For 85% of kids with a terrible cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chemotherapy is a cure – but not for Emily Whitehead. Diagnosed at 5, she suffered an infection from her first round of chemo and nearly lost her legs. Then the cancer came back; she was put into remission once more and scheduled for a bone marrow transplant. As she waited, the cancer returned yet again. There was nothing else to try.

Nothing except a crazy experimental treatment never before given to a child: Blood was taken out of 6-year-old Emily’s body, passed through a machine to remove her white cells and put back in. Then scientists at the University of Pennsylvania used a modified HIV virus to genetically reprogram those white cells so that they would attack her cancer, and reinjected them.

But the cells attacked her body, too. Within days Emily was so feverish she had to be hospitalized. Hallucinating, she asked her father, “Why is there a pond in my room?” She was sent to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator. A doctor told her family that there was only a one-in-1,000 chance she would survive the night. Then the miracle breakthrough: Doctors gave Emily a rheumatoid arthritis drug that stopped the immune system storm – without protecting the cancer. Emily awoke on her 7th birthday and slowly recovered. A week later her bone marrow was checked. Emily’s father, an electrical lineman named Tom Whitehead, remembers getting the call from her doctor, Stephan Grupp: “It worked. She’s cancer free.”

Damage Control: Recovering From Radiation and Chemotherapy
Protein discovery could boost efficacy of bone marrow replacement treatments

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that a protein called beta-catenin plays a critical, and previously unappreciated, role in promoting recovery of stricken hematopoietic stem cells after radiation exposure.

The findings, published in the May 1 issue of Genes and Development, provide a new understanding of how radiation impacts cellular and molecular processes, but perhaps more importantly, they suggest new possibilities for improving hematopoietic stem cell regeneration in the bone marrow following cancer radiation treatment.

Ionizing radiation exposure – accidental or deliberate – can be fatal due to widespread destruction of hematopoietic stem cells, the cells in the bone marrow that give rise to all blood cells. A number of cancer treatments involve irradiating malignancies, essentially destroying all exposed blood cells, followed by transplantation of replacement stem cells to rebuild blood stores. The effectiveness of these treatments depends upon how well the replacement hematopoietic stem cells do their job.

In their new paper, principal investigator Tannishtha Reya, PhD, professor in the department of pharmacology, and colleagues used mouse models to show that radiation exposure triggers activation of a fundamental cellular signaling pathway called Wnt in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.

“The Wnt pathway and its key mediator, beta catenin, are critical for embryonic development and establishment of the body plan,” said Reya, who also works at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. “In addition, the Wnt pathway is activated in stem cells from many tissues and is needed for their continued maintenance.”

The researchers found that mice deficient in beta-catenin lacked the ability to activate canonical Wnt signaling and suffered from impaired hematopoietic stem cell regeneration and bone marrow recovery after radiation. Specifically, mouse hematopoietic stem cells without beta-catenin could not suppress the production of oxidative stress molecules that damage cell structures. As a result, they could not recover effectively after radiation or chemotherapy.

More here

Pictured: The continuous, necessary production of blood cells, including these red blood cells captured in a scanning micrograph by Thomas Deerinck, is the responsibility of hematopoietic stem cells found in bone marrow.

I’m so glad to have eyebrows, eyelashes & hair again!!

I know I am always doing face progress but it’s not just for the weight loss.

It amazes me to look back on the face that I wore for 2 years - it almost feels like without the pictures it wouldn’t be real

The pic on the left was taken the weekend we celebrated me finishing chemotherapy 6th of July 2013 and the second pic was taken last week so just over a year between them

That pic of the left was truly all the chemotherapy I could have taken, my body just could not take anymore.

My leg is not totally fixed even after 4 surgeries, but I spent 3 hours dancing at Lady Gaga’s artRAVE tonight so I am definitely making progress even if it is sore.

You are constantly faced with obstacles but you need to just take them one at a time and know that even when it doesn’t feel like it things will get better

Chemo Timing is Key to Success

MIT researchers have devised a novel cancer treatment that destroys tumor cells by first disarming their defenses, then hitting them with a lethal dose of DNA damage.

