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Archive - 2015

November 15th

“Non-Invasive Cancer Diagnostics Market, 2015-2030”--Comprehensive Report Now Available; Liquid Biopsy Via Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs), Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA), and Exosomes a Major Focus

On November 9, 2015, the availability of a comprehensive new report “Non-Invasive Cancer Diagnostics Market, 2015-2030” was announced. Primarily driven by liquid biopsy, the report states, the non-invasive cancer diagnostics market is anticipated to grow aggressively at a healthy annual growth rate of 44% between 2015 and 2030. Prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer are likely to be the key indications which will drive the market; combined, these are expected to account for over 70% of the total liquid biopsy market in 2030. Cancer is an extremely complex disease and medical science is still struggling to figure out the factors influencing the disease origin, propagation, spread (metastasis), and relapse. In addition to satisfying the unmet market need for advanced and efficient treatment interventions, cancer prevention, early detection, and management are extremely important. The high cancer mortality rate is primarily due to delay in detection of the disease. Early diagnosis and screening makes it possible to cure the disease completely and/or increase survival rates. Over the years, various technological advances have helped medical professionals understand cancer better. Recent research in cancer biology has led to significant innovation in the development of a number of new diagnostic tools. These modern diagnostic techniques can help detect and classify cancer with increased accuracy and sensitivity. It is also important to highlight that the cost of management and treatment of cancer is a growing concern considering its generally highly progressive and often fatal nature.

Single-Molecule DNA Sequencing Enables ID of Putative Coffee Rust Mycoparasites; Coffee Rust Fungus Is Ravaging Latin America Coffee Plantations; Mycoparasites of Coffee Rust May Aid Biocontrol

Coffee rust has ravaged Latin American plantations for several years, leading to reductions in annual coffee production of up to 30 percent in some countries and threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers in the region. A new study by University of Michigan (U-M) researchers suggests that the coffee plants themselves may hold biological weapons that might someday be harnessed in the fight against the coffee rust fungal pathogen. Those potential weapons are themselves also fungi, a surprisingly diverse community of more than 300 species of them--including 15 likely fungal parasites--living on coffee leaves, within or alongside the yellow blotches (image) that mark coffee rust lesions. Using an old-fashioned handheld paper punch, U-M researchers collected leaf samples from both infected and uninfected coffee leaves at coffee farms in Chiapas, Mexico, and in Puerto Rico. They found up to 69 fungal species living on a single quarter-inch-diameter leaf disc from uninfected leaves and up to 62 species on rust-infected leaf discs, according to Timothy James, Ph.D., a U-M mycologist and lead author of a paper published online on November 13, 2015 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The paper is titled “Identification of Putative Coffee Rust Mycoparasites Using Single Molecule DNA Sequencing of Infected Pustules." "Latin America is experiencing unprecedented epidemics of coffee rust, so identification of its natural enemies could aid in developing management strategies or in pinpointing species that could be used for biocontrol," said Dr. James, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at U-M.

Capricor Therapeutics Announces Third Quarter 2015 Financial Results; Heart Disease Programs on Cardiosphere-Derived Cells (CAP-1002), Natriuretic Peptide Receptor Agonist (Cenderitide), & Exosomes Described; CMO Appointed

On November 12, 2015, Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CAPR), a biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of first-in-class therapeutics, announced its business and financial update for the third quarter ended September 30, 2015. Operational highlights included presentation of the company’s positive six-month DYNAMIC (Dilated cardiomyopathy Intervention with Allogeneic MyocardIally-Regenerative Cells) clinical trial results of its cardiosphere derived cell (CDC) therapy, CAP-1002, for the treatment of advanced heart failure. In addition, the company appointed Deborah Ascheim, M.D., as its Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Ascheim is a heart failure cardiologist with significant experience directing national and international clinical trials. "We have made significant advances for the CAP-1002 clinical development program this quarter," said Linda Marban (photo), Ph.D., the President, CEO, and Dirctor of Capricor. "Data from the DYNAMIC clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions earlier this week confirmed the bioactivity of our CDC therapy as seen in earlier clinical trials. In addition, the multi-vessel intracoronary infusion technique used in the DYNAMIC trial was safe and well tolerated and will be used in our HOPE-Duchenne clinical trial, which is now open for enrollment. We are encouraged by the concordance of the clinical data with the physiologic outcomes in the previous CDC clinical trials, CADUCEUS, ALLSTAR and now DYNAMIC, and are hopeful that the reduction of scarring in damaged hearts will also translate into positive outcomes for DMD-related cardiomyopathy patients in the HOPE-Duchenne clinical trial." In its announcement, Capricor also gave an update of its Clinical Development Program.

