This Week in Research: Personalized Cancer Treatment and Stressed-Out Children

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If you’ve got to get chemotherapy, you might as well get chemotherapy that’s designed precisely for you. No, this isn’t some weird, trendy cancer fad from the fashion industry; it’s actually an innovative new treatment developed by oncologists at Johns Hopkins, who’ve figured out how to personalize chemo drug selection using cell lines created from patients’ own tumors.

Currently, doctors use lab tests to decide which chemo drugs will work best for each patient. These tests are often slow and of limited use. The data gets compromised. Tissue samples might turn out to not be any good.

Instead, the Hopkins docs are proposing that oncologists use patients’ own tumors to pinpoint the correct cancer drugs. In one experiment, they were able to select the two most-effective drugs — out of more than 3,000 options. (The process involves giving some genetically-engineered mice a version of a patients’ tumor. Whereas some cancer cells won’t survive long in a lab dish, these mice are specially engineered to grow tumors — which the scientists can then use for study. Unfortunate little guys!)

“Our technique allows us to produce cell lines where they don’t now exist, where more lines are needed, or where there is a particularly rare or biologically distinctive patient we want to study,” said Hopkins pathologist/oncologist James Eshleman.

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Children who react strongly to stress are more likely to eat even when they’re not hungry, according to research out of our favorite group at Johns Hopkins:  The Saliva Lab! (Or, more formally, the Center for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research.) This propensity for stress-eating puts them at greater risk for being overweight or obese.

“Children react differently to stress, based on their resilience, environment, and capacity for self-regulation,” according to study co-author (and Saliva Lab director) Douglas Granger. “If we can identify those young people at risk for greater stress responses, then we may be able to intervene to reduce the likelihood of comfort eating as a stress response.”



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