Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Personalized Medicine / 09.05.2021 Interview with: Kelly de Ligt, PhD Postdoctoral researcher | Project lead ‘PRO implementation in clinical care’ Psycho Social Research and Epidemiology (PSOE) Netherlands Cancer Institute – Antoni van Leeuwenhoek What is the background for this study? Response: Health-related Quality of Life (HRQoL) and survivorship has become increasingly important within breast cancer care, as the majority of women survives at least 10 years after breast cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer survivors may experience multiple co-existing symptoms that affect their health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Previous studies have mainly studied these symptoms as separate, independent items. However in reality, survivors usually experience multiple symptoms that can add up. We therefore studied the overall symptom burden in breast cancer survivors and tried to identify patterns in this. We believe this may be more relevant, as currently the needs of breast cancer survivors are not fully met and there is a growing demand for personalized follow-up care. We selected breast cancer survivors from the Netherlands Cancer Registry, which contains comprehensive information about diagnosis and treatment for all cancer patients in the Netherlands. Women who had been surgically treated with or without adjuvant treatment for breast cancer stages I to III and between one and five years after diagnosis were invited to participate in our survey. A total of 404 participating survivors were questioned about their experienced burden for fatigue, nausea, pain, shortness of breath, insomnia, appetite, constipation, diarrhoea, as well as emotional and cognitive symptoms  (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, Personalized Medicine / 19.06.2020 Interview with: Hänggi, PhD Chief Scientific Officer Polyneuron Pharmaceuticals What is the background for this study? Response: Anti-MAG neuropathy is a rare form of acquired demyelinating neuropathy. The disease onset normally presents after the age of 50 years and is 2.7 times more frequent in men than in women, with a prevalence of about 1 in 100,000. It is caused by the production of monoclonal anti-MAG IgM antibodies that recognize the HNK-1 epitope. The myelin-associated glycoprotein MAG is a mediator for the formation and maintenance of the myelin sheaths. There is strong evidence that the binding and deposition of anti-MAG IgM autoantibodies on myelin sheath is responsible for the demyelination, which clinically manifests itself as a peripheral neuropathy affecting primarily sensory nerves. However, the causes and the exact mechanisms behind the expansion of anti-MAG IgM producing B-cell and plasma cell clones are not fully understood. Most off-label treatments aim to reduce pathogenic autoantibody titers by depleting  autoantibody-producing B cell clones which interfere with antibody-effector mechanisms, or physically remove autoantibodies from the circulation. Most frequently, the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab is used to treat anti-MAG neuropathy patients. However, all of these treatment options often lack of selectivity, efficiency, or can induce severe adverse effects in some patients. Polyneuron has designed PN-1007 to highly selectively target the IgM autoantibodies that cause anti-MAG neuropathy. PN-1007 is a glycopolymer that mimics the natural HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope found on myelin of peripheral nerves and binds to the circulating disease-causing antibodies. By eliminating these pathogenic antibodies, PN-1007 may protect the integrity of the neuronal myelin sheaths of anti-MAG neuropathy patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine / 27.04.2020 Interview with: Fumihiko Urano, MD, PhD Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Lipid Research Washington University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? Response: Wolfram syndrome is a rare monogenic disease characterized by insulin-dependent diabetes, retinal degeneration, and neurodegeneration. Using gene editing by CRISPR-Cas9, in combination with patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), we were able to make normal insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells by correcting Wolfram Syndrome gene mutation. We could cure diabetes in cells and mice. Because we can create any types of tissues from iPSCs, our next step would be to replicate this success for other medical problems, including retinal regeneration and neurodegeneration. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease, Pediatrics, Personalized Medicine / 26.09.2019 Interview with: James P. Franciosi, MD Chief of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Nemours Children's Hospital What is the background for this study? Response: Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic inflammation of the esophagus that is driven by eosinophils. A common class of medications used for this condition are called Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs, which block the production of gastric acid in the stomach. Currently only 30 to 60 percent of children with EoE respond well when treated with PPIs. We hypothesized that genetic variants in the genes for CYP2C19 and STAT6 could plausibly be associated with response to PPI therapy for EoE. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine / 02.07.2019

Dr. Winegarden
Dr. Winegarden Interview with:

Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Medical Economics and Innovation
Pacific Research Institute  What is the background for this poll? Would you tell us a little about the Center for Medical Economics and Innovation? 

