News Briefs

Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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Spicing Up Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Data from an in vitro study published in the Journal of Ovarian Research suggest that pretreating therapy-resistant ovarian cancer cells with curcumin makes them more responsive to chemotherapy and radiation. Curcumin is a component of the spice turmeric, commonly used in Indian curries. Investigators from the University of South Dakota used nanoparticles to deliver the curcumin to the cancer cells. Subsequently, the cells responded favorably to lower doses of treatment. Eating foods with curcumin is not likely to offer the same benefit, the researchers said. They hope to validate the results in preclinical animal studies and, pending positive findings, human clinical trials.






Photodynamic Therapy in Head and Neck Cancer

Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam found that patients with head and neck cancer who are no longer responding to treatment benefit from photodynamic therapy (PDT). In a study of patients who had run out of treatment options, PDT treatment produced response in 68% of patients. The investigators predicted they now had a 40% chance of 5-year progression-free survival. This confirms the results of a 2004 study. PDT typically involves administering photosensitizing medication, giving it 4 days to concentrate in tumor tissue, and then treating it with laser light. This destroys the cancerous cells. A newer version of PDT, called interstitial PDT (IPDT) is designed for larger tumors and also works on tumors growing deeper in the head and neck region. In IPDT, light conductors are inserted in the tumor and irradiate the tumor from within. The investigators are now examining the cost-benefit ratio of the treatment for this patient population.




Nuclear Power Fuels Cancer Study

The National Academy of Sciences will be launching a study to examine the incidence of cancer in people living close to any of the United States’ 65 nuclear facilities. This is the sequel to a 1990 study now considered flawed for its failure to include cancer survivors in its data. A spokesman for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the researchers plan to examine data closely for people in the vicinity of Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, the country’s only experience with a meltdown. For years, the NRC has relied on the earlier study to assert that patients living near nuclear power plants are not at increased risk for cancer.




Can Selenium Reset the Clock?

A team of researchers from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute in New Jersey exposed mammary cells to a single dose of a known carcinogen to disrupt the cells’ biological clock (ie, circadian rhythm). They then treated the cells with the element selenium, which appeared to reset the biological clock to normal. Selenium is commonly found in foods and is available as a dietary supplement. Interestingly, in the large SELECT trial, which investigated selenium and vitamin E in men at high-risk for prostate cancer, not only did selenium fail to prevent prostate cancer, but it was also associated with a higher rate of diabetes. More studies will be needed before anyone recommends people exposed to carcinogens begin taking selenium to prevent breast cancer. The New Jersey study was published online in Cancer Prevention Research.




PTEN Unraveled

An association between mutations in the PTEN gene and various types of cancer has long been known. People with inherited PTEN mutations that cause Cowden syndrome have a high risk of solid tumors, particularly in the breast, lung, and ovary. Now, researchers at the Ohio University Comprehensive Cancer Center- Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Institute say that specific PTEN mutations can be linked to distinct cancers in people with Cowden syndrome. The findings might also apply to individuals with cancers related to sporadic PTEN mutations. They developed three strains of mice, each with 1 of 3 PTEN mutations common in Cowden syndrome. Each mutation was found to affect the protein in different ways and was associated with varying levels of cancer risk, from high to almost none. Investigators correlated the findings with medical records from a database of Cowden syndrome patients and found patients and mice with the same PTEN mutation were likely to develop cancer in the same organs. Male and female mice also had a higher frequency of certain types of cancer in ratios equal to their human counterparts. Results appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.





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