High-Fat Diets May Spur Cancer by Activating Tumor-Prone Stem Cells

Chowing down on a high-fat diet may not only grow your waistline. It may also plump stem cell populations in your gut—cells that are prone to producing tumors.

Source: High-fat diets may spur cancer by activating tumor-prone stem cells

This study shows that there are more stem cells available in the gut when fed a high fat diet. To jump from evidence of greater stem cell abundance/activity straight to cancer is what most would call “Story Time”. Story time is when researchers start to speculate wildly and pretty much divorce themselves from the data whenever it suits them. Great for brainstorming new things to research, but it should never be the basis of entire news articles for the layperson who cannot differentiate between pure speculation and what the evidence actually says.

An alternate explanation (and one I personally feel to be more in line with basic biology) is that the high fat diet is overall less stressful on the gut, thereby sparing stem cells from having to repair as much damage day-to-day, and thus resulting in greater available un-utilized stem cells for these researchers to detect and manipulate. The metabolism of the intestine is fueled primarily by the catabolism of carbohydrates and carbohydrate precursors like amino acids. Fat largely bypasses the enterocyte to enter the lymph system (the degree to which this happens depends on fatty acid chain length in most species, so the point raised by others regarding the type of fat is very important) to be metabolized first not by the gut but by the liver. Higher fat diets mean lower carbohydrate and/or protein (protein being made of amino acids, many of which can be used to synthesize carbohydrates when catabolized), and as we all know higher carbohydrate diets have been tenuously linked with all sorts of pro-oxidation metabolites and indices of poor gut health like inflammation. Things that would require a higher level of chronic stem cell utilization for repair of oxidation caused damage. This paper is more evidence of the protective effects of fat specifically on gut health, than any evidence of harm from cancer or otherwise.

Never mind the fact that this is ultimately a rodent and cell culture study. Just yesterday ARS had an article showing just why mouse model work is next to worthless as a direct extrapolation to human medicine. From that article

One of the women in the study had complete loss of function from a gene called PRDM-9, which determines where maternal and paternal chromosomes recombine (exchange genetic material) during meiosis. As far as genetic fitness of a species is concerned, this recombination is probably the single best thing about reproducing sexually as opposed to any alternative. PRDM-9 knockout mice are sterile, but this woman was not.

Genes drive our biology, and if genes of fundamental importance to mice can be essentially irrelevant to humans, we should be very careful when extrapolating evidence between the species. Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that the authors preferred narrative is true all it really tells us is that mice should avoid a 60% fat diet, and that it might be worth looking into the effects of a 60% fat diet in humans. But then you would have to reconcile this assertion with indigenous populations like the Inuit mentioned by someone else who consume diets where essentially all of their calories come from fat, or the Masi who (the men anyway) live almost entirely on milk and blood from cattle which is also very low in carbohydrate and thus resulting in a predominance of calories coming from fat.

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Can Scientists Create a One-Click Shop For Cancer Treatments?

What if there were a vast library of crowd-sourced samples of rare cancers, and scientists could order them simply using ‘one-click shopping’?

Source: Can Scientists Create a One-Click Shop For Cancer Treatments?

It’s funny that a researcher would see the need for this, considering there’s government controlled products (IE peanut butter!) and substances for research

Doctors Hail ‘Spectacular’ Cancer Breakthrough

The results of new cancer drugs trials have been hailed as spectacular, with one expert claiming the potential for a cure for the disease is “definitely there”.

Immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells, proved so effective that in one British-led trial, more than half of patients with advanced melanoma saw tumours shrink or brought under control, according to researchers.

The trials, a number of which have been presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual conference in Chicago, could herald a “new era” for cancer treatments.

Source: Doctors Hail ‘Spectacular’ Cancer Breakthrough

Hold your breath for the cost.  Only one of the medications had a price stated in the video – the other I expect is being priced in the wake of new popularity.  I understand that there’s a lot of money going into researching medications – lots aren’t used for their original intention.  And melanoma is not the most common skin cancer, and five year survival rates are very high…

The second part to the news about the medication is the medication does not cure the cancer.  Someone could be on the medication for the rest of their life…

The US Is Finally Getting Access to a Promising Cancer Drug From Cuba

Tourism isn’t the only industry eager to benefit from the relaxing of the decades-long trade embargo against Cuba. Medical researchers on both of sides of the Straits of Florida now have the chance to collaborate with previously off-limits colleagues. Of particular interest to the U.S. is a Cuban lung cancer drug that took 25 years to develop.

Source: The US Is Finally Getting Access to a Promising Cancer Drug From Cuba

To Treat Cancer, Doctors Will Grow Miniature Organs from Your Tumors

Organoids are exactly what they sound like: simplified miniature organs. And now geneticists are growing them out of living cancer cells, creating tiny, living cancer tumors for study. It sounds terrifying, but it’s actually one possible way we’ll get personalized medicine to treat many kinds of cancer.

Source: To Treat Cancer, Doctors Will Grow Miniature Organs from Your Tumors

This is very exciting stuff, but may never be used for it intended purpose. There’s the possibility that cancer will be treated differently and more meaningfully without the need for this technology.  For example, organoids can be a key aspect on generating new drugs.