In studies with mice, the research team showed that this one-two punch, which relies on a nanoparticle that carries two drugs and releases them at different times, dramatically shrinks lung and breast tumors. The MIT team, led by Michael Yaffe and Paula Hammond describe the findings in Science Signaling.

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In studying the impact of DNA damage on the Golgi, a research team from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have discovered a novel pathway activated by DNA damage, with important consequences for the body’s cellular response to chemotherapy. 

Standard cancer treatments, including many chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, act on cells by causing DNA damage. In many cancer cells, DNA damage turns on signaling pathways that lead to cell death – the basis of the use of these treatments for cancer.

A better understanding of the signaling pathways that are activated in cells in response to DNA damage, and the influence they exert to determine the fate of the cell to live or die, ultimately could lead to more effective use of these DNA damaging agents to treat cancer.

A study published in the January 30, 2014 issue of the journal Cell – led by Seth Field, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine – demonstrates that DNA damage triggers dramatic reorganization of the Golgi.  The Golgi serves as the cell’s processing center for the exportation of proteins, lipids and other large molecules to their final destinations outside of the cell. The researchers showed that, in mammalian cells, DNA damage triggers the Golgi to fragment and disperse throughout the cell.

In 2009, the research team had discovered a three-way interaction between a particular Golgi protein, GOLPH3, a lipid signaling molecule, PtdIns(4)P and a contractile protein, MYO18A.  The link between the three applies a tensile force required for effective formation of the tubules and vesicles necessary for extracellular transportation.

Later screening identified GOLPH3 as an oncogene overexpressed in many human cancers, which can transform cells into tumorous cells.  This study shows that common cancer therapeutic agents, by triggering DNA damage, activate GOLPH3.

More here

Nanoparticles could help deliver a killer blow to cancer

“The reason chemotherapy doesn’t always work is because you can’t give enough of it without exposing the body to too many toxins,” explains Jack Hoopes of the Norris Cotton Cancer Centre in New Hampshire. “So you can’t get enough drug into the tumour to be effective. I think what nanotechnology offers is the ability to target things to individual cancer cells and that’s the future of cancer therapy.”

The unique architecture of tumours’ blood supply makes it easy for them to absorb nanoparticles. There are “fenestrations” or gaps in the walls of blood vessels that opened up when the tumours formed, says Helen Townley of the Department of Engineering Science at Oxford University.

Once the nanoparticles are inside the tumour they’re likely to stay there, she says. Normal tissue is drained by lymph vessels, but tumour tissue lacks this efficient drainage system

The main aim has been to use nanoparticles to increase chemotherapy doses but researchers have been increasingly looking at additional means of destroying tumours or slowing their growth. Hoopes’s group uses iron oxide nanoparticles coated with biocompatible substances. Once inside the tumour, the iron oxide nanoparticles can be heated using an alternating magnetic field, killing it with little damage to the surrounding tissue.

Electron micrograph of a breast cancer cell. Iron oxide nanoparticles could be injected into a tumour and heated in an alternating magnetic field. Photograph: Rex

Cancer: How to support a loved one with just about anything

Anyone who knows me at all will know three things about me:

1. I put the pro in procrastination.
2. I’m not an overly sociable person.
3. I had cancer when I was sixteen.

Those who have never had, or loved someone who has had cancer, will look at those three things and see a habit, a disposition, and a fact. They’ll take them at face value; probably go, “Oh that’s awful,” to the latter, and ask, “But you’re okay now though, right?” And when you internally roll your eyes and sigh, and reply, “Sure, it was a while ago now,” – because you know they’re not actually asking if you’re okay, but whether you’re ‘all-clear’ – they’ll go ahead and move on with their life.

Those who have, however, will see a habit, a disposition and a reason.

Treatment for cancer is no fun, whichever way you do it, but it’s not by any means the hardest part. I only ever had chemotherapy, so I can’t comment on what other types of treatment are like, but it’s just something you know you have to do. There’s no alternative, if you want to survive it, so you put your game face on and get through it by whatever means necessary.

The hardest part is in fact coping with the impact it has on you. Not just the emotions – not just the obvious stuff that loved ones know to look out for, like fear over what might happen, or not knowing what to expect. There’s a whole labyrinth of walls to run headlong into – everybody’s different and some of them may not apply to all; some don’t develop until long after the physical battle is over, and without the right kind of support it can have massive repercussions on your personality, relationships, lifestyle, mental health, and general long-term happiness.

