2020-09-15 15:49:00Alana Hippensteele, EditorIt may take cells in different stages of development to cause breast cancer to progress and spread, according to recent research published in eLife.

The findings demonstrated the importance of accounting for specific cell states present in a tumor in order to determine the appropriate combination of drugs necessary to eliminate all the cell states present and halt treatment resistance, according to the study authors.

The researchers noted that the variation between cell states may cause difficulties during treatment if differences in cell states are not accounted for.

“This diversity poses a problem to treating patients because particular subsets of tumor cells may be drug resistant and eventually lead to disease recurrence,” said co-lead author Syn Yeo, PhD, an instructor at the University of Cincinnati, in a press release. “One of the factors contributing to this diversity is the fact that tumor cells can exist in different cellular states, ranging from more stem-like cells that can become other cell types to more differentiated cells that have been coded to serve a purpose, or do a certain ‘job’ within the system.”

Yeo explained further that cancer cells with stem-like properties can cause drug resistance. For this reason, they are generally seen as being at the top of the tumor hierarchy with more differentiated tumor cells toward the bottom of the hierarchy.

In order to determine the tumor hierarchy structure more specifically, the researchers identified and categorized singular cells in order to understand the purpose of each cell. Yeo noted that an analysis without this specificity would have obstructed cellular details during their assessment.

“We were able to find a complex spectrum of cell states between different tumor types that can range from stem-cells to the ‘beginner cells’ to more differentiated cells,” he said. “Furthermore, depending on the lineage of the tumor, some may show a spectrum of cell states that are higher up in the hierarchy and vice versa.”

Yeo explained that these results help to clarify the direction for further research.

“These findings are important because they show we need to know more about how these specific cell states contribute to tumor growth so we can target them with combination drug therapies, potentially helping more people who may otherwise experience drug resistance,” Yeo said.

Researchers pinpoint hierarchy of breast cancer cells as potential cause for treatment resistance. Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati; August 25, 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200825110633.htm. Accessed September 4, 2020. Share:

Study: Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis 2020-09-15 14:00:00 Sara Karlovitch, Assistant Editor The Mediterranean diet (MD)—which is rich in olive oils, cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish, and a moderate amount of dairy, meat, and wine—may help protect against rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology.1

RA is an autoimmune disease with multifactorial etiology and 70% of cases affect women. RA is more common in Northern European countries than in Southern European countries. Environmental and lifestyle factors, such as diet, may help to explain this discrepancy, according to the study. Previous research has shown the MD, which is common in Southern European countries, is associated with a variety of health benefits.1

The current study included 62,629 women from France who took part in a questionnaire-based survey assessing dietary habits since 1990. Of the 62,629 women in the study, 480 developed RA.2

Overall, the MD was not associated with RA risk; however, in women who currently smoke or used to smoke, it was associated with a decreased risk. For former and current smokers who followed the MD, the risk was 383 cases per 1 million people per year. For those with a low adherence to the diet, the risk was 515 cases per 1 million people per year.2

“Although the benefits of the MD have been proven to reduce overall mortality, cardiovascular diseases, or cancers [10,22,30,31], its mechanism is not fully understood, and might include decreasing inflammation, or increasing antioxidant levels [29],” the study authors wrote. “In our study, we found an inverse association between a high adherence to MD and the risk of RA only among ever-smoking women, but not among non-smoking women. These could be explained by the differences between smokers and non-smokers in RA pathophysiological mechanisms [6,32].” 

The study authors added that the increased oxidant effect of smoking may be counterbalanced by the antioxidant effect by adherence to the MD. As a result, the increased risk of RA that is associated with smoking may be reduced by strong adherence to the MD.1

The study had several limitations, such as only including French women. Additionally, dietary habits were only recorded once, according to the study authors.1


  1. Nguyen Y, Salliot C, Et al. Mediterranean diet and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: findings from the French E3N: EPIC cohort study. Arthritis& Rheumatology. 2020. doi: 10.1102/ART.41487. 
  2. Does the Mediterranean diet protect against rheumatoid arthritis? [News Release] Hoboken, NJ. September 10, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/w-dtm090920.php. Accessed September 11, 2020. 


