Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 30.07.2015

Karla M. Gonye, MBA President, sphingotec LLC Cambridge, MassachusettsMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Karla M. Gonye, MBA President, sphingotec LLC Cambridge, Massachusetts MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Response:
  • Met- and Leu-Enkephalin: are endogenous pentapeptides of the family of opioid peptides known as opiod-growth factors (OGF)
  • Enkephalins have been widely studied and play a major role in a variety of physiological processes
    • Perception of pain
    • Regulation of stress
    • Regulation of cardiovascular function
    • Regulation of bone formation
    • Regulation of immune responses
  • Alcohol and pain relievers reduce synthesis of Enkephalins
  • Met-Enkephalin (opioid growth factor) inhibits tumor progression and metastasis and enhances natural killer cell activity1,2
  • Mechanisms3-7:
    • Opioids can directly interact with tumor cells to cause a cytotoxic or antiproliferative effect
    • Opioids can modulate host antitumor immune mechanisms
  • Opiods can also induce apoptosis
  • We need enkephalins to help inhibit tumor progression
  • At sphingotec, it was hypothesized that disease progression begins earlier than symptoms are present and that reduced enkephalins in the blood would be an indicator of future breast cancer; measurement of this hormone peptide was possible with the company’s expertise, and that test could be developed to precisely measure enkephalin.
  • This method is published in a separate publication by Ernst et al (2006) in Peptides.
  • To test this hypothesis, Sphingotec measured enkephalin levels in the MDC and MPP study populations to determine if an association could be made between lower enkephalins and risk of breast cancer: We related proenkephalin (P-ENK) in fasting plasma from 1929 healthy women (mean age 58±5.9 years) of the population based Malmö Diet and Cancer Study (MDCS) to incidence of breast cancer (n=123) using multivariate Cox proportional hazards models during 14.8 years of follow-up. For replication, P-ENK was related to risk of breast cancer (n=130) in an older independent sample from the Malmö Preventive Project (MPP) consisting of 1569 women (mean age 70.0±4.4 years), using multivariate logistic regression.
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Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 29.07.2015

Karla M. Gonye, MBA President, sphingotec LLC Cambridge, MassachusettsMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Karla M. Gonye, MBA President, Sphingotec LLC Cambridge, Massachusetts MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Response:
  • In experimental studies, Neurotensin and neurotensin expression was highly associated to breast cancer tissue
    • Dupouy et al (2009) investigated the expression of NTS and NTSR1 in normal human breast tissue and in invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs) and found that NTS is expressed in ductal and invasive components of IDCs. The high expression of NTSR1 is associated with the SBR grade 3 (p<0.05), larger tumor size (p<0.01), and the number of metastatic lymph nodes (p<0.05).
    • It was concluded from this paper that NTS/NTSR1 is a contributor to breast cancer progression.
    • Souaze et al (2006)also studied IDCs and found 34% of all tumors were positive for neurotensin and 91% positive for the NT1 receptor, suggesting the contribution of neurotensin’s involvement in the signaling cascade within breast cancer progression.  In this study, it was found that disruption of neurotensin receptor signaling by silencing RNA or using a specific NT1 antagonist in nude mice xenografted with an aggressive cell line SR48692, caused the reversion of transforming functions that lead to tumor growth.
    • These findings support the contribution of neurotensin to breast cancer progression.
    • Wu, Z. et al (2013) reviewed the contribution of the neurotensinergic system to cancer progression, as well as the regulation and mechanisms of the system in order to highlight its potential as a therapeutic target, and its prospect for its use as a treatment in certain cancers.
    • This summarizes nicely the oncogenic effects of neurotensin after stimulation signaling proliferation, survival, migration, invasion and neoangeogeneis.
    • Several other papers published demonstrate the effects of neurotensin in cancers including breast cancer.
    • New studies such as Roselli et al (2015) further demonstrate the role of neurotensin in aggressive breast cancer.
    • At sphingotec, it was hypothesized that disease progression begins earlier than symptoms are present and that elevated expression of neurotensin in the blood would be an indicator of future breast cancer; measurement of this hormone peptide was possible with the company’s expertise, and that test could be developed to precisely measure neurotensin.
    • This method is published in Ernst et al (2006) in Peptides.
    • To test the hypothesis, the first clinical study was conducted in a cohort of normal healthy population that was indentified from the Malmo Diet and Cancer study, a prospective epidemiological study of 28,449 men and women. Of this group, a subset of 4632 randomly selected subjects were identified and neurotensin was measured in all subjects. Subjects were adjusted for known breast cancer risk factors such as age, age of menarche, heredity of cancer (all), hormone status, etc. (see Table 3, Melander et al JAMA 2012) so that the factors did not influence outcomes. On a 10-15 follow up period, of these subjects, 123 breast cancer events were found to be associated with higher levels of neurotensin, with the highest quartile associated with the highest levels of neurotensin and the lowest quartile associated with the lowest levels of neurotensin. The association of elevated neurotensin was found to be statistically significant for prediction of breast cancer.
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Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Melanoma / 09.07.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Mario Mandalà, MD Department of Oncology and Haematology Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital Bergamo, Italy Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Mandalà: In addition to their established molecular mechanism of action, growing evidence suggests that the therapeutic efficacy of BRAFi relies on additional factors that affect the tumor–host interactions, including the enhancement of melanoma antigen expression and the increase in immune response against tumor cells.  Preclinical data show that oncogenic BRAF contributes to immune evasion, and that targeting this mutation may increase the melanoma immunogenicity. Data in vitro or from animal models propose PD-L1 as a potential mechanism that favors BRAFi resistance through the modulation of host immune responses. However, demonstration of this hypothesis in the clinical setting is lacking. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Mandalà: In the present study, we have evaluated, in a homogeneous series of MMP treated with BRAFi, the association of tumoral PD-L1 IHC expression and the density of TIMC with RR, PFS and OS. Results provide the first proof-of-principle clinical evidence of the predictive and prognostic relevance of PD-L1 IHC expression and density of immune cell infiltration in BRAFV600 mutated MMP receiving BRAFi. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Infections / 09.07.2015

