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Friday, August 10, 2007

National Science Foundation President Award 2005--- 2006


award


Reporters who would like to cover the awards ceremony, should call the White House Office of Media Affairs at 202-456-6238 by COB, Thursday, July 26, 2007 to request clearance. If you have any further questions, please contact: Kristin Scuderi at 202-456-6124.


President George W. Bush will award the National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology, honoring the nation's leading researchers, inventors and innovators at a ceremony at the White House on Friday, July 27, 2007, at 1:40 p.m.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) administers the prestigious award program, which was established by Congress in 1959. It honors individuals for pioneering scientific research in a range of fields, including physical, biological, mathematical, social, behavioral and engineering sciences, that enhances our understanding of the world and leads to innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. NSF Director Arden L. Bement will attend the White House ceremony.


The 2006 National Medal of Science Laureates:


Hyman Bass - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
For his fundamental contributions to pure mathematics, especially in the creation of algebraic K-theory, his profound influence on mathematics education, and his service to the mathematics research and education communities.


Marvin H. Caruthers - University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.
For his work in developing robust methods for the chemical synthesis of DNA, which has enabled genetic engineering of new biopharmaceuticals, forensic "DNA fingerprinting," and the human genome project.


Rita R. Colwell - University of Maryland (College Park, MD), Bethesda, Md.
For her in-depth research that has contributed to a greater understanding of the ecology, physiology, and evolution of marine microbes, most notably Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of pandemic cholera, and which has elucidated critical links between environmental and human health.


Peter B. Dervan - California Institute of Technology, San Marino, Calif.
For his fundamental research contributions at the interface of organic chemistry and biology, and for his influence in education and industrial innovation.


Nina V. Fedoroff - Pennsylvania State University, State College, Penn.
For her pioneering work on plant molecular biology, and for her being the first to clone and characterize maize transposons. She has contributed to education and public policy pertaining to recombinant DNA and genetic modification of plants.


Daniel Kleppner - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) Belmont, Mass.
For his pioneering scientific studies of the interaction of atoms and light including Rydberg atoms, cavity quantum electrodynamics, quantum chaos; for developing techniques that opened the way to Bose Einstein Condensation in a gas; and for lucid explanations of physics to non-specialists and exemplary service to the scientific community.


Robert S. Langer - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) Newton, Mass.
For his revolutionary discoveries in the areas of polymeric controlled release systems and tissue engineering and synthesis of new materials that have led to new medical treatments that have profoundly affected the well being of mankind.


Lubert Stryer - Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
For his elucidation of the biochemical basis of signal amplification in vision and pioneering the development of high density micro-arrays for genetic analysis. His influential biochemistry textbook has influenced and inspired millions of students.


The 2005 National Medal of Science Laureates:


Jan D. Achenbach - Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
For his seminal contributions to engineering research and education in the area of wave propagation in solids and for pioneering the field of quantitative non-destructive evaluation.


Ralph A. Alpher - The Dudley Observatory, Schenectady, NY
For his unprecedented work in the areas of nucleosynthesis, for the prediction that universe expansion leaves behind background radiation, and for providing the model for the Big Bang theory.


Gordon H. Bower - Stanford, Calif.
For his unparalleled contributions to cognitive and mathematical psychology, for his lucid analyses of remembering and reasoning, and for his important service to psychology and American science.


Bradley Efron - Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
For his contributions to theoretical and applied statistics, especially the bootstrap sampling technique; for his extraordinary geometric insight into nonlinear statistical problems; and for applications in medicine, physics, and astronomy.


Anthony S. Fauci - National Institutes of Health, Washington, D.C.
For pioneering the understanding of the mechanisms whereby the human immune system is regulated, and for his work on dissecting the mechanisms of pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that has served as the underpinning for the current strategies for the treatment of HIV disease.


Tobin J. Marks - Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
For his pioneering research in the areas of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, organo-f-element chemistry, new electronic and photonic materials, and diverse areas of coordination and solid state chemistry.


Lonnie G. Thompson - Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
For his pioneering research in paleoclimatology analyzing isotopic and chemical fingerprints found in tropical ice cores from the world's highest mountain glaciers and for his courage in collecting these disappearing climate archives that has transformed our understanding of the natural and anthropogenic factors influencing climate variability on our planet, past and present.


