Dr Miller and colleagues from cancer centers of North Carolina studied the genetic signatures of 674 breast cancer patients to predict how regulation of iron by an individual is linked to recovery. They published their work in the November issue of the journal Cancer Research in 2011.
Genes involved: There are 61 genes involved in regulation of iron and of them 49% appeared to be significantly associated with metastasis -free survival. This has a potential to affect therapeutic decision making.
Regulators of iron efflux: Dr. Nemeth and colleagues from California and Boston hospitals reported in an article in the journal Science in 2004 on how the liver regulates cellular iron levels. Hepcidin is a hormone secreted by the liver in response to iron loading and inflammation. Decreased hepcidin leads to tissue iron overload whereas increased hepcidin leads to hypoferremia and the anaemia of inflammation. (cancer research 71:6728)
The hormone hepcidin binds to a protein ferroportin on the surface of cells. This signals the cells to internalize the protein ferroportin and degrade it. This leads to decreased export of cellular iron. This is a loop. Iron regulates the secretion of hepcidin from the liver, which regulates internalization of the protein ferroportin on cell surfaces, which controls iron export from cells. Less export leads to overload of iron in cells.
Iron overload disorders: It is important to have a balanced amount of iron in the cells. Too much or too little iron is bad. The amount of iron differs during different stages in one’s life with a menstruating woman needing far more iron than a post menopausal woman. An excellent 2011 review in the journal, Internal Journal of Hematology by Dr Kaplan and colleagues at Utah school of Medicine summarizes the current knowledge on levels of iron in cells, disorders and anaemia.
Special Diet for iron overload: Read the Hemochromatosis cookbook and this excellent blog from the Iron Disorders Institute:: Iron overload. Find a doctor immediately who will listen to you and is knowledgeable about this topic. Usually a gastroenterologist or hematologist. Blood donation is often the suggested therapy for iron overload and appears to help.
Scientist to encourage in this field: If research in this field is important to you then do write to the researchers involved in such research and encourage them. The value of Dr Miller’s work can be emphasized by emailing her colleague Dr Torti E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Kaplan to encourage and for questions on iron overload Email: email@example.com
Scientists work alone, often long hours in isolated settings. Letting them know that you consider their work important inspires them and spurs them to undertake often risky research. Help them find funding. Shower them with accolades.
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