Today is World Cancer Day — a day for raising the voices of cancer survivors, loved ones, and the people who are working endlessly to find solutions. This year’s theme is “I am and
Today is World Cancer Day — a day for raising the voices of cancer survivors, loved ones, and the people who are working endlessly to find solutions. This year’s theme is “I am and I will:” a recognition of the power each individual has to make an impact.
Each year, PLOS ONE publishes more than 1000 new research articles in cancer and oncology from authors who have dedicated their careers to studying this disease. In celebration of this years’ theme, we’re sharing their stories which inspired the science we use to understand and fight this disease.
Meet the researchers…
“My research group is mainly focused on the study of lung and pancreatic cancers, which are associated with high morbidity and mortality rates, worldwide. We use high throughput methods to identify new biomarkers and regulatory pathways and functional assays to improve our understanding of disease biology.
Our ultimate goal is to improve patient survival, through better diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.”
MicroRNA modulated networks of adaptive and innate immune response in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Tainara F. Felix, Rainer M. Lopez Lapa, Márcio de Carvalho, Natália Bertoni, Tomas Tokar, Rogério A. Oliveira, et al
“Bioinformatics is my tool and cancer research is my subject. My dad and many other people died of cancer and I want to uncover what causes cancer. And I love math and computers, which attracted me to become a bioinformatician. Now I am working for NCI initiative Ras program at Frederick National Lab for Cancer Research, which tries to tackle the most critical and ancient gene in cancer biology: Ras genes.
My last paper on PLOS ONE is about common pitfalls often seen in the survival analysis in the field. We wish to first alert researchers about the pitfalls when they perform survival analysis and to provided a novel method that shall help avoid the pitfalls.
The curiosity in biology and the desire to make life better drives my career in science.”
GradientScanSurv—An exhaustive association test method for gene expression data with censored survival outcome. Ming Yi, Ruoqing Zhu, Robert M. Stephens
“The goal of my research is to develop an agent that promotes apoptosis in cancer cells but not in normal cells. To accomplish this goal, I explored different protein targets and pathways that included but are not limited to matrix type-I metalloprotease I (MT1-MMP), tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), and oxidative stress.
I believe that the results and proposed future strategies will help to design potent and safe cancer treatments.”
Targeting mitochondria in cancer therapy could provide a basis for the selective anti-cancer activity. Dmitri Rozanov, Anton Cheltsov, Aaron Nilsen, Christopher Boniface, Isaac Forquer, et al
“I focus on H&N/Skull base cancers and mechanisms of treatment resistance within HPV positive and negative cancers. Understanding mechanism of treatment resistance will enable us to target new pathways for improving patient outcomes.
It is a privilege to work with folks and help the individual patient, but just as important is work on research that can possibly help the many.”
Association of an intact E2 gene with higher HPV viral load, higher viral oncogene expression, and improved clinical outcome in HPV16 positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Nicole V. Anayannis, Nicolas F. Schlecht, Miriam Ben-Dayan, Richard V. Smith, Thomas J. Belbin, et al
“My particular area of research is the staging of colon cancer, it is important because colon cancer is a top 3 killer (of all cancer types) and we need new treatment strategies. However without accurate staging (i.e. determining how advanced the tumor is), it is nearly impossible to develop these new strategies.
My goal is to increase this accuracy, or at least shed light on how accurate our current staging is.”
The Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) is a useful biomarker in predicting metastatic colon cancer using the ADC-value of the primary tumor. Elias Nerad, Andrea Delli Pizzi, Doenja M. J. Lambregts, Monique Maas, Sharan Wadhwani, et al
“I have always wanted to understand the incredible organization of brain functions and how to cure patients with brain lesions. My research field focuses on brain anatomy, brain functions, neuroimaging and how all these aspects together can improve the treatment of patients with cerebral tumors. My work tried to change the standard topographical classification of brain tumors to a model including more detailed information regarding the tumor infiltration along the white matter fibers.
This model perfectly fits the open access principle because it is not based on expensive technology, rather on a basic idea merging anatomy neuroimaging and oncology. I believe that anyone in the world can reproduce this classification method with standard MRI pictures contributing to a more extensive and shared knowledge in this field.
I want to fully understand the interaction between brain structures and brain tumors to better cure my patients.”
A novel radiological classification system for cerebral gliomas: The Brain-Grid. Francesco Latini, Markus Fahlström, Shala G. Berntsson, Elna-Marie Larsson, Anja Smits, Mats Ryttlefors
Read More Cancer Research on PLOS ONE
Find out more about the causes of cancer and interventions to prevent and manage the disease in the PLOS Cancer Research Special Collection.
PLOS ONE will also be launching a Call for Papers for Cancer Metastasis research and invites submissions that report on the biochemical and cell biological basis of metastasis, including but not limited to cell adhesion, cell migration, cytoskeletal dynamics, cell polarity, tumour heterogeneity, tumour dormancy and the tumour microenvironment.