Torsten N. Wiesel - The Rockefeller University, New York, NY
For providing key insights into the operation of the visual system and for the discovery of the manner in which neural connections in the brain are made during the development and how they are maintained.


The ceremony will be available as a live webcast at www.whitehouse.gov and broadcast via satellite. An archive of the webcast is available for on-demand viewing at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070727-9.html





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An Exoplanet With Liquid Water?


An Exoplanet With Liquid Water?


European astronomers say they have detected a distant Earth-like planet with conditions that might allow liquid water to exist. The discovery was made using the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-m telescope and the High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph.



Twenty light-years away orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, the new exoplanet is the most Earth-like discovered to date, with a radius only 50 percent larger than the Earth and with temperatures that would allow water to exist in a liquid state.


"We have estimated that the mean temperature lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid," explains St├ęphane Udry, from the Geneva Observatory. "Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky - like our Earth - or covered with oceans."


The new planet's host star, Gliese 581, is among the 100 closest stars to us, located only 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra. It is only one third the mass of our sun and is much cooler. Thanks to being just 7 million miles away, the planet completes a full orbit of the star in just 13 days.


Reporting their discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the astronomers said that red dwarfs were ideal targets for the search for low-mass planets where water could be liquid. "Because such dwarfs emit less light, the habitable zone is much closer to them than it is around the Sun," noted Xavier Bonfils, from Lisbon University. "Planets lying in this zone are more easily detected with the radial-velocity method, the most successful technique devised for detecting exoplanets."


French astronomer Xavier Delfosse added that the importance of liquid water could not be underestimated in the search for extraterrestrial life. "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X."




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ESRI Showcases Latest Technology, Solutions, and Expertise at GITA


ESRI Showcases Latest Technology, Solutions, and Expertise at GITA


ESRI will showcase ArcGIS, the complete enterprise geographic information system (GIS), at the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA) Annual Conference 30 in San Antonio, Texas, March 4-7, 2007. ESRI will demonstrate its unique approach to the management and use of geospatial knowledge that can benefit utility organizations of all sizes. In addition, ESRI president Jack Dangermond will present a paper called Enterprise GIS, Exploring the Possibilities for Mission Critical Operations. His presentation will focus on the latest trends in GIS and its impact on mission critical operations.


Dangermond notes, "Geospatial knowledge and functionality underpin the vast majority of business processes within companies that manage complex infrastructures. Whether it's powerful visualization and cartographic mapping, enterprise spatial analysis, comprehensive data management, or interoperable solutions, ESRI GIS software meets the needs of utility organizations of all sizes. ESRI technology helps engineering, design, maintenance, and construction as well as other activities like customer care, billing, forecasting, and environmental management."


ESRI will showcase how energy and infrastructure companies transform insights into business results by demonstrating key technologies and solutions:



ArcGIS Server provides the power of a GIS-enabled service-oriented architecture (SOA) to equip decision makers with the speed, agility, and tools to get business results. It allows them to meet asset management challenges and operational needs and to provide a simple way to integrate spatial knowledge into the IT mainstream.
ArcGIS Desktop includes showcases new innovations in data management, spatial analysis and modeling, intelligent cartography, distributed editing, and history management. These features permit employees throughout the enterprise, from the executive to the engineer to the call center representative to the field worker, to receive and integrate asset information quickly and easily.
ArcGIS Image Server allows infrastructure companies to view and integrate high-quality imagery within hours of its creation, facilitating rapid response to power outages, emergencies, or natural disasters.
ArcGIS Mobile gives field-workers access to the complete functionality of their enterprise GIS on lightweight, "sometimes connected" field devices like cell phones, PDAs or tablet PCs, significantly enhancing field decision making and productivity.


