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
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
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
Developing cancer drugs is challenging. Often, scientists will find a drug that kills cancer cells in a petri dish but fails to act on an actual tumor. Ravid Straussman from the Weizmann Institute of Science and Todd Golub from Harvard Medical School think that in situ, bacteria can protect cancer cells from drugs. To test their theory, Staussman and Golub mixed some healthy skin cells with cells from a … Continue reading Bacteria May Help Protect Cancer Cells
Glioblastoma is one of the most deadly brain cancers because it is nearly impossible to destroy the cause of the cancer: cancerous stem cells. However, scientists are using Zika’s preference for stem cells to target and eliminate the cancerous stem cells in adults. The preliminary study shows the viability of this method, but more thorough research and a PR campaign may be necessary before Zika treatments for brain cancer can become standard protocol. Continue reading Could Zika become a treatment for brain cancer?
What is the difference between a normal cell and a cancer cell? The answer lies in their DNA. Cancer results from the accumulation of genetic mutations, which trigger uncontrolled cell growth. Cancer’s mutated DNA can reveal its presence early on in the disease. Like leaving fingerprints at a crime scene, tumor cells release small pieces of DNA into the bloodstream. This “circulating tumor DNA” can now … Continue reading Catching Cancer: Blood Test for Early-Stage Diagnosis
Results from a small clinical trial comprising 86 cancer patients have prompted scientists to rethink how different cancers are classified and treated. The drug being assessed was Keytruda, a recent addition to oncologists’ arsenal of cancer immunotherapy drugs. Unlike traditional chemotherapies, which poison and kill cancer cells directly, cancer immunotherapy recruits the body’s own self-defense machinery to attack tumors. Although our immune systems are very good … Continue reading Turning the Immune System into an Equal Opportunity Cancer Killer