Experimental Drug NVP-BEZ235 Slows Ovarian Cancer Growth in Mice; Solid Tumor Clinical Trials Ongoing

A study conducted recently at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found that experimental drug NVP-BEZ235, which blocks two points of a crucial cancer cell signaling pathway, inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer cells and significantly increases survival in an ovarian cancer mouse model.

A study conducted recently at  UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) found that an experimental drug, which blocks two points of a crucial cancer cell signaling pathway, inhibits the growth of ovarian cancer cells and significantly increases survival in an ovarian cancer mouse model.

Oliver Dorigo, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, Division Gynecologic Oncology, UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center; Member, JCCC Cancer Molecular Imaging Program Area

The Novartis Oncology drug, called NVP-BEZ235, also inhibits growth of ovarian cancer cells that have become resistant to the conventional treatment with platinum chemotherapy and helps to resensitize the cancer cells to the therapy. In addition, it enhances the effect of platinum chemotherapy on ovarian cancer cells that are still responding to the therapy, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Oliver Dorigo, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a JCCC researcher.

“Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs are effective in treating ovarian cancers as long as the cancer cells remain sensitive to platinum,” Dorigo said. “But once the tumor becomes resistant, treating the cancer becomes very challenging. This is a significant clinical problem, since the majority of ovarian cancer patients develop resistance at some point during treatment. Breaking chemotherapy resistance is a difficult challenge, but crucial if we want to improve long-term survival for our patients.”

The study, performed on cells lines and mouse models, appears in the April 15 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Over the last several years, Dorigo has been working in his laboratory to develop new therapies for ovarian cancer. About 22,000 American women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, and more than 14,000 deaths are attributed to the disease annually. Dorigo has focused his research efforts on a pathway called PI3Kinase/Akt/mTOR, which, once activated, promotes ovarian cancer growth. The activated pathway also makes the cancer more aggressive and more likely to spread to other organs, Dorigo said, so targeting it offers great promise for more effective therapies for the disease.

In this two-year study, Dorigo and postdoctoral fellow Chintda Santiskulvong found that inhibiting two checkpoints of the pathway — PI3Kinase and mTOR — with NVP-BEZ235 decreased cancer growth, both in cell culture dishes and in mice with ovarian cancer. It also significantly increased survival in the mice, he said. More importantly, NVP-BEZ235 slowed growth of the ovarian cancer cells that had become resistant to platinum and helped to break that resistance.

“We were very encouraged to find that NPV-BEZ235 could resensitize the ovarian cancer cells to standard platinum treatment,” Dorigo said. “In addition, we found this drug to be more effective in inhibiting ovarian cancer cell growth than other drugs that target only one checkpoint, mTOR, in this pathway. We believe that NVP-BEZ235 has superior efficacy because of the dual effect on PI3Kinase and mTOR.”

The experimental drug is being tested as a single agent at the Jonsson Cancer Center in human clinical trials against other solid tumors. Researchers involved with those studies have said early results are encouraging.

John Glaspy, M.D., M.P.H., Co-Chief, Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology, UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center; JCCC Director, JCCC Clinical Research Unit; Member, Stand Up To Cancer Mangement Committee

“This is clearly a promising agent with activity in humans,” said Dr. John Glaspy, a professor of hematology–oncology and a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist involved with the studies. “We are still assessing its tolerability in patients.”

Dorigo said he hopes to initiate a clinical trial for women with ovarian cancer that tests the combination of NVP-BEZ235 with platinum chemotherapy, as he believes that the combination might be more effective than each drug alone.

The study was funded by the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation/Liz Tilberis Scholarship, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation/Florence and Marshall Schwid Ovarian Cancer Award, a STOP Cancer Career Development Award and the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Reproductive Health Research Program.

About the UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center

UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation’s largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson Center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2010, the center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 10 of the last 11 years.

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Clinical Trial Information:

The Cancer Biomarker Conundrum: Too Many False Discoveries

The boom in cancer [including ovarian] biomarker investments over the past 25 years has not translated into major clinical success. The reasons for biomarker failures include problems with study design and interpretation, as well as statistical deficiencies, according to an article published online August 12 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The boom in cancer [including ovarian] biomarker investments over the past 25 years has not translated into major clinical success. The reasons for biomarker failures include problems with study design and interpretation, as well as statistical deficiencies, according to an article published online August 12 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The National Institutes of Health defines a biomarker as “a characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biologic processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention.” In the past decade, there have been numerous biomarker discoveries, but most initially promising biomarkers have not been validated for clinical use.

Eleftherios P. Diamandis, M.D., Ph.D., Head, Section of Clinical Biochemistry, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

To understand why so-called biomarker “breakthroughs” have not made it to the clinic, Eleftherios P. Diamandis, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and associate scientist at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, reviewed some biomarkers initially hailed as breakthroughs and their subsequent failings.

Diamandis first describes the requirements for biomarkers to be approved for clinical use: A biomarker must be released into circulation in easily detectable amounts by a small asymptomatic tumor or its micro-environment; and it should preferably be specific for the tissue of origin. Also, if the biomarker is affected by a non-cancer disease, its utility for cancer detection may be compromised. For example, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) biomarker, which is used to detect prostate cancer, is also elevated in benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Diamandis looks at seven biomarkers that have emerged in the past 25 years, all of which were considered promising when they were first described. These include nuclear magnetic resonance of serum for cancer diagnosis; lysophosphatidic acid for ovarian cancer; four– and six-parameter diagnostic panels for ovarian cancer; osteopontin for ovarian cancer; early prostate cancer antigen-2 (EPCA-2) for prostate cancer detection; proteomic profiling of serum by mass spectrometry for ovarian cancer diagnosis; and peptidomic patterns for cancer diagnosis. Problems ranged from inappropriate statistical analysis to biases in case patient and control subject selection. For example, the problems with EPCA-2 included reporting values that were beyond the detection limit of the assay and using inappropriate reagents to test EPCA-2, such as solid surfaces coated with undiluted serum.

Diamandis concludes that “problems with pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical study design could lead to the generation of data that could be highly misleading.”

Sources:

The Cancer Biomarker Conundrum: Too Many False Discoveries, Journal of the National Cancer Institute Advance Access,  published on August 12, 2010, DOI 10.1093/jnci/djq335.

Eleftherios P. Diamandis. Cancer Biomarkers: Can We Turn Recent Failures into Success? Commentary, Journal of the National Cancer Institute Advance Access published on August 12, 2010, DOI 10.1093/jnci/djq306.

Researchers Identify “Missing Link” Underlying DNA Repair & Platinum Drug Resistance

Researchers have discovered an enzyme crucial to a type of DNA repair that also causes resistance to a class of cancer drugs most commonly used against ovarian cancer.

Scientists from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Life Sciences Institute of Zhejiang University in China report the discovery of the enzyme and its role in repairing DNA damage called “cross-linking” in the Science Express advance online publication of Science.

Junjie Chen, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

“This pathway that repairs cross-linking damage is a common factor in a variety of cancers, including breast cancer and especially in ovarian cancer. If the pathway is active, it undoes the therapeutic effect of cisplatin and similar therapies,” said co-corresponding author Junjie Chen, Ph.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson’s Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology.

The platinum-based chemotherapies such as cisplatin, carboplatin and oxaliplatin work by causing DNA cross-linking in cancer cells, which blocks their ability to divide and leads to cell death. Cross-linking occurs when one of the two strands of DNA in a cell branches out and links to the other strand.

Cisplatin and similar drugs are often initially effective against ovarian cancer, Chen said, but over time the disease becomes resistant and progresses.

Scientists have known that the protein complex known as FANCIFANCD2 responds to DNA damage and repairs cross-linking, but the details of how the complex works have been unknown. “The breakthrough in this research is that we finally found an enzyme involved in the repair process,” Chen said.

The enzyme, which they named FAN1, appears to be a nuclease, which is capable of slicing through strands of DNA.

In a series of experiments, Chen and colleagues demonstrated how the protein complex summons FAN1, connects with the enzyme and moves it to the site of DNA cross-linking. They also showed that FAN1 cleaves branched DNA but leaves the normal, separate double-stranded DNA alone. Mutant versions of FAN1 were unable to slice branched DNA.

Like a lock and key

The researchers also demonstrated that FAN1 cannot get at DNA damage without being taken there by the FANCI-FANCD2 protein complex, which detects and moves to the damaged site. The complex recruits the FAN1 enzyme by acquiring a single ubiquitin molecule. FAN1 connects with the complex by binding to the ubiquitin site.

“It’s like a lock and key system, once they fit, FAN1 is recruited,” Chen said.

Analyzing the activity of this repair pathway could guide treatment for cancer patients, Chen said, with the platinum-based therapies used when the cross-linking repair mechanism is less active.

Scientists had shown previously that DNA repair was much less efficient when FANCI and FANCD2 lack the single ubiquitin. DNA response and damage-repair proteins can be recruited to damage sites by the proteins’ ubiquitin-binding domains. The team first identified a protein that had both a ubiquitin-binding domain and a known nuclease domain. When they treated cells with mitomycin C, which promotes DNA cross-linking, that protein, then known as KIAA1018, gathered at damage sites. This led them to the functional experiments that established its role in DNA repair.

They renamed the protein FAN1, short for Fanconi anemia-associated nuclease 1. The FANCI-FANCD2 complex is ubiquitinated by an Fanconi anemia (FA) core complex containing eight FA proteins. These genes and proteins were discovered during research of FA, a rare disease caused by mutations in 13 fanc genes that is characterized by congenital malformations, bone marrow failure, cancer and hypersensitivity to DNA cross-linking agents.

Chen said the FANCI-FANCD2 pathway also is associated with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathways, which are involved in homologous recombination repair. Scientists know that homologous recombination repair is also required for the repair of DNA cross-links, but the exact details remain to be resolved, Chen said. Mutations to BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known to raise a woman’s risk for ovarian and breast cancers and are found in about 5-10 percent of women with either disease.

Co-authors with Chen are co-first author Gargi Ghosal, Ph.D., and Jingsong Yuan, Ph.D., also of Experimental Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson; and co-corresponding author Jun Huang, Ph.D., co-first author Ting Liu, Ph.D., of the Life Sciences Institute of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

This research was funded by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Startup Fund at Zhejiang University.

