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Archive - Dec 31, 2014


Cancer Mortality Drops 22% in USA Over Two Decades; Largest Declines Seen in Northeast, Smallest in South

In a press release issued on December 31, 2014, the American Cancer Society announced that its annual cancer statistics report finds that there has been a 22% drop in cancer mortality in the United States over two decades, leading to the avoidance of more than 1.5 million cancer deaths that would have occurred if peak rates had persisted. And while cancer death rates have declined in every state, the report finds substantial variation in the magnitude of these declines, generally with the states in the South showing the smallest decline and in the Northeast the largest decline. Each year, the American Cancer Society compiles the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival based on incidence data from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The data are disseminated in two reports: Cancer Statistics 2015, that will be published online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians on January 5, 2015, and also in its companion, consumer-friendly publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2015 on January 5, 2015. The reports also estimate the number of new cancer cases and deaths expected in the United States in the current year. Largely driven by rapid increases in lung cancer deaths among men as a consequence of the tobacco epidemic, the overall cancer death rate rose during most of the 20th century, peaking in 1991. The subsequent steady decline in the cancer death rate is the result of fewer Americans smoking, as well as advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. During the most recent five years for which data are available (2007-2011), the average annual decline in cancer death rates was slightly larger among men (1.8%) than women (1.4%).

Molecular Network Underlying Autism Spectrum Disorders Identified

Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California have identified a molecular network that comprises many of the genes previously shown to contribute to autism spectrum disorders. The findings provide a map of some of the crucial protein interactions that contribute to autism and will help uncover novel candidate genes for the disease. The results were reported online on December 30, 2014 in an open-access article in Molecular Systems Biology, published by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Press. "The study of autism disorders is extremely challenging due to the large number of clinical mutations that occur in hundreds of different human genes associated with autism," says Dr. Michael Snyder, Professor at the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine and the lead author of the study. "We therefore wanted to see to what extent shared molecular pathways are perturbed by the diverse set of mutations linked to autism in the hope of distilling tractable information that would benefit future studies." The researchers generated their interactome - the whole set of interactions within a cell - using the BioGrid database of protein and genetic interactions. "We have identified a specific module within this interactome that comprises 119 proteins and which shows a very strong enrichment for autism genes," remarks Dr. Snyder. Gene expression data and genome sequencing were used to identify the protein interaction module with members strongly enriched for known autism genes. The sequencing of the genomes of 25 patients confirmed the involvement of the module in autism; the candidate genes for autism present in the module were also found in a larger group of more than 500 patients that were analyzed by exome sequencing.