Researchers Test New Ways to Combat Brain Cancer

by Megan Ray Nichols 

Thanks to researchers testing innovative treatments, brain cancer patients have new hope. Glioblastoma is just one form of brain cancer that may be better treated in the future with one of these new methods. Discover the ways scientists are working to stop the progression of this potentially deadly cancer.

What Is Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme or GBM, is projected to affect 24,000 Americans in 2018. And 17,000 will die from these fast, aggressive tumors, which are the most common tumor-creating brain cancer. This cancer is a grade 4 tumor that may arise from an existing tumor or on its own. Most who develop GBM are older adults, where the disease typically grows in the frontal or temporal lobes. Without treatment, glioblastoma often kills its victims in about 15 months.

Treatment usually requires surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation and chemotherapy are added to ensure the removal of cancerous cells. Sadly, GBM recurs frequently in patients who have undergone treatment. That’s why new treatment options are so exciting for those with GBM and their families.

Virus vs. Cancer

Though you might not think of a virus versus cancer as much of a battle, researchers are discovering that a cold could help cancer patients live longer. Scientists took a common cold virus, called an adenovirus, and modified it to target glioblastoma. The virus attacked the tumor cells as it normally would other cells by taking over the cell and killing it. Viruses also use the cell’s natural reproduction to make copies of themselves. This allows viruses to spread to other cells.

The trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center gave 20 percent of patients three years or more of life where they’d have just months without treatment. Though the tumor came back in these patients, the viral therapy gives a few more years to those with recurrent tumors. To increase this number, additional studies are looking at combining the viral therapy with other treatments.

Space Age Lasers Blasting Glioblastoma

Laser ablation sounds more like a sci-fi weapon than a cancer treatment, but this option is currently showing promise in trials. Using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, and a laser, heat and light eat away at the tumor inside the brain. Unlike brain surgery, this option does not require completely opening the skull, making it much less invasive. Recovery is easier and faster for the patient.

New Drug Treatments

Though chemotherapy is common in GBM treatment, other drugs could be added to the regime. Many trials currently are studying combinations of drugs. Nivolumab and bevacizumab are being tested in a phase 2 clinical trial. The tolerance and effectiveness of changing bevacizumab to a low dose from a standard and combining it with nivolumab is at the core of this study. During phase 2 clinical trials, the researchers want to establish how effective this treatment is against glioblastoma.

Another phase 2 trial looks at creating a triple-method treatment, which would add to the traditional chemotherapy option, temozolomide. This study hopes to increase the length of time before a new tumor appears after treatment by combining the chemotherapy drug with pembrolizumab and TTFields. TTFields, also known as Optune, is an electromagnetic therapy for treating tumors. The control will only receive TTFields and temozolomide, while the experimental group will add pembrolizumab. Researchers will examine the length of time before the cancer progresses in participants.

Clinical Trials and Glioblastoma Treatment

Though it may take a while before the treatments tested in clinical trials today will be available to the public, it gives hope for future patients. Those who currently have GBM may discuss with their doctors the possibility of participating in clinical trials. As an aggressive, fast-acting cancer, new methods of treatment are always sought by researchers who want to lengthen the lives of those diagnosed with these tumors.

How Computer Science is Revolutionizing the Housing Market

by Jackie Edwards

House sales in the US are surpassing all expectations, reaching a high since last November and jumping 6.7% between April and May of this year. This is of course down to a number of factors, but one that is often overlooked is the role of technology. With rapid advances in computer science, the way we find and purchase a new house is changing. Some of the changes involve the boring, but important financial stuff, while others are a bit more exciting. All taken together though, technological progress could explain why home ownership is increasing across the country.

Easier Transactions

Back in the days when cash was all we had, buying a house was a difficult process. Even sending checks in the mail was a burden that slowed everything down. This made the purchase of a property extremely cumbersome. With the digitization of money, we are overcoming this obstacle. Bank transfers can now be made in an instant and monthly payments can be sent automatically.