ESRI staff will be present to highlight other ArcGIS functionality and performance capabilities that make it the ideal solution for energy and infrastructure companies. ArcGIS provides a powerful, integrated platform for sharing, analysis, visualization, and information capture and update:



ArcGIS provides a complete system for authoring, serving, and using geographic information and integrating other geospatial technology and standard IT infrastructure.
ArcGIS supports an unrivaled range of IT and GIS standards.
ArcGIS provides a new way to manage and disseminate geographic knowledge, making GIS information available to anyone.
ArcGIS is a powerful and flexible developer platform.
ArcGIS provides a new medium for understanding by providing systematic knowledge, an integrative framework, analytic methods, and intuitive visualization.
ArcGIS helps you make informed decisions; know where, when, why, and how to take action; and share your knowledge with others.


More than 30 ESRI partners offering extended applications, solutions, and services for the infrastructure community will be exhibiting at the show. Stop by the ESRI booth for a map of this innovative community. The ESRI team will be in booth 233.




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Nano-layer of Ruthenium Stabilizes Magnetic Sensors


Nano-layer of Ruthenium Stabilizes Magnetic Sensors


A layer of ruthenium just a few atoms thick can be used to fine-tune the sensitivity and enhance the reliability of magnetic sensors, tests at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show.* The nonmagnetic metal acts as a buffer between active layers of sensor materials, offering a simple means of customizing field instruments such as compasses, and stabilizing the magnetization in a given direction in devices such as computer hard-disk readers.


In the NIST sensor design, ruthenium modulates interactions between a ferromagnetic film (in which electron "spins" all point in the same direction) and an antiferromagnetic film (in which different layers of electrons point in opposite directions to stabilize the device). In the presence of a magnetic field, the electron spins in the ferromagnetic film rotate, changing the sensor's resistance and producing a voltage output. The antiferromagnetic film, which feels no force because it has no net magnetization, acts like a very stiff spring that resists the rotation and stabilizes the sensor. The ruthenium layer (see graphic) is added to weaken the spring, effectively making the device more sensitive. This makes it easier to rotate the electron spins, and still pulls them back to their original direction when the field is removed.


NIST tests showed that thicker buffers of ruthenium (up to 2 nanometers) make it easier to rotate the magnetization of the ferromagnetic film, resulting in a more sensitive device. Thinner buffers result in a device that is less sensitive but responds to a wider range of external fields. Ruthenium layers thicker than 2 nm prevent any coupling between the two active films. All buffer thicknesses from 0 to 2 nm maintain sensor magnetization (even resetting it if necessary) without a boost from an external electrical current or magnetic field. This easily prevents demagnetization and failure of a sensor.


The mass-producible test sensors, made in the NIST clean room in Boulder, Colo., consist of three basic layers of material deposited on silicon wafers: The bottom antiferromagnetic layer is 8 nm of an iridium/manganese alloy, followed by the ruthenium buffer, and topped with 25 nm of a nickel/iron alloy. The design requires no extra lithography steps for the magnetic layers and could be implemented in existing mass-production processes. By contrast, the conventional method of modulating magnetoresistive sensors-capping the ends of sensors with magnetic materials-adds fabrication steps and does not allow fine-tuning of sensitivity. The new sensor design was key to NIST's recent development of a high-resolution forensic tape analysis system for the Federal Bureau of Investigation






Nano-layer of Ruthenium Stabilizes Magnetic Sensors


Magnetic Tape Analysis "Sees" Tampering in Detail



This image, produced by the new NIST forensic tape analysis system, clearly reveals an overdubbing. The new recording is visible from the left bottom of the image to about 188 millimeters on the distance counter, the large smudge at 216 mm was made by the erase head, and the original recording is visible starting at about 220 mm.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed an improved version of a real-time magnetic microscopy system that converts evidence of tampering on magnetic audio and video tapes-erasing, overdubbing and other alterations-into images with four times the resolution previously available. This system is much faster than conventional manual analysis and offers the additional benefit of reduced risk of contaminating the tapes with magnetic powder. NIST recently delivered these new capabilities to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for validation as a forensic tool.


Earlier versions of this system made images with a resolution of about 400 dots per inch (dpi). www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/tape_analysis.htm. The new system uses four times as many magnetic sensors, 256, embedded on a NIST-made silicon chip that serves as a read head in a modified cassette tape deck. The NIST read head operates adjacent to a standard read head, enabling investigators to listen to a tape while simultaneously viewing the magnetic patterns on a computer monitor. Each sensor in the customized read head changes electrical resistance in response to magnetic field patterns detected on the tape. NIST developed the mechanical system for extracting a tape from its housing and transporting it over the read heads, the electronics interface, and software that convert maps of sensor resistance measures into digital images.


