Cancer research updates from UC Davis

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Two groundbreaking studies at the University of California Davis give hope to cancer patients

UC Davis discovery offers hope for treating kidney cancer

Current cancer treatments block the ability of cancer cells to rapidly copy themselves. This slows down the process on oncogenesis but it doesn’t cure cancer and it comes with a lot of side effects.

This ground breaking research by UC Davis researchers blocks a cancer gene’s repair mechanism, thus attacking cancer cells at the DNA level. This is the direction of newer cancer medications – “destabilizing cancer cells at the DNA level, which reduces their ability to replicate.” The p21 gene is involved in the repair mechanism of cancer cells. The researchers tested thousands of compounds in the p21 gene and found 12 which bound to p21. Additional tests showed that three of those compounds decreased p21 expression, blocking kidney cancer cells’ ability to mend and making them more responsive to DNA-damaging treatments.” The researchers will now focus on these three compounds as potential anti-cancer candidates.

Kidney cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. The researchers hope that their research results can produce “novel cancer treatments to increase the comfort and life spans of patients with kidney cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, 54,390 new cases of kidney cancer and 13,010 cases of death due to the cancer have been reported in 2008.

UC Davis researchers find molecule that targets brain tumors

Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer in adults. It accounts for 12-15% of intracranial tumors and 50-60% of primary brain tumors.  It is very aggressive and deadly, characterized by brain tumors which are “irregular shapes and poorly defined borders” and are therefore difficult to remove by surgery. Current treatment requires surgical removal of the tumors followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. However, the prognosis for glioblastoma is very low and the rate of cancer spread is rather high. Survival is usually less than a year.

To find new options for treating the disease, UC Davis researchers led by Dr. Kit Lam began searching for a molecule that could be injected into a patient’s bloodstream and deliver high concentrations of medication or radionuclides directly to brain tumor cells while sparing normal tissues.” The researchers identified a molecule called LXY1 that “binds with high specificity to a particular cell-surface protein called alpha-3 integrin, which is overexpressed on cancer cells.”

The molecule was then tested in laboratory mice and was observed to preferentially bind to human glioblastoma cells implanted the animal’s brain and skin. More experiments are being conducted.


Photo credit: stock.xchng

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