Where science takes you
Just the right combination of cold and moist conditions last winter blanketed the trees, buildings, and grounds of the WSU Pullman campus with a layer of hoarfrost. The tiny, icy spikes added a new and beautiful dimension, even drawing my eyes to a fresh look at the cougar statue outside the Lewis Alumni Centre. I walk past that leaping figure nearly every workday, and yet rarely look at it like I did that day.
Sometimes we need a new way to perceive the world around us, even those parts that are invisible. For example, cancerous tumors notoriously adapt and resist treatment as they invade our … » More …
A new dimension to fighting cancer
Any good strategist knows that an accurate map can win a battle. If your enemy is cancer, a chaotic and elusive foe that changes its environment, finding a new dimension to examine a tumor can make all the difference when developing treatments.
Like all scientists and doctors looking for ways to defeat cancer, Weimin Li wants to better understand how cancerous tumors grow and adapt. His innovative technology using 3-D tissue culture “scaffolds” delivers a far more relevant environment to research the deadly disease.
It’s a fight that Li has fought on many fronts. He spent seven years practicing oncology in China and witnessed … » More …
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 …
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 …
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 ’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.
As CEO of … » More …
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 …
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 …