Author Archives: Sherri L. Kirk

Researchers Discover New Target for Personalized Cancer Therapy

Captured by Case Western Reserve University

A common cancer pathway causing tumor growth is now being targeted by a number of new cancer drugs and shows promising results. A team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have developed a novel method to disrupt this growth signaling pathway, with findings that suggest a new treatment for breast, colon, melanoma and other cancers.

The research team has pinpointed the cancer abnormality to a mutation in a gene called PIK3CA that results in a mutant protein, which may be an early cancer switch. By disrupting the mutated signaling pathway, the Case Western Reserve team, led by John Wang, PhD, inhibited the growth of cancer cells, opening the possibility to new cancer therapies.

Their findings, “Gain of interaction with IRS1 by p110α helical domain mutants is crucial for their oncogenic functions,” was published on May 2 in the journal Cancer Cell.

Cancer arises from a single cell, which has mutated in a small number of genes because of random errors in the DNA replication process. These mutations play key roles in carcinogenesis.

“This discovery has a broad impact on the treatment of human cancer patients because so many cancers are affected by this particular mutation in the p110α protein, which is encoded by the PIK3CA gene,” said Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Genetics and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This is a significant advance because we can now disrupt this misdirected signaling pathway in cancer cells.”

“If you turn on a light, you have to turn on a switch. But in the case of the mutation of this protein, p110α turns on by itself,” Wang said. “The mutation rewires the circuit and is uncontrolled. This implies that if you break these wires, you can control the growth of cancer. Our current discovery may lead to finding less toxic drugs that can be used for personalized treatment for cancer patients in the future.”

“This research will impact the field by focusing us on new targets for treating and preventing metastasis in patients in a many different types of human cancers,” said Stanton Gerson, MD, Asa and Patricia Shiverick-Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology, and director of Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and of Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.  Read more…

Tests to Predict Heart Problems and Stroke May Be More Useful Predictor of Memory Loss than Dementia Tests

Captured by the American Academy of Neurology

Risk prediction tools that estimate future risk of heart disease and stroke may be more useful predictors of future decline in cognitive abilities, or memory and thinking, than a dementia risk score, according to a new study published in the April 2, 2013, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“This is the first study that compares these risk scores with a dementia risk score to study decline in cognitive abilities 10 years later,” said Sara Kaffashian, PhD, with the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Paris, France.

The study involved 7,830 men and women with an average age of 55. Risk of heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease) and risk of dementia were calculated for each participant at the beginning of the study. The heart disease risk score included the following risk factors: age, blood pressure, treatment for high blood pressure, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes. The stroke risk score included age, blood pressure, treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, history of heart disease, and presence of cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). Read more….

Transplanted Brain Cells in Monkeys Light Up Personalized Therapy

Captured by University of Wisconsin-Madison

For the first time, scientists have transplanted neural cells derived from a monkey’s skin into its brain and watched the cells develop into several types of mature brain cells, according to the authors of a new study in Cell Reports. After six months, the cells looked entirely normal, and were only detectable because they initially were tagged with a fluorescent protein.

Because the cells were derived from adult cells in each monkey’s skin, the experiment is a proof-of-principle for the concept of personalized medicine, where treatments are designed for each individual.

And since the skin cells were not “foreign” tissue, there were no signs of immune rejection — potentially a major problem with cell transplants. “When you look at the brain, you cannot tell that it is a graft,” says senior author Su-Chun Zhang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Structurally the host brain looks like a normal brain; the graft can only be seen under the fluorescent microscope.”

Marina Emborg, an associate professor of medical physics at UW-Madison and the lead co-author of the study, says, “This is the first time I saw, in a nonhuman primate, that the transplanted cells were so well integrated, with such a minimal reaction. And after six months, to see no scar, that was the best part.”

The cells were implanted in the monkeys “using a state-of-the-art surgical procedure” guided by an MRI image, says Emborg. The three rhesus monkeys used in the study at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center had a lesion in a brain region that causes the movement disorder Parkinson’s disease, which afflicts up to 1 million Americans. Parkinson’s is caused by the death of a small number of neurons that make dopamine, a signaling chemical used in the brain. Read more…

Ohio State’s P4 Medicine Update, Oct. 23, 2012: http://conta.cc/X8bd05

Captured by Sherri Kirk

Study: Patients Like Reading Their Doctors’ Notes

Captured by the Chicago Tribune

Both doctors and patients gave high marks to a program allowing patients to access their primary care physicians’ office notes online, in a new study.

Researchers at three U.S. practices found doctors’ initial concerns about the extra time it would take to write out notes and answer patients’ related questions didn’t pan out.

And almost everyone who got access to their notes for the study wanted to keep seeing them, even if some patients were concerned about privacy issues.

“We were thrilled by what we learned,” said Dr. Tom Delbanco, who worked on the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“We had no clue that so many patients would read