Yingfu Li, PhDProfessor, Dept of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Dept of Chemistry and Chemical Biology McMaster University, Hamilton, CanadaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Yingfu Li, PhD Professor, Dept of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Dept of Chemistry and Chemical Biology McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Li: Simple, accurate and sensitive diagnostic tests are highly sought-after in modern medicine. Take bacterial infection as an example. Many microbial pathogens pose serious threats to public health and are responsible for many annual outbreaks that result in numerous human illnesses and deaths. Early and accurate detection of specific pathogens has long been recognized as a crucial strategy in the control of infectious diseases because such a measure can provide timely care of patients, prevent potential outbreaks, and minimize the impact of on-going epidemics. To detect the infection early, we need highly sensitive tests. We have developed a molecular device made of DNA that can be turned on by a molecule of choice, such as a biomarker for a disease. When it gets switched on, the system will undergo massive signal amplification allowing for extremely sensitive detection of the target molecule. The test has the best sensitivity ever reported for a detection system of this kind – it is as much as 10,000 times more sensitive than other detection systems. The scientific report can be found at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201503182/abstract (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Radiation Therapy / 06.07.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Ananya Choudhury Consultant and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Clinical Oncology The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Wilmslow Road Withington, Manchester, UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although more than half of newly diagnosed cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy, it is still not possible to select patients who will respond and tolerate radiotherapy compared to those who do not. There has been a lot of work done to try and isolate intrinsic biomarkers which will identify either radio-responsive or radio-resistant disease. We have undertaken a systematic view summarising the evidence for biomarkers as predictors of radiotherapy. Despite identifying more than 500 references during a systematic literature search, we found only twelve studies which fulfilled our inclusion criteria. Important exclusion criteria included pre-clinical studies, studies with no control population and a sample size of less than 100 patients. Only 10 biomarkers were identified as having been evaluated for their radiotherapy-specific predictive value in over 100 patients in a clinical setting, highlighting that despite a rich literature there were few high quality studies suitable for inclusion. The most extensively studied radiotherapy predictive biomarkers were the radiosensitivity index and MRE11; however, neither has been evaluated in a randomised controlled trial. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research / 02.07.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Chao Cheng, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Genetics Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth Hanover NH, 03755 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Cheng: Bladder cancer is a common tumor type, with non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) representing the majority of cases. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) treatment is an effective immunotherapy that is commonly used to treat cancers of this subtype. However, this treatment fails to suppress tumor recurrence in up to 40% of patients. For this reason, biomarkers that predict the recurrence/progression of bladder cancer and patient response to BCG therapy are needed to tailor treatment strategies to individual patients. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Cheng: We had previously developed an E2F4 signature that consisted of the E2F4 transcription factor and its target genes identified by ChIP-seq and ChIP-chip experiments. Here, we found that the E2F4 signature is predictive of the progression of both non-muscle-invasive and muscle-invasive bladder cancer. Furthermore, this signature is also predictive of patient responsiveness to intravesical BCG immunotherapy. Our results suggest that patients with positive E2F4 scores (indicating high E2F4 activity) benefit significantly from BCG therapy, while the progression of patients with negative E2F4 scores (indicating low E2F4 activity) does not show significant difference from untreated patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Chemotherapy, Nature, Pancreatic / 01.07.2015

