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Archive for the ‘CANCER BIOLOGY & Innovations in Cancer Therapy’ Category


Study Finds that Both Women and their Primary Care Physicians Confusion over Ovarian Cancer Symptoms May Lead to Misdiagnosis

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

This post discusses the recently released “The Every Woman Study” conducted by the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition.  For full PDF of the study please click here: WOCC-Every-Woman-Study-Summary-Report-Oct-16

The findings are summarized nicely in the NPR article from Joanne Silberner below but just want to list a few takeaways from the study

  1.  Ovarian Cancer, while not the most common cancer in women, is still one of the most deadly malignancies.  A major reason for this is the inability to catch the disease in its early, and most treatable stages.  Much work is being done on early detection (a few posts on this area from this online journal are given at the end of this post for reference)
  2. The symptoms of ovarian cancer closely mimic symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and disorders and many times these symptoms are overlooked by women as benign, temporary issues and may be mis-self diagnosed.  In addition, if mistaken for common gastrointestinal discomfort or gynecologic discomfort (cramping)  women may self-medicate with over the counter agents which mask the symptoms of ovarian cancer
  3. certain lessons can be learned from the experiences in other countries regarding access to healthcare and diagnosis. For instance

Looking at the key findings of the study it becomes clear that countries have significant potential to
learn from each other:
• Women in Germany had the shortest time to diagnosis, but much less access to
specialist clinicians that are key to successful treatment.
• Women in the UK have almost universal access to specialists but the lowest
proportion of women diagnosed within a month of visiting a doctor.
• Women in Japan had one of the shortest times to diagnosis, but very little access to
genetic testing, and were least likely to get the emotional support they needed.
• Women in the USA were most likely to wait more than three months before
consulting a doctor about symptoms, but most likely to receive genetic testing.
• Women with ovarian cancer in Hungary were most aware of ovarian cancer before
their diagnosis, but were much less likely to be offered surgery to treat their disease.

 

In summary it appears there are three key areas needing to be addressed with regard to improving early reporting of symptoms of ovarian cancer

  1. information and awareness of symptoms by BOTH women and their physicians
  2. family risk assessment programs are very important to make women aware of their risks and needs for screening
  3. access to specialist treatment is important in the early diagnosis and treatment of this disease

 

Learn the Symptoms

Symptoms (from the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation)

Historically ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer” because symptoms were not thought to develop until the chance of cure was poor. However, recent studies have shown this term is untrue and that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms.

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.

Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.

 

In addition there are serum biomarker tests which have shown useful in the screening for ovarian cancer however these tests have their caveats and not generally suggested for whole population screening due to number of false postitives which may occur (these tests will be discussed in further posts)

Serum biomarker tests include:

 Taken From NPR at https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/10/21/658798956/report-women-everywhere-dont-know-enough-about-ovarian-cancer

Report: Women Everywhere Don’t Know Enough About Ovarian Cancer

Colored scanning electron micrograph of dividing ovarian cancer cells.

Steve Gschmeissner/Science Source

new study of women with ovarian cancer shows that ignorance about the condition is common among patients in all 44 countries surveyed. And that ignorance has a cost. The disease is more treatable, even potentially curable, in its early stages.

The women’s answers also suggested their doctors were ignorant. Many of them reported that diagnosis took a long time and that they weren’t referred to proper specialists.

The study was based on an online survey of 1,531 women who had been diagnosed with the cancer and was conducted by the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit support group between March and May of this year.

Ovarian cancer is the eighth leading cause of cancer in women, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 300,000 women will develop it this year. The World Ovarian Cancer Coalition estimates that one in six will die within three months of diagnosis and fewer than half will be alive in five years.

Prior to their diagnosis, two-thirds of the women surveyed either had never heard of ovarian cancer or were familiar with the name but didn’t know anything about the disease.

 

Other articles related to Ovarian Cancer on this online Open Access Journal Include:

Model mimicking clinical profile of patients with ovarian cancer @ Yale School of Medicine

New Findings in Endometrial Cancer: Mutations, Molecular Types and Immune Responses Evoked by Mutation-prone Endometrial, Ovarian Cancer Subtypes

Good and Bad News Reported for Ovarian Cancer Therapy

Efficacy of Ovariectomy in Presence of BRCA1 vs BRCA2 and the Risk for Ovarian Cancer

Testing for Multiple Genetic Mutations via NGS for Patients: Very Strong Family History of Breast & Ovarian Cancer, Diagnosed at Young Ages, & Negative on BRCA Test

Ultrasound-based Screening for Ovarian Cancer

Warning signs may lead to better early detection of ovarian cancer

Epigenetics, Environment and Cancer: Articles of Note @PharmaceuticalIntelligence.com

Early Diagnosis [Early Detection Research Networks]

 

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Live 12:00 – 1:00 P.M  Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle: A Symposium on Diet and Human Health : October 19, 2018

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

12.00 The Italian Mediterranean Diet as a Model of Identity of a People with a Universal Good to Safeguard Health?

Prof. Antonino De Lorenzo, MD, PhD.

Director of the School of Specialization in Clinical Nutrition, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”

It is important to determine how our bodies interacts with the environment, such as absorption of nutrients.

Studies shown here show decrease in life expectancy of a high sugar diet, but the quality of the diet, not just the type of diet is important, especially the role of natural probiotics and phenolic compounds found in the Mediterranean diet.

