To help boost our understanding of cancer and help in the search for new treatments, scientists in Cambridge, UK have built a Virtual Reality (VR) 3D model of a tumour. The ‘virtual tumour’, which was created using a real tumour sample extracted from a patient, can be studied in detail from all angles, allowing its individual cells to be explored. And despite the fact the human tissue sample was only about the size of a pinhead, within the virtual laboratory it can be enlarged to appear several metres across. Forming part of an international research scheme, the 3D tumour model is the product of a £40 million grant awarded to the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre by Cancer Research UK last year. Multiple users from anywhere in the world can take advantage of the VR system simultaneously and fly through the tumour cells to afford a much more in-depth understanding of them. Talking to the BBC, Prof Greg Hannon, director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (part of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre), said: “No-one has examined the geography of a tumour in this level of detail before; it is a new way of looking at cancer.” [Recommended reading: Rainforest vine compound starves resilient pancreatic cancer cells]
We recently wrote about how an exotic fish could help heal human hearts. Now, new research suggests that a rainforest vine compound is highly effective at killing treatment-resistant pancreatic cancer cells. Known for their ability to survive even the most inhospitable conditions, pancreatic cancer cells are notoriously difficult to kill. It’s one of the reasons why pancreatic cancer is so hard to treat and why the condition usually has a poor outlook. Indeed, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says the 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is just 12-24 percent. However, researchers from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany and the Institute of Natural Medicine at the University of Toyama in Japan have discovered that a compound found in a Congolese rainforest plant can make pancreatic cancer cells susceptible to nutrient starvation. The compound, ancistrolikokine E3, has anti-austerity properties and inhibits the Akt/mTOR pathway of pancreatic cancer cells. It’s this pathway that enables these cancer cells to thrive even under conditions of low nutrients and oxygen – an ability in the cancer field known as ‘austerity.’ While more research is needed, the compound is seen as promising for the development of future anticancer drugs.