Response: Recent press reports have focused on how extensive innovative gene therapies can be.  PRI was interested in learning where Americans stand on these cures of the future, and commission a new national opinion survey to find out.

The Center for Medical Economics and Innovation is a new center launched by PRI this spring to research and advance policies showing how a thriving biomedical and pharmaceutical sector benefits both patients and economic growth. Medical innovation is an important driver of economic growth, responsible for over $1.3 trillion in economic activity each year. As the Milken Institute has found, every job in the biomedical sphere supports another 3.3 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Among the activities of the Center – which can be accessed at – are providing free-market analysis to evaluate current policy proposals, producing easy-to-understand data and analysis on current trends in medical science, breaking down complex issues like pharmaceutical and biomedical pricing structures, and demonstrating the benefits that market-based reforms can offer patients and the U.S. health care system.  (more…)

Author Interviews, Personalized Medicine, Weight Research / 19.02.2019 Interview with: Ruth Loos, PhD The Charles Bronfman Professor in Personalized Medicine Director, Genetics of Obesity and Related Traits Program Co-Director, Charles Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, NY What is the background for this study? Which type of body fat distribution carries greater risk of diabetes or other obesity-related health disorders? Response: Obesity broadly consists of two component; [1] there is overall body size (assessed using BMI) and [2] there is fat distribution (assessed using WHR). Both are “heritable”, which mean that they are in part determined by our genome (and the other part is determined by our lifestyle). Over the past 15 years, geneticists have used an approach to screen the whole genome of thousands of people to identify genetic variations that differ between e.g. obese people vs non-obese people. We have applied this approach to both components of obesity and have found so far that genes for “overall body size” seem to act in the brain, likely controlling hunger, satiety, reward, etc., whereas the genes that determine where in the body the excess fat will be stored when you gain weight (i.e. fat distribution) seem to act more “locally” at the fat cell level itself, determining the storage and release of fat.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Inflammation, Kidney Disease, Personalized Medicine / 31.07.2018 Interview with: Michael P. Madaio, MD Sydenstricker Professor and Chairman Department of Medicine Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University What is the background for this study? Response: Glomerulonephritis is a inflammatory disease of the kidney.  Glomeruli are the filtering units in the kidney. This is most often immunologically mediated and are autoimmune. Most therapies are directed at inhibiting the Immune/autoimmune process (immunotherapy) systemically. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, Neurology, Personalized Medicine, Radiology, Surgical Research / 13.07.2018 Interview with: Yasser Iturria-Medina, PhD Primary Investigator, Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics & Mental Health Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery Faculty of Medicine McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There are millions of patients following therapeutic interventions that will not benefit them. In this study, we aimed to illustrate that it is possible to identify the most beneficial intervention for each patient, in correspondence with the principles of the personalized medicine (PM). Our results show that using multimodal imaging and computational models it is possible to predict individualized therapeutic needs. The predictions are in correspondence with the individual molecular properties, which validate our findings and the used computational techniques. The results highly also the imprecision of the traditional clinical evaluations and categories for understanding the individual therapeutic needs, evidencing the positive impact that would have to use multimodal data and data-driven techniques in the clinic, in addition to the medical doctor's criterion/evaluations.   (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Personalized Medicine, University of Pennsylvania / 15.05.2018 Interview with: David A. Wolk, MD Associate Professor Department of Neurology Co-Director, Penn Memory Center Associate Director, Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center University of Pennsylvania What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a state when individuals have mild memory problems, but not enough to impact day-to-day function.  Many patients with MCI are on the trajectory to developing Alzheimer’s Disease dementia, but about half will not and remain stable.  As such, patients with MCI are often uncertain about the likelihood they should expect to decline in the future which obviously may be associated with considerable anxiety and this may delay opportunities for them to plan for the future or begin therapeutic interventions. This study examined the degree to which amyloid PET, which detects the amyloid pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease, a measure of shrinkage of the hippocampus with MRI, and cognitive measures predicted development of dementia over 3 years.  