Regina Golan-Gerstl’s discovery could help create new diagnosis and treatment options for more than 20,000 Americans diagnosed with brain cancer each year. The Israel Cancer Research Fund supported the research, which detected higher than normal levels in some protein genes within glioblastoma samples.
In a laboratory study, researchers injected mice with gliobastoma cells, causing the mice to develop large tumors. But when the researchers reduced the levels of the protein gene, hnRNP A2/B1, the mice developed small tumors or no tumors.
“These results suggest that hnRNP A2/B1 is… a gene that… probably directly contributes to glioblastoma development,” said Dr. Rotem Karni, whose laboratory was used in the discovery, according to Israel National News.
“Down-regulating hnRNP A2/B1 levels in glioblastoma cells should be considered as a new strategy for glioblastoma therapy,” Karni said.
Teva said the alliance would provide it with the opportunity to research and develop selected and differentiated novel treatments that modulate DNA damage and repair response (DDR) processes in cancerous cells. DDR plays a key role in protecting cancerous cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy. The cells that are best able to repair the DNA damage caused by cancer treatments survive to replicate, naturally selecting the mutation with the best repair capability, leading to recurrence and resistance to treatment.
By developing DDR capabilities, the partnership has the potential to expand the clinical utility and therapeutic effectiveness of Teva’s current portfolio of oncology chemotherapeutic agents. The approach builds on Teva’s focus on personalized medicine throughout its R&D pipeline, and specifically within its oncology portfolio, the company said.
Cancer Research UK and CRT’s expertise in DDR-related basic, translational, and clinical research is leading the field, building the understanding to enable “smarter” use of this novel approach in developing new treatment options. It’s knowledge base is fed by researchers at leading UK universities and five cancer research institutes — Gray Institute, Oxford; Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute; London Research Institute; Paterson Institute, Manchester; and the Beatson Institute, Glasgow.
Dr. Michael Hayden, president of Teva Global R&D and Chief Scientific Officer, said, “For cancer patients, it is important that we maintain the momentum of progress that has been made in oncology in recent years. Cancer Research UK, CRT, and their outstanding academic partners, are a driving force in the improved understanding of cancer and its treatment. This research collaboration will build on our understanding of how cells repair DNA damage, help us identify possible points of therapeutic intervention, and lead us onto a pathway toward improve clinical outcomes for cancer patients.”
The multi-year agreement will work with molecular targets selected by CRT from Cancer Research UK’s portfolio of biological research in DDR. These targets will be validated to prove their therapeutic importance before progressing to the early stages of drug discovery in CRT’s Discovery Laboratories. CRT and Teva will then jointly undertake chemical lead generation activities. Under the terms of the agreement, CRT will receive research funding and be eligible to receive milestone payments and royalties on projects advancing through Teva’s drug pipeline.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, which ranks countries based on three criteria—life expectancy, health-care cost as a percentage of GDP per capita, and health-care cost per capita—Israel had an efficacy score of 68.7.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan took the top spots, ahead of Israel. Canada came in 17th, the United Arab Emirates was 12th, and the U.K., famous for its National Health Service, came in 14th.
Meanwhile, with the ongoing battle over President Barack Obama’s health care system and rising costs, the U.S. ranked 46th, behind countries like Algeria, Iran, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. spends the most on health care on a relative cost basis, with the worst outcome.
In other rankings by Bloomberg, Israel has the longest life span in the Middle East and Africa at 81.8 years, is the 6th-favorite location for high-tech companies, and the 10th-best country for workers.
It seems like at some point every cellphone user has joked that cellphones are carcinogenic, and that they potentially cause cancer. A recent study has found that this may not be a joke after all.
The study was conducted by Tel Aviv University, with the results being published in the scientific journal Antioxidants and Redox Signalling.
The study does not present a direct connection between cancer development and cellphones use. Rather, it creates the potential for new research, and establishes a connection between long-term use and the effects that lead to molecular changes.
