Fun Science FRIEDay – Virus be good!

“The era of the oncolytic virus is… here.” Stephen Russell, Cancer researcher and haematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnessota

…. and let me be the first to welcome our new virus overlords!

 Viral-based cancer therapy: T cells (orange) are recruited to attack malignant cells (purple). (Photo credit: Dr. Andrejs Liepins/SPL)

Viral-based cancer therapy: T cells (orange) are recruited to attack malignant cells (purple). (Photo credit: Dr. Andrejs Liepins/SPL)

Last week the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decision that received little fanfare, but has huge implications for modern medicine and how we approach cancer treatment in the US. That decision? The FDA granted their approval for a genetically engineered virus to be used to treat cancer. That virus was the herpesvirus called talimogene laherparepvec, and its use is for the treatment of melanoma lesions in the skin and lymph nodes. This huge decision makes it the first oncolytic virus to receive market approval and could pave the way for more oncolytic viruses to enter the “market.”

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Fasting Fights Cancer?

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay to everyone. FSF is back and with a new name!

After a brief hiatus to sort out some legal issues regarding the title of FSF, and a trip to the World Cup, I am hopefully back into the swing of providing you with mostly weekly, fun, and interesting science facts!

Up this week is cancer, and what we as a species are doing to kick its ass! … along w/ the involuntary help of the Mus musculus species.

Relatively recent work by Dr. Longo, of the University of Southern California, and his colleagues, has shown that a simple dietary adjustment may help combat the negative influence of chemotherapy and age on immune cell function! In short, their findings suggest that fasting, yes you heard right, FASTING, may provide benefits for cancer patients and the elderly by replenishing stem cells in the blood.

 

Conceptualization of the influence prolonged fasting has to promote stem cell regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. (Photo credit: Cheng et al. 2014)

Conceptualization of the influence prolonged fasting has to promote stem cell regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. (Photo credit: Cheng et al. 2014)

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Fun Science Friday – Using the Force to Detect Cancer…. Sorta

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish! What does that have to do with this week’s Southern Fried Science…. nothing! But that quote always makes me laugh.

This week we bring you another crazy break through in science that involves fruit flies and cancer. No, fruit flies do not cause cancer… that we know of. I am probably a little late on this, but the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is the newest weapon in the fight against cancer. Yes you heard that right, man has turned one of the more annoying creatures into something useful! Useful for humans that is. 😉

Side view of a  a 0.1 x 0.03 inch (2.5 x 0.8 mm) small male fruit fly. Credit: André Karwath

Side view of a a 0.1 x 0.03 inch (2.5 x 0.8 mm) small male fruit fly.
Credit: André Karwath

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Ocean of Pseudoscience Shorty – Sharks and Cancer

One of the most prevalent shark myths  is  “sharks don’t get cancer”. This is associated with the more troubling myth that consuming shark cartilage will cure humans of cancer. Despite the success of books with titles like “Sharks don’t get cancer: How shark cartilage could save your life” and “Sharks still don’t get cancer: The continuing story of shark cartilage therapy“, the fact remains that sharks do get cancer.

According to a 2004 article from the Journal of Cancer Research, the first elasmobranch tumor was discovered in 1853 and they have since been found in 21 species. Some suggest that this is a relatively low incidence of cancer, but one of this paper’s authors brings up a good point in an interview with National Geographic News:

“Any suggestion that they get it at a lower rate than humans or other fish, is premature – because there haven’t been any carefully conducted systematic studies. I have not seen anything in the scientific literature that gives any confidence, with certainty, that sharks get cancer at a lower rate than fish or other species.”

source

The immune system of sharks is the subject of a great deal of research, and some of this research may one day lead to a cure for cancer. However, beliefs that simply consuming part of a shark will give you some of that shark’s abilities are the intellectual equivalent of me claiming that eating Michael Jordan would make me better at basketball. While the cartilage pill industry is not even close to the scale of the shark finning industry, killing sharks to sell ground up cartilage to desperate cancer patients is wrong on many levels.

Christie, from Observations of a Nerd has joined in on an Ocean of Pseudoscience Week with this epic posts, providing even more proof that sharks do get cancer.

~WhySharksMatter