Common Cold May Jumpstart Immune System, Reducing Flu Cases 2020-09-15 13:34:00 Aislinn Antrim, Assistant Editor The most frequent cause of common colds, rhinovirus, may be able to prevent influenza by jumpstarting the body’s antiviral defenses, according to research published in The Lancet Microbe. The findings may reveal a surprising ally in the battle to minimize flu-related hospitalizations during the upcoming flu season.

Investigators at Yale studied 3 years of clinical data from more than 13,000 patients with symptoms of respiratory infection. They found that even during months when both rhinovirus and influenza were active, if the common cold virus was present then the flu virus was not.

“When we looked at the data, it became clear that very few people had both viruses at the same time,” said researcher Ellen Foxman, MD, PhD, in a press release.

These results may also explain findings during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, when the expected surge in swine flu cases was never seen in Europe during the fall as the common cold became more widespread. Foxman added, however, that researchers do not know whether the annual seasonal spread of rhinovirus will have a similar impact on infection rates of those exposed to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“It is impossible to predict how 2 viruses will interact without doing the research,” she said in the release.

In order to test how the rhinovirus and influenza viruses interact, investigators created human airway tissue from stem cells that give rise to epithelial cells, which are a key target of respiratory viruses. They found that after the tissue had been exposed to rhinovirus, the influenza virus was unable to infect the tissue.

The presence of rhinovirus triggered production of the antiviral agent interferon, which is part of the early immune system response to invasive pathogens.

“The antiviral defenses were already turned on before the flu virus arrived,” Foxman said.

She added that the effect lasted for at least 5 days, and the lab has started studying whether introduction of the cold virus before infection by COVID-19 offers a similar type of protection.

Common cold combats influenza [news release]. Yale; September 4, 2020. https://news.yale.edu/2020/09/04/common-cold-combats-influenza. Accessed September 10, 2020.

Investigational Drug Found to Slow ALS Disease Progression 2020-09-15 13:16:00 Alana Hippensteele, Editor An investigational drug for treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has been shown to slow the progression of the disease, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the researchers, these results provide hope for a future treatment for ALS, which is a fatal disease that currently has no cure.

The oral medication tested in the trial, AMX0035, is a combination of sodium phenylbutyrate and taurursodiol. Each of these 2 drugs contained within AMX0035 target a different cell component critical to protecting against nerve damage.

During the CENTAUR trial, the researchers randomized 137 patients with ALS into groups of those receiving AMX0035 and those receiving the placebo. The researchers then observed the patients over 6 months and found that those given AMX0035 had better outcomes than those given the placebo. This assessment was based on patients’ responses to the ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS-R), a questionnaire that evaluates activities of daily living, such as ability to walk, hold a pen, or swallow food.

“The participants treated with AMX0035 demonstrated a significant slowing of ALS disease progression as measured by the ALSFRS-R. This is a milestone in our fight against ALS,” said Sabrina Paganoni, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the CENTAUR study, investigator at the Healey & AMG Center for ALS at MGH, and assistant professor of PM&R at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in a press release.

Additionally, senior author Merit Cudkowicz, MD, director of the Healey & AMG Center for ALS at MGH, chief of Neurology at MGH, and the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at HMS, explained in the press release that through collaboration with others, the authors of the study were able to investigate this novel approach to the problem of motor nerve cell dysfunction.

“With guidance from our team and in collaboration with our colleagues in the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), Mass General Biostats and the Barrows Neurological Institute, the clinical trial moved forward quickly and carefully,” Cudkowicz said in the release. “We are proud of this important study. We are also very thankful to the participants and their families for their key role in advancing research.”

Justin Klee, one of the co-founders and co-CEOs of Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures AMX0035, noted that patients with ALS and their families do not have time to wait.

“People with ALS progressively lose their ability to function and care for themselves, so we want to do everything we can to help them slow down this devastating disease,” Klee said in the press release. “We will be working with the FDA to determine next steps and the path for patients to gain access to AMX0035. We’ll continue to share our plans with the community as they develop.”

Investigational ALS drug generates promising clinical trial results. Boston, MA: Massachusetts General Hospital; September 2, 2020. eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/mgh-nad090220.php. Accessed September 14, 2020.


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