Dr. Janaiah Kota Assistant Professor, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, IN,MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Janaiah Kota Assistant Professor, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, IN, Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Kota: Pancreatic cancer tumors are surrounded by a thick fibrotic shell known as “stroma” which protects the cancer cells from anticancer drugs such as chemotherapy. However, complete depletion of tumor stroma leads to more aggressive disease and decreases survival. The stromal abundance needs to be appropriately moderated (i.e. not too much nor too little) in pancreatic tumors. None of the current anti-stromal therapies have been effective enough to resolve this problem. Unless we understand the molecular signatures associated with tumor stroma, it will be challenging to develop an effective therapeutic strategy. There is a desperate need to develop new therapies for pancreatic cancer as only 7 percent of people with the disease survive more than 5 years after diagnosis. According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 48,960 new cases of pancreatic cancer and 40,560 deaths from the disease in 2015. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Kota: We found that the loss of microRNA-29 (miR-29) is a common phenomenon of pancreatic cancer stromal cells, and that by restoring it, the viability and growth of the cancerous cells and stromal accumulation was reduced. The use of miR-29 as a therapeutic agent may be more effective in targeting reactive stroma, as a single miRNA regulates the expression of several genes associated with disease mechanisms. We expect that this novel approach has the potential to overcome the problems associated with current anti-stromal drugs and could lead to improved therapeutic strategies, enhanced drug delivery to the tumor bed, and, in the future, improved patient survival. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research, Johns Hopkins / 26.06.2015

Nishant Agrawal M.D. Associate Professor of Otolaryngology Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nishant Agrawal M.D. Associate Professor of Otolaryngology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Agrawal: The idea of the study really arose from the specificity of genetic changes that characterize and are the hallmark of cancer cells.  Only cancer cells contain these mutations so their detection in bodily fluids was a reasonable expectation.  The current study builds on previous work from our group that tumor DNA can be detected in the bodily fluids of patients with many different types of solid malignancies.  The main findings of the study are that tumor DNA in saliva and plasma provides a non-invasive biomarker for head and neck cancer.  The take home message is that tumor DNA has potential to be used as a biomarker for screening, early detection, monitoring during treatment, and surveillance after cancer treatment is completed. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Melanoma / 25.06.2015

Mitchell S. Stark Senior Research Assistant/PhD Student Oncogenomics Group QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Herston, Brisbane, AustraliaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Mitchell S. Stark Senior Research Assistant/PhD Student Oncogenomics Group QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Herston, Brisbane, Australia Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Melanomas are among the most commonly occurring cancers with the number of new cases rising each year. Melanoma is currently is listed as the 4th and 6th most common cancer in Australia and the USA with >11,000 and >76,000 news diagnoses each year.  The overall 5-year survival for melanoma is 91%, which is largely due to curative surgery for early stage disease. However, cure rates are <15% if distant metastasis occurs (stage IV). We now have evidence that current therapeutic options for late stage disease are more effective if the disease is treated with a lower disease burden.  2010). Hence, melanoma must be treated in earlier stages to maximize the chances of patient survival. Therefore, the ability to identify signs of melanoma progression sooner would be a valuable clinical tool. The use of melanoma progression markers have been used for many years however it is clear from the survival rates that melanoma must be detected before disease progresses thus highlighting that the current methods of progression detection are inadequate. We have identified a seven-microRNA panel (MELmiR-7) that has the ability to detect the presence of melanoma with high sensitivity and specificity which is superior to currently used markers for melanoma progression, recurrence, and survival. This panel may enable more precise measurement of disease progression and may herald an increase in overall survival. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 21.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kristian Pietras, Ph.D. Göran & Birgitta Grosskopf Professor of Molecular Medicine Strategic Director of Cancer Research Lund University Dept of Laboratory Medicine Lund Div of Translational Cancer Research Lund, Sweden Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Pietras: Breast cancer is the largest malignant disease among women with 1.7 million new cases worldwide each year (25% of all new cancer cases for women). The prognosis for breast cancer patients is relatively good when the disease is detected at early stages (close to 90% of patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis). Nevertheless, metastatic disease is the cause of 90% of all cancer-related deaths. Thus, learning more about the metastatic process and finding new cures for widespread disease is justifiably at the center of clinical attention. The current study is part of our ongoing efforts to map support functions performed by the various cell types comprising the tumor stroma with the premise that decisive treatment benefit can only be achieved by targeting multiple, but distinct, cell types and pathways that collectively sustain the growth of tumors. The development of a rich vascular supply  is recognized as a key hallmark of a growing tumor necessary for the development into a clinically relevant disease. Our focus is the role of the tumor vasculature in preventing or promoting metastatic dissemination from the primary tumor. For a metastasis to form, a cancer cell must, 1) detach from its neighboring cells in the mother tumor, 2) traverse the vascular wall to escape into the blood stream, 3) exit the vasculature to enter the metastatic site, and 4) colonize the metastatic site. Recent evidence points to that the transmigration into and out of the vasculature is a regulated process of previously unrecognized importance for the metastatic process. Importantly, the fact that the process of escape into/from the vasculature is regulated also implies that it is possible to use drugs to block this process. In the present study, we have combined functional studies in advanced models of cancer and computational biology approaches to investigate the specific contribution to the metastatic process of a molecular signaling pathway emanating from the ALK1 protein expressed by endothelial cells in the vasculature. Using information from 2 different patient cohorts including a total of  nearly 2000 breast tumors, we found that patients specifically having high levels of ALK1 in the vasculature of their tumor were much more likely to develop metastatic/recurrent disease. Accordingly, therapeutic administration of a drug (dalantercept) blocking the action of ALK1 prevented metastatic dissemination in multiple mouse models of breast cancer to a large degree. In addition, combination therapy of dalantercept and a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug (docetaxel) was exceedingly effective in preventing spread of the primary tumor to the lungs. Our results suggest that the molecular features of the tumor vasculature are important to consider as potential determinants of breast cancer dissemination and that metastatic spread can be delayed by targeting the tumor vasculature. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research, Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, Nature / 18.06.2015