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So I have been seeing and reading a lot of posts about the lack of tact used by people when it relates to illness and I’m bored & can’t sleep so I shall post about it

There is a massive lack of empathy or help in place for the aptly named “invisible illnesses” - things such as depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc, there are a lot of people in the world who think that just because you cannot see symptoms then the illness is not there. Which as anyone who has been touched by these illnesses will know very well how untrue that can be.

The thing is that it doesn’t just relate to people with illnesses that you can’t see, as you can see from the above I have the biggest scar on my leg - but I love it because it is part of MY leg, which I got to keep due to that scar. I had no hair, no eyebrows or lashes, no energy to move, basically lived in the hospital and gained a shit tonne of weight from steroids….

Yet people still find the need to walk right up to my car to check I have a disabled sticker then hang around to watch me to “check” that I’m genuinely disabled & not just using my grandmas sticker - other choice phrases

- “you need to remember how lucky you are, you could have died”
- “you only had low grade bone cancer”
- “maybe if you had been more in shape you wouldn’t have gotten sick”
- “I wonder if you got cancer from sleeping with your phone next to your bed”
- “if you were vegan you wouldn’t have gotten sick”

I appreciate that there are some people who just have zero understanding of any type of illness. But there are some people who just say things to hurt you or to make you feel guilty. Do people think that we don’t know how lucky we are? Do they not know how guilty I feel when I hear about a friend relapsing or passing away? Do they know how insulting it is to put down 4 surgeries and a years worth of an aggressive mix of 5 different chemo drugs into three words “low grade cancer”

I fought for my life and I fought fucking hard. Through the amazing work of my medical team and through sheer stubbornness I held myself in a manner that I am proud of. I did not let my disease define me & I am getting better

If you don’t know - don’t say shit. If you know part of someone’s story, still don’t say shit. Be helpful, loving, supportive and kind - but don’t remind us that we are “lucky”

Because I can tell you from first hand experience, the person who best knows about being lucky is the person who stared death in the face, gave him the finger and told him ‘not today you fucker’

***steps off soapbox***

Finally my 8th treatment !! Only 4 more to go. I have been feeling so good! when I am good I have never felt better but there’s just a few days after chemo that I feel like sleeping the whole day and get fatigue and can barely even walk to the bathroom. Next time I go for treatment in 2 weeks I will be getting an x-Ray on my chest to check everything. I am so confident that I am cancer free already. I cannot wait to see the results!!

“Every patient diagnosed with glioblastoma is treated with a chemotherapy called temozolomide. About 15 percent of these patients derive long-lasting benefit,” said Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD, vice-chairman of Academic Affairs, Division of Neurosurgery, UC San Diego School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator. “We need to identify which patients benefit from temozolomide and which another type of treatment. All therapies involve risk and the possibility of side-effects. Patients should not undergo therapies if there’s no likelihood of benefit.”

To pinpoint which patients were most likely respond to temozolomide, the researchers studied microRNAs that control the expression of a protein called methyl-guanine-methyl-transferase or MGMT. This protein dampens the cancer-killing effect of temozolomide. Tumors with high levels of MGMT are associated with a poor response to temozolomide therapy. 

The scientists systematically tested every microRNA in the human genome to identify those that suppressed MGMT expression, with the expectation that high-levels of these microRNAs in the tumor would predict improved therapeutic response to temozolomide.

“We showed that a signature of the MGMT-regulating microRNAs predicted temozolomide response in a cohort of glioblastoma patients.  Validation of these results should lead to diagnostic tools to enable us to determine which patients will benefit most from temozolomide therapy,” said Chen.

In the study, the scientists also discovered that injection of the MGMT-regulating microRNAs into glioblastoma cells increased tumor sensitivity to temozolomide treatment. 

“These findings establish the foundation for microRNAs-based therapies to increase the efficacy of temozolomide in glioblastoma patients,” said lead author, Valya Ramakrishnan, PhD, postdoctoral researcher, UC San Diego School of Medicine.