Attacking Glioblastoma by Combining Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors with Gene Therapy Looks Promising


“Attacking an aggressive brain tumor with immunostimulatory gene therapy while enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight it with immune checkpoint inhibitors might be a promising approach to treat patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor currently associated with a very poor prognosis.

“The findings from the study, “Immunosuppressive Myeloid Cells’ Blockade in the Glioma Microenvironment Enhances the Efficacy of Immune-Stimulatory Gene Therapy,” published in Molecular Therapy, revealed that combining both these approaches in glioblastoma mice models significantly extended their survival, compared to either treatment alone.”

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Melanoma Mutation Likes Fat for Fuel


“Cancer cells love glucose, the simple sugar the body uses for energy, so a high-fat, low-carb diet should starve them, right?

“Not so fast. Research in mice suggests that melanomas and other cancers driven by a particular mutation (BRAF V600E) will grow faster in response to a high-fat diet. In addition, lipid-lowering agents such as statins curb these cancers’ growth, even in the context of a more normal diet.”

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Scientists Find Lethal Vulnerability in Treatment-Resistant Lung Cancer


“Researchers working in four labs at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found a chink in a so-called ‘undruggable’ lung cancer’s armor – and located an existing drug that might provide a treatment.

“The study, published this week in Nature, describes how the drug Selinexor (KPT-330) killed cells and shrank tumors in mice when used against cancers driven by the aggressive and difficult-to-treat KRAS cancer gene. Selinexor is already in clinical trials for treatment of other types of cancer, primarily leukemia and lymphoma but also gynecological, brain, prostate, and head and neck cancers.”

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Popular Antioxidant Seems to Spread Skin Cancer Cells in Mouse Research

“A man-made antioxidant appears to accelerate the spread of skin cancer in mice, raising questions about its safety in humans, researchers say.

“The antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine, is used to relieve mucus production in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), said study senior author Martin Bergo, a professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

“It also is used as a supplement by people who believe that the antioxidant can help reduce exercise-related muscle damage, burn fat and prevent fatigue, Bergo added.

“But water laced with N-acetylcysteine appeared to speed up the spread of melanoma, the potentially deadly skin cancer, in lab mice, researchers found.”

Scientists Turn to Aspirin to Turbo-Charge Cancer Immunotherapy

Editor’s note: This story describes a study performed in mice. More research is needed to determine whether the results also apply to humans.

“Giving cheap aspirin to cancer patients may turbo-charge the effectiveness of expensive new medicines that help their immune systems fight tumors, experiments on mice suggest.

“Immunotherapy promises to revolutionize cancer care by offering a better, longer-lasting response with fewer adverse side effects than conventional treatment, but the new drugs do not work well in all cases.

“One reason is that cancer cells often produce large amounts of the molecule prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which turns down the immune system’s normal attack response to tumor cells, according to scientists at London’s new Francis Crick Institute.”

Bone Drug Should Be Seen in a New Light for Its Anti-Cancer Properties

“Australian researchers have shown why calcium-binding drugs commonly used to treat people with osteoporosis, or with late-stage cancers that have spread to bone, may also benefit patients with tumours outside the skeleton, including breast cancer.

“Several clinical trials – where women with breast cancer were given these drugs (bisphosphonates) alongside normal treatment for early-stage disease – showed that they can confer a ‘survival advantage’ and inhibit cancer spread in some women, although until now no-one has understood why.

“A new study by Professor Mike Rogers, Dr Tri Phan and Dr Simon Junankar from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research has used sophisticated imaging technologies to reveal that bisphosphonates attach to tiny calcifications in tumours in mice.

“These calcium-drug complexes are then devoured by ‘macrophages’, immune cells that the cancer hijacks early in its development to conceal its existence…

” ‘This study is potentially transformative for treatment of some cancers, because it is telling us for the first time that drugs we thought acted only in bone can also act within tumours completely outside the skeleton, and have a beneficial effect,’ said Professor Rogers.