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Expression of Proteins Linked to Poor Outcome in Women with Ovarian Cancer

Scientists have established the presence of certain proteins in ovarian cancer tissues and have linked these proteins to poor survival rates in women with advanced stages of the disease.

Christina M. Annunziata, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Investigator, Medical Oncology Branch & Affiliates, Molecular Signaling Section, National Cancer Institute

NF-kB Signaling Pathway

Scientists have established the presence of certain proteins in ovarian cancer tissues and have linked these proteins to poor survival rates in women with advanced stages of the disease. The study, led by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in Cancer online, April 19, 2010.

The proteins in question belong to the nuclear factor kappa Beta (NF-kB) family. NF-kB controls many processes within the cell including cell survival and proliferation, inflammation, immune responses, and cellular responses to stress.

“This study sheds light on the distinctive genetic features of the NF-kB pathway and may provide targets for the development of novel therapies for ovarian cancer,” said lead investigator, Christina M. Annunziata, M.D., Ph.D., associate clinical investigator, Medical Oncology Branch.

Abnormalities in NF-kB signaling have been found in several types of cancer, including ovarian cancer, but the mechanism and importance of such alterations in ovarian cancer was not defined. To address these knowledge gaps, the research team investigated the expression of NF-kB-related proteins in the cells of tumor tissue obtained at surgery from 33 previously untreated women who were newly diagnosed with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer. The patients had similar stage (all late stage), grade, and type of disease. All patients were treated with a three-drug regimen of standard chemotherapy agents in an NCI clinical trial that was conducted at the NIH Clinical Research Center.

To assess NF-kB family members and associated proteins in ovarian tumor cells, the scientists used immunohistochemistry, a method that uses antibodies — a type of protein that the body’s immune system produces when it detects harmful substances — to identify specific molecules in tissue specimens. Subsequently, they looked for associations between the percentage of tumor cells in individual proteins and patient outcomes.

“This study sheds light on the distinctive genetic features of the NF-kB pathway and may provide targets for the development of novel therapies for ovarian cancer,” said lead investigator, Christina M. Annunziata, M.D., Ph.D.

The data revealed that the presence of one NF-kB family member—p50—in more than one-quarter of the cells was associated with poor survival. Low-frequency or nonexpression of a target gene, matrix metallopeptidase 9 (MMP9), was also associated with poor prognosis. Further, the team identified two NF-kB family members—p65 and RelB—and a protein called IKKa that plays a role in promoting inflammation, that were frequently expressed in the same cells, providing more evidence that NF-kB is active in some ovarian cancers. It is possible that the NF-kB activity in these cancers could increase their growth and/or resistance to treatment.

“This work continues to define and characterize the biological relevance of NF-kB activity in ovarian cancer by translating research findings with ovarian cancer cells in the laboratory to ovarian cancer in women at the time of initial diagnosis,” said Annunziata.

About the National Cancer Institute

NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

Comment

If NF-kB activity is ultimately determined by Dr. Annunciata et. al. to be biologically significant to ovarian cancer cell growth and/or treatment resistance, there are NF-kB inhibitor drugs (e.g., bortezomib (Velcade) or denosumab (Prolia)) in existence that theoretically could be tested in ovarian cancer clinical trials. In addition genistein, a soy isoflavone, and BAY11-7082, a preclinical compound, could be tested through preclinical/clinical testing as potential NF-kB inhibitors.  See Miller SC et. al. study below for a complete list of known NF-kB pathway inhibiting drugs and compounds.

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Genentech Announces Positive Results of Avastin Phase III Study in Women with Advanced Ovarian Cancer

Genentech announces positive results of Avastin Phase III study (GOG 218) in women with advanced ovarian cancer. The study showed that women who continued maintenance use of Avastin alone, after receiving Avastin in combination with chemotherapy, lived longer without the disease worsening compared to those who received chemotherapy alone. This is the first Phase III study of an anti-angiogenic therapy in advanced ovarian cancer to meet its primary endpoint.

Tumor angiogenesis is the proliferation of a network of blood vessels that penetrates into cancerous growths, supplying nutrients and oxygen and removing waste products. Tumor angiogenesis actually starts with cancerous tumor cells releasing molecules that send signals to surrounding normal host tissue. This signaling activates certain genes in the host tissue that, in turn, make proteins to encourage growth of new blood vessels. Photo credit: NCI

Genentech, Inc., a wholly owned member of the Roche Group , today announced that a Phase III study showed the combination of Avastin® (bevacizumab) and chemotherapy followed by maintenance use of Avastin alone increased the time women with previously untreated advanced ovarian cancer lived without the disease worsening (progression-free survival or PFS), compared to chemotherapy alone. A preliminary assessment of safety noted adverse events previously observed in pivotal trials of Avastin. Data from the study will be submitted for presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, June 4 – 8, 2010.

In the three-arm study, known as Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) 0218, women with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer who already had surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible were randomized to receive one of the following:

  • Arm 1: Placebo in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy followed by placebo alone, for a total of up to 15 months of therapy
  • Arm 2: Avastin in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy followed by placebo alone, for a total of up to 15 months of therapy
  • Arm 3: Avastin in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy followed by the maintenance use of Avastin alone, for a total of up to 15 months of therapy.

The study showed that women who continued maintenance use of Avastin alone, after receiving Avastin in combination with chemotherapy (Arm 3), lived longer without the disease worsening compared to those who received chemotherapy alone. Women who received Avastin in combination with chemotherapy, but did not continue maintenance use of Avastin alone (Arm 2), did not live longer without the disease worsening compared to chemotherapy alone.

“Additional medicines are urgently needed for women with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer, as most women’s cancer will worsen after their initial treatment,” said Hal Barron, M.D., F.A.C.C., Executive Vice President, Global Development and Chief Medical Officer. “We are encouraged by the positive findings of this study, which highlight the importance of continuing maintenance Avastin after combining Avastin with chemotherapy in this setting. We will discuss these results with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Robert Allen Burger, MD, FACOG, FACS, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“This is good news for women with ovarian, primary peritoneal or fallopian tube cancers,” said GOG 0218 study chair Robert Burger, M.D., Fox-Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “This study showed that after initial surgery, the combination of Avastin and chemotherapy followed by extended treatment with Avastin improves progression-free survival in women with newly diagnosed advanced tumors.”

The trial is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the NCI and Genentech, and is being conducted by a network of researchers led by the GOG.

Avastin is being studied worldwide in more than 450 clinical trials for multiple types of cancer, including approximately 25 ongoing clinical trials in the United States for women with various stages of ovarian cancer.

About Ovarian Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women. In 2009 an estimated 21,500 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and approximately 14,500 died from the disease in the U.S. The disease causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer, and the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 70 percent of women with advanced disease will die from it within five years.

Ovarian cancer is associated with high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein associated with tumor growth and spread. Studies have shown a correlation between a high level of VEGF and a poorer prognosis in women with ovarian cancer. Currently, treatment options for women with this disease are limited to surgery and chemotherapy.

About the GOG 0218 Study

GOG 0218 is an international, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase III study in 1,873 women with previously untreated advanced epithelial ovarian, primary peritoneal or fallopian tube carcinoma. The study evaluates Avastin (5 cycles) in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy (6 cycles) compared to carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy alone (6 cycles). The trial is also designed to assess the maintenance use of Avastin alone following the initial combined regimen of Avastin and chemotherapy (for a total of up to 15 months of therapy), compared to carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy alone (6 cycles).

The primary endpoint of the study is PFS as assessed by trial investigators. Secondary and exploratory endpoints of the study include overall survival, PFS by independent review, objective response rate, safety, quality of life measures and analysis of patient tumor and blood samples.

Detailed safety assessments are ongoing. A preliminary assessment of safety performed by the GOG identified Avastin-related serious adverse events noted in previous pivotal studies, including fatal neutropenic infection and gastrointestinal perforation. The full study results, including safety information, will be presented at a future medical meeting.

About Avastin

Avastin is a solution for intravenous infusion and is a biologic antibody designed to specifically bind to a protein called VEGF. VEGF plays an important role throughout the lifecycle of the tumor to develop and maintain blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. Avastin interferes with the tumor blood supply by directly binding to the VEGF protein to prevent interactions with receptors on blood vessel cells. Avastin does not bind to receptors on normal or cancer cells. The tumor blood supply is thought to be critical to a tumor’s ability to grow and spread in the body (metastasize). For more information about angiogenesis, visit http://www.gene.com.

Boxed WARNINGS and Additional Important Safety Information

People treated with Avastin may experience side effects. In clinical trials, some people treated with Avastin experienced serious and sometimes fatal side effects, including:

Gastrointestinal (GI) perforation: Treatment with Avastin can result in the development of a potentially serious side effect called GI perforation, which is the development of a hole in the stomach, small intestine or large intestine. In clinical trials, this side effect occurred in more people who received Avastin than in the comparison group (0.3 percent to 2.4 percent). In some cases, GI perforation resulted in fatality.

Surgery and wound healing problems: Treatment with Avastin can lead to slow or incomplete wound healing (for example, when a surgical incision has trouble healing or staying closed). In some cases, this event resulted in fatality. Surgery and wound healing problems occurred more often in people who received Avastin than in the comparison group. Avastin therapy should not be started for at least 28 days after surgery and until the surgical wound is fully healed. The length of time between stopping Avastin and having voluntary surgery without the risk of having surgery and wound healing problems following surgery has not been determined.

Severe bleeding: Treatment with Avastin can result in serious bleeding, including coughing up blood, bleeding in the stomach, vomiting of blood, bleeding in the brain, nosebleeds and vaginal bleeding. These events occurred up to five times more often in people who received Avastin. Across cancer types, 1.2 percent to 4.6 percent of people who received Avastin experienced severe to fatal bleeding. People who have recently coughed up blood (greater than or equal to a half teaspoon of red blood) or have serious bleeding should not receive Avastin.

