Friday, November 6, 2009

Cancer Research Blog Carnival #27

We are honored to have been invited to host this month’s Cancer Research Blog Carnival (CRBC), your monthly roundup of posts from the cancer blogosphere. This marks the 27th Edition of this successful Carnival and we are excited to be a part of it.

In this edition, and in agreement with the spirit of our blog, MolBio Research Highlights, we’ve favored posts with a molecular biology/genetics orientation.

Let’s get down to business:

1) Approaches like linkage analysis or genome-wide association studies have enabled us to study the genetic basis of diseases like prostate cancer, one of the most prevalent types of cancer among men. Erin Cline at The Spittoon, discusses the reporting in Nature Genetics of new SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) associated with this disease(a)
"(…) researchers are turning to studies that include larger numbers of participants than ever before. The hard work is paying off, as can be seen in four recent reports published in the journal Nature Genetics. These analyses, based on the DNA of tens of thousands of men, have added at least 12 new variants to the roster of prostate cancer-associated SNPs"
2) Keith Robison at Omics! Omics! discusses a recent article on the topic of cancer genomics. Through the use of Illumina technology, a Canadian group sequenced both the genome and transcriptome of an oestrogen-receptor-alpha-positive metastatic lobular breast cancer and compared it to a primary tumor sample from the same patient, from 9 years earlier. These approaches showed that significant tumor evolution can occur with disease progression.

3) Regulatory T –cells (TReg cells) help control immune responses, playing a key role in immune homeostasis. Interestingly, it has been proposed that these cells facilitate tumors' escape from immune monitoring. Further, these TReg cells have been shown to be antigen-specific. Ian York at Mystery Rays from Outer Space takes a look at a recent article addressing an interesting question in the field: what are the tumor antigens that are driving the TRegs?
“I would have assumed that TRegs are looking at many, many tumor antigens, including both normal self antigens as well as classical tumor antigens. But a recent paper suggests, to my surprise, that this assumption is wrong. Instead, “TRegs in tumor patients were highly specific for a distinct set of only a few tumor antigens“. What’s more, eliminating TRegs cranked up the functional immune response, but only to those antigens TRegs recognized — as you’d expect, if the suppression is indeed antigen specific”
4) Cases of vertical transmission of tumors have been recorded in the literature, but it wasn’t until recently that evidence of a shared cancer clone between the mother and the child (i.e genetic evidence for mother-to-offspring transmission), was reported. How complex is fetal-maternal cell trafficking? Is this traffic bidirectional? How does this phenomenon impact on existing paradigms in cancer biology?
Alex at Hematopoiesis discusses a recent review addressing some of these questions.

5) Colin Hockings at Blue Genes gives us a very nice post about telomeres. Given that this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three American scientists "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase", it’s nice to have an overview of our current knowledge on this subject.

Simply put, telomere integrity is essential for the stability of chromosomes, which in turn determines the survival of the cell. As cells divide, telomeres get shorter which limits the number of divisions a cell can undergo. Notably, most types of cancer exhibit deregulations in telomere biology, which supports the limitless proliferative potential these cell harbor. Colin’s post is written in an amenable fashion and links to a recent review considering telomerase as a therapeutic target.

That's it for this month's Cancer Research Blog Carnival. We hope you've enjoyed reading it, just as much as we did putting it together. For older editions, visit the Carnival Homepage. Don't forget, the CRBC has subscription options; you can follow by email or RSS feed.

If you'd like to host a future edition, email

(a) By definition, a polymorphism is a nucleotide variant present in more than 1% of the studied population and, for a few years now, researchers have used these normally occurring variations to try to map risk factors for several complex diseases, including cancer.

ResearchBlogging.orgSome of this carnival's discussed articles:

Yeager, M., Chatterjee, N., Ciampa, J., Jacobs, K., Gonzalez-Bosquet, J., Hayes, R., Kraft, P., Wacholder, S., Orr, N., Berndt, S., Yu, K., Hutchinson, A., Wang, Z., Amundadottir, L., Feigelson, H., Thun, M., Diver, W., Albanes, D., Virtamo, J., Weinstein, S., Schumacher, F., Cancel-Tassin, G., Cussenot, O., Valeri, A., Andriole, G., Crawford, E., Haiman, C., Henderson, B., Kolonel, L., Le Marchand, L., Siddiq, A., Riboli, E., Key, T., Kaaks, R., Isaacs, W., Isaacs, S., Wiley, K., Gronberg, H., Wiklund, F., Stattin, P., Xu, J., Zheng, S., Sun, J., Vatten, L., Hveem, K., Kumle, M., Tucker, M., Gerhard, D., Hoover, R., Fraumeni, J., Hunter, D., Thomas, G., & Chanock, S. (2009). Identification of a new prostate cancer susceptibility locus on chromosome 8q24 Nature Genetics, 41 (10), 1055-1057 DOI: 10.1038/ng.444

Bonertz, A., Weitz, J., Pietsch, D., Rahbari, N., Schlude, C., Ge, Y., Juenger, S., Vlodavsky, I., Khazaie, K., Jaeger, D., Reissfelder, C., Antolovic, D., Aigner, M., Koch, M., & Beckhove, P. (2009). Antigen-specific Tregs control T cell responses against a limited repertoire of tumor antigens in patients with colorectal carcinoma Journal of Clinical Investigation DOI: 10.1172/JCI39608

Shay, J., & Keith, W. (2008). Targeting telomerase for cancer therapeutics British Journal of Cancer, 98 (4), 677-683 DOI: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604209

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