Evolutionary tree of mouse gut bacteria, with larger circles indicating greater abundance of bacteria.

Humans play host to trillions of microorganisms that help our bodies perform basic functions, like digestion, growth, and fighting disease. In fact, bacterial cells outnumber the human cells in our bodies by 10 to 1.1

The tens of trillions of microorganisms thriving in our intestines are known as gut microbiota, and those that are not harmful to us are referred to as commensal microbiota. In a recent paper in Science, NCI scientists described their discovery that, in mice, the presence of commensal microbiota is needed for successful response to cancer therapy.

From left, Darren Benedick and Mark Slatcoff set up the 80-L bioreactor for rhIL-15 production.

Cancer immunotherapy is a type of treatment in which the body’s own immune system is used to attack and kill cancer cells or keep them from spreading. To date, the immunotherapy agent interleukin-2 (IL-2) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating certain types of melanoma and kidney cancer.1

A single dose of the cancer-fighting human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Cervarix™ appears to induce an immune response that remains stable in the blood four years after vaccination. This may be enough to protect women from two strains of HPV and, ultimately, from cervical cancer.

Terry Van Dyke, Ph.D. Director, NCI Center for Advanced Preclinical Research

Scientists at NCI and Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) are partnering with the Lustgarten Foundation to test whether a vitamin D derivative will make a difference when combined with a conventional anticancer drug in treating tumors of the pancreas.

Jeff Lifson

Scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University and the AIDS and Cancer Virus Program of the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research have used a novel vaccine approach to achieve a “functional cure” and apparent eradication of infection with a monkey version of the AIDS virus.

In a paper published online in Nature, the group reported success with an experimental vaccine for simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), an AIDS-inducing virus that infects rhesus macaques and is so similar to HIV that it is a widely used model for AIDS studies in monkeys.

Clostridium botulinum stained with Gentian violet. The bacterium produces a nerve toxin, which causes botulism, a rare, but serious paralytic disease. Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL) is collaborating with the Army to develop a candidate vaccine against botulism.

Under a collaboration agreement between the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), NCL scientists will produce nanoparticle formulations for four compounds that block the activity of botulism-causing nerve toxins, which are among the most lethal of all poisons.

Frank McCormick

The Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research will spearhead a national R&D initiative focused on mutations in a family of genes called Ras, which play a role in 33 percent of all human cancers, including 90 percent of pancreatic cancers.

Frank McCormick

Frank McCormick, Ph.D., director of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and associate dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, has signed a consulting agreement with SAIC-Frederick Inc. to work with the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), on behalf of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to develop a proposal for intensive study of cancer cells driven by mutations of the RAS gene.

IRP XMRV Working Group, from left: Vineet KewalRamani, Ph.D., head, Model Development Section, DRP (NCI); Rachel Bagni, Ph.D., Molecular Detection and Viral Technology, PEL (SAIC-Frederick); Jeffrey Lifson, M.D., director, ACVP (SAIC-Frederick); Alan Rein, Ph.D., head, Retrovirus Assembly Section, DRP (NCI); James Hartley, Ph.D., head, Technology Development, PEL (SAIC-Frederick); Mary Kearney, Ph.D., head, Translational Research, DRP (NCI); and Stuart Le Grice, Ph.D., head, RT Biochemistry Section, DRP

In July 2012, members of a multidisciplinary research team of both SAIC-Frederick and NCI Center for Cancer Research scientists were recognized with the NIH Director’s Award for their outstanding work to rapidly evaluate a potential threat to the nation’s blood supply.