In clinical trials for different cancer types, there were additional serious and sometimes fatal side effects that occurred in more people who received Avastin than in those in the comparison group. The formation of an abnormal passage from parts of the body to another part (non-GI fistula formation) was seen in 0.3 percent or less of people. Severe to life-threatening stroke or heart problems were seen in 2.4 percent of people. Too much protein in the urine, which led to kidney problems, was seen in less than 1 percent of people. Additional serious side effects that occurred in more people who received Avastin than those in the comparison group included severe to life-threatening high blood pressure, which was seen in 5 percent to 18 percent of people, and nervous system and vision disturbances (reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome), which was seen in less than 0.1 percent of people. Infusion reactions with the first dose of Avastin were uncommon and occurred in less than 3 percent of people and severe reactions occurred in 0.2 percent of people.

Common side effects that occurred in more than 10 percent of people who received Avastin for different cancer types, and at least twice the rate of the comparison group, were nosebleeds, headache, high blood pressure, inflammation of the nose, too much protein in the urine, taste change, dry skin, rectal bleeding, tear production disorder, back pain and inflammation of the skin (exfoliative dermatitis). Across all trials, treatment with Avastin was permanently stopped in 8.4 percent to 21 percent of people because of side effects.

Avastin may impair fertility. Patients who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should talk with their doctor about the potential risk of loss of the pregnancy or the potential risk of Avastin to the fetus during and following Avastin therapy, and the need to continue an effective birth control method for at least six months following the last dose of Avastin.

For full Prescribing Information and Boxed WARNINGS on Avastin please visit http://www.avastin.com.

About Genentech

Founded more than 30 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a wholly owned member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit http://www.gene.com.

About The Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG)

The Gynecologic Oncology Group is a non-profit organization of more than 300 member institutions with the purpose of promoting excellence in the quality and integrity of clinical and basic scientific research in the field of Gynecologic malignancies. The Group is committed to maintaining the highest standards in the clinical trial development, execution, analysis and distribution of results. Continuous evaluation of our processes is utilized in order to constantly improve the quality of patient care.

GOG receives support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

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Nationwide Registry to “Match” Study Volunteers With Researchers

Individuals who want to participate in research studies can connect online with researchers nationwide through the first disease-neutral, volunteer recruitment registry.  ResearchMatch.org is a not-for-profit secure Web site, designed to provide people who are interested in participating in research the opportunity to be matched with studies that may be the right fit for them.

NIH Announces First National Research Study Recruitment Registry

Nationwide Registry to “Match” Volunteers with Researchers

Barbara Alving, M.D.

Barbara Alving, M.D., Director, National Center For Research Resources. "ResearchMatch is a tool that can improve the connection and communication between potential participants and researchers providing opportunities for the public to contribute to advancing new treatments."

researchmatch.orgIndividuals who want to participate in research studies now can connect online with researchers nationwide through the first disease-neutral, volunteer recruitment registry.

ResearchMatch.org is a not-for-profit secure Web site, designed to provide people who are interested in participating in research the opportunity to be matched with studies that may be the right fit for them.

ResearchMatch offers an easy-to-use, free and safe way for volunteers to connect with thousands of researchers who are conducting research on a wide range of diseases.

The site is a collaborative effort of the national network of medical research institutions affiliated with the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs). The CTSA program, which is led by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of the National Institutes of Health, is focused on enhancing local and national efforts to enhance the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients.

“‘Participant recruitment continues to be a significant barrier to the completion of research studies nationwide — recent NIH data indicates that just 4 percent of the U.S. population has participated in clinical trials,’ said NCRR Director Barbara Alving, M.D.”

“Participant recruitment continues to be a significant barrier to the completion of research studies nationwide — recent NIH data indicates that just 4 percent of the U.S. population has participated in clinical trials,” said NCRR Director Barbara Alving, M.D. “ResearchMatch is a tool that can improve the connection and communication between potential participants and researchers providing opportunities for the public to contribute to advancing new treatments.”

” …One key difference is that ResearchMatch places the burden of connecting the right volunteers with the right study on the researchers, whereas Clinicaltrials.gov asks volunteers to identify the trials that could work for them. …”

The convenient and user-friendly registry employs a familiar research matching model that is complementary to Clinicaltrials.gov. One key difference is that ResearchMatch places the burden of connecting the right volunteers with the right study on the researchers, whereas Clinicaltrials.gov asks volunteers to identify the trials that could work for them.

“NIH data indicates that 85 percent of trials don’t finish on time due to low patient participation, and 30 percent of trial sites fail to enroll even a single patient. We aim to help combat these challenges with ResearchMatch.” — Gordeon Bernard, M.D., principal investigator of the Vanderbilt University CTSA

“ResearchMatch offers a convenient solution to the complex, competitive and often costly participant recruitment system,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., principal investigator of the Vanderbilt CTSA, which hosts the national registry. “NIH data indicates that 85 percent of trials don’t finish on time due to low patient participation, and 30 percent of trial sites fail to enroll even a single patient. We aim to help combat these challenges with ResearchMatch.”

How ResearchMatch Works

ResearchMatch will match any interested individual residing in the United States with researchers who are approved to recruit potential research volunteers through the system. After an individual has self-registered to become a volunteer, researchMatch’s security features ensure that personal information is protected until volunteers authorize the release of their contact information to a specific study that may be of interest to them. Volunteers are notified electronically when they are a possible match and then make the decision regarding the release of their contact information. It also will promote choice as there are no obligations on the volunteer to participate in studies.

For the first year of the project, only researchers affiliated with participating CTSA institutions are eligible to use researchMatch. However, plans are in place to make researchMatch available beyond the CTSA consortium by 2011. Currently 52 individual institutions associated with 40 CTSA sites are part of the ResearchMatch network. A list of these institutions may be viewed here (http://ncrr.nih.gov/clinical_research_resources/clinical_and_translational_science_awards/researchmatch).

To learn more about researchMatch and to register as a volunteer, visit: www.researchmatch.org.

About the CTSA Consortium

The CTSA consortium is a national network of 46 medical research institutions working together to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs), shares a common vision to reduce the time it takes for laboratory discoveries to become treatments for patients and to engage communities in clinical research efforts. It also is fulfilling the critical need to train a new generation of clinical researchers. The CTSA program is led by the National Center for Research Resources, part of National Institutes of Health.

Launched in 2006, this network now includes awardees in 26 states. When the program is fully implemented, it will support approximately 60 CTSAs across the nation.

For more information about the CTSA program, visit www.ncrr.nih.gov/ctsa. The CTSA consortium Web site, which provides information on the consortium, current members and new grantees, can be accessed at www.CTSAweb.org.

About the National Center For Research Resources

The National Center for Research Resources, part of NIH, provides laboratory scientists and clinical researchers with the resources and training they need to understand, detect, treat and prevent a wide range of diseases. NCRR supports all aspects of translational and clinical research, connecting researchers, patients and communities across the nation. For more information, visit www.ncrr.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

SourceNIH Announces First National Research Study Recruitment Registry – Nationwide Registry to “Match” Volunteers with Researchers, NIH News, U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, November 10, 2009.

UA Research Team Designing Holographic Imaging System For Ovarian Cancer

University of Arizona researchers Jennifer Barton and Ray Kostuk have received a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to build the instrument that they hope will one day be used to monitor women at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Hologram of Human Ovary

Human ovary image captured with the use of the prototype holographic imaging system the team developed. (Photo: Univ. of Arizona News)

Hologram of An Orange

For comparison, an onion is imaged with the use of the prototype system the team developed. (Photo: Univ. of Arizona News)

Two University of Arizona [UA] researchers have formed a research team to design, build and evaluate two versions of an ovarian cancer medical imaging and screening instrument that will use holographic components in a new type of optical microscope.

Raymond Kostuk and Jennifer Barton have secured a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to build the instrument that they hope will one day be used to monitor women at high risk for ovarian cancer. Kostuk is the Kenneth Von Behren Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of optical sciences. Barton heads the UA department of biomedical engineering and is assistant director of the BIO5 Institute.

The system is unique in that it will for the first time project multiple spatial images from different depths within a tissue sample and simultaneously provide spectral information from optical markers in order to better identify cancerous cells.

This combined spectral spatial imaging technique shows potential to be much more effective in identifying cancerous tissue sites than by separately using spatial or spectral information.

The grant was issued following the successful two-year development of a prototype system the team built. It tests the validity of using holographic technology for subsurface imaging without having to perform surgery and take tissue samples.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there is, to date, no single effective screening test for ovarian cancer, so ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages. The result is that in more than 50 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease when the cancer has already advanced.

  • About 76 percent percent of women with ovarian cancer survive one year after diagnosis.
  • About 45 percent live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Barton said ovarian cancer provides a compelling case to test holographic imaging and its efficacy in detecting cancers. At the present time the preferred treatment is surgery, which is also often needed to diagnose ovarian cancer. The procedure includes taking tissue samples, which may threaten the woman’s ability to have children in the future.

Jennifer Barton, UA

Jennifer Barton, Professor & Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Assistant Director, BIO5 Institute. (Photo: Univ of Arizona News)

“Ovarian cancer has no symptoms until it is highly advanced making the five-year prognosis extremely poor. Those at high risk – with a family history of ovarian cancer or those who carry genetic mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which normally help protect against both breast and ovarian cancer – may be counseled to have their ovaries removed through laparoscopic surgery,” Barton said. “Now imagine if you are an 18-year-old woman who has this history – ovaries are an important part of your overall health. They produce hormones you need over and above the notion that you would need your ovaries should you want to have children in the future.”

Thus, new technology capable of reliably diagnosing ovarian cancer in earlier stages could reduce the morbidity, high mortality and economic impact of this disease.

The system will work like a high-powered microscope that can be used to study tissue samples already removed. In addition, an endoscopic version is in the design stage to safely scan the ovaries for cancer during laparoscopic screenings in high-risk women, or as an adjunct to other laparoscopic procedures in all women.

The team will work with Dr. Kenneth D. Hatch, president of the Society of Pelvic Surgeons, and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the UA College of Medicine.

Through Hatch and a partnership with his patients who consent, Barton and Kostuk will be able to identify abnormal spatial and spectral markers of cancerous ovarian tissue.

Ray Kostuk

Ray Kostuk, Kenneth Von Behren Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering & Professor of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona (Photo: Univ. of Arizona News)

The new imaging system will be tested on high-risk patients who are willing to participate and provide some future benefit to other patients who find themselves in a similar situation, Barton said.

Kostuk and Barton’s aim is to design the imaging system so that it is easy to use, requiring very little training, and also be cost effective.

“The system will image like an MRI or a CT scan but with much higher resolution than an ultrasonic image and will be a lot less expensive than an MRI. As an additional benefit no radiation will be used or exposed to sensitive ovary areas during the cancer screenings,” Kostuk said.

During the past 25 years Kostuk has researched different aspects of holography and holographic materials for use as optical elements.

The holographic imaging system being designed combines an optical technique that creates images capable of detecting subtle tissue microstructure changes. Together with fluorescence spectroscopy methods, the system has demonstrated capability for early cancer detection.

Another member of the team, UA research professor Marek Romanowski, with the UA department of biomedical engineering and the BIO5 Institute, is working on the development of targeted fluorescent dyes that will be used on tissue samples to identify or confirm suspected cancerous areas shown in the spatial image.

The multidisciplinary approach to the design of the hologram-based imaging system is a testament to the complexity of treating cancers.

“One of the advantages of being part of the UA is the ability to interact collaboratively with people in other disciplines,” Kotuk said. “Jennifer is a wonderful colleague who can identify important medical applications for new techniques and is able to bridge the gap between traditional engineering and medicine. Her skill and knowledge is critical to the success of the program,” he said.

“To solve the really interesting problems of today, no one person has all the expertise needed,” Barton added.

Sources:

Novel Targeted Gene Therapies Use Diphtheria Toxin To Fight Ovarian Cancer; One Clinical Trial Underway

Two separate research teams reported promising results last week based upon preclinical studies involving the use of diphtheria toxin to fight ovarian cancer. … A targeted gene therapy was utilized in both studies, wherein a gene fragment capable of producing diptheria toxin was combined with a nanoparticle which was targeted against a unique or overexpressed genetic characteristic of the ovarian cancer tumor cells. Both research teams reported significant reduction in ovarian cancer tumor mass and extended survival for the treated mice. Based upon these findings, one research team already announced the opening of a Phase I/II clinical trial which will test the novel therapy on patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer.

Targeted Gene Therapy In the Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

The peritoneal cavity is a common site of ovarian cancer and accompanying ascites caused by the disease. Ascites is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the peritoneal cavity that causes swelling.  Malignant tumor cells may be found in the ascites fluid in connection with late stage ovarian cancer.  Massive ascites and the related abdominal distention can cause anorexia, nausea, vomiting and respiratory difficulties, and negatively impact the patient’s quality of life. Ovarian cancer patients frequently experience disease involvement of the pelvic and retroperitoneal lymph nodes as well. The standard primary treatment of patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer is cytoreductive surgery followed by platinum drug and taxane drug doublet chemotherapy. Despite this aggressive approach, there is a high rate of disease recurrence. Although discovery of several other active nonplatinum cytotoxic agents has improved outcome, long-term survival rates are low. Success of traditional chemotherapy has been limited by drug resistance and lack of specificity with respect to disease formation and progression. Thus, novel “targeted” ovarian cancer therapies that achieve improved long-term disease control with lower toxicity are desperately needed.

A so-called “targeted therapy” utilizes drugs or other medically manufactured substances (e.g., small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies) to block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in cancer tumor growth and progression.  By identifying and selectively focusing upon molecular and cellular changes or unique genetic characteristics that are specific to cancer, targeted cancer therapies may be more effective than other types of treatment, including chemotherapy, and less harmful to normal cells.

It is possible for a targeted therapy to incorporate a gene therapy. Gene therapy is an experimental treatment that involves the introduction of genetic material (DNA or RNA) into a human cell to fight a disease such as cancer.  When both therapeutic approaches are combined by researchers, a “targeted gene therapy” is the result.  A targeted gene therapy is an attractive approach to controlling or killing human cancer cells only if the therapy can selectively identify and exploit the genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer cells, without harming normal cells that do not possess such alternations.

Two separate research groups reported promising results last week based upon preclinical studies involving the use of diphtheria toxin to fight ovarian cancer.  The toxin is produced by a deadly bacterium (Corynebacterium diphtheriae).  A targeted gene therapy was utilized in both studies, wherein a gene fragment capable of producing diptheria toxin was combined with a nanoparticle which was targeted against a unique or overexpressed genetic characteristic of the ovarian cancer tumor cells.  Both research teams reported significant reduction in ovarian cancer tumor mass and extended survival for the treated mice. Based upon these findings, one research team already announced the opening of a Phase I/II clinical trial which will test the novel therapy on patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer.

MIT-Lankenau Institute Researchers Use Diphtheria Toxin Gene Therapy To Target Overexpression Of The MSLN & HE4 Ovarian Cancer Genes.

anderson

Daniel Anderson, Ph.D., Research Associate, David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The first study, which appears in the August 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research, was conducted by a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Lankenau Institute of Medical Research (Lankenau Institute). In this study, the researchers used a nanoparticle as a delivery vehicle (or vector) for DNA that encodes a diphtheria toxin suicide protein (DT-A).  The novel nanoparticles are made with positively charged, biodegradable polymers known as poly(beta-amino esters). When mixed together, these polymers can spontaneously assemble with DNA to form nanoparticles. The polymer-DNA nanoparticle can deliver functional DNA when injected into or near the targeted tissue.

The nanoparticle carrying the DT-A is designed to target overexpression of two genes (mesothelin (MSLN) and HE4 (or WFDC2)) that are highly active in ovarian tumor cells, but not in normal cells. Once inside an ovarian cancer tumor cell, the DT-A disrupts the tumor cell’s ability to manufacture critical life sustaining proteins, thereby causing cell death.  Accordingly, the choice of the DT-A fragment of a diptheria toxin gene ensures high ovarian cancer cell killing activity.  It also avoids unintended toxicity to normal cells because the DT-A released from destroyed ovarian cancer cells is not able to enter normal neighboring tissue cells in the absence of the DT-B fragment which was excluded from the original nanoparticle delivery system or vector.

As part of this study, researchers administered DT-A nanoparticles directly into the peritoneal cavity – which encases abdominal organs such as the stomach, liver, spleen, ovaries and uterus – of mice xenografted with primary and metastatic ovarian tumors.  Ovarian cancer is known to initially spread throughout the peritoneal cavity, and current therapeutic approaches in humans include direct injection into the peritoneal space, thereby targeting the therapy to the ovaries and nearby tissues where tumors may have spread.

“… [The researchers] discovered that the intraperitoneal (IP) administration of DT-A nanoparticles resulted in a significant reduction in ovarian tumor mass and extended survival for the treated mice.  The researchers also found that the targeted gene-therapy treatment was as effective, and in some cases more effective, than the traditional chemotherapy combination of cisplatin and paclitaxel. …”

langerrobert

Robert S. Langer is the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research Professor (there are 14 Institute Professors at MIT; being an Institute Professor is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member). Dr. Langer has written approximately 1,050 articles. He also has approximately 750 issued and pending patents worldwide. Dr. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 220 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. He is the most cited engineer in history.

Sawicki

Janet Sawicki, Ph.D., Professor, Lankenau Institute of Medical Research. Dr. Sawicki also serves as an Associate Professor at the Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University. Her ovarian cancer research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Sandy Rollman Foundation, the Teal Ribbon Ovarian Cancer Foundation, and the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation.

Daniel Anderson, Ph.D., research associate in the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and a senior author of the paper, and others from MIT, including Institute Professor Robert Langer, along with researchers from the Lankenau Institute, led by Professor Janet Sawicki, discovered that the intraperitoneal (IP) administration of DT-A nanoparticles resulted in a significant reduction in ovarian tumor mass and extended survival for the treated mice.  The researchers also found that the targeted gene-therapy treatment was as effective, and in some cases more effective, than the traditional chemotherapy combination of cisplatin and paclitaxel. Furthermore, the novel therapy did not have the toxic side effects of chemotherapy because the diptheria toxin gene is engineered to function in ovarian cells but is inactive in normal cell types.

Based upon these finding, the MIT and Lankenau Institute researchers concluded that IP administration of DT-A nanoparticles, combined with designed targeting of those nanoparticles against ovarian tumor cell gene (MSLN & HE4) expression, holds promise as an effective therapy for advanced-stage ovarian cancer. According to Anderson, human clinical trials could start, after some additional preclinical studies, in about 1 to 2 years.  Currently ovarian cancer patients undergo surgery followed by chemotherapy. In many cases, the cancer returns after treatment.  Disease recurrence is problematic because there are no curative therapies for advanced-stage tumors.

For several years, the MIT-Lankenau Institute team worked to develop the DT-A nanoparticles as an alternative to viruses, which are associated with safety risks. In addition to ovarian cancer, these nanoparticles have demonstrated treatment potential for a variety of diseases, including prostate cancer and viral infection. “I’m so pleased that our research on drug delivery and novel materials can potentially contribute to the treatment of ovarian cancer,” Langer said. In future studies, the team plans to examine the effectiveness of nanoparticle-delivered diphtheria toxin genes in other types of cancer, including brain, lung and liver cancers.

Other MIT authors of the paper are recent MIT Ph.D. recipients Gregory Zugates and Jordan Green (now a professor at John’s Hopkins University), and technician Naushad Hossain. The research was funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health.

Israeli Researchers Use Diphtheria Toxin Gene Therapy To Target Overexpression Of The H19 Ovarian Cancer Gene.

The second study was conducted by Israeli researchers and was published August 6 online ahead of print in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

In the provisional study report, the researchers note that based upon earlier studies from their team and others, the H19 gene has emerged as a candidate for cancer gene therapy. The H19 gene is expressed at substantial levels in ovarian cancer tumor cells, but is nearly undetectable in surrounding normal tissue cells.  Although the Israeli research team acknowledges that the exact function of H19 is the subject of past debate, it notes that recent data suggests a role for H19 in promoting cancer progression, angiogenesis and metastasis.

