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This Week in BMC Cancer: Dec 5, 2011

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In BMC Cancer this week, researchers in Germany report that the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion, which occurs in about half of all prostate cancer cases, is associated with certain prostate cancer biomarkers and TGF-beta signaling. The team studied large-scale gene expression profiles from 47 prostate tumors and 48 normal prostate tissue samples, and found that well-known prostate cancer biomarkers like CRISP3 were associated with gene fusion status. "WNT, TGF-beta/BMP signaling pathways were significantly associated with genes upregulated in TMPRSS2-ERG fusion-positive tumors," the authors write. "Our results suggest that the fusion status should be considered in retrospective and future studies to assess biomarkers for prostate cancer detection, progression and targeted therapy."

Also in BMC Cancer this week, researchers in China report that the STAT3 activation in the monocytes of a liver cancer patient can accelerate that cancer's progression. In studying STAT3 expression in liver cancer tissue samples and in the monocytes of liver cancer patients, the team found that phosphorylated STAT3 expression was significantly correlated with advanced disease stage and poor prognosis. In a mouse model of liver cancer, inhibition of STAT3 with a compound called NSC 74859 significantly suppressed tumor growth, induced tumor cell apoptosis, and suppressed cancer associated inflammation in the liver. "Our data suggest constitutively activated STAT3 monocytes promote liver tumorigenesis in clinical patients and animal experiments," the authors write. "Thus, STAT3 in tumor infiltrating inflammatory cells may an attractive target for liver cancer therapy."

Finally in BMC Cancer this week, researchers at the BC Cancer Agency in Canada write that targeting hypoxic tumor cells can help combat metastasis. Recent evidence suggests that hypoxic cells in primary tumors can also affect the survival and proliferation of metastatic tumor cells in other organs, the authors write. There are a number of treatments that could directly target hypoxic cells and functionally inhibit hypoxia-induced proteins. "Targeting hypoxic tumor cells to reduce metastatic disease represents an important advance in the way scientists and clinicians view the influence of tumor hypoxia on therapeutic outcome," they add.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.