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Hypoxia and the Hallmarks of Cancer

Therapeutic Targeting of Hypoxia and HIFs in Cancer. Dr Burga Kalz Fuller from US distributor HypOxygen has summarised this study that outlines the Hallmarks of Cancer.

“Tumour hypoxia and HIFs affect most of the cancer hallmarks… and contribute to chemo- and radiotherapy resistance.” In their review from 2016, Wigerup, Pahlman and Bexell of Lund University in Sweden discuss how hypoxia inducible factors HIFs regulate the hypoxic microenvironment in cancer, and the therapeutic strategies that are being developed to improve patients’ prognosis. Dr. Sven Pahlman’s lab has been using the H35 Hypoxystation for more than 5 years, to research SCLC and neuroblastoma, and their data is contributing to the understanding of the role of oxygen levels in the progression of cancer.

Hypoxia and HIF-1α and 2α expression in cancer usually signify a worse prognosis, but most hypoxia-induced transcriptional, translational, and epigenetic changes are cell-type specific. Many effects engendered by hypoxia are mediated directly or indirectly via HIF pathways, and most are causative of the iconic “Hallmarks of Cancer” that Hanahan and Weinberg introduced in 2000 and expanded in 2011. Hypoxia induces increased autophagy, apoptosis, and aberrant cell proliferation; neoangiogenesis mediated by VEGF and PDGF-β; proliferation of cancer stem cells; metabolic reprogramming to satisfy energy and synthetic requirements in proliferating cells; modulation of inflammation and immune responses; genomic instability through increased mutagenesis and diminished DNA repair; and metastasis as hypoxia induces epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and degradation of the extracellular matrix. Assaying the relationship between hypoxia and the Hallmarks of Cancer benefits significantly from the physiological atmosphere mimicked in the Hypoxystation, a closed-culture hypoxia workstation controlling gasses, temperature and humidity.

Visit Don Whitley Scientific and HypOxygen at

Keystone Adaptations to Hypoxia and Tumour Metabolism

Location: Whistler, BC  Date: 5th – 9th March

Sven Pahlman

In their review, Wigerup and Pahlman describe the role tumour hypoxia plays for cancer therapy and treatment resistance, as oxygen levels, production of reactive oxygen species ROS, and HIF activity are intertwined actors in the cancer battle. Any and all effects of hypoxia are cell-type specific; however, numerous studies indicate that HIF’s mediate chemoresistance, suggesting that HIF-1 and 2 inhibitors can effectively support cancer therapy. The authors state that “since hypoxia is a hallmark of solid tumours and mediates aggressive, metastatic, and resistant disease, it is arguably one of the most attractive therapeutic targets in cancer.” Strategies selectively targeting hypoxia for cancer therapy include hypoxia-activated prodrugs; inhibitors of HIF mRNA and protein expression; and inhibitors of downstream HIF signalling pathways such as VEGF. Effective drug research relies on authentic replication of the hypoxic environment for cell culture: the Hypoxystation used in the Pahlman lab is able to accommodate long-term assays with sterile steam humidification and HEPA clean air. The Hypoxystation concept “Choose your Atmosphere – Define your Environment” is the best way to ensure cell culture reflects physiology in cancer research and therapy.

Hypoxia is at the heart of the Hallmarks of Cancer, and results such as these from the Pahlman lab make the cancer research community hopeful that “HIF inhibition is likely to be a powerful therapeutic approach” to eradicate cancer.

Hallmarks of Cancer

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Export representatives from Don Whitley Scientific have been at MEDLAB 2017, an international conference in Dubai that is one of the biggest exhibitions for the Middle East healthcare industry. Formerly the event was a joint venture with Arab Health, but MEDLAB is now its own independent event. Don Whitley Scientific had exhibition stand at the event which displayed a Whitley A35 Anaerobic Workstation and the Whitley Jar Gassing System.

MEDLAB houses 700 exhibitors from 38 countries, giving delegates access to cutting edge products and services from all continents. As well as this huge exhibition, the event also features an extensive lecture programme including topics such as Haematology, Clinical Microbiology and Immunology. The event was held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. As well as offering delegates access to new and developing products from a diverse range of companies, the event was also an opportunity for those wanting to make business connections and expand their distributor network.


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Joe and Alun at the Don Whitley Scientific exhibition stand

Visitors to the Don Whitley Scientific got up close with two key DWS products. Firstly, the Whitley Jar Gassing System in which users can create perfect conditions for growing anaerobes in jars in just 2 minutes, a popular product which has been manufactured and sold by Don Whitley Scientific for decades. The Whitley A35 Anaerobic Workstation shares a similar concept to the WJGS in creating a reliable, anaerobic environment. The A35 provides the ability to manipulate samples in a sustainable environment where parameters can be altered to create the required conditions, unique features such as the Instant Access Porthole system make working in the chamber simple and straight forward.

