Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Parasites and prostate cancer

I have more stories I tell my students than just Cleaning Cleopatra's Needle and the Collosseum.  UCLA and Discovery News have an item that I'm going to include in my lecture about protists this afternoon.  First, the video from DNews, which asks Could An STD Cause Prostate Cancer?

Trichomoniasis is the most common STD in the world, and people have been finding links between the infection and prostate cancer! Tara and Laci are here to report on this finding, and also discuss research showing that dogs are able to sniff out patients with prostate cancer!
Next, the press release from my undergraduate alma mater about the research that DNews is citing.

UCLA: STD may heighten risk of prostate cancer
Elaine Schmidt
May 27, 2014
Could a common sexually transmitted infection boost a man’s risk for prostate cancer?

In a new study, Patricia Johnson, a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explored the connection between prostate cancer and the parasite that causes trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection in men and women.

Johnson’s team discovered that the parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis, secretes a protein that stimulates the growth of prostate cells and also induces an inflammatory response, which the researchers suspect enhances the cells’ progression to tumor cells.
This news hits close to home for me as it's not only about a topic that I teach (today!) and from the university where I got my first degree, but is about my health history.  As I described in Surgery as a fresh start, I am a prostate cancer survivor.  There is no history of the disease in my family, so other causes have to be suspected.  This at least offers an explanation, even if I never presented with symptoms.

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