The WHO report in 2005 discusses the unsustainability of nutrition deficiencies and suggest a proactive personalized and preventative/predictive approach of diet and health.

Most of the noncommunicable diseases like CV (46%) cancer 21% and 11% respiratory and 4% diabetes could be prevented and or cured with proper dietary approaches

Italy vs. the US diseases: in Italy most disease due to environmental contamination while US diet plays a major role

The issue we are facing in less than 10% of the Italian population (fruit, fibers, oils) are not getting the proper foods, diet and contributing to as we suggest 46% of the disease

The Food Paradox: 1.5 billion are obese; we notice we are eating less products of quality and most quality produce is going to waste;

  •  growing BMI and junk food: our studies are correlating the junk food (pre-prepared) and global BMI
  • modern diet and impact of human health (junk food high in additives, salt) has impact on microflora
  • Western Diet and Addiction: We show a link (using brain scans) showing correlation of junk food, sugar cravings, and other addictive behaviors by affecting the dopamine signaling in the substantia nigra
  • developed a junk food calculator and a Mediterranean diet calculator
  • the intersection of culture, food is embedded in the Mediterranean diet; this is supported by dietary studies of two distinct rural Italian populations (one of these in the US) show decrease in diet
  • Impact of diet: have model in Germany how this diet can increase health and life expectancy
  • from 1950 to present day 2.7 unit increase in the diet index can increase life expectancy by 26%
  • so there is an inverse relationship with our index and breast cancer

Environment and metal contamination and glyphosate: contribution to disease and impact of maintaining the healthy diet

  • huge problem with use of pesticides and increase in celiac disease

12:30 Environment and Health

Dr. Iris Maria Forte, PhD.

National Cancer Institute “Pascale” Foundation | IRCCS · Department of Research, Naples, Italy

Cancer as a disease of the environment.  Weinberg’s hallmarks of Cancer reveal how environment and epigenetics can impact any of these hallmarks.

Epigenetic effects

  • gene gatekeepers (Rb and P53)
  • DNA repair and damage stabilization

Heavy Metals and Dioxins:( alterations of the immune system as well as epigenetic regulations)

Asbestos and Mesothelioma:  they have demonstrated that p53 can be involved in development of mesothelioma as reactivating p53 may be a suitable strategy for therapy

Diet, Tomato and Cancer

  • looked at tomato extract on p53 function in gastric cancer: tomato extract had a growth reduction effect and altered cell cycle regulation and results in apoptosis
  • RBL2 levels are increased in extract amount dependent manner so data shows effect of certain tomato extracts of the southern italian tomato (     )

Antonio Giordano: we tested whole extracts of almost 30 different varieties of tomato.  The tomato variety  with highest activity was near Ravela however black tomatoes have shown high antitumor activity.  We have done a followup studies showing that these varieties, if grow elsewhere lose their antitumor activity after two or three generations of breeding, even though there genetics are similar.  We are also studying the effects of different styles of cooking of these tomatoes and if it reduces antitumor effect

please see post https://news.temple.edu/news/2017-08-28/muse-cancer-fighting-tomatoes-study-italian-food

 

To follow or Tweet on Twitter please use the following handles (@) and hashtags (#):

@ handles


@S_H_R_O 

@SbarroHealth

@Pharma_BI 

@ItalyinPhilly

@WHO_Europe

@nutritionorg

# hashtags


#healthydiet

#MediterraneanDiet

#health

#nutrition

Please see related articles on Live Coverage of Previous Meetings on this Open Access Journal

Real Time Conference Coverage for Scientific and Business Media: Unique Twitter Hashtags and Handles per Conference Presentation/Session

LIVE – Real Time – 16th Annual Cancer Research Symposium, Koch Institute, Friday, June 16, 9AM – 5PM, Kresge Auditorium, MIT

Real Time Coverage and eProceedings of Presentations on 11/16 – 11/17, 2016, The 12th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL, Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Tweets Impression Analytics, Re-Tweets, Tweets and Likes by @AVIVA1950 and @pharma_BI for 2018 BioIT, Boston, 5/15 – 5/17, 2018

BIO 2018! June 4-7, 2018 at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

LIVE 2018 The 21st Gabay Award to LORENZ STUDER, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, contributions in stem cell biology and patient-specific, cell-based therapy

HUBweek 2018, October 8-14, 2018, Greater Boston – “We The Future” – coming together, of breaking down barriers, of convening across disciplinary lines to shape our future

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Live 11:00 AM- 12:00 Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle: A Symposium on Diet and Human Health : Opening Remarks October 19, 2018

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

11:00 Welcome

 

 

Prof. Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD.

Director and President of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, College of Science and Technology, Temple University

Welcome to this symposium on Italian lifestyle and health.  This is similar to a symposium we had organized in New York.  A year ago Bloomberg came out with a study on higher longevity of the italian population and this study was concluded that this increased longevity was due to the italian lifestyle and diet especially in the southern part of Italy, a region which is older than Rome (actually founded by Greeks and Estonians).  However this symposium will delve into the components of this healthy Italian lifestyle which contributes to this longevity effect.  Some of this work was done in collaboration with Temple University and sponsored by the Italian Consulate General in Philadelphia ( which sponsors programs in this area called Ciao Philadelphia).