MEDLAB is always a popular event and one that Don Whitley Scientific’s export team ensure to attend every year to promote the best Anaerobic Workstations on the market.

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Don Whitley Visits The Francis Crick Institute

Dr Don Whitley, chairman and founder of DWS, recently visited The Francis Crick Institute in London to see the recently installed Whitley H45 Hypoxystation at the site. 

The Crick has moved into a brand new state-of-the-art building in the centre of London. Situated next to Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, The Crick brings together 1500 scientists and staff working collaboratively in the biggest biomedical research facility under one roof in Europe. The work at The Crick covers many disciplines and applications in biomedical research, all with the aim of improving understanding of human health and disease.


Don Whitley established Don Whitley Scientific in 1976 and today Don Whitley Scientific Limited is a leading international supplier of innovative equipment and services to the microbiology and tissue culture industries. Recently DWS installed a H45 Hypoxystation into the institute, and Don Whitley went to visit the new customer with a member of the sales team.

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Don Whitley (far right) with one of the groups that will be using the Whitley H45 Hypoxystation

The Whitley H45 Hypoxystation has sufficient space to accommodate a variety of equipment whilst still providing generous working and incubation areas. Whitley Hypoxystations can be equipped with a range of unique options and features, including CO2 monitoring and automatic dehumidification fitted as standard, features that will make working with the H45 easy and efficient for the team at The Crick.

With his name featured on products in hundreds of clinical and research laboratories worldwide, it can be said that the staff at The Crick were excited to meet Don Whitley himself. The excitement was shared by Don, who enjoyed looking around one of the most exciting centres for biomedical research in the UK and taking a few pictures along the way.



Don takes a photo looking out over the atrium of The Francis Crick Institute


Dr John Heap, Imperial College London

Realising the potential for synthetic biology

At Don Whitley Scientific we love to hear about the different applications and scientific disciplines in which our workstations are used. We recently came across a video of a presentation at the World Economic Forum in 2015. The clip is entitled: “Hacking exotic organisms and putting them to work“. Dr John Heap, who is an academic scientist and research group leader at Imperial College London, talks about harnessing diverse organisms including anaerobic bacteria, and realising the potential of synthetic biology for a variety of applications.

You will also see a very quick shot of Dr Heap using his Whitley Workstation!

For more information about Dr Heap and his work, here’s a link to the Heap Lab website.



Paper Highlights How Cells Respond to Stress Conditions

Dr Burga Kalz Fuller, Product Manager at HypOxygen (Don Whitley Scientific’s Hypoxystation provider in the USA/Canada) summarises a study entitled “Adaptation to Stressors by Systemic Protein Amyloidogenesis”. The paper, by Whitley Hypoxystation users Tim Audas and Stephen Lee, details how certain cells activate a process of systemic amyloidogenesis, which allows them to survive during difficult conditions.

Cells facing environmental threats have developed numerous coping mechanisms, and Hypoxystation users Tim Audas and Stephen Lee have uncovered a fascinating new cellular strategy to remain viable under stress and restore homeostasis when the crisis ends. In their recent paper “Adaptation to Stressors by Systemic Protein Amyloidogenesis“, they describe a physiological process of amyloidogenesis which cells activate under stress conditions, such as hypoxia and acidosis, to remove copious amounts of heterogeneous proteins from circulation, enabling cells to survive in a dormant state. This discovery expands our current view of amyloids as a rare and pathological phenomenon associated with neuropathies such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and exposes a novel post-translational, regulatory form of protein organization.

Using a combination of Congo red staining, proteinase K digestion, and OC antibody detection on cells exposed to a variety of stimuli in the Hypoxystation, Audas et al. were able to identify nuclear foci consisting of immobilized, insoluble protein in a crossed β-sheet conformation which they named A-Bodies. In amyloidogenic proteins such as VHL and RNF8, an ACM (amyloid-converting motif) containing arginine and histidine was identified as essential for capture specifically in the A-bodies; a similar motif was also identified in the pathological β-amyloid associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Upon environmental insult, the ACM interacts with ribosomal intergenic spacer RNA (rIGSRNA) to concentrate the proteins and trigger their polymerization in the A-bodies allowing the cells to enter a dormant state.

Audas et al. exerted this type of severe stress on the cells through incubation at pH 6.0 and 1% oxygen in the H35 Hypoxystation by Don Whitley Scientific. The Hypoxystation’s closed workstation format and rigorous control of oxygen, CO2, temperature and humidity facilitate accurate regulation of cell culture conditions as the in vivo situation of adverse environmental stimuli is simulated. Upon reversion to standard growth conditions (21% oxygen and pH 7.4), the A-bodies dissipated within 4 hours and protein was refolded into the native conformation. The hypoxic and acidotic conditions simulated in the Hypoxystation are also characteristic of the tumor microenvironment, where mouse xenograft assays identified the same process of rIGSRNA-mediated A-body formation causing cancer cell dormancy.

