News of Note—Preventing the spread of aggressive breast cancer; nanofibers that erase arterial plaque

Blocking metastasis in HER2-positive breast cancer

Scientists at Montreal Clinical Research Institute have discovered that a protein called AXL influences metastasis of HER2-positive breast cancer, which accounts for about 20% of breast cancers. In experiments in human tumor cells and mice, they demonstrated that high levels of AXL increase the likelihood of cancer cells detaching from tumors and spreading. What’s more, lower levels of AXL are associated with better survival rates. The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Cell Reports, are now investigating whether therapies inhibiting AXL could be useful in reducing the risk of metastasis. (Release)

Injected nanofibers reverse atherosclerosis in mice

Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have developed a treatment for atherosclerosis that’s made of tiny peptide nanofibers. When injected into arteries, the nanofibers assemble themselves into a structure that can remove cholesterol from plaque in arteries. The team tested the invention in mice that had been fed high-fat diets for 14 weeks. The arterial plaques in mice that received biweekly injections of the nanofibers shrank by 11% in males and 9% in females, they reported at an event sponsored by the American Heart Association. (Release)

A new way to improve memory in Alzheimer’s

A startup out of Purdue University has identified a chemical compound that seems to improve memory and cognition by activating SERCA, a membrane protein that’s involved in transporting calcium between cells. In mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, researchers from the company observed improvements in a number of tests used to measure memory and cognition, including a water maze, in animals that received the compound. They also found that the drug preserved brain cell mass. They published their study in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters. (Release)