As a first step, Israeli researchers tested H19 gene expression in ovarian cancer cells obtained from the ascites fluid of 24 patients, and established that H19 expression levels were detected in 90% of the tested patients. Of those patients with positive H19 expression, 76% showed a moderate or high level of expression, while 24% showed a low level of expression.

Next, the researchers created a DT-A nanoparticle similar to the one created by the MIT/Lankenau research team as described above, except the Israeli nanoparticle was designed to target H19 overexpression within ovarian cancer cells.  The therapeutic effect of the DT-A/H19 nanoparticles was first tested in vitro against various ovarian cancer cell lines and cells obtained from patient ascites fluid.  The researchers determined that the DT-A/H19 nanoparticle therapy caused ovarian cancer cell death.  The therapeutic effect of the DT-A nanoparticles was tested in vivo by injecting the DT-A nanoparticles into mice xenografted with ovarian cancer tumors. The researchers estimate that the DT-A nanoparticle therapy reduced ovarian cancer tumor growth in the treated mice by 40%.

Based upon these finding, the researchers note that although the study report issued is provisonal, it is their working hypothesis that intraperitoneal administration of DT-A/H19 nanoparticles holds the potential to (1) reach ascites tumor cells, (2) deliver its intracellular toxin without targeting normal tissue cells, and (3) reduce tumor burden & fluid accumulation; and therefore, improve the patient’s quality of life, and hopefully, prolong her survival.

  • DT-A/H19 Nanoparticle Therapy Administered To An Israeli Patient On A Compassionate Use Trial Basis

In the provisional study report, the researchers state that the targeted gene therapy was administered to an Israeli patient with advanced, recurrent ovarian cancer, who qualified for compassionate use treatment under Israeli regulatory rules.  Specifically, the patient’s intraperitoneal ovarian cancer metastases and ascites were treated with the DT-A/H19 nanoparticle therapy after the failure of conventional chemotherapy. The results of the single patient compassionate use trial suggest that the drug caused no serious adverse events at any drug dosage level.  Moreover, the patient experienced (1) a 50% decrease in serum cancer marker protein CA-125, (2) a significant decrease in the number of cancerous cells in the ascites, and (3) a clinical improvement as reported by her doctors.  It is reported that the patient’s quality of life increased during the course of treatment and her condition continues to be stable, with no new cancerous growths.

  • Phase I/II Clinical Trial To Test DT-A/H19 Nanoparticle Therapy (BC-819) In the U.S. & Israel

The DT-A/H19 nanoparticle therapy is being developed commercially by BioCancell Therapeutics, Inc (BioCancell) Recently, BioCancell announced the opening of a clinical trial to test the DT-A/H19 nanoparticle therapy (also referred to as BC-819) in patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer.  The clinical trial is entitled, Phase 1/2a, Dose-Escalation, Safety, Pharmacokinetic, and Preliminary Efficacy Study of Intraperitoneal Administration of DTA-H19 in Subjects With Advanced Stage Ovarian Cancer, and the trial investigators are recruiting patients in the U.S. and Israel as indicated below.

University of Pennsylvania Medical Center [Abramson Cancer Center] (Recruiting)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, 19104-6142
Contact: Lana E. Kandalaft, Pharm.D, PhD – 215-537-4782 (lknd@mail.med.upenn.edu)
Principal Investigator: George Coukos, M.D., Ph.D.

Massey Cancer Center (Not yet recruiting)
Richmond, Virginia, United States, 23298-0037
Contact: Jane W. Baggett, RN 804-628-2360 (jbaggett@mcvh-vcu.edu)
Principal Investigator: Cecelia H. Boardman, M.D.

The Edith Wolfson Medical Center (Recruiting)
Holon, Israel
Contact: Pnina Nir (972)-52-8445143 (pninanir@wolfson.health.gov.il)
Principal Investigator: Tally Levy, M.D.

Hadassah University Hospital (Recruiting)
Jerusalem, Israel
Contact: Zoya Bezalel (972)-2-6776725 (zoyab@hadassah.org.il)
Principal Investigator: David Edelman, MD

Meir Hospital (Recruiting)
Kfar Saba, Israel
Contact: Tal Naderi 09-7472213 (Ta.INadiri@clalit.org.il)
Principal Investigator: Ami Fishman, MD

In the provisional study report, the Israeli researchers discuss the importance of collecting data regarding the correlation between the level of ovarian cancer cell H19 expression and the efficacy of the treatment as part of the clinical trial discussed above.  Based upon accrued future clinical trial data, the researchers believe that they will be able to identify in advance patients that will respond to this novel therapy, as well as non-responders who are resistant to all known therapies, thereby avoiding treatment failure and unnecessary suffering and cost.

References:

Women’s Gynecological Exams: Another Victim Of The Troubled Economy?

“… At Mother’s Day, a new survey from the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), http://www.ovarian.org, reveals some startling facts about women’s health: more than 52 percent of women expect the economy will impact their gynecological health choices, in many cases delaying or skipping their annual gynecological exams altogether.”

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Senators Kennedy & Hutchison Renew War On Cancer

On March 26, 2009, Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced the 21st Century Cancer Access to Life-Saving Early detection, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Act, a bill to comprehensively address the challenges our nation faces in battling cancer. This is the first sweeping cancer legislation introduced since the National Cancer Act in 1971, authored by Senator Kennedy. The 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act is a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and detection, research and treatment. It invests in cancer research infrastructure and improves collaboration among existing efforts. Prevention and early detection for those most at risk are emphasized through support for innovative initiatives and new technologies such as biomarkers.  The legislation addresses the need to increase enrollment in clinical research by increasing access and removing barriers to patients’ participation in clinical trials. The bill also includes a plan designed to improve care for cancer survivors. Additional provisions regarding prevention and screening initiatives will increase access to care for underserved populations and reduce the burden of disease and cost of healthcare to the nation.

kennedy1

Edward M. Kennedy, U.S. Senator For The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

On March 26, 2009, Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced the 21st Century Cancer Access to Life-Saving Early detection, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Act, a bill to comprehensively address the challenges our nation faces in battling cancer. This is the first sweeping cancer legislation introduced since the National Cancer Act in 1971, authored by Senator Kennedy. The 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act is a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and detection, research and treatment. It invests in cancer research infrastructure and improves collaboration among existing efforts. Prevention and early detection for those most at risk are emphasized through support for innovative initiatives and new technologies such as biomarkers.  The legislation addresses the need to increase enrollment in clinical research by increasing access and removing barriers to patients’ participation in clinical trials. The bill also includes a plan designed to improve care for cancer survivors. Additional provisions regarding prevention and screening initiatives will increase access to care for underserved populations and reduce the burden of disease and cost of healthcare to the nation.

We provide below the full text of the following documents:

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KENNEDY ON THE INTRODUCTION OF THE 21st Century ALERT Act

As Entered into the [Congressional] Record

March 26, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thirty seven years ago, a Republican President and Democratic Congress came together in a new commitment to find a cure for cancer. At the time, a cancer diagnosis meant almost certain death. In 1971, we took action against this deadly disease and passed the National Cancer Act with broad bipartisan support, and it marked the beginning of the War on Cancer.

Since then, significant progress has been made. Amazing scientific research has led to methods to prevent cancer, and treatments that give us more beneficial and humane ways to deal with the illness. The discoveries of basic research, the use of large scale clinical trials, the development of new drugs, and the special focus on prevention and early detection have led to breakthroughs unimaginable only a generation ago.

As a result, cancer today is no longer the automatic death sentence that it was when the war began. But despite the advances we have made against cancer, other changes such as aging of the population, emerging environmental issues, and unhealthy behavior, have allowed cancer to persist. The lives of vast numbers of Americans have been touched by the disease. In 2008, over 1.4 million Americans were diagnosed with some form of cancer, and more than half a million lost their lives to the disease.

The solution isn’t easy but there are steps we can and must take now, if we hope to see the diagnosis rate decline substantially and the survival rate increase in the years ahead. The immediate challenge we face is to reduce the barriers that obstruct progress in cancer research and treatment by integrating our current fragmented and piecemeal system of addressing the disease.

Last year, my colleague Senator Hutchison and I agreed that to build on what the nation has accomplished, we must launch a new and more urgent war on cancer. The 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act we are introducing today will accelerate our progress by using a better approach to fighting this relentless disease. Our goal is to break down the many barriers that impede cancer research and prevent patients from obtaining the treatment that can save their lives.

We must do more to prevent cancer, by emphasizing scientifically proven methods such as tobacco cessation, healthy eating, and exercise. Healthy families and communities that have access to nutritious foods and high quality preventive health care will be our best defense against the disease. I’m confident that swift action on national health reform will make our vision of a healthier nation a reality. Obviously, we cannot prevent all cancers, so it is also essential that the cancers that do arise be diagnosed at an initial, curable stage, with all Americans receiving the best possible care to achieve that goal.

We cannot overemphasize the value of the rigorous scientific efforts that have produced the progress we have made so far. To enhance these efforts, our bill invests in two key aspects of cancer research– infrastructure and collaboration of the researchers. We include programs that will bring resources to the types of cancer we least understand. We invest in scientists who are committed to translating basic research into clinical practice, so that new knowledge will be brought to the patients who will most benefit from it.

One of the most promising new breakthroughs is in identifying and monitoring the biomarkers that leave enough evidence in the body to alert clinicians to subtle signs that cancer may be developing. Biomarkers are the new frontier for improving the lives of cancer patients because they can lead to the earliest possible detection of cancer, and the Cancer ALERT Act will support the development of this revolutionary biomarker technology.

In addition, we give new focus to clinical trials, which have been the cornerstones of our progress in treating cancer in recent decades. Only through clinical trials are we able to discover which treatments truly work. Today, however, less than 5% of cancer patients currently are enrolled in clinical trials, because of the many barriers exist that prevent both providers and patients from participating in these trials. A primary goal of our bill is to begin removing these barriers and expanding access to clinical trials for many more patients.

Further, since many cancer survivors are now living longer lives, our health systems must be able to accommodate these men and women who are successfully fighting against this deadly disease. It’s imperative for health professionals to have the support they need to care for these survivors. To bring good lifelong care to cancer survivors, we must invest more in research to understand the later effects of cancer and how treatments affect survivors’ health and the quality of their lives.

We stand today on the threshold of unprecedented new advances in this era of extraordinary discoveries in the life sciences, especially in personalized medicine, early diagnosis of cancer at the molecular level, and astonishing new treatments based on a patient’s own DNA. To make the remarkable promise of this new era a reality, we must make sure that patients can take DNA tests, free of the fear that their genetic information will somehow be used to discriminate against them. We took a major step toward unlocking the potential of this new era by approving strong protections against genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment when the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act was signed into law last year.

In sum, we need a new model for research, prevention and treatment of cancer, and we are here today to start that debate in Congress. We must move from a magic bullet approach to a broad mosaic of care, in which survivorship is also a key part of our approach to cancer. By doing so, we can take a giant step toward reducing or even eliminating the burden of cancer in our nation and the world. It’s no longer an impossible dream, but a real possibility for the future.

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Press Contact

Anthony Coley/ Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633

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Kennedy Renews the War Against Cancer

March 26, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bill will Renew America’s Commitment to Fighting Cancer and Finding Cures

WASHINGTON, DC— Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Kay Bailey Hutchison today introduced the 21st Century Cancer Access to Life-Saving Early detection, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Act, a bill to comprehensively address the challenges our nation faces in battling this disease. This is the first sweeping cancer legislation introduced since the National Cancer Act in 1971, authored by Kennedy.

The 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act will provide critical funding for promising research in early detection, and supply grants for screening and referrals for treatment. These measures will also ensure patient access to prevention and early detection, which is supplemented by increased access to clinical trials and information.

The bill places an emphasis on strengthening cancer research and the urgent need for resources to both prevent and detect cancers at an early stage. The bill strives to give scientists the tools they need to fight cancer and to understand more thoroughly how the disease works. Through fostering new treatments, increased preventative measures and funding for research, the ALERT Act begins a new chapter in how Americans will live with and fight cancer.

Senators Kennedy and Hutchison first proposed the idea for comprehensive cancer legislation last May, when the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing to discuss the need for a renewed focus on the deadly disease. Elizabeth Edwards, Lance Armstrong and Hala Moddelmog from Susan G. Komen for the Cure testified at the hearing.

Senator Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said, “We’ve come a long way in fighting cancer since we passed the National Cancer Act thirty-eight years ago, but not far enough. Americans still live in fear that they or someone they love will be affected. Today, we’re better equipped for the fight— learning each and every day a little bit more about the disease and what we can do to fight it. Cancer is a complex disease and it requires comprehensive strategies to fight it— strategies that integrate research, prevention and treatment. This bill will renew our efforts to make progress in the battle against cancer, and to give patients and their families a renewed sense of hope.”

“Our nation declared the War on Cancer in 1971, yet, nearly 38 years later, cancer is expected to become the leading killer of Americans. We must bring renewed focus and vigor to this fight.” said Senator Hutchison. “The prescription isn’t simple, but there are steps we must take if we are going to see the cancer diagnosis rate decline, while raising the prognosis for survival among those who do have the disease. Our legislation will enact those necessary steps so we may see more progress and coordination in cancer research and treatment.”

“We know how to lengthen and improve the lives of people with cancer, but we’ve chosen as a nation to turn our backs on some of us who have the disease,” said Elizabeth Edwards. “I urge the United States Senate to embrace the ALERT Act and get it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

“In 2010, cancer is expected to be the leading cause of death worldwide. Every American is touched by this disease,” said Lance Armstrong, chairman and founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. “The 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act and its authors’ leadership in reforming our nation’s approach to the war on cancer are a very welcome step forward to every member of the LIVESTRONG movement.”

“It’s been 38 years since our nation first declared war on cancer, and yet we are still facing a significant cancer crisis.  The Kennedy-Hutchison Cancer ALERT Act will reignite the war on cancer,” said Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  “We must all work together and let nothing stand in the way of discovering and delivering the cures to cancer.”

Senate action on this bill is expected this Congressional session.

A section-by-section summary of the legislation is below as well as an op-ed authored by Senators Hutchison and Kennedy that appeared this morning in the Houston Chronicle and on the Boston Globe’s website.

_____________________________________________

21st Century Cancer ALERT Act

Senators Kennedy and Hutchison

Section by Section Summary

The 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act is a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and detection, research and treatment. It invests in cancer research infrastructure and improves collaboration among existing efforts. Prevention and early detection for those most at risk are emphasized through support for innovative initiatives and new technologies such as biomarkers.  The legislation addresses the need to increase enrollment in clinical research by increasing access and removing barriers to patients’ participation in clinical trials. The bill also includes a plan designed to improve care for cancer survivors. Additional provisions regarding prevention and screening initiatives will increase access to care for underserved populations and reduce the burden of disease and cost of healthcare to the nation.

Section 1 and 2 – Findings and Declaration of Purpose

Section 3- Advancement of the National Cancer Program (NCP)

Modernize the role of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in coordinating the NCP

  • Identifies relevant federal agencies to coordinate with NCI
  • Improves the annual budget estimate for the NCP by including the needs of the entire NCP and submitting the budget annually to House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees
  • Increases participation of other federal agencies in the National Cancer Advisory Board
  • Encourages early detection and translational research opportunities

Biological Resource Coordination and Advancement of Technologies for Cancer Research

Section 4 – Comprehensive and Responsible Access to Research, Data, and Outcomes

  • Calls for guidance from the Office of Human Research Protection on the use of a centralized Institutional Review Board
  • Improves privacy standards in clinical research by clarifying when de-identified patient information may be disclosed
  • Calls for HHS to study the advantages and disadvantages of the synchronization of the standards for research under the Common Rule and the Privacy Rule
  • Clarifies the application of the Privacy Rule to external researchers

Section 5- Enhanced Focus and Reporting on Cancer Research

  • Calls for NCI to report annually on plans and progress regarding research on cancers with low incidence and low survival rates
  • Establishes grants program to conduct research on cancers with low incidence and low survival rates

Section 6 – Continuing Access to Care for Prevention and Early Detection

Screening and Early Detection

Cancer Prevention

  • Authorizes grants for a medical mobile van program to conduct cancer screening and prevention education activities in communities that are underserved and suffer from barriers to preventative cancer care

Access to Prevention and Early Detection for Certain Cancers

Section 7– Early Recognition and Treatment of Cancer Through the Use of Biomarkers

Promote the Discovery and Development of Biomarkers

  • Establishes and coordinates federal agencies to establish a highly directed, contract based program that will support the development of innovative biomarker discovery technologies
  • Calls for FDA and CMS to work together to create guidelines for clinical study designs that will enable sponsors to generate clinical data that will be adequate for review by both agencies
  • Conducts a demonstration project to provide limited regional coverage for biomarker tests and establish procedures for independent research entities to conduct high quality assessments of the efficacy and cost effectiveness of biomarker tests

Section 8: National Cancer Coverage Guidelines

Ensure Patient Access to Clinical Trials

  • Facilitates expanded access to clinical trials by requiring ERISA governed health plans to continue to provide coverage of routine care regardless of whether a patient enrolls in a clinical trial

Section 9: Health Professions Workforce

Ensure a Stable Workforce for the Future

Section 10: Patient Navigator Program

Improve Upon Existing Patient Navigator Programs

  • Ensures that patient navigators meet minimum core proficiencies
  • Reauthorizes the Patient Navigator program through 2015

Section 11: Cancer Care and Coverage Under Medicaid and Medicare

Improvements in Coverage of Cancer Services

  • Codifies current Medicare policy to reimburse for routine care while patients are enrolled in clinical trials
  • Conducts a demonstration project to evaluate the cost, effectiveness, and potential savings to Medicare of reimbursing providers for comprehensive cancer care planning services to the Medicare population
  • Directs states to offer tobacco cessation medications and counseling to pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid

Section 12: Cancer Survivorship and Complete Recovery Initiatives

Childhood Cancers

  • Establishes priority areas for NIH activities related to childhood cancer survivorship
  • Authorizes grants for research on the causes of health disparities in childhood cancer survivorship and to evaluate follow up care for childhood cancer survivors

Complete Recovery Care

  • Defines “complete recovery care” which includes care to address secondary effects of cancer and its treatment, including late and psychosocial effects
  • Coordinates complete recovery care activities across federal agencies
  • Establishes a Collaborative that will develop a plan for workforce development for complete recovery care

Section 13: Activities of the Food and Drug Administration

Sense of the Senate

  • Encourages the FDA to harmonize policies to facilitate the development of drugs; explore clinical trial endpoints; and, modernize the Office of Oncology Drug Products

____________________________________________

Renewing the War on Cancer

By Edward M. Kennedy and Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, U.S. Senator For Texas

Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Senator For State of Texas

Cancer is a relentless disease. It doesn’t discriminate between men and women, wealthy or poor, the elderly or the young. In 2008, over 1.4 million Americans were diagnosed with some form of the disease. If it wasn’t you, it may have been a spouse or sibling, a parent or a child, a friend or a coworker. We, too, have known the challenges of cancer diagnoses for ourselves or our family members or friends. And while there are many stories of survival, this disease still takes far too many lives. More than half a million Americans lost their battle with cancer last year.

Since the War on Cancer was declared in 1971, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge about the disease. Advances in basic and clinical research have improved treatments significantly. Some of the most important progress has been made in prevention and early detection, particularly screening, including mammography and colonoscopy. Behavior modifications, such as smoking cessation, better eating habits, regular exercise, and sunscreen have been found to prevent many cancers. Continued focus must be placed on prevention, which will always be the best cure.

Though heightened awareness and prevention should be emphasized, alone they don’t translate into adequate progress for those with cancer. Since 1971, the cancer mortality rate has decreased by only 6 percent. In the same period, by contrast, mortality rates have dramatically declined for heart disease (by 56 percent) and stroke (by 66 percent). Today, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. If the current trend continues, the National Cancer Institute predicts that one in every two men and one in every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and that cancer will become the leading killer of Americans.

The solution isn’t easy, but there are steps we should take now if we hope to see the diagnosis rate decline substantially and the survival rate increase.  To do so, we must identify and remove the numerous barriers that obstruct our progress in cancer research and treatment.

First, it is essential that cancer be diagnosed at an initial, curable stage. One of the most promising breakthroughs is the monitoring of biomarkers, which leave evidence within the body that alerts clinicians to hidden activity indicating that cancer may be developing. Identification of such biomarkers can lead to the earliest possible detection of cancer in patients.

Second, even if we significantly improve early detection, lack of health insurance and other impediments to care will preclude many Americans from undergoing routine screening. With early screening, the disease may be detected at a treatable stage and dramatically increase the rate of survival. Greater outreach is clearly needed to make screening more available to all, and especially to underserved populations.

Third, we must adopt a more coordinated approach to cancer research. Establishing an interconnected network of biorepositories with broadly accessible sources of tissue collection and storage will enable investigators to share information and samples much more effectively. Integrated research will help accelerate the progress of lifesaving research. The search for cures should also be a cooperative goal. The current culture of isolated career research must yield to more cooperative arrangements to expedite breakthroughs. Our national policy should encourage all stakeholders in the War on Cancer to become allies and work in concert toward cures.

Fourth, as our nation’s best and brightest researchers seek new ways to eradicate cancer, we must improve treatment for those who have it today. Raising awareness of clinical trials would result in more patients and their doctors knowing what promising trials are available. Doing so will expand treatment options for patients, and enable researchers to develop better methods for prevention, diagnosis, and therapy.  Today, less than five percent of the 10 million adults with cancer in the United States participate in clinical trials. Disincentives by the health insurance market, preventing patients from enrolling in clinical trials, must be eliminated.

Finally, as our knowledge of cancer advances and patients live longer, we need a process that will improve patient survivorship through comprehensive care planning services. There is great value in equipping patients with a treatment plan and summary of their care when they first enter remission, in order to achieve continuity of therapy and preventing costly, duplicative, or unnecessary services.

We have introduced bipartisan legislation to bring about these necessary changes, and we hope to see the bill enacted in the coming weeks and months. These policy initiatives cannot be fully implemented without broad support and sufficient resources, and we are committed to leading this effort to completion.

It’s time to reinvigorate the War on Cancer, and more effective coordination of policy and science is indispensible for rapid progress.

What’s Feeding Cancer Cells? — Johns Hopkins Researchers Discover How Critical Cancer Gene Controls Nutrient Use.

“Cancer cells need a lot of nutrients to multiply and survive. While much is understood about how cancer cells use blood sugar to make energy, not much is known about how they get other nutrients. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered how the Myc cancer-promoting gene uses microRNAs to control the use of glutamine, a major energy source. The results, which shed light on a new angle of cancer that might help scientists figure out a way to stop the disease, appear Feb. 15 online at Nature. …”

“February 15, 2009- Cancer cells need a lot of nutrients to multiply and survive. While much is understood about how cancer cells use blood sugar to make energy, not much is known about how they get other nutrients. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered how the Myc cancer-promoting gene uses microRNAs to control the use of glutamine, a major energy source. The results, which shed light on a new angle of cancer that might help scientists figure out a way to stop the disease, appear Feb. 15 online at Nature.

Chi Dang, M.D., Ph.D. The Johns Hopkins Family Professor in Oncology Research; Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology, Oncology and Pathology; and Vice Dean for Research, School of Medicine

Chi Dang, M.D., Ph.D. The Johns Hopkins Family Professor in Oncology Research; Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology, Oncology and Pathology; and Vice Dean for Research, School of Medicine

‘While we were looking for how Myc promotes cancer growth, it was unexpected to find that Myc can increase use of glutamine by cancer cells,’ says Chi V. Dang, M.D., Ph.D., the Johns Hopkins Family Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins. ‘This surprising discovery only came about after scientists from several disciplines came together across Hopkins to collaborate — it was a real team effort.’

In their search to learn how Myc promotes cancer, the researchers teamed up with protein experts, and using human cancer cells with Myc turned on or off, they looked for proteins in the cell’s powerhouse — the mitochondria — that appeared to respond to Myc. They found eight proteins that were distinctly turned up in response to Myc.

At the top of the list of mitochondrial proteins that respond to Myc was glutaminase, or GLS, which, according to Dang, is the first enzyme that processes glutamine and feeds chemical reactions that make cellular energy. So the team then asked if removing GLS could stop or slow cancer cell growth. Compared to cancer cells with GLS, those lacking GLS grew much slower, which led the team to conclude that yes, GLS does affect cell growth stimulated by Myc.

The researchers then wanted to figure out how Myc enhances GLS protein expression. Because Myc can control and turn on genes, the team guessed that Myc might directly turn on the GLS gene, but they found that wasn’t the case. ‘So then we thought, maybe there’s an intermediary, maybe Myc controls something that in turn controls GLS,’ says Ping Gao, Ph.D., a research associate in hematology at Johns Hopkins.

They then built on previous work done with the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Hopkins where they discovered that Myc turns down some microRNAs, small bits of RNA that can bind to and inhibit RNAs, which contain instructions for making proteins. The team looked more carefully at the GLS RNA and found that it could be bound and regulated by two microRNAs, called miR23a and miR23b, pointing to the microRNAs as the intermediary that links Myc to GLS expression.

‘Next we want to study GLS in mice to see if removing it can slow or stop cancer growth,’ says Gao. ‘If we know how cancer cells differ from normal cells in how they make energy and use nutrients, we can identify new pathways to target for designing drugs with fewer side effects.’

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the Rita Allen Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Sol Goldman Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Authors on the paper are Ping Gao, Irina Tchernyshyov, Tsung-Cheng Chang, Yun-Sil Lee, Karen Zeller, Angelo De Marzo, Jennifer Van Eyk, Joshua Mendell and Chi V. Dang, of Johns Hopkins; and Kayoko Kita and Takfumi Ochi of Teikyo University in Japan.

On the Web:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hematology/faculty_staff/dang.html
http://www.proteomics.jhu.edu/index.php
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/geneticmedicine/People/Faculty/mendell.html
http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html

– JHM –

Media Contacts: Audrey Huang; 410-614-5105; audrey@jhmi.edu
Maryalice Yakutchik; 443-287-2251; myakutc1@jhmi.edu

______________________

Quoted SourceWhat’s Feeding Cancer Cells? – Johns Hopkins Researchers Discover How Critical Cancer Gene Controls Nutrient Use, Press Release, Johns Hopkins Medicine, February 15, 2009.

Primary Citationc-Myc suppression of miR-23a/b enhances mitochondrial glutaminase expression and glutamine metabolism; Ping Gao, Irina Tchernyshyov, Tsung-Cheng Chang et. al., Letter, Nature advance online publication 15 February 2009.

What Do You Stand For? Standup2Cancer Tonight At 8:00 P.M. E.T./P.T., 7:00 P.M. C.T.

This year, approximately 565,650 Americans are expected to die of cancer — that’s more than 1,500 people a day. … Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. … In an unprecedented television event, NBC, ABC, and CBS will simultaneously devote 1 hour of commercial-free prime time to raise funds for the fight against cancer under an initiative called “Standup2cancer.”

What Do You Stand For?

  • This year, approximately 565,650 Americans are expected to die of cancer — that’s more than 1,500 people a day.
  • Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease. In the US, cancer accounts for 1 of every 4 deaths.
  • The NIH estimate overall costs of cancer in 2007 at $219.2 billion:
    • $89.0 billion for direct medical costs;
    • $18.2 billion for lost productivity due to illness; and
    • $112.0 billion for lost productivity due to premature death.
  • Ovarian Cancer can afflict adolescent, young adult, and mature women, although the risk of disease increases with age and peaks in the late 70s. Pregnancy and the long-term use of oral contraceptives reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Women who have had breast cancer, or who have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer may have increased risk. Inherited mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes increase risk. Another genetic syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, has also been associated with endometrial and ovarian cancer.
  • Ovarian cancer incidence rates are highest in Western industrialized countries.
  • Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers among women and ranks #2 among gynecologic cancers.
  • An estimated 21,650 new ovarian cancer cases are expected in the U.S. in 2008.
  • An estimated 15,520 ovarian cancer deaths are expected in 2008.
  • Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
  • Ovarian cancer is not a “silent” disease; it is a “subtle” disease. Recent studies indicate that some women may experience persistent, nonspecific symptoms, such as (i) bloating, (ii) pelvic or abdominal pain, (iii) difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or (iv) urinary urgency or frequency. Women who experience such symptoms daily for more than a few weeks should seek prompt medical evaluation. (To learn more about the warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, CLICK HERE).
  • There is no reliable screening test for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Pelvic examination only occasionally detects ovarian cancer, generally when the disease is advanced. However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for the tumor marker CA125 may be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer and to women who have persistent, unexplained symptoms like those listed above.
  • If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rate is 92%; however, only about 19% of all cases are detected at this stage, usually fortuitously during another medical procedure.
  • For women with regional and distant metastatic disease, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rates are 71% and 30%, respectively. The 10-year relative survival rate for all stages combined is 38%.
  • During 1987-2004, ovarian cancer incidence declined at a rate of 0.9% per year.

Sources: Cancer Facts & Figures 2008, American Cancer Society (Adobe Reader PDF); There Are Many Ways To Fight Cancer. Cutting Funding For Research Isn’t One of Them, by Paul Cacciatore, Libby’s H*O*P*E* post, June 10, 2008.

Tonight, over 50 of the most renowned personalities in TV, film, sports and music will come together to make history. In an unprecedented television event, NBC, ABC, and CBS will simultaneously devote 1 hour of commercial-free prime time to raise funds for the fight against cancer under an initiative called “Standup2cancer.” In May, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ covered the opening of the Standup2cancer initiative. [May 30, 2008].

A spectacular line up of talent including Jennifer Aniston, James Taylor, Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep, David Cook, Christina Applegate, Lance Armstrong, Jack Black, Kirsten Dunst, Charles Barkley, America Ferrera, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Forrest Whitaker, Jimmy Fallon, Keanu Reeves will make personal appearances on the show. These celebrities and more will educate you, move you and entertain you. They will also be on hand to answer your calls in the celebrity phone bank.

To donate, CLICK HERE. The YouTube video below provides an explanation of how the public donations will be used.

SU2C: Where the Money Goes?

The premiere TV performance of “Just Stand Up” – the star studded charitable single in support of Stand Up To Cancer will be performed tonight by legendary recording artists Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Fergie, Sheryl Crow, Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge, Ashanti, Natasha Bedingfield, Keyshia Cole, Ciara, Leona Lewis, LeAnn Rimes, and Carrie Underwood.

Just Stand Up! – Standup2cancer


Presidential Proclamation Begins National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, September 2008

“During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those whose lives have been affected by this deadly disease, and we underscore our commitment to battling ovarian cancer for the sake of women around the world. …”


“For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 26, 2008

National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, 2008
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those whose lives have been affected by this deadly disease, and we underscore our commitment to battling ovarian cancer for the sake of women around the world.

Each year, thousands of American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Many will lose their lives to this disease. Because ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, it is vital for women to make regular visits to their doctors for screenings and to discuss risk factors and warning signs. Early detection is the best way to help doctors diagnose cancer before it has a chance to spread. It also makes treatment more effective and increases the chances for survival. I encourage all women to learn more about preventive measures and screening options that may help to save their lives.

America leads the world in medical research, and my Administration remains dedicated to the fight against ovarian cancer. I signed the “Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act of 2005,” or “Johanna’s Law,” that helps to raise awareness among women and health care providers about female reproductive cancers. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are conducting important research to help make the innovative advances we need in order to eradicate this disease. NIH’s Cancer Genome Atlas is also helping researchers gain a greater understanding of the genetic sources of cancer. Together, we will continue building on our progress until there is a cure for cancer.

As we observe National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we honor those who have fought this disease. We also recognize the compassionate caregivers, doctors, and researchers who are dedicated to preventing, detecting, and treating ovarian cancer.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2008 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I call upon government officials, businesses, communities, health care professionals, educators, volunteers, and the people of the United States to continue our Nation’s strong commitment to preventing and treating ovarian cancer.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

GEORGE W. BUSH”

Quoted Source: National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, 2008, Proclamations Archive, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, August 26, 2008

Combination Targeted Therapy With Sorafenib & Bevacizumab Shows Antitumor Activity

The results from a recent Phase I solid tumor clinical trial indicate that combination targeted therapy with sorafenib and bevacizumab produces anti-tumor activity (and enhanced toxicity) with respect to 43% of the ovarian cancer patients enrolled in that trial. Sorafenib (Nexavar®) inhibits the Raf kinase and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor. Bevacizumab (Avastin®) is a monoclonal antibody targeted against VEGF.

Dr. Elise Kohn, Principal Trial Investigator, NCI Center for Cancer Research

Dr. Elise Kohn, Principal Trial Investigator, NCI Center for Cancer Research

The results from a recent Phase I solid tumor clinical trial indicate that combination targeted therapy with sorafenib and bevacizumab produces antitumor activity (and enhanced toxicity) with respect to 43% of the ovarian cancer patients enrolled in that trial. Sorafenib (Nexavar®) inhibits the Raf kinase and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor. Bevacizumab (Avastin®) is a monoclonal antibody targeted against VEGF. The trial is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Elise Kohn is the principal trial investigator.

The patients enrolled in the trial had advanced solid tumors, with Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 to 1. A phase I dose-escalation trial of sorafenib and bevacizumab was initiated at below-recommended single-agent doses because of possible overlapping toxicity: sorafenib 200 mg orally twice daily and bevacizumab intravenously at 5 mg/kg (dose level (DL1)) or 10 mg/kg (dose level (DL2)) every 2 weeks. Additional patients were enrolled at the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD).

Thirty-nine patients were treated under the trial protocol. DL1 was the MTD and was administered to 27 patients. Dose-limiting toxicity in DL2 was grade 3 proteinuria and thrombocytopenia. Adverse events included hypertension, hand-foot syndrome, diarrhea, transaminitis, and fatigue. Partial responses (PRs) were seen in six (43%) of 13 patients with ovarian cancer (response duration range, 4 to 22+ months) and one of three patients with renal cell cancer (response duration, 14 months). PR or disease stabilization ≥ 4 months (median, 6 months; range, 4 to 22+ months) was seen in 22 (59%) of 37 assessable patients. The majority (74%) required sorafenib dose reduction to 200 mg/orally at a median of four cycles (range, one to 12 cycles).

The trial investigators concluded that combination therapy with sorafenib and bevacizumab has promising clinical activity, especially in patients with ovarian cancer. The trial investigators also noted that the rapidity and frequency of sorafenib dose reductions indicates that sorafenib at 200 mg twice daily with bevacizumab 5 mg/kg every 2 weeks may not be tolerable long term, and alternate sorafenib dosing schedules should be explored.

Source: Combination targeted therapy with sorafenib and bevacizumab results in enhanced toxicity and antitumor activity; Azad NS et. al., J Clin Oncol. 2008 Aug 1;26(22):3709-14.

Additional Information:

IL-7 Boosts Immune Response in Cancer Patients

” … [Recombinant human interleukin-7] rhIL-7 appears to be an effective T cell growth factor with “immune rejuvenating” properties, suggesting that it is effective in augmenting immune reactivity in hosts with impaired immunity due to any number of factors, including age, chemotherapy, and infectious disease, the authors note. In patients with both intact and deficient immune systems, the capacity of rhIL-7 to augment responses to weak antigens and to increase T cell cycling without expanding T regulatory cells might be clinically exploitable in the context of immunotherapy regimens for cancer and/or chronic infection, they write.”

“Data from a preliminary study suggest that recombinant human interleukin (r-hIL)-7 can enhance and broaden immune responses in patients with impaired immunity due to lymphocyte depletion.

The results of the phase 1 trial, published online June 23 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, showed that when given to cancer patients, rhIL-7 induced a dramatic polyclonal prolonged expansion of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, which in turn caused a significant broadening of circulating T cell receptor repertoire diversity. These effects were mediated primarily through an increase in peripheral T cell cycling and augmented cell survival.

Lymphopenia induced by cytotoxic chemotherapy, or pathologies such as HIV infection, can significantly weaken immune function; as a physiologic immuno-enhancer, IL-7 can enhance the restoration of T cells. CD4+ T cell recovery in adults who have experienced severe depletion requires the reemergence of a pool of naive T cells, which generally takes 18 to 24 months and might only occur in people younger than 40 to 45 years. Thus, the authors note, a strategy that can accelerate or promote the recovery of a widely diverse T cell repertoire in older people might be useful for a large number of clinical applications.

‘We know that IL-7 can enhance tumor vaccines in animals, so that would be a clear avenue of research,’ said lead author Claude Sportès, MD, senior staff clinician at the National Cancer Institute‘s Center for Cancer Research, Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, in Bethesda, Maryland. ‘But it wouldn’t only have to be tumor vaccines. Hopefully we will have a trial underway in the not-too-distant future looking at how it can enhance anti-viral and other immunizations, particularly in the elderly.’

Treatment with IL-7 therapy exerted a marked effect on T cell immune reconstitution during preliminary trials with animal models. It also appeared to augment effector and memory responses to vaccination in mice; in preclinical models, IL-7 therapy was able to augment anti-tumor responses that might improve survival when combined with anti-tumor vaccines.

‘In older individuals, therapy with IL-7 could lead to a rejuvenation of the phenotype,’ explained Dr. Sportès in an interview. ‘This in turn can lead to better vaccine responses in general and, in oncology, better tumor vaccine responses.’

The implications for rhIL-7 are potentially vast, and there are many promising therapeutic avenues. ‘But as often happens in medicine,’ he cautioned, ‘things can be very promising at this stage and then fizzle out.’

First Human Trial

In this phase 1 dose-escalation study, the first initiated in a human population, Dr. Sportès and colleagues evaluated the effects of IL-7 therapy on human lymphocytes in 16 patients, between the ages of 20 to 71 years, with nonhematologic, nonlymphoid refractory cancer. The doses, extrapolated from previous mouse and primate studies, were 3, 10, 30, and 60 μg/kg, and were administered by subcutaneous injection every other day for 14 days, for a total of 8 doses.

They found that after a very transient decrease, the numbers of circulating lymphocytes and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells increased in a dose-dependent manner. At the highest dose levels, increases approached 300% for CD4+ and exceeded 400% for CD8+ T cells. Overall, the treatment induced widespread T cell cycling and was able to expand the T cell pool in human patients while preserving T cell function.

Treatment with rhIL-7 also seems to have advantages over rhIL-2, explained Dr. Sportès. The expanded T cells retained significant functional capacity, and the CD4+ T cell expansion was not accompanied by a disproportionate increase in T regulatory cells, a phenomenon that has been observed after rhIL-2 therapy. Previous data have shown that in vivo IL-2 administration in humans has minimal effects on CD8+ T cell numbers, whereas rhIL-7 effects on CD8+ T cell expansion are at least comparable to the effects on CD4+ T cells.

The researchers noted that rhIL-7 increases T cell receptor repertoire diversity, and that although it appears to selectively expand CD4+ recent thymic emigrants, naive cells, and central-memory populations, it did not have the same effect on effector T cells.

The details of the clinical trial will be the focus of a separate paper, said Dr. Sportès. ‘But it was well tolerated and we went to full-dose escalation.’

“Immune Rejuvenating” Properties

rhIL-7 appears to be an effective T cell growth factor with “immune rejuvenating” properties, suggesting that it is effective in augmenting immune reactivity in hosts with impaired immunity due to any number of factors, including age, chemotherapy, and infectious disease, the authors note.

In patients with both intact and deficient immune systems, the capacity of rhIL-7 to augment responses to weak antigens and to increase T cell cycling without expanding T regulatory cells might be clinically exploitable in the context of immunotherapy regimens for cancer and/or chronic infection, they write.”

[Quoted Source: IL-7 Therapy Boosts Immune Response in Cancer Patients, by Roxanne Nelson, Medscape Medical News, Medscape Today, July 4, 2008 (summarizing the findings of Administration of rhIL-7 in humans increases in vivo TCR repertoire diversity by preferential expansion of naive T cell subsets; Sportes, C. et. al., J Exp Med. 2008 Jun 23. Epub ahead of print]