Leading alcohol researchers from the United States and Canada will discuss their latest findings at an all-day meeting Nov. 18 at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Scientists will discuss the often negative effects that alcohol can have on how genes function in cells. Such changes are passed along to future generations of cells. These modifications, known as epigenetic changes, do not involve changes in the DNA sequence. Much of the discussion will revolve around epigenetic changes caused by alcohol, especially two key events in the expression of genes -- DNA histone deacetylation and DNA methylation. "Epigenetics is one of the many frontiers in alcohol research, " said Elizabeth J. Kovacs, PhD, director of Loyola's Alcohol Research Program and associate director of Loyola's Burn & Shock Trauma Institute.
Patients with non-small cell lung cancer who have mutations in the KRAS gene should respond well to the antifolate class of drugs, according to results of a recent study conducted by Quintiles comparing human lung cancer cell lines and patients. "Our findings indicate that when patients with lung cancer have specific changes in the KRAS gene, they become very amenable to antifolate drugs, " said lead researcher Sarah Bacus, Ph.D., Quintiles senior vice president and chief scientific officer of translational research and development, oncology. "This treatment stops the KRAS gene from being expressed in cancer cells and they die because they depend on this gene." Bacus presented the study results at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference: Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, being held Nov.
Scientists have found a gene whose absence may be an important driver for a common form of skin cancer known as squamous cell cancer (SCC), because its presence signals "Stop! " to cell proliferation. The international team found the gene, called Grhl3, is also virtually absent in SCC that arises in other tissues, including head and neck cancers, that often have a poor prognosis. Because drugs that are effective against SCC are already in development for treating other cancers, they hope treatments and prevention therapies for SCC could be offered to patients within five years. Professor Stephen Jane and Dr Charbel Darido of Monash University's Department of Medicine at the Alfred Hospital in Prahran, Victoria, Australia, led the team, who write about their findings in the 15 November online issue of Cancer Cell.
Results of a study by Baylor College of Medicine physicians underscore the important role that clinical genetic evaluation can have in the management plan of patients with retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer of the eye. The report documents the success of using a multi-disciplinary team approach to achieving the goal of providing genetic evaluation and testing of all retinoblastoma patients at Texas Children's Cancer Center over an eight-year period. Results were published in the Archives of Ophthalmology. "Integrating genetic evaluation into retinoblastoma care helps in understanding whether the disease is inherited or not, and being armed with that information is important for patient screening as well as for determining at-risk relatives, " said Dr. Shweta Dhar, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics and director of the adult genetics program at BCM, lead author of the paper.
A major international study has identified a novel gene mutation that appears to increase the risk of both inherited and sporadic cases of malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. The identified mutation occurs in the gene encoding MITF, a transcription factor that induces the production of several important proteins in melanocytes, the cells in which melanoma originates. While previous research has suggested that MITF may act as a melanoma oncogene, the current study identifies a mechanism by which MITF mutation could increase melanoma risk. The report from researchers from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia is receiving advance online publication in Nature. It is expected to appear in a print issue along with a study from French researchers finding that the same mutation increased the risk for the most common form of kidney cancer, for melanoma or for both tumors.