Friday, July 04, 2008

Cancer Carnival #11

Welcome to the latest edition of the Cancer Carnival: Your monthly carnival of news cancer care, treatment and latest research. Thanks to Ben for the logo design.

First we start with a "blogging on peer review" post over at OMICS OMICS! In it, Dr. Robinson looks at a recent paper in nature which suggest a common target in multiple myeloma: IRF4. IRF4 is a transcription factor which regulates amongst other things the powerful oncogene MYC and has been known to be translocated in some myelomas. The author notes:

"An interesting further bit of work targeted various identified IRF4 targets and showed these knockdowns to be lethal to myeloma cell lines. Hence it is suggested that IRF4 ablation in myeloma would lead to tumor cell death by many routes. Mice heterozygous for IRF4 deletion are viable, suggesting that IRF4 could be targeted safely."

While this is an exiting new finding in the field, Dr Robinson astutely points out that transcription factors are generally poor therapeutic targets...

Our next story comes from Cancer and Your Genes and examines how genomics can predict prostate cancer survival. As tools become more readily available and cheaper, the dream of personalised medicine is to use personal gene profile and compare it against large epidemiological databases to extract useful information for treatment. The paper discussed by Dr. Mealiffe appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and paves the way by looking at 600 father-son pairs afflicted with prostate cancer:

"they were able to show that sons of fathers with shorter survival from prostate cancer tended to survive for a shorter period as well. Likewise, sons of fathers who survived for a longer period of time after the diagnosis tended to survive for a longer period of time as well."

Next we learn about neurofibromatosis, a type of famillial cancer which affects nervous tissues, often in young patients. Highlight in Health discusses some of the mutations underlying the disease in the NF1 and NF2 tumour suppressors and other topics covered at a recent conference in Florida.

"The conference was attended by over 200 researchers from around the world This year’s theme — Genes to Complications to Treatments — highlighted the progress being made in NF research and clinical care, as well as the research programs of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Last year’s NF Conference focused on models, mechanisms and therapeutic targets. "

A great blog post on peer-reviewed research over at Hematopoiesis explains what systemic instigation is, and what are the roles of hematopoietic stem cells, and osteopontin in this process:

"To summarize - some tumors can do kind of magic (on systemic level, - through release some factors into the blood) with bone marrow, progenitor populations in particular; this magic is called “instigation”; functionally perturbed bone marrow cells leave their niches and are mobilized into stroma of tumor-responder, that causes its growth and metastases."

Rob also wants to plug his paper which has to do with engineering viruses to kill cancer cells or something like that. Congratulations Rob, I guess we should develop an icon for blogging on self-reviewed research :

"Oncolytic viruses are replicating viruses that replicate in tumour cells while sparing normal cells. Preclinical and early clinical data demonstrates great promise for this class of cancer therapeutic. A recent paper has demonstrated that vesicular stomatitis virus can be targeted to tumour cells that show low expression of the microRNA let-7. Low let-7 expression is associated with many cancers, possibly because it is involved in the inhibition of expression of a few oncogenes. A VSV designed to be inhibited by let-7 demonstrates attenuated replication in normal cells but not in low let-7 expressing cancer cells. The authors suggest that this has broad applications in the field and could be used in order to enhance the potency of some other oncolytic viruses."

Also I want to point out 3 interesting posts from ScienceBorgs, which were not submitted to the carnival but warrant your attention. Mike the Mad Biologist talks about how the HTLV-1 virus can protect against certain forms of cancer, Terra Sigillata discusses the funding environment for cancer research, and Pharyngula chymes in with a plea for more funding with a personal story.

Well our carnival wouldn't be complete without the quack submissions. In this case I wouldn't really call it quack because the authors are well meaning and talk about valid science but sometimes come up to the wrong conlusions. Danny talks about IP6, a nutritional suplement and about some of the preliminary work that suggests some activity in cancer. Dan was approached to carry an add about IP6 on his blog and decided to look further into it. A good skeptical blogger. The add stated that:

"A revolutionary dietary supplement that address many of the causes of the aging process and have been scientifically proven to support natural cell defence producing outstanding results in improving the health of patients with cancer and diabetes, lowering the risk of kidney stones and heart disease, and helping to ease many other health concerns."

While Dan finds some supporting evidence he agrees that the claims are largely exaggerated. He also correctly points out that you can't generalise from rodent models to humans. He however indicates that he would gladely take the stuff if he had cancer. Just a note of precaution, many of the these supposedly "natural" or "safe" supplement may be perfectly fine in healthy individuals but can interfere adversly with treatment. Always consult your physician and be warry of lofty claims about supplements.

More concerning is this post from Cheryl. It is so full of innacuracies, I don't know where to start. Again it starts with real science but then becomes distorted. Let me correct at least some of them.

1-It's true sugar or glucose does feed cancer cells, it also feeds all the other cells in your body. Your brain exclusively functions on that stuff. Limiting consumption is not an effective way to fight cancer per se, but it may be good for your health overall, as long as it's within reason. However you might want to read our previous posts about the Warburg effect to see exactly how difference in metabolism can be exploited therapeutically in a more effective way.

2-I'm not sure how you got the idea that milk produces mucus and that cancer cells eat mucus. Some studies have suggested weak links between cow milk and cancer rates, however it has nothing to do with mucus.

3-Tumours sometimes grow in an hypoxic and acidic environment (see warburg effect from above). However eating meat does not make you more acidic and create a good environment for cancer. Red meat by definition is exactly as acid as you are. Fruits and vegetables on the other hand can sometimes be very acidic, but no need to worry, They wont change the overall pH of your body.

4-Do not avoid coffee, tea and chocolate! They are full of cancer-fighting compounds, and they taste good. Just read up on flavonoids, anti-oxidants etc... Caffeine is not a significant epidemiological risk for the vast majority of cancers, and any association is generally extremely weak.

That concludes the 11th edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival. If you'd like to host in the future, send an email to bayblab[at] and submit posts to future editions here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention in your post!

-Matt Mealiffe, M.D.
Cancer and Your Genes

Kamel said...

Lots of good submissions as usual. Nice work.

outre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
outre said...

Just wanted to say calling Neurofibromatosis a familial cancer disorder is misleading. While NF(type 1) does significantly increase risk of MPNST and GIST, most people with NF never develop malignant tumors.

Anonymous Coward said...

Thanks for the clarification. This is probably true of most familial cancer syndromes. Germline mutations in tumour suppressors increase the odds of developing cancer, but it is by no means guaranteed. Even BRCA1, which is a particularly potent tumour suppressor, leaves 40% of (woman) carriers unaffected...

Anonymous said...


You have illegally posted a copyrighted figure in clear violation of section 1,245 of the World Court's Copyright Act. Remove the offending article from your website immediately. Failure to comply by 8:00 AM on Monday July 7, 2008 will result in initiation of proceedings by our legal staff against The Cancer Research Carnival, your website and all your pets. We will also direct The Government of Canada freeze your offshore assets.

Govern yourselves accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Early in my frantic search for something to counter what the Canadian Cancer Research Group (CCRG) was pitching to my daughter I came across this:
Notice that a follower of orthomolecular medicine took part.

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