The upgrade included quadrupling the image resolution to 1600 dpi, the capability to scan both video and audio tapes, complete computer control of tape handling, and the capability to digitize the audio directly from the acquired image. The software displays the audio magnetic track pattern from the tape to identify tiny features, from over-recording marks to high-intensity signals from gunshots. The system is designed to analyze analog tapes but could be converted to work with digital tapes, according to project leader David Pappas.


The new nanoscale magnetic microscope also has been used experimentally for non-destructive evaluation of integrated circuits. By mapping tiny changes in magnetic fields across an integrated circuit, the device can build up an image of current flow and densities much faster and in greater detail than the single-sensor scanners currently used by the chip industry, says Pappas.


The FBI's Forensic Audio, Video and Image Analysis Unit receives hundred of audio tapes for analysis annually, representing evidence from crimes such as terrorism, homicide and fraud. The FBI provided partial funding for development of the NIST tape imaging systems.







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Long-Distance Record: ‘Quantum Keys’ Sent 200 Kilometers


Long-Distance Record: ‘Quantum Keys’ Sent 200 Kilometers


Palo Alto, Calif. -Particles of light serving as "quantum keys"-the latest in encryption technology-have been sent over a record-setting 200-kilometer fiber-optic link by researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NTT Corp. in Japan, and Stanford University. The experiment, using mostly standard components and transmitting at telecommunications frequencies, offers an approach for making practical inter-city terrestrial quantum communications networks as well as long-range wireless systems using communication satellites.


The demonstration, described in Nature Photonics,* was conducted in a Stanford lab with optical fiber wrapped around a spool. In addition to setting a distance record for quantum key distribution (QKD), it also is the first gigabit-rate experiment-transmitting at 10 billion light pulses per second-to produce secure keys. The rate of processed key production-the keys corrected for errors and enhanced for privacy-was much lower due to the long distance involved, and the key was not used to encrypt a digital message as it would be in a complete QKD system. QKD systems transmit a stream of single photons with their electric fields in different orientations to represent 1s and 0s, which are used to make quantum keys to encrypt and decrypt messages. Properly executed, quantum encryption is "unbreakable" because eavesdropping changes the state of the photons.


A key aspect of the experiment is the use of ultrafast superconducting single-photon detectors developed in Russia, with packaging and cooling technology custom-made at NIST labs in Boulder, Colo. Counting single photons (the smallest particles of light) rapidly and reliably has been a major challenge limiting the development of practical QKD systems. The Russian detectors have very low false count rates because of their low-noise cryogenic operation, as well as superior timing resolution due to the physics of superconductors, in which electrons can switch from excited to relaxed states in just trillionths of a second. Each detector consists of a superconducting niobium nitride nanowire operating just below the "critical current" at which it conducts electricity without resistance. When a single photon hits the wire, a hot spot is formed, and the current density increases until it exceeds the critical current. At this point, a non-superconducting barrier forms across the wire, and a voltage pulse is created. The starting edge of the voltage pulse pinpoints the photon's arrival time.


Sae Woo Nam, a NIST physicist who packaged the detectors, said NIST offers unique expertise in connecting the single-photon detector chips to optical fiber and in designing refrigeration systems to operate at -270 degrees C (-454 degrees F) without liquid cryogens. "You need to know how to efficiently get light to the detector and how to amplify the signals," he says.


The detectors were designed and fabricated at the Moscow State Pedagogical University. The project was supported by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology of Japan, MURI Center for Photonic Quantum Information Systems, Disruptive Technology Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NIST




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Registration Opens for New NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber


Registration Opens for New NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber


WASHINGTON - As space shuttle Endeavour and 10 million cinnamon basil seeds are set to launch on a mission to the International Space Station, NASA has opened registration for the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber challenge.


Students participating in the challenge will design and build their own greenhouse chambers to analyze and study plant growth from the space-flown seeds following their return to Earth. Students will conduct classroom experiments that may help NASA find new ways to grow and sustain plants in space and on the moon - a critical need for future space exploration.


