New method helps predict cancer progression


By Lynne Friedmann

Using a new method to study tumor cells, UC San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center researchers are able to distinguish features of leukemia cells that indicate whether the disease will be aggressive or slow-moving; a key factor in deciding how and when to treat patients.

The research focused on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Progression of the disease is highly variable with some patients remaining symptom-free for years, while in other patients CLL is more aggressive and demands drug intervention soon after diagnosis. Existing CLL blood markers, however, cannot reliably determine whether a patient will need therapy sooner or later.

In the new study, researchers found that prior to requiring therapy, the patterns of genes expressed by CLL cells appear to converge, regardless of whether or not the patient had aggressive versus less-aggressive disease at diagnosis. This led to the identification of 38 subnetworks of interacting genes and proteins that offer greater predictive value because they are based not on the activity of individual genes or proteins, but on how they dynamically interact and change over time, influencing the cancer’s course and patient symptoms. —The findings appear in the journal Blood. News release at

Emergency in-the-field electrocardiograms

A study by UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers along with colleagues from Rural/Metro Ambulance San Diego and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, has shown that an electrocardiogram (ECG) obtained in the field of patients with chest pain does not increase on-scene or transport time.

Pre-hospital ECGs help quickly diagnosis a heart attack and enables faster delivery of optimal medical therapy through preferential routing of patients to hospitals able to provide an angioplasty (balloon catheter to open blocked artery with stent placement to improve heart blood flow). The increased efficiency of rapid patient assessment and diagnosis offers a clear benefit for heart-attack patients.

The study analyzed five years of data on nearly 22,000 individuals complaining of chest pain and evaluated by San Diego City paramedics.

Unique deep-sea environment discovered near San Diego

During a recent ocean expedition, graduate student researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego discovered evidence of a deep-sea site where methane is likely seeping out of the seafloor, the first such finding off San Diego County. Such “methane seeps” possess extraordinary chemical properties — and often bizarre marine creatures — making them “hot spots” of life on an otherwise barren seafloor.

Methane, a clear, highly combustible gas, exists in the Earth’s crust under the seafloor along many of the world’s continental margins. The area of interest, roughly 20 miles west of Del Mar, is centered on the San Diego Trough Fault zone. A distinct mound on the seafloor at 1,036 meters depth (3,400 feet), spanning the size of a city block and rising to the height of a two-story building, was surveyed. Deployed instruments collected sediment cores and organisms from the site such as thread-like tubeworms that lack a mouth and digestive system and gain nutrition via a symbiotic relationship with bacteria living inside them.

Along the West Coast, methane seeps are known to exist off Oregon, California (near Eureka, Monterey Bay, Point Conception and Santa Monica), in the Gulf of California, and off Costa Rica.

— More information at

— Findings appear in the Journal of American College of Cardiology. News release at