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This Week in Clinical Cancer Research: Nov 18, 2011

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In Clinical Cancer Research this week, a team from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reports that the presence of mast cells in a tumor microenvironment can promote the growth of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in vivo. The team determined the presence of inflammatory cells at various stages of the disease's development in a mouse model and assessed the clinical relevance of mast cells by implanting pancreatic cancer cells in a different mast cell-deficient mouse model. In the mouse model of pancreatic cancer development, there was an influx of mast cells to the tumor microenvironment, the team found, but tumor growth was suppressed in the mast cell-deficient mice. "Aggressive PDAC growth was restored when PDAC cells were injected into mast cell–deficient mice reconstituted with wild-type bone marrow–derived mast cells," the authors write. "Mast cell infiltration into the tumor microenvironment was predictive of poor prognosis in patients with PDAC."

Also in Clinical Cancer Research this week, University of California, San Francisco, researchers say there are two distinct routes to oral cancer, which differ depending on the genomic instabilities present. The team determined the spectrum of copy number alterations in oral dysplasia and squamous cell carcinomas, and found that certain chromosomal aberrations — +3q24-qter, -8pter-p23.1, +8q12-q24.2, and +20 — distinguish a major sub-type of oral cancer from the rest. "The 3q8pq20 subtype is associated with chromosomal instability and differential methylation in the most chromosomally unstable tumors," the authors write. "The two sub-types differ significantly in clinical outcome with risk for cervical (neck) lymph node metastasis almost exclusively associated with the 3q8pq20 sub-type in two independent oral squamous cell carcinoma cohorts."

And finally in Clinical Cancer Research this week, an international team of researchers writes that variation in inflammatory gene pathways is associated with a patient's chances of survival from colorectal cancer. In analyzing data from colorectal cancer patients, the team found that four variants in the gene PTGS-1 was associated with colorectal cancer survival — one was associated with about 50% lower disease mortality, and the other three resulted in significantly elevated mortality risk. In addition, the team found two variants in gene IκBKβ that were significantly associated with colorectal cancer survival. "Our findings suggest that genetic variation in proinflammatory pathways may be important for colorectal cancer prognosis," the authors write. "This investigation represents one of the first descriptions of the relationship between inherited polymorphisms and mortality in colorectal cancer patients and provides a starting point for further research."

The Scan

Should've Been Spotted Sooner

Scientists tell the Guardian that SARS-CoV-2 testing issues at a UK lab should have been noticed earlier.

For Martian Fuel

Researchers have outlined a plan to produce rocket fuel on Mars that uses a combination of sunlight, carbon dioxide, frozen water, cyanobacteria, and engineered E. coli, according to Gizmodo.

To Boost Rapid Testing

The Washington Post writes that new US programs aim to boost the availability of rapid at-home SARS-CoV-2 tests.

PNAS Papers on Strawberry Evolution, Cell Cycle Regulators, False-Positive Triplex Gene Editing

In PNAS this week: strawberry pan-genome, cell cycle-related roles for MDM2 and MDMX, and more.