AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, NIH, Ovarian Cancer / 03.05.2015

Dr. Victoria L. Chiou, MD Medical Oncology Fellow Women’s Malignancies Branch National Cancer InstituteMedicalResearch.com interview with Dr. Victoria L. Chiou, MD Medical Oncology Fellow Women’s Malignancies Branch National Cancer Institute MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Chiou: We studied the effects of different treatments in ovarian and breast cancer cell lines with and without BRCA1 mutation in the laboratory. Our discovery that olaparib pretreatment before carboplatin led to decreased carboplatin-induced DNA damage in tumor cells carrying BRCA1 mutation led us to a novel clinical question. We wanted to further understand whether there was an optimal way to deliver a combination of the new tablet formulation of olaparib with carboplatin chemotherapy in women with gynecologic and breast cancers. We launched our clinical trial to test this important question. Overall, we are pleased that the drug combination of olaparib and carboplatin chemotherapy can be given safely together, with preliminary activity in women with breast and ovarian cancer associated with germline BRCA mutations. We are excited to report the findings of this study, which is the first to report preclinical and clinical data on sequence specificity for this drug combination in this patient population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Nature, UT Southwestern / 03.05.2015

Dr. Alec (Chengcheng) Zhang Michael L. Rosenberg Scholar in Medical Research Associate Professor of Physiology and Developmental Biology Member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center UT Southwestern Medical CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Alec (Chengcheng) Zhang Michael L. Rosenberg Scholar in Medical Research Associate Professor of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center UT Southwestern Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults. Treatments for AML yield poor outcomes, especially for the typical senior patients. The medical need for new therapies for AML is underscored by the fact that no new therapies for AML have been approved in over 30 years. There are over 50 experimental agents in clinical trials for the treatment of AML today, although only a few agents have promising data to date. New molecular targets and therapeutic strategies are needed for AML treatment. In 2012, we published a paper showing that we cloned the human leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor B2 (LILRB2) as a receptor for several angiopoietin-like proteins (Angptls) (Zheng et al 2012 Nature 485:656-660). The LILRB family receptors contain immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motifs (ITIMs) and are classified as inhibitory receptors because ITIM motifs can recruit phosphatases SHP-1, SHP-2, or SHIP to negatively regulate immune cell activation. Surprisingly, in that work, we showed that PirB, the mouse ortholog of LILRB2, is expressed by AML stem cells (AML-SCs) and supports AML development. Although counterintuitive, this result is consistent with the generally immune-suppressive and thus tumor-promoting roles of the inhibitory receptors in the immune system. In the current paper, we continued the research and report that a number of receptors containing the ITIMs are crucial for the development of AML. We mainly focus on studying the function and downstream signaling of LAIR1 as a representative ITIM-containing receptor. We found that the deletion of LAIR1 does not affect normal hematopoiesis but abolishes leukemia development in several different mouse leukemia models. We also identified a mechanism by which LAIR1 supports AML development, showing that the LAIR1/SHP-1/CAMK1/CREB pathway sustains the survival and self-renewal of AML cells. Importantly, our findings are well supported by bioinformatics analysis of AML patient databases and experimental results of human leukemia cells. Since certain ITIM-containing receptors are essential for AML cells but not critical for normal hematopoiesis, and blocking their signaling can boost immunity, these ITIM-containing receptors including LAIR1 represent ideal targets for treating AML. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Exercise - Fitness, Lymphoma / 02.05.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Terry Boyle, PhD CIHR Fellow, MSFHR Trainee, Honorary UBC Killam Fellow Cancer Control Research, BC Cancer Agency School of Population and Public Health, The University of British Columbia Australian NHMRC Early Career Fellow The University of Western Australia Cancer Control Research, BC Cancer Agency Vancouver BC Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Boyle : Little is known about what causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), so trying to identify risk factors is particularly important for the prevention and control of this cancer. There is really good evidence that people who are physically active have a lower risk of some cancers (such as colon and breast cancers), but not many studies have investigated whether being physical active is associated with the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The key finding of this case-control study was that study participants who were in the higher (second, third, and fourth) quartiles of vigorously intense physical activity performance in their lifetimes had about 25 percent to 30 percent lower risk for NHL, compared with those who were in the lowest (first) quartile of vigorously intense physical activity. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Gastrointestinal Disease, Genetic Research, NIH / 30.04.2015

