Friday, March 05, 2010

Cancer Carnival #31

It's the first Friday of March, which means it's time for the latest cancer blogging round-up. Starting things off, the Mad Lab Rat offers up some research blogging describing a bacteria-derived molecule, Azurin, that can induce apoptosis and preferentially binds to cancer cells (in this case breast cancer).
Azurin was first discovered as the toxin that attacks cellular macrophages. It's produced by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa the 8821M strain of which was found to produce a high concentration of Azurin. When applied to both normal and cancerous cells (taken from a breast cell carcinoma) the Azurin preferentially entered the cancerous cells.
Mad Lab Rat also points out that the same molecule slows HIV-1 spread and inhibits malarial parasite growth.

From Highlight HEALTH, Diana Gitig blogs about research suggesting a link between cancer and Alzheimer's disease - or rather a reverse link.
The fact that Alzheimer’s disease has a reciprocal relationship with cancer whereas vascular dementia does not implies that it is neurodegeneration, and not cognitive impairment, that provides the protection from cancer. This idea is bolstered by findings that people with Parkinson’s disease, another age-associated neurodegenerative disorder, also have a decreased risk of most cancers. And it makes sense upon consideration of the natures of the two diseases. Cancer is a disorder of uncontrolled growth and/or a lack of timely cell death; Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, in contrast, are caused by vast swaths of inappropriate neuronal cell death. It stands to reason that genetic or environmental factors that promote one condition would suppress the other.
With Alzheimer's and cancer being two of the most feared age-related diseases, the posting points out, at least we don't need to fear them both at the same time and, more importantly, discovering links such as these helps understand the underlying mechanisms of both.

Once and future host Health and Life offers some thoughts on cancer medications.
The goal of future cancer treatments is to find the molecular pathways that are deregulated in cancers and target them alone. Think doing a targeted missile strike on a house instead of carpet bombing a city.

The limitations to targeted treatments include the sheer complexity of cancers. You can knock out one pathway that leads to cancer formation only to have the tumor adopt another approach. Cancer doesn’t form when just one thing goes wrong, rather it happens when many things go wrong at once.
In it, they discuss the challenges of some specific treatments - such as Tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors - as well as some broader strategies being used.

Here at the Bayblab, I try, somewhat unsuccessfully, to answer a question posed to me: does rolling cigars or cigarettes increase your cancer risk?

Finally, a student guest post at Aetiology looks at the role of HPVs in cancer development - skin cancer.
Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are small DNA viruses that infect epithelial cells. There are well over 100 subtypes of HPV. The subtypes that infect cutaneous epithelia are termed beta-HPVs and those that infect the mucosal epithelia are termed alpha-HPVs. Some alpha-HPVs have received attention as strong risk factors for the development of cervical cancer. Less public awareness has been generated over the role of HPVs in the development of other cancers such as vulvar, vaginal, anal, head and neck, and penile cancers. Only recent research has focused on an association between HPV infection and skin cancer development.
Health and Life had so much fun last time that they will be taking up hosting duties again next month, so start writing those cancer posts. And as always, we're constantly on the lookout for future hosts so leave a comment or send an email if interested!

That's it for this month's Cancer Research Blog Carnival. For older editions, visit the Carnival Homepage. Don't forget, the CRBC has subscription options; you can follow by email or RSS feed. An aggregated feed of credible, rotating health and medicine blog carnivals is also available. GrrlScientist is setting something similar up for a broader swath of science and nature blog carnivals ("Science, Medicine, Environment and Nature Blog Carnival Twitter Feed"). It's in its infancy, so you can find details and offer thoughts here or sign up for the feed here.


David said...

Some great posts this month! I am amazed that there could be an inverse relationship between cancer and Alzheimers disease.

It seems, though, that model would assume that the degenerative process associated with Alzheimers induces the body to in general be less conducive to cancer.

Which could be the case, now that I think a little about the models of Alzheimers that I've learned.

But fascinating stuff. An excellent month's posts.