Greetings: Fucsia Nissoli Fitzgerald, Deputy elected in the Foreign Circumscription – North and Central America Division

Speaking for the Consulate General is Francesca  Cardurani-Meloni.   I would like to talk briefly about the Italian cuisine and its evolution, from the influence of the North and South Italy, economic factors, and influence by other cultures.  Italian cooking is about simplicity, cooking with what is in season and freshest.  The meal is not about the food but about comfort around the table, and comparible to a cullinary heaven, about sharing with family and friends, and bringing the freshest ingredients to the table.

Consul General, Honorable Pier Attinio Forlano, General Consul of Italy in Philadelphia

 

11:30 The Impact of Environment and Life Style in Human Disease

Prof. Antonio Giordano MD, PhD.

 

 

 

To follow or Tweet on Twitter please use the following handles (@) and hashtags (#):

@ handles


@S_H_R_O 

@SbarroHealth

@Pharma_BI 

@ItalyinPhilly

@WHO_Europe

@nutritionorg

# hashtags


#healthydiet

#MediterraneanDiet

#health

#nutrition

Please see related articles on Live Coverage of Previous Meetings on this Open Access Journal

Real Time Conference Coverage for Scientific and Business Media: Unique Twitter Hashtags and Handles per Conference Presentation/Session

LIVE – Real Time – 16th Annual Cancer Research Symposium, Koch Institute, Friday, June 16, 9AM – 5PM, Kresge Auditorium, MIT

Real Time Coverage and eProceedings of Presentations on 11/16 – 11/17, 2016, The 12th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL, Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Tweets Impression Analytics, Re-Tweets, Tweets and Likes by @AVIVA1950 and @pharma_BI for 2018 BioIT, Boston, 5/15 – 5/17, 2018

BIO 2018! June 4-7, 2018 at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

LIVE 2018 The 21st Gabay Award to LORENZ STUDER, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, contributions in stem cell biology and patient-specific, cell-based therapy

HUBweek 2018, October 8-14, 2018, Greater Boston – “We The Future” – coming together, of breaking down barriers, of convening across disciplinary lines to shape our future

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2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for contributions to Cancer Immunotherapy to James P. Allison, Ph.D., of the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. Dr. Allison shares the prize with Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University Institute, Japan

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

See

Immune System Stimulants: Articles of Note @pharmaceuticalintelligence.com

Curators: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/05/01/immune-system-stimulants-articles-of-note-pharmaceuticalintelligence-com/

 

Immune-Oncology Molecules In Development & Articles on Topic in @pharmaceuticalintelligence.com

Curators: Stephen J Williams, PhD and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/01/11/articles-on-immune-oncology-molecules-in-development-pharmaceuticalintelligence-com/

 

 

Monday, October 1, 2018

NIH grantees win 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to National Institutes of Health grantee James P. Allison, Ph.D., of the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. Dr. Allison shares the prize with Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University Institute, Japan, for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said, “by stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”

Dr. Allison discovered that a particular protein (CTLA-4) acts as a braking system, preventing full activation of the immune system when a cancer is emerging. By delivering an antibody that blocks that protein, Allison showed the brakes could be released. The discovery has led to important developments in cancer drugs called checkpoint inhibitors and dramatic responses to previously untreatable cancers. Dr. Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action.

“Jim’s work was pivotal for cancer therapy by enlisting our own immune systems to launch an attack on cancer and arrest its development,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “NIH is proud to have supported this groundbreaking research.”

Dr. Allison has received continuous funding from NIH since 1979, receiving more than $13.7 million primarily from NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

“This work has led to remarkably effective, sometime curative, therapy for patients with advanced cancer, who we were previously unable to help,” said NCI Director Ned Sharpless, M.D. “Their findings have ushered in the era of cancer immunotherapy, which along with surgery, radiation and cytotoxic chemotherapy, represents a ‘fourth modality’ for treating cancer. A further understanding of the biology underlying the immune system and cancer has the potential to help many more patients.”

“Dr. Allison’s elegant and groundbreaking work in basic immunology over four decades and its important applicability to cancer is a vivid demonstration of the critical nature of interdisciplinary biomedical research supported by NIH,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 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. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

SOURCE

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-grantees-win-2018-nobel-prize-physiology-or-medicine

 

Dr. Lev-Ari covered in person the following curated articles about James Allison, PhD since his days at University of California, Berkeley, including the prizes awarded prior to the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology.

 

2018 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research goes to NIH’s Dr. Rosenberg and fellow immunotherapy researchers James P. Allison, Ph.D., and Carl H. June, M.D.

