A team of University of Toronto researchers has worked through the human genome, switching off genes in an effort to map out those essential in keeping our cells alive. The scientists were able to identify sets of genes associated with specific cancers, paving the way for highly targeted treatments.
Enlisting the body's naturally produced T cells to fight off cancer is an immunotherapy technique that has shown early promise in clinical trials. But one limitation is that these cells generally lack the firepower to do the job on their own, meaning they need to be modified and reintroduced to the bloodstream to have a real impact. Researchers may now have discovered a more efficient way forward, with the development of a T cell-loaded biogel that can be injected directly into the tumor for a more targeted, less laborious approach to immunotherapy.
In an effort to find an accurate and easy method of detecting and locating cancers, negating the need for invasive cell tissue sampling, researchers from Umeå University in Sweden have developed a new blood test that looks at blood platelets in just a single drop of blood to identify cancer. Results of the method are very promising, with a 96 percent identification accuracy.
The blood-brain barrier is an almost impenetrable membrane that surrounds vessels in the brain and stops harmful particles from entering. The trouble is that it doesn't discriminate, at the same time making it very difficult for beneficial molecules like medication to pass through. But researchers have now non-invasively breached the barrier for the first time in a human subject, delivering chemotherapy drugs to a brain cancer patient with a high level of precision and paving the way for improved treatments and fewer side effects for sufferers of neurological disorders.
Detecting cancer early is difficult enough at the best of times, but the problem is compounded in developing countries where patients don't always have access to advanced diagnostics equipment. A team of UK-based scientists has developed a new tool that could greatly assist those taking the fight to cancer in these regions. Billed as a lab-in-a-briefcase, the low-cost, portable diagnostics tool works similarly to a pregnancy test and can detect cancer biomarkers in as little as 15 minutes.
The apparent parallels between aggressive tumor development and the way a placenta grows inside a pregnant woman have intrigued cancer researchers for years. Evolving from only a small number of cells into several-pound organ in the space of a few months, scientists have long suspected that the placenta could hold clues to understanding and ultimately beating cancer. Now the ongoing search for a malaria vaccine has inadvertently uncovered one of its more promising secrets that holds potential for the development of a treatment for the deadly disease.
A study involving almost 14,000 cancer patients has linked increased survival rates with regular aspirin use. The research involved sufferers of various forms of gastrointestinal tumors and found that patients who starting to use aspirin after they had been diagnosed doubled their chances of survival.
Different patients with the same type of cancer can have different
responses to the same medication, which leaves doctors in a tough spot:
how do they know which treatment will have the best response? If they
get it right, their patient may enter remission; but if they're wrong
the patient's health will deteriorate. Now researchers at Western
University might have the answer. They developed machine learning
algorithms – a branch of artificial intelligence – that crunch genetic
data to determine the most likely treatment response and allow more
personalized treatment regimens.
With a lack of clear symptoms even when the disease is well progressed, more than 80 percent of pancreatic cancer diagnoses come after the cancer has already spread. This has led some researchers to look beyond blood to urine testing, which is a less complex fluid. Among those is a team at the Queen Mary University of London, which has uncovered a three-protein biomarker in the urine of pancreatic cancer sufferers, suggesting a less invasive, early stage test may be on the way.
As with every form of the deadly disease, early detection of oesophageal cancer is critical to recovery. The current approach of detecting the cancer through biopsy can be a little hit and miss, so the University of Cambridge's Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald and her team have developed what they claim to be a more accurate tool for early-diagnosis. Billed as "a pill on a string," the Cytosponge is designed to scrape off cells from the length of the oesophagus as it is yanked out after swallowing, offering up a much larger sample for inspection of cancer cells.