” ‘We already know this drug is well-tolerated in people and provides a survival advantage for some patients with certain cancers when taken early in disease development. This now provides a rationale for using these drugs in a different, and potentially more effective, way in the clinic.”

Potential Therapy for Postpartum Breast Cancer Investigated

The gist: Studies in mice show that a targeted drug called BMS-777607 could potentially be used to treat premenopausal women who develop metastatic breast cancer shortly after giving birth. While promising, the drug is not yet available for any women to try. The researchers say that, for now, women who recently gave birth should be “vigilant about breast health.”

“Nearly 25 percent of all breast cancers among premenopausal women occur within two to five years following a pregnancy.

“These postpartum tumors are more likely to spread or metastasize to other parts of the body, leading to an increased risk of death.

“ ‘Unfortunately, these are young women who have just had children. All breast cancer deaths are tragic, but the loss of a young woman who is also a mother is so devastating for families and has a profoundly negative societal impact,’ said Rebecca Cook, Ph.D., assistant professor of Cancer Biology.

“A new study led by Cook and published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation helps explain the cellular activity that leads to breast tumor metastasis among women who have recently given birth. Other contributors include first author Jamie Stanford, Ph.D., a former VICC postdoctoral fellow now working for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and collaborators at the University of North Carolina and the University of Illinois…

“ ‘MerTK-directed therapies may prevent the accelerated rate of tumor spread caused by the postpartum remodeling processes. This would be a short window of treatment in the postpartum period but with the long-term benefit of preventing tumor recurrence at distant sites,’ said Cook.

“In the meantime, Cook said women who have recently given birth need to be vigilant about breast health.”

New Proposal for Combined Therapy Proves Effective Against a Notoriously Resistant HER2+ Breast Cancer Subtype

Note: This article discusses research that was performed in cells and in mice in the lab. Therefore, the results do not necessarily apply to humans. Nonetheless, they are promising. The research looked into treatment of a specific HER2+ breast cancer subtype known as p95HER2. The scientists found that this type of tumor might be successfully treated with a combination of chemotherapy and the targeted drug Herceptin. Clinical trials with volunteer patients will be needed to see if this holds true.

“Research led by Joaquín Arribas, Principal Investigator of the Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology´s (VHIO) Growth Factors Group, Director of Preclinical Research at VHIO, and ICREA Professor, has shown the combined strategy of chemotherapy plus trastuzumab (a selective therapy against HER2 receptors), as effective in reducing tumors of a specific HER2+ breast cancer subtype known as p95HER2. Recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), this study signposts new therapeutic promise for patients with p95HER2-positive breast tumors, since, up until now, this subgroup has proven highly resistant to therapy. Funded through support received from the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC), this research has also been carried out in collaboration with Atanasio Pandiella from the Cancer Research Center of Salamanca (CIC) and other organizations including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).”

Botox for Stomach Cancer? No, But the Research is Fascinating

Editor’s note: This article clarifies misleading claims made by other sources that Botox can now be used to treat cancer. However, the claims are based on research that is still very interesting. Read the article to separate the fact from the fiction. 

“Amid continuing tales of global woe, Thursday morning’s news carried one of those quirky ‘fancy-that!’ medical research stories that often captures the imagination, but which can inadvertently raise false hope in patients.

“According to several news outlets, Botox injections – better known for their face-freezing properties – ‘could be used to treat stomach cancer’. The Irish Independent’s headline even went so far as to say it was a ‘highly effective’ treatment.

“As is so often the case, that’s going way beyond what the underlying research actually found: the study was mainly carried out in mice, and doesn’t yet prove that Botox could help stomach cancer patients.

“But with that important caveat out of the way, the research itself is worth a closer look. It highlights a very poorly studied but fascinating topic – the potential link between the body’s nervous system and the way cancer develops…

“As a result of their findings, the Norwegian researchers have started a very small-scale clinical trial, in very advanced stomach cancer patients, to begin to test the idea that injecting Botox into stomach tumours might be helpful.”