People with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most common forms of brain cancer, have a median survival of less than 15 months after diagnosis. If researchers could grow numerous small brain-like structures that contained a replica of the person’s tumour and then bathe them in various treatments, in the space of a few weeks, they might learn exactly which ones would have the best chance of fighting brain cancer in that individual. Howard Fine, a neuro-oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, is developing such models, known as cerebral organoids. Organoids are particularly valuable for studying brain cancer because neither human brain tumours transplanted into mice nor human tumour stem cells grown in a culture dish behave in the same way as their counterparts in the body.
A contagious facial cancer that is almost always fatal has cut a wide swathe through the population of Tasmanian devils since 1996. The disease has reduced the devil population by 80%, and researchers have predicted that the cancer will drive the animals to extinction within decades. But a study published on 30 August in Nature Communications offers hope. Researchers have found that Tasmanian devils have developed some genetic resistance to the disease in just four to six generations.
The exact biochemical mechanisms involved in many kinds of cancer remain unknown.
While completing her PhD at Stanford, Cigall Kadoch discovered a link between a genome regulator in cells called the BAF protein complex and a rare cancer called synovial sarcoma. She and colleagues later showed that mutations of BAF are involved in at least 20 percent of human cancers, opening the door for research on drugs that target mutated BAFs.
Editas Medicine, a company at the forefront of developing the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, has raised $120 million to create new treatments for conditions including cancer, retinal disease, and sickle-cell anemia.
Monday’s announcement reflects a surge of interest in CRISPR, a technology that is only a few years old. It also serves to clarify the goals and strategy of Editas, which was founded by some of the most prominent inventors of the gene-editing system, including Feng Zhang, a researcher at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
Mothers-to-be expecting to learn about chromosomal defects from a noninvasive prenatal test sometimes instead learn they may have cancer.
Biology professor Erin Lindquist was in the middle of class when she got the phone call telling her that a prenatal test had returned abnormal results.