Read more on this paper by HypOxygen

Read the full paper here

WASP Touch

WASP Touch Training for Spanish Distributors

As part of the continued roll out of the Whitley WASP Touch to our distributors around the world, Steve Robertson and Joe Walton recently visited Spain. Here they carried out Whitley WASP Touch training with our distributor there. This included a short refresher course on spiral plating techniques and bespoke WASP Touch demonstrations. The training was followed by a series of customer visits.


Feedback on the Whitley WASP Touch continues to be positive. In particular, the intuitive touch screen and automatic filling of the wash station are seen to be big positives in customers’ eyes. This, coupled with the reputation for quality of the WASP 2 (predecessor to the Whitley WASP Touch), continues to position the new spiral plater as a top quality laboratory device.


The Whitley WASP Touch is designed to fit the needs of modern microbiology laboratories. It is fundamentally different from its predecessors, with no need for a separate vacuum source. An easy to use touch screen and automatic sanitising system (patent pending) ensures that set up and operation is simple and straight forward.

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The Hallmarks of Cancer

The Hallmarks of Cancer are a specific set of characteristics that are inherent to cancer. The Hallmarks were published by Hanahan and Weinberg in 2000 (updated in 2011) and have become extremely recognisable in the cancer research community both as a scientific concept and as a strong, visual image.

The Hallmarks of Cancer have been an area of study for several years and a key focus of research into causes and progression of cancer. One such study by a lab in Sweden using the H35 Hypoxystation, entitled “Therapeutic targeting of hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factors in cancer” by Wigerup, Pahlman and Bexell links cancer characteristics with hypoxia as an underlying cause.  This review of hypoxia-driven cancer characteristics and tumour progression makes a crucial connection between hypoxia and the “Hallmarks of Cancer”, a set of specific characteristics that are inherent to cancer. There are many more publications showing that hypoxia is intimately involved in every aspect of the disease complex cancer.

The image below summarises the 9 Hallmarks of Cancer. The Hypoxystation in the middle of the graphic symbolises how the low oxygen environment re-creates the atmosphere where cancer cells are required to act in a physiological manner. The dial around the Hypoxystation indicates the different levels of oxygen required for specific types of cancer work. Ultimately, the graphic shows how the Hypoxystation facilitates a level of oxygen that cannot be achieved reliably in an incubator, and which is necessary to effectively research cancer therapies.


Graphic provided by HypOxygen





New Video Testimonial – Optimal conditions for Clostridium difficile

Dr Jane Freeman, from Leeds General Infirmary and The University of Leeds, spoke to Don Whitley Scientific about her work with the Whitley A95 Anaerobic Workstation. 

Dr Freeman is part of the Healthcare Associated Infections Research Team that works at Leeds General Infirmary. Jane’s work involves investigating Clostridium difficile, a bacteria that can infect the bowel, causing diarrhoea and sometimes even more serious bowel conditions. Jane uses a Whitley A95 Anaerobic Workstation in her work and  she also uses an in vitro gut model (as shown in the video) to mimic the effects of C difficle.

The Whitley A95 Anaerobic Workstation offers a spacious work area with four portholes and a large capacity airlock. Dr Freeman states this large working area enables her to use all the equipment she needs without taking her samples out of the anaerobic conditions. The team at Leeds General Infirmary have five Whitley Workstations, as they provide a reliable anaerobic atmosphere in which to incubate and manipulate samples.

This video highlights how the Whitley A95 Anaerobic Workstation provides reliability, versatility and space for this important work with Clostridium difficile.

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Christmas Giveaway from Select Science

Thanks to Select Science, you could win amazon vouchers this Christmas!

By reviewing a Don Whitley Scientific product on Select Science (before December 22nd) you are entering a prize draw in which you can win amazon vouchers. Each day, Select Science will pick one review at random to win an amazon voucher, and they will be adding a few festive surprises along the way.

Click here to leave a review for Don Whitley Scientific  and enter the daily prize draw for amazon vouchers!


Hallmarks of Cancer event in Belgium

Over the last few days Don Whitley Scientific has been exhibiting at the Cell Symposia Hallmarks of Cancer event in Ghent, Belgium. This was an event that gathered global leaders in cancer research to enhance understanding of the key aspects of cancer.  

Delegates at the event were able to visit the Don Whitley Scientific exhibition stand to find out more about how hypoxic workstations are relevant for cancer research applications. Visitors to the stand could interact with a Whitley i2 Instrument Workstation , a workstation with a large capacity developed in response to a rising number of enquiries from scientists who wanted to use Seahorse Extracellular Flux (XF) Analyzers in hypoxic conditions.


There is a wealth of data showing that hypoxia in tumours is driving the progression of cancer and that important characteristics of cancer are influenced, or even caused, by a pathological lack of oxygen.



Don Whitley Scientific at Cell Symposia Hallmarks of Cancer, Ghent, 2018

Take a closer look at Don Whitley Scientific’s range of Hypoxystations