Cancer, the transformation of normal cells into malignant tumor cells, reigns among diseases as one of the leading causes of death around the world. In 2012, cancer claimed 8.2 million lives, and numbers continue to increase each year. While our understanding of cancer is far from complete, we’ve been able to attribute some of the killer’s virulence to increased environmental risk: Increased pollutants and other environmental carcinogens, coupled with an average increase in tobacco and alcohol use and added to a concurrent decrease in daily exercise, cumulatively represent significant risk factors directly related to an increasingly modern world. Ironically, we humans also live a lot longer than we used to, which increases the disease’s chances of occurring.
However, we have identified far fewer examples of the disease in the archaeological record compared to its current frequency in the current population, which has led to the idea that cancer was much less widespread in antiquity. As a result, very little is known about its evolutionary history.
As part of a larger research project undertaken by the British Museum in the city of Amara West, Sudan, the authors of a PLOS ONE paper dug a little deeper into the dark, early history of cancer. Their subject of interest was an over 3,000 year-old skeleton of a young man from ancient Nubia, then part of Egypt, whose remains were excavated at this site, designated on the map below.
When the researchers uncovered skeleton 244-8, as he has been cataloged, they were presented with the difficulties of examining a less-than-complete body. Parts of the skeleton had been broken, highlighted as fragmentary in the image below. In addition, salt in the surrounding soil had slowly damaged the skull over time. The soft tissue of the over 3,000-year-old skeleton, was also long gone.
On top of these difficulties, damages to the body incurred over time, both before and after death, can look very similar to the eye. Cancer, in particular, is notoriously hard to diagnose in human remains; its similarities to other pathologies combined with natural damages sustained after burial made the researchers’ task of properly diagnosing skeleton 244-8 a complicated one. The earliest signs of cancer in bone are also only visible via methods like X-ray that allow us to visualize the inner parts of bone where the disease begins, which the naked eye cannot see.
The researchers assessed the condition of skeleton 244-8, using digital microscopes, scanning electron microscopes (SEM), and radiography (X-rays), and by examining the visual markers on the bone. They looked for evidence of sustained lesions, or damage on the bone, which they found on his vertebrae, ribs, sternum, pelvis, and other parts of the skeleton.
In the X-ray and photo image above of a rib, we can see the damage as noted by the arrows. The parts of the skeleton most affected by lesions were sections of the spine. The image below depicts an especially damaged thoracic vertebra.
The authors discussed four possible causes for the skeleton’s bone damage:
- Metastatic organ cancer, or the rapid creation of abnormal cells that spread from the original site in the organs to other parts of the body
- Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow
- Fungal infection
- Taphonomic damage, or natural decay after death
Although very similar, the visual markers on bone differ slightly depending on the malady causing the damage. We can see in the image below of the tibia that taphonomic damage caused by insects is slightly more uniform in shape than lesions caused by cancer, and the holes continue straight through to the other side of the affected bone.
Based on the shape, size, and appearance of the lesions under X-ray, the authors surmised that the man suffered from metastatic cancer, originating in the man’s organs. However, since no soft tissue was preserved over time, it is nearly impossible to ascertain the exact location of skeleton 244-8’s primary tumor, which would have affected soft tissue like his organs.
Considering the decay caused by time, salt, and insects, the researchers were able to ascertain quite a lot about skeleton 244-8 based on their examinations of the skeleton. In addition to diagnosing him with metastatic cancer, researchers suggest that skeleton 244-8 was a young man between the ages of 25 to 35 who belonged to a middle-class Nubian family at the time of his death, based on the context of his burial.
With increasing advances in the technology used to examine subjects like skeleton 244-8, the inner secrets and pathologies held in places like the inside of bone become less of a mystery. With further study, we’ll be able to understand a little more about the environmental risk factors of skeleton 244-8’s own world: for instance, the possible use of fires in poorly ventilated mudbrick houses, or possible infectious diseases spread by parasites. By taking a closer look at human remains like skeleton 244-8, it may eventually be possible to see the effects of a disease not only of our time, but of considerable antiquity.
Citation: Binder M, Roberts C, Spencer N, Antoine D, Cartwright C (2014) On the Antiquity of Cancer: Evidence for Metastatic Carcinoma in a Young Man from Ancient Nubia (c. 1200BC). PLoS ONE 9(3): e90924. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090924
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Cancer Medicine Issue 2:5 is online and avilable to read now!
The journal brings together articles on a range of oncology specialties, covering cancer biology, clinical cancer research and cancer prevention, with authors from across the globe. The journal is fully open access so all of our articles are freely immediately available to read, download and share.
You can access all our content here.
Below are some top articles which Editor-in-Chief Prof. Qingyi Wei has highlighted from the October issue.