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2018/08/15/2018-albany-medical-center-prize-in-medicine-and-biomedical-research-goes-to-nihs-dr-rosenberg-and-fellow-immunotherapy-researchers-james-p-allison-ph-d-and-carl-h-june-m-d/

 

Lectures by The 2017 Award Recipients of Warren Alpert Foundation Prize in Cancer Immunology, October 5, 2017, HMS, 77 Louis Paster, Boston

REAL TIME Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/09/08/lectures-by-the-2017-award-recipients-of-warren-alpert-foundation-prize-in-cancer-immunology-october-5-2017-hms-77-louis-paster-boston/

 

Cancer-free after immunotherapy treatment: Treating advanced colon cancer – targeting KRAS gene mutation by tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and Killer T-cells (NK)

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/12/08/cancer-free-after-immunotherapy-treatment-treating-advanced-colon-cancer-targeting-kras-gene-mutation-by-tumor-infiltrating-lymphocytes-tils-and-killer-t-cells-nk/

 

New Class of Immune System Stimulants: Cyclic Di-Nucleotides (CDN): Shrink Tumors and bolster Vaccines, re-arm the Immune System’s Natural Killer Cells, which attack Cancer Cells and Virus-infected Cells

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/04/24/new-class-of-immune-system-stimulants-cyclic-di-nucleotides-cdn-shrink-tumors-and-bolster-vaccines-re-arm-the-immune-systems-natural-killer-cells-which-attack-cancer-cells-and-virus-inf/

 

UC Berkeley research led to Nobel Prize-winning immunotherapy

Immunologist James P. Allison today shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for groundbreaking work he conducted on cancer immunotherapy at UC Berkeley during his 20 years as director of the campus’s Cancer Research Laboratory.

James Allison

James Allison, who for 20 years was a UC Berkeley immunologist conducting fundamental research on cancer, is now at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Now at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Allison shared the award with Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University in Japan “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.”

Allison, 70, conducted basic research on how the immune system – in particular, a cell called a T cell – fights infection. His discoveries led to a fundamentally new strategy for treating malignancies that unleashes the immune system to kill cancer cells. A monoclonal antibody therapy he pioneered was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 to treat malignant melanoma, and spawned several related therapies now being used against lung, prostate and other cancers.

“Because this approach targets immune cells rather than specific tumors, it holds great promise to thwart diverse cancers,” the Lasker Foundation wrote when it awarded Allison its 2015 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

Allison’s work has already benefited thousands of people with advanced melanoma, a disease that used to be invariably fatal within a year or so of diagnosis. The therapy he conceived has resulted in elimination of cancer in a significant fraction of patients for a decade and counting, and it appears likely that many of these people are cured.

“Targeted therapies don’t cure cancer, but immunotherapy is curative, which is why many consider it the biggest advance in a generation,” Allison said in a 2015 interview. “Clearly, immunotherapy now has taken its place along with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as a reliable and objective way to treat cancer.”

“We are thrilled to see Jim’s work recognized by the Nobel Committee,” said Russell Vance, the current director of the Cancer Research Laboratory and a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology. “We congratulate him on this highly deserved honor. This award is a testament to the incredible impact that the fundamental research Jim conducted at Berkeley has had on the lives of cancer patients”

“I don’t know if I could have accomplished this work anywhere else than Berkeley,” Allison said. “There were a lot of smart people to work with, and it felt like we could do almost anything. I always tell people that it was one of the happiest times of my life, with the academic environment, the enthusiasm, the students, the faculty.”

In this video about UC Berkeley’s new Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI), Allison discusses his groundbreaking work on cancer immunotherapy.

In fact, Allison was instrumental in creating the research environment of the current Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley as well as the department’s division of immunology, in which he served stints as chair and division head during his time at Berkeley, said David Raulet, director of Berkeley’s Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI).

“His actions helped create the superb research environment here, which is so conducive to making the fundamental discoveries that will be the basis of the next generation of medical breakthroughs,” Raulet said.

Self vs. non-self

Allison joined the UC Berkeley faculty as a professor of molecular and cell biology and director of the Cancer Research Laboratory in 1985. An immunologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin, he focused on a type of immune system cell called the T cell or T lymphocyte, which plays a key role in fighting off bacterial and viral infections as well as cancer.

Supercharging the immune system to cure disease: immunotherapy research at UC Berkeley. (UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally)

At the time, most doctors and scientists believed that the immune system could not be exploited to fight cancer, because cancer cells look too much like the body’s own cells, and any attack against cancer cells would risk killing normal cells and creating serious side effects.

“The community of cancer biologists was not convinced that you could even use the immune system to alter cancer’s outcome, because cancer was too much like self,” said Matthew “Max” Krummel, who was a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow with Allison in the 1990s and is now a professor of pathology and a member of the joint immunology group at UCSF. “The dogma at the time was, ‘Don’t even bother.’ ”

“What was heady about the moment was that we didn’t really listen to the dogma, we just did it,” Krummel added. Allison, in particular, was a bit “irreverent, but in a productive way. He didn’t suffer fools easily.” This attitude rubbed off on the team.

Trying everything they could in mice to tweak the immune system, Krummel and Allison soon found that a protein receptor called CTLA-4 seemed to be holding T cells back, like a brake in a car.

Postdoctoral fellow Dana Leach then stepped in to see if blocking the receptor would unleash the immune system to actually attack a cancerous tumor. In a landmark paper published in Science in 1996, Allison, Leach and Krummel showed not only that antibodies against CTLA-4 released the brake and allowed the immune system to attack the tumors, but that the technique was effective enough to result in long-term disappearance of the tumors.

“When Dana showed me the results, I was really surprised,” Allison said. “It wasn’t that the anti-CTLA-4 antibodies slowed the tumors down. The tumors went away.”

After Allison himself replicated the experiment, “that’s when I said, OK, we’ve got something here.”

Checkpoint blockade

The discovery led to a concept called “checkpoint blockade.” This holds that the immune system has many checkpoints designed to prevent it from attacking the body’s own cells, which can lead to autoimmune disease. As a result, while attempts to rev up the immune system are like stepping on the gas, they won’t be effective unless you also release the brakes.

Allison in 1993

James Allison in 1993, when he was conducting research at UC Berkeley on a promising immunotherapy now reaching fruition. (Jane Scherr photo)

“The temporary activation of the immune system though ‘checkpoint blockade’ provides a window of opportunity during which the immune system is mobilized to attack and eliminate tumors,” Vance said.

Allison spent the next few years amassing data in mice to show that anti-CTLA-4 antibodies work, and then, in collaboration with a biotech firm called Medarex, developed human antibodies that showed promise in early clinical trials against melanoma and other cancers. The therapy was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011 and approved by the FDA as ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy), which is now used to treat skin cancers that have metastasized or that cannot be removed surgically.

Meanwhile, Allison left UC Berkeley in 2004 for Memorial Sloan Kettering research center in New York to be closer to the drug companies shepherding his therapy through clinical trials, and to explore in more detail how checkpoint blockade works.

“Berkeley was my favorite place, and if I could have stayed there, I would have,” he said. “But my research got to the point where all the animal work showed that checkpoint blockade had a lot of potential in people, and working with patients at Berkeley wasn’t possible. There’s no hospital, no patients.”

Thanks to Allison’s doggedness, anti-CTLA-4 therapy is now an accepted therapy for cancer and it opened the floodgates for a slew of new immunotherapies, Krummel said. There now are several hundred ongoing clinical trials involving monoclonal antibodies to one or more receptors that inhibit T cell activity, sometimes combined with lower doses of standard chemotherapy.

Antibodies against one such receptor, PD-1, which Honjo discovered in 1992, have given especially impressive results. Allison’s initial findings can be credited for prompting researchers, including Allison himself, to carry out the studies that have demonstrated the potent anti-cancer effects of PD-1 antibodies. In 2015, the FDA approved anti-PD-1 therapy for malignant melanoma, and has since approved it for non-small-cell lung, gastric and several other cancers.

Science magazine named cancer immunotherapy its breakthrough of 2013 because that year, “clinical trials … cemented its potential in patients and swayed even the skeptics. The field hums with stories of lives extended: the woman with a grapefruit-size tumor in her lung from melanoma, alive and healthy 13 years later; the 6-year-old near death from leukemia, now in third grade and in remission; the man with metastatic kidney cancer whose disease continued fading away even after treatment stopped.”

Allison pursued more clinical trials for immunotherapy at Sloan-Kettering and then in 2012 returned to his native Texas.

Born in Alice, Texas, on Aug. 7, 1948, Allison earned a B.S. in microbiology in 1969 and a Ph.D. in biological science in 1973 from the University of Texas, Austin.

RELATED INFORMATION

SOURCE

http://news.berkeley.edu/2018/10/01/uc-berkeley-research-led-to-nobel-prize-winning-immunotherapy/

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NIH SBIR Funding Early Ventures: September 26, 2018 sponsored by Pennovation

Stephen J. Williams PhD, Reporter

Penn Center for Innovation (Pennovation) sponsored a “Meet with NCI SBIR” program directors at University of Pennsylvania Medicine Smilow Center for Translational Research with a presentation on advice on preparing a successful SBIR/STTR application to the NCI as well as discussion of NCI SBIR current funding opportunities.   Time was allotted in the afternoon for one-on-one discussions with NCI SBIR program directors.

To find similar presentations and one-on-one discussions with NCI/SBIR program directors in an area nearest to you please go to their page at:

https://sbir.cancer.gov/newsevents/events

For more complete information on the NCI SBIR and STTR programs please go to their web page at: https://sbir.cancer.gov/about

A few notes from the meeting are given below:

  • In 2016 the SBIR/STTR 2016 funded $2.5 billion (US) of early stage companies; this is compared to the $6.6 billion invested in early  stage ventures by venture capital firms so the NCI program is very competitive with alternate sources of funding
  • It was stressed that the SBIR programs are flexible as far as ownership of a company; SBIR allows now that >50% of the sponsoring company can be owned by other ventures;  In addition they are looking more favorably on using outside contractors and giving leeway on budgetary constraints so AS THEY SUGGEST ALWAYS talk to the program director about any questions you may have well before (at least 1 month) you submit. More on eligibility criteria is found at: https://sbir.cancer.gov/about/eligibilitycriteria
  • STTR should have strong preliminary data since more competitive; if don’t have enough go for  an R21 emerging technologies grant which usually does not require preliminary data
  • For entities outside the US need a STRONG reason for needing to do work outside the US

Budget levels were discussed as well as  the waiver program, which allows for additional funds to be requested based on criteria set by NCI (usually for work that is deemed high priority or of a specialized nature which could not be covered sufficiently under the standard funding limits) as below:

Phase I: 150K standard but you can get waivers for certain work up to 300K

Phase II: 1M with waiver up to 2M

Phase IIB waiver up to 4M

You don’t need to apply for the waiver but grant offices may suggest citing a statement requesting a waiver as review panels will ask for this information

Fast Track was not discussed in the presentation but for more information of the Fast Track program please visit the website  

NCI is working hard to cut review times to 7 months between initial review to funding however at beginning of the year they set pay lines and hope to fund 50% of the well scored grants