Educators may learn more and register for the challenge at:


Seeds will be available to the first 100,000 registrants for the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber challenge. Registrants must be kindergarten through 12th grade educators who are residents of the United States or U.S. territories and outlying areas.


The challenge is a highlight of the flight of NASA's first educator astronaut, mission specialist Barbara R. Morgan, who will travel to the space station on space shuttle Endeavour.


The challenge is part of NASA's Engineering Design Challenge program. The program connects kindergarten through 12th grade students with the challenges faced by NASA engineers who are designing the next generation of space vehicles, habitats and technologies. These hands-on classroom experiments help students achieve national goals in science, math and analytical skills. NASA and the International Technology Education Association co-sponsor this engineering design challenge.





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About Safety of latest shuttle mission



Nasa engineers are urgently trying to discover whether the space shuttle Endeavour was damaged when nine chunks of foam insulation broke off the fuel tank during lift off on Wednesday night.


Last night members of Endeavour's crew, including the schoolteacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan, conducted a minute inspection of the shuttle's most vulnerable areas in search of possible damage.


Foam damage has been a concern for Nasa since a chunk pierced the space shuttle Columbia's left wing during take off in January 2003, leading to its destruction on re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, killing all on board.


In America's latest space mission nine pieces of foam insulation broke off Endeavour's fuel tank during lift off, and three pieces appeared to strike the shuttle, said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team. None is believed to have been big enough to cause critical damage, he said.


Within hours, the shuttle commander Scott Kelly is due to guide Endeavour slowly toward the international space station. Then Endeavour will make a giant backflip so that crew members aboard the space station can zoom in for pictures of its belly and send them to Houston for analysis.


The first foam fragment came off at 24 seconds after lift off and appeared to hit the tip of the body flap. The second, and most troubling, detached itself 58 seconds after lift off, with a resulting spray or discoloration on the right wing. The third came almost three minutes after lift off, too late to cause any damage to the right wing.


"Whether it caused damage or not, we will find out in great detail" during Friday's rendezvous, Mr Shannon said last night.


"The report initially was that you got a spray of debris from this area and, of course, that brings up images of Columbia and the spray you saw there, and I would tell you this was not even remotely of the same magnitude."


The Endeavour mission has attracted extra attention because of the presence on board of Ms Morgan, 55, a former elementary schoolteacher from Idaho, who was Christa McAuliffe's backup for the inaugural teacher-in-space flight aboard the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986.


McAuliffe never made it to space. She was killed along with her six crewmates when the shuttle exploded just over a minute after lift off.


Ms Morgan and the rest of the crew spent most of yesterday using Endeavour's robot arm and an extension boom to search the shuttle's wings and nose cap for damage. Working from the cockpit, they slowly swept the laser- and camera-tipped boom while engineers on the ground looked for cracks or holes.


The meticulous survey has been standard procedure ever since the Columbia disaster. The 50 ft boom, attached to the shuttle's 50 ft robot arm, was created expressly for the job.


"Hey, it's great being up here," Ms Morgan said last night, in her first televised update from space. "We've been working really hard, but it's a really good, fun kind of work."


After Mr Kelly completes Endeavour's backflip, the shuttle will come alongside and connect with the space station, while both vessels travel at 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour.


Endeavour's crew will then unload its major cargo - a two ton truss that will become part of the space station's backbone.


Nasa hopes to keep Endeavour in orbit for a full two weeks. The shuttle is equipped with a new system for drawing power from the space station. If it works, mission managers plan to extend the flight from 11 days to 14 days.


Ms Morgan was invited into the astronaut corps by Nasa in 1998. Now, finally in orbit, she plans to answer questions next week from schoolchildren and is flying 10 million basil seeds for eventual distribution to students and teachers.






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What's New in Prostate Cancer Research and Treatment?


Ultrasound may help immune system detect cancer


High-intensity ultrasound beams aimed at tumours can cause them to 'leak', alerting the immune system to their presence, according to new research.


A study on mice, led by researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering, found that 'high-intensity focused' ultrasound (HIFU) can be used to physically shake tumour cells, causing the cell membranes to rupture and release their contents.