Dr. Steven Wank MDMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Stephen Wank MD Digestive Diseases Branch, NIDDK National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Wank: Small intestinal carcinoids are rare and difficult to diagnose because symptoms may be absent or mistaken for more common diseases. Because carcinoids usually grow slowly over several years before spreading or causing symptoms, patients often seek medical attention late with advanced, incurable disease. However, when diagnosed at an early stage, carcinoid can be surgically cured. Presently, there are no long-term effective therapies for surgically non-resectable disease. Although carcinoids occur sporadically, there have been reports of family clusters (more than one blood relative with carcinoid). Hereditary small intestinal carcinoid has not been recognized as a disease and causative genetic factors have not been identified in either sporadic cases or families with multiple affected members. If small intestinal carcinoid occurs in families on a hereditary basis, we hypothesized that asymptomatic relatives in families with carcinoid are at a high risk of harboring an undiscovered tumor. To test this, we established a clinical research protocol at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland to screen asymptomatic relatives in families with at least two cases of small intestinal carcinoid in the hope of detecting their tumors at an early surgically curable stage. If successful in our endeavor, we would improve the outcome of the disease in these asymptomatic relatives and position ourselves to discover the genetic basis for their disease. Understanding the gene mutations causing small intestinal carcinoid would allow us to screen for the disease with a blood test, help us understand what causes the disease, and treat the disease with specific targeted therapies. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, HPV, University Texas, Vaccine Studies / 27.04.2015

Jacqueline Hirth, PhD, MPH Assistant Professor andMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jacqueline Hirth, PhD, MPH Assistant Professor and Dr. Abbey B. Berenson MD, MMS, PhD Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health Obstetrics and Gynecology The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston TexasDr. Abbey B. Berenson MD, MMS, PhD Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health Obstetrics and Gynecology The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Texas

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In this sample of young women, vaccination was effective at reducing prevalence of vaccine-type HPV (6,11,16,18) compared to women who were unvaccinated. We also found a dose response, with young women who received at least 2 doses of the 3 dose vaccine series having a lower rate of vaccine-type HPV compared to those who only received one dose (8.6% compared to 16.9%, respectively). (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Hepatitis - Liver Disease, UCSD / 27.04.2015

Lisa M. Nyberg, MD, MPH Transplant Hepatologist Director, Hepatology Research Kaiser Permanente, Garfield Specialty Center San Diego, CA  92111MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lisa M. Nyberg, MD, MPH Transplant Hepatologist Director, Hepatology Research Kaiser Permanente, Garfield Specialty Center San Diego, CA  92111 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Nyberg: The overall cancer rates were higher in patients with Hepatitis C (HCV) vs those without HCV. Of note, though, the HCV cohort had higher rates of alcohol abuse, tobacco use, cirrhosis and diabetes mellitus (DM). However, even after stratification for the variables alcohol abuse, tobacco use, body mass index (BMI) and DM; the increased cancer rates remained significant for total cancer sites, liver cancer and NHL. Note that this study does not establish a cause and effect relationship between Hepatitis C and cancer. A strength of this study is that it is an evaluation of a large patient population (n=35,712 with HCV and 5,297,191 without HCV). Limitations of the study are those inherent in epidemiological studies using large databases. For example, confounders may not be accurately recorded in automated databases (smoking and alcohol abuse may be under-recorded). (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research / 27.04.2015

