custom 
designed for controlled local release of therapeutic genes 
at a disease site. The researchers used their new synthetic
formulation to bind adenoviruses to bare metal stents placed
in the carotid arteries of research rats. Adenoviruses serv-
ed as a gene therapy vector to carry genes for an enzyme 
that significantly reduced restenosis -- the hazardous narr-
owing of a blood vessel that often occurs despite the pres-
ence of a stent designed to hold it open. The eventual goal
is to use the technique to treat human artery disease. "We 
developed a synthetic gene delivery system that can be used
for any gene therapy vector, not just adenoviruses," said 
study leader Dr. Robert Levy. "Furthermore, this new formu-
lation allows us to increase the dosage of gene therapy vec-
tors delivered, and we can tune the materials for sustained 
release over a longer time period." The study is reported in
the online edition of the journal Circulation.
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        Potential cancer drug does well in study

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., -- A U.S. university study suggests the 
drug triphendiol causes tumor cell death in pancreatic and 
bile duct cancer, as well as slowing tumor growth. The study
by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers led by 
Assistant Professor Ewan Tytler showed the drug also sensit-
izes tumors to chemotherapy treatments. Tytler and his col-
leagues assessed the potential of triphendiol as a treatment
for pancreatic adenocarcinoma using three representative 
cell lines. Triphendiol induced cell death in all three cell
lines and pretreating the cell lines with triphendiol inc-
reased the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Animal model stud-
ies showed triphendiol in combination with chemotherapy in-
hibited tumor growth even more effectively than each drug 
alone. "In our laboratory studies, triphendiol is more pot-
ent at inducing cell death in pancreatic and bile duct can-
cer cells compared to the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine 
alone at up to 10-fold lower concentrations," Tytler said. 
"Of course, there is still much work to be done before this 
could become a treatment protocol for cancer patients, but 
our findings are promising and validate the continued deve-
lopment of triphendiol as a possible pancreatic cancer ther-
apy." Triphendiol is being developed by Marshall Edwards 
Inc., which funded Tytler's research. The study that inc-
luded Dr. Xiaohong Wang and Professor J. Anthony Thompson 
was presented last week in San Diego, during the annual 
meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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