Eric Jonasch, MD Associate Professor Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston, TXMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Eric Jonasch, MD Associate Professor Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston, TX and Dr. Thai H. Ho, MD Ph.D. Department of Oncology Mayo Clinic Scottsdale ArizonaDr. Thai H. Ho, MD Ph.D. Department of Oncology Mayo Clinic Scottsdale Arizona Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The blueprints of a cell are encoded in DNA strands (its genome) which are highly compressed in order to fit into a tiny cell. The reading (called the epigenome) of these DNA ‘blueprints’ determines whether that cell will develop into a kidney cell or another type of cell. However, in cancer, errors occur either in the blueprints themselves or the cell makes mistakes in reading the blueprints. Cancers of the kidney affect more than 61,000 patients annually and over 13,000 patients die annually, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of cancer deaths. Studies have revealed that mutations occur in genes that regulate how our DNA ‘blueprints’ are compacted in greater than >50% of kidney cancers, making these genes as a group the most frequently mutated. In our study, we identified that these errors that initially arise in an early kidney cancer lead to propagation of these same errors in metastases, a phenomenon in which the cancer has spread to another organ and is a major cause of death. Furthermore, we generated a detailed map of these epigenomic changes in patient-derived tumors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Leukemia, NYU, Pediatrics / 15.06.2015

Susan Schwab, PhD Assistant professor at NYU Langone Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Susan Schwab, PhD Assistant professor at NYU Langone Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Schwab:  T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) remains a devastating pediatric disease.  Roughly 20% of children do not respond to current therapies.  Furthermore, metastasis to the central nervous system is common in T-ALL, and intrathecal chemotherapy, even when successful at eradicating the cancer, causes serious long-term cognitive side-effects. Here we report that the chemokine receptor CXCR4 is essential for T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia progression in both mouse and human xenograft models of disease.  Consistent with sustained disease remission in the absence of CXCR4, loss of CXCR4 signaling results in decreased levels of c-Myc, which is required for leukemia initiating cell activity.   T-ALL cells reside near cells generating the CXCR4 ligand CXCL12 in the bone marrow, and our data suggest that vascular endothelial cells may be an important part of the T-ALL niche. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Kidney Disease, University of Pittsburgh / 14.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Raghavan Murugan MD, MS, FRCP, FCCP Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science Core Faculty, Center for Critical Care Nephrology, CRISMA Center, Raghavan Murugan MD, MS, FRCP, FCCP Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science Core Faculty, Center for Critical Care Nephrology, CRISMA Center, John Kellum, MD Professor and Vice Chair for Research Director, Bioengineering and Organ Support Program, CRISMA Center Director, Center for Assistance in Research using eRecord (CARe)John Kellum, MD Professor and Vice Chair for Research Director, Bioengineering and Organ Support Program, CRISMA Center Director, Center for Assistance in Research using eRecord (CARe) Department of Critical Care Medicine University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In our prior studies, we found that nearly one-half of critically ill patients in the intensive care unit who receive dialysis die by 2 months after acute illness and more than one-third of surviving patients are dialysis dependent. We sought to examine whether simple patient characteristics and inflammatory biomarkers predicted death and non-recovery of kidney function after severe acute kidney injury. We found that a combination of four simple and readily available patient characteristics including older age, lower mean arterial pressure, need for mechanical ventilation, and higher serum bilirubin levels predicted death and dialysis dependence. Higher plasma concentration of interleukin (IL)-8 in combination with the clinical characteristics also increased risk prediction. To our knowledge, this study is the first large study to examine risk prediction for outcomes after severe acute kidney injury using a panel of biomarkers in a large cohort of critically ill patients receiving dialysis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Lung Cancer, Wistar / 11.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Qihong Huang, M.D., Ph.D. Associate professor in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program The Wistar InstituteQihong Huang, M.D., Ph.D. Associate professor in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program The Wistar Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Huang: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States and results in more deaths globally than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. While the five year survival rate for early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is above 50%, it is less than 5% in patients with metastatic disease.  Clearly, early detection can save lives, but accurate screening tests for high-risk individuals are still lacking. Although low dose computed tomography (LDCT) has been successfully used for screening in high-risk populations, multiple negative factors are associated with recurrent LDCT screening, including false-positives and false-negatives, unnecessary invasive procedures, radiation exposure, global availability of the technology and cost. Although several non-invasive tests for lung cancer using body fluids such as blood, urine or sputum are under investigation, none are currently available. When low dose computed tomography is used for screening, patients who are 50 years old or older are frequently diagnosed with pulmonary nodules.  However, only a small fraction of the nodules detected are subsequently diagnosed as lung cancer.  In cases where it is difficult to differentiate malignant from benign nodules, it is recommended that patients with these indeterminate nodules be followed with serial LDCT, which increases radiation exposure and financial cost. A simple, inexpensive blood test that differentiates malignant from benign nodules would fill an important clinical need. In this study, we validated AKAP4 as a highly accurate biomarker in a cohort of 264 blood samples from patients with known non-small cell lung cance and 135 controls samples from two different sites including a subset of controls with high risk lung nodules.   When all 264 lung cancers were compared with all 135 controls, the area under the ROC curve (AUC) was 0.9714. When 136 stage I NSCLC lung cancers were compared with all controls, the AUC is 0.9795, and when all lung cancer patients were compared to 27 controls with histologically confirmed benign lung nodules – a comparison of significant clinical importance – the AUC was 0.9825. AKAP4 expression increases significantly with tumor stage but independently of age, gender, smoking history or cancer subtype. Follow-up studies in a small number of resected NSCLC patients revealed a decrease of AKAP4 expression post-surgical resection that remained low in patients in remission and increased with tumor recurrence. AKAP4 is a highly accurate biomarker for the detection of early stage lung cancer, lung cancer recurrence, and distinguishing malignant from benign lung nodules. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Chemotherapy, JAMA, Johns Hopkins, Prostate Cancer / 08.06.2015

