Syndicate content

Archive - Jan 9, 2017

Cancer Genetics, Inc. Announces Multiple Agreements & Collaborations with Leading Biopharma Companies to Develop Liquid Biopsy Programs

Cancer Genetics, Inc. (Nasdaq:CGIX) (“CGI” or “The Company”), a leader in enabling precision medicine for oncology through molecular markers and diagnostics, announced on January 9, 2017 that it is actively involved in five programs and projects that are funded by leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop and validate multi-marker liquid biopsy tests for a broad range of solid tumors. CGI expects that revenue from these projects will begin immediately and will help the Company accelerate the development of multi-marker companion and complementary liquid biopsy diagnostics. These five programs range across a variety of cancers including: breast, lung, renal, prostate, and gastro-intestinal. Healthcare analysts at J.P. Morgan predict that the liquid biopsy market could be worth as much as $20 billion by 2020, and replace traditional tissue-based biopsies in a wide range of cancers. Analysts also expect that liquid biopsies may open the market to new, cost-effective ways to routinely assess the effectiveness of cancer therapies and detect cancers earlier and with higher sensitivity. “There are a wide range of platforms and methods being used in liquid biopsy today, and CGI is uniquely positioned to rapidly create high-performance, clinically useful liquid biopsy tests for our biotech and pharmaceutical partners,” commented Mr. Panna Sharma, CEO & President of Cancer Genetics.

Mayo Researchers ID Treatment That Might Prevent Metastasis of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Breast cancer metastasis may be prevented through the new use of a class of drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Mayo Clinic researchers have identified that a key drug target, CDK4/6, regulates a cancer metastasis protein, SNAIL, and drugs that inhibit CDK 4/6 could prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer. This is the finding of a paper published online on January 9, 2017 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “CDK4/6-Dependent Activation of DUB3 Regulates Cancer Metastasis through SNAIL1.” CDK4/6 inhibitors are approved for treating estrogen-positive breast cancer, but not triple-negative breast cancer. "Metastasis is a hallmark of cancer and a leading cause of cancer death," says the study's senior author, Zhenkun Lou, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic. "Despite great progress in cancer therapy, the prevention of cancer metastasis is still an unfulfilled challenge." For this study, Dr. Lou and his colleagues focused on triple-negative breast cancer, which is difficult to treat, because it does not exhibit receptors for estrogen, progesterone or the HER-2/neu gene, which are targets for many current breast cancer treatments. "Prior published data suggested that CDK 4/6 inhibitors were not effective in reducing the growth rates of estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer," says Dr. Lou.

Study Supports Link Between Enterovirus Infection and Autoimmunity That Leads to Type 1 Diabetes

New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]) shows that children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) have a higher incidence of enterovirus infections prior to experiencing the autoimmune processes which lead to their T1D. The study is by Professor Heikki Hyöty and Dr. Hanna Honkanen, University of Tampere, Finland, and colleagues. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an immune-mediated process that damages insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The subclinical phase of the disease can be identified by detecting autoantibodies. Enteroviruses have been linked to type 1 diabetes in studies showing an increased frequency of these viruses in the blood and pancreas of diabetic and autoantibody-positive individuals and in studies showing an increased frequency of enterovirus antibodies in people with T1D. However, this association has not been seen in all studies. In this new study, the authors analyzed whether the presence of enteroviruses in stools was associated with the appearance of islet autoimmunity in the "Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Study" in Finland. The current study is the largest study to date in which enteroviruses have been analyzed in stool samples collected over time from children who developed signs of a beta cell-damaging process. A total of 1673 stool samples from 129 case children who turned positive for multiple islet autoantibodies and 3108 stool samples from 282 matched control children were screened for the presence of enterovirus ribonucleic acid (RNA - the genetic material found in some viruses). Altogether, 108 infections were diagnosed in the 129 case children and 169 infections in the 282 control children during the whole follow-up (mean 0.8 vs 0.6 infections per child).

