News of Note—Genes that make immuno-oncology work; genes that make hearts fail

As many as 100 genes may be vital for allowing the destruction of tumors by T cells.

NCI identifies genes critical for immuno-oncology to work

Some tumors don’t respond at all to immunotherapy treatments, while others build up resistance to the treatments over time—but scientists don’t know why. A new study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) identified more than 100 genes that seem to facilitate the destruction of tumors by the immune system’s T cells. When these genes malfunction, they believe, resistance may result. The researchers used gene editing to screen for candidate genes in melanoma cells, then created a list of genes that they believe could serve as new targets for cancer drug development. (Release)

How changes in gene expression promote heart failure

During the process by which a normal heart undergoes stress and then starts to fail, several genes become active in ways that are normally seen during heart development. That realization led researchers at University of Iowa Health Care to focus in on how gene regulation happens in heart muscle cells. By examining damaged heart tissue from patients, they found elevated levels of a protein called Cdk8, which regulates the expression of thousands of genes. When levels of the protein were elevated in mouse heart cells, the hearts began to fail. They believe the finding may lead to new treatments for heart failure. (Release)

DOD study could bring hope to patients with Gulf War illness

Some veterans of the Gulf War of the early 1990s suffer from memory impairment, depression and other neurological disorders that have been blamed on exposure to chemicals and stress. Massachusetts-based Bach Pharma announced that in animal models of this disease, called Gulf War illness, its drug, GVT, improved cognitive function and mood. GVT works by regenerating stem cells and neurons, the company says. The study was funded by a grant from the Department of Defense. (Release)