Emmanuel S. Antonarakis, M.B.B.CH   Department of Urology and Oncology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, MarylandMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Emmanuel S. Antonarakis, M.B.B.CH Department of Urology and Oncology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, Maryland Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Antonarakis: In a previous publication, we reported that detection of the androgen receptor splice variant 7 (AR-V7; an abnormal version of the androgen receptor) in circulating tumor cells from patients with advanced prostate cancer was associated with resistance to hormonal therapies such as abiraterone and enzalutamide. Here, we aimed to explore the role of AR-V7 in the context of chemotherapy treatment. We showed that detection of AR-V7 was not associated with resistance to the chemotherapy drugs docetaxel or cabazitaxel, and that AR-V7-positive patients could still derive benefit from these chemotherapies. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research / 06.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Kirsten Timms, PhD Program Director VP Biomarker Discovery at Myriad Genetics Inc Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Timms: The Homologous Recombination Deficiency (HRD) score is a tumor biomarker which quantitates genomic rearrangements associated with defects in DNA damage repair. It has been shown in multiple studies that HRD score can identify tumors sensitive to DNA damaging agents such as platinum salts or PARP inhibitors. Many tumors are spatially heterogeneous: different parts of a tumor show variation at both the genomic level, and in their appearance. This tumor heterogeneity has the potential to negatively impact the accuracy of biomarker tests. This study assessed the consistency of the HRD score in multiple biopsies obtained from the same cancer to understand the impact of tumor heterogeneity on the HRD score. The main finding of this study is that the HRD score is highly conserved between different biopsies of the same tumor. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 03.06.2015

Daniel F. Hayes, M.D. Stuart B. Padnos Professor of Breast Cancer Research University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Ann Arbor MIMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Daniel F. Hayes, M.D. Stuart B. Padnos Professor of Breast Cancer Research University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Ann Arbor MI Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hayes: We have developed a circulating tumor cell endocrine therapy index that we hypothesize will identify patients with estrogen receptor positive metastatic breast cancer but who will not benefit from endocrine (anti-estrogen) therapy. We can now semi-quantifiably measure er as well as bcl2, her2, and ki67 in a highly accurate and reproducible fashion.  We are now conducting a multi-institutional prospective trial in North America (the Circulating Tumor Cell-Endocrine Therapy COMETI study) to determine if our hypothesis is correct. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Technology / 31.05.2015