New Target Identified for Treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA); Medicine Aimed at This Target May Ultimately Be Used As Booster for Recently FDA-Approved Drug for SMA

Johns Hopkins researchers, along with academic and drug industry investigators, say they have identified a new biological target for treating spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The scientists report they have evidence that an experimental medicine aimed at this target works as a "booster" in conjunction with a drug called nusinersen, which was recently approved by the FDA, to improve symptoms of the disorder in mice. In a report on the work, published in the January 4, 2017 issue of Neuron, the researchers say the combination therapy improved survival time, body weight and motor movements in mice with spinal muscular atrophy, a relatively rare inherited disorder characterized by the loss of motor neurons, or nerve cells that control movement. The Neuron article is titled “The Antisense Transcript SMN-AS1 Regulates SMN Expression and Is a Novel Therapeutic Target for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.” Nusinersen, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2016, became the first drug approved to treat spinal muscular atrophy, with several other experimental drugs still in clinical trials. The Johns Hopkins researchers and their colleagues say the "boosted" nusinersen therapy, if confirmed by further studies, has the potential to significantly improve the lives of people with spinal muscular atrophy, some with forms of the disease with only weeks or months to live, and others who are unable to sit, stand or walk. The researchers caution that the booster therapy used in their new study will not be available on the market or even for use in human trials anytime soon; it must await years of animal testing for safety and effectiveness first. But the results of their study, they add, offer at least one path to extending the usefulness of nusinersen.

Massive Genetic Study of Humpback Whales to Inform Conservation Assessments; Study Confirms Need to Protect Unique Humpback Whales in Arabian Sea

Scientists have published one of the largest genetic studies ever conducted on the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) for the purpose of clarifying management decisions in the Southern Hemisphere and supporting calls to protect unique and threatened populations, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, and other organizations. Using data generated from more than 3,000 skin samples from individual whales ranging from the South Atlantic to the Indian Oceans, the research team has uncovered previously unknown degrees of relatedness between different whale populations. The study will also help inform ongoing conservation reassessments of humpback whale populations, and reaffirms the highly distinct nature of a small, non-migratory population of humpback whales living in the Arabian Sea in need on continued protection. The study titled "Multiple Processes Drive Genetic Structure of Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Populations Across Spatial Scales" was published online on January 8, 2016 in Molecular Ecology. Field research on marine mammals is one of the most challenging of biological studies, primarily because scientists are often unable to follow ocean-going species such as whales across their full range; the humpback whale, in particular, undertakes some of the longest migratory movements of any mammal. While techniques such as remote sensing devices placed on individual whales, photo-recognition of individuals, and other methods can help answer some questions of where whale species travel, molecular technologies can reveal secrets at a broader level, sometimes representative of entire populations.

The Science of Babies’ First Sight

When a newborn opens her eyes, she does not see well at all. You, the parent, are a blurry shape of light and dark. Soon, though, her vision comes online. Your baby will recognize you, and you can see it in her eyes. Then baby looks beyond you and that flash of recognition fades. She can't quite make out what's out the window. It's another blurry world of shapes and light. But within a few months, she can see the trees outside. Her entire world is coming into focus. University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine scientists have found more clues about what happens in the brains of baby mammals as they try to make visual sense of the world. The study in mice, published online on January 9, 2016 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is part of an ongoing project in the lab of Spencer Smith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology, to map the functions of the brain areas that play crucial roles in vision. Proper function of these brain areas is likely critical for vision restoration. "There's this remarkable biological operation that plays out during development," Dr. Smith said. "Early on, there are genetic programs and chemical pathways that position cells in the brain and help wire up a 'rough draft' of the circuitry. Later, after birth, this circuitry is actively sculpted by visual experience: simply looking around our world helps developing brains wire up the most sophisticated visual processing circuitry the world has ever known. Even the best supercomputers and our latest algorithms still can't compete with the visual processing abilities of humans and animals.