NCI SBIR is a Centralized system with center director and then program director with specific areas of expertise: Reach out to them

IMAT Program and Low-Resource Setting new programs more suitable for initial studies and also can have non US entities

Phase IIB Bridge funding to cross “valley of death” providing up to 4M for 2-3 years: most were for drug/biological but good amount for device and diagnostics

 

Also they have announced administrative supplements for promoting diversity within a project: can add to the budget

FY18 Contracts Areas

3 on biotherapies

2 imaging related

2 on health IT

4 on radiation therapy related: NOTE They spent alot of time discussing the contracts centered on radiation therapy and seems to be an area of emphasis of the NCI SBIR program this year

4 other varied topics

 

Breakdown of funding

>70% of NCI SBIR budget went to grants (for instance Omnibus grants); about 20-30% for contracts; 16% for phase I and 34 % for phase II ;

ALSO the success rate considerably higher for companies that talk to the program director BEFORE applying than not talking to them; also contracts more successful than Omnibus applications

Take Advantage of these useful Assistance Programs through the NIH SBIR Program (Available to all SBIR grantees)

NICHE ASSESSMENT Program

From the NCI SBIR website:

The Niche Assessment Program is designed to help small businesses “jump start” their commercialization efforts. All active HHS (NIH, CDC, FDA) SBIR/STTR Phase I awardees and Phase I Fast-Track awardees (by grant or contract) are eligible to apply. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis!

The Niche Assessment Program provides market insight and data that can be used to help small businesses strategically position their technology in the marketplace. The results of this program can help small businesses develop their commercialization plans for their Phase II application, and be exposed to potential partners. Services are provided by Foresight Science & Technology of Providence, RI.

Technology Niche Analyses® (TNA®) are provided by Foresight, for one hundred and seventy-five (175), HHS SBIR/STTR Phase I awardees. These analyses assess potential applications for a technology and then for one viable application, it provides an assessment of the:

  1. Needs and concerns of end-users;
  2. Competing technologies and competing products;
  3. Competitive advantage of the SBIR/STTR-developed technology;
  4. Market size and potential market share (may include national and/or global markets);
  5. Barriers to market entry (may include but is not limited to pricing, competition, government regulations, manufacturing challenges, capital requirements, etc.);
  6. Market drivers;
  7. Status of market and industry trends;
  8. Potential customers, licensees, investors, or other commercialization partners; and,
  9. The price customers are likely to pay.

Commercialization Acceleration Program  (CAP)

From the NIH SBIR website:

NIH CAP is a 9-month program that is well-regarded for its combination of deep domain expertise and access to industry connections, which have resulted in measurable gains and accomplishments by participating companies. Offered since 2004 to address the commercialization objectives of companies across the spectrum of experience and stage, 1000+ companies have participated in the CAP. It is open only to HHS/NIH SBIR/STTR Phase II awardees, and 80 slots are available each year. The program enables participants to establish market and customer relevance, build commercial relationships, and focus on revenue opportunities available to them.

I-Corps Program

The I-Corps program provides funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities to help commercialize your promising biomedical technology. During this 8-week, hands-on program, you’ll learn how to focus your business plan and get the tools to bring your treatment to the patients who need it most.

Program benefits include:

  • Funding up to $50,000 to cover direct program costs
  • Training from biotech sector experts
  • Expanding your professional network
  • Building the confidence and skills to create a comprehensive business model
  • Gaining years of entrepreneurial skills in only weeks.

 

ICORPS is an Entrepreneurial Program (8 week course) to go out talk to customers, get assistance with business models, useful resource which can guide the new company where they should focus on for the commercialization aspect

THE NCI Applicant Assistance Program (AAP)

The SBIR/STTR Applicant Assistance Program (AAP) is aimed at helping eligible small R&D businesses and individuals successfully apply for Phase I SBIR/STTR funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Participation in the AAP will be funded by the NCI, NINDS, and NHLBI with NO COST TO PARTICIPANTS. The program will include the following services:

  • Needs Assessment/Small Business Mentoring
  • Phase I Application Preparation Support
  • Application Review
  • Team/Facilities Development
  • Market Research
  • Intellectual Property Consultation

For more details about the program, please refer to NIH Notice NOT-CA-18-072.

 

These programs are free for first time grant applicants and must not have been awarded previous SBIR

Peer Learning Webinar Series goal to improve peer learning .Also they are starting to provide Regulatory Assistance (see below)

NIH also provides Mentoring programs for CEOS and C level

Application tips

  1. Start early: and obtain letters of collaboration
  2. Build a great team: PI multi PI, consider other partners to fill gaps (academic, consultants, seasoned entrepreneurs (don’t need to be paid)
  3. They will pre review 1 month before due date, use NIH Project Reporter to view previous funded grants
  4. Specify study section in SF to specify areas of expertise for review
  5. Specific aims are very important; some of the 20 reviewers focus on this page (describes goals and milestones as well; spend as much time on this page as the rest of the application
  6. Letters of support from KOLs are important to have; necessary from consultants and collaborators; helpful from clinicians
  7. Have a phase II commercialization plan
  8. Note for non US clinical trials:  They will not fund nonUS clinical trials; the company must have a FWA
  9. SBIR budgets defined by direct costs; can request a 7% fee as an indirect cost; and they have a 5,000 $ technical assistance program like regulatory consultants but if requested can’t participate in NIH technical assistance programs so most people don’t apply for TAP

