Blood Test for Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer

A newly identified biomarker panel could pave the way to earlier detection and better treatment for pancreatic cancer, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. Currently over 53,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — the fourth leading cause of cancer death — every year. The blood biomarkers, detailed today in Science Translational Medicine, correctly detected pancreatic cancer in blood samples from patients at different stages of their disease.

The majority of pancreatic cancer patients are not diagnosed until an advanced stage, beyond the point at which their tumors can be surgically removed.

A team led by Ken Zaret, PhD, director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Joseph Leidy Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Gloria Petersen, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic, identified a pair of biomarkers that physicians could soon use to discover the disease earlier.

Starting with our cell model that mimics human pancreatic cancer progression, we identified released proteins, then tested and validated a subset of these proteins as potential plasma biomarkers of this cancer,” Zaret said. The authors anticipate that health care providers will use the early-detection biomarkers to test for their presence and levels in blood from pancreatic cancer patients and blood drawn from individuals with a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer, including those who have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer, are genetically predisposed to the disease, or who had a sudden onset of diabetes after the age of 50.

Early detection of cancer has had a critical influence on lessening the impact of many types of cancer, including breast, colon, and cervical cancer. A long standing concern has been that patients with pancreatic cancer are often not diagnosed until it is too late for the best chance at effective treatment,” said Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) at the University of Pennsylvania. “Having a biomarker test for this disease could dramatically alter the outlook for these patients.”


The Fountain Of Youth

It’s been a dream of civilizations since the dawn of time: If we can’t live forever, can we at least slow down the aging process and stretch our lives out as long as possible? Now, researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) say they’ve found that a certain type of physical exercise can slow the aging process within our cells. That ultimately means better health, and physical conditioning that matches the natural age progression of a significantly younger person–as many as nine years younger.

105 years old Champion French cyclist

If it’s not quite the fountain of youth, it’s an intriguing step toward it. I’m also the first to admit that such a big claim deserves a skeptical eye. So let’s dive right into the study and examine what the researchers claim–along with exactly how much exercise we’re talking about here to achieve the results.


Researchers at BYU, led by a professor of exercise science named Larry Tucker, studied 5,823 adults who had participated in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research project called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among many other things, this study kept track of the participants’ daily physical activity. Specifically, it tracked the degree to which these people engaged in 62 types of exercise over a 30-day period.

The CDC study also measured something called “telomere length values.” Telomeres are “the nucleotide endcaps of our chromosomes,” as a BYU press release explained it, continuing: They’re like our biological clock and they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres.

Here’s where it gets interesting. By poring through the data in the CDC study, BYU‘s Tucker claims that he was able to correlate people’s relative telomere length with their various levels of physical activity–and he found a surprise. If you think of people’s levels of physical activity as being in four categoriessedentary, low, moderate, and high–Tucker found that people in the first three categories had roughly similar telomere lengths.

But for that last category, the people who engaged in high levels of physical activity had “140 base pairs of DNA [more] at the end of their telomeres” than everyone else. According to Tucker’s paper, which was published in the July 2017 edition of Preventive Medicine, that results in a “biologic aging advantage of nine years.” To put this plainly and in layman’s terms, engage in high levels of physical activity, and your cells are more likely to resemble the cells of a considerably younger person. The BYU researchers had to draw a line somewhere, so for purposes of their study they defined “high levels of physical activity” to mean engaging in 30 minutes of jogging for women, or 40 minutes of jogging for men–and to do it five days per week. That’s the kind of level that requires a commitment, but probably isn’t beyond the abilities of anyone who wants to make a decision to become healthier. And, of course, this isn’t the first study by any means to attempt to find the link between increased exercise, better health, and longer life.

Recently, for example, researchers at the Mayo Clinic reached a similar conclusion for different reasons, finding that people who engaged regularly in high-intensity interval training had cells that were more efficient at creating new proteins–which in turn results in “reversing a major adverse effect of aging.”


Nanoparticle Shrinks Breast Tumor, Prevent Recurrence

A Mayo Clinic research team has developed a new type of cancer-fighting nanoparticle aimed at shrinking breast cancer tumors, while also preventing recurrence of the disease. A mice that received an injection with the nanoparticle showed a 70 to 80 percent reduction in tumor size. Most significantly, mice treated with these nanoparticles showed resistance to future tumor recurrence, even when exposed to cancer cells a month later.