Nasim Mavaddat M.B.B.S. MPhil PhD PhD  Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology Department of Public Health and Primary Care University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UKMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nasim Mavaddat M.B.B.S. MPhil PhD PhD Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology Department of Public Health and Primary Care University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Mavaddat: Recent large-scale genome wide association analyses have led to the discovery of genetic variation- called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with breast cancer risk. Individually these variants confer risks that are too small to be useful for risk prediction. But when combined as a single score, called a polygenic risk score (PRS), this score may be used to stratify women according to their risk of developing breast cancer. This stratification could guide strategies for screening and prevention. Our study was a large international collaboration involving 41 research groups from many different countries and included 33,673 breast cancer patients and 33,381 controls. We found that the genetic variants act more or less independently, and that the more risk variants a woman has the higher her risk of breast cancer. When women were ranked according to their PRS, women with scores in the top 1% had a threefold increased risk of breast cancer. This translates into an absolute risk of breast cancer of 29% by age 80. By contrast, women with the lowest 1% scores had a risk of 3.5%. The PRS was effective in stratifying women with and without a family history of breast cancer, so that highest risk was for women with a family history and a high PRS. Finally, we showed that the PRS was better at predicting the risk of ER-positive breast cancer (potentially relevant to the application of risk stratification to chemoprevention for example, with tamoxifen, raloxifene or aromatase inhibitors). There has been much debate as to whether genomic profiles are useful for individual risk prediction, especially in the context of the preventative strategies available at the present time. The estimates provided in this study will help inform these debates. (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…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, OBGYNE / 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 tumor which arises due to defects in normal fetal neuronal development. Although the disease is associated with genetic changes, there are also clinical and experimental data implicating non-genetic factors in its etiology. We hypothesized that maternal stress during pregnancy can be one such factor, as it leads to fetal hypoxia and elevated cortisol levels – the two factors known to alter normal neuronal development and increase aggressiveness of neuroblastoma. Indeed, using an animal model of neuroblastoma, we have found that offspring of mothers which have been subjected to stress during pregnancy develop tumors twice as frequently as those from intact pregnancies. Moreover, tumors developing in prenatally-stressed mice were spreading more often to distant organs. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews / 25.04.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Neel S. Madhukar Graduate student in the lab of Olivier Elemento, PhD, Associate Professor Head, Laboratory of Cancer Systems Biology Department of Physiology and Biophysics Institute for Computational Biomedicine Weill Cornell Medical College Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It takes on average 2.6 billion dollars and 10-15 years to develop a single new drug. Despite massive investment in drug discovery by pharmaceutical companies, the number of drugs obtaining FDA approval each year has remained constant over the past decade. One of biggest bottlenecks in the process of developing a new drug is to understand precisely how a drug works, that is, what it binds to in cells, how it binds, and what it does when it is bound. This process is collectively called target identification and characterization of mechanisms of action. At present, target identification is a slow and failure-prone process, driven by laborious experimentation. Every time we seek to develop a new drug, such laborious experimentation needs to be redone from scratch. We are not learning from data acquired from our past successes and failures. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Genetic Research, Melanoma / 23.04.2015

Pedram Gerami, M.D.Associate Professor of Dermatology Director, Melanoma Research Northwestern Skin Cancer Institute Northwestern UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Pedram Gerami, M.D. Associate Professor of Dermatology Director, Melanoma Research Northwestern Skin Cancer Institute Northwestern University MedicalResearch: What is the basis and background for performing this study? Dr. Gerami: Most of the existing literature shows that Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB) will identify 25 to 35 percent of patients who will ultimately die of metastatic melanoma. Hence while SLNB is reported to be the strongest predictor of outcome for melanoma, the vast majority of patients who ultimately die of metastatic melanoma have a negative Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy result. Hence in this study we aimed to determine whether a GEP assay developed by Castle bioscience could be used independently or in conjunction with SLNB to better detect those patients who are at high risk for developing metastatic disease and dying from melanoma. MedicalResearch: What are the findings of the study? Dr. Gerami: Our study, which examined the use of a Gene Expression Profile (GEP) assay developed by Castle Biosciences and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy alone and in combination in a multi-center cohort of 217 patients, demonstrated that the use of the GEP identified more than 80 percent of patients who develop melanoma Combining the two methods showed that patients predicted to be high risk based on the GEP test alone had similar rates of disease progression whether they were SLNB positive or negative. Patients who were SLNB negative and predicted to be low risk using the GEP test had lower rates of disease progression than the SLNB negative group as a whole. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, NIH, Vaccine Studies / 22.04.2015

