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Gordon Donald Magill: 1921-2017 - Edmonds Beacon

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 13:21

Gordon Donald Magill: 1921-2017
Edmonds Beacon
He graduated from Edmonds High School and Edison Vocational School (now Seattle Central College) as a sheet metal worker, and entered the Navy during World War II, serving in the South Pacific on a submarine tender. After the war, he ... The family ...

50 things to do in Metro Vancouver on Thursday, March 30 - Straight.com (blog)

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 10:03

Straight.com (blog)

50 things to do in Metro Vancouver on Thursday, March 30
Straight.com (blog)
Talk on health care at C.K. Choi Building by Karen Eggleston, faculty member at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, and the director of the center's Asia Health Policy Program. A New Pacific Nexus: Canada, Latin ...

Progress toward a Zika vaccine

MIT Cancer Research RSS - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:00

Using a new strategy that can rapidly generate customized RNA vaccines, MIT researchers have devised a new vaccine candidate for the Zika virus.

The vaccine consists of strands of genetic material known as messenger RNA, which are packaged into a nanoparticle that delivers the RNA into cells. Once inside cells, the RNA is translated into proteins that provoke an immune response from the host, but the RNA does not integrate itself into the host genome, making it potentially safer than a DNA vaccine or vaccinating with the virus itself.

“It functions almost like a synthetic virus, except it’s not pathogenic and it doesn’t spread,” says Omar Khan, a postdoc at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and an author of the new study. “We can control how long it’s expressed, and it’s RNA so it will never integrate into the host genome.”

This research also yielded a new benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness of other Zika vaccine candidates, which could help others who are working toward the same goal.

Jasdave Chahal, a postdoc at MIT’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, is the first author of the paper, which appears in Scientific Reports. The paper’s senior author is Hidde Ploegh, a former MIT biology professor and Whitehead Institute member who is now a senior investigator in the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Other authors of the paper are Tao Fang and Andrew Woodham, both former Whitehead Institute postdocs in the Ploegh lab; Jingjing Ling, an MIT graduate student; and Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and a member of the Koch Institute and MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES).

Programmable vaccines

The MIT team first reported its new approach to programmable RNA vaccines last year. RNA vaccines are appealing because they induce host cells to produce many copies of the proteins encoded by the RNA. This provokes a stronger immune reaction than if the proteins were administered on their own. However, finding a safe and effective way to deliver these vaccines has proven challenging.

The researchers devised an approach in which they package RNA sequences into a nanoparticle made from a branched molecule that is based on fractal-patterned dendrimers. This modified-dendrimer-RNA structure can be induced to fold over itself many times, producing a spherical particle about 150 nanometers in diameter. This is similar in size to a typical virus, allowing the particles to enter cells through the same viral entry mechanisms. In their 2016 paper, the researchers used this nanoparticle approach to generate experimental vaccines for Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

In the new study, the researchers tackled Zika virus, which emerged as an epidemic centered in Brazil in 2015 and has since spread around the world, causing serious birth defects in babies born to infected mothers. Since the MIT method does not require working with the virus itself, the researchers believe they might be able to explore potential vaccines more rapidly than scientists pursuing a more traditional approach.

Instead of using viral proteins or weakened forms of the virus as vaccines, which are the most common strategies, the researchers simply programmed their RNA nanoparticles with the sequences that encode Zika virus proteins. Once injected into the body, these molecules replicate themselves inside cells and instruct cells to produce the viral proteins.

The entire process of designing, producing, and testing the vaccine in mice took less time than it took for the researchers to obtain permission to work with samples of the Zika virus, which they eventually did get.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Chahal says. “Once we decided to do it, in two weeks we were ready to vaccinate mice. Access to virus itself was not necessary.”

Measuring response

When developing a vaccine, researchers usually aim to generate a response from both arms of the immune system — the adaptive arm, mediated by T cells and antibodies, and the innate arm, which is necessary to amplify the adaptive response. To measure whether an experimental vaccine has generated a strong T cell response, researchers can remove T cells from the body and then measure how they respond to fragments of the viral protein.