We found that each of these measures enhances prediction of whether an individual will or will not develop dementia in the future.  If all of these measures are positive, one has a very high risk of progression whereas if amyloid PET and the MRI measurement are normal, there is very little risk of progression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Geriatrics, Heart Disease, Personalized Medicine, UCLA / 12.12.2017 Interview with: Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD Principal Substudy Investigator, PRESET Registry Subgroup Analysis, Elderly Patients Associate Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research David Geffen School of Medicine University of California, Los Angeles What is the background for this study?  Response: The mapping of the Human Genome 14 years ago ushered in a new era of precision medicine. Many people are familiar with advances in oncology using precision medicine, but recently, new developments in precision medicine in cardiology have allowed us to develop a tool to differentiate patients likely to have obstructive coronary artery (CAD) from those who have non-cardiac causes of their symptoms. Diagnosing CAD in the elderly is challenging. Aging individuals often present with atypical symptoms of CAD which can complicate the evaluation process. The typical diagnostic pathway for possible CAD often starts with less invasive testing and progresses to invasive testing, especially in older patients. Invasive procedures pose greater risk in the elderly population than they do in younger patients because of the higher risk of side effects, including bleeding, vascular complications and kidney injury. Elderly adults evaluated for CAD have a higher pretest probability of CAD and are also at higher risk of experiencing procedure-related complications during their evaluation.[i],[ii] It is also important to note that elderly patients are often underrepresented in clinical trials and other types of comparative effectiveness research.[iii],[iv] For example, the 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk Algorithm is only formally approved to be used in individuals up to the age of 75, despite the fact that individuals exceeding this threshold in age experience higher rates of adverse cardiovascular events.[v] All of this means that the elderly population may have the most to gain from timely and accurate determination of their currently likelihood of obstructive CAD. This precision medicine tool, the age, sex and gene expression score (ASGES), and its clinical utility in the elderly population is the focus of this study. It was based on patient data from the PRESET Registry, a prospective, multicenter, observational study enrolling stable, symptomatic outpatients from 21 U.S. primary care practices from August 2012 to August 2014. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Heart Disease, JAMA, Personalized Medicine / 21.11.2017 Interview with: Dr. MalikDr. Shaista Malik MD PhD MPH Director of Samueli Center For Integrative Medicine Assistant Professor, School of Medicine University of California, Irvine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Having diabetes has been considered to be a risk equivalent to already had a myocardial infarction for predicting future cardiovascular events.  We were interested in testing whether further risk stratification in those with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, using coronary artery calcium (CAC), would result in improved prediction of cardiovascular events. We found that CAC score was associated with incident coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease more than a decade after the scoring was performed.  We also found that even after we controlled for the duration of diabetes (of 10 years or more), insulin use, or hemoglobin A1c level, coronary artery calcium remained a predictor of cardiovascular events. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, JAMA, Personalized Medicine / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Ingrid S. van Maurik, MSc Department of Neurology and Alzheimer Center Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Amsterdam Neuroscience VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, the Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: CSF and MRI biomarkers are increasingly used in clinical practice, but their diagnostic and prognostic value is not perfect. Furthermore, criteria do not specify how to deal with conflicting or borderline results, or how to take patient characteristics into account. Therefore, optimal use of these biomarkers in clinical practice remains challenging. As part of the ABIDE project, we constructed biomarker-based prognostic models (CSF, MRI and combined) that enable prediction of future Alzheimer’s disease, or any type of dementia, in individual patients with mild cognitive impairment. When using these models, any value can be entered for the variables, resulting in personalized probabilities with confidence intervals. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine / 15.05.2017 Interview with: 3D SignaturesJason Flowerday, CEO Director of 3D Signatures What is the background for 3D Signatures? Response: 3D Signatures, and its clinical lab tests, which incorporate its proprietary TeloViewTM software analytics, is the culmination of over 20 years of ground-breaking research conducted by Dr. Sabine Mai and her colleagues. It is the only technology in the world that quantifies genomic instability, which is the hallmark of cancer and other proliferative diseases at the whole-cell level. By measuring the degree of genomic instability from different tissues, TeloViewTM has produced clinically actionable distinctions in the stage of disease, rate of progression of disease, drug efficacy, and drug toxicity. The technology is well developed and supported by 22 clinical studies on over 2,000 patients on 13 different cancers including Alzheimer’s disease. The results have been exceptional and represent a universal biomarker platform across all disease areas that the company has investigated to date. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, NEJM, Ophthalmology, Personalized Medicine / 20.04.2017 Interview with: John M. Lachin, Sc.D. Research Professor of Biostatistics and of Epidemiology, and of Statistics The George Washington University Biostatistics Center and David Matthew Nathan, M.D. Professor of Medicine, Diabetes Unit Massachusetts General Hospital What is the background for this study? Response: Traditional guidelines for screening for retinopathy, based on indirect evidence, call for annual examinations. The automatic annual screening for retinopathy, without considering potential risk factors for progression,  appears excessive based on the slow rate of progression through sub-clinical states of retinopathy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy, Personalized Medicine / 24.02.2017 Interview with: Eran Andrechek, PhD Eran Andrechek, PhD Associate Professor Department of Physiology Michigan State University East Lansing, MI Associate Professor Department of Physiology Michigan State University East Lansing, MI What is the background for this study? Response: Of the various types of breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer (lacking estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER2) has the worst outcome and is largely limited to chemotherapy for treatment.  Other types can be treated with personalized medicine, resulting in better outcome.  For instance, a HER2+ve breast cancer can be treated with Herceptin, which targets HER2 itself.  The fact that triple negative breast cancer lacks these sort of targeted treatments presents a clear need in breast cancer therapy. The goal of this study was to bring together our computational work using large databases from breast cancer with research into therapeutic options.  Essentially we wanted to ask if we could use patterns in what genes were being expressed to predict optimal therapy for triple negative breast cancer.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine, Prostate Cancer / 17.02.2017 Interview with: Dr. John L. Gore, MD Associate Professor Adjunct Associate Professor-Surgery Department of Urology University of Washington What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The rationale for our study derives from the uncertainty that both patients and clinicians confront when trying to make decisions about adjuvant therapy for prostate cancers found to have aggressive pathologic features at the time of radical prostatectomy. There is level 1 evidence in support of adjuvant radiation therapy in this setting, but several factors restrain providers from recommending adjuvant radiation. We found that interjecting a genomic test that predicts the risk of clinical metastases 5 years after surgery impacts the treatment recommended and helps men and clinicians feel more confident in the decision they are making or recommending. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Columbia, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine / 23.12.2016 Interview with: Dr. Kai Wang Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, University of Southern California Institute for Genomic Medicine, Columbia University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Cancer is a genetic disease caused by a small number of “driver mutations” in the cancer genome that drive disease initiation and progression. To understand such mechanism, there are increasing community efforts in interrogating cancer genomes, transcriptomes and proteomes by high-throughput technologies, generating huge amounts of data. For example, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project has already made public 2.5 petabytes of data describing tumor and normal tissues from more than 11,000 patients. We were interested in using such publicly available genomics data to predict cancer driver genes/variants for individual patients, and design an "electronic brain” called iCAGES that learns from such information to provide personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment. iCAGES is composed of three consecutive layers, to infer driver variants, driver genes and drug treatment, respectively. Unlike most other existing tools that infer driver genes from a cohort of patients with similar cancer, iCAGES attempts to predict drivers for individual patient based on his/her genomic profile. What we have found is that iCAGES outperforms other tools in identifying driver variants and driver genes for individual patients. More importantly, a retrospective analysis on TCGA data shows that iCAGES