Immunotherapy Targets Breast Cancer

A new technique aimed at harnessing the body's immune system to attack one of the deadliest forms of breast cancer is being developed by British scientists. The team led by Dr John Maher at King's College London is working on an immunotherapy treatment that specifically attacks HER2-positive tumours. Breast cancer cells that over-produce the HER2 protein are especially aggressive and hard to treat. They account for one in five of the 50,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year in the UK. The new research is supported by a grant worth around £100,000 from the charity Breast Cancer Campaign.
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Potential ‘Universal’ Blood Test for Cancer Discovered

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Researchers from the University of Bradford have devised a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose whether people have cancer or not. The test will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms, saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures such as colonoscopies and biopsies being carried out. Alternatively, it could be a useful aid for investigating patients who are suspected of having a cancer that is currently hard to diagnose. Early results have shown the method gives a high degree of accuracy diagnosing cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer. The research is published online in FASEB Journal, the US journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
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What You Need To Know About Ebola

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(Picture Credit: NIAID)

Liberia went into quarantine yesterday amid the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, one of the most deadly diseases known to man. The West African country sealed its borders except for its main airport and a few major overland crossings, where travellers are being screened for symptoms of the disease. The move follows similar closures in neighboring Guinea, where the outbreak began, and Sierra Leone. Together the three countries have recorded 672 deaths from Ebola, according to the World Health Organisation. The disease is 90 percent fatal once caught, making it the second most lethal human infection after rabies.
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Clinical Trial of Herpes Vaccine Now Enrolling Patients

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Creating a successful vaccine against two members of the family, the sexually transmitted herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2), has proven to be challenging. A clinical trial being conducted by a branch of the National Institutes of Health, now enrolling patients, is based on an HSV-2 vaccine developed by David Knipe, Higgins Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

Meanwhile, Knipe and his colleagues are continuing to fight these viruses on another front. Seizing an approach used against HIV, they are studying possible treatments that could also combat herpes virus infections.
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Celladon Licenses mSCF For Gene Therapy

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Clinical stage biotech firm Celladon Corporation announced that it has signed an exclusive, global license from Enterprise Partners Venture Capital for the membrane-bound form of the Stem Cell Factor gene (mSCF) as treatment for cardiac ischemia. The license agreement will allow Celladon to use mSCF in gene therapy applications.

Stem Cell Factor is an important cytokine which plays a role in cell migration and survival as well as survival of cardiac stem cells. Scientists from the Cardiovascular Research Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have successfully used mSCF gene therapy to undo heart damage in animal models after myocardial infarction. According to the study’s senior investigator Roger J. Hajjar, Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, “mSCF gene therapy promoted a regenerative response in damaged hearts similar to that observed with stem cell therapy and may be one of the first non-cell therapies to increase cardiac muscle precursors in the heart.” The findings were published in Circulation Research.
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Vaccine for Dust-Mite Allergies Created

Researchers at the University of Iowa have developed a vaccine that can combat dust-mite allergies by naturally switching the body's immune response. In animal tests, the nano-sized vaccine package lowered lung inflammation by 83 percent despite repeated exposure to the allergens, according to the paper, published in the AAPS (American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists) Journal. One big reason why it works, the researchers contend, is because the vaccine package contains a booster that alters the body's inflammatory response to dust-mite allergens.
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Scientists ‘Delete’ HIV Virus from Human DNA for the First Time

For the first time, researchers in Philadelphia have found a way to completely delete the HIV virus from human cells by ‘snipping’ them out. The process could also provide a cure for other latent infections. In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Khalili and colleagues detail how they created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA. When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and remove the HIV-1 DNA. From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells.
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Press Release: Aduro BioTech Receives Breakthrough Therapy Designation from FDA for Innovative Pancreatic Cancer Combination Immunotherapy

Aduro BioTech, Inc., a clinical-stage biotechnology company, today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for its pancreatic cancer combination treatment that consists of its CRS-207 and GVAX Pancreas immunotherapies. According to the FDA, a breakthrough therapy designation is for a drug that treats a serious or life-threatening condition, and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement on a clinically significant endpoint over available therapies.
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CRISPR System Involved in Promoting Antibiotic Resistance

CRISPR, a system of genes that bacteria use to fend off viruses, is involved in promoting antibiotic resistance in Francisella novicida, a close relative of the bacterium that causes tularemia. The finding contrasts with previous observations in other bacteria that the CRISPR system hinders the spread of antibiotic resistance genes.

The results are scheduled for publication in PNAS Early Edition.
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Gene Therapy Is Used to Adjust Pigs’ Heartbeat

By injecting a gene into a pig’s heart, scientists have created a “biological pacemaker” that can regulate heartbeats, an achievement that eventually may lead to an alternative to electronic pacemakers in some people. The technique may also prove to be a promising example of gene therapy, which so far has shown glimmers of success in just a few other conditions.

Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles reported Wednesday that they had injected a gene into a tiny section of pigs’ hearts and were able to temporarily reprogram ordinary heart cells into rhythm-generating cells. Human trials of the technique are at least three years away, and if successful, the approach would be, at least at first, limited to a small subset of pacemaker users.
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