Editor’s Choice – Highlighted Articles of the year

The following two articles were chosen by the Chief Editors of npj Precision Oncology, Dr. Ann Bode and Dr. Zigang Dong, for their innovative findings and the interest they generated. Brief descriptions for the articles and links are provided below.

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The first article is “Label-free isolation of prostate circulating tumor cells using Vortex microfluidic technology” by Renier et al.

Liquid biopsies are medical tests that can be carried out using body fluids such as blood and are thus non-invasive and very attractive for patients. A recent study by Renier et al highlighted an important advance in liquid biopsies. Using an innovative new technique referred to as “vortex microfluidic technology,” special cells called circulating tumor cells (CTCs) were isolated from the blood of prostate cancer patients. CTCs are cancer cells that arise from primary tumors and leak into the blood. Using this technique, scientists were able to isolate CTCs from patients’ blood in an efficient manner and at a high level of purity. This is important because isolated CTCs can then be further analyzed, which could help identify potential cancer mutations and biomarkers and provide clues for better treatment and prognosis. Indeed, in this study, scientists were able to sequence DNA obtained from the isolated CTCs and identified unique cancer mutations in several patients.

This article can be found here.

 The second article is “Combinatorial treatment with natural compounds in prostate cancer inhibits prostate tumor growth and leads to key modulations of cancer cell metabolism” by Lodi et al.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), many cancers might be preventable though diet and lifestyle changes, including the consumption of natural compounds with chemopreventive properties that can modulate and inhibit cancer growth. Advances in screening technologies now allow for the systematic evaluation of large numbers of natural compounds as anti-cancer compounds. Using high-throughput screening, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, identified the natural compounds ursolic acid (found in many fruits and herbs), cucurmin (found in the spice turmeric) and resveratrol (found in grapes, berries and red wine) as potential anti-cancer compounds. Combinations of these compounds were then tested in animal models to determine if they could actually reduce tumors. Importantly, all combinations of compounds were found to reduce tumor growth and size in a synergistic manner and results matched with those predicted by the compound screen. Further analysis of the cellular pathways affected by these compounds revealed that they affected the metabolism of the amino acid glutamine, which is essential for cell growth and maintenance. This innovative combinatorial approach, which utilizes both automated compound screening and animal studies, could be used for the identification of novel compound combinations for cancer prevention and therapy.

This article can be found here.

Tia Rai

Research Assistant Professor - Scientific Writing, The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota