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Cancer

Cell illustration
Spring 2018

Gaining on muscle loss

Cancer, says Dan Rodgers, is a hellish parade of horribleness.

Cancerous cells multiply aggressively, interfering with the normal function of healthy organs. Tumors secrete hormones and other chemicals that exploit the body’s own defenses to the cancer’s advantage. Your body knows something is wrong, so stress hormones are released in an effort to inhibit growth processes and channel nutrients to the brain.

Deprived of resources, muscles begin to atrophy. Washington State University muscle biologist Rodgers, together with colleagues at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia, investigated treatments for tumor-induced muscle wasting called cancer cachexia. The research was so promising that Rodgers … » More …

Summer 2017

On the surface…

Cancer, that malignant force that maims and kills as it rampages through bodies and lives, may have met its match in the person of James Wells ’79 PhD. Wells speaks quietly but with urgency. You have to lean in to not miss anything.

Wells is explaining that cancer’s derangement of our lives actually begins at the surface of individual cells. The complex chemical ecology of the cell membrane surface deserves its own term of art, so Wells dubs it the “surfaceome.” “The cell membrane is the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of a cell,” he says.

Cancer cells, in order to avoid detection by the … » More …

Gary Meadows food
Fall 2014

Let food be thy medicine

Back in the ’90s, scientists for two major cancer-research organizations reviewed thousands of studies and saw armies of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, tomatoes, garlic, carrots, and citrus fruits turning the tide on various cancers. Then, just a decade later, the same scientists said the evidence had since become “somewhat less impressive.”

It was a classic case of science coming off as, well, fickle. One minute, chocolate and beer are good for you. The next minute, science says “sorry” and snatches them from your hand.

“It goes back and forth,” says Gary Meadows, a Washington State University pharmacy professor with nearly four decades researching nutrition … » More …

Jennifer Merschdorf
Fall 2013

Jennifer Merschdorf ’96—A young survivor

Fresh from an early morning TV appearance, Jennifer Merschdorf ’96 grabs a seat in the lobby of her Seattle hotel and pulls out a phone to check in with the office in New York. Next on her schedule is our interview, then lunch with her mother, and then time to meet up with a few old college friends. This day is a balance. Some work, some family, and some fun. It’s all at the threshold of an intense few days of the national conference for Young Survival Coalition, a not-for-profit organization for young women facing breast cancer.

Jennifer ... <a href=» More …

Spring 2013

George R. “Bob” Pettit ’52—A profile in persistence

Every few days, Bob Pettit ’52 runs six miles. Now 83, he has done this since his late 20s, when he joined the faculty of the University of Maine and felt the mounting tensions of academic life.

“It’s a great release of stress,” he said this fall while visiting Pullman to receive the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor for WSU alumni. “And I think aerobic exercise is the secret formula for longevity.”

Pettit’s running habit also speaks to his fortitude, whether he’s diving in waters around the world in a search for natural cures to cancer, finding new ways to process tons of … » More …

Winter 2001

Curing what ails you

IF GARY MEADOWS is right, popping Prozac will do more for you than relieve depression. Meadows’s preliminary data suggest that fluoxetine, the generic form of Prozac, inhibits the growth of melanoma tumors in mice.

The Prozac project began about two years ago in collaboration with neurophysiologist Tanja Obradovic, then at Washington State University. Obradovic and Meadows, who is Dorothy O. Kennedy distinguished professor and director of WSU’s Cancer Prevention and Research Center in Spokane, knew that melanoma cells not only make the neurotransmitter serotonin, but also have receptors for it. A receptor is a site on a cell that binds with substances such as … » More …

Summer 2002

What does Pim-1 really do?

Although science has made much progress in understanding why cancer occurs—smoking, diet, environmental pollutants, viruses—the mechanisms of cancer are still elusive. Nancy Magnuson, of the School of Molecular Biosciences, has been studying an enigmatic gene called Pim-1 since 1988.

The questions I would most like to know the answers to are, “What is the normal function of the proto-oncogene called Pim-1, and how does Pim-1’s function contribute to the production of cancer?”

Although Pim-1 has long been known to be involved in cancer production, it has never been demonstrated how this occurs. Importantly, Pim-1 is only found in certain types of cells, and these are … » More …