Tara Burke

Bromodomain inhibitors show potential as a treatment for heart failure

Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalizations, healthcare expenditures and death in America today. Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump efficiently to accommodate the body’s needs. To date, most heart failure medications target hormonal signaling pathways, a process which initiates at the cell’s outer surface and eventually converges on specific transcription factors that control heart failure pathogenesis. These current treatments have improved patient survival but said treatments are far from optimal or ideal.  Although it is well established that chromatin and transcriptional changes drive heart failure pathogenesis in cardiomyocytes there is currently no treatment to directly block these detrimental nuclear changes and target damaging changes at their source. There are a number of transcription factors and epigenetic changes known to be important in heart failure pathogenesis but, as is the case for numerous other diseases, drug design for transcription factors and specific epigenetic marks proves difficult. Continue reading “BROMODOMAIN-IA!”

A Marvelous Month of Science

Stephanie Swift

Taking vitamin supplements might not be as healthy as you think

Antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin C and E, are thought to boost health by reducing the creation of DNA-damaging free radicals that can contribute to the ageing process. In lab mice, there is some suggestion that vitamin supplements can extend lifespan, but since laboratory-bred mice are genetic clones, such studies may bear little relevance to a hugely genetically diverse human population.

Giving wild animals, such as the short-tailed field vole, either vitamin C or E supplements has now been shown to have a less positive impact on health. Continue reading “A Marvelous Month of Science”

Chromosome Silencing Offers New Insights into Down Syndrome

Sally Burn

Down syndrome is caused by the most common chromosomal abnormality in live-born humans: Trisomy 21. Individuals with Down syndrome have three copies (trisomy) of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. This excess of genetic information leads to deviations in embryonic development such that the baby is born with a subset of defects from a spectrum of characteristic traits. The most obvious indicators are the distinctive Down syndrome facial features (almond shaped eyes, small ears, large tongue) and abnormalities of the hands (single crease on palm, small curved pinky fingers). Further examination may then reveal more serious medical problems including heart abnormalities, gastrointestinal defects, and impaired vision and hearing. Intellectual disabilities are also a common problem. Continue reading “Chromosome Silencing Offers New Insights into Down Syndrome”

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts

Neeley Remmers

I just finished writing my thesis and handed it out to my committee members (yay!), but as I sat back and thought about the compilation of my work, I realized how pancreatic cancer is a lot like the Lannisters on “Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire and Ice.” Some of you may know the TV series on HBO and others may be reading the book series (I am in the middle of book 3, A Storm of Swords), and some may never have heard of it. If you are one of the latter and would like a better idea of what I am talking about, there is a great Wikipedia entry describing its synopsis. Why am I writing about “Game of Thrones?” As I was writing my thesis and thinking about the bigger picture, I realized the Lannisters and pancreatic cancer have a lot in common. Continue reading “A Lannister Always Pays His Debts”

New Avenues in Cancer Drug Discovery

Tara Burke

The discovery of bromodomain inhibitors and super-enhancers lead scientists to new approaches in cancer drug discovery

Cancer researchers have published innumerous papers mapping the multiple genetic mutations that exist in all cancer types. From these discoveries, hope emerged that inhibiting the mutated proteins fueling the cancer cell, or driver mutations, would lead to targeted cancer drugs. However, finding small molecule inhibitors that are successful in the clinic has proven more difficult. Within the last decade, the discovery of chromatin modifiers and their important role in various cancers provided an exciting new avenue for cancer researchers to explore. Whole genome studies of a myriad of cancers revealed numerous epigenetic regulators as driver mutations for many cancers. Nonetheless, Continue reading “New Avenues in Cancer Drug Discovery”

Recent Research Highlights on Pancreatic Cancer

Neeley Remmers

Immune cell infiltration as an indicator of the immune microenvironment of pancreatic cancer:
This paper investigates the types of inflammatory immune cells present in the tumor bed of tissue samples from patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The results of this paper show that immune cells can be used for prognostic measures (meaning they can help estimate the relative survival time of the patient). The weight that this paper carries is that it, along with other studies, are starting to show the immune response has both diagnostic and prognostic value along with targeting it for therapeutics.

Continue reading “Recent Research Highlights on Pancreatic Cancer”

Immunotherapy and Cancer

Neeley Remmers

Hello All! I’ll begin this first blog by giving a little introduction of myself. I am a 5th year graduate student currently working on my thesis and preparing for my defense at the end of July. Part of me wants to jump for joy that the end is in sight while another part of me is freaking out about all the work I have left to do and yet another part of me is acting like a scared child afraid of the unknown and what is to come next. I have only begun working on lining up a job after I graduate; I know, I totally procrastinated on this end but only because I know I won’t be able to leave my lab until later this fall. But I figure the process of finding a job post-graduation could make for some good topics and experiences to share with everyone and hopefully through my blunders I can help make the process a little easier for one other person. Continue reading “Immunotherapy and Cancer”