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Promise and Progress - Headline Makers In Brief

Leading the Way Fall 2009 Winter 2010

Headline Makers In Brief

By: Valerie Mehl
Date: December 1, 2009

Using Nanotechnology to Find Cancer
Using tiny crystals called quantum dots, researchers have developed a highly sensitive test to look for DNA attachments that often are early warning signs of cancer. The test,
which detects both the presence and quantity of certain DNA changes, could help identify people at risk of developing cancer and help doctors measure the effectiveness of cancer
treatment. Genome Research, August 17, 2009. Funding by the National Cancer
Institute, the National Science Foundation, The Hodson Trust, and the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute.

Predicting Prostate Cancer
A study tracking 774 prostate cancer patients for a median of eight years has shown that the combination of three measurements—PSA (prostate specific antigen), Gleason score (a numeric indicator of prostate cancer aggressiveness), and interval between surgery and the first detectable PSA—most accurately estimates the risk that a prostate cancer has
spread. The measurements also help identify those patients who will most benefit from additional therapy. Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, July 1, 2009. Funding provided by the National Cancer Institute, The Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program.

Single Rogue Cell Responsible for Prostate Cancer Spread
One cell—one initial set of genetic changes—is all it takes to set in motion the cascading events that lead to metastatic prostate cancer. In a 14- year study, researcher G. Steven
Bova, M.D., worked from autopsies of 33 men who died of prostate cancer, examining some 150,000 slides and 30,000 blocks of tissue and traced the origin of each person’s cancer to a single cell source. Nature Medicine, April 15, 2009. Funding provided by Pirkanmaa Cancer Foundation, Maud Kuistila Foundation, Finnish Medical
Foundation, Medical Research Fund of Tampere University Hospital, Academy of Finland, Cancer Society of Finland, Reino Lahitkari Foundation, Sigrid Juselius
Foundation, CaPCURE Foundation, John and Kathe Dyson, David Koch, National Cancer Institute, Prostate Cancer Research and Education Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Grove Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.

Epigenetic Cancer Triggers
Epigenetic changes, or those alterations that occur to the environment of cells rather than directly to its DNA, may trigger as many as half of all cancers.  Hypermethylation of genes
is a chemical process known to shut down tumor suppressor genes, but demethylating agents, so named for their ability to reverse the process, may also trigger new cancers,
says investigator Joseph Califano, M.D. “While we can’t yet say for certain, some patients could be at risk for additional primary tumors,” he says. “We may need a
molecular profile of their cancer before starting demethylating therapy.” Califano’s findings were based on studies of normal and cancer cells from human mouth, nose, and throat tissue. PLoS One, March 23, 2009. Funding provided by the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and the National Cancer Institute.

Two Mutant Genes Linked to Brain Cancer
Scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center and Duke University Medical School linked mutations in two genes, IDH1 and IDH2, to nearly three-quarters of gliomas, one of the most common types of brain cancers. They found that certain patients that carry these
mutations survive at least twice as long as those who do not have the mutations. Additional research on the genes could lead to more precise diagnosis and treatments for the cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, February 18, 2009. Funding provided
by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Institute, The Damon Runyon Foundation, The
Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer
Research, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The American Brain Tumor Association, The Brain Tumor Research Fund at Johns Hopkins, Beckman Coulter, and the Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure Foundation.

Two Prestigious Honors forthe Kimmel Cancer Center
Leading the Way
The Johns Hopkins Hospital has once again — for the 19th consecutive time — earned
the top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of more than 4,800
American hospitals. The Kimmel Cancer Center also continued to rank among the top
three cancer centers in the nation.

Leaders in Epigenetics
With 341 papers cited a total of 21,384 times, Johns Hopkins topped the ScienceWatch list of international leaders in the field of epigenetic research. More than half of the Johns
Hopkins citations were the research of Kimmel Cancer Center investigators Stephen Baylin, M.D. and James Herman, M.D. Johns Hopkins was credited with 10,000 more citations than the 2nd ranked Harvard. Among other prestigious institutions
 outpaced by the Kimmel Cancer Center team were the National Cancer Institute, MIT, the University of Virginia, the University of California, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the UK’s University of Cambridge.