Please Help Support Camp Oochigeas

Thus far, 2010 has been a year of self-awareness for me. First, I kicked-off the year by deciding to track my workouts, number of books read, hours of sleep and how I’m feeling each day. So far it’s been a very rewarding and enlightening experience (let me know if you want a copy of my Google Doc I’m using to track everything). However, as Q1 is wrapping-up, I have already seen my workout pacing decrease as my day-to-day responsibilities increase. I didn’t like this one bit. To re-prioritize exercise within my lifestyle, I have committed to running a 10km race in 41 days. I have neither ran 10k nor raced in any event previously. Wish me luck.

Sporting Life 10k For Kids with Cancer
The Sporting Life 10k is scheduled for May 2, 2010 and is supporting Camp Oochigeas, a camp for children with cancer. With no government funding, Camp Oochigeas relies on the generosity of volunteers, donors, community participants and the Hospital for Sick Children to provide year-round programs for children affected by childhood cancer at their campsite in Muskoka and at no cost to their families. I am personally raising at least $250 (update: at least $500) for this charity — please support me in my fundraising efforts.

Gearing-up: Nike + iPod
To get in-gear for the 10k, I joined (my profile page) and consulted their “coach”. Unfortunately, Nikeplus only offers a 12-week program — not 42 days (as at yesterday) — so I figure I’ll follow the first 5.5 weeks of the program to get in-shape for the big run. Yesterday, I was assigned my first run from coach — I had to run 4.82km! Talk about being thrown into the deep-end. So, I ventured to the University of Toronto gym to run the indoor track with my Nike + iPod sensor and iPhone to track my progress.

Although I had to walk for a few periods of time, here are my net results for run #1:

  • Distance: 4.82km
  • Duration: 30:42
  • Pace: 6’22” /km
  • Fastest Kilometer: 5’42”
  • Calories Burned: 371

If you join Nikeplus, add me as a friend (username: jsookman).

More Details on the 10k Race
It is Canada’s easiest and one of the fastest downhill 10k’s (a good starter, I think…), and it runs right down the middle of Canada’s most famous street—Yonge Street! The start line is four blocks south of Sporting Life (at Yonge & Roselawn). From there, the course heads south on Yonge Street all the way to Richmond Street. It then turns west on Richmond, south on Peter/Blue Jays Way past Gretzky’s to Front St. The course then goes west along Front, south on Bathurst, west on Fort York Blvd. to finish! See the map below.

Course Map/Overview

Once again, please consider contributing to Camp Oochigeas. It is performing miracles for these children.

Remote Controlled Drugs

In recent news, there have been two great discoveries – similar in theory, but very different in appearance and use – for delivering drugs. Both use remote control mechanisms, the first invention describes how a remote control pill can release its contents once it reaches the area at which the drugs need to be delivered (see:Remote-control Nanoparticles Deliver Drugs Directly Into Tumors). The second discovery takes place at the nano-level – here, Remote-control Nanoparticles Deliver Drugs Directly Into Tumors; the drugs are released by an electromagnetic field once the nanoparticles get in the vicinity of the tumorigenic cells. This therapy works well for attacking primary tumor sites; however, this therapy won’t be very robust when trying to eliminate metastatic colonies, or rogue cells that may have broken off from originating tumors. I am still bullish on an approach to cancer therapy that includes the programming of one’s own immune system to identify tumorigenic cells and destroy them.

Cancer and the Immune System

Cancer is able to evade the immune system, and grow within our bodies in a number of ways. Tumours are able to accomplish this feat in hundreds, if not thousands of different ways.

Researchers at USC mentioned that you could then take these “immune signatures” generated by the immune response against a tumour — and target them with whichever drugs or therapy is best suited. This builds on personalized medicine, here’s why: lets say two tumours exist, A + B, where A is a breast tumour and B is a prostate tumour. Generally tumours A + B will have different biochemistry for reasons including: (1) different cell of origin; and (2) different prepotency for specific mutations thus causing cancers in the different cells. Traditionally, drugs have either tries to poison these cells, or hijack an intracellular process associated with a specific mutation found in one cancer. By looking at the immune response signature, you could generate immune-specific drugs that could target tumour illiciting similar immune signatures. Therefore, it could be found for one drug commonly used for tumour A to work perfectly in tumour B if the immune response signatures are in alignment.

In the article, the researchers generated signatures using real-time PCR on 14 pro-immunity genes, and 11 anti-immunity genes from 5 different mouse tumour models. This is merely a start to what seems to be the tip of the iceburg here. It will be excited to see future developments.

Bacterial Cancer Therapeutics? Maybe.

A company called EnGeneIC in Sydney, Australia have created a targeted drug delivery platform based on “mini bacteria”, or as they call it, EnGeneIC Delivery Vehicles (EDVs). These vehicles look and behave like bacteria, including cell division — albeit, without chromosomes. I may need to dig a little deeper into the science of this one!

In any case, these EDVs have been shown to target tumorigenic tissue, being fed by blood vessels; 30% of an IV dosage reached the cancerous region within 2 hours. It has so far been proven safe in dogs with advanced non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as in pigs and monkeys.

