Hot off the Press: August 2016 Lab Update

The Research 101

Anyone who has been directly or indirectly impacted by cancer cringes at one single word: chemotherapy. We’ve all heard about this method to cure or reduce cancer, and we’ve also heard about the frightening side effects that come with this treatment. Ranging from fatigue to blood disorders and nervous system effects, the toxic side effects that come with chemotherapy limit the amount of treatment that patients can get at a time.

The problem? Besides suffering through the seemingly countless side effects, the limited amount of treatment also means that the treatment isn’t even always effective. That’s where the research of Dr. Leonard and Dr. Saltzman comes in.

Salmonella – most commonly associated with food poisoning – can actually be genetically engineered to deliver cancer-fighting proteins directly to the cancer cells with no side effects. Together with chemotherapy, the lab is investigating how patients will be able to undergo more aggressive treatment while maintaining a higher quality of life.

Latest Advancements

Previously, testing had been done in mice with a type of cancer very different than what humans typically get. The problem is that while the treatment was effective, it wasn’t the best representation of what it would do to the cancers that society battles. So, the lab is now testing the therapy with mice that have cancer just like the cancers that humans get. With this, the lab has been able to track new barriers, and work on ways to overcome these hurdles. Now the lab is working on enhancing the therapy to not only kill the primary tumor, but also create an immune memory so that if the cancer spreads, the therapy will know to find and kill those cells as well. The best part? The immune memory remains even after the cancer is gone, and potentially eliminates the ability for cancer to develop again.

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Brittany Woitas

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