Small, Fast-Reproducing Fish Are Virtually Only Fish After End-Devonian Mass Extinction; Body Size Declined for 40 Million Years; No Association Seen Between Body Size and Oxygen Levels or Temperature; Ecological Factors Deemed Critical

When times are good, it pays to be the big fish in the sea; in the aftermath of disaster, however, smaller is better. According to new research led by the University of Pennsylvania's (Penn’s) Lauren Sallan, Ph.D., a mass extinction 359 million years ago known as the Hangenberg event (End-Devonian mass extinction) triggered a drastic and lasting transformation of Earth's vertebrate community. Beforehand, large creatures were the norm, but, for at least 40 million years following the die-off, the oceans were dominated by markedly smaller fish. "Rather than having this thriving ecosystem of large things, you may have one gigantic relic, but otherwise, everything is the size of a sardine," said Dr. Sallan, an Assistant Professor in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences. The finding, which suggests that small, fast-reproducing fish possessed an evolutionary advantage over larger animals in the disturbed, post-extinction environment, may have implications for trends we see in modern species today, such as in fish populations, many of which are crashing due to overfishing. The research was reported in the Novemeber 13, 2015 issue of Science. The article is titled “Body-Size Reduction in Vertebrates Following the End-Devonian Mass Extinction.” This article is accompanied by a Perspective piece (link below) in the same issue of Science. That piece is titled “One Era You Are In—The Next You Are Out.” Paleontologists and evolutionary biologists have long debated the reasons behind changes in animal body sizes. One of the main theories is known as Cope's rule, which states that the body size of a particular group of species tends to increase over time because of the evolutionary advantages of being larger, which include avoiding predation and being better able to catch prey.

New-Design, Re-Usable Biosensor with Graphene-Oxide Linking Layer Increases SPR Sensitivity >10X; Expected to “Revolutionize Pharmaceutical BioDetection"--DNA Hybridization Studies Described; Patent Filed by Moscow Scientists

Graphene is the first truly two-dimensional crystal, which was obtained experimentally and investigated regarding its unique chemical and physical properties. In 2010, two alimni of the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology MIPT), Dr. Andre Geim and Dr. Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for ground-breaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene." There has now been a considerable increase in the number of research studies aimed at finding commercial applications for graphene and other two-dimensional materials. One of the most promising applications for graphene is thought to be biomedical technologies, which is what researchers from the Laboratory of Nanooptics and Plasmonics at the MIPT's Center of Excellence for Nanoscale Optoelectronics are currently investigating. Label-free biosensors are relatively new in biochemical and pharmaceutical laboratories, and have made work much easier. The sensors enable researchers to detect low concentrations of biologically significant molecular substances (RNA, DNA, proteins, including antibodies and antigens, viruses, and bacteria) and study their chemical properties. Unlike other biochemical methods, fluorescent or radioactive labels are not needed for these biosensors, which makes it easier to conduct an experiment, and also reduces the likelihood of erroneous data due to the effects that labels have on biochemical reactions. The main applications of this technology are in pharmaceutical and scientific research, medical diagnostics, food quality control, and the detection of toxins. Label-free biosensors have already proven themselves as a method of obtaining the most reliable data on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs in pre-clinical studies.

November 14th

Programmable Electronic Glasses with Digital Eye Patch May Provide Better-Tolerated Treatment for “Lazy Eye”--New Glasses Approved by FDA and Now Available from Eye Care Professionals in United States

A new study on lazy eye found that programmable electronic glasses help improve vision in children just as well as the more traditional treatment using eye patches. This "digital patch" is the first new effective treatment for lazy eye in half a century. Results from the first U.S. trial of this device will be presented at AAO 2015, the 119th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Lazy eye, also called amblyopia, remains the most common cause of visual impairment in children. Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normally during early childhood. This can occur when one eye is much more nearsighted than the other, or when one eye wanders or strays inward. The child needs to receive treatment by the age of 8 or so while their eyes and brain are still developing, or he or she could become blind in the weaker eye. Unfortunately, getting children to comply with lazy eye treatments like eye patches or medicated drops remains a significant challenge for both ophthalmologists and parents alike. A recent study found that 1 in 4 kids feel anxiety before using eye drops. Nearly 15 percent refuse to take eye drops at all. Both drops and eye patches work based on the occlusion method. This method blocks vision in the eye with the best sight, forcing the brain to rely on the so-called “lazy eye.” During the process, vision improves though many children will still need glasses to correct their eyesight. In comparison, the electronic glasses used in this study combine vision correction and occlusion. The lenses can be filled to fit a child's vision prescription. Because the lenses are liquid crystal display (LCD), they can also be programmed to turn opaque, occluding vision in the left or right eye for different time intervals, acting like a digital patch that flickers on and off.