Daniel C. Beachler, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Daniel C. Beachler, PhD Postdoctoral fellow Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Beachler: HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. Individuals can acquire HPV infections in the epithelium of their cervical, anal and oral sites, and occasionally these infections lead to cancer. There are three prophylactic HPV vaccines on the market that can protect against HPV at these sites among those not been previously exposed to HPV. This study examined the effect of HPV vaccination of 18-25 year old women at all three anatomic sites. The combined multi-site HPV vaccine efficacy has not been reported previously. It was unknown whether the vaccine may protect non-infected sites against HPV infection or re-infection in women exposed to HPV prior to vaccination. We observed that the HPV vaccine provides the strongest protection at all three sites among women unexposed to HPV before vaccination. Additionally, we observed some protection at the non-infected sites in women who were previously infected with HPV. (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…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Melanoma, NYU, Personalized Medicine, Wistar / 21.04.2015

Melissa Wilson, MD, PhD Assisstant Professor Perlmutter Cancer Center NYU Langone Medical Center New York, NYMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Melissa Wilson, MD, PhD Assisstant Professor Perlmutter Cancer Center NYU Langone Medical Center New York, NY Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wilson: Metastatic cutaneous melanoma is an extremely aggressive form of skin cancer.  Traditionally, it has been characterized by clinicopathologic characteristics.  More recently, melanoma tumors have also been stratified by common somatic mutations for which targeted therapies have been developed or are under investigation, including BRAF, NRAS and KIT.  In addition to somatic mutations, aberrant intracellular signaling pathways and cell cycle disruption contribute to melanoma pathogenesis.  Indeed, recent next generation sequencing studies have identified a number of new genes involved in melanomagenesis.  A comprehensive evaluation and understanding of concurrent and mutually exclusive mutations in tumors has been lacking.  Therefore, we developed a comprehensive custom targeted capture of 108 genes previously implicated in melanoma pathogenesis.  We used the targeted panel to perform massively parallel sequencing on 94 well-established human melanoma cell lines, 67 patient-derived xenografts (PDX), and 5 cell lines made from PDX, all untreated. Samples were clustered based on deleterious mutations.  Eighty-three percent of samples had deleterious mutations in the MAPK signaling pathway (including BRAF, RAS) and NF1.  Ten percent of samples had PI3K pathway mutations which were predominantly associated with BRAF mutations.  TP53 was found to be mutated in 24% of the samples and were also associated with mutations in the MAPK pathway.  Mutations in chromatin remodeling genes were mutually exclusive with each other, but were associated with BRAF and NRAS mutations.  Of particular interest, five of the 10 NF1mutated samples harbored likely deleterious mutations in MAP3K5 or MAP3K9, suggesting the potential involvement of JNK signal transduction pathway in a cohort of samples. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, UCSD / 21.04.2015

Presented by Dr. Maura N. Dickler MD Associate member of the Breast Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New YorMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Presented by Dr. Maura N. Dickler MD Associate member of the Breast Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York Medical Research: What is the background for this study? This year, breast cancer will claim the lives of nearly 40,000 women in the United States, and up to half of these women will have a disease that is driven by the estrogen receptor.
  • Although medicines have been approved for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer for decades, more treatment options are needed.
  • Resistance to endocrine therapies causes morbidity and mortality for women with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer as many patients relapse or develop resistance to available hormonal agents via estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent mechanisms.
  • Dual-acting investigational Selective Estrogen Receptor Degrader (SERDs) could potentially lead to a new treatment option for people with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer and may help overcome resistance to current anti-hormonal medicines.
  • GDC-0810 is a dual-acting investigational next-generation oral SERD that works in a number of ways to prevent estrogen fueling tumor growth. It is not only designed to target the estrogen receptor (ER) as an antagonist, but also to cause degradation of the ER protein. In preclinical studies, GDC-0810 was shown to induce tumor regressions in both tamoxifen sensitive and tamoxifen resistant tumor models in vivo.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
  • Clinical data from the dose-escalation portion of a Phase I/IIa study evaluating GDC-0810 appears to have an acceptable safety profile with encouraging anti-tumor activity in postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer positive for the estrogen receptor (ER), all of whom were previously treated with standard endocrine therapy.
  • Promising anti-tumor activity was observed in 38% of patients on study for six months or longer. At all doses tested, there was robust engagement of the estrogen receptor by GDC-0810 as demonstrated by fluoroestradiol (FES) PET scans.  Overall, the most common adverse events of any grade related to GDC-0810 were diarrhea, nausea and fatigue.
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AACR, Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 20.04.2015

