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B7x-cellent — In the March 1, 2013 issue of the Journal of Immunology, Drs. Xingxing Zang, Yael Abadi, and Hyungjun Jeon report a role for the immune regulatory molecule B7x in promoting the spread of cancer (metastasis). B7x inhibits the immune response and increased levels on tumors in cancer patients has been associated with poor clinical outcomes and death. Using a mouse model of metastatic breast cancer, the researchers found that removal of B7x signaling enhanced the anti-tumor immune response, which resulted in a decrease in tumors and enhanced survival. Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide and targeted treatments for metastasis are critical to improving survival. The findings suggest that blocking B7x could offer a therapy that harnesses the power of the immune response to treat metastatic cancers. In related news, the journal OncoImmunology has invited Dr. Zang to write an “Auto-Commentary” on this work, and the Department of Defense’s Prostate Cancer Research Program has selected Dr. Zang's cancer immunology research to be highlighted in its program materials that communicate buzz-worthy research to Congress and other stakeholders. Dr. Zang is assistant professor of microbiology and immunology. Dr. Jeon is a research fellow in the Zang lab, and Dr. Abadi is a Ph.D. student who successfully defended her thesis recently.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 

Metabolic Transformation — Dr. Antonio Di Cristofano has been awarded a $1.6 million grant over five years from the National Cancer Institute to study the role of the protein, PI3K, in the transformation of cells into tumor cells. Cancer cells have a characteristic metabolism that is different from normal cells. The researchers previously demonstrated that increased activation of PI3K in epithelial cells of the thyroid produces a metabolic profile similar to that of cancer cells — although preceding the transformation process and acting through a previously unknown pathway. This grant will allow the researchers to test the hypothesis that PI3K coordinates changes in gene expression that alter cellular metabolism, thereby creating an environment that favors transformation. The results from this research could help develop innovative targeted approaches aimed at selectively disrupting tumor growth while preserving metabolism in normal cells. Dr. Di Cristofano is associate professor of developmental & molecular biology and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 

Macrophages and Metastasis — Dr. Jeffrey Pollard has been awarded a $2.1 million grant over five years from the National Cancer Institute. The funding will support research to define the role of a particular type of cell of the immune system, macrophages, on the ability of tumor cells to spread from the initial site to other parts of the body. This process, known as metastasis, is the major cause of cancer death. The research will focus specifically on how macrophages promote the growth and survival of tumor cells in bone marrow and lungs, the main sites of breast cancer metastasis. Elucidating the mechanisms by which macrophages influence the establishment of tumors in bone and lung could result in the development of new therapeutic agents to fight metastatic breast cancer, the most common malignancy in women. Dr. Pollard is professor of developmental & molecular biology and of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health, director of the Center for Study of Reproductive Biology and Women's Health  and the Louis Goldstein Swan Chair in Women's Cancer Research.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 

Living Colors — Dr. Robert Singer and colleagues have developed a new technique for simultaneously monitoring the expression of two genes inside living cells. In research published in the February 2013 issue of Nature Methods, the scientists were able to count the number of mRNA molecules transcribed by two different alleles  of a yeast gene by attaching differently-colored fluorescent proteins to each, or “tagging” them. The labeling effort in this study, combining one well-established tag, MS2, and one new tag, PP7, revealed that a population of identical cells exhibits variation in gene expression levels. This phenomenon may be evolutionarily advantageous and may also help explain why genetically identical twins often exhibit slight differences. The publication presents a methodology that will have countless uses in the field of RNA biology.  First author, Sami Hocine is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Dr. Singer, who is professor and co-chair of anatomy & structural biology, professor of neuroscience and of cell biology and co-director of the Gruss-Lipper Biophotonics Center. Dr. Jeffrey Chao and Dr. Daniel Zenklusen, former postdoctoral research associates in anatomy & structural biology, contributed to the research.    

 

Friday, January 25, 2013
 
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