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That's my girl! Lookin for a cure for Cancer!

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by crankus_maximus, Mar 22, 2005.

  1. crankus_maximus

    crankus_maximus Crankus Baitus Maximus

    If you read the article in the Dispatch, the young lady pictured is my wife. I'm as proud as can be!

    Chasing cancer's holy grail
    Researchers are beginning to learn how to develop a viable vaccine
    Tuesday, March 22, 2005
    Mike Lafferty

    Graduate research associate Stephanie Allen injects a fragment of protein into a purification device as part of the research to identify a vaccine for various cancers at Ohio State University. She works in Kaumaya’s lab.

    "We’re nibbling at it from the edges. It doesn’t seem like we’re getting very far sometimes." DR. WILLIAM CARSON Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital researcher who has been working on a colon-cancer vaccine for a decade

    "There’s going to be an explosion of new information over the next several years. If we get a gene, we can go in and six months later get an antibody and a vaccine."
    —DR. PRAVIN T. KAUMAYA Ohio State University breast-cancer researcher

    This image shows the peptide that Ohio State researcher Dr. Pravin T. Kaumaya developed to turn on and off a gene related to breast cancer. The gene experiment is part of his search for a cancer vaccine. Despite promising results, the vaccine is at least five years from being approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

    This image shows cervical-cancer cells in the final stages of division. Microtubules are in red, a protein that marks the midbody in green, and the DNA in blue.

    Each new tube of blood that arrives in Dr. William Carson’s laboratory is like a dispatch from a battlefield.

    The enzymes and other blood proteins contained in the vials surrendered by Carson’s cancer patients are intelligence from a front where the enemy has given ground only grudgingly.

    Carson, a researcher at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, is developing a vaccine for colon cancer, which strikes 149,000 people in the United States each year and kills 56,000.

    "We’re nibbling at it from the edges. It doesn’t seem like we’re getting very far sometimes," said Carson, who has been working on his vaccine for a decade.

    Yet scientists have spent four decades chasing a silver bullet.

    A complex foe

    Vaccines have knocked out polio, smallpox, measles and other diseases.

    So, why not cancer?

    Researchers discovered the answer almost immediately after their first vaccines fell flat. They simply didn’t know enough about cellular function to create something to shut down such a complex disease.

    "A decade ago, our knowledge of the immune system — vis-a-vis cancer — was almost nothing," Dr. Pravin T. Kaumaya, an Ohio State University breast-cancer researcher, said.

    The earliest vaccines were made from a patient’s own tumor cells, but these failed because, among other problems, there usually were not enough cells to make a vaccine.

    Because scientists now have a greater understanding of the inner workings of cells and the immune system, their research into vaccines has accelerated.

    One key was understanding how immunesystem cells — called killer T cells — recognize foreign proteins.

    "We’ve shown that the immune system can be directed to work against cancer," Carson said. "Cancer will never be eliminated. The goal is to make it a chronic disease."

    The vaccines Carson and Kaumaya have created are among a recent flood of them headed for medical trials. Although no cancer vaccine has been approved for use in the United States, a few in the research pipeline are expected to be adopted.

    For example, vaccines for melanoma, cervical cancer and prostate cancer could be approved in the next couple of years.

    "We’re hopeful we are going to have the answer after all these years, and this will usher in a new era of cancer therapy," said Dr. Donald Morton, a vaccine researcher at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif.

    The immediate hope is for vaccines to fill a huge hole in traditional treatment by preventing the disease from returning.

    Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which have extended many lives, have fallen short on prevention. And a plus for vaccines is that they have far fewer side effects and are not toxic, unlike radiation and chemotherapy.

    "We’re not at the prophylactic stage yet, but we’re looking at patients who have a high risk for recurrence to gauge," Dr. Michael Liebman, a cancer researcher at Windber Research Institute in Pennsylvania, said.

    But scientists also are looking for vaccines that will prevent the disease.

    Liebman said the breast-cancer vaccine he is developing has inhibited cancer recurrence in 80 percent of his patients for as long as two years.

    The birth of immunology

    In most cases, vaccine technology is pretty simple.

    In 1796, Edward Jenner, an English country doctor, noticed people infected with cowpox seemed to be immune from catching smallpox, its deadly relative.

    He knew there was something protective in the cowpox.

    Jenner tested his theory by inoculating an 8-year-old boy, scratching his arm with pus from a milkmaid with cowpox. The boy did not get sick, and immunology was born.

    All vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to attack an invader. Cowpox was similar enough to smallpox that the boy’s body produced antibodies that attacked the disease. In turn, the immune system launches specialized attack cells.

    Because cancer cells are simply mutated versions of the body’s own cells, they usually don’t trigger an immune-system response.

    Some cancer vaccines attack cancer cells. Others mimic the proteins formed by cancer cells, tricking the immune system into forming antibodies to attack them.

    "Part of the attraction is the complexity of the vaccines can vary from a simple protein looking like the cancer cell all the way to manufacturing a virus to infect a white blood cell and train it to be a tumor killer," Carson said.

    Other vaccines harness viruses to deliver genes that boost the immune system.

    National Cancer Institute researcher Jeffrey Schlom is working on these "vector" vaccines for pancreatic, prostate, colorectal and breast cancer.

    In early trials, he said, patients have lived longer with less toxicity and have seen their tumors stop growing.

    "We’re not seeing a lot of shrinkage of tumors. But patients are doing well for months and years with their tumors." he said, adding that many more tests are necessary.

    Schlom said he is confident that vaccines soon will join surgery and other standard treatments.

