Posts Tagged ‘health’

No association found between wearing bra, breast cancer

“There have been some concerns that one of the reasons why breast cancer may be more common in developed countries compared with developing countries is differences in bra-wearing patterns,” said Lu Chen, MPH, a researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health. “Given how common bra wearing is, we thought this was an important question to address.

“Our study found no evidence that wearing a bra increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer. The risk was similar no matter how many hours per day women wore a bra, whether they wore a bra with an underwire, or at what age they first began wearing a bra,” said Chen.

“There has been some suggestion in the lay media that bra wearing may be a risk factor for breast cancer. Some have hypothesized that drainage of waste products in and around the breast may be hampered by bra wearing. Given very limited biological evidence supporting such a link between bra wearing and breast cancer risk, our results were not surprising,” Chen added.

According to the study authors, this study characterizes various bra-wearing habits in relation to breast cancer risk using a rigorous epidemiological study design. “The findings provide reassurance to women that wearing a bra does not appear to increase the risk for the most common histological types of postmenopausal breast cancer,” the authors noted.

Study participants were 454 women with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and 590 women with invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), the two most common subtypes of breast cancer, from the Seattle-Puget Sound metropolitan area; 469 women who did not have breast cancer served as controls. All women were postmenopausal, ages 55 to 74.

The researchers conducted in-person interviews and obtained information on demographics, family history, and reproductive history. They also asked a series of structured questions to assess lifetime patterns of bra wearing. Questions included age at which the study participant started wearing a bra, whether she wore a bra with an underwire, her bra cup size and band size, the number of hours per day and number of days per week she wore a bra, and if her bra-wearing patterns ever changed at different times in her life.

No aspect of wearing a bra was associated with an increased risk for either IDC or ILC.

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Sorting cells with sound waves

Separating cells with sound offers a gentler alternative to existing cell-sorting technologies, which require tagging the cells with chemicals or exposing them to stronger mechanical forces that may damage them.

“Acoustic pressure is very mild and much smaller in terms of forces and disturbance to the cell. This is a most gentle way to separate cells, and there’s no artificial labeling necessary,” says Ming Dao, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and one of the senior authors of the paper, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon, the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering Emeritus, and a former dean of engineering at MIT, and Tony Jun Huang, a professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, are also senior authors of the paper. Lead authors are MIT postdoc Xiaoyun Ding and Zhangli Peng, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame.

The researchers have filed for a patent on the device, the technology of which they have demonstrated can be used to separate rare circulating cancer cells from white blood cells.

To sort cells using sound waves, scientists have previously built microfluidic devices with two acoustic transducers, which produce sound waves on either side of a microchannel. When the two waves meet, they combine to form a standing wave (a wave that remains in constant position). This wave produces a pressure node, or line of low pressure, running parallel to the direction of cell flow. Cells that encounter this node are pushed to the side of the channel; the distance of cell movement depends on their size and other properties such as compressibility.

However, these existing devices are inefficient: Because there is only one pressure node, cells can be pushed aside only short distances.

The new device overcomes that obstacle by tilting the sound waves so they run across the microchannel at an angle — meaning that each cell encounters several pressure nodes as it flows through the channel. Each time it encounters a node, the pressure guides the cell a little further off center, making it easier to capture cells of different sizes by the time they reach the end of the channel.

This simple modification dramatically boosts the efficiency of such devices, says Taher Saif, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “That is just enough to make cells of different sizes and properties separate from each other without causing any damage or harm to them,” says Saif, who was not involved in this work.

In this study, the researchers first tested the system with plastic beads, finding that it could separate beads with diameters of 9.9 and 7.3 microns (thousandths of a millimeter) with about 97 percent accuracy. They also devised a computer simulation that can predict a cell’s trajectory through the channel based on its size, density, and compressibility, as well as the angle of the sound waves, allowing them to customize the device to separate different types of cells.

