Breakthrough in treatment of cancers and infectious diseases
American pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company has agreed to plead guilty and pay $1.415 billion for promoting its drug Zyprexa for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Justice announced. This resolution includes a criminal fine of $515 million, the largest ever in a health care case, and the
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Dr. André Veillette, a researcher at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), and his team led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Mario-Ernesto Cruz-Munoz, will publish in the upcoming issue of the prestigious journal Nature Immunology of Nature Publishing Group.
This discovery could have a significant impact on the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases. Current treatments frequently achieve only limited results with these types of diseases, which affect hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
Dr. Veillette’s team identified one of the basic mechanisms controlling NK (”natural killer”) cell activity. Produced by the immune system, NK cells are responsible for recognizing and killing cancer cells and cells infected by viruses, such as viruses causing hepatitis and herpes. NK cell deficiency is associated with a higher incidence of cancers and serious infections. “Our breakthrough, comments Dr. Veillette, demonstrates that a molecule known as CRACC, which is present at the surface of NK cells, increases their killer function.” Using mice, the researchers have shown that CRACC greatly improves the animals’ ability to eliminate cancer cells such as melanoma (a skin cancer) and lymphoma (a blood cancer). Mice lacking the CRACC gene, generated in Dr. Veillette’s laboratory, were found to be more susceptible to cancer persistence. Conversely, stimulation of CRACC function was found to improve cancer cell elimination. Thus, stimulating CRACC could boost NK cell activity, helping to fight cancers. In addition, it could improve the ability to fight infections, which are also handled by NK cells.
Increasing the activity of CRACC by gene therapy or drugs could become an option in the future to stimulate the killer function of NK cells, and to improve their capacity to destroy cancer and virus-infected cells. These approaches could be used in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy to increase the effectiveness of anti-cancer treatments. Teams of scientists around the world have been trying for many years without success to develop methods to increase NK cell activity. In this light, the discovery of Dr. Veillette’s team opens new avenues for the treatment of cancers and viral infections.
This publication constitutes another significant milestone for Dr. Veillette, an internationally renowned immunologist. The article, which is slated for online publication on January 18 in Nature Immunology, gives undeniable evidence for the stimulatory effect of CRACC in NK cells. It is the product of over four years of intensive research by Dr. Veillette’s team.
A study from a team of researchers led by Dr. Andrew P. Makrigiannis, Director of the Molecular Immunology Research Unit at the IRCM, has identified a new mechanism regulating interferon production. This discovery, co-authored by scientists from the International Medical Center of Japan (Tokyo), the National Cancer Institute at Frederick (Maryland) and the McGill
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One of the most promising new ideas about the causes of cancer, known as the cancer stem-cell model, must be reassessed because it is based largely on evidence from a laboratory test that is surprisingly flawed when applied to some cancers, University of Michigan researchers have concluded. By upgrading the lab test, the U-M scientists
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In a November 16 advance, online publication of the journal Nature, the researchers say their discovery revamps common beliefs about how such potentially lethal infections may be ravaging the brain and suggests the possibility of new treatments. “This is a paradigm shift in how we think about some forms of meningitis and possibly other infections,”
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Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered for the first time that stem cells could be the root cause of bowel cancer, according to a study published in Nature. Scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, Cardiff University and the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands - isolated stem cells in the
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Like tuning a violin to produce strong, elegant notes, researchers at The Wistar Institute have found multiple receptors on the outside of the body’s killer immune system cells which they believe can be selectively targeted to keep the cells in superb infection- and disease-fighting condition. In a study published online November 30 in Nature Immunology,
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