predicts whether patients respond to drug treatment and predicts long-term survival. For example, we analyzed two groups of patients and found that using iCAGES recommend drugs can increase patients’ survival probability by 66%. These results suggest that whole-genome information, together with transcriptome and proteome information, may benefit patients in getting optimal and precise treatment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Personalized Medicine, Technology / 16.11.2016 Interview with: Dr. Kezheng Chen Lab of Functional and Biomedical Nanomaterials College of Materials Science and Engineering Qingdao University of Science and Technology Qingdao China What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: From a view point of practical applications, superparamagnetism is usually highly desirable, because it can prevent the magnetic particles from irreversible aggregation and ensure an excellent dispersity once the applied magnetic field is removed. Up to now, the largest size of reported superparamagnetic clusters is around several hundreds of nanometers, which are composed of numerous nanocrystals, and hence exhibiting polycrystalline nature. In this sense, how to realize well pronounced superparamagnetism in large-size single crystals is of great interest to the general public. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Lung Cancer, Personalized Medicine, University of Pennsylvania / 13.09.2016 Interview with: Erica L. Carpenter, MBA, PhD Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine Director, Circulating Tumor Material Laboratory Division of Hematology/Oncology Abramson Cancer Center Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The advent of precision medicine practices for cancer patients, including the use of drugs that target specific tumor mutations, has necessitated improved diagnostics with real-time molecular monitoring of patients' tumor burden. While biopsy material, obtained surgically or through fine needle aspirate, can provide tissue for next generation sequencing (NGS) and mutation detection, this requires an invasive often painful procedure for the patient. In many cases, especially in more advanced disease when multiple metastases are present, such tissue cannot be obtained or can only be obtained from a single tumor site, thus limiting the sensitivity of tissue-based biopsy. Here we report on a prospective cohort of 102 consecutively enrolled patients with advanced non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) for whom a non-invasive liquid biopsy was used for real-time detection of therapeutically targetable mutations. Tissue samples were only obtainable for 50 of the 102 patients, and these tissue biopsies were analyzed using a 47-gene Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) panel at Penn's Center for Personalized Diagnostics. Concordance of results for the 50 patients who received both tests was close to 100% when the samples were obtained concurrently. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Genetic Research, Leukemia, Personalized Medicine / 05.08.2016 Interview with: Dr Laura Eadie PhD Post Doctoral Researcher Affiliate Lecturer Discipline of Medicine University of Adelaide Summary: Researchers based at SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) in Adelaide, South Australia have recently demonstrated the significance of early increases in the expression of ABCB1 in predicting long-term response to imatinib therapy. Lead researcher, Dr Laura Eadie, has recently had these findings published in the journal Leukemia and says that she hopes “the evidence provided by the study could be used to inform better patient treatment in the future”. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: ABCB1 (p-glycoprotein) is a membrane transporter known to be involved in the efflux of the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that are used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). Overexpression of ABCB1 has also been demonstrated to cause resistance to the TKIs imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib in vitro. Although studied previously in CML patients, the predictive value of ABCB1 in determining a patient’s long-term response to imatinib had not been realized ... until now. Previous studies investigating ABCB1 as a predictive biomarker focused on expression levels of ABCB1 at one time point in isolation. For our study, we have measured the levels of ABCB1 at two separate time points specified in the TIDEL II trial protocol: day 1 (prior to the start of imatinib therapy) and day 22 (three weeks on imatinib). We then calculated the fold rise in ABCB1 expression levels at day 22 compared with day 1 and grouped patients about the median into high and low fold rise. When we compared molecular outcomes for patients within these two ABCB1 expression groups we noticed a striking difference in outcome to imatinib therapy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Heart Disease, JAMA, Personalized Medicine, UCSF / 21.06.2016 Interview with: Peter Ganz, MD Chief, Division of Cardiology Director, Center of Excellence in Vascular Research Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Maurice Eliaser Distinguished Professor of Medicine University of California, San Francisco What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ganz:  The research described in the JAMA