UNC Researchers: Removing a Brain Tumor Makes Cancer More Aggressive

Researchers at the University of North Carolina are working to perfect stem-cell research after a discovery made regarding glioblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor.

The research team from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy has found that surgically removing these brain tumors causes cancer to grow 75 percent faster than before surgery.

Treatment of glioblastoma is typically a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation but varies from patient to patient. Because of the obtrusive nature of brain tumors, glioblastoma can not be fully removed during surgery, leaving a portion of the tumor behind.

The assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy who led the research, Shawn Hingtgen says that the remaing glioblastoma in the brain after surgery is fundamentally different from the original brain tumor.

“The process of removing the tumor speeds up the cancer such that we have to rethink of how to treat the disease differently after the surgery,” Hingtgen said.

Neuropathologist and associate professor at the UNC School of Medicine, Ryan Miller, says that current drugs are developed to treat large, solid tumors and do not accurately work on the residual brain tumors.

Hingtgen and his research team are working on a new stem-cell treatment that can hunt down and kill the cancer cells that are left behind when a brain tumor is surgically removed.

To more accurately test new treatment, a graduate student working in Hingten’s laboratory, Onyi Okolie, has developed a new mouse model of a brain with glioblastoma after surgery.

To do this, Okolie implants a tumor into the mouse’s brain and allows it to grow until it is comparable to when a human would begin having symptoms from the tumor such as headache, seizures or an altered mental state.

At that point 90 percent of the tumor is surgically removed from the mouse, which causes astrocytes, star-shaped glial cells, to secrete chemicals that trigger the remaning cancer cells to move and grow 75 percent faster than before.

The new model will help researchers better understand the effect of surgery on glioblastoma and could potencially lead to new therapeutic targets that will improve post-operative care.

The new findings are published in the journal Neuro-Oncology.


UNC Study: NC Doctors Suggest E-Cigarettes to Quitting Smokers

UNC physicians have published a survey stating that more research must be done about the practice that physicians have taken of recommending electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, as a means of quitting smoking for patients.

The Associate Director for Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program at UNC and leading author on the study, Dr. Leah Ranney, gave a brief summary about the study.

“We did a study of North Carolina providers, and we asked physicians about their attitudes towards e-cigarettes,” she says.

The study, entitled “Physicians’ Attitudes and Use of E-Cigarettes as Cessation Devices,” analyzed 128 North Carolina physicians regarding their opinions of e-cigarettes. 67 percent of the physicians surveyed said that they believe substituting e-cigarettes for regular cigarettes is a helpful alternative, and 35 percent submitted that they do recommended their use to patients.

The study found that physicians were likely to suggest e-cigarettes when asked about it by their patients or when the physician concluded e-cigarettes were safer than the use of common cigarettes.

“Our research actually provides one of the first looks at how e-cigarettes are being used as tobacco cessation devices among physicians who treat adult patients,” says Dr. Ranney. “We also found that over two-thirds of physicians believe that e-cigarettes were a helpful aid for smoking cessation, and over one-third reported recommending these e-cigarettes to their patients.”

Despite the recommendations, physicians have been found to possess information about e-cigarette safety that is inconsistent; the survey demonstrated that 13% of physicians do not know that e-cigarettes are not FDA approved.

“As e-cigarettes become more popular, physicians are going to be called upon to engage in conversations with their patients about the safety of these products, as well as their utility for tobacco cessation,” says Dr. Ranney. “We believe that FDA should provide physicians with clear guidelines about e-cigarette use, including health impacts and their effectiveness as a tobacco cessation tool.”

Dr. Ranney says that there is more research coming out everyday about the facts of e-cigarettes that will hopefully allow physicians to better understand them and if they should continue to be recommended to patients that wish to stop smoking.

To read the study, click here.


UNC International Study Makes Breakthrough in Schizophrenia

The UNC School of Medicine has worked with nations across the globe in the largest genomic study to be published on any psychiatric disorder in order to identify more than 100 locations within the human genome that could connect to the development of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder that affects about 1 of every 100 individuals around the world. It typically manifests in the teens and early 20’s, and is diagnosed by paranoia, hallucinations, and altered thought processes. With that come heavy costs on individuals as well as society, financially and for quality of life. In the United States, more than $60 billion each year is spent on the treatment of schizophrenia.

UNC Distinguished Professor and the Director of the Center Psychiatric Genomics, Patrick Sullivan, told WCHL how he and his team developed the group that would go on to conduct this project.

“We began the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium about seven years ago, and the work that was presented in the paper of Nature represents at least seven years of work by over 300 people and incorporates information from over 15,000 people,” says Sullivan. “It’s been an enormous amount of work, a labor of love by dozens and dozens of individuals.”