R. Kenneth Marcus, FRSC & FAAAS Professor of Chemistry Clemson UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: R. Kenneth Marcus, FRSC & FAAAS Professor of Chemistry Clemson University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Marcus: We had previously shown that chromatographic columns formed from aligned capillary-channeled polymer (C-CP) fibers were highly effective in analytical scale and preparative separations of proteins from diverse media.  The C-CP fibers are extracted from commodity fibers such as polyester, nylon, and polypropylene.  The key aspects in using the C-CP fibers are very high bed porosity and rapid protein-surface mass transfer, this allows for very rapid separations.  Packing of the fibers in narrow-bore polymer tubing (0.8 mm id x 1 cm long) allows them to be fixed to the end of a micropipette tip.  Urine samples of 10 microliter-to-milliliter volumes can be spun through on a microcentrifuge, washed with DI-water, and then eluted with a solvent.  Thus the proteins are isolated and pre-concentrated on the fiber surface.  The elution solvent can be chosen based on the analytical method employed (e.g., MALDI- or ESI-MS).   (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Transplantation / 29.05.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interviews with: Dr. Sunil M. Kurian Ph.D.Lead- Biomarker Discovery at the Laboratory of Functional Genomics and Cell Therapy The Scripps Research Institute and Transplant Genomics Inc.Dr. Sunil M. Kurian Ph.D. Lead- Biomarker Discovery at the Laboratory of Functional Genomics and Cell Therapy The Scripps Research Institute and Transplant Genomics Inc. and   Dr. John J. Friedewald, MDAssociate Professor of Medicine and Surger Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a transplant nephrologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Kovler Organ Transplant CenterDr. John J. Friedewald, MD Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a transplant nephrologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Kovler Organ Transplant Center Editor’s note: These interviews are based on two abstracts presented at the American Transplant Congress 2015. MedicalResearch: What is the background for these studies? Response: Previous studies by the scientific founders of Transplant Genomics Inc. helped lay the groundwork for the company’s development of genomic biomarker tests for kidney transplant graft status and demonstrated feasibility as noninvasive monitoring tools that could enable differential diagnosis of graft status in kidney transplant recipients.1-3 These included a study involving five transplant centers published in the American Journal of Transplantation.4 In that study, peripheral blood gene expression profiling was used to classify kidney graft recipients into three key categories of graft status based on gene expression signatures – clinical acute rejection, acute dysfunction no rejection, and stable graft performance - with very high predictive accuracy. STUDY A: Validation of Blood and Biopsy Gene Expression-Based Molecular Diagnostics for Subclinical Acute Rejection: Comparing DNA Microarrays vs. Next-Generation RNA Sequencing  MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Response: The current study presented recently at the 2015 American Transplant Congress5 validated that gene expression signatures as indicators of kidney graft status can be detected as robustly with RNA sequencing as with microarrays, with implications for reduced cost of analysis, faster turnaround times and improved throughput for sample processing. In this study, we substantiated RNA sequencing as an alternative data generation platform for analyzing gene expression profiles in peripheral blood and tissue from kidney transplant recipients. The data validated that gene expression signatures for subclinical acute rejection (a histological acute cellular rejection in the presence of a normal or stable serum creatinine that is associated with decreased graft survival), clinical acute rejection and stable graft performance can be detected as robustly with RNA sequencing as with microarrays. MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Response: The key point of this study is that gene expression profiles generated and validated using microarray technology have been successfully translated to a technology platform based on RNA sequencing. Sequencing has the potential to offer advantages such as reduced cost of analysis, faster reporting back to the clinician and improved throughput for sample processing. In addition, it could facilitate development of kits enabling standardized assay performance on local lab-based sequencing systems and expansion of test use worldwide. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Nature, Prostate Cancer, Technology / 27.05.2015

Gabriel Popescu PhD Associate Professor Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering & Bioengineering University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology Urbana, IL 61801MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gabriel Popescu PhD Associate Professor and Shamira Sridharan, Ph.D. candidate Quantitative Light Imaging Laboratory, Department of Bioengineering, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Urbana, IL Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Popescu: We developed a new optical tool that can identify patients at high risk for recurrence of prostate cancer after undergoing radical prostatectomy as treatment.  Early identification of risk for recurrence can allow early treatment of disease. Our main finding was that among individuals with worse disease outcomes, the tissue is more disorganized.  This manifests as a decrease in anisotropy, or light scattering angle, which reports on nano-scale differences in tissue architecture. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Colon Cancer / 22.05.2015

Dr. Jeanne Tie Medical Oncologist | Royal Melbourne and Western Hospital Research Fellow Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Parkville, VICMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Jeanne Tie Medical Oncologist | Royal Melbourne and Western Hospital Research Fellow Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Parkville, VIC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Tie: The increasing number of active agents available to treat metastatic colorectal cancer has resulted in an ever-improving life expectancy in this group of patients. However, the ability to expose patients with metastatic colorectal cancer to all effective anti-cancer treatment, particularly 3rd line treatment and beyond, is increasingly challenging in routine practice as some patients’ condition deteriorate too rapidly and do not live long enough to enjoy the benefit of these additional therapies. This is partly due to the current imaged-based method of assessing treatment response with the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST), which is usually performed every 8-12 weeks during the course of treatment. This means that for non-responders to treatment, several weeks to months will elapse before a switch to alternative therapy will be made. Conceptually, if a patient’s response to treatment could be made earlier, such as with a blood test,  then an earlier switch to an alternative treatment can be made, minimizing the side-effects of the ineffective therapy and providing the opportunity for a more effective one. Currently, blood biomarkers add little to imaging-based assessment, with CEA lacking sensitivity and specificity. Colorectal cancer is characterised by several recurrently mutated genes and advances in genomics and molecular technologies have now enabled rapid detection and quantification of these cancer-specific mutations in patient’s circulation (circulating tumor DNA - ctDNA). Previous studies have demonstrated that ctDNA can be detected in a high proportion of patients with advanced cancer. In this study, we describe the potential role of ctDNA as an early predictor of treatment response in patients with treatment naïve metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) undergoing chemotherapy and as a marker of disease bulk that could complement RECIST measurement. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 19.05.2015