paper involved measuring 1,130 different proteins in nearly 2000 individuals with apparently stable coronary heart disease, who were followed up to 11 years. Initially, two hundred different proteins were identified whose blood levels could be related to the risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and death, and ultimately a combination of nine proteins was selected for a risk prediction model, based on their combined accuracy and sensitivity. Application of these findings to samples of patients with stable coronary heart disease demonstrated that some of those who were deemed clinically stable instead had a high risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes, while other patients with the same clinical diagnosis had a very low risk. Thus, individuals who all carried the same clinical diagnosis of stable coronary heart disease had a risk of an adverse cardiovascular event that varied by as much as 10-fold, as revealed by analysis of the levels of the nine proteins in their blood. Given such large differences in risk and outcomes, patients could reasonably opt to be treated differently, depending on their level of risk. We hope that in the future, management of patients with stable angina will at least in part rely on risk assessment based on levels of blood proteins. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Personalized Medicine, UCSD / 07.06.2016 Interview with: Maria Schwaederle PharmD Clinical Research Scientist Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy UCSD Moores Cancer Center La Jolla, CA 92093 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Schwaederle: We performed this analysis with experts in the field, including but not limited to Drs Schilsky, Lee, Mendelsohn and Kurzrock, all known for their experience in the area of precision/personalized medicine. Historically, phase I trials (which are often first in human or highly experimental in other ways) were believed to be examining only toxicity. Our meta-analysis of 13,203 patients shows that in the era of precision medicine, this historical belief needs to be discarded. Second, it is the use of precision medicine that makes this belief outdated. Indeed, Phase I trials that utilized a biomarker-driven approach that is the essence of precision medicine had a median response rate of about 31%, which is higher than many FDA approved drugs, and this is in spite of the fact that phase I patients are a highly refractory group having failed multiple lines of conventional therapy. Importantly, however, it was not the use of targeted agents alone that was important. It was the biomarker-based approach where patients are matched to drugs. Without matching, response rates were dismal—about 5%. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research, Personalized Medicine, Stanford / 01.05.2016 Interview with: Dr. Elodie Sollier Chief Scientific Officer at Vortex Biosciences What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) burden may be a useful biomarker of response to targeted therapy in PDX (Patient Derived Xenograft) mouse models. Vortex Biosciences’ technology has been proven to enrich CTCs from human blood, but use of the technology with mouse blood had not yet been explored. In this poster, human CTCs are isolated with both high efficiency and purity from xenograft model of breast cancer using Vortex’s technology. Circulating Tumor Cell enumeration increased as the tumor burden increased in the mouse demonstrating its utility as a biomarker for drug treatment response. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cleveland Clinic, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine, Prostate, Prostate Cancer, Urology / 07.03.2016 Interview with: Eric A. Klein, MD Chairman, Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute Cleveland Clinic What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Klein: Prostate cancer is an enigma. While this tumor is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men, most newly diagnosed disease detected by PSA screening is biologically indolent and does not require immediate therapy. Currently, the main clinical challenge in these men is to distinguish between those who can be managed by active surveillance from those who require curative intervention. Current clinical and pathological tools used for risk stratification are limited in accuracy for distinguishing between these scenarios. An abundance of research in the last decade has provided evidence that genomics can offer meaningful and clinically actionable biological information to help inform decision making, and current National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines on prostate cancer endorse the use of commercially available genomic tools for men considering active surveillance.[1] It has been previously shown that the 22-gene genomic classifier, Decipher, accurately predicts the likelihood of metastasis and prostate cancer specific mortality when measured on tissue from radical prostatectomy specimens.