Oxyphenisatin acetate (NSC 59687) triggers a cell starvation response leading to autophagy, mitochondrial dysfunction, and autocrine TNF?-mediated apoptosis
Bethanie L. Morrison, Michael E. Mullendore, Luke H. Stockwin, Suzanne Borgel, Melinda G. Hollingshead and Dianne L. Newton
Summary: The mechanistic basis for oxyphenisatin acetate anti-cancer activity remains unresolved. This study demonstrates that exposure is associated with an acute nutrient deprivation response leading to translation inhibition, induction of autophagy, transient estrogen receptor (ER) stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Ultimately these effects promote apoptosis induction, which in ER+ breast cancer cells is mediated by autocrine TNF? production. This is the first study implicating a nutrient deprivation response as central to the downstream effects of oxyphenisatin acetate.
Treatment with the vascular disruptive agent OXi4503 induces an immediate and widespread epithelial to mesenchymal transition in the surviving tumor
Theodora Fifis, Linh Nguyen, Cathy Malcontenti-Wilson, Lie Sam Chan, Patricia Luiza Nunes Costa, Jurstine Daruwalla, Mehrdad Nikfarjam, Vijayaragavan Muralidharan, Mark Waltham, Erik W. Thompson and Christopher Christophi
Summary: Vascular disruptive treatments effectively destroy over 90% of solid tumors with minimal effects on host tissues but a viable rim of cells persists in the tumor periphery that leads to recurrence. An immediate and widespread epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) occurs within the viable rim after treatment that may be responsible for this resistance to treatment. Targeting EMT in combination with vascular disruptive agents or other therapies in the clinic may improve treatment outcomes.
Preimmunization of donor lymphocytes enhances antitumor immunity of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
Koji Suzuki, Kouichirou Aida, Reina Miyakawa, Kenta Narumi, Takeshi Udagawa, Teruhiko Yoshida, Yusei Ohshima and Kazunori Aoki
Summary: Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) can create an environment strongly supporting the enhancement of antitumor immunity. However, it was rare to cure tumor-bearing mice. We showed that the pre-immunization of donor lymphocytes by intratumoral interferon alpha gene transfer was highly effective in enhancing the antitumor immunity of HSCT and eradicated tumors.
Health risks can be frightening, but ignorance to these risks can be even more terrifying. In the past, we have discussed a range of women’s health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and ovarian cancer. To continue our commitment to health awareness, we would like to honor January as Cervical Health Awareness month.
PLOS ONE has published research tackling many aspects of cervical health, including cervical cancer and human papillomavirus.
Human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, at least 50% of sexually active people will contract the virus at some point in their lives. There are more than 40 types of HPV, some of which may lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening and vaccination to help prevent human papillomavirus.
To further expand our knowledge and understanding of cervical health, researchers from across the globe continue to explore HPV, the vaccine and its social effects.
For example, in a study published in PLOS ONE, authors in Tanzania explored the reasoning behind young girls receiving or not receiving the HPV vaccination. After interviewing both adults and students, researchers found that vaccine education and parental meetings were crucial for vaccine acceptance. Knowing women who had suffered from cervical cancer was also a factor in the decision-making.
The effectiveness of the vaccine is also a common concern. In another article, Canadian researchers developed a system to track the effectiveness of the HPV vaccination in preventing the virus. The authors created a protocol for linking multiple data registries to allow for ongoing monitoring of the vaccines effectiveness, while also ensuring patient privacy was taken into account. This research aims to understand the long term effects of the vaccine and future vaccination tracking initiatives.
This study expands our knowledge on the vaccination results, but what about transmission of the virus? In a third PLOS ONE report, researchers explored the prevalence of HPV in the DNA of males with infected female sexual partners. The authors found that HPV was prevalent in 86% of the male participants surveyed. These men had the same high risk viral type as the infected women, supporting the importance of awareness in men to protect themselves and their partners. This area of investigation is important in expanding our knowledge of transmission of the virus and the risk of cervical cancer development.
All these studies are aimed at improving our understanding of HPV risks and vaccination, and there are many more. As Cervical Health Awareness month draws to an end, explore more PLOS ONE research on the subject here.
Watson-Jones D, Tomlin K, Remes P, Baisley K, Ponsiano R, et al. (2012) Reasons for Receiving or Not Receiving HPV Vaccination in Primary Schoolgirls in Tanzania: A Case Control Study. PLoS ONE 7(10): e45231. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045231
El Emam K, Samet S, Hu J, Peyton L, Earle C, et al. (2012) A Protocol for the Secure Linking of Registries for HPV Surveillance. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39915. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039915
Rocha MGdL, Faria FL, Gonçalves L, Souza MdCM, Fernandes PÁ, et al. (2012) Prevalence of DNA-HPV in Male Sexual Partners of HPV-Infected Women and Concordance of Viral Types in Infected Couples. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040988
Image: Glass sculpture of human papillomavirus. Photograph by Luke Jerram, “Papilloma 2011″