As this was an international study, Sullivan says that there were a significant number of sources that worked to make this analysis such a success.

“The number of authors on the paper was 302,” says Sullivan. “These individuals come from at least 30 different countries, and over 100 different institutions. It is truly a worldwide operation.”

The discoveries made by the international team can be found through the online publication, Nature, and connect to several aspects in human biology that are common in the occurrence of schizophrenia. Though there has not been significant progress in drug development for it in over 60 years, these findings could mean new ways of treating this disorder.

“The advantage of this study is that it allows us an unprecedented and detailed look under the hood,” says Sullivan. “For the first time, we are starting to be able to dial into what schizophrenia is, from a fundamental and genetic basis. We’re very hopeful that the knowledge will be the kind of thing that leads to important breakthroughs and treatment for people with schizophrenia.”

Sullivan says that UNC played a vital role in how the study was conducting, analytically and in gathering volunteers to participate in the study.

“There were 10 plus investigators who were on that paper who the hard work of actually finding individuals who could be part of the study, individuals with schizophrenia as well as without,” says Sullivan. “Other people contributed to the analysis, and that’s a huge amount of work to actually get that done. We were fortunate to have a number of great people from UNC as part of that.”

As of now, Sullivan says there are medications available on the market for schizophrenia that help, but only manage the psychosis aspect of the disorder. This is partially due to the fact that not much has been uncovered yet about what biologically affects the disorder. From their previous study, Sullivan says that their group has found several new locations within human biological makeup for schizophrenia to exist, which will make it much easier to find how the disorder develops.

“The previous study pushed the number of confirmed loci for schizophrenia to 22, and this study obviously found a lot more,” says Sullivan. “It gives us a lot more detailed ideas of what’s really going wrong with schizophrenia. These are the things that with future work I think will get us dialed firmly into fundamental biology.”

Those involved in the published study analyzed 80,000 genetic samples from patients who had schizophrenia in addition to healthy volunteers. Through this, they found 108 places in the human genome connected to what could develop schizophrenia; 83 of said places had never been linked to the disorder before.

Sullivan says that this study is much better than the last because of the number of individuals involved and who specifically worked to make it happen.

“The first is the scale; it’s the largest study in the field,” says Sullivan. “The second thing is we’ve been extremely fortunate to be involved with and attracting recruits from absolutely top-notch analysts, statisticians, and computer scientists. To handle information of this scale requires similarly scaled efforts.”

Sullivan concludes that this study has opened whole new doors in not only treating schizophrenia more intelligently, but many other mental disorders that could have connections to schizophrenia.

“One of the things that we’re finding is some unexpected connections between schizophrenia and other disorders. “We have published work suggesting that there may be not a complete overlap, but certainly an important genetic overlap for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and probably autism. Our larger study is in progress, and we’re hoping that we’ll have more clarity over the next couple years.”


Studies On Diabetes and Autism; OWASA Fixes Pipe

CHAPEL HILL – A study by the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC found that diets rich in amino and omega-3 fatty acids help young people with Type One diabetes. It helps them continue producing insulin for up to two years after their diagnosis.

Researchers specifically looked at leucine, an amino acid found in soy and whole wheat products, as well as nuts, eggs and some meat and dairy. While the diabetics in the study still required insulin doses, researchers said this study points to a reduced risk of diabetes complications later in life.


Researchers at UNC found that preschoolers and preschool-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder saw improvements from high-quality early intervention treatment, regardless of treatment model.

The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute study looked at the various treatment models for children with ASD and found that, as long as it was a comprehensive early program, children improved at largely equal levels.

The study involved 198 three-to-five year old children in public school districts across the country.


OWASA crews replaced a broken water pipe Tuesday on Old Forest Creek Drive.

Part of the road was closed as the repairs went from 3:00 to 10:30 a.m.

The number of customers who were left without water during the repairs was four, according to OWASA.


NC House Defeats 75 mph Speed Limit Study

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A slowed-down effort to consider raising the maximum speed limit on some North Carolina highways to 75 mph has reached a stop sign at the legislature.

The House voted down a measure Thursday that would have directed the Department of Transportation to study raising the 70 mph speed limit on some interstates and other roads. DOT would then report to a legislative panel and propose a pilot for up to four roads. The full General Assembly would still have had to approve the pilot.

The bill failed 44-64 after several legislators were worried about safety and didn’t see a good reason to consider raising the limit.

The House last week derailed an earlier version of the Senate bill to give DOT the power for 75 mph roads without a study.