Sushi Parasite Inspires Worm Test for Cancer

Dogs do it. Rats do it. Even some people seem to be able to sniff out cancer and other diseases. Now we can add the humble roundworm to the list of super-smellers.

Japanese researchers have discovered that Caenorhabditis elegans worms can detect cancer in people’s urine. They are working with technology companies Hitachi and Johnan to turn the finding into a diagnostic test that can be used to catch the disease in its early stages.

…The team are now investigating whether different cancer types release different odours, and whether this has an effect on the worms. They hope to have a commercial product ready by 2019. The idea would be that users send a urine sample to the company and get the results back the next day, says Hirotsu.

Source: Sushi parasite inspires worm test for cancer

It was only recently that dogs were trained to sniff out cancer, though dogs have been trained companions for detecting low blood sugar for diabetics in the past.  Much as I like dogs, the worms are a much better idea for a diagnostic test.  Being smaller means less space needed, and likely less resources to keep.  Don’t have to walk the worms 😉

Here’s to a cost-effective, non-invasive, diagnostic test that posted a 96% success rate.  No word about what stage the respective cancer was at, but the ability to test and test often is still pretty good.

I’m interested to see how the commercial aspect turns out for worms that have been used in research since 1963.  I shudder at the thought of repeating the breast cancer testing fiasco, and hope they see that the volume of commercialized test sales could offset upscale pricing.

Sugar Industry Shaped NIH Agenda on Dental Research

The sugar industry convinced the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) that studies that might persuade people to cut back on sugary foods should not be part of a national plan to fight childhood tooth decay, a new study of historical documents argues. The authors say the industry’s activities, which occurred more than 40 years ago, are reminiscent of the tobacco companies’ efforts to minimize the risks of smoking.

Source: Sugar industry shaped NIH agenda on dental research

There is a sugar/cancer tie-in. The insulin spike from sugar consumption promotes tumor growth. Not that the sugar itself is carcinogenic, but the subsequent insulin flooding exacerbates the cancer. I’ve known people with advanced cancer whose doctors told them this, they went completely off carbs and tumor growth slowed significantly.

Study: Large Red Meat Consumption Triggers Immune Response, Leading to Cancer

It should be made clear that the research appears reputable. The research does not rely upon statistical analysis that can be potentially biased. It’s about the presence or absence of genetic mutations in different species, making the results extremely robust.  However, in this study the high Neu5Gc diet was 0.25 mg of Neu5Gc per gram of food. For comparison their estimated range of Neu5Gc content in beef is 0.023-0.231 mg per gram.  Effectively the mice were fed ~1,000 times more Neu5Gc in their food than what is found in a steak.  And the mice could only eat this pellet, whereas humans don’t only eat steak.

Red meat has been linked to cancer for decades, with research suggesting that eating large amounts of pork, beef or lamb raises the risk of deadly tumours. But for the first time scientists think they know what is causing the effect. The body, it seems, views red meat as a foreign invader and sparks a toxic immune response.

Source: Red meat triggers toxic immune reaction which causes cancer, scientists find

Red meat contains Neu5Gc. Pork has more Neu5Gc than beef, and dairy has it too. Fish contains trace amounts, and poultry has none.  Cooking didn’t have a significant effect on the Neu5Gc content – cooking reduced water weight, and therefore increased the µg/g value.  Here’s the chart from the paper:

Neu5Gc Content and Percentage of Various Food Groups

Neu5Gc Content and Percentage of Various Food Groups

When our ancestors evolutionary diverged from chimpanzees, we developed a mutation in an enzyme known as CMAH. CMAH catalyzes the addition of a hydroxyl group to sialic acid (NeuNAc) to produce Neu5Gc (NeuNAc w/ added -OH). One of the things that makes you uniquely human compared to almost all other mammals are the patterns of carbohydrates that cover the surface of your cells.  What makes you uniquely human is the striking lack of Neu5Gc on your cells compared to almost all other mammals.

Mutation of the CMAH enzymatic pathway may have promoted developmental brain complexity. This supports the view that human ancestors ate a primarily vegan diet.  With little rare meat consumption to result in accelerated aging, the effects of this reduced fitness was outweighed by increased brain complexity that may have provided a survival advantage for mutants.

Glycoscience is a new branch of science that will help us get closer to understanding the human body in the finest details. If this research is confirmed to be true, it will have great implications on how to make consumption of red meat safe (genetic modification?) and could shed more light on how the body prevents cancer from spreading out of control (not everyone dies from cancer).

A Protein that Regulates Fat Levels

…in worms.

Like a smart sensor that adjusts the lighting in each room and a home’s overall temperature, a protein that governs the making of other proteins in the cell also appears capable of controlling fat levels in the body.

The finding, which appeared in Cell Reports on Dec. 11, applies to the Maf1 protein in worms.

…Maf1 changes lipid metabolism in cancer cells, raising the possibility that it could be used in tumor cell suppression.

Source: A control knob for fat? Protein that makes other proteins also regulates fat levels

Not even to mice yet. That would put it in the ~20 year out time frame for any kind of approved drug, if at all possible.