Until now, researchers working on Zika vaccines have had to buy libraries of different protein fragments and then test T cells on them, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Because the MIT researchers could generate so many T cells from their vaccinated mice, they were able to rapidly screen them against this library. They identified a sequence of eight amino acids that the activated T cells in the mouse respond to. Now that this sequence, also called an epitope, is known, other researchers can use it to test their own experimental Zika vaccines in the appropriate mouse models.

“We can synthetically make these vaccines that are almost like infecting someone with the actual virus, and then generate an immune response and use the data from that response to help other people predict if their vaccines would work, if they bind to the same epitopes,” Khan says. The researchers hope to eventually move their Zika vaccine into tests in humans.

“The identification and characterization of CD8 T cell epitopes in mice immunized with a Zika RNA vaccine is a very useful reference for all those working in the field of Zika vaccine development,” says Katja Fink, a principal investigator at the A*STAR Singapore Immunology Network. “RNA vaccines have received much attention in the last few years, and while the big breakthrough in humans has not been achieved yet, the technology holds promise to become a flexible platform that could provide rapid solutions for emerging viruses.”

Fink, who was not involved in the research, added that the “initial data are promising but the Zika RNA vaccine approach described needs further testing to prove efficacy.”

Another major area of focus for the researchers is cancer vaccines. Many scientists are working on vaccines that could program a patient’s immune system to attack tumor cells, but in order to do that, they need to know what the vaccine should target. The new MIT strategy could allow scientists to quickly generate personalized RNA vaccines based on the genetic sequence of an individual patient’s tumor cells.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, a Fujifilm/MediVector grant, the Lustgarten Foundation, a Koch Institute and Dana-Farber/Harvard Center Center Bridge Project award, the Department of Defense Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research’s Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program, and the Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Categories: Cancer Research

Robert Lester Whitlow: Oct. 20, 1932 – Feb. 19, 2017 - Whidbey News-Times (subscription)

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 13:56

Whidbey News-Times (subscription)

Robert Lester Whitlow: Oct. 20, 1932 – Feb. 19, 2017
Whidbey News-Times (subscription)
While Bob enjoyed all of the occupations he pursued during his work life, his years at Seattle Pacific University as the first full-time alumni director, 1973-1975, then human resources director, 1975-1988, were especially challenging, rewarding and ...

Standing fast with a world in flames - Payson Roundup

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 06:53

Payson Roundup

Standing fast with a world in flames
Payson Roundup
Editor's note: Larry Moore died March 20 after a courageous battle with cancer. His memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, March 31 ... “I was what they call a pointer,” recalls Moore, a longtime Payson resident whose military career bore ...

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents - Hamilton Spectator

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 05:11

Hamilton Spectator

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents
Hamilton Spectator
They've been stationed around the world and have been in the U.S. island territory of Guam, in the western Pacific, for nearly a year. Rounding out the family are three ... Some people have flat out told me, but Paolo has seen me through two ...

and more »

HEALTH MATTERS - Savannah Morning News

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 16:50

Savannah Morning News

HEALTH MATTERS
Savannah Morning News
Meets at the conference room, second floor, Lewis Cancer and Research Pavilion, Reynolds Street. Open to those with essential tremor disease, caretakers, family and health care workers. Discusses issues of managing the disease, new treatments and ...

Okinawa, Japan: The island where people have the longest lifespan - Stuff.co.nz

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 11:18

Stuff.co.nz

Okinawa, Japan: The island where people have the longest lifespan
Stuff.co.nz
Rates of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and depression are well below the average for advanced economies yet they don't go to gyms nor do they jog. .... The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest of all the conflicts in the Pacific War. By ...

Okinawa, Japan: The island where people have the longest lifespan - Stuff.co.nz

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 11:18

Stuff.co.nz

Okinawa, Japan: The island where people have the longest lifespan
Stuff.co.nz
Rates of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and depression are well below the average for advanced economies yet they don't go to gyms nor do they jog. .... The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest of all the conflicts in the Pacific War. By ...

Things to do in and around Greenwich - Greenwich Time

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 08:47

Greenwich Time

Things to do in and around Greenwich
Greenwich Time
Journalist Gretchen Carlson will be the emcee for the Greenwich Gala for Lyme Disease Awareness, set for 6:30 p.m. to midnight April 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich. ... Cancer Care will hold its fifth annual walk/run for hope at 9:15 a.m ...

