August 10 Research Roundup: Type 2 Diabetes, Breast Cancer, Ebola and Koalas

There are plenty of great scientific research stories out this week. Here’s a look at just a few of them.

Why Losing Weight Can Halt Type 2 Diabetes

Clinical trial results published in the journal Cell Metabolism have identified why losing weight can fend off type 2 diabetes. It’s generally well-known that losing weight—if overweight—can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and in some cases reverse it, but why this is the case hasn’t been completely understood. A recent clinical trial observed that about half of the people with type 2 diabetes in the study achieved remission to a non-diabetic state after losing weight within six years of diagnosis. And they found that the link is an early and sustained improvement in how pancreatic beta cells function.

“This observation carries potentially important implications for the initial clinical approach to management,” said Roy Taylor of Newcastle University, senior author of the study, in a statement. “At present, the early management of type 2 diabetes tends to involve a period of adjusting to the diagnosis plus pharmacotherapy with lifestyle changes, which in practice are modest. Our data suggest that substantial weight loss at the time of diagnosis is appropriate to rescue the beta cells.”

Taylor was overseeing the UK-based Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT). In the study, participants who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within six years of the beginning of the study were randomly assigned to best-practice care or an innovative primary-care-led weight-management program. A year later, 46 percent in the intervention group successfully lost weight and maintained blood sugar concentration control.

Mayo Researchers ID Genes Linked to Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic led by geneticist Fergus Couch identified specific genes associated with triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer is generally difficult to treat and has a lower five-year survival rate than other types of breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer is called that not because it’s three times as bad—although it is a very aggressive form of cancer. It is called triple-negative because the breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors (ER-), progesterone receptors (PR-) and HER2 (HER2-). The results of being negative for all three means that the cancer growth is not supported by the hormones estrogen and progesterone or by the presence of too many HER2 receptors. As a result, the cancer doesn’t respond to hormonal therapy like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors or medications that target HER2 receptors, like Herceptin (trastuzumab).

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