 

  • They are trying to change the definition of innovation as also using innovative methods (previously reviewers liked tried and true methodology)

10.  before you submit solicit independent readers

NCI SBIR can be found on Twitter @NCIsbir ‏

Discussion with Monique Pond, Ph.D. on Establishment of a Regulatory Assistance Program for NCI SBIR

I was able to sit down with Dr. Monique Pond,  AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Health Scientist within the NCI SBIR Development Center to discuss the new assistance program in regulatory affairs she is developing for the NCI SBIR program.  Dr Pond had received her PhD in chemistry from the Pennsylvania State University, completed a postdoctoral fellow at NIST and then spent many years as a regulatory writer and consultant in the private sector.  She applied through the AAAS for this fellowship and will bring her experience and expertise in regulatory affairs from the private sector to the SBIR program. Dr. Pond discussed the difficulties that new ventures have in formulating regulatory procedures for their companies, the difficulties in getting face time with FDA regulators and helping young companies start thinking about regulatory issues such as pharmacovigilence, oversight, compliance, and navigating the complex regulatory landscape.

In addition Dr. Pond discussed the AAAS fellowship program and alternative career paths for PhD scientists.

 

A formal interview will follow on this same post.

 

Other articles on this OPEN ACCESS JOURNAL on Funding for Startups and Early Ventures are given below:

 

Mapping Medical Device Startups Across The Globe per Funding Criteria

Funding Oncorus’s Immunotherapy Platform: Next-generation Oncolytic Herpes Simplex Virus (oHSV) for Brain Cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

 

Funding Opportunities for Cancer Research

 

Team Profile: DrugDiscovery @LPBI Group – A BioTech Start Up submitted for Funding Competition to MassChallenge Boston 2016 Accelerator

 

A Message from Faculty Director Lee Fleming on Latest Issue of Crowdfunding; From the Fung Institute at Berkeley

 

PROTOCOL for Drug Screening of 3rd Party Intellectual Property Presented for Funding Representation

 

Foundations as a Funding Source

 

The Bioscience Crowdfunding Environment: The Bigger Better VC?

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Researchers have embraced CRISPR gene-editing as a method for altering genomes, but some have reported that unwanted DNA changes may slip by undetected. The tool can cause large DNA deletions and rearrangements near its target site on the genome. Such alterations can confuse the interpretation of experimental results and could complicate efforts to design therapies based on CRISPR. The finding is in line with previous results from not only CRISPR but also other gene-editing systems.

 

CRISPR -Cas9 gene editing relies on the Cas9 enzyme to cut DNA at a particular target site. The cell then attempts to reseal this break using its DNA repair mechanisms. These mechanisms do not always work perfectly, and sometimes segments of DNA will be deleted or rearranged, or unrelated bits of DNA will become incorporated into the chromosome.

 

Researchers often use CRISPR to generate small deletions in the hope of knocking out a gene’s function. But when examining CRISPR edits, researchers found large deletions (often several thousand nucleotides) and complicated rearrangements of DNA sequences in which previously distant DNA sequences were stitched together. Many researchers use a method for amplifying short snippets of DNA to test whether their edits have been made properly. But this approach might miss larger deletions and rearrangements.

 

These deletions and rearrangements occur only with gene-editing techniques that rely on DNA cutting and not with some other types of CRISPR modifications that avoid cutting DNA. Such as a modified CRISPR system to switch one nucleotide for another without cutting DNA and other systems use inactivated Cas9 fused to other enzymes to turn genes on or off, or to target RNA. Overall, these unwanted edits are a problem that deserves more attention, but this should not stop anyone from using CRISPR. Only when people use it, they need to do a more thorough analysis about the outcome.

 

References:

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05736-3?utm_source=briefing-dy

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28561021

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30010673

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24651067

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25398350

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24838573

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25200087

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25757625

 

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Live Conference Coverage @Medcitynews Converge 2018 @Philadelphia: Promising Drugs and Breaking Down Silos

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Promising Drugs, Pricing and Access

The drug pricing debate rages on. What are the solutions to continuing to foster research and innovation, while ensuring access and affordability for patients? Can biosimilars and generics be able to expand market access in the U.S.?

Moderator: Bunny Ellerin, Director, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program, Columbia Business School
Speakers:
Patrick Davish, AVP, Global & US Pricing/Market Access, Merck
Robert Dubois M.D., Chief Science Officer and Executive Vice President, National Pharmaceutical Council
Gary Kurzman, M.D., Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Healthcare, Safeguard Scientifics
Steven Lucio, Associate Vice President, Pharmacy Services, Vizient

What is working and what needs to change in pricing models?

Robert:  He sees so many players in the onStevencology space discovering new drugs and other drugs are going generic (that is what is working).  However are we spending too much on cancer care relative to other diseases (their initiative Going Beyond the Surface)

Steven:  the advent of biosimilars is good for the industry

Patrick:  large effort in oncology, maybe too much (750 trials on Keytruda) and he says pharma is spending on R&D (however clinical trials take large chunk of this money)

Robert: cancer has gotten a free ride but cost per year relative to benefit looks different than other diseases.  Are we overinvesting in cancer or is that a societal decision

Gary:  maybe as we become more specific with precision medicines high prices may be a result of our success in specifically targeting a mutation.  We need to understand the targeted drugs and outcomes.