Lao Saal, M.D. Ph.D.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lao Saal, M.D. Ph.D. Head, Translational Oncogenomics Unit Assistant Professor Department of Oncology and Pathology Lund University Cancer Center Lund, Sweden Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Saal: About a quarter of women diagnosed with primary (non-metastatic) breast cancer will unfortunately progress and later be found to have metastatic spread, which can occur many years to even a decade or more after the first diagnosis. At this point, the prognosis after identification of metastatic breast cancer is very poor. Metastatic disease is typically diagnosed only after it has grown large enough to cause symptoms, be noticed on exam, or be detectable by imaging. It is thought that early detection of metastasis has the potential to lead to better outcomes because therapies could be modified when the metastasis is still very small. Moreover, a very sensitive and specific test that could identify patients who appear "cancer-free" could also be useful. Essentially all cancers have unstable genomes, where chromosomes physically break and are reassembled incorrectly and thus the normal sequence is altered. Importantly, DNA material from cancer cells can be found in the blood circulation and therefore this circulating tumor DNA has the potential to be a cancer biomarker. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Saal: Eleonor Olsson, a PhD student in my lab who defends her thesis next week, and Christof Winter, a postdoc bioinformatician in my group, were the first authors of the paper. In our study we tested whether periodic monitoring of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in blood plasma samples, taken before surgery for primary breast cancer and at multiple timepoints after surgery, could identify the metastastic spread, and whether the quantity of ctDNA was associated to patient outcome. We analyzed a retrospective cohort of 20 patients, who had enrolled many years ago in a separate epidemiological study run by Helena Jernström in our department, wherein the appropriate blood plasma samples had been biobanked and tumor tissue was available and we had long-term clinical follow-up information. As far as we are aware, our study is the first to show the potential for serial ctDNA monitoring in the context of primary breast cancer. We found that our ctDNA blood tests could discriminate patients with eventual metastasis from those with long‐term disease‐free survival with 93% sensitivity and 100% specificity. Furthermore, ctDNA‐based detection of metastatic disease preceded clinical detection for 86% of patients by an average 11 months and in some cases by 3 years. In all of the patients who had long-term disease-free survival, we did not detect any ctDNA in any timepoints after surgery. Lastly, the measured quantity of ctDNA was a significant predictor of outcome: for each doubling of the ctDNA level, the odds ratio for metastasis was 2.1 and the odds ratio for death was 1.3. An interesting anecdote -- one patient we studied had bilateral breast cancer and we found that it was the right-side tumor (which actually had more favorable clinical characteristics) that gave rise to the metastasis and not the left-side tumor. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Heart Disease / 18.05.2015

dr-pascal-stammetMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Pascal Stammet Dépt. Anesthésie-Réanimation Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg Luxembourg MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr Stammet: Patients hospitalized after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) survive in about fifty percent and nine out of ten survivors have a good functional level six months after the arrest. However, in the early days after the cardiac arrest it is difficult to distinguish those who will survive from those who have very severe brain damage, not compatible with life. Biomarkers, like neuron specific enolase (NSE) have shown a prognostic value for outcome prediction. As a consequence of the widespread use of induced hypothermia, to improve survival and neurological function, for patients resuscitated form cardiac arrest, concerns have arisen about the impact of body temperature on previously published cut-off values for poor outcome. NSE has thus been questioned as a useful clinical tool. Recently, the Target Temperature Management trial (TTM-trial) published in November 2013 in the NEJM has shown no benefit of a target body temperature of 33°C over 36°C in patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest admitted to the ICU. In the present sub-study, we have analyzed the value of NSE to predict outcome in a cohort of 686 patients of the TTM-trial. Importantly, serial measurements of NSE at 24, 48 and 72 hours allowed accurate outcome prediction, with better performance than clinical and peri-arrest data alone. NSE did not significantly differ between temperature groups meaning that clinicians can use NSE as an adjunct prognostic tool regardless of the chosen temperature management strategy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Brain Injury / 13.05.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Pashtun Shahim, MD Departement of Neurosurgery, University Hospital, Linköping, Sweden Clinical Neurochemistry Laboratory Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology Sahlgrenska University Hospital Mölndal Sweden Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Visinin-like protein-1 (VLP-1 or VILIP-1) is a neuronal calcium-sensor protein, originally studied as a stroke marker and identified as a marker of neuronal injury in brain injury models. Increased plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) VILIP-1 hase been reported in Alzheimer’s disease, where CSF VILIP-1 correlates with CSF total tau (T-tau) and with brain volume. Recently, using a novel ultrasensitive method to measure tau in plasma, increased levels of plasma T-tau were found in concussed professional ice hockey players, where the levels correlated with the resolution of post-concussive symptoms and the players returning to play. The main findings of this study were that VILIP-1 did not increase significantly in serum after sports-related concussion. However, the serum levels of VILIP-1 increased after a friendly game without concussion, signaling extracerebral expression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, UCSF / 10.05.2015

