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This Week in BMC Cancer: Apr 19, 2011

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In BMC Cancer this week, researchers in Seattle and Delaware report their findings from a study of the anti-cancer effects of the phenol curcumin on medulloblastoma. The team tested curcumin's ability to induce apoptosis and inhibit tumor growth in vitro and in vivo using medulloblastoma models, and found that it induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase in medulloblastoma cells. Moreover, the authors write, "these effects were accompanied by reduced histone deacetylase 4 expression and activity and increased tubulin acetylation, ultimately leading to mitotic catastrophe. In in vivo medulloblastoma xenografts, curcumin reduced tumor growth and significantly increased survival in the Smo/Smo transgenic medulloblastoma mouse model," suggesting that it has the potential to be developed into a therapeutic agent.

Also in BMC Cancer this week, researchers in California examined the influence of cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking, cessation of smoking, and passive smoking on the risk of pancreatic cancer. The team found that current smokers have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer as compared to former smokers, who had no statistically significant elevation in risk 10 years after smoking cessation. Both men and women had a similar increased risk of cancer with cigarette smoking, but cigar and pipe smoking and exposure to passive smoke were not associated with pancreatic cancer, the authors add.

And finally in BMC Cancer this week, researchers in the US and Taiwan correlate microarray-based molecular subtypes of breast cancer with clinical outcomes, and discuss the implications for treatment optimization. The team conducted gene expression profiling on fresh frozen breast cancer tissue from 327 patients and identified six molecular cancer subtypes demonstrating distinctive clinical characteristics, suggesting that patients require different treatment approaches based on subtype. "Our results indicate that the molecular subtypes established in this study can be utilized for customization of breast cancer treatment," the authors write.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.