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.

Pharmaceuticals in Ground Water

The journal Ground Water (May/June 2007 issue) reported on the findings of pharmaceuticals in septic tanks, and ground water due to incomplete human metabolism and excretion.

I’m not sure what all the hype is about. This was evident to happen when drugs were designed to be excreted without being broken down by metabolic processes. Didn’t big pharma come up with a plan to treat water systems, or should that be left to the government?

See full story.

Alzheimers and Dementia

There has been much in the way of research in these two areas. Recently I attended a conference in Toronto called BioFinance which brings together companies looking to receive funding (either private or public) and investors. At the conference I saw a company presentation from Transition Therapeutics that discussed its new Alzheimer’s drug called AZD-103 which just received fast-track status from the FDA on April 3, 2007. It has some pretty exciting pre-clinical data … it demonstrates a breakdown of amyloid fibrils within plaques that form on and within the brain essentially reversing damage. The positive results were shown in mice using a Morris water maze test (bottom of page). Could this be that miracle drug we’re all looking for?

Next, I want to discuss a study released which claims that lost memories could be restored by ‘rewiring’ brain; the study was done by MIT researcher Li-Huei Tsai and interestingly enough also utilized the Morris water maze test to show clinical efficacy of their therapy. Their team targeted HDACs (enzymes that prevent histone acetylation) with an HDAC inhibitor under the assumption that HDAC inhibitors initiate the rewiring of neurons. Of course its too early to tell if their therapy is going to go anywhere … let’s wait to see a licensing deal come out of their technology – then I’ll get excited.