RAS Symposium Draws Hundreds of Attendees

Published: 1/6/2016Tagged:

They call themselves “rasologists”: scientists who study the RAS family of genes and the cancers that can arise due to mutations within them. This field of research is at the heart of some sobering numbers. Almost a third of all human cancers, including 95 percent of pancreatic cancers, are driven by mutated RAS genes. The American Cancer Society estimates there were 48,960 new cases of pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2015 and 40,560 deaths from the disease. A high proportion of lung and colorectal cancers are also driven by mutations in RAS.

A research team of scientists from the National Cancer Institute and the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research recently identified the structure of a key protein of the virus that causes the highly lethal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The team is now using that discovery in the search for new drugs.

The Molecular Characterization Laboratory at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research lies at the heart of an ambitious new approach for testing cancer drugs that will use the newest tools of precision medicine to select the best treatment for individual patients based on the genetic makeup of their tumors.

Researchers at the Frederick National Lab (FNL) have collaborated in solving the three-dimensional structure of a key protein in Alzheimer’s disease, providing new insight into the basic mechanisms that give rise to the devastating illness.

The protein—amyloid-beta(1-42)—is the initial and most common protein that builds up layer by layer in spaces between nerve cells of the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s. This buildup contributes to a progressive loss of brain function that is ultimately fatal.

A new breed of lab animals, dubbed “glowing head mice,” may do a better job than conventional mice in predicting the success of experimental cancer drugs—while also helping to meet an urgent need for more realistic preclinical animal models.

The optical expression pattern of the transgene in glowing head (GH) mice, as visualized by bioluminescence imaging. Reporter activity was detected in the anterior pituitary gland of both genders and the testes of male mice. Image adapted from PLOS ONE.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved dinutuximab (ch14.18) as an immunotherapy for neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer that offers poor prognosis for about half of the children who are affected. 

The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Biopharmaceutical Development Program (BDP) at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research produced ch14.18 for the NCI-sponsored clinical trials that proved the drug’s effectiveness against the disease.

An herbal extract used for centuries to prevent heart disease has now been shown to be effective against colorectal cancer when tested in laboratory cell cultures.

From left to right: Weidong Li, principal investigator, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing; Nancy Colburn, Ph.D., scientist emeritus, Basic Research Laboratory, NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR); and Matthew Young, Ph.D., formerly of the Basic Research Laboratory, NCI CCR.

A first-of-its-kind drug is showing early promise in attacking certain lung cancers that are hard to treat because they build up resistance to conventional chemotherapy.

The drug, CO-1686, performed well in a preclinical study involving xenograft and transgenic mice, as reported in the journal Cancer Discovery. It is now being evaluated for safety and efficacy in Phase I and II clinical trials.

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