19 February 2016

Cure For Some Kinds Of Previously Lethal Leukemia Discovered; Aging Better Understood

In a small study, an experimental treatment that genetically modifies part of the human immune system cured all but one of eight cases of a type of leukemia (one of several kinds of blood cancer) that is usually fatal in everyone who contracts it.  Note that a treatment that appears to entirely cure someone's cancer, as opposed to merely forcing it into remission for the duration of the treatment, is particularly exceptional.

Moreover, this new approach to cancer therapy provides a template for many potential future cures of other kinds of cancers (or even other kinds of diseases).

This subtype of leukemia isn't the only circumstance in which cancer treatment has made great strides, although it is one of the most dramatic.  From 1960-1964, the five year survival rate for leukemia was 14%.  From 2004 to 2010, it was more than four times that rate, at 60.2%, and progress has continued since then.

Progress In Understanding Aging

In other impressive medicinal biochemistry news, scientists have made great progress in understanding the role of a key hormone called growth differentiation factor eleven (GDF11) first described in 2014, in the genetically determined component of aging.

This hormone's effects are truly impressive in mouse models.  "Restoration of GDF11 reverses cardiovascular aging in old mice and leads to muscle and brain rejuvenation . . . . GDF11 levels decrease over time and also showed that most of the depletion occurs by middle age."  Seven genes associated with GDF11 levels in mice were identified and much of that information can be used to identify parallel genes in humans.

As I noted recently in another post, the biochemistry of other completely independent aspects of the human aging progress are also increasingly well understood.  And, we have made progress toward identify one of the environmental causes of Alzheimer's disease (copper exposure).

No comments: