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Vol. LXII, No. 3
February 5, 2010
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Digest

  Leafy green vegetables, folate and some multivitamins could serve as protective factors against lung cancer in current and former smokers, according to an NCI-supported study.  
  Leafy green vegetables, folate and some multivitamins could serve as protective factors against lung cancer in current and former smokers, according to an NCI-supported study.  

Diet May Protect Against Gene Changes in Smokers

Leafy green vegetables, folate and some multivitamins could serve as protective factors against lung cancer in current and former smokers, according to a study that is a first step in understanding a complex association. The study, supported by the National Cancer Institute, appeared online Jan. 12 in Cancer Research. Researchers, led by Dr. Steven Belinsky of Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, examined cells that were coughed up by current and former smokers. Upon careful study of the cells and by comparing those cells with profiles of smokers’ diet, scientists found that leafy green vegetables, folate and some multivitamins could influence the prevalence of cellular gene methylation. Gene methylation, a chemical modification used by the cell to control gene expression, is likely to be a major mechanism in lung cancer development and progression as well as a potential marker for the early detection of lung cancer.

Cancer Genome Atlas Identifies Subtypes of Deadly Brain Cancer

The most common form of malignant brain cancer in adults, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is not a single disease but appears to be four distinct molecular subtypes, according to a study published Jan. 19 in Cancer Cell by the Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network. Researchers also found that response to aggressive chemotherapy and radiation differed by subtype. Patients with one subtype treated with this strategy appeared to succumb to their disease at a rate approximately 50 percent slower than patients treated with less aggressive therapy. This effect was seen to a lesser degree in two of the subtypes and not at all in the fourth subtype. Researchers said the results may lead to more personalized approaches to treating groups of GBM patients based on their genomic alterations. The research team is a collaborative effort funded by NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Newly Identified Genes Influence Insulin, Glucose Regulation

An international research consortium has found 13 new genetic variants that influence blood glucose regulation, insulin resistance and the function of insulin-secreting beta cells in populations of European descent. Five of the newly discovered variants increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The results of two studies, conducted by the Meta-Analyses of Glucose and Insulin Related Traits Consortium, provide important clues about the role of beta cells in the development of type 2 diabetes. Funded in part by NIH, the studies appeared online Jan. 17 in Nature Genetics. “The results give us exciting new directions for future research in the biology of type 2 diabetes, which poses a major and growing public health problem worldwide,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, an author of both papers.

Molecule Repairs Alcohol Metabolism Enzyme

An experimental compound repaired a defective alcohol metabolism enzyme that affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, according to research supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The findings, published Jan. 10 in the advance online edition of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, suggest the possibility of a treatment to reduce the health problems associated with the enzyme defect. “We recently identified a molecule called Alda-1 that activates the defective enzyme, and in the current study, we determined how this activation is achieved,” said study senior author Dr. Thomas Hurley of Indiana University School of Medicine. Initial investigations of Alda-1 were led by co-author Dr. Daria Mochly-Rosen of Stanford University School of Medicine.

NIDA Researchers Discover a New Mechanism Underlying Cocaine Addiction

Researchers have identified a key epigenetic mechanism in the brain that helps explain cocaine’s addictiveness, according to research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study, published in the Jan. 8 issue of Science, shows how cocaine affects an epigenetic process (a process capable of influencing gene expression without changing a gene’s sequence) called histone methylation. These epigenetic changes in the brain’s pleasure circuits, which are also the first impacted by chronic cocaine exposure, likely contribute to an acquired preference for cocaine. “Although more research will be required, these findings have identified a key new player in the molecular cascade triggered by repeated cocaine exposure, and thus a potential novel target for the development of addiction medications,” said NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow.—

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