Alan H.B. Wu, PhD, DABCC Professor Laboratory Medicine Chief, Clinical Chemistry Laboratory University of California San Francisco, CAMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Alan H.B. Wu, PhD, DABCC Professor Laboratory Medicine Chief, Clinical Chemistry Laboratory University of California San Francisco, CA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Clinical trials are conducted for validation of novel biomarkers.  There is considerable heterogeniety in the quality design and documentation of findings. This can have a major impact on the conclusions rendered. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Biomarkers / 27.04.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Joanna Kitlinska, PhD Assistant Professor Georgetown University Medical Center Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology Washington, DC 20057 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kitlinska: Neuroblastoma is a pediatric malignancy with extremely heterogeneous phenotypes, ranging from spontaneously regressing to aggressive, untreatable tumors. Consequently, treatment strategies vary significantly between patients, depending on the initial risk assessment. Given the severe late effects of anti-cancer treatment administered to infants and children, proper disease stratification is of utmost importance for neuroblastoma patients. Due to their neuronal origin, neuroblastomas secrete neuropeptide Y (NPY), a small protein normally released from mature nerves. This, in turn, may result in elevated NPY levels in blood of neuroblastoma patients. We have found that serum NPY is particularly high in patients with aggressive, metastatic disease. Consequently, patients with elevated NPY levels have significantly worse survival. This finding is in agreement with our previous data indicating crucial role for NPY in stimulation of neuroblastoma tumor growth. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research / 22.04.2015

Dr. Timothy Yap MD, PhD Timothy Yap, MD, PhD, NIHR BRC The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust London, United Kingdom.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Timothy Yap, MD, PhD, NIHR BRC The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust London, United Kingdom. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Yap: This is a novel phase I trial assessing for the first time if the PARP inhibitor olaparib can be combined with the AKT inhibitor AZD5363. The study was undertaken at the Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research in London, England. This targeted combination was based on strong preclinical rationale demonstrating synergy between both drugs in BRCA positive tumors and also antitumor activity in non-BRCA positive tumors. Although olaparib was recently approved by the FDA for treating advanced ovarian cancer associated with defective BRCA genes, antitumor efficacy in different non-BRCA tumors is yet to be established. The key finding for this study was that it was indeed possible to combine both drugs safely, with multiple patients with different cancers responding, including patients with and without BRCA1/2 mutations. We also assessed a new intrapatient dose escalation phase I trial design in this study, and demonstrated that the novel design could be successfully implemented, with completion of the dose escalation phase in 2 schedules of the combination with just 20 patients in 7.5 months. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, BMJ, Cancer Research, Gastrointestinal Disease / 14.04.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Professor Hossam Haick Ph.D Department of Chemical Engineering and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute Haifa, Israel Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Haick: Our study is based on the hypothesis that timely detection of premalignant lesions (PMLs) may provide a tool to decrease either cancer mortality or incidence, thought, currently, there is no perfect non-invasive tool to screen for gastric cancer (GC) and the related premalignant lesions. Using 1002 samples collected from 501 volunteers, we show for the first time that premalignant lesions (PMLs) relevant to (gastric) cancer result in detectable differences in Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) signatures that can be detected and classified non-invasively through exhaled breath. We show additionally that these premalignant lesions can be well-discriminated from various stages of gastric cancer as well as other background stomach diseases. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Lancet, Lymphoma, NIH / 06.04.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Mark Roschewski, MD and Dr Wyndham H Wilson MD-PhD Lymphoma Therapeutics Section Lymphoid Malignancies Branch, Center for Cancer Research National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD 20892 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Monitoring patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) has relied on computed tomography (CT) scans which are imprecise, expensive and include radiation. We investigated the ability of a blood-based assay to monitor patients with DLBCL during and after their initial therapy. The assay we studied amplifies and quantifies small amounts of circulating tumor DNA from the patient’s blood. We showed that this assay effectively predicts which patients will relapse and identifies recurrence 3.5 months before CT scans. (more…)