Presented by Dr. Jeffrey R. Infante, MD 2015 American Association for Cancer Research Director of the Drug Development Program Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Presented by Dr. Jeffrey R. Infante, MD 2015 American Association for Cancer Research Director of the Drug Development Program Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
  • Inhibition of Checkpoint Kinase 1 (Chk1) may be effective at enhancing the effects of chemotherapeutic agents in tumor cells that lack other key cell cycle checkpoint regulators, such as the tumor suppressor protein p53 (p53 mutant tumors).
  • In a broad range of pre-clinical models, GDC-0425, an oral, selective Chk1 inhibitor, enhanced the efficacy of the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. Greater efficacy was also observed in cancer cell lines lacking p53 activity.
  • Based on its proposed mechanism of action in enhancing the cytotoxicity of DNA damaging chemotherapy, GDC-0425 was evaluated in combination with a standard dose of gemcitabine.
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Author Interviews, Cancer Research / 20.04.2015

Pan Pantziarka, PhD Member of the ReDO project and the Anticancer Fund Research from the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) projectMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Pan Pantziarka, PhD Member of the ReDO project and the Anticancer Fund Research from the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Pantziarka: This study is one of a number initiated by the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project. ReDO is an international collaboration between the Belgian foundation the Anticancer Fund and the US not-for-profit GlobalCures. ReDO includes researchers based in the UK, Belgium and the US. The project aims to identify the most promising non-cancer drugs which have evidence that they may be effective additions to oncological treatments. Itraconazole, the subject of this study, is a well-characterised and commonly used anti-fungal agent that is available internationally and at relatively low cost. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Dr. Pantziarka: We have summarised a broad range of in vitro, in vivo and clinical evidence of anti-cancer activity in itraconazole. In particular there is strong evidence that itraconazole has activity against the Hedgehog signalling pathway, which is active in a variety of different cancer indications. Our study also includes details of a number of positive clinical trials which have reported, and includes details of some still in progress. The level of evidence is particularly striking in basal cell carcinoma, prostate and lung cancer. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Melanoma, Wistar / 20.04.2015

Adina Vultur, Ph.D. Staff Scientist Meenhard Herlyn Laboratory Melanoma Research Center The Wistar Institute, PhiladelphiaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Adina Vultur, Ph.D. Staff Scientist Meenhard Herlyn Laboratory Melanoma Research Center The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Vulture: Our goal was to identify new drugs with anti-melanoma activity but with minor effects on normal cells. We screened structurally distinct kinase inhibitors first, against multiple cell lines and normal cells, and identified the organometallic compound SM200 as being the most effective and selective molecule, capable of halting melanoma cell growth and invasion. Further characterization of SM200 indicated that PIM kinases are highly inhibited by this compound compared to other targets. We then confirmed the contribution of PIM kinases to melanoma pathobiology by knockdown studies and by using a clinically available PIM-inhibitor. Encouraging results with PIM kinase inhibition in multiple melanoma models including xenografts suggests that this could be a useful strategy against melanoma. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer / 20.04.2015

Steven Jay Isakoff, MD, PhDHematology/Oncology Department of Medicine Massachusetts General HospitalMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Steven Jay Isakoff, MD, PhD Hematology/Oncology Department of Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Isakoff: Metastatic triple negative breast cancer remains a challenging clinical problem with no specific therapies targeted validated for this population.  From a number of preclinical studies and because of a link between BRCA1 associated breast cancer and triple negative breast cancer, platinum chemotherapy has emerged as a potential chemotherapy with activity in triple negative breast cancer.  However, it is not yet clear how to predict which triple negative breast cancer patients are more likely to respond to platinum chemotherapy.  We set out to answer several questions.
  • First, what is the response rate to platinum chemotherapy in the first or second line for metastatic triple negative breast cancer?
  • Second, can we identify biomarkers to predict response to platinum agents?  The results of our study showed that among 86 patients treated with platinum chemotherapy (either cisplatin or carboplatin), the response rate was about 25%.  We identified 11 BRCA mutation carriers in our population and the response rate among carriers was about 55% compared to about 20% in the non-carriers.  In addition, we found that a new assay called the Hologous Recombination Deficiency assay, which may identify tumors with a BRCA-like phenotype, seemed to predict which cancers were more likely to respond, whereas other biomarkers we looked at were not able to do so.
  • Another exciting finding was that 6 patients who had major responses have become long term responders with no subsequent progression, some whom for over 5 years so far.  Surprisingly, none of the long term responders are BRCA mutation carriers.
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AACR, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Dental Research, Microbiome / 20.04.2015