Patrick: “Cancer is the last big frontier” but he says prices will come down in most cases.  He gives the example of Hep C treatment… the previous only therapeutic option was a very toxic yearlong treatment but the newer drugs may be more cost effective and safer

Steven: Our blockbuster drugs could diffuse the expense but now with precision we can’t diffuse the expense over a large number of patients

President’s Cancer Panel Recommendation

Six recommendations

  1. promoting value based pricing
  2. enabling communications of cost
  3. financial toxicity
  4. stimulate competition biosimilars
  5. value based care
  6. invest in biomedical research

Patrick: the government pricing regime is hurting.  Alot of practical barriers but Merck has over 200 studies on cost basis

Robert:  many concerns/impetus started in Europe on pricing as they are a set price model (EU won’t pay more than x for a drug). US is moving more to outcomes pricing. For every one health outcome study three studies did not show a benefit.  With cancer it is tricky to establish specific health outcomes.  Also Medicare gets best price status so needs to be a safe harbor for payers and biggest constraint is regulatory issues.

Steven: They all want value based pricing but we don’t have that yet and there is a challenge to understand the nuances of new therapies.  Hard to align all the stakeholders together so until some legislation starts to change the reimbursement-clinic-patient-pharma obstacles.  Possibly the big data efforts discussed here may help align each stakeholders goals.

Gary: What is the data necessary to understand what is happening to patients and until we have that information it still will be complicated to determine where investors in health care stand at in this discussion

Robert: on an ICER methods advisory board: 1) great concern of costs how do we determine fair value of drug 2) ICER is only game in town, other orgs only give recommendations 3) ICER evaluates long term value (cost per quality year of life), budget impact (will people go bankrupt)

4) ICER getting traction in the public eye and advocates 5) the problem is ICER not ready for prime time as evidence keeps changing or are they keeping the societal factors in mind and they don’t have total transparancy in their methodology

Steven: We need more transparency into all the costs associated with the drug and therapy and value-based outcome.  Right now price is more of a black box.

Moderator: pointed to a recent study which showed that outpatient costs are going down while hospital based care cost is going rapidly up (cost of site of care) so we need to figure out how to get people into lower cost setting

Breaking Down Silos in Research

“Silo” is healthcare’s four-letter word. How are researchers, life science companies and others sharing information that can benefit patients more quickly? Hear from experts at institutions that are striving to tear down the walls that prevent data from flowing.

Moderator: Vini Jolly, Executive Director, Woodside Capital Partners
Speakers:
Ardy Arianpour, CEO & Co-Founder, Seqster @seqster
Lauren Becnel, Ph.D., Real World Data Lead for Oncology, Pfizer
Rakesh Mathew, Innovation, Research, & Development Lead, HealthShareExchange
David Nace M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Innovaccer

Seqster: Seqster is a secure platform that helps you and your family manage medical records, DNA, fitness, and nutrition data—all in one place. Founder has a genomic sequencing background but realized sequence  information needs to be linked with medical records.

HealthShareExchange.org :

HealthShare Exchange envisions a trusted community of healthcare stakeholders collaborating to deliver better care to consumers in the greater Philadelphia region. HealthShare Exchange will provide secure access to health information to enable preventive and cost-effective care; improve quality of patient care; and facilitate care transitions. They have partnered with multiple players in healthcare field and have data on over 7 million patients.

Innovacer

Data can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be this way. To drive healthcare efficiency, we designed a modular suite of products for a smooth transition into a data-driven world within 4 weeks. Why does it take so much money to move data around and so slowly?

What is interoperatibility?

Ardy: We knew in genomics field how to build algorithms to analyze big data but how do we expand this from a consumer standpoint and see and share your data.

Lauren: how can we use the data between patients, doctors, researchers?  On the research side genomics represent only 2% of data.  Silos are one issue but figuring out the standards for data (collection, curation, analysis) is not set. Still need to improve semantic interoperability. For example Flatiron had good annotated data on male metastatic breast cancer.

David: Technical interopatabliltiy (platform), semantic interopatability (meaning or word usage), format (syntactic) interopatibility (data structure).  There is technical interoperatiblity between health system but some semantic but formats are all different (pharmacies use different systems and write different prescriptions using different suppliers).  In any value based contract this problem is a big issue now (we are going to pay you based on the quality of your performance then there is big need to coordinate across platforms).  We can solve it by bringing data in real time in one place and use mapping to integrate the format (need quality control) then need to make the data democratized among players.

Rakesh:  Patients data should follow the patient. Of Philadelphia’s 12 health systems we had a challenge to make data interoperatable among them so tdhey said to providers don’t use portals and made sure hospitals were sending standardized data. Health care data is complex.

David: 80% of clinical data is noise. For example most eMedical Records are text. Another problem is defining a patient identifier which US does not believe in.

 

 

 

 

Please follow on Twitter using the following #hash tags and @pharma_BI

#MCConverge

#cancertreatment

#healthIT

#innovation

#precisionmedicine

#healthcaremodels

#personalizedmedicine

#healthcaredata

And at the following handles:

@pharma_BI

@medcitynews

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