Once outside the cancer cell, the contents can be detected by the body's immune system, which can then produce anti-tumour white blood cells.


Although the technique has only been tested on mice so far, the researchers hope that it may provide a non-surgical treatment for humans that would induce the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells that have spread through the bloodstream into other parts of the body.


Pei Zhong, associate professor in the university's mechanical engineering and materials science department, commented: "In most cancers, what actually ends up killing the patient is the spread of the cancer from its original site to other parts of the body.


"If the patient has a tumour in the kidney or liver, several treatment options - including surgery, radiation or HIFU - can be used to get rid of the cancerous tissues. However, if the cancer cells spread to other vital organs such as the lung or brain, the outcomes are often much worse."


Dr Zhong revealed that HIFU is currently being tested in China, Europe and the US, where it is being used to kill tumours by heating them.


He explained that this method currently only enables doctors to treat the primary tumour, but said that using mechanical vibration to shake and break apart tumour cells "may have an even more significant impact in suppressing cancer metastasis by waking up the immune system".


"Our results show that while mechanical HIFU is not as effective as thermal HIFU in killing tumour cells directly, it has the potential to induce a stronger anti-tumour immune response," Dr Zhong said.


"These preliminary findings open up the possibility that we could use heat from HIFU to treat the primary tumour and HIFU-boosted immunotherapy for combating any residual and metastatic tumour cells."


The study is published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.



Research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of prostate is under way in many medical centers throughout the world.
Genetics


New research on genes linked to prostate cancer is helping scientists better understand how prostate cancer develops. These studies are expected to provide answers about the genetic changes that lead to prostate cancer. This could make it possible to design medicines to reverse those changes. Tests to find abnormal prostate cancer genes could also help identify men at high risk who would benefit from more intensive screening or from chemoprevention trials, which use drugs to try to keep them from getting cancer.


Most of the genes that have been studied so far are from chromosomes that are inherited from both parents. One recent study found that a certain variant of mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from a person's mother, might double or even triple a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.


An exciting new development in genetics research is the use of DNA microarray technology which allows scientists to study thousands of genes at the same time. Using this method, researchers have identified several genes now thought to play a role in prostate cancer. This may eventually provide more sensitive screening tests for prostate cancer than the PSA blood test currently in use.


One of the biggest problems now facing men with prostate cancer and their doctors is figuring out which cancers are likely to stay within the gland and which are more likely to grow and spread (and definitely need treatment). New discoveries may help with this some time in the near future. For example, the product of one gene identified by DNA microarray, known as EZH2, seems to appear more often in advanced prostate cancers than in those at an early stage. Researchers are now trying to decide whether the presence of this gene product, or others, indicates that a cancer is more aggressive. This could eventually help tell which men need treatment and which might be better served by watchful waiting.


Prevention


Researchers continue to look for foods that increase or decrease prostate cancer risk. Scientists have found some substances in tomatoes (lycopenes) and soybeans (isoflavones) that may help prevent prostate cancer. Studies are now looking at the possible effects of these compounds more closely. Scientists are also trying to develop related compounds that are even more potent and might be used as dietary supplements. So far, most research suggests that a balanced diet including these foods as well as other fruits and vegetables is of greater benefit than taking these substances as dietary supplements.


Some studies suggest that certain vitamin and mineral supplements (such as vitamin E and selenium) may lower prostate cancer risk. A large study of this issue, called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), is still in progress. Another vitamin that may be important is vitamin D. Recent studies have found that men with high levels of vitamin D seem to have a lower risk of developing the more lethal forms of prostate cancer.


Although many people assume that vitamins are natural substances that cause no harm, recent research has shown that high doses may be harmful. One study found that men who take more than 7 multivitamin tablets per week may have an increased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.


Scientists are also testing certain hormonal medicines as a way of reducing prostate cancer risk. Finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart) are drugs that lower the body's levels of a potent androgen called DHT. Both drugs are already used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The results of one such study, the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial are discussed above in the section, "Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?" This study looked at the possible benefits of finasteride, although the results were not clear-cut. Another study is looking at whether dutasteride might be helpful in reducing the risk of getting prostate cancer.