Xiaodan Mai MBBS University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Buffalo, NYMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Xiaodan Mai MBBS University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Buffalo, NY MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Periodontal disease is a condition that is highly prevalent amongst the elderly, and is characterized by chronic polymicrobial infection and inflammation of gum tissue. Periodontal disease has been associated with increased cancer risk, and these findings may be partially explained by extra-oral translocation of subgingival bacteria that subsequently modulates host cell environment and function. However, there is limited research on whether the presence of certain subgingival bacteria influences cancer risk. . Oral bacteria have been categorized into color-coded complexes by their timing of colonization and strength of association with periodontal disease. Using data from an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative conducted in Buffalo, New York (a cohort of 1300 postmenopausal women), we therefore investigated the associations between the presence of three early-colonizing periodontal pathogens (Fusobacterium nucleatum, Prevotella intermedia, and Campylobacter rectus, i.e., "orange complex" bacteria moderately associated with PD), the presence of two late-colonizing periodontal pathogens (Porphyromonas gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia, i.e., "red complex" bacteria strongly associated with PD) in dental plaque and cancer risk. We found borderline associations between presence of any early-colonizing pathogens and increased risk of total cancer and lung cancer. Individual pathogens were not associated with total cancer or site-specific cancers when analyzed singly. Presence of any pathogens or presence of any late-colonizing pathogens was not associated with total or site-specific cancer. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Nutrition, UCSD / 20.04.2015

Catherine Marinac Doctoral Candidate UC San Diego/San Diego State University Joint-Doctoral Program in Public Health La Jolla, CA 92093MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Catherine Marinac Doctoral Candidate UC San Diego/San Diego State University Joint-Doctoral Program in Public Health La Jolla, CA 92093 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The dietary advice for cancer prevention usually focuses on limiting consumption of red meat, alcohol, and refined grains, and increasing consumption of plant foods. However, new evidence suggests that other fundamental aspects of diet, such when and how often people eat, can also play a role in cancer risk. For example, research in mice suggests that decreasing the number of hours we eat during the day, and increasing the length of time we fast overnight can improve metabolic parameters and reduce risk of developing a number of chronic diseases including cancer. Similar to the data from animal models, we found that women who fasted for longer periods of time overnight had significantly better control over blood glucose concentrations – and these effects were independent of how much women ate. This finding is relevant to cancer research because people who have poor glucose control are significantly more likely to develop certain types of cancer. It is hypothesized that high concentrations of circulating glucose may fuel cancer growth and progression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Cognitive Issues, JNCI / 19.04.2015