In Addition to Telomerase, ATM Kinase Also Shown to Control Telomere Length; New Study from Johns Hopkins; Nobel Laureate Led Work

Since the discovery of the enzyme telomerase in 1984 (recognized by the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), identifying other biological molecules that lengthen or shorten the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes has been slow going. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins, led by one of the three telomerase 2009 Nobel Laureates, report uncovering the role of an enzyme crucial to telomere length and say the new method they used to find this enzyme should speed discovery of other proteins and processes that determine telomere length. Their results were published online on November 12, 2015 in an open-access article in Cell Reports. The article is titled “ATM Kinase Is Required for Telomere Elongation in Mouse and Human Cells.” "We've known for a long time that telomerase doesn't tell the whole story of why chromosomes' telomeres are a given length, but with the tools we had, it was difficult to figure out which proteins were responsible for getting telomerase to do its work," says Carol Greider, Ph.D., the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Greider shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Jack Szostak, "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase." (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2009/). Figuring out exactly what's needed to lengthen telomeres has broad health implications, Dr. Greider notes, because shortened telomeres have been implicated in aging and in diseases as diverse as lung and bone marrow disorders, while overly long telomeres are linked to cancer.

Anti-VEGF Drug (Lucentis) Injections Highly Effective in Treating Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, Joslin Diabetes Center & Harvard Medical School Scientists Report

A clinical trial among more than 300 patients has found that the drug ranibizumab (Lucentis) is highly effective in treating proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), a complication of diabetes that can severely damage eyesight. The results, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (see article link below), demonstrate the first major therapy advance for the condition in nearly 40 years. A different report of the same study was previously described in a BioQuick News article (http://www.bioquicknews.com/node/3166) based on a JAMA news release ). Funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) and conducted by the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net), the JAMA-reported trial compared Lucentis injections with a type of laser therapy called panretinal photocoagulation, which has remained the gold standard for PDR since the mid-1970s. Although laser therapy preserves central vision, it can damage night vision and side vision, so researchers have sought therapies that lack these side-effects. The new trial results "provide crucial evidence for a safe and effective alternative to laser therapy against PDR," said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. "Patients who received Lucentis showed a little bit better central vision, much less loss of their side vision, and substantially less risk for surgery than patients who received laser treatment," said Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Beetham Eye Institute at Joslin Diabetes Center and Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. "These findings will change the available treatment options for patients with PDR." Diabetic retinopathy damages blood vessels in the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eye. As the disease worsens, blood vessels can swell and lose their ability to function properly.

Anti-VEGF Drug (Lucentis) Injections Yield Results Comparable to Those of Laser Panretinal Photocoagulation, with Fewer Side-Effects, in 2-Year Study of Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy Treatments, JAMA Article Reports

Among patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy PDR), treatment with an injection in the eye of the drug ranibizumab (Lucentis) resulted in visual acuity that was not worse than panretinal photocoagulation at 2 years, according to a study appearing in an open-access article published online on November 13, 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and intended to coincide with the study’s presentation at the American Academy of Ophthalmology 2015 Annual Meeting (November 14-17, Las Vegas, Nevada) (http://www.aao.org/annual-meeting). The JAMA article is titled “Panretinal Photocoagulation vs Intravitreous Ranibizumab for Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” PDR is a leading cause of vision loss in patients with diabetes mellitus, resulting in 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year in the United States. Pan-retinal photocoagulation (PRP), a laser procedure is currently the standard treatment for reducing severe visual loss from PDR. However, PRP can cause permanent peripheral visual field loss and decreased night vision and may exacerbate diabetic macular edema (DME), which is swelling of the retina in diabetes mellitus due to leaking of fluid from blood vessels within the macula of the eye). These negative effects make alternative treatments desirable, according to background information provided in the JAMA article. When used as treatment of DME, intra-vitreous anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) agents reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy worsening and increase the chance of improvement, making these agents a potentially viable PDR treatment. Adam R.

Small Organic Compound (NT157) Inhibits IGF1R-IRS1/2 & STAT3 Signaling Pathways; May Be Effective As “Double-Agent” Against Both Melanoma & Colon Cancer; NT157 Is Licensed by Israel’s TyrNovo Onco-Pharma Company

Cancer is a highly complex disease in which the tumor recruits its surrounding tissue, as well as the immune system, to support and promote its own growth. This explains why tumor therapy has been difficult for physicians. Researchers now realize that, not only does the tumor need to be targeted, but also its microenvironment and the immune system, which are both subverted by the tumor to support its growth. Two studies published recently in Oncogene focus on new potential-drug-treatment research through a careful study of, and link between, colorectal cancer (CRC) and melanoma. In one article, published online on September 14, 2015, long-time cancer researcher Alexander Levitzki (photo), Ph.D., Wolfson Family Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and his senior colleagues, Efrat Flashner-Abramson, Ph.D., and Hadas Reuveni, Ph.D., together with additional colleagues, described a small organic molecule known as NT157 and its action against metastatic human melanoma. Professor Levitzki and his team showed that NT157 acts as a dual-targeting agent that blocks two different signal transduction pathways that are central to the development and maintenance of multiple human cancers. They showed that NT157 targets, not only the IGF1R-IRS1/2 signaling pathway, as previously reported, but also the Stat3 signaling pathway, and that the compound demonstrates remarkable anti-cancer characteristics in A375 human melanoma cells and in a metastatic melanoma model in mice.