Early Detection


Doctors agree that the PSA blood test is not a perfect test for finding prostate cancer early. It misses some cancers, and in other cases it is elevated when cancer isn't present. Researchers are working on two strategies to address this problem.


One approach is to try to improve on the test that measures the total PSA level, as described in the section, "Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early?" The percent-free PSA is one way to do this, although it requires two separate tests. Another option might be to measure only the "complexed" PSA (the portion of PSA that is not "free") to begin with, instead of the total and free PSA. This one test could give the same amount of information as the other two done separately. Studies are now under way to see if this test provides the same level of accuracy.


The other approach is to develop new tests based on other tumor markers. Several newer blood tests seem to be more accurate than the PSA test, based on early studies. One example is a blood test for a marker called EPCA-2. Another approach is to look for signs of the body's own immune reaction to substances made by prostate cancer cells. While early results have been promising, these and other new tests are not yet available outside of research labs and will require more study before they are widely used to test for prostate cancer.


Diagnosis


Doctors performing prostate biopsies often rely on transrectal ultrasound (TRUS), which creates black and white images of the prostate using sound waves, to know where to take samples from. But standard ultrasound may not detect some areas containing cancer. A fairly new technique, known as color Doppler ultrasound, measures blood flow within the gland. (Tumors often have more blood vessels around them than normal tissue.) It may make prostate biopsies more accurate by helping to ensure the right part of the gland is sampled. An even newer technique may enhance color Doppler further. It involves first injecting the patient with a contrast agent containing microbubbles. Promising results have been reported, but more studies will be needed before its use becomes common.


Staging


Staging plays a key role in deciding which treatment options a man may be eligible for. But imaging tests for prostate cancer such as CT and MRI scans can't detect all cancers, especially small areas of cancer in lymph nodes. A newer method, called enhanced MRI, may help find lymph nodes that contain cancer. Patients first have a standard MRI. They are then injected with tiny magnetic particles and have another scan done the next day. Differences between the 2 scans point to possible cancer cells in the lymph nodes. Early results of this technique are promising, but it needs more research before it becomes widely used.


Treatment


This is a very active area of research. Newer treatments are being developed, and improvements are being made among many standard prostate cancer treatment methods.


Surgery


If the nerves that control erections (which run along either side of the prostate) must be removed during the operation, a man will become impotent. Some doctors are now exploring the use of sural nerve grafts to try to restore potency if the original nerves must be removed. This approach, done at the same time as the radical prostatectomy, involves replacing the original nerves with small nerves taken from the side of the foot. This is still considered an experimental technique, and not all doctors agree as to its usefulness. Further study is under way.


Radiation Therapy


As described in the section, "How Is Prostate Cancer Treated?" advances in technology are making it possible to aim radiation more precisely than in the past. Currently used methods such as conformal radiation therapy (CRT) and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allow doctors to treat only the prostate gland and avoid radiation to normal tissues as much as possible. This is expected to increase the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of radiation therapy. Studies are being done to find out which radiation techniques are best suited for specific groups of patients with prostate cancer.


Newer forms of radiation therapy that deliver radiation from several angles, such as the CyberKnife and helical tomotherapy, may provide even more precise delivery of radiation to the prostate while sparing normal tissues. These newer approaches have only been available for a short time, so there is limited data on them.


Technology is making other forms of radiation therapy more effective as well. New computer programs allow doctors to better plan the radiation doses and approaches for both external radiation therapy and brachytherapy. Planning for brachytherapy can now even be done during the procedure (intraoperatively).


Newer Treatments for Localized Disease


Researchers are looking at newer forms of treatment for early stage prostate cancer. These new treatments could be used either as the first type of treatment or be used after radiation therapy in cases where it was not successful.


One promising treatment, known as high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), destroys cancer cells by heating them with highly focused ultrasonic beams. While it has been used more in Europe, it is not commonly employed in the United States at this time. Studies are now under way to determine its safety and effectiveness.


Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes


A recent study found that in men with a rising PSA after surgery or radiation therapy, drinking pomegranate juice seemed to slow the time it took the PSA level to double. Larger studies are now under way to try to confirm these results.


Some encouraging early results have also been reported with flaxseed supplements. One small study in men with early prostate cancer found that daily flaxseed seemed to slow the rate at which prostate cancer cells multiplied. More research is needed to confirm this finding.


