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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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

Stealth Gonorrhoea


If you’re a Canadian or an American, you’re in luck … mostly. In many countries internationally, namely Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and Denmark, many sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests came up with false negatives! Why? Because at some point, one strain of the bacteria underwent a series of mutations that has changed its expression profile for the enzyme prolyliminopeptidase (PIP) … which was the protein tested for by doctors to determine if you had an infection. If you have, or thought you got rid of your case of gonorrhoea, you might want to go back to the clinic and ask for 2 tests that check for different proteins/enzymes to ensure you got rid of your infection. For the full article see: ‘Stealth’ gonorrhoea on the rise.

To get some more information about STIs, there are many books out there that can help get you informed whether you are an average Joe, or a scientist. For the average Joe, please check out Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Colour Guide and for the scientist in you, order Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

“And remember … don’t be a fool, wrap your tool.” – Van Wilder