Experimental brain drug proves effective

What Conn eventually understood was that the pairs of mutations that controlled the expression of MYC and PTEN, when put together, also activated something called "the unfolded protein response" at cellular level.

This response allows the cancer cells to become resistant to cellular stress by lowering the levels protein synthesis. It does that by turning a protein called eIF2a, which helps to facilitate protein production, into a different kind of protein called P-eIF2a. This has the opposite effect: to downregulate synthesis.

Further analyses conducted on human prostate cancer tumors revealed that high levels of P-eIF2a were a strong predictor of negative health outcomes in patients with resilient forms of cancer.

So, the researchers decided to go ahead and test if blocking P-eIF2a production would change the cancer cells' response to cellular stress and render them vulnerable to cell death.

They collaborated with Peter Walter, also from the UCSF, whose own team of researchers found that a molecule referred to as the integrated stress response inhibitor (ISRIB) can reverse the effects of P-eIF2a.

ISRIB had not previously been considered as a useful tool in cancer treatment. Instead, Walter and his laboratory used it as a drug that could reverse the impact of severe brain damage in rodents.

The mechanism by which it does this, however, is probably by upregulating protein synthesis in affected neurons.

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Ellie Kerrigan is used to being a spectator at her brother's sporting events, but on Sunday the roles were reversed.

The 12-year-old Belleville girl, who has spinal muscular atrophy and has never walked in her life, was among more than two dozen kids with disabilities who participated in the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital first ever Adaptive Triathlon.

Ellie competed in all three events — walking and bicycling with assistance, but swimming by herself.

"It was fun," Ellie said afterward. "I expected the pool to be cold but it was really warm ... I love to swim."

"Swimming makes her feel free," Ellie's mother, Cathy Kerrigan, said. "Because she can walk in the pool where she's never walked never before. So in the pool, she has full movement."

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