The study also suggests that these EDVs can carry RNAi or siRNA-based products to their destination, as delivery of these nucleic acids has been proven difficult due to nuclease/enzymatic degredation before reaching its target.

Adapted from [NewScientist] from [Cancer Cell (vol 11, p431) “Bacterially Derived 400 nm Particles for Encapsulation and Cancer Cell Targeting of Chemotherapeutics”]

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Prostate Cancer Update: New Gene

A genetic pattern (variation) found on human chromosome 8 has been found to have an association with a 5x risk increase for developing prostate cancer. It is thought to cause 2/3 of African-American cases and 1/3 of Caucasian-American cases of the disease.

Another biomarker might be coming! Pharmacogenomics companies: ready … go!

Full story at

Eat Your Berries!

Cyanidin-3-rutinoside, or C-3-R which is found in fruits and vegetables has been found to have extremely high chemopreventive properties. When extracted from black raspberries, it was found to cause apoptosis (programmed cell death) in leukemia and lymphoma cell lines. It is thought that this compound can prevent other cancers from developing as well. One of the most interesting aspects of the research discusses how C-3-R, an antioxidant, that usually stabilizes reactive oxygen species (free radicals), actually increases the amount of peroxides (reactive oxygen species) within leukemia cells through an activated mitochondria-mediated apoptotic pathway. See full story for more details.

Play in the Mud. Fight Depression.

Maybe its not that simple, but exposure to probiotic bacteria commonly found in soil have been linked to the brain chemical, serotonin.

  • Cancer patients increased their qualities of life with exposure to Mycobacterium vaccae
  • M. vaccae activated a group of neurons to produce more serotonin mitigating depression

Full article at Getting Dirty May Lift Your Mood.

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Chicken McNuggets

Okay, this may not have to do with biotech, but since there was mention of mutations, mutagens and tumorigenic additives, I figured it “could fit”. In any case, I loved McD’s Chicken McNuggets (notice the past tense there…) until I read this article, that got its founding from the book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

Apparently McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are composed of 38 ingredients, and are 56% corn! The book goes into each in detail, but I want to concentrate on the genetics aspect of this. Here is a list of chemical additives that are harmful to your DNA:

dimethylpolysiloxene: suspected carcinogen, established mutagen, tumorigen, and reproductive effector. It is also flammable.

tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ): antioxidant derived from petroleum. TBHQ is a form of butane (lighter fluid). FDA limits addition of TBHQ to less than 0.02% percent of the oil per nugget [Suggestion: choose hotdogs over chicken mcnuggets in a spur of the moment eating contest.]

So, what are you eating next time you go out to McDonald’s?

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New Pre-Cancer Biomarker Found

MIT scientists just discovered the function of 14-3-3 sigma protein, and also, what happens if it isn’t present in cells. This is a HUGE discovery toward preventative measures in cancer screening technology. It won’t be long before there are a new set of diagnostics out that screeen for a wide range of cancer precursor biomarkers that increase risk of cancer to a give tissue.

So, what do scientists propose that 14-3-3 sigma does? It plays a role in cell division. Specifically, it helps cells finish cytokinesis and separate into two distinct cells, right at the end of cell division. Michael Yaffe, an associate professor of biology and biological engineering and leader of the research team said “The cells try to divide and try to divide, and they just give up. They can’t finish cytokinesis.” This results in a single cell with two nuclei.

Key information not to be missed from the article:

  • Fused, or binucleate, cells have recently been shown to be precursors to cancer cells. They are often found in so-called “dysplastic” tissue, which consists of cells that are not fully normal but are not cancerous. Comparing tumors to weeds, Yaffe explained that those tissues act as fertile “soil” for tumor development. “Tumors grow in epithelial tissues that are already deranged for some reason, and something about that soil makes it better able to grow weeds.”
  • Loss of 14-3-3 sigma in dysplastic tissue could serve as a marker to help doctors predict whether tumors will develop. “Our hope is that it will be possible to monitor 14-3-3 expression in these ‘benign’ conditions, a subset of which may not be so benign,” said Yaffe.
  • The researchers were initially intrigued by the fact that 14-3-3 sigma is missing in normal tissue that surrounds tumors, which suggested that its function is lost very early in tumor development. Once the researchers started investigating the protein, they eventually unraveled a complex signaling pathway whose disruption leads to the failure of cell division.
  • They discovered that 14-3-3 sigma is most active during mitosis, when it helps control production of proteins necessary for division.
  • 14-3-3 sigma interacts with a translation factor known as eIF4B, whichforms part of an enzyme that allows mRNA to unwind so the ribosome can read its sequence.
  • When 14-3-3 sigma is knocked out, eIF4B is not produced, and mRNA for the protein p58 cannot be translated. p58 plays a critical role in the final splitting of one cell into two during mitosis, so when it is missing, the cells cannot fully divide.
  • When p58 function is restored, the cells resume normal division.

    The story was orginally issued by MIT, and covered by ScienceDaily under the title: MIT Identifies Role Of Key Protein In Tumor Growth