The study looked at the salivary glands of 20 long-term cellphone users, using a mean of 12 years of 30 hours per week use, contrasted with 20 deaf subjects who used their phones only for text messages. The researchers believed that, due to the phone’s proximity to one’s salivary glands, the effects of the phones could be seen by looking at the user’s saliva.
Compared to non-users, the saliva of those who used cellphones had a higher level of oxidative stress, a process which is known to be a major cancerous risk factor.
The researchers found that there was “a significant increase in all salivary oxidative stress indices studied in mobile phone users,” leading to the conclusion that “use of mobile phones may cause oxidative stress and modify salivary function.”
Dr. Yaniv Hamzany of TAU went on to say that the study suggests a “considerable oxidative stress on the tissue and glands which are close to the cell phone when in use.”
Cellphones are known to emit non-ionizing radiation, but not for modifying cells in the body. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, announced cellphones to be “possibly carcinogenic,” classifying them as Category 2B, a classification shared by engine exhaust, lead, industrial chemicals, and DDT.
Conducted by Dr. Rebbie Rand, an occupational therapist of Tel Aviv University’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, in conjunction with a team from Sheba Medical Center, and funded by the Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant, the research has emphasizes the importance of goal-directed movement as a means to repair speech, movement, and overall functionality.
Dr. Rand explains that interactive game consoles insist that players move around continuously throughout virtual games. In her study, the results of which were recently presented at the 9th International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technologies, Rand learned that game-players perform twice the amount of arm movements during each session compared to patients in traditional therapy. She also notes that each movement is also ‘goal-directed,’ whereas traditional therapy aims to simply exercise bodily movements.
Dr. Rand suggests that this discovery can have positive benefits for the process of brain plasticity – mental changes that occur in patients who have suffered from brain damage caused by stroke, and mandatory for the brain’s recovery. Simply by moving deliberately to accomplish a specific goal results in certain cognitive benefits.
To put her theory to the test, Dr. Rand organized two groups of 20 participants each: a traditional therapy group, given traditional rehabilitation exercises, and a video-games group, that used Xbox Kinect, Sony Playstation and Nintendo Wii throughout sessions. After three months, though both groups showed physical improvements, the video games group continued to improve grip strength for the next three months, while the traditional group did not.
Plus, she notes, since video games are often enjoyable, patients will be more susceptible to continue treatment. Her study confirms that 92 percent of participants playing video games enjoy their therapeutic exercises, opposed to only 72 percent of those given traditional therapeutic exercises.
The social environment brought on through video games is also beneficial for morale, and gives a boost for certain patients having a tough time integrating back into society. Video games through therapy are really just more fun, Dr. Rand Notes, and most importantly, it offers patients a way to establish meaningful relationships with one another.
In the next bed, a girl, 12, lay in a deep sleep. She had arrived at the pediatric intensive care unit with a severe stomach wound that had already been operated on in Syria, and a hole in her back.
Another girl, 13, has been here more than a month recovering from injuries that required complex surgery to her face, arm and leg. She and her brother, 9, had gone to the supermarket in their village when a shell struck. Her brother was killed in the attack.
As fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels has raged in recent months in areas close to the Israeli-held Golan Heights, scores of Syrian casualties have been discreetly spirited across the hostile frontier for what is often lifesaving treatment in Israel, an enemy country.
Most are men in their 20s or 30s, many of them with gunshot wounds who presumably were involved in the fighting. But in recent weeks there have been more civilians with blast wounds, among them women and children who have arrived alone and traumatized.
Israel has repeatedly declared a policy of nonintervention in the Syrian civil war, other than its readiness to strike at stocks of advanced weapons it considers a threat to its security. Officials have also made clear that Israel would not open its increasingly fortified border to an influx of refugees, as Turkey and Jordan have, given that Israel and Syria officially remain in a state of war.
But the Israeli authorities have sanctioned this small, low-profile humanitarian response to the tragedy taking place in Syria, balancing decades of hostility with the demands of proximity and neighborliness.