Detecting mutations could lead to earlier liver cancer diagnosis

MIT Cancer Research RSS - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 08:00

In many parts of the world, including Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, exposure to a fungal product called aflatoxin is believed to cause up to 80 percent of liver cancer cases. This fungus is often found in corn, peanuts, and other crops that are dietary staples in those regions.

MIT researchers have now developed a way to determine, by sequencing DNA of liver cells, whether those cells have been exposed to aflatoxin. This profile of mutations could be used to predict whether someone has a high risk of developing liver cancer, potentially many years before tumors actually appear.

“What we’re doing is creating a fingerprint,” says John Essigmann, the William R. and Betsy P. Leitch Professor of Biological Engineering and Chemistry at MIT. “It’s really a measure of prior exposure to something that causes cancer.”

This approach could also be used to generate profiles for other common carcinogens, says Essigmann, who is the senior author of a paper describing the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 27.

The paper’s lead author is MIT postdoc Supawadee Chawanthayatham. Other MIT authors are technical assistant Charles Valentine, research scientists Bogdan Fedeles and Robert Croy, BioMicro Center Director Stuart Levine, postdoc Stephen Slocum, and Professor of Biological Engineering Emeritus Gerald Wogan. University of Washington researchers Edward Fox and Lawrence Loeb are also authors of the study.

Seeking rare mutations

As Essigmann’s lab has previously reported, exposure to aflatoxin usually results in a genetic mutation that converts the DNA base guanine to thymine. This can often lead to liver cancer, although in regions such as the United States and Europe, where the food supply is more highly regulated, the risk of aflatoxin exposure is low.

In the new study, the MIT team set out to see if they could identify mutations produced by aflatoxin long before cancer develops. First, the researchers exposed mice to a single dose of aflatoxin, four days after birth. After this exposure, all of the mice eventually developed liver cancer. The researchers sequenced DNA from those tumors and also from liver cells removed only 10 weeks after exposure, before tumors developed.

To find mutations at 10 weeks, the researchers used a powerful genome sequencing technique that can identify very rare mutations — which occur in about 1 in 10 million to 100 million DNA base pairs.

Unlike most DNA sequencing techniques, the one used in this paper, developed by researchers at the University of Washington, combines data from two complementary strands of DNA. Usually each strand of double-stranded DNA is sequenced alone, and each strand must be copied many times in order to get enough DNA to sequence. This copying results in the introduction of errors — about one mistake for every 500 base pairs.

With the new technique, the two complementary strands are barcoded so that their sequence information can later be recombined. That way, the researchers can distinguish true mutations from copying errors. This technique is 1,000 to 10,000 times more accurate than conventional DNA sequencing, allowing researchers to be confident that the rare mutations they find are not simply mistakes.

“Detecting rare events is something that this technology was designed to do,” Fedeles says.

The researchers found that at 10 weeks, a distinctive pattern of mutations that can serve as a “fingerprint” for aflatoxin exposure had already emerged. Specifically, about 25 percent of the mutations occurred in CGC sequences. For reasons not yet known, aflatoxin is much more likely to produce mutations in guanine when it is flanked by cytosine on both sides.

“Even at 10 weeks, a very distinct mutational signature comes up,” Essigmann says. “It’s very early-onset, and you don’t see it with other carcinogens, to our knowledge.”

Aflatoxin exposure

The researchers then compared the mutational profile of the aflatoxin-exposed mice to the genetic sequences found in liver tumors of more than 300 patients from around the world. They found that the signature of the mouse cells very closely matched the signatures of 13 patients, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, who were believed to have been exposed to aflatoxin in their diet.

The MIT team now hopes to devise a simpler test, such as a blood test, that could easily be examined for this mutational profile. Patients who tested positive would likely benefit from regular screening of their liver to determine if tumors have begun forming, so the tumors could be surgically removed.

“You could imagine that you have a high-risk region of the world, with, say, a million people in the area. By measuring a mutational signature that is experimentally defined, you might be able to hone down to about 5,000 [people] out of 1 million, that carry that mutation. These are the people that you would want to intensively follow to do early diagnosis,” says John Groopman, a professor of preventive medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research.

