Blood test detects ovarian cancer in nine out of 10 patients

Telegraph (November 18, 2015)

A screening test with a 90 per cent accuracy rate for detecting potentially fatal ovarian cancer early is a major step closer.

Studying blood serum compounds led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer. Early diagnosis is vital for treatment of ovarian cancer.

(full story..)


Designing Tiny Treatments for Big Cancer

GT Alumni Magazine (Sept 3, 2014)

Georgia Tech molecular biologists, led by John McDonald, are pioneering new methods of attacking tumors using nanoparticles.

Since his arrival on campus in 2004, molecular biologist and Tech Professor John McDonald has been hard at work developing new solutions and strategies for targeting and treating cancer. Some of his latest research concerns the use of nanoparticles to seek out and deliver treatments to ovarian cancer cells without damaging the body’s healthy cells. Designing this technology has required collaboration between the McDonald Lab in the School of Biology and Andrew Lyon’s lab in the School of Chemistry. (full story..)


Personalized Medicine: Buzzwords Or The Best Way To Treat Cancer?

Science 2.0 (Feb 27, 2014)

It’s not often that cancer research gets compared to gridlock traffic in New York City but it makes some sense. If we are driving from Florida, we might take I-95 to get there, but if we are driving from California, we would take I-80. It’s a matter of circumstance and then some variables based on choice.

John McDonald, a professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta , says that cancers also have lots of routes to get to the same disease and that assessing the route to cancer on a case-by-case basis might make more sense than the way it is done now.
A new paper argues for the importance of personalized medicine, where we treat cancer by looking for the etiology of the disease in patients individually, rather than basing a patient’s cancer treatment on commonly disrupted genes and pathways. In doing so, their study found little or no overlap in the most prominent genetic malfunction associated with each individual patient’s disease, compared to malfunctions shared among the group of cancer patients as a whole. “The findings have ramifications on how we might best optimize cancer treatments as we enter the era of targeted gene therapy,” says McDonald about the study in PANCREAS earlier this month. (full story..(link to paper)


New evidence that cancer cells change while moving throughout body

ECM (Aug 12, 2013)

For the majority of cancer patients, it’s not the primary tumor that is deadly, but the spread or “metastasis” of cancer cells from the primary tumor to secondary locations throughout the body that is the problem. That’s why a major focus of contemporary cancer research is how to stop or fight metastasis.
In a new study, published in the Journal of Ovarian Research, Georgia Tech scientists have direct evidence that EMT takes place in humans, at least in ovarian cancer patients. The findings suggest that doctors should treat patients with a combination of drugs: those that kill cancer cells in primary tumors and drugs that target the unique characteristics of cancer cells spreading through the body.
“It’s like noticing that a piece of cake has gone missing from your kitchen and you turn to see your daughter with chocolate on her face”, said John McDonald , director of Georgia Tech’s Integrated Cancer Research Center and lead investigator on the project. “You didn’t see her eat the cake, but the evidence is overwhelming. The gene expression patterns of the metastatic cancers displayed gene expression profiles that unambiguously identified them as having gone through EMT.” (full story..(link to paper)


Our big brains may make us prone to cancer

NewScientist (Oct. 15, 2012)

There’s a downside to everything. When humans evolved bigger brains, we became the smartest animal alive and were able to colonise the entire planet. But for our minds to expand, a new theory goes, our cells had to become less willing to commit suicide – and that may have made us more prone to cancer.

By getting rid of malfunctioning cells, apoptosis also prevents cells from growing into tumours. “Reduced apoptotic function is well known to be associated with cancer onset,” says John McDonald of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
McDonald compared skin cells from humans, chimpanzees and macaques and found that, compared to cells from other primates, our cells are reluctant to undergo apoptosis. When exposed to apoptosis-triggering chemicals, human cells responded significantly less than the chimp and macaque cells. Fewer human cells died, and they did not change shape in the ways cells do when preparing to die. (full story..(link to paper)


Stiffness Could Be Possible Biomarker To Predict Metastatic Potential Of Ovarian Cancer Cells

redOrbit (Oct. 09, 2012)

Researchers from Georgia Tech recently found that ovarian cancer cells that are highly metastatic are much softer than ovarian cancer cells that are less metastatic.

The findings on cell stiffness in relation to cancer cells were recently published in the academic journal PLoS ONE.”In order to spread, metastatic cells must push themselves into the bloodstream. As a result, they must be highly deformable and softer,” explained Todd Sulchek, an assistant professor at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, in a prepared statement. “Our results indicate that cell stiffness may be a useful biomarker to evaluate the relative metastatic potential of ovarian and perhaps other types of cancer cells.””This is a good example of the kinds of discoveries that only come about by integrating skills and knowledge from traditionally diverse fields such as molecular biology and bioengineering,” remarked John McDonald, the director of Georgia Tech’s Integrated Cancer Research Center whose lab worked with Sulchek’s lab in the study, in the statement. “Although there are a number of developing methodologies to identify circulating cancer cells in the blood and other body fluids, this technology offers the added potential to rapidly determine if these cells are highly metastatic or relatively benign.” (full story..(link to paper)