To test whether the device could be useful for detecting circulating tumor cells, the researchers tried to separate breast cancer cells known as MCF-7 cells from white blood cells. These two cell types differ in size (20 microns in diameter for MCF-7 and 12 microns for white blood cells), as well as density and compressibility. The device successfully recovered about 71 percent of the cancer cells; the researchers plan to test it with blood samples from cancer patients to see how well it can detect circulating tumor cells in clinical settings. Such cells are very rare: A 1-milliliter sample of blood may contain only a few tumor cells.

“If you can detect these rare circulating tumor cells, it’s a good way to study cancer biology and diagnose whether the primary cancer has moved to a new site to generate metastatic tumors,” Dao says. “This method is a step forward for detection of circulating tumor cells in the body. It has the potential to offer a safe and effective new tool for cancer researchers, clinicians and patients,” Suresh says.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

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Introducing the multi-tasking nanoparticle

“These are amazingly useful particles,” noted co-first author Yuanpei Li, a research faculty member in the Lam laboratory. “As a contrast agent, they make tumors easier to see on MRI and other scans. We can also use them as vehicles to deliver chemotherapy directly to tumors; apply light to make the nanoparticles release singlet oxygen (photodynamic therapy) or use a laser to heat them (photothermal therapy) — all proven ways to destroy tumors.”

Jessica Tucker, program director of Drug and Gene Delivery and Devices at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, said the approach outlined in the study has the ability to combine both imaging and therapeutic applications in a single platform, which has been difficult to achieve, especially in an organic, and therefore biocompatible, vehicle.

“This is especially valuable in cancer treatment, where targeted treatment to tumor cells, and the reduction of lethal effects in normal cells, is so critical,” she added.

Though not the first nanoparticles, these may be the most versatile. Other particles are good at some tasks but not others. Non-organic particles, such as quantum dots or gold-based materials, work well as diagnostic tools but have safety issues. Organic probes are biocompatible and can deliver drugs but lack imaging or phototherapy applications.

Built on a porphyrin/cholic acid polymer, the nanoparticles are simple to make and perform well in the body. Porphyrins are common organic compounds. Cholic acid is produced by the liver. The basic nanoparticles are 21 nanometers wide (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter).

To further stabilize the particles, the researchers added the amino acid cysteine (creating CNPs), which prevents them from prematurely releasing their therapeutic payload when exposed to blood proteins and other barriers. At 32 nanometers, CNPs are ideally sized to penetrate tumors, accumulating among cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.

In the study, the team tested the nanoparticles, both in vitro and in vivo, for a wide range of tasks. On the therapeutic side, CNPs effectively transported anti-cancer drugs, such as doxorubicin. Even when kept in blood for many hours, CNPs only released small amounts of the drug; however, when exposed to light or agents such as glutathione, they readily released their payloads. The ability to precisely control chemotherapy release inside tumors could greatly reduce toxicity. CNPs carrying doxorubicin provided excellent cancer control in animals, with minimal side effects.

CNPs also can be configured to respond to light, producing singlet oxygen, reactive molecules that destroy tumor cells. They can also generate heat when hit with laser light. Significantly, CNPs can perform either task when exposed to a single wavelength of light.

CNPs offer a number of advantages to enhance imaging. They readily chelate imaging agents and can remain in the body for long periods. In animal studies, CNPs congregated in tumors, making them easier to read on an MRI. Because CNPs accumulated in tumors, and not so much in normal tissue, they dramatically enhanced tumor contrast for MRI and may also be promising for PET-MRI scans.

This versatility provides multiple options for clinicians, as they mix and match applications.

“These particles can combine imaging and therapeutics,” said Li. “We could potentially use them to simultaneously deliver treatment and monitor treatment efficacy.”

“These particles can also be used as optical probes for image-guided surgery,” said Lam. “In addition, they can be used as highly potent photosensitizing agents for intraoperative phototherapy.”

While early results are promising, there is still a long way to go before CNPs can enter the clinic. The Lam lab and its collaborators will pursue preclinical studies and, if all goes well, proceed to human trials. In the meantime, the team is excited about these capabilities.

“This is the first nanoparticle to perform so many different jobs,” said Li. “From delivering chemo, photodynamic and photothermal therapies to enhancing diagnostic imaging, it’s the complete package.”

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