This test could also be used to study new cancer-protective drugs, such as oltipraz, or dietary regimens that might prevent aflatoxin-induced DNA mutations. In China, scientists are testing whether broccoli sprout tea can help prevent this type of liver cancer, as broccoli contains a compound that also blocks the pathway leading to aflatoxin-induced mutations.

In addition to investigating how other factors such as inflammation influence the progression of aflatoxin-linked cancers, the MIT team plans to look for mutational profiles produced by other liver carcinogens such as dimethylnitrosamine, a chemical byproduct recently found as a contaminant in some sources of local drinking water. 

“The hypothesis that drives this field is that each agent that contributes to the genetic changes responsible for cancer has its own unique mutational signature, and those signatures can be used to identify the contributions of each of these agents to the tumor that ultimately develops,” Croy says.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Categories: Cancer Research

Noni and the importance of traditional medicine - Marianas Variety

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 07:16

Noni and the importance of traditional medicine
Marianas Variety
It is found throughout the world, particularly in Asia, northern Australia and the Pacific region including the Micronesian islands, Hawaii and Tahiti. Many Micronesians, especially Palauans, are ... Still, the noni plant has been used for hundreds of ...

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents - New Jersey Herald

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 19:00

New Jersey Herald

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents
New Jersey Herald
They've been stationed around the world and have been in the U.S. island territory of Guam, in the western Pacific, for nearly a year. Rounding out the family are ... Some people have flat out told me, but Paolo has seen me through two pregnancies, two ...

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents - Huntington Herald Dispatch

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 16:56

Huntington Herald Dispatch

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents
Huntington Herald Dispatch
The Associated Press In this Aug. 22, 2015, photo provided by Amy Hunter, John and Amy Hunter are pictured with their dogs, Apollo, left, and Rubi, a black Labrador retriever, in Brown County State Park south of their home in Indianapolis, Ind. The ...

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Radiation expert Dr. Janette Sherman: Less than one lifetime - San Francisco Bay View

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 15:07

San Francisco Bay View

Radiation expert Dr. Janette Sherman: Less than one lifetime
San Francisco Bay View
... with a half-life of 25,000 years. We know that plutonium is released from bomb tests and nuclear power plants and that a single atom, ingested or inhaled, can radiate nearby living cells and initiate cancer and birth defects. .... During that same ...

'Teresia's death is a great loss to Pacific academia' - Fiji Times

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 11:32

'Teresia's death is a great loss to Pacific academia'
Fiji Times
She died last week Tuesday after a short battle with cancer. She was widely known and respected in ... The University of Oregon described her as "a groundbreaking scholar in the research of the culture of the Pacific Islands". She was born in Honolulu ...

MINA has 3 new board members - Saipan Tribune

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 09:08

MINA has 3 new board members
Saipan Tribune
The Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance announced last week the appointment of three new members to its board: Sean Frink, Somia T. Quan, and Geralyn C. Dela Cruz. Frink is an attorney and partner in the ... Dela Cruz is executive director of Corporate ...

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents - Longview News-Journal

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 18:12

Longview News-Journal

Dig deeper before mocking 'crazy' pet parents
Longview News-Journal
They've been stationed around the world and have been in the U.S. island territory of Guam, in the western Pacific, for nearly a year. Rounding out the family are ... Some people have flat out told me, but Paolo has seen me through two pregnancies, two ...

and more »

Drew Thomes - Bainbridge Island Review (subscription)

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 13:55

Bainbridge Island Review (subscription)

Drew Thomes
Bainbridge Island Review (subscription)
11, 2017 from cancer. He died a satisfied man knowing he had sent so much beauty out into the world. He was 69. Drew grew up in Sand Creek, a small town in southern Michigan. He moved to the Pacific Northwest after picking Puget Sound out on a ...

5 mind-boggling things about Pilger's doco The Coming War on China - Asia Pacific Report

Pacific Islands Cancer News (Google) - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 13:54

Asia Pacific Report

5 mind-boggling things about Pilger's doco The Coming War on China
Asia Pacific Report
“It will be interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment,” the official added, while the film explores the sufferings of the atoll locals, many of whom died of cancer. “What the Americans did was no ...

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