    But so far, all the vaccines depend on rallying a healthy immune system, something relatively few cancer patients have.

    "With cancer, the immune system has already been pushed to the side. You’re already behind," Carson said, who likened trying to halt a rapidly growing tumor to stopping a train.

    That’s why his colon-cancer vaccine will be used with a hormone designed to turbocharge the immune system.

    Immune - system secrets

    Other Ohio State scientists are trying to boost the immune system to keep cancers from forming in the first place. Two years ago, scientists learned that a type of leukemia more common with organ-transplant recipients is set off by a virus most people carry in their bodies.

    The virus normally exists in a latent state, kept in check by the body’s immune system.

    "When you undergo an organ transplant and your immune system is suppressed, the virus wakes up with few guards in place," said Dr. Michael Caligiuri, who is leading a research team studying a leukemia vaccine.

    The idea is to use the vaccine to strengthen the immune system before transplant surgery.

    "Our vaccine will put more soldiers out in the field," Caligiuri said.

    A major difficulty is that tumors are the body’s own cells gone haywire, and the body is reluctant to attack itself.

    "You say to your own body every day, ‘Don’t attack me,’ " Caligiuri said.

    Cancer cells often communicate the same message, excreting proteins that fool the immune system to allow tumors to sneak in under the radar.

    Still, advances in genetics and in computer power are combining to solve these problems and open holes in tumor defenses. The human genome project, which has mapped every gene in the human body, has allowed researchers to identify genes more rapidly and to learn their functions.

    While genes such as HER2-neu and P-53 are implicated in many cancers, so are about 23 others.

    And each of those genes produces a unique cell type. That makes it more difficult for vaccines designed to destroy a specific cell. One may be killed, but others continue to grow around it.

    Finding the right genes

    Eventually, Morton’s team identified more than 30 genes associated with melanoma and altered the vaccine to attack each cell type.

    Other labs are doing the same, and the hunt for new genes is continuing.

    This month, Penn State scientists discovered a tumor-suppressor gene.

    "There’s going to be an explosion of new information over the next several years," Kaumaya said. "If we get a gene, we can go in and six months later get an antibody and a vaccine."

    Some targets, such as melanomas and kidney tumors, are easier to work with. A vaccine for stomach cancer is being developed simply because there are few more-conventional options and patients die quickly.

    Because there are as many as 100 different forms of breast cancer, researchers aren’t sure whether an individual vaccine might be needed for each. Then again, the same cancer type can affect different people in different ways.

    "Is there going to be a vaccine to cure all cancers? I don’t think so," Carson said.

    Although vaccines remain experimental, they have shown enough potential to attract funding from the government and drug companies hoping to develop and market viable treatments.

    According to industry estimates, the market for vaccines and other immunological cancer treatments will nearly double by 2009.

    Although researchers can create vaccines relatively quickly, it takes years to grind through the approval process. And despite promising results, Kaumaya’s breast-cancer vaccine is five or six years from government approval.

    He said one problem is that federal rules say that only patients in the late stages of cancer be allowed in vaccine trials.

    Few survive.

    Still, researchers remain confident.

    "We’re at the make-or-break point, where we want to see vaccines become a standard tool," Carson said. "We have a lot of resources invested. We hope for success, as with chemotherapy and radiation. I think it’s going to end up working."
  2. Nice read man and WOW your wife is involved must really make you feel great!!!

  3. catking

    catking Banned

    Thanks for sharing. You have a great woman there...THE CATKING !!! :)
  4. ShakeDown

    ShakeDown OGF Staff Staff Member Admin

    Right on CM! Small world, my wife works for the James too :D
  5. crankus_maximus

    crankus_maximus Crankus Baitus Maximus

    Amazing work they do. I am as proud as can be! She is 5 years into her PhD program and processes a lot of the bloodwork from those clinical trials for the breast cancer vaccine. Her specific project is trying to find the gene that cuts off blood supply to tumors. It really is amazing.
  6. crankus_maximus

    crankus_maximus Crankus Baitus Maximus

    Here is the photo that appears in the Dispatch. The caption reads:

    Graduate research associate Stephanie Allen injects a fragment of protein into a purification device as part of the research to identify a vaccine for various cancers at Ohio State University. She works in Kaumaya’s lab.

    Attached Files:

  7. oh yea... one for the archives bro
  8. ShakeDown

    ShakeDown OGF Staff Staff Member Admin

    Definitely! Very cool indeed.
  9. Fish4Fun

    Fish4Fun Relaxing.

    Good deal crankus something to be very proud of for sure....
  10. DaleM

    DaleM Original OGF Staff Member

    Way to go Girl. Maybe she'll be the one to crack the cure. Got to make you proud.
  11. crankus_maximus

    crankus_maximus Crankus Baitus Maximus

    I am very proud! Think of the rig I could get if she cracked that code! Wowsa!

    She works very hard in a field full of minorities and gets very little credit. I have to brag on her, because its obvious she is a genious. I just can't figure why a smart girl like her stays with a dumb man like me :)
  12. Your wife is part of a monumental task and I commend her and all others who continue with ambition to find a cure or even more effective treatments. Nearly all of us here will either directly or indirectly be affected by the work of your wife and the other researchers at some point in our lives.

    You have good reason to be proud of her.:)
  13. Marshall

    Marshall Catch Photo And Release

    Be patient, one day you will have your boat whether the code is cracked or not. But I have a lot of faith in her. Its a good thing there are people like steph in this world or we would be in trouble.