View the LLNL home Back to the S&TR home Subscribe to Our magazine Send us your comments Browse through our index

Lab, UC Davis team for cancer research

The Laboratory and the University of California at Davis Cancer Center have announced a major collaboration to fight cancer. The institutions have created an integrated cancer research program to accelerate discoveries that help prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, the nation's second leading killer. The affiliation brings together the research and development strengths of Lawrence Livermore scientists and engineers, particularly in biomedical technology and genomics, with the basic science capabilities of patient-centered clinical researchers at the UC Davis center.
At least a dozen projects are under investigation, including:
  • Studies of plant chemicals that may affect the development of cancer.
  • Studies using ultrasensitive accelerator mass spectroscopy to analyze how drugs are absorbed in the body.
  • Development of new light diffusion sensors that can detect cancer by measuring how light scatters when it is reflected inside tissue.
  • Development of an ultrashort-pulse laser to use the light scattered off tissue to create images showing melanomas and other cancers on the skin.
    Contact: James Felton (925) 422-5656 (

    Lab technology revises estimate of meteor's size

    Using an innovative three-dimensional imaging technique, a team of Laboratory researchers has revised the size estimate of Kleopatra, an unusually elongated metallic asteroid.
    In May 2000, researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, reported Kleopatra's length at about 217 kilometers. More recently, Livermore's Mark Hammergren and his colleagues used an image-layering technique called speckle interferometry (S&TR, April 2000, A Speckled Look at Saturn's Moon, Titan) to revise that estimate to about 250 kilometers. Using the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii equipped with a special high-speed infrared camera, they snapped about 100 images in a single night of the near-infrared light reflected from the asteroid to sample a set of 22 positions in Kleopatra's rotation. The high-speed imaging technique negates the Earth's rapidly changing atmospheric effects, which can distort distant objects in space.
    Kleopatra is unusual because of its shape. Most asteroids are spheres. Researchers hope that Kleopatra's odd shape, which is believed to result from the gentle collision of two asteroids, will offer insight into the composition of asteroids.
    Contact: Mark Hammergren (925) 423-5523 (

    Going fishing in the gene pool

    Researchers at the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, California, are leading an international effort to map the genetic code of the puffer fish. The JGI is a Department of Energy collaboration of Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos national laboratories.
    The puffer fish (known as Fugu in Japan, where it is a delicacy) is an ancient species with 400 million base pairs of DNA, compared to the 3 billion bases that make up human DNA.
    The puffer fish is being mapped because its genome is considered simpler and more pure than the human genome, which is muddled by genetic "noise" resulting from millions of years of evolution. Scientists reason that they can learn much about the fundamental structure of the cluttered human genome from the puffer genome. This knowledge will help fill in the details of the completed draft of the entire human genome.
    The same principle that drives the puffer fish research is also leading genetic researchers to investigate the genome of other simpler organisms such as the mouse, fruit fly, yeast, and nematode.
    Contact: Elbert Branscomb (925) 296-5700 (

    Cancer research yields cooking tips

    Researchers at Lawrence Livermore's Biology and Biotechnology Research Program have found that cooking hamburgers at specific temperatures and to specific internal temperatures and flipping them frequently not only kills harmful bacteria but also reduces the formation of chemicals that may cause cancer.
    According to an article by these researchers in the November 2000 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, frying hamburger patties at a pan temperature of 160 degrees Celsius and turning the patties every minute speeds the cooking process and reduces the formation of harmful, potentially cancer-causing compounds.
    Before being cooked, the burgers were also inoculated with a strain of E. coli bacteria but were found to be essentially bacteria-free after being cooked to an internal temperature of 70 degrees Celsius, regardless of pan temperature and frequency of turning.
    The researchers conclude that their cooking method could ensure a microbiologically safe food product and might lower human cancer incidence due to dietary carcinogens. Their research is part of a larger investigation into the role of cooking in the formation of compounds that, when metabolized, may cause cancer (see S&TR, July 1995, Food Mutagens, and September 1995, pp. 6-23).
    Contact: Cynthia Salmon (925) 423-4700 (

    Back to the January/February 2001 issue // S&TR Homepage // S&TR Index // LLNL Homepage