Friday, March 7, 2014
Researchers find 'overdiagnosis' of thyroid cancers
Scientists discover that thyroid cancer cells become less aggressive in outer space
posted by news on january 30, 2014 - 3:30pm
For those who think that space exploration offers no tangible benefits for those of us on earth, a new research discovery involving thyroid cancer may prove otherwise. In a new report appearing in the February 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal, researchers from Germany and Denmark show that some tumors which are aggressive on earth are considerably less aggressive in microgravity. By understanding the genetic and cellular processes that occur in space, scientists may be able to develop treatments that accomplish the same thing on earth.
"Research in space or under simulated microgravity using ground-based facilities helps us in many ways to understand the complex processes of life and this study is the first step toward the understanding of the mechanisms of cancer growth inhibition in microgravity," said Daniela Gabriele Grimm, M.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Biomedicine, Pharmacology at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark. "Ultimately, we hope to find new cellular targets, leading to the development of new anti-cancer drugs which might help to treat those tumors that prove to be non-responsive to the currently employed agents."
To make their discovery, Grimm and colleagues used the Science in Microgravity Box (SIMBOX) experimental facility aboard Shenzhou-8, which was launched on October 31, 2011. Cell feeding was automatically performed in space on day five and automated cell fixation was conducted on day 10. Inflight control was achieved by using a centrifuge in space. On November 17, 2011, Shenzhou-8 landed and the experimental samples were analyzed. Additional cells were analyzed using a random positioning machine which aims to achieve simulated microgravity conditions on the ground by rotating a sample around two axes operated in a random real direction mode. Both cell types were investigated with respect to their gene expression and secretion profiles, employing modern molecular biological techniques, such as whole genome microarrays and multi-analyte profiling. Results suggested that the expression of genes indicating a high malignancy in cancer cells may be down-regulated under altered gravitational stimulation.
"We are just at the beginning of a new field of medicine that studies the effects of microgravity on cell and molecular pathology. Space flight affects our bodies, both for good and bad," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "We've known that microgravity can cause some microorganisms to become more virulent and that prolonged microgravity has negative effects on the human body. Now, we learn that it's not all bad news: what we learn from cells in space should help us understand and treat malignant tumors on the ground."
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
A new study on thyroid cancer in people provides support for the idea that the rising incidence of the disease is not simply a result of improvements in doctors' ability to detect it. In other words, more people really are developing thyroid cancer than they did in the past.
"What," you might be wondering, "does this have to do with pets?"
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From a literal point of view, nothing, but hyperthyroidism in cats, which is almost always caused by a benign thyroid tumor, is also on the rise. In fact, it is now thought to be the most commonly diagnosed feline endocrine (hormonal) disease. I wonder if a common cause might be behind the rising incidence of thyroid disease in people and cats.
I've reported previously on a possible link between feline hyperthyroidism and exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that are used as flame retardants in furniture, electronics, and other consumer products. PBDEs have been shown to have an adverse effect on many parts of the body, including the endocrine system and were found to be present in house dust taken from the homes of hyperthyroid cats at higher levels in comparison to the homes of cats with with normal thyroid levels. This research certainly doesn't conclusively link PBDE exposure to the development of thyroid disease in cats, but it does raise the possibility.
Cats have been sentinels for human disease in the past. One especially disturbing episode occurred in the 1950s in Japan. For several years, residents of the town of Minamata had noticed that cats residing in the area were becoming sick and dying in a very unusual manner. They called the condition "dancing cat disease." Affected cats moved in erratic and bizarre ways, developed seizures, and died. A couple of years later, people began to experience essentially the same symptoms. The causative agent was eventually determined to be mercury that was being released into the ocean by a factory in the town and was becoming concentrated in the seafood that the town's residents (human and feline) were eating.
Medical doctors and veterinarians are beginning to have a greater appreciation for just how interconnected the health of our patients are. I can't begin to recall the number of times I've had conversations with owners about a new diagnosis in a household pet only to be told, "How weird. I (or someone else in the family) have the same thing." I'm sure the majority of these cases are simply coincidental or have something to do with owners and pets sharing similar lifestyles (e.g., poor eating and exercise habits). But, I wouldn't be surprised to learn in the future that a few might be related to shared exposures to environmental contaminants or to as of yet undiagnosed infections that can cross species barriers.
It would behoove us all to pay attention when the health of a group of animals takes a turn for the worse. You never know who might be next.
Characteristics of Incidentally Discovered Thyroid Cancer. Yoo F, Chaikhoutdinov I, Mitzner R, Liao J, Goldenberg D. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 Oct 10.
"Link to Thyroid Cancer in Humans May be Found in Cats" originally appeared on PetMD.com.