Monday, August 28, 2006

We are truly blessed to live in these times

When I was a child some 40 years ago, a Cancer Diagnosis was almost universally a death sentence. Today the number of truly incurable cancers are falling like flies. And even for cancers that are still incurable, the length of time people have to live after diagnosis is generally much longer. Today I bring you word of yet another advancement in the fight against cancer. It is still a laboratory therapy and has not been tried in humans yet, but it looks promising.

First a bit of background on how many cancer cells work. Cancer cells are cells that, through mutation have managed to turn off all the built in regulators to cellular growth. Cancer cells, are for all intents and purposes immortal, much like stem cells. In fact many of the same genetic switches that make stem cells what they are are also found in cancer cells. One switch that may kinds of cancer cells have bypassed is the one for “programmed cell death” known in biology circles as apoptosis. Normal cells who for one reason or another begin replicating uncontrollably either detect that the replication mechanism is haywire and trigger a series of enzyme reactions that cause the cell to self destruct, or if that fails, responds to external stimuli from the immune system that causes the cell to die, but some cancer cells have turned off that external kill switch. They do this by shutting down the conversion of an enzyme called procaspase-3 into an enzyme called caspase-3. Caspase-3 is the final link in the chain of enzymes that leads to cell death. This leads to a buildup of procaspase-3 in the tumor cell.

Chemist Paul Hergenrother of the University of Illinois and an international group of researchers have found a small synthetic molecule that completes the conversion of procaspase-3 into caspase-3 in a number of cancer cells that have this particular molecular defect. They are calling it PAC-1 or Procaspase-3 Activating Compound. It is believed that sensitivity to this compound can be tested for to help determine which patients might be helped by this treatment.

Hat Tip: HyScience

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

METRO's service "Improvements"

Yesterday, my wife arrived at the Spring Park and Pilliage as usual to find a very large group of people standing around which is NOT usual. By large I mean somewhere between 50-75 people at least. There was a "Supervisor" standing at the loading area, there were no buses in the loading area, that is not to say there were no buses, there were several! But they were all lined up out on the street and the "Supervisor" would not allow them to enter the Park and Pilliage in order to board passengers, "because it wasn't time" he said. after almost half an hour, he finally allowed the buses to begin boarding. then on the way home, the first bus was packed like a sardine can and running late. the next bus, which was less than two minutes behind and early, was essentially empty.

Methinks there is a lack of understanding at the LeePeeBrown Building on what the definition of "improvement" is.