Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Research that makes you scratch your head - brain power to kill cancer and sleep disordered breathing, relative to melanoma outcomes??? Ummmm, okay.

I don't know how to introduce these reports any better than as "head scratchers"!!!  Here we go!

Modulation of anti-tumor immunity by the brain's reward system.  Ben-Shaanan, Schiller, Azulay, et al.  Nat Commun. 2018 Jul 13.

Regulating immunity is a leading target for cancer therapy. Here, we show that the anti-tumor immune response can be modulated by the brain's reward system, a key circuitry in emotional processes. Activation of the reward system in tumor-bearing mice (Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) and B16 melanoma) using chemogenetics (DREADDs), resulted in reduced tumor weight. This effect was mediated via the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), manifested by an attenuated noradrenergic input to a major immunological site, the bone marrow. Myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), which develop in the bone marrow, became less immunosuppressive following reward system activation. By depleting or adoptively transferring the MDSCs, we demonstrated that these cells are both necessary and sufficient to mediate reward system effects on tumor growth. Given the central role of the reward system in positive emotions, these findings introduce a physiological mechanism whereby the patient's psychological state can impact anti-tumor immunity and cancer progression.

Hmm... Okay...
1.  We have known for years that fewer MDSC's is a positive sign when dealing with melanoma.  Here's a bunch of posts and data on myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and their role in melanoma In fact, I noted this in 2014 in regard to outcomes in my trial:

"MDSC  (myeloid derived suppressor cells)
"There was a trend towards lower baseline MDSC levels in non-relapsing patients compared to relapsing patients."  This bit of stuff and such along with other Treg/Tcell data comes your way thanks to us ratties sitting through leukapheresis twice during the trial. However, this is a bit I'm pretty psyched about.  There is talk among melanoma big dogs that combining anti-PD1 with MDSC or T-reg depletion would make it more effective.  I think that holds real promise.  Though...once again...despite my blood and services having been rendered....I have no idea what my MDSC levels were.  Still...I think this could be a real boon to future patients."

2.  In the entire article, linked here if you choose to read it ~  Modulation..., the authors note: 
"Epidemiological evidence supports a connection between the patient’s mental state and cancer survival, Nevertheless, many of these studies have yielded inconsistent results, and our understanding of the central neuronal mechanisms underlying the effect of emotional states on cancer is limited. Moreover, most research in this field has been focused on negative emotional states, such as stress and depression, while the impact of positive mental attributes on cancer biology is largely unknown."  
Don't get me wrong, I believe in "HAPPY"!!!  We all feel better and do better when all is right in our world!  Duh!!!  However, keeping your ass happy when dealing with the reality of a deadly disease, the pain and cost of treatment, the pain and emotional cost to loved ones, the economic and personal value lost due to unemployment when you are too sick to work... I could go on!  Melanoma is NOT easy.  Putting on a happy face, no matter how real (or not) it may be, will not cure your melanoma nor protect you from it!!!  Here's some real data and a bit of a rant:  ASCO 2017: Friends in need are friends indeed! Here's to the caregivers!!!
3.  But, I digress.  In this study, researchers gave real live little ratties either a type of lung cancer or melanoma.  And because we already know that part of our immune system serves us well in fighting cancer (our CD8 t cells and natural killer [NK] cells for instance) while other parts (like the MDSCs) actually SUPPRESS anti-tumor responses and let tumors thrive...the researchers note:  " depleting and adoptively transferring MDSCs, we showed that these cells are both necessary and sufficient to mediate the effects of reward system activation on tumor growth."  In order to test that, very roughly, they made a happy drug ("...we used Designer Receptor Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) to specifically control reward system activity...") which they got into these poor little ratties heads {for realz!!!} by attaching it to a cold virus and zapping it into their brains with SRS.  Damn!  It sucks to be a rattie!!!  For the control, they did all the same stuff, just minus the happy pill.  So, according to these researchers, this process allowed the zapped with the happy pill ratties' dopaminergic neurons to get busy with their secretions and stimulations - ultimately impacting the bone marrow, which impacted the MDSC's, making them LESS immunosuppressive.  There.  By the way, the effect was less in the melanoma injected ratties than it was for the lung cancer the researchers actually abandoned the melanoma critters mid-way the study and just used the lung cancer critters.
4.  All in all, this is probably much ado about nothing as it relates to us human melanoma ratties.  EXCEPT!!!  As I said above and in 2014:  "There is talk among melanoma big dogs that combining anti-PD1 with MDSC or T-reg depletion would make it more effective.  I think that holds real promise.  Though...once again...despite my blood and services having been rendered....I have no idea what my MDSC levels were.  Still...I think this could be a real boon to future patients."   So, if this is part of the process to get us there - so be it!!
Now, this...
Sleep-disordered breathing is independently associated with increased aggressiveness of cutaneous melanoma.  A multicentre observational study in 443 patients.  Martinez-Garcia, Campos-Rodriguez, Nagore, et al.  Chest.  2018 Jul 27.

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) has been associated with a greater incidence and mortality of cancer, although such findings are inconsistent. However, no large studies are currently available to investigate this association in patients with a specific type of cancer. This study seeks to assess potential relationships between SDB severity and aggressiveness markers of cutaneous melanoma.

443 patients with a diagnosis of melanoma underwent a sleep study within 6 months of diagnosis. General demographics were collected, along with melanoma characteristics and polygraphic parameters consisting of apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and indices of both continuous and intermittent night-time oxyhemoglobin desaturation (DI4%). Exploration of independent relationships between SDB and various objective melanoma aggressiveness markers (Breslow index, presence of ulceration, presence of regression, mitotic index, stage of severity, damage to the sentinel lymph and spreading of the melanoma) was performed.

Patients in the upper tertiles of AHI or DI4% were 1.94 and 1.93 times more likely, respectively, to present with aggressive melanoma (Breslow index greater than 1mm) than those in the lowest tertiles of these sleep attributes after adjustment for age, gender, tumor location and body mass index. This association was particularly prominent among patients less than 56 years with Breslow index greater than 2 mm. The presence of the additional markers of aggressiveness was also associated with higher AHI and DI4% values.  The severity of the SDB was independently associated with greater aggressiveness of cutaneous melanoma, particularly among younger patients.

1.  Maybe folks who are more worried about their melanoma sleep less well!!!  And sleeping less well about having a potentially deadly disease is completely legit!!!  
2.  Then again, maybe these particular melanoma peeps are less happy about their life and therefore invite melanoma in, like the sad rats in the previous study???  (Y'all know that is NOT what I think!!  Right????)  
3.  Maybe younger folks with melanoma lesions of greater than 2 mm in depth were at greater risk anyway!!!!  Cause that's a thing!!!!  With melanoma: You can never be too rich or too thin! But, you can be too young!!!
4.  Finally, no matter what you think of this report (and I don't think much!!!!) ain't no way insurance is going to pay for sleep studies just because you've been diagnosed with melanoma.  It's hard enough to get them to pay for scans we actually need!!!

Head gett'n itchy yet???  Sometimes we have to think, laugh, yawn, and plain out hope researchers are getting SOMEWHERE that will actually make a difference where we need it!!! Hang tough, ratties!!  c

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