Health Scan: Mice made to grow human tumors

Researcher: This will allow testing of specific treatments on Ovarian cancer cells.

mouse 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
mouse 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An experimental mouse model in which cancer cells isolated from a woman with ovarian cancer created a malignant tumor that mimics human ovarian cancer has been developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Prof. Karl Skorecki and Dr. Maty Tzukerman, who headed the team, said the source of the human tissue is the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells in mice. The human tissue also supports the growth of human cancer cells incapable of growing directly in mice, wrote the researchers about their project, which is described in the January issue of Clinical Cancer Research. "This novel approach, which is being developed into cancer treatment, promotes individual adaptation of treatment to the type of cancer," explains Tzukerman. "One of the main obstacles is the lack of a pre-clinical experimental model in which it's possible to grow cells that mimic a cancerous tumor in the human body in order to check the sensitivity of the tumor to specific treatments." The research was carried out as part of master's degree research by Ehood Katz, under the direction of the two Technion and Rambam scientists. The research isolated and characterized various subpopulations of ovarian cancer cells from one patient. These cells reflect the characteristics of ovarian cancer in different patients. In addition, the experimental model revealed the presence of cancerous master cells in the ovarian cancer - apparently the most important target in anti-cancer treatment. The present research emphasizes the importance of the cell environment in which the tumor is grown, and serves as a basis for the development of anti-cancer treatments and, in the future, for the development of individual anti-cancer therapies. DIASPORA CONFIDENCE IN MDA Fundraising for Magen David Adom has not been affected by the economic turndown in the US or donor losses due to the Madoff affair, says American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) CEO Daniel Allen. "We have presented MDA with a check for $500,000 after just two weeks of fundraising since the war in Gaza began, and we assume we will be able to do it again," he said during an emergency 36-hour mission by a four-member delegation from the US shortly before the end of the war. AFDMA, one of about a dozen groups supporting the Israeli ambulance, blood-supply and first-aid organization, provides more money than any of the others. While aware that the recession in the US and the Madoff debacle have seriously hurt organizations and major donors, Allen said it has "not had any negative effect. People see the need for MDA to save lives in Israel. In our new fundraising campaign, people have been very generous. It has been mostly Jewish donors who respond to direct mail requests and - significantly - go to our Web site ( "Our campaign in the past three years compared to four years ago is three times higher. It used to be $10 million a year, and now it has reached $30 million." "Two sisters named Mary and Sarah who call us from Arizona every December to say they want to give $5,000 called us to say they were giving an additional $5,000 to save lives. They said they can't let Israel down." The American Jewish and political leadership have been very supportive of Israel in its war against terror, said Allen. A handful have protested against harm to the civilian population in Gaza, he conceded, "but with the economy in such serious straits, Gaza is not the number-one story, or even the fourth or fifth." During the AFMDA delegation's tour of the south, Allen said, "we have seen that MDA staff have done an amazing job. MDA is Israel's second line of defense. Two years ago, AFMDA had the foresight to rebuild and refurbish the MDA stations in Sderot, Beersheba and Ashkelon- and it sure is paying off now." The organization is planning a $2 million renovation of its Nahariya station. HOOKAHED ON TOBACCO A 104-year-old man who partially credits his smoking of a nargila (hookah) as a recipe for long life suffered a serious burn on his leg while indulging and was hospitalized at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Ya'acov Zeiger of Elyakim started smoking a hookah at the age of 12 in Yemen. He told doctors that the burn resulted when the fuel used to light his pipe dripped onto his pants, which caught fire. He will have to undergo surgery. Zeiger said that in addition to nargila smoking, chewing khat leaves (a potentially dangerous stimulant used by Yemenites), drinking arak and having a "young wife" extend life. Hookah smoking is regarded by the Health Ministry as being even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, as some of the toxins in cigarette smoke dissipate into the air while nargilas deliver the poison directly to the lungs. Another reason to stay away from water pipes is that users tend to smoke them more because they think they are safe. Although his eight children (from two wives) have begged him to quit hookah smoking, the old man disregards the request and even asked his son to bring his nargila to the hospital, where smoking is illegal. "I haven't smoked for five days," he pleaded, adding a smile. Zeiger opened a vegetable store in Haifa's Rehov Sirkin when he came on aliya in 1949. He gave up the shop eight years ago but continues to grow grapes, plums and mint at home. He married his second wife, now 75, after his first wife died. Altogether, he has 25 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Asked when he would quit smoking, the old man replied: "There are two things, the body and the soul. The body enjoys the food and the woman, and the soul follows the ways of God. If my soul wants me to, I will quit." Prof. Yehuda Ullman, head of Rambam's plastic surgery department, said burns are frequently suffered by old people, and often kill them. "I call on the families to ensure that their elderly loved ones don't fall asleep near a lit heater or nargila, or with a lit cigarette in their hands," he said.