Breast Cancer Research

(I didn't edit this at all yet, so it's going to be a mite
hard to follow. I was tired when I wrote it)

Monday was a very long day at work. I didn't get home until after 11pm, largely due to a grant meeting that my boss wanted me to attend.

As it turned out, there was little reason for me to attend, and since it got out at 9:30pm, after most of the buses stopped running--I had a nice little hike in the rain.

Yet it wasn't all bad. The meeting itself had a lot of interesting moments. Since my work is very technical and detail oriented I rarely deal with the big picture of cancer--I just work on defining surface markers and measuring how different drugs change the morphology of cells and the genetic profile of the targeted normal and cancerous cells. It's my boss that worries about the big picture.

As a result, this meeting of the top 9 MDs and 2 PhDs in our breast cancer research program was very illuminating to me. That night I saw just how the work I was doing for my boss fit into the big picture of how this entire group, here at UNC, is attacking breast cancer.

Needless to say, I didn't do much talking. 5 sentences, actually. The presentation that I found most interesting addressed the use of SCID mice with human xenograph added. Essentially that's taking a mouse with no immune system and adding a human breast cancer tumor to it. This has the advantage of allowing multiple approaches to killing tumor cells without endangering a patient. For example, in advanced breast cancer the patient is typically treated aggressively with everything in the treatment arsenal. More and more it's becoming apparent that some of these treatments are inimical to the patient but there's no way to determine that until after the fact--if even then. This mouse research using xenographs allows researchers to correlate which cancer cell types or patient genetic factors are treated best with radiation, chemo, or other options.

Genes like HER2 or GATA3 can be indicators of what treatment options are best. This isn't an area I know anything about which is why I was so interested in what was being presented.

While the xenographs are very exciting mice play a strong role in cancer research in a number of other ways. The murine (that means mice for some odd reason--must be due to the Latin name) genome has been mapped completely and is the same approximate size as the human--and murine tumors have also been mapped by DNA microarray with subsequent hierarchical clustering. This data analysis has shown that there's significant overlap in gene profiles between human and mouse cancers. Mice with missing genes, commonly referred to as knockout mice, can also be used to advance understanding and treatment of cancer. All in all, animal models are quite compelling. I only use human tissue in my work so it was fun to hear just how much could be done with other lines of work.


Teresa said…
That was interesting, Dave. Thanks for sharing.

But I don't want to know what people do to poor little mice....
utenzi said…
I know. The damn things are so cute. Some wild types are very mean but the tamer ones like BALB/Cs are great to have around. I've not done research with mice in almost 20 years and that was mainly with TR-1s and they were as sweet a mouse clone as you could ever want.
Oreo said…
I would eat him if he didn't have breast you catch some crap on this one.
utenzi said…
You're quite right, Oreo (and Heather). There's a lot of antivivisection sentiment in the US and I strongly suspect you're in that group. Not many cats are going to be in favor of animal research!
Tara said…
I have some test subjects in my basement for you....if they just step a BIT closer to the trap....
I have no idea what you were explaining. I'm not so smart with the science talk. But I'm glad smart folks like you and the mice are on the good team.
i read your post but it has way too much technical stuff in it for me, but the pic sure is cute. but i did prefer the pic of your dog, ears down i think, the other one is cute too, but he can't really walk around all day with his ears up like that, the other dogs would laugh at him.
hey, i'm here from michelle's.
YellowRose said…
I'm so glad that folks like yourself are doing what they do to fight breast cancer. Even if it takes those mice to do it! ;) My grandmother had breast cancer and I had a scare this year. Bless you!
Here via Michele's!
Oreo said…
Well, actually I have conflicting feelings on this. (Oreo says this is bunk btw! No animal testing at all!!) On the one hand I hate to see or think about the poor little animals. But on the other hand, this is what my Bible tells me about it....

(Genesis 1:26) And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

(Genesis 1:27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

(Genesis 1:28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

So, my God says it's's ok! I realize that things like this have to happen to help people, I just don't want to have to see it or do it! Kind of like eating a cheeseburger.......
Carmi said…
What an amazing glimpse into the fight against a killer that has touched us all.

Michele sent me.
Thank you for the research you and your group tirelessly does. I'm too choked up for better words. Ironically, I put up my art exhibit for "Arts for Healing" program at the hospital today, but that is just frosting. You guys are doing the nitty-gritty to rid this horrid disease.

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