In The Lab

Study Shows “Living Drug” Can Provide a Lasting Cure for Cancer

A recent study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined how CAR-T therapy helped Doug Olson beat a cancer death sentence for over a decade - and how it could work for more people.

Penn Medicine

Doug Olson was 49 when he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a blood cancer that strikes 21,000 Americans annually. Although the disease kills most patients within a decade, Olson’s case progressed more slowly, and courses of mild chemotherapy kept him healthy for 13 years. Then, when he was 62, the medication stopped working. The cancer had mutated, his doctor explained, becoming resistant to standard remedies. Harsher forms of chemo might buy him a few months, but their side effects would be debilitating. It was time to consider the treatment of last resort: a bone-marrow transplant.

Olson, a scientist who developed blood-testing instruments, knew the odds. There was only a 50 percent chance that a transplant would cure him. There was a 20 percent chance that the agonizing procedure—which involves destroying the patient’s marrow with chemo and radiation, then infusing his blood with donated stem cells—would kill him. If he survived, he would face the danger of graft-versus-host disease, in which the donor’s cells attack the recipient’s tissues. To prevent it, he would have to take immunosuppressant drugs, increasing the risk of infections. He could end up with pneumonia if one of his three grandchildren caught a sniffle. “I was being pushed into a corner,” Olson recalls, “with very little room to move.”

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Kenneth Miller
Kenneth Miller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He is a contributing editor at Discover, and has reported from four continents for publications including Time, Life, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and Aeon. His honors include The ASJA Award for Best Science Writing and the June Roth Memorial Award for Medical Writing. Visit his website at www.kennethmiller.net.
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Did researchers finally find a way to lick COVID?

A professor of medicine at the University of Michigan is researching whether lactoferrin, which is found in dairy products such as ice cream, can help to prevent COVID-19 infections.

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Already vaccinated and want more protection from COVID-19? A protein found in ice cream could help, some research suggests, though there are a bunch of caveats.

The protein, called lactoferrin, is found in the milk of mammals and thus in dairy products, including ice cream. It has astounding antiviral properties that have been taken for granted and remain largely unexplored because it is a natural product, meaning that it cannot be patented and exploited by pharmaceutical companies.

Still, a few researchers in Europe and elsewhere have sought to better understand the compound.

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Bob Roehr
Bob Roehr is a biomedical journalist based in Washington, DC. Over the last twenty-five years he has written extensively for The BMJ, Scientific American, PNAS, Proto, and myriad other publications. He is primarily interested in HIV, infectious disease, immunology, and how growing knowledge of the microbiome is changing our understanding of health and disease. He is working on a book about the ways the body can at least partially control HIV and how that has influenced (or not) the search for a treatment and cure.
Podcast: The Inner Lives of Human Breasts

In today's episode, Leaps.org interviews Camila dos Santos, a molecular biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, about her research on breasts and what makes them unique compared to any other part of the body.

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My guest today for the Making Sense of Science podcast is Camila dos Santos, associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, who is a leading researcher of the inner lives of human mammary glands, more commonly known as breasts. These organs are unlike any other because throughout life they undergo numerous changes, first in puberty, then during pregnancies and lactation periods, and finally at the end of the cycle, when babies are weaned. A complex interplay of hormones governs these processes, in some cases increasing the risk of breast cancer and sometimes lowering it. Witnessing the molecular mechanics behind these processes in humans is not possible, so instead Dos Santos studies organoids—the clumps of breast cells donated by patients who undergo breast reduction surgeries or biopsies.


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Lina Zeldovich
Lina Zeldovich has written about science, medicine and technology for Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, Mosaic Science and other publications. She’s an alumna of Columbia University School of Journalism and the author of the upcoming book, The Other Dark Matter: The Science and Business of Turning Waste into Wealth, from Chicago University Press. You can find her on http://linazeldovich.com/ and @linazeldovich.