Zebrafish help identify most effective cancer treatments
Cancerous tumors have their own individual properties and no one-size-fits-all treatment exists for any specific cancer. Doctors often have no alternative but to seek the best treatment through a series of trial-and-error attempts that can delay effective treatment and expose patients to unnecessary toxicity.
But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences offers a novel approach to personalizing cancer treatment. Researchers found that by implanting colorectal cancer cells into zebrafish larvae, they could treat the resulting tumors with different types of chemotherapy to test effectiveness. In four-out-of-five cases, a tumor’s response to a particular chemotherapy matched the response of the corresponding tumors in the human patient.
The study shows that testing tumors in zebrafish, which typically takes two or three weeks, may offer a much cheaper and speedier alternative to using mice, which takes two to six months.
Not all drugs used for humans will work in zebrafish, but the results certainly hold hope for personalized cancer treatment. “We need to study a lot more patients to see, in a broad view, how this approach performs,” Leonard Zon, an oncology researcher at Harvard Medical School, told Science Magazine. —J.B.
Dangerous food allergies increase nearly 400 percent
Private insurance claims for anaphylactic food reactions, severe allergic responses that can be life-threatening, shot up 377 percent nationwide from 2007 to 2016, according to an analysis conducted by FAIR Health, an independent nonprofit organization that tracks private health insurance claims.
The largest rise, more than 600 percent, came from anaphylactic reactions to tree nuts or seeds, followed closely by a 445 percent rise in reactions to peanuts. Reactions to eggs, crustaceans (shrimp or lobster), and dairy products were also common.
Children and adolescents accounted for 66 percent of the claims made for patients who had a known history of food allergies.
Medical researchers do not yet understand why food allergies are increasing in frequency as well as severity. But Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City, believes increased use of antibiotics, C-sections, and an increasingly sterile environment may be to blame. All of these things alter the programming in our immune systems, he told The Wall Street Journal. —J.B.