The results show that the newly designed nanoparticle produced potent anti-tumor immune responses to HER2-positive breast cancers. Breast cancers with higher levels of HER2 protein are known to grow aggressively and spread more quickly than those without the mutation.

In this proof-of-concept study, we were astounded to find that the animals treated with these nanoparticles showed a lasting anti-cancer effect,” says Betty Y.S. Kim, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator, and a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist who specializes in brain tumors at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. “Unlike existing cancer immunotherapies that target only a portion of the immune system, our custom-designed nanomaterials actively engage the entire immune system to kill cancer cells, prompting the body to create its own memory system to minimize tumor recurrence. These nanomedicines can be expanded to target different types of cancer and other human diseases, including neurovascular and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Dr. Kim’s team developed the nanoparticle, which she has named “Multivalent Bi-specific Nano-Bioconjugate Engager,” a patented technology with Mayo Clinic Ventures, a commercialization arm of Mayo Clinic.

The findings have been published in Nature Nanotechnology.


How To Stop Pain After Cancer Chemotherapy

Karen Safranek is a survivor. Thirteen years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after intensive chemotherapy treatment, was declared cancer free. It was good news..but while the cancer was gone, the treatment had triggered a severe case of peripheral neuropathy, a debilitating condition that causes chronic pain. “On a scale of 1 to 10 it was like a 12. It was excruciating pain. Like my feet and legs were on fire and, it’s so hard to describe, because they felt so painful and yet they were numb“says Karen. And it’s a condition that won’t go away. Dr. Charles Loprinzi of the Mayo clinic says peripheral neuropathy occurs when the brain sends pain signals to damaged nerves in a constant cycle. He says it’s a common side-effect of chemotherapy that’s difficult to treat.
It’s a major problem from a number of chemotherapy drugs, probably the most prominent problem we have these days. For some it limits the amount of chemotherapy we can give and for some that get the chemotherapy it gets better afterwards, but for some it stays there and can be a persistent problem for years.” That was the case for Karen Safranek. For her, the pain was so severe she could barely walk. But then learned of a clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic that was testing a new device called the Scrambler, and she signed on without hesitation.. The machine, which resembles a large car battery, is designed break the pain cycle. , said DR. Charles Loprinzi, Professor of Breast Cancer research at Mayo clinic.
You put electrodes on those nerves and you give them different electrical signals and those different electrical signals kind of re-train the brain and say really this isn’t pain“, he added. After her first treatment Karen says scrambler therapy started working. After four treatments, the pain she had endured for more than a decade was gone.
It was so incredible that I hadn’t felt pain free for so many years that I guess I didn’t expect it to last. It’s working right now but I don’t know if it will be this way tomorrow.” confirms Karen Safranek.
It’s been a year since her scrambler therapy and Karen says the pain has not returned. Dr. Loprinzi says the Scrambler will not work for everyone, and that broader testing needs to be done…but eventually he says, it could be the key for many people, like Karen Safranek, to a life free of pain.

Massive Injection Of Measles Killed Stacy’s Cancer

A massive injection of the measles virus received by a 50-year-old woman in the United States shrank her tumours and eventually made them disappear.
The trial at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was carried out on Stacy Erholtz, who was declared free of the disease. She was one of two patients to participate in the trial which did not prove successful with the other volunteer.
The next step will be a similar trial involving a larger group of patients, which is expected to take place in September.
Ms Erholtz of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota has for years suffered from myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow.
Two stem cell transplants and chemotherapy had proved unsuccessful and her body was riddled with cancer with one tumour growing on her forehead.
Previous trials had shown that a virus can kill cancer in mice, but this was the first time the technique had been used on a human being.
The Mayo experiment was described as a “proof of concept” that a single massive overdose of a virus can overcome a cancer’s natural defences.
In this case it entailed injecting Ms Erholtz with 100 billion units of the measles virus – enough to provide inoculations for 10 million people. However the virus had to be “engineered” before using the therapy.
Within five minutes she was suffering a splitting headache and then as her temperature soared to 105 degrees (40,5 degrees Celsius) she started shaking and vomiting.
But 36 hours later the tumour on her forehead began to shrink, in the weeks that followed it disappeared along with others in her body.

We have a virus that can do that selectively to a tumor without at the same time causing damage to normal tissues in the body,” said Stephen Russell, professor of molecular medicine, who carried out the experiment, and described the successful trial as a landmark..
We’ve known for a long time that we can give a virus intravenously and destroy metastatic cancer in mice. Nobody’s shown that you can do that in people before.”