Spider Silk Is Produced Artificially for First Time

Being able to produce artificial spider silk has long been a dream of many scientists, but all attempts have, until now, involved harsh chemicals and have resulted in fibers of limited use. Now, a team of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet has, step by step, developed a method that works. Today they report that they can produce kilometer-long threads that for the first time resemble real spider silk. The results were published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. Spider silk is an attractive material–-it is well tolerated when implanted in tissues, it is light-weight but stronger than steel, and it is also biodegradable. However, spiders are difficult to keep in captivity and they spin small amounts of silk. Therefore, any large-scale production must involve the use of artificial silk proteins and spinning processes. A biomimetic spinning process (that mimics nature) is probably the best way to manufacture fibers that resemble real spider silk. Until now, this has not been possible because of difficulties to obtain water soluble spider silk proteins from bacteria and other production systems, and therefore strong solvents has been used in previously described spinning processes. Spider silk is made of proteins that are stored as an aqueous solution in the silk glands, before being spun into a fiber. Researcher Dr. Anna Rising (shown at left with Dr. Johansson) and her colleagues Dr. Jan Johansson and Dr.

Drug Shown to Reduce New Attacks & Symptom Progression in Some Multiple Sclerosis Patients

In separate clinical trials, a drug called ocrelizumab has been shown to reduce new attacks in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), and also new symptom progression in primary progressive MS. Two studies conducted by an international team of researchers, which included Dr. Amit Bar-Or and Dr. Douglas Arnold from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University, have discovered that ocrelizumab can significantly reduce new attacks in patients with relapsing MS, as well as slow the progression of symptoms caused by primary progressive MS. In one study, 732 patients with primary progressive MS were randomized on a 2:1 ratio to receive either ocrelizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that depletes CD20+ B cells, or a placebo. The proportion of patients with 12-week confirmed disability progression was 39.3 per cent with the placebo versus 32.9 per cent with ocrelizumab. After 24 weeks, the proportion with confirmed disability progression was 35.7 per cent with placebo versus 29.6 per cent with ocrelizumab. By week 120, timed 25-foot walk worsened by 55.1 per cent for placebo versus 38.9 per cent for ocrelizumab. Patients given ocrelizumab were also found to have fewer new brain lesions and less brain volume loss than those given the placebo. Researchers also tested ocrelizumab in two separate studies of patients with relapsing remitting MS, one a group of 821 and the other 835. In both studies, patients were randomized on a 1:1 ratio to receive either ocrelizumab or an already established treatment for relapsing MS: subcutaneous interferon-beta, injected three times weekly. Compared to the placebo, relapse rates in patients given ocrelizumab were 46-per-cent lower in one study and 47-per-cent lower in the other.

Ottoline Leyser Honored with 2017 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award

According to an announcement issued on January 9, 2017, Dr. Ottoline Leyser (photo) has been named recipient of the 2017 FEBS|EMBO Women in Science Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievements of female researchers in the life sciences in the past five years. Dr. Leyser, who is Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University, UK, receives the honor for her work on the evolutionary, developmental and biochemical mechanisms that enable plants to respond and adapt to environmental changes. “It’s a great honor to receive this award,” says Dr. Leyser. “It’s both a joy and a privilege to work in research science, especially in molecular biology, where technological advances are currently opening up so many opportunities for discovery. To make the most of these opportunities, science needs diversity, and initiatives like this award have an important part to play in opening the doors of the laboratory to everyone." Professor Leyser’s focus on understanding how plants respond to their environment led to her discovery of the mechanism of action of the plant hormone auxin and the identification of a second group of plant hormones known as strigolactones. She has formulated a model of how the two hormone systems interact to regulate plant development. Her current work aims to elucidate the mechanisms underlying this model. In order to tackle this question, she has added computational modelling to the more traditional array of techniques used to study this complex system. Dr. Leyser is also an outstanding role model for future generations of researchers, having successfully combined academic research, parenthood, and other activities.