Open Reading Frame: neonatal infections, chemotherapy & DNA origins of cancer

Posted by Biome on 23rd August 2013 - 0 Comments

Open Reading Frame brings together a selection of recent publication highlights from elsewhere in  the open access ecosystem. This week we take a look at the past few weeks in medicine.


Mapping the DNA origins of cancer

For the first time, researchers have produced a comprehensive catalogue of the mutations causing the most common cancers. The collaborative study, investigated almost five million genetic mutations in the 30 most common types of cancer, and found that different cancers are driven by distinct numbers of genetic alterations; ovarian cancer is the result of two mutational processes, whereas six processes give rise to liver cancer. The researchers conclude that this leap forward in understanding the genetic processes behind cancer development will lead to improvements in disease prevention and targeted therapy.
Alexandrov et al. Nature


Can mouth bacteria trigger colorectal cancer?

The positive effects of keeping a healthy balance of good bacteria in the body are increasingly being demonstrated, and there is evidence linking an imbalance of bacteria in the gut to colon cancer. Now, research from two studies has shown that Fusobacteria in the mouth could be linked to colon cancer development. In the first study, researchers found that Fusobacteria are present in benign tumors that become cancerous over time, suggesting they could be involved in the early stages of cancer development. In the second study, Mara Rubinstein and colleagues identified a molecule on colorectal cancer cells that Fusobacteria use to invade the cells and trigger tumor formation. Together, these results suggest that Fusobacteria could represent a new target for reducing tumor growth in patients with colorectal cancer.
Kostic et al. Cell Host & Microbe
Rubinstein et al. Cell Host & Microbe


Infections during pregnancy could be passed onto babies

Neonatal infections represent a huge problem worldwide, causing an estimated four million deaths every year. A systematic review and meta-analysis has found that if mothers have a bacterial infection during pregnancy, their newborn babies are over six times more likely to develop a neonatal infection. These results suggest that infection could be passed from mother to baby, indicating that there is great potential to reduce neonatal infections by treating maternal infections during pregnancy.
Chan et al. PLOS Medicine


Should clinicians disclose incidental genetic findings?

In the era of genomic testing, it is likely that clinicians will come across incidental findings, especially as whole-genome sequencing is applied to detect disorders involving multiple genes. However, the obligation of clinicians to disclose incidental findings is currently under debate. A recent analysis of legal databases identified a number of cases where clinicians could face liability for not disclosing incidental findings. More research into the area is required, but these preliminary investigations suggest that clinicians should follow up on incidental findings in genomic testing in order to improve health outcomes for their patients.
Clayton et al. Genetics in Medicine


Mediterranean diet linked to better quality of life

The Mediterranean diet is known to be associated with reduced chronic disease risk, with recent evidence suggesting it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Now, a large study of over 16 000 participants in Italy has found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with improved health-related quality of life, especially regarding mental health. These findings provide further support for the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and suggest that adopting the diet could be beneficial to maintaining good mental health.
Bonaccio et al. BMJ Open


Can vitamin B prevent skin reactions to chemotherapy?

Hand-foot syndrome (HFS), a toxic skin reaction to chemotherapy treatment, can be a distressing condition affecting cancer patients, and previous evidence suggests that pyridoxine (vitamin B6) could be used to prevent HFS. A systematic review distilling the data finds that at present there is not enough evidence to suggest that pyridoxine should be given, but it could be effective at higher doses. These findings suggest that more research is needed to show whether this promising agent could be used at higher doses to prevent toxic skin reactions and improve quality of life in cancer patients.
Shen et al. PLOS One


Advice to improve accuracy in lung function tests

It is recommended that patients with respiratory problems should refrain from using bronchodilator drugs prior to lung function testing as these drugs can affect the test results. However, data from a new study shows that patients undergoing testing are not always advised to stop taking such drugs, often taking them close to the time of the test. The authors conclude that lung function test results could be affected by patients failing to refrain from drug treatment, which could negatively impact subsequent diagnosis and treatment of lung problems. Healthcare workers should therefore ensure that all patients are given appropriate advice before testing occurs.
Jones et al. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


Written by Claire Barnard, Senior Editor for BMC Medicine.