Tag: Purdue University

Back to dogs!

And back to The Conversation.

I was discussing with Mr. P. (he of Wibble) yesterday the pros and cons of republishing material from The Conversation and I noticed this recent essay there.

It’s a very positive message but I will let you read it in full.


Anthrax vs. cancer – researchers harness the deadly toxin to cure dogs and hopefully people

Dogs with terminal bladder cancer improved with this new modified anthrax treatment.
Lucky Business/Shutterstock.com

R. Claudio Aguilar, Purdue University

Can the feared anthrax toxin become an ally in the war against cancer? Successful treatment of pet dogs suffering bladder cancer with an anthrax-related treatment suggest so.

Anthrax is a disease caused by a bacterium, known as Bacillus anthracis, which releases a toxin that causes the skin to break down and forms ulcers, and triggers pneumonia and muscle and chest pain. To add to its sinister resumé, and underscore its lethal effects, this toxin has been infamously used as a bioweapon.

However, my colleagues and I found a way to tame this killer and put it to good use against another menace: bladder cancer.

I am a biochemist and cell biologist who has been working on research and development of novel therapeutic approaches against cancer and genetic diseases for more than 20 years. Our lab has investigated, designed and adapted agents to fight disease; this is our latest exciting story.

Pressing needs

Among all cancers, the one affecting the bladder is the sixth most common and in 2019 caused more than 17,000 deaths in the U.S.
Of all patients that receive surgery to remove this cancer, about 70% will return to the physician’s office with more tumors. This is psychologically devastating for the patient and makes the cancer of the bladder one of the most expensive to treat.

To make things worse, currently there is a worldwide shortage of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, a bacterium used to make the preferred immunotherapy for decreasing bladder cancer recurrence after surgery. This situation has left doctors struggling to meet the needs of their patients. Therefore, there is a clear need for more effective strategies to treat bladder cancer.

Anthrax comes to the rescue

Years ago scientists in the Collier lab modified the anthrax toxin by physically linking it to a naturally occurring protein called the epidermal growth factor (EGF) that binds to the EGF receptor, which is abundant on the surface of bladder cancer cells. When the EGF protein binds to the receptor – like a key fits a lock – it causes the cell to engulf the EGF-anthrax toxin, which then induces the cancer cell to commit suicide (a process called apoptosis), while leaving healthy cells alone.

The EGF-anthrax protein binds to bladder cancer cells triggering apoptosis or programmed cell death, which is a regulated process leading to the death of cell.
Soleil Nordic/Shutterstock.com

In collaboration with colleagues at Indiana University medical school, Harvard University and MIT, we designed a strategy to eliminate tumors using this modified toxin. Together we demonstrated that this novel approach allowed us to eliminate tumor cells taken from human, dog and mouse bladder cancer.

This highlights the potential of this agent to provide an efficient and fast alternative to the current treatments (which can take between two and three hours to administer over a period of months). I also think it is good news is that the modified anthrax toxin spared normal cells. This suggests that this treatment could have fewer side effects.

Helping our best friends

These encouraging results led my lab to join forces with Dr. Knapp’s group at the Purdue veterinary hospital to treat pet dogs suffering from bladder cancer.

Canine patients for whom all available conventional anti-cancer therapeutics were unsuccessful were considered eligible for these tests. Only after standard tests proved the agent to be safe in laboratory animals, and with the consent of their owners, six eligible dogs with terminal bladder cancer were treated with the anthrax toxin-derived agent.

Two to five doses of this medicine, delivered directly inside the bladder via a catheter, was enough to shrink the tumor by an average of 30%. We consider these results impressive given the initial large size of the tumor and its resistance to other treatments.

There is hope for all

Our collaborators at Indiana University Hospital surgically removed bladder cells from human patients and sent them to my lab for testing the agent. At Purdue my team found these cells to be very sensitive to the anthrax toxin-derived agent as well. These results suggest that this novel anti-bladder cancer strategy could be effective in human patients.

The treatment strategy that we have devised is still experimental. Therefore, it is not available for treatment of human patients yet. Nevertheless, my team is actively seeking the needed economic support and required approvals to move this therapeutic approach into human clinical trials. Plans to develop a new, even better generation of agents and to expand their application to the fight against other cancers are ongoing.

[ Thanks for reading! We can send you The Conversation’s stories every day in an informative email. Sign up today. ]The Conversation

R. Claudio Aguilar, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Purdue University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


So I republished this from The Conversation in accordance with their republishing rules. As they put it:

You are free to republish this article both online and in print. We ask that you follow some simple guidelines.

Please do not edit the piece, ensure that you attribute the author, their institute, and mention that the article was originally published on The Conversation.

Regular readers of this place may notice some subtle differences because up until now I had just copied and pasted the article as posted.

Now this is a talented dog!

Brings a whole new meaning to the description of a ‘seeing-eye’ dog!

Big thanks to Suzann for sending this.

From the WTHI-TV website.

A dog with a special talent

Updated: Tuesday, 22 Jan 2013, 4:58 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 07 Nov 2012, 6:46 PM EST

CLAY COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Finding a dog that can fetch is hardly news.

We’ve found a dog that can fetch; that we think is worth a news story.

If your pooch is nearby, bring them near the computer, they’re going to want to see this.

Chica is a happy border collie that lives on the Knox Farm, in Clay County.

When we find her, she darts from the back door of the barn and weaves through the chicken and cattle.

Chica’s favorite pastime is playing fetch with her owners Martha and Buddy Knox.

It’s a sight to see, but it’s a sight Chica can’t see.

Chica has no eyes.

Her eyes were surgically removed when she was a mere pup.

So, how does a dog with no eyes see a moving ball, and bring it back to the feet of Martha?

This is something Martha wonders as well, and so do the experts at Purdue University.

Whatever it is, here is a hound that lives its life in the dark, but seemingly is seeing everything.

Now watch this and be both humbled and amazed.

Something wonderful we can learn from Chica.  Accept our limitations, because we all have them, and “see with our heart”.

Thank you so much, Su, for sharing that.

That oil spill

Visualisation of data

I can’t recall how but I came across a web site that focuses on ‘translating’ data into pictures.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  The web site is called Information is Beautiful.

Anyhow, they have attempted to graphically portray the scale of the BP oil spill. (A thumbnail is below but please click on the link, or here, to see this as it was meant to be shown.)


But this image is an update of an earlier one here that is really powerful.  Because it attempts to put the scale of the oil spill into context with global oil consumption.

If the Purdue University estimate of the oil spill is correct at 48,500 barrels a day (a barrel is approximately the equivalent of two car tankfuls of gas/petrol) and the spill is contained in 90 days then the total oil spilled will be:

90 x 48,500 = 4,365,000 barrels

That is an enormous quantity.

But have a guess as to how much that would represent in terms of hourly global oil consumption?

Any idea?

Well global oil consumption is 3,500,000 barrels an hour.

So 90 days at 48,500 barrels a day represents just 1 hour 15 minutes worth of global consumption!

If there was ever an argument for the world to wean itself off oil then this would appear to be it.

What has happened so far is tragic – tragic beyond measure.  But if it turns out to be a ‘tipping point’ for nations to reconsider how we find and use energy then, perhaps, it will have been a horrible lesson that we all had to take.

And if the USA puts all it’s collective back into leading the world out of our addiction to oil then the damage and hardship will not have been in vain.

By Paul Handover