Dr. Kerstin Hermelink Senior psychologist  Dept. of Gynecology and Obstetrics Ludwig Maximilian University of MunichMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Kerstin Hermelink Senior psychologist Dept. of Gynecology and Obstetrics Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hermelink: Many breast cancer patients report problems of cognitive functioning that interfere considerably with their professional and private lives. In the last two decades, a number of studies have confirmed that subgroups of breast cancer patients show at least subtle cognitive impairment. Initially, the condition has entirely been attributed to chemotherapy effects and has therefore colloquially been named “chemobrain”. Meanwhile, however, cognitive impairment has also been found in patients who were managed without chemotherapy and, surprisingly, even in patients who had not yet received any systemic treatment at all. Several hypotheses on the causation of cognitive impairment that occurs already pretreatment have been put forward; for instance, biological effects of the cancer itself might affect cognitive functioning, or there might be shared genetic vulnerability for cancer and cognitive impairment. None of these hypotheses have been empirically confirmed; thus, pretreatment cognitive impairment is as yet unexplained. Our study was designed to investigate the effects of cancer-related post-traumatic stress on cognitive function in breast cancer patients before the start of treatment. Stress has a substantial influence on cognitive functioning, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with impairment of cognitive function. While the incidence of full diagnosis of stress disorder is low among breast cancer patients, many of these patients show symptoms of PTSD, with a peak shortly after diagnosis. We did not find an elevated risk of overall cognitive impairment in pretreatment breast cancer patients compared with matched non-cancer controls; however, the cancer patients scored worse than the controls on a small fraction of the cognitive indices that were used. Performance on these indices was indeed robustly associated with PTSD symptoms. Our results therefore indicate that pretreatment cognitive impairment in breast cancer patients may be largely caused by the stress of being diagnosed with cancer. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Mayo Clinic / 15.04.2015

 Michael B. Wallace, M.D., MPH, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, FL 32224MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michael B. Wallace, M.D., MPH Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, FL 32224   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Wallace: Since its first consideration as an independent entity in 1996,1 intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMN) of the pancreas have been diagnosed with increasing frequency. Detection and resection of IPMN offer a unique opportunity to cure and prevent adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, an otherwise highly lethal disease. The main clinical concern related to intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms is its wide-ranging potential for malignancy from low-risk indolent lesions to those with high incidence of malignant degeneration. It is well-established that this malignant progression varies based on the morphological subtypes. The current methods of predicting malignant potential are limited to clinical, morphological, and cyst fluid cytology and biomarker data. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Wallace: Of 1126 patients, 84 were diagnosed with invasive carcinoma/high-grade dysplasia and were compared to the rest of the cohort. Multivariate logistic analysis showed no statistically significant association between cancer/high-grade dysplasia and gender, age or alcohol consumption. Smoking history and body mass index was significantly related with cancer/ high-grade dysplasia. Jaundice and steatorrhea were also associated with cancer/ high-grade dysplasia; however, weight loss was not. Univariate analysis showed no association between malignancy and the cyst number/location, although a strong association was shown for cyst size. The presence/size of nodules, and main duct involvement were strongly related with malignancy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer, Cancer Research / 15.04.2015

Josée Savard, Ph.D. School of Psychology, Laval University Cancer Research Center Quebec City, Quebec, CanadaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Josée Savard, Ph.D. School of Psychology, Laval University Cancer Research Center Quebec City, Quebec, Canada MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Savard: This paper reports on a secondary analysis of an 18-month longitudinal study initially conducted in 962 patients about to receive surgery for various types of cancer. The main results of this larger study indicated that insomnia is a significant problem in cancer patients. More precisely, it was found to affect up to 59% of patients at the peri-operative period. In addition, 32% of patients who were good sleepers developed insomnia symptoms at some point during the study (Savard et al., 2009; Savard et al., 2011). The goal of this particular analysis was to determine the role of cancer treatments and their side effects in triggering/aggravating insomnia symptoms during the 18-month follow-up. Study participants completed questionnaires assessing insomnia severity and somatic symptoms at baseline, as well as 2, 6, 10, 14 and 18 months later. This analysis was conducted separately in women treated for breast cancer (n=465) and men treated for prostate cancer (n=263). In breast cancer patients, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but not hormone therapy, were found to be associated with increased insomnia severity. This deleterious effect appeared to be due to a number of side effects (e.g., nausea, night sweats, urinary symptoms). In prostate cancer patients, androgen-deprivation therapy was associated with aggravation of insomnia, an effect that was mainly due to the occurrence of night sweats. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Cost of Health Care, HPV, Vaccine Studies / 14.04.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lillian Siu, MD, FRCPC Princess Margaret Cancer Centre University Health Network Toronto Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Siu: Our study is a collaboration between researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Canadian Center for Applied Research in Cancer Control. The study involves a statistical model being applied to a hypothetical population of 192,940 Canadian boys who were 12 years old in 2012, to determine the cost effectiveness of HPV vaccination for the prevention of oropharyngeal cancer.  On the basis of this model, HPV vaccination for boys aged 12 years appears to be a cost-effective strategy for the prevention of oropharyngeal cancer in Canada. There are limitations to our study as it is based on statistical modelling with many assumptions. For instance, we could not easily address the impact of herd immunity which refers to the indirect protective effect offered by HPV vaccination in women. Based on our statistical model, despite its limitations, the vaccine can potentially save $8 to $28 million CAD for a theoretical group of 192,940 Canadian 12-year old boys in 2012 over their lifetime. As stated, this is based on a theoretical model and not a randomized study, the results are relevant especially that HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer is increasing in incidence and HPV is surpassing smoking as a risk factor for this cancer in many developed countries. Currently, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) of the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends HPV vaccination of females 9 through 26 years of age to prevent cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers, and for anogenital warts; and of males 9 through 26 years of age to prevent anal canal cancers and their precursors, and for anogenital warts. However, funding is also provided for HPV vaccination in young females and not in young males. (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, Cancer Research, Cost of Health Care, JAMA / 10.04.2015

Gabriel Brooks, MD Gastrointestinal Cancer Center Dana-Farber Cancer Institute MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gabriel Brooks, MD Gastrointestinal Cancer Center Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Brooks: The background for our study is that hospitalizations in patients with cancer are common, costly, and distressing to patients.  Acute hospital care is the single largest expenditure category in cancer care, accounting for substantially greater costs than even chemotherapy. However, patients generally wish to avoid hospitalization, and they certainly want to avoid complications of treatment that can lead to hospitalization. For these reasons, we sought to identify the extent to which hospitalizations are perceived as potentially avoidable by clinicians who are directly involved in patient care. We interviewed three physicians for each of 103 patients with cancer who experienced a hospitalization. For 24 patients (23%) two or more of the three physicians agreed that hospitalization had been potentially avoidable. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Nature, Pancreatic, UT Southwestern / 10.04.2015

Dr. Agnieszka Witkiewicz MD Associate Professor of Pathology Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center UT SouthwesternMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Agnieszka Witkiewicz MD Associate Professor of Pathology Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center UT Southwestern MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Witkiewicz: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) has a dismal prognosis, with a five year survival rate of approximately 6%. This poor outcome is related to multiple factors, including the relatively late stage of diagnosis, many patients presenting with unresectable disease, and therapy recalcitrance resulting in disease recurrence in spite of operable disease and systemic therapy. Thus far, insights into how to target the treatment of Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma have remained unclear in spite of prior sequencing efforts. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Dr. Witkiewicz: The underlying critical finding of the study was that Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is genetically diverse and that, in principle, this diversity could be exploited for the treatment of disease.   Specifically, many cases harbored deregulation in pathways that are the target for drug development.   For example, we identified cases that were driven by BRAF V600E and that were sensitive to the FDA approved drug Vemurafenib.   Similarly, multiple cases harbored defects in DNA repair processes that impart sensitivity to select chemotherapeutic agents and PARP inhibitors.  Common pathway deregulation was observed in reference to beta-catenin, notch, hedgehog, chromatin remodeling, and cell cycle regulatory pathways that are all targets for therapeutic intervention. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, JAMA, Melanoma / 10.04.2015

Nancy E. Thomas, MD, PhD Department of Dermatology University of North CarolinaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nancy E. Thomas, MD, PhD Department of Dermatology University of North Carolina MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Thomas: BRAF and NRAS mutations found in melanomas are important for tumor initiation and maintenance. There are drugs that target BRAF mutations or the pathway that are approved for BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma and help improve survival. However, it remains unknown whether these mutations in primary melanoma are markers for melanomas with a worse prognosis. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Dr. Thomas:
  • In a large international population-based study, we found that of primary melanomas, 30% harbor BRAF mutations, 13% have NRAS mutations and the other 57% do not have these mutations (wildtype).
  • In higher primary tumor stage melanomas, BRAF or NRAS mutations were associated with an approximately 3-fold increased rate of death from melanoma compared to wildtype melanoma adjusted for other prognostic factors.
  • Primary melanomas with NRAS mutations were less likely to have tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in the tumor microenvironment. (more…)