A new view of cancer

Tumors are not islands unto themselves. They can “hijack” normal cellular processes, including inflammation, to hide from the body’s immune system. They can “re-educate” inflammatory cells to release factors that promote tumor growth and spread. The ability to peer into this malevolent microenvironment is giving researchers new ideas for stopping tumors in their tracks.  read article

Collateral Damage

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection. But the chemical weapons used to subdue invading microbes also can damage surrounding tissue, and contribute to diseases of chronic inflammation as diverse as arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. By deciphering the language of inflammation, scientists hope to learn new ways to quench “the fires within.”  read article

The heat that hurts

While high cholesterol levels are a major risk factor, inflammation fuels the fires of atherosclerosis. It may play an equally important role in type 2 diabetes. Better understanding of inflammation, scientists believe, will aid efforts to diagnose these diseases earlier, treat them more successfully and ultimately prevent them from occurring in the first place.  read article

Sir John Vane: Improbable beginnings

Aspirin had been used to relieve pain and inflammation for more than 70 years, but no one knew how the drug worked. Then in 1971, using a generous dose of “blue-sky thinking,” British pharmacologist Sir John Vane solved the mystery. His discovery illustrates the value of basic research and the freedom to ask “Why?”  read article

Teamwork + Trust

Sir Ravinder Maini, who helped discover a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs, discusses the limitations of clinical trials, the importance of post-marketing surveillance and the value of university-industry partnerships.  read article

A tornado in the body

Rheumatoid arthritis caught writer Toni Locke by surprise, tearing through her joints like a tornado. Read your symptoms warnings and seek help early, she cautions, before irreparable damage occurs.  read article

How inflammation attacks

Alzheimer’s disease

Amyloid plaques that form in brains of those with AD show significant amount of associated inflammation.

Asthma

Chronic inflammation of the airways, due to allergens or irritants, makes the airways super-sensitive. Later exposure can trigger  swelling of the airways that obstructs airflow.  read article

The war on cancer—a status report

In 2004, FORTUNE magazine created a stir in the research community with a cover story entitled “Why we’re losing the war on cancer (and how to win it).”

The story’s author, Clifton Leaf, one of magazine’s executive editors and a cancer survivor, described "a dysfunctional 'cancer culture' ... that pushes ... physicians and scientists toward the goal of tiniest improvements in treatment rather than genuine breakthroughs."

Leaf criticized current research efforts for "isolated (and redundant) problem-solving instead of cooperation," and for focusing on shrinking tumors instead of the more difficult problem of metastasis, which is "the thing that kills people."

Scientists interviewed for this issue of Lens disputed the “dysfunctional” label, but they said they could make faster progress if there were greater incentives for collaboration among researchers, clinicians and drug companies.  read article

The infection connection

What lights the fires of chronic inflammation? Persistent infection is the culprit in some conditions, including ulcers. There is evidence that it may play a role in multiple sclerosis and premature labor as well.  read article

The best defense… is a good inflammatory response

Perhaps the best evidence for the importance of inflammation is what can happen in its absence.

For 16-year-old Allen Grimes of Hopkinsville, Ky., a rare genetic disorder that results in an insufficient inflammatory response has left him nearly defenseless against infections.  read article

A survival advantage

Immunity and inflammation are almost as old as life itself.

Even amoebae, the single-celled organisms thought to be one of the first forms of life on Earth, are capable of distinguishing between members of their own species and other species they can eat. This capacity to distinguish "self" from "non-self" is what normally prevents our more complicated immune system from attacking our own tissues.  read article

Guest editorial – Lawrence J. Marnett, Ph.D.

Inflammation is a series of biochemical and cellular events that constitute our body’s response to infection. Inflammatory cells surround invading pathogens and generate highly reactive and toxic chemicals including Clorox (sodium hypochlorite) and chlorine gas. They also synthesize antibodies to help clear bacteria, viruses, and other noxious stimuli, and they produce a range of signaling molecules such as prostaglandins and cytokines to amplify the inflammatory response.  read article

C Reactive Protein: The Next Big Thing?

A 70-year-old diagnostic test has become the latest tool for predicting a person’s future risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It measures levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is made by the liver during periods of inflammatory activity in the body.  read article

An Ounce of Prevention

Cardiovascular disease, like cancer, is a health problem best treated with prevention and early detection. Physicians successfully identify many at-risk patients by measuring the blood levels of markers like LDL cholesterol. However, for many patients, their first indication of cardiovascular disease is suffering a heart attack or stroke.  read article

Breaking the COX code

Teamwork among scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center during the past 35 years has contributed much to current understanding of the role of the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes and their products—the prostaglandins—in human disease.  read article