Your lifestyle is an on/off switch for your genes

Your lifestyle is an on/off switch for your genes

We know that our lifestyle affects our health. We've heard it a million times before. Some of us take it more seriously than others. What we haven't really heard much of is how this relates to the inherited illnesses that people are at-risk of getting. Interestingly, again, it is actually lifestyle that significantly affects our chance of actually getting the illness that we're at risk of. For instance, someone born with a BRCA mutation, isn't necessarily going to get breast cancer. They are more at risk of...

Detecting the rare, renegade cancer cells

Detecting the rare, renegade cancer cells

Very early in tumour development, the tumour may send out some extremely sneaky cells into the bloodstream. The cells may circulate in the bloodstream as dormant cancer cells for months or years, and may even survive cancer treatment aimed at treating a primary cancer. The cells are called Circulating Tumour Cells, and are the cause of cancer spread, metastases. It is the metastases, rather than the primary tumour, which is most often responsible for patient fatality. Circulating Tumour Cells have become a hot topic in...

Survival of the fittest in cancer

Survival of the fittest in cancer

One cannot write about evolution without referencing Darwin and his evolutionary theory. It's astounding how relevant this over 150-year idea is. Let's first tease out the theory, so that we are all on the same page.

Darwin described how species evolved via descent with modification. This means that...

Which chemotherapy kills the cells responsible for cancer spread, doctor?

Which chemotherapy kills the cells responsible for cancer spread, doctor?

Chemotherapy is a mainstay of tumour therapy. The current treatment guidelines for prescribing a treatment rests heavily on how a treatment or treatment combination has fared statistically, in terms of rates of cancer comeback and survival without cancer spread. The protocol does not include testing the efficacy of the drug against the unique nature of a person's tumour. 

Each person's cancer is unique...

Gene expression and the regulation of genes

Gene expression and the regulation of genes

A gene that is expressed, simply means that it is active. If a gene is a set of instructions, gene expression simply means that the instructions are being read and acted upon by cellular machinery. The result of gene expression is a functional protein, or phenotype.

The cellular machine that 'reads' the...

Genetics, explained

Genetics, explained

What is DNA? What is a gene? What is a mutation?

In brief, DNA is a long molecule that stores information. DNA is located in the centre (nucleus) of every cell and contains all the instructions necessary for the organism to function. Similar to pearls on a necklace, along the DNA strand there are millions of basic structural units called nucleotides. Each nucleotide (pearl) is one of four types: A, T, G or C, as determined by the nitrogenous base they contain, i.e., nucleotide 'A' has Adenine, 'T' has Tyrosine, 'C' has Cysteine and 'G' has Guanine. These four types of...

Bacon and cancer

Bacon and cancer

The new classification of processed meat as carcinogen to humans Group 1 by the World Health Organisation

This week, bacon was in the news. It has been grouped in carcinogen to humans Group 1, together with tobacco smoking asbestos. People do love bacon. My daughter used to work in a cafe, and she tells me that the customers would go to great lengths to describe the exact way they would like their bacon cooked. But she's a scientist now, and has looked into this new classification for us. I hope that the following paragraphs help to explain the science and research behind the new classification, and what it might mean for the bacon lovers among us.

What is a biomarker and how are CTCs defined as both a biomarker and as a carrier of biomarkers?

What is a biomarker and how are CTCs defined as both a biomarker and as a carrier of biomarkers?

A biomarker is a short way of saying 'biological marker.' By definition, biomarkers are biological indicators of the existence of either a physiological (normal) or pathogenic (disease) process, or pharmacological response. Biomarkers include things like cells and proteins, and/or specific sequences of DNA, mRNA transcripts, non-coding RNAs.

Laboratory accreditation

Laboratory accreditation

What kind of accreditation does the Maintrac test and how is that relevant to the country in which I practice? This is an extremely important question that practitioners often and must ask. Practitioners need to know that the test performed in Germany meets the medical testing standards required by their own countries. And it does. The Maintrac laboratory (SIMFO) is accredited by the German laboratory accreditation organisation, DAKKS. DAKKS is a signatory to...

Circulating Tumour Cells - tell me more

From the time malignant tumours have reached a size of two milimetres, they release thousands of malignant cells into the circulation. Most of these cells die or get kiled off. The more aggressive ones survive and remain in the bloodstream as 'Circulating Tumour Cells,' abbreviated as CTCs. These cells have the potential to...

DNA, cancer, and what it takes for a cell to become cancerous

DNA, cancer, and what it takes for a cell to become cancerous

Most cells in our body are continuously dividing, different types of cells at different rates. Each cell contains DNA, a long molecule that holds the genetic code necessary for the cell to function both as a single unit and as part of an entire organism.

The world's first CTC blog for practitioners and their patients

The world's first CTC blog for practitioners and their patients

Welcome to the Circulating Tumour Cell (CTC) Blog: A blog committed to making current developments in CTC science accessible to both patients and their practitioners. For patients, this blog will translate complex, technical information into street-speak, so that patients might keep themselves well informed of current developments. For practitioners, this blog will provide links to notable publications both in pure and translational science.