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This Week in Cancer Discovery: Oct 20, 2011

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In Cancer Discovery this week, an international team of researchers presents a study on the prevention of persistent human papillomavirus infection. The researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, to determine the efficacy of HPV vaccines against one-year persistent infection. They randomly assigned 7,466 healthy women to receive an HPV or hepatitis A vaccine, and after a follow up of 50.4 months, found that "vaccination is highly efficacious against HPV16/18 and partially against HPV31/33/45," particularly in women and girls who have not yet participated in sexual activity. Vaccine efficacy in the HPV-negative women was 90.9 percent against HPV16/18 infection, and 44.5 percent against HPV31/33/45.

Also in Cancer Discovery this week, researchers in Texas and Minnesota examine variants in genes responsible for inflammation, and how they affect the risk of lung cancer for never-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. The team evaluated a panel of 11,737 SNPs in inflammatory gene pathways, and found that an intronic SNP in the ACVR1B gene showed significant effect in adults exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. "ACVR1B belongs to the TGFR-β superfamily, contributing to resolution of inflammation and initiation of airway remodeling," the authors write. "An inflammatory microenvironment is necessary for risk from these gene variants to be expressed."

And finally in Cancer Discovery this week, a team of US researchers reports that a liver X receptor agonist promotes cell death in glioblastoma. The role of cholesterol metabolism in glioblastoma is still unknown, the researchers write, but this study of glioblastoma cells lines, xenograft models, and clinical samples shows the tumor can develop an EGFRvIII-activated, PI3K/SREBP-1-dependent survival pathway through the low-density lipoprotein receptor. Targeting this receptor with an LXR agonist caused degradation in the receptor, and "increased expression of the ABCA1 cholesterol efflux transporter, potently promoting tumor cell death in an in vivo GBM model," the authors writes. This suggests a role for LXR agonists in the treatment of glioblastoma, they add.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.