A recent report found that men who chose not to have treatment for their localized prostate cancer may be able to slow its growth with intensive lifestyle changes. The men ate a vegan (no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products) diet and exercised frequently. They also took part in support groups and yoga. After one year the men saw, on average, a slight drop in their PSA level. It isn't known whether this effect will last since the report only followed the men for 1 year. The regimen may also be hard to follow for some men.


Chemotherapy


Studies in recent years have shown that many chemotherapy drugs can affect prostate cancer. At least one drug (docetaxel) has been shown to help men live longer. Several new chemotherapy drugs and combinations of drugs are now being studied.


One newer drug is satraplatin, which is in late-stage clinical trials as a second-line chemotherapy option for men with advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer. Satraplatin is taken as a pill. It is now being looked at by the FDA for possible approval.


Calcitriol, a form of vitamin D, has recently shown promising results when combined with docetaxel (Taxotere). Men who received the combination seemed to do better than men in other studies who received only docetaxel. A large clinical trial is now comparing a high-dose form of calcitriol (DN-101) and docetaxel to docetaxel alone.


Prostate Cancer Vaccines


Several types of vaccines for boosting the body's immune response to prostate cancer cells are being tested in clinical trials. Unlike vaccines against infections like measles or mumps, these vaccines are designed to help treat, not prevent, prostate cancer. One possible advantage of these types of treatments is that they seem to have very limited side effects. At this time, vaccines are only available in clinical trials.


The furthest along in terms of development is sipuleucel-T (Provenge). For this vaccine, dendritic cells (cells of the immune system) are removed from the patient's blood and exposed to a part of prostate cancer cells called prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP). These cells are then put back into the body where they induce other immune system cells to attack the patient's prostate cancer. A small study found that the vaccine seemed to increase survival in men with advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer, and further studies are under way. Provenge is now being looked at by the FDA for possible approval.


A vaccine known as GVAX has also shown promise against advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer in early studies. This vaccine is made up of prostate cancer cells that have been genetically modified to make GM-CSF, a substance that boosts the immune response against them. GVAX is now in late-stage clinical trials.


Another prostate cancer vaccine (PROSTVAC-VF) uses a virus that has been genetically modified to contain prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The patient's immune system should respond to the virus and begin to recognize and destroy cancer cells containing PSA. This vaccine is still in early-stage clinical trials.


Several other prostate cancer vaccines are also in development.


Monoclonal Antibodies


Monoclonal antibodies are manmade versions of immune system proteins designed to target specific molecules in prostate cancer cells. Several different ones are being developed and tested.


For example, pertuzumab is a monoclonal antibody directed against the HER2 protein, which is sometimes found in excess amounts on the surface of cancer cells. Studies of men with advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer have not found that pertuzumab shrinks tumors or lowers PSA levels, although one study found it may have helped men live longer than would be expected.


Angiogenesis Inhibitors


Growth of prostate cancer tumors depends on growth of blood vessels (angiogenesis) to nourish the cancer cells. Looking at angiogenesis in prostate cancer specimens may help predict treatment outcomes. Cancers that stimulate many new vessels to grow are harder to treat and have a poorer outlook.


New drugs are being studied that may be useful in stopping prostate cancer growth by keeping new blood vessels from forming. Several anti-angiogenic drugs are already being tested in clinical trials. One of these is thalidomide, which has been approved by the FDA to treat patients with multiple myeloma. It is being combined with chemotherapy in clinical trials to treat men with advanced prostate cancer. While promising, this drug can cause major side effects, including constipation, drowsiness, and nerve damage.


Another drug, bevacizumab (Avastin), is FDA-approved to treat patients with other cancers. It is now being tested in combination with hormone therapy and chemotherapy in men with advanced prostate cancer.


Treatment of Bone Pain


Doctors are now studying the use of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to help control pain in men whose prostate cancer has spread to one or more areas in the bones. During RFA, the doctor uses computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound to guide a small metal probe into the area of the tumor. A high frequency current passed through the probe heats and destroys the tumor. While RFA has been used for many years to treat tumors in other organs such as the liver, its use in treating bone pain is still fairly new.







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