[2] In multiple validation studies, it performed with higher accuracy and discrimination compared to clinical risk factors alone. The current study[3] is the first to examine whether the use of Decipher might aid decision making when measured on biopsy tissue at the time of diagnosis. Men with available needle biopsy samples were identified from a study cohort that previously had Decipher performed on their matched radical prostatectomy tissue. In this cohort of mixed low, intermediate and high risk men, Biopsy Decipher predicted the risk of metastasis 10 years post RP with high accuracy, outperforming NCCN clinical risk categorization, biopsy Gleason score and pre-operative PSA. Furthermore, this study showed that Decipher reclassified 46% of patients into lower or higher risk classification compared to NCCN classification alone. The study also showed that Biopsy Decipher can identify men that are at high risk for adverse pathology as defined by the presence of primary Gleason pattern 4 or greater. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Melanoma, NYU, Personalized Medicine / 25.01.2016 Interview with: Tomas Kirchhoff, PhD Assistant Professor, Departments of Population Health and Environmental Medicine NYU Langone Medical Center Member, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center NYU Langone  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Kirchhoff: Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the cause of approximately 80% of all skin cancer patients annually. One factor that can help reverse this negative trend is efficient prediction of which patients at early melanoma stage will likely progress to more advanced metastatic disease. Current clinical predictors of patient survival, based on tumor characteristics, are important, but are relatively non-specific to inform melanoma prognosis to an individual patient level. It is critical to identify other factors that can serve as more personalized markers of predicting the course of melanoma. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Kirchhoff: In our study, we found that inherited genetic markers that impact activity of certain immune genes correlate with melanoma survival. More specifically, our findings show that patients with more frequent forms of these genetic markers (genotypes) have, on average, a five-year shorter survival than patients with less common genotypes. We suggest that these genetic markers are independent of the current tumor surrogates and, as such, can serve as novel personalized markers of melanoma prognosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine, UCLA / 24.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Chirag Patil, MD American Board Certified Neurosurgeon Brain & Spine Tumor Program Lead Investigator, Precision Medicine Initiative Against Brain Cancer Program Director, Neurosurgical Residence training program Director, Center for Neurosurgical Outcomes Research Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California Editor’s note: Dr. Patil’s research is focused on developing a method of personalized cancer treatment through the harnessing of genome wide mutational analysis of a specific patient’s cancer. Would you tell us a little about yourself and your research interests? Dr. Patil: I am a Stanford-trained, Board Certified Neurosurgeon and cancer researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. I primarily focus on the care of patients with malignant brain tumors, particularly glioblastomas. I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell, followed by a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where I was a Regent’s scholar. I completed a residency in neurosurgery and a fellowship in stereotactic radiology at Stanford University. I also have a master’s degree in epidemiology with a focus on clinical trial design and mathematical modeling from Stanford. Can you tell us about some of your research interests? Dr. Patil: I am keenly interested in and focused on developing precision science-powered novel brain tumor therapies, immuno-therapies, and patient-centered “big data” outcomes research. I lead the recently-funded Cedars-Sinai Precision Medicine Initiative Against Brain Cancer, which utilizes tumor genomics to build a mathematical computer model, i.e., a virtual cancer cell of each patient’s unique tumor. The White House and several other stakeholders have taken keep interest in this research initiative as an example of a leading precision medicine program. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, Personalized Medicine, Technology / 06.01.2016 Interview with: Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani Team leader in computational biology The Institute of Cancer Research London Medical Research: What is the background for the canSAR database? What are the main uses for the tool? Dr. Al-Lazikani: Drug discovery is a difficult, time consuming and expensive venture that frequently ends in late stage drug failures - especially in oncology. As with any complex venture, decisions throughout the drug discovery pipeline can be empowered by having access to the right information at the right time. But for drug discovery this means bringing together billions of experimental data from very diverse areas of science spanning genomics, proteomics, chemistry and more. We developed canSAR to help guide our own drug discovery efforts by integrating these huge, diverse data and by analysing the data and deriving hidden links and knowledge from them. This means that we can answer questions in minutes that would have taken weeks using previously available public resources. But, more importantly, canSAR analyses and links these data in a way that allows us  to derive knowledge that was hidden before. For example, one of the main ways canSAR is used is to help select the best druggable targets for drug discovery. Using canSAR we were able to uncover many druggable cancer proteins that were previously overlooked, and we are delighted to see that several of these proteins are now the subjects of drug discovery and development projects both by us and by others. We took the decision to make canSAR publicly and freely available because we believe that cancer drug discovery is a vast challenge that requires openness and data sharing worldwide. It has been embraced by the community is being used by tens of thousands of cancer scientists worldwide, both in academia and industry, to generate hypotheses for experiments and select targets for drug discovery. (more…)
