On the run-12Feb10

Cancer Causes Cancer!

Well, that was the headline we should have gone with. It is of course a hat tip to the Daily Mail, a tabloid publication that is desperate to tell the UK population that just about everything causes cancer. (I found that website by googling ‘cancer causes daily mail’, which is in itself quite a neat headline. Unfortunately I think we’re closer to curing cancer than curing the Daily Mail. Oh well.)

So, we know that tumours have this nasty habit of sending out malignant cells into the rest of the body. They break off from the primary site and get into the blood and lymphatic systems, occasionally washing up in convenient organs where they can settle down and create new tumours, or metastases. This is partly why cancer is so difficult to cure: you can cut out the original malignant growth, zap it with X-rays and take all sorts of evil drugs (‘evil’ because they are designed to kill cells, and you’re made up of cells; and discrimination between the cancer cells and normal cells is a huge problem); but if one metastatic cell survives, you have to start all over again. And if it’s managed to find a home deep in a bone, or the brain, or somewhere equally inaccessible, it’s game over.

It turns out things are even worse than that. Circulating tumour cells, if they find their way back to their original ‘home’, can actually stimulate growth of the original cancer. Nasty. As the authors say,

Tumor self-seeding could explain the relationships between anaplasia, tumor size, vascularity and prognosis, and local recurrence seeded by disseminated cells following ostensibly complete tumor excision.

‘Ostensibly complete tumor excision’—that’s right, because no matter how good your surgeon is, you can never be sure you’ve cut every last bit out; or that some cells haven’t already gone walkabout.

The good news is that certain cytokines derived from the tumour, IL-6 and IL-8, act to attract the circulating cells, and that they get back in via the matrix metalloproteinase collagenase I (MMP-1) and fascin-1 (it’s the actin cytoskeleton again! These guys get everywhere). If we can find a way to selectively block these pathways we should be able to start thinking about appropriate therapeutic approaches. Gentlemen (and ladies), start your (grant-writing) engines.

Kim, M., Oskarsson, T., Acharyya, S., Nguyen, D., Zhang, X., Norton, L., & Massagué, J. (2009). Tumor Self-Seeding by Circulating Cancer Cells Cell, 139 (7), 1315-1326 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.11.025

Twitter storm

It’s been pretty hectic on the twittertubes this week. Following a random conversation at the Scholarly Kitchen I suggested writing papers in 140 characters would be a wheeze. I turned it into a competition, and we had an amazing response. Check back on Monday to find out who’s the lucky winner of a bag of f1000 swag.

Badger Wars

vermin shooting verminI don’t have a lot to say about badger culling to prevent/reduce bovine TB (except maybe to say that killing vermin with a high-powered rifle and decent ‘scope is one of the most humane ways of doing this).

I just like the sound of a ‘randomized badger culling trial’. Oh, and when someone ‘explains’

This trial was undertaken in very specific circumstances and it could be misleading to extrapolate the findings to any future control program.

you can be pretty sure there’s a vested interest or extreme prejudice somewhere. Even when the trial shows that there’s no economic benefit.
Jenkins, H., Woodroffe, R., & Donnelly, C. (2010). The Duration of the Effects of Repeated Widespread Badger Culling on Cattle Tuberculosis Following the Cessation of Culling PLoS ONE, 5 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009090

Valentine’s Day

Just a reminder to all you chaps out there—it can’t hurt to buy some flowers, even if you don’t want to buy into the whole commercialization thing. A nice dinner doesn’t cost you much either, and could pay dividends in the romance stakes. But at the very least, show you really care by getting checked out:

Take a test for #Valentine‘s Day. Sexual health appointments across Lincolnshire within 48 hours. Call 01522 539 145

It gets pretty lonely up there in Lincolnshire. Have a good weekend, and I hope it’s full of lovehearts and kisses. Failing that, a beer or three can have much the same effect.


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Filed under Friday afternoon, Literature, Medicine, Random, Science.