The first story comes from our very own bayman. Bayman is the original founder of the bayblab blog, part philosopher part mad scientist he's done some great work on oncolytic viruses and is dreaming up methods to engineer smart cells to deliver virus payloads. In this post he tells us how synthetic biology may carve the way to create bacteria that essentially function as organic computers capable of discriminating between cancer and normal tissue: "The gate integrates two environmental inputs to produce a phenotypic output. As an example, they show how their circuit can be used to program bacteria to invade mammalian cells when the concentrations of two different extracellular chemicals fall within a certain range."
Our next story comes from Ramūnas Janavičius a clinical genetics doctor from Vilnius University in Lithuania. He maintains a blog about cancer genetics and is particularly interested in a personalized approach to treatment. In this post he tells us how a recent study in Lancet has shown that MRI scans are vastly superior at detecting ductal carcinoma in situ compared to standard mammograms: "What is a connection between MRI, DCIS and cancer genetics, you may wonder? It is now well established, that BRCA1-positive breast tissue has different histopathological appearance and course - its usually G3, estrogen negative and expressing basal-like phenotype. Recently published studies from Canada, Italy, Germany (btw, by the same author), the Netherlands and UK (MARIBS study) all similarly showed, that MRI outperforms mammography in BRCA1 breast cancers and annual MRI is now included as addition to mammography for TP53, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers screening programs, performed from 30 till 49 years in UK and other countries. Cost effectiveness of MRI is also proven." Check also his post about a novel biomarker for prostate cancer...
Next we have Ruth from the Biotech Weblog. Ruth originally from the Philippines studied paddy soil microbiology at the international rice research institute. She is now a freelance writer based in Singapore. In her post she talks about how some green tea components may be protective against cancer: "epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) equivalent to 8-16 cups of green tea, might help some people strengthen their metabolic defense against toxins capable of causing cancer by boosting the production of enzymes which belong to the glutathione S-transferase (GST) family."
Next we have Ben, who is a medical/PhD student in Chicago studying lung cancer and lately RNAi. He is mostly famous for having been mentioned on the bayblab podcast. In this post he tells us how Phillip Morris had troves of unpublished data about side effects of smoking. Also does a good job of explaining how second hand smoking is worse than toking, which had always been a mystery to me: "While the group that published this article had previously shown that secondhand smoke is fourfold more toxic than mainstream smoke (that is, the smoke to which a smoker is exposed), the primary findings of the present paper indicate that NNK formation increases rapidly in the local surroundings over a period of several hours after a cigarette is put out. That is, secondhand smoke clearly is harmful, and it becomes worse, and potentially more carcinogenic, even after that which is generating it is eliminated. This suggests that the dangers of smoking extend far beyond the localized duration of a single lit cigarette and the time it takes to smoke it—specifically, up to 11 hours’ worth of danger, according to Philip Morris themselves, over 20 years ago"
Next we have Joe, from the Joe Oncology blog. Joe is the leader of two cancer centers in the southeast United States. Joe shares with us the difficulties of running clinical trials, with all the agency red tape and patient recruitment nightmares: "Another problem we have is recruiting enough patients to go on trial. Patients like the idea of clinical trials but they don't like the idea of possibly receiving a placebo. I wouldn't either. Thus many opt for traditional treatment until there are no other options. Many by then don't have the will, the energy, or the qualifications to go on a clinical trial."
Next we have Konstantinos Vougas, a molecular biologist from Greece who specializes in proteomics and maintains the life sciences blog. In his post he wonders what will happen with overpopulation if a cancer sure is found, and whether pharmaceutical companies are going to share it with the less fortunates: "If you were the CEO of a pharmaceutical industry giant and your R&D team came up to you one day and said “We have the perfect anti-cancer vaccine and we can get rid of cancer once and for all”, would you give this vaccine to the public? In other words would you give up on a $75 billion/year market in the US only?"
Finally we have Lim from Singapore who maintains the wacky Fresh Brainz blog. Lim is a frequent commenter on the bayblab and quite a joker. He tells us how early diagnosis can cut mortality rates: "Current work is focused on DNA-based therapeutics. Prof. Hartwell gave an example of how this is helpful: in esophageal cancer, which used to have a very poor prognosis. This is because by the time clinical symptoms appear, the patient has already entered the late stage of the cancer. Now, the outlook for patients has improved because of the availability of new screening techniques. Samples are taken from people who suffer from Barrett's esophagus and examined for DNA changes, allowing a much earlier diagnosis of cancer. "
Well that concludes our first ever blog carnival on cancer research, I hope you've enjoyed these links. I want to thank all the bloggers who submitted posts, and hope we can do this again sometime!