Dioxin Developments

February 17, 2016 | Commercial Litigation | Complex Torts & Product Liability

Health Department’s Study of Potential Cancer Cluster in Upstate New York Nears Completion

A study by the New York State Department of Health to determine whether or not there is a “cancer cluster” in the Kuyahoora Valley in upstate New York is expected to be finished by the middle of this year.

Background

New York State Assemblyman Marc Butler (R-Newport) recently received a letter from Amy Nickson, assistant commissioner of the New York State Office of Governmental and External Affairs, in which Nickson stated that, “we have been working on the cancer study over the past year and the study is nearing completion.”

According to news reports, the state has identified cases of cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma, over approximately the past 15 years and has said that it will determine whether there has been “an unusual occurrence of lymphomas among children and teenagers in the West Canada Valley School District and neighboring areas between 2011 and 2013.”

In a related development, community activists are advocating to have a nearby landfill tested for dioxin and uranium.

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Researchers Say that New “Dioxin-Like” Chemical Could Help Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

Oregon State University researchers have reported that they have discovered a chemical, which functions the same way as Dioxin, that blocks Type 1 diabetes in laboratory mice and, they said, might work the same way in humans.

BBQ

According to the study, the chemical, nicknamed BBQ, works at the genetic level to prevent a rogue immune response from destroying insulin-producing cells in diabetic mice. The researchers said that if the chemical works the same way in humans, it could yield a breakthrough therapy for Type 1 diabetes and possibly have applications in other autoimmune diseases as well, including colitis, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.

“This compound has a very targeted effect, and it’s safe at therapeutic doses in mice,” Nancy Kerkvliet, a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and lead researcher on the study, just published in the Journal of Immunology, said in a statement. She added that, “[i]f it works in human clinical studies, we envision a therapy that could be started early to block the onset of Type 1 diabetes, and maybe even cure it in the long run.”

In the new research, Kerkvliet’s laboratory worked with mice bred to develop Type 1 diabetes, one group of which received BBQ three times a week. A control group of untreated mice developed diabetes, while the BBQ-treated mice were protected from disease.

Researchers said that BBQ works by binding to a protein within cells called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, or AhR, which then regulates genes that influence immune responses.

After the BBQ locks onto the AhR, it moves into the nucleus of T cells – white blood cells that coordinate the body’s immune response. There, AhR latches onto the DNA and changes the messaging of the genes, which prevents the T cell from attacking the pancreatic islets.

Allison Ehrlich, a postdoctoral fellow in the Kerkvliet Laboratory and co-researcher on the study, said that BBQ works without shutting down the rest of the immune system.

Earlier Studies

In earlier studies, Kerkvliet said, she discovered that the chemical TCDD (dioxin) similarly binds to AhR and prevents Type 1 diabetes in mice. The researchers screened tens of thousands of chemicals for one that “would function in the same way” and found BBQ, said co-researcher Siva Kolluri.

Kerkvliet said BBQ also has potential for treating other autoimmune diseases such as colitis, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis and that it holds promise for alleviating graft-versus-host disease by suppressing the immune response in, for example, organ-transplant surgery.

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