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Vol. LXII, No. 24
November 26, 2010
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Digest

  The National Cancer Institute has released initial results from a large-scale test of screening methods to reduce deaths from lung cancer by detecting cancers at relatively early stages.  
  The National Cancer Institute has released initial results from a large-scale test of screening methods to reduce deaths from lung cancer by detecting cancers at relatively early stages.  

Lung Cancer Trial Results Show Mortality Benefit with Low-Dose CT

The National Cancer Institute has released initial results from a large-scale test of screening methods to reduce deaths from lung cancer by detecting cancers at relatively early stages.

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), a randomized national trial involving more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74, compared the effects of two screening procedures for lung cancer—low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) and standard chest X-ray—on lung cancer mortality and found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with low-dose helical CT. The NLST was sponsored by NCI. A paper describing the design and protocol of the NLST was published Nov. 3 by the journal Radiology.

“This large and well-designed study used rigorous scientific methods to test ways to prevent death from lung cancer by screening patients at especially high risk,” said NCI director Dr. Harold Varmus. “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States and throughout the world, so a validated approach that can reduce lung cancer mortality by even 20 percent has the potential to spare very significant numbers of people from the ravages of this disease. But these findings should in no way distract us from continued efforts to curtail the use of tobacco, which will remain the major causative factor for lung cancer and several other diseases.”

NIH Researchers Identify Genetic Elements Influencing Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

A team led by researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute has captured the most comprehensive snapshot to date of DNA regions that regulate genes in human pancreatic islet cells, a subset of which produces insulin.

The study highlights the importance of genome regulatory sequences in human health and disease, particularly type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 20 million people in the United States and 200 million people worldwide. The findings appeared Nov. 3 in Cell Metabolism.

“This study gives us an encyclopedia of regulatory elements in islet cells of the human pancreas that may be important for normal function and whose potential dysfunction can contribute to disease,” said senior author and NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “These elements represent an important component of the uncharted genetic underpinnings of type 2 diabetes that is outside of protein-coding genes.”

NIH-Supported Mouse Studies Suggest Treatment Target for Alcohol Problems

A molecular pathway within the brain’s reward circuitry appears to contribute to alcohol abuse, according to laboratory mouse research supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The findings were published online Nov. 1 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1, or mTORC1, is a group of proteins found in cells throughout the body. An important part of the cellular machinery, mTORC1 sends signals that help regulate the size and number of cells. Scientists have also found that it is involved in other cellular processes.

For example, in the central nervous system, mTORC1 has been linked to processes related to learning and memory. Because problems in the cellular mechanisms that underlie learning and memory can contribute to alcohol abuse disorders, NIAAA-supported researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, hypothesized that mTORC1 might be involved in alcohol problems.

In studies conducted with mice, researchers led by Dr. Dorit Ron, a UCSF principal investigator, measured an increase in mTORC1 cellular products in the nucleus accumbens of mice that had consumed alcohol—an indication that alcohol activates the mTORC1 pathway.

“Our findings show that the mTORC1 pathway is an important contributor to mechanisms that underlie alcohol-seeking behavior,” says Ron. “They also suggest that novel rapamycin-like compounds might be useful treatments for alcohol use disorders.”


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