The US is behind in the adoption of online payments, however. While just 3% of Americans have used contactless payment in the past month, this number rises to 54% among British consumers. Digital transactions are so popular across the pond that HM Land Registry (the government department which registers property ownership) aims to digitize and automate 95% of transactions by 2022. It’s all about efficiency, so homes can be bought and registered quickly and cheaply.

Cutting Paperwork and Middlemen

With a similar goal in mind, tech is helping to change property purchases by cutting out unnecessary stages in the buying process. The internet allows direct communication between landlords and tenants, as well as house sellers and buyers. The role of the estate agent is being replaced by a computer algorithm, meaning fewer people to deal with and, in turn, fewer people to pay. Buying a house online requires no paperwork or even a need to schedule a meeting. The terms and regulations of the transaction can be emailed as a PDF attachment and returned signed within minutes.

Virtual Viewings

So that’s the boring (but important) stuff out the way, but how is technology making home buying fun again? One way is with the incorporation of virtual reality. One of the problems with purchasing a property is that it must be viewed multiple times by potential buyers, which means coordinating an appropriate time between house hunter, real estate agent and the current occupiers of the home. To do this several times, when people are busy with work and social commitments can cause difficulties. Airbnb is leading the way in solving this problem, by aiming to create virtual viewings of their homes, with the help of headsets to reduce the need to travel. This is especially useful for properties in a far away town or overseas.

Computers are affecting almost every area of society, but the housing market could be most impacted. It is now easier than ever to buy a home, with costs being cut to make it more affordable for those on low incomes. The ease at which payments can be made combined with the chance for virtual viewing increases convenience for everybody involved.

How is Science Sculpting the Modern Athlete?

by Jackie Edwards

Sport is big business these days, with the market worth $60.5 million in North America and predicted to rise to $73.5 billion in 2019. Sports is not only a moneymaker for event promoters and the media; it is also increasingly being seen as a top career choice for those with the talent, drive, and commitment required to succeed. New developments in sport have shown that success is not all about the individual athlete. In popular sports like tennis, football, or golf, science & technology are playing an important role in helping competitors perform at their full potential. In this post, we look at just a few ways that science is changing the way we play and compete.

Swing Training Technology for Golf

You would need to be a master physicist to work out the exact angle at which to position your club when playing golf, but science and technology are making it a whole lot easier with swing training technology, which brings real-time body positioning analysis to everyday golfers with the help of a handy app. The app ‘tells’ golfers exactly how to position their body and gives them top information on how to do better next time. Of course, the app won’t fix deeper problems such as weak muscles in the shoulder and back. Top level athletes will also need to regularly carry out specific training programs for golf, which include strength training for key muscle groups. In essence, performing the right swing depends on issues like back strength, so you may need to address this first to perfect your game.

Head and Neck Support for Motor Sports

Dale Earnhardt’s death on the track at the Daytona 500 race revealed the extent to which the head and neck area are vulnerable in motor sports. HANS devices have been created by scientists to stop the head from whipping forwards and backwards in the event of an accident, and to lend more support to the neck. The device is U-shaped and is positioned behind the neck, with two ‘arms’ that extend over the pectorals. Over 140,000 devices have already been sold worldwide.

Wearable Computers and Hawk-Eye Camera Systems

Wearable computers are allowing both players and managers to assess a player’s level of fatigue, hydration levels, etc. This type of information is vital to avoid heart attacks and other major health events from taking place on the field. Smart fabrics will enable athletes to glean even more information, including heart function data and movement of the body’s center of mass. Scientists have stated that the future could take us beyond wearables. The Hawk-Eye camera system is currently used to obtain information on running biomechanics and other metrics during games of elite players. The NBA, meanwhile, relies on Second Spectrum’s computer vision technology to obtain information about player positioning and other 3D data such as ball and referee positioning.

We have presented just a few ways in which science and technology are enabling athletes to perform more optimally, but also to stay safe. Wearable devices and fabrics, aerial camera systems, and new safety gear are making sport a much more scientifically accurate and appealing pursuit. Information is power, and nowhere is this truer than on the field or track.