“Most come here unconscious with head injuries,” said Dr. Masad Barhoum, the director general of the Western Galilee Hospital here in Nahariya, on the Mediterranean coast six miles south of the Lebanese border. “They wake up after a few days or whenever and hear a strange language and see strange people,” he said. “If they can talk, the first question is, ‘Where am I?’ ”
He added, “I am sure there is an initial shock when they hear they are in Israel.”
The identity of the patients is closely guarded so they will not be in danger when they return to Syria. Soldiers sit outside the wards where the adults are to protect them from possible threats and prying journalists. But doctors granted access to the children in the closed intensive care wing, on the condition that no details that could compromise their safety were published.
Like many Israeli hospitals, this one serves a mixed population of Jews and Arabs; its staff includes Arabic-speaking doctors, nurses and social workers. In the lobby, a glass display case contains the remnants of a Katyusha rocket that was fired from Lebanon and hit the hospital’s eye department during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. The rocket penetrated four floors but nobody was injured because all the north-facing wards had been moved underground.
With more than 100,000 people estimated to have died in the Syrian civil war, Dr. Barhoum, an Arab Christian citizen of Israel, acknowledged that the Israeli medical assistance was “a drop in the ocean.”
But he said he was proud of the level of treatment his teams could provide and proud to be a citizen of a country that allowed him to treat every person equally. He said the cost of the treatment so far had amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars and would be paid for by the Israeli government.
Since late March, almost 100 Syrians have arrived at two hospitals in Galilee. Forty-one severely wounded Syrians have been treated here at the Western Galilee Hospital, which has a new neurosurgical unit as well as pediatric intensive care facilities. Two of them have died, 28 have recovered and been transferred back to Syria, and 11 remain here.
An additional 52 Syrians have been taken to the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in the Galilee town of Safed. The latest, a 21-year-old man with gunshot and shrapnel wounds, arrived there on Saturday. A woman, 50, arrived Friday with a piece of shrapnel lodged in her heart and was sent to the Rambam hospital in the northern port city of Haifa for surgery.
Little has been revealed about how they get here, other than that the Israeli military runs the technical side of the operation. The doctors say all they know is that Syrian patients arrive by military ambulance and that the hospital calls the army to come pick them up when they are ready to go back to Syria.
The Israeli military, which also operates a field hospital and mobile medical teams along the Syrian frontier, has been reluctant to advertise these facilities, partly for fear of being inundated by more wounded Syrians than they could cope with.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said that “a number of Syrians have come to the fence along the border in the Golan Heights with various levels of injuries.”
He added that the military has, “on a purely humanitarian basis, facilitated immediate medical assistance on the ground and in some cases has evacuated them for further treatment in Israeli hospitals.”
Now, efforts are under way to bring over relatives to help calm the unaccompanied children.
When the 13-year-old arrived, she was in a state of fear and high anxiety, according to Dr. Zeev Zonis, the head of the pediatric intensive care unit here.
“A large part of our treatment was to try to embrace her in a kind of virtual hug,” he said.
Days later, the girl’s aunt arrived from Syria. She began to care for the Syrian children here, living and sleeping with them in the intensive care unit. The staff and volunteers donated clothes and gifts.
The aunt, her face framed by a tight hijab, said a shell had struck the supermarket in their village suddenly, after a week of quiet. A few days later, she said, an Arab man she did not know came to the village.
“He told us they had the girl,” she said. “They took me and on the way told me that she was in Israel. We got to the border. I saw soldiers. I was a little afraid.”
But she added that the hospital care had been good and that “the fear has passed totally.” She was reluctant to speak about the war back home, saying only, “I pray for peace and quiet.”
Sitting up in bed in a pink Pooh Bear T-shirt, the niece, who was smiling, said she missed home. She and her aunt were expected to return to Syria later this week.
Asked what she will say when she goes back home, the aunt replied: “I won’t say that I was in Israel. It is forbidden to be here, and I am afraid of the reactions.”