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Super Patient: Francesca Keeps Fighting Pancreatic Cancer


Francesca enjoying a recent vacation with her family

In 2011, Francesca knew something was wrong. Her stomach hurt and was upset after eating, and she just didn’t feel right. She had also lost a lot of weight, but thought that was normal, considering her life at the time. “I was working fulltime and had just stopped breastfeeding,” she explains. So when she went in for a checkup, she expected to hear it was a stomach problem.

But an ultrasound in November 2011 showed she had pancreatic cancer. “I was shaken. I was only 41 with an 18-month old daughter,” Francesca says. “My whole life was in front of me…” (more)

Cancer Commons 2014



Super Patient: Chelsea Price Takes Charge of Stage III Melanoma

Chelsea on her wedding day with husband Bryan and stepson Gavin

Late in 2010, Chelsea Price’s boyfriend noticed that a mole on her upper back was scabbed and weeping. “It had always been there but he thought I should get it checked,” recalls Chelsea, who was then 23 years old. By the time her dermatology appointment rolled around, however, the mole had healed. “I almost cancelled,” she says.

Good thing she didn’t. At her follow-up appointment, her dermatologist casually said, “Hey, it’s melanoma.” Thinking he was kidding, Chelsea started laughing. When she realized he was serious, she was stunned… (more)

Cancer Commons 2014



A Welcome Chink in Drug Resistance

Candida filaments are usually long (L) but are “impotent” in amphotericin B-resistant strains (R).

Given the alarming news about drug-resistant super bugs, it’s a relief to know that at least one drug still works even after 50 years of clinical use. Even better, researchers think they finally know why. The drug is amphotericin B and it kills the fungus Candida albicans, a common hospital-acquired infection that can be life-threatening.

In this issue of PLOS Biology, Lindquist and colleagues show that amphotericin B-resistant Candida strains have a hard time surviving on their own, let alone against the defenses of a mammalian host… (more)

PLOS Biology 2013



Beyond methyl bromide: Can we also get beyond fumigation?

Strawberries can also be grown in steam-sterilized soil.

Time is running out for California growers who still use methyl bromide. This soil fumigant is just short of a miracle for pest management — a single treatment before planting controls nematodes, diseases and weeds. But methyl bromide is also a health and environmental hazard, and is being phased out under an international ban.

To help growers make the inevitable transition, researchers just spent 5 years testing methyl bromide alternatives for strawberries, almonds and other key western crops… (more)

California Agriculture 2013



Why Naked Mole Rats Don’t Get Cancer

Naked mole-rat

Naked mole rats don’t get cancer and now we finally know why — a new study in Nature shows that this tiny rodent’s cells are surrounded by anti-tumor goo. Made of long sugar chains called hyaluronan, this goo also makes skin elastic, lubricates joints and promotes healing.

How do we know naked mole rats don’t get cancer? (more)

Cancer Commons 2013



How Plants Shut Out Bacteria

Robin Meadows is a freelance science writer covering conservation, energy, molecular biology and cancer.
Stomata (green) are opened and closed by oblong guard cells (colorless); 20X

Unlike animals, which breathe through airways lined with pathogen-trapping defenses, plants get air through tiny pores in their leaves that all but invite bacteria to sneak in. How, then, do plants keep them out? They slam their pores, or stomata, shut. Stomata are flanked by guard cells that swell when triggered by bacteria, thus closing the pores. New research shows that guard cells contain an enzyme that makes stomata close in response to pathogens, overturning a previous theory that this process is regulated by a plant hormone… (more)

PLOS Biology 2013



Hamburgers emit more particles than diesel trucks

Warning: burger smoke may be hazardous to your health.

Hamburgers are a double health threat, polluting the air as well as clogging arteries. “Hamburgers account for more than twice as many particles as diesel trucks”, says Bill Welch, an environmental engineer at the University of California, Riverside. He estimates that charbroiling a single patty emits as many particles as driving 140 miles in an 18-wheeler diesel truck… (more)

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2012



Yeast Survive by Hedging Their Bets

Investing in opposite outcomes—or bet hedging—is a common tool to cushion against huge monetary losses. While this strategy has earned a bad name for its role in the recent global financial crisis, bet hedging is key to survival in bacteria. But how microorganisms manage bet hedging at the molecular level is poorly understood. Now, new research in yeast shows that slow-growing cells resist stress better than fast-growing cells, thanks in part to higher levels of a stress-related protein… (more)

PLoS Biology, 2012



Gut Bacteria May Override Genetic Protections against Diabetes

Imbalanced gut bacteria can make mice obese, leading to diabetes

Obesity and type 2 diabetes have risen tremendously over the last 20 years, and  weight gain and insulin resistance are linked to gut bacteria that provide a source of extra calories by breaking down compounds that are otherwise indigestible.

Some mice are genetically protected against obesity-induced insulin resistance and, intriguingly, this may be due to alterations in their enteric microbe composition. Now, in this issue of PLoS Biology, Andréa Caricilli and colleagues present compelling evidence that gut bacteria can nullify genetic protections against diabetes … (more)

PLoS Biology, 2011



Teaming up helps bring down childhood overweight

The statistics are alarming: the prevalence of over-weight children has tripled over the last 30 years, and now affects one in six school-aged children nationwide. But while the problem is plain to see, the remedy has been elusive. Recent studies by UC researchers and others reveal that the rise in childhood obesity is rooted in fundamental social changes, explaining why this epidemic is so hard to control as well as bringing us closer to a solution… (more)

California Agriculture, 2007