27 February 2006

Virus Found in Prostate Cancer Patients
The Associated Press
Friday, February 24, 2006; 10:21 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Researchers said Friday they have found a virus in the prostates of some cancer patients, a remarkable discovery that may suggest disease could play a role alongside genetics and the environment in causing this cancer.

The virus, closely related to one previously found only in mice, was found in cancerous prostates removed from men with a certain genetic defect. The findings open new avenues for studying the most common major cancer among men in the United States.

The researchers, with the University of California, San Francisco, and the Cleveland Clinic, presented the findings at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in San Francisco. They warn that they have not found any links between the virus and prostate cancer, but they are nonetheless excited about prospects for future research.

"We have made a very fascinating discovery never before seen in humans that is very similar to one found in a mammal that causes cancer," Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic said at a news conference. "But we have not proven this virus causes prostate cancer."

Infectious disease-causing viruses are already blamed for some liver cancers and cervical cancer. That has planted nagging suspicions in the minds of scientists that some diseases may play important roles alongside genetics, environment and chance in causing breast, stomach and several other forms of cancer.

Researchers are not sure how the mouse virus infected people, but suspect it has been passed on genetically for many generations.

"This is a class of virus no one would have looked for in prostate cancer," said UCSF researcher Joe DeRisi, who developed the so-called "gene chip" that made the discovery. DeRisi's chip contains 20,000 snippets of vital genetic material from every known virus. It is the same chip that confirmed a previously undiscovered virus in the cold family that caused the SARS outbreak three years ago.

Klein sent samples of 86 cancerous prostates he removed from patients to DeRisi. DeRisi then placed DNA from the cancerous tissues on the chip, and DNA from eight of 20 patients with two copies of a mutated gene matched with DNA from the mouse virus.

The gene is a vital cog in the body's defense system, coding for an enzyme that helps kill invading viruses. The men with the mutated genes make fewer such enzymes than those with normal versions of the gene.

The virus was found in just one of the 66 other patients, suggesting that genetics play a significant role in the virus' connection to cancer.

24 February 2006

Reminder - Don't Drink the Water!

A government scientist has been forced to resign, after discovering dangerous levels of a toxic chemical in the Mississippi River. The toxins, specifically known as perfluoronated chemicals (PFCs), are a byproduct of the manufacture of a number of products including Teflon and Scotchgard. In late 2005, Dr. Oliaei Fardin found dangerous levels of PFC's in the Mississippi River downstream from a 3M Corporation's dumping site in Minnesota. 3M had been dumping 50,000 pounds of the toxic chemical in the river every year, in a heavily populated metropolitan area, where the river serves as the main drinking water source for Minneapolis and St. Paul. PFCs have caused birth defects and deaths in animal studies and are considered a likely human carcinogen. Fardin, a scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, found levels of PFCs in the area's fish that were the highest ever discovered in the world. Following her discovery, she was unable to get the state to issue a public health advisory, as would normally be required by law. After she filed a federal whistleblower's lawsuit against the agency, Fardin was forced to resign by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Commissioner, a former Executive of 3M. Her research, which has now been halted, would have helped assess how far downstream the chemical contamination had traveled in the Mississippi River, one of the nation's largest waterways and municipal water sources.