For the afternoon sessions at the SENS conference, attendees had the option of learning about advances in Cancer, Parkinsons, or the Risk-Benefit Analysis in Therapies for Disease and Disabilities of Aging. Deciding to venture away from the investment track and into a more clinical focus, I selected the Cancer track, kicked off by by Judith Campisi from Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
We learn that senescent cells drive aging and age related diseases.. but why? Apparently, these cells secrete molecules that can act at a distance, affecting multiple neighboring cells, which causes failure of tissue function. Both SASP HMGB1 secreted by cells was examined, and noted to increase inflammation, which is single factor common in all diseases, including cancer.
Senescent cells disrupt normal cellular function and structure. For example, premalignant cells injected into mice are activated and turn cancerous with the addition of senescent cells, while injection of non-senescent cells did not result in development of cancerous tumors .
How can we fix this? One strategy includes medication (gancyclovir?) which stop cells from secreting HMG1 and SASP, yet it need to be present at all times.
Within a year after treating lab mice with chemotherapy, it was found senescent cells were still present. Additionally, research has shown that individuals treated for cancer with chemotherapy as children, years later appear to be 20 years older than their stated age.
Next, we hear from Laura Esserman, who discusses the I-Spy model, a multi-site neoadjuvant clinical trial that has evolved into a model for translational research and innovation in clinical trial design. One of the problems she wants to solve is the of cost (only abut 1-2 B) and time to market for oncology drugs. She points out that a paradigm shift in the development and approval of new drugs is a collaborative process, which serves to enhance efficiency of said process.
Curing Cancer in the Elderly Through Novel Strategies is the topic for the final presentation, where we are introduced to Claudia Gravecamp. Associate Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, one of the research projects she has focused on includes cancer vaccines. How did I not already know that >50% of individuals over 65 acquire cancer?
Apparently, immunotherapy is the most promising against metastases, and most benign (least harmful to the patient). In the elderly, there is a decrease in T-cells (made by the thymus- check out Health Extension’s talk by Greg Fahy on thymus regeneration). Additionally, there is an increase in myeloid derived suppressor (MDSC) cells, which adds insult to injury by suppressing T-cells.
Very enlightening information presented by these super smart dedicated researchers, and I continue to look forward to further research results from their respective labs!