ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Aug 02 16:42:03 EDT 2006

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News Items in this Edition

Toward an ultra-sensitive blood test for breast cancer

An international research group is reporting development and early clinical testing of an ultra-sensitive blood test for breast cancer. Their new immunoassay was 200-1,000 times more sensitive than existing tests, according to a report scheduled for the Aug. 4 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research.

Jasminka Godovac-Zimmermann, of University College London, headed the group, which included scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh and BioTraces, Inc. in Herndon, Va.

Tests on 250 breast cancer patients and 95 controls showed that the test had sensitivity and specificity of about 95 percent — an important consideration in determining the false-positive and false-negative results of a diagnostic test. Breast cancer originates in so-called epithelial cells, and the researchers cited pilot studies suggesting that the test could work for epithelial cancers. Those include prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and melanoma.

In their report, the researchers cite a need for a more effective way of screening for breast cancer — especially in younger women for whom mammography is less sensitive. “Better blood-based testing may aid in early diagnosis, may reduce the need for open biopsy and could provide new modalities for monitoring of therapy,” they write.

A positive report on NoMix toilets

Journal Information

Journal: Proteome Research

Journal Article: "High-Sensitivity Blood-Based Detection of Breast Cancer by Multi-Photon Detection Diagnostic Proteomics "

People in Switzerland have positive attitudes toward a new environmentally friendly toilet that could substantially reduce pollution problems and conserve water and energy, scientists report in a study scheduled for the Aug. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology.

Called the NoMix toilet, the device collects urine separately. Although urine represents only 1 per cent of domestic wastewater, it typically contains 80 percent of the nitrogen and 50 percent of the phosphorous in sewage. Separating urine, the researchers explain, will allow changes to make wastewater treatment more environmentally friendly.

Judit Lienert and Tove A. Larsen checked public attitudes toward NoMix toilets in surveys done at a Swiss school and a Swiss research institute. They found high acceptance of the toilet, with large majorities of people expressing favorable attitudes toward the toilet. That was true even though one version of the device requires men to sit to urinate.

The researchers cite the importance of involving users in the introduction of new environmental technology, especially technology that requires the kind of behavioral changes essential with NoMix toilets.

Boosting the heart-health nutraceutical content of grapes

Journal Information

Journal: Environmental Science & Technology

Journal Article: “Considering User Attitude in Early Development of Environmentally Friendly Technology: A Case Study of NoMix Toilets”

Spraying grapevines with a disease-control agent just before harvest boosts the amount of some of the most important healthful substances present in grapes, Italian researchers report. The substances, anthocyanins, are believed to protect against heart disease through an anti-inflammatory effect and by fostering nitric oxide’s (NO) action in relaxing blood vessels.

In a study scheduled for the Aug. 9 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Giancarlo Folco and colleagues sprayed ripe grapes with a “plant activator” called S-methyl benzo-(1,2,3)-thiadiazole-7-carbothioate (BTH). They describe BTH as safe for consumers, noting that it is approved for use in protecting tomatoes against bacterial diseases and meets strict requirements of the European food safety agency.

BTH-treated grapes had at least three times more anthocyanin than untreated grapes. In addition, BTH-treated grape skins showed a substantially more powerful effect in laboratory experiments in fostering the release of NO from artery samples. While BTH produced healthier grapes, the effect did not carry over into wine produced with those grapes. Wine made from BTH-treated grapes had better color stability, but did not show higher levels of anthocyanin.

Speeding the search for potential Alzheimer’s disease drugs

Journal Information

Journal: Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Journal Article: "From Field to Health: A Simple Way to Increase the Nutraceutical Content of Grape As Shown by NO Dependent Vascular Relaxation "

With most of the world’s 29 million known chemical substances never tested for medical use, tomorrow’s miracle cures may be collecting dust on a laboratory shelf. Screening those compounds for drugs that tackle the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) poses special problems. Those drugs would not just treat memory loss and other symptoms, but would inhibit the formation of amyloid beta — the abnormal brain protein implicated in AD.

A research team headed by Michael H. Hecht and Young-Tae Chang now report development of a new screening method for inhibitors of amyloid beta. The new screening method does not require synthetic amyloid beta, according to a report on the research scheduled for the Aug. 22 issue of ACS Chemical Biology.

Hecht and Chang describe the method as rapid, inexpensive and suitable for use in screening large numbers of compounds for amyloid beta inhibitors. They also describe its use in isolating new inhibitors.

Beyond Herceptin: Toward a potential new generation of better cancer drugs

Journal Information

Journal: ACS Chemical Biology

Journal Article: “A High Throughput Screen for Compounds that Inhibit Aggregation of the Alzheimer’s Peptide”

The striking success of Herceptin in treating breast cancer has sparked an intensive effort by pharmaceutical companies to develop other cancer drugs that target the same biochemical pathway in different and potentially more effective ways, according to an article scheduled for the Aug. 7 edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

Written by C&EN associate editor Lisa Jarvis, the article points out that the new compounds also could be more convenient for patients. Herceptin is a protein-based drug that blocks the action of a growth factor important in about 25 percent of breast cancer patients. As a protein, Herceptin must be given intravenously. The new compounds are not proteins and could be taken by mouth.

Herceptin targets a single point in the biochemical signaling network implicated in certain types of breast cancer. Jarvis explains that the new compounds target multiple points in that network. In doing so, they may prove more effective for breast cancer and may have broader applications in blocking the signaling pathways in other types of the disease.

The article discusses the new compounds, the companies involved in research and development efforts, and the potential for the new compounds to lend Herceptin a hand in the battle against cancer.

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232nd ACS National Meeting in San Francisco

September 10-14 is one of the year’s biggest and most influential scientific conferences – the 232nd ACS national meeting in beautiful San Francisco.

The American Chemical Society – the world’s largest scientific society – is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Journal Information

Journal: Chemical & Engineering News

Journal Article: “Battling Breast Cancer: Small-Molecule Multikinase Inhibitors Could Fill the Therapeutic Gaps Left by Herceptin”