Notable News June 2021

You might want to put on a fresh pot of coffee for this one. Lemon Frost geckos, genetically engineered mice, and American Lobsters have a lot to teach us about cancer; it looks like it’s past time to cut down on the amount of red meat we eat; there could be a new treatment for metastatic prostate cancer; and there are some clinical trials under way for cancer vaccines using the same technology as the Covid-19 vaccines. We’ll be hearing a lot about mRNA in the coming years.

The mRNA vaccine technology used to create the Covid-19 vaccines is the result of nearly two decades of research by scientists in many fields, including cancer, and now researchers are hoping to apply the technology to cancer vaccines, reports medicalxpress.com. The mRNA technology is flexible and versatile, and that makes it ideal for treating many diseases. For example, in Covid-19 vaccines, the mRNA works as a protective measure fighting off invading cells, but as a cancer vaccine, mRNA works more as a treatment. It works by motivating T cells to kill cancer cells, similar to how immunotherapy works. Like immunotherapy, the mRNA vaccines would need to be personalized to each patient, and that could be a challenge in the development of the vaccines. Despite any challenges, clinical trials for mRNA cancer vaccines are already underway. Learn more about the exciting technology here.

In addition to the prospect of new vaccines, there could be a breakthrough in treating prostate cancer, reports Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at mskcc.org. A therapy called Lu-PSMA-617 has been developed to attach to and kill the cancer cell using radiation. The treatment works on cancer cells that have been resistant to other therapies, as is often the case in prostate cancer after it has spread. Lu-PSMA-617 recently received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which will help speed up the development and review of the therapy. Learn more about the promising treatment here.

What we eat and drink continues to affect our cancer risk. Researchers may have identified the connection between diets rich in red meat and colorectal cancer, reports medicalxpress.com. While experts have long advised against eating red meat to prevent colorectal cancer, there was no definite proof of a connection between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer. However, researchers have now discovered that there are specific patterns of DNA damage, called alkylation, caused by eating a lot of red meat. Learn more about the findings here.

While you are avoiding red meat, you can fill up on coffee. Drinking three to four cups of coffee a day could reduce your risk of liver cancer and other liver diseases, reports usatoday.com. The authors of a study in the United Kingdom say that they can’t definitively prove that coffee lowers the risk of liver disease, but there was a noticeable reduction in liver-related disease among coffee drinkers. Researchers advised that people should follow healthy practices like eating well and exercising in addition to drinking coffee. Also, don’t overdo it. The study found that any more than three to four cups a day did not provide additional benefits. Learn more here.

We continue to have a lot to learn from the animal kingdom. A gecko named Mr. Frosty could be the key to finding treatment for skin cancer, reports sciencenews.org. Mr. Frosty is a Lemon Frost gecko, a type particularly prone to tumors. Researchers collected DNA from Mr. Frosty and many other lizards and were able to use the data to link tumor growth to a gene called SPINT1. The gene has also been linked to melanoma in humans, which could mean that Lemon Frost geckos could be used to research treatments for skin cancer. Learn more about Mr. Frosty here.

Genetically engineered mice provide a great research model for humans. Scientists have developed a new technique to determine which cancer research models are the most similar to cancer cells that grow in humans, reports sciencedaily.com, and the most similar are genetically engineered mice and 3D balls of human tissue called tumoroids. The technique, called CancerCellNet, is computer based and compares RNA sequences of a research model with data from a cancer genome atlas to determine how well the two match. The mice and the tumoroids were the closest match in four out of every five tumor types tested. Researchers found that human cancer cells grown in culture dishes are the least similar. Learn more here.

Lobsters seem to age better than anything on the planet. Scientists are studying lobsters to see if their longevity and ability to stay mostly cancer free can provide answers for humans about aging and disease prevention, reports sciencemag.org. Lobsters live up to 100 years in the wild, do not lose strength or fertility with age, and they very rarely get cancer. While the complete set of lobster genes is so long that researchers are still uncovering it, they are hopeful that more research could provide insight into how lobsters stay cancer free and how humans may be able to benefit from the information. Learn more here.


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