Author Interviews, Personalized Medicine, Pharmacology / 16.11.2015 Interview with: Diane Frenier Esq Reed Smith Corporate Partner Member of Corporate & Securities Group and Life Sciences Health Industry Group Background: Diane Frenier Esq discusses the M&A boom in the pharmaceutical and retail drug industry including a the "global study of 100 senior executives at life sciences companies by global law firm Reed Smith, in partnership with Mergermarket, reveals that 94% are planning to make an acquisition in the next year”. Medical Research: What are the main drivers behind the pursuit of cross-border life sciences deals? Ms Frenier: I think companies are trying to strengthen their capabilities in areas that are a core focus for them (e.g., in certain therapeutic areas, or for orphan drugs), and that includes adding products in those core focus areas and, in some cases, broadening geographically so they can market products in those core focus areas on a more global basis.  This will allow them to use their resources more efficiently and take advantage of saving from reducing redundancies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Personalized Medicine / 04.11.2015

Timothy Humphrey DPhil. CRUK/MRC Oxford institute for Radiation Oncology University of Oxford, Interview with Timothy Humphrey DPhil. CRUK/MRC Oxford institute for Radiation Oncology University of Oxford, UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Multiple mutations resulting in loss of a particular histone mark (H3K36me3) are frequently found in a number of cancer types. These include mutations resulting in loss of the tumour suppressor SETD2 (which trimethylates H3K36) and over-expression of the oncogene KDM4A (which demethylates H3K36me3), which together are observed in more than 10% of a number of cancer types. Notably, loss of H3K36me3 has been reported in more than 50% of pediatric high-grade gliomas. While loss of this histone mark is associated with poor prognosis, there is no targeted therapy yet. Following observations made in fission yeast, we have found a new way to selectively target H3K36me3-deficient cancers using the WEE1 inhibitor, AZD1775. Surprisingly, treatment of H3K36me3-deficient cancer cells with the WEE1 inhibitor resulted in S-phase arrest. Further analysis revealed ribonucleotide reductase to be the target of this synthetic lethal interaction, thereby leading to dNTP starvation, replication fork collapse and cell death. (more…)
Author Interviews, Personalized Medicine, Transplantation, University of Pennsylvania / 05.10.2015 Interview with: Brendan J. Keating, DPhil Assistant professor of Transplant Surgery Penn Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Genetic studies in transplantation have been plagued by small samples and very complex phenotypes/outcomes of patients. Transplanted individuals are typically on potent immunosuppression drugs for the rest of their lives, as they have 3.5 million to 10 million variants difference from an unrelated transplanted donor organ. Such populations would certainly benefit from large well-powered genetic studies but only 3 transplant genome-wide genotyping studies comprising a few hundred individuals have been published. The papers outline the resources in hand for the International Genetics & Translational Research in Transplantation Network, comprising 22 studies to date (since the publication it has now expanded to 25 studies and > 32,000 subjects with genome-wide genotyping data). We show significant statistical power in iGeneTRAiN to detect main effect association signals across regions such as the MHC region (which harbors the HLA Class I/II regions which are well established to associate with transplantation outcomes). We also show strong genome-wide power to detect transplant outcomes that span all solid organs including graft survival, acute rejection, new onset of diabetes after transplantation (fast becoming the most common comorbidity post-transplantation), and delayed graft function (to date we have looked at this in kidney transplant patients only). We show that iGeneTRAiN is statistically powered to deliver pioneering insights into the genetic architecture of transplant-related outcomes across a range of different solid-organ transplant studies. The transplant specific GWAS array that we designed (described in depth in the Genome Medicine paper) show that the coverage in key transplant associated regions is much higher than conventional arrays, and we describe the ‘imputation’ pipeline to expand the 780,000 or so variants examined in any given individual to > 15 millions of variants using whole genome sequencing reference datasets. (more…)