Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations

by Garrett Dunlap figures by Aparna Nathan Perhaps no animal is better suited to its name than the Tasmanian devil. While it might look cute and cuddly, in reality this animal is quite the opposite. With the strongest bite of any mammal and an infamous blood-curdling scream, the Tasmanian devil is a fierce and formidable creature known to attack animals many times its size. But … Continue reading Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations

Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go

by Francesca Tomasi figures by Olivia Foster Rhoades Argonaut. Idéfix. Flamenco. These words invoke movement: the ancient Greek Argonauts were a band of adventurous sailors famous for their epic quests. Meanwhile, Idéfix is the name of an adventure-loving dog in the French Astérix comic book series. And finally, flamenco conjures images of vivacious dancers. You would think the similarities between Greek mythology, French comic books, and … Continue reading Transposons: Your DNA that’s on the go

Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment, using drugs to destroy cancer cells. However, cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs by developing “efflux pumps”, pumps in the cell membrane that work to actively expel the chemotherapy drugs from the tumor cells. Shana Kelley and her team in University of Toronto developed nanomaterials that can deliver drugs into cancer cells and suppress their drug resistance. … Continue reading Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Zombie genes help eradicate elephant cancer in early stages

Let’s consider a paradox of probabilities. If all cells have the same risk of becoming cancerous, then the likelihood of developing cancer is proportional to the number of cells in an animal. This argument generally holds true for the incidence of cancer and body size for individuals within a given species. However, when comparing across different animal species, there is no constant proportionality between body … Continue reading Zombie genes help eradicate elephant cancer in early stages

Using Genetics to Fight Cancer: The pros and cons of direct-to-consumer testing

by Alyson Warr figures by Olivia Foster One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. This statistic makes breast cancer the leading cancer diagnosis for women in the US. With such staggering numbers, a focus on prevention is key: how can we stop breast cancer before it starts? One way is to develop fast and convenient methods of … Continue reading Using Genetics to Fight Cancer: The pros and cons of direct-to-consumer testing

Never Tell Me the Odds: A first-hand account of blood stem cell donation

by Christopher Gerry figures by Abagail Burrus A few weeks ago, a nurse took six gallons of blood out of my left arm; my body only holds about a gallon and a half of blood, so I wouldn’t be here if she had decided to keep it. The blood that was continuously returning to my right arm, however, was missing an important ingredient: peripheral blood … Continue reading Never Tell Me the Odds: A first-hand account of blood stem cell donation

The Circle of Lactate: How cancer cells can reuse their own waste

by Lara Roach figures by Aparna Nathan There are trillions of cells in the human body, and each one needs nutrient molecules they can convert into energy or useful chemicals to survive, grow, and divide. Cells can get their “fuel” from a variety of sources, but the most common is the sugar glucose, which is abundant in foods like fruit and honey. When cells transform … Continue reading The Circle of Lactate: How cancer cells can reuse their own waste

Small-Molecule Probes: Bridging the gap between understanding and curing disease

by Michael Vinyard figures by Jovana Andrejevic and Michael Vinyard Why do we have cures and medicines for some diseases but not others? Surprisingly, it is not because we cannot make the medicines; it is because we do not know enough about the diseases that need new medicines. To span the chasm between understanding the biology of a disease and successfully treating patients, we must foster … Continue reading Small-Molecule Probes: Bridging the gap between understanding and curing disease

Immunotherapy, with a Side of Poo: How gut microbes influence cancer treatment

by Katherine J. Wu figures by Neal Atsuka Are we flushing the next big cancer treatment down the toilet? Probably not – but the contents of our feces could very well be influencing how our bodies respond to cancer drugs. As it turns out, everybody poops – and everybody poops more than poop. I’m talking, of course, about the gut microbiota – the enormous collection … Continue reading Immunotherapy, with a Side of Poo: How gut microbes influence cancer treatment

Cancer Vaccines: How scientists are turning cancer against itself

by Cathy Gutierrez figures by Lillian Horin “The history of cancer vaccines is a history of failure.” This is the leading sentence of a 2005 article that summarized the history of cancer vaccines. Cancer vaccines have long been the Holy Grail of cancer research. For centuries, scientists have been devising ways to train the body to destroy tumors. Despite the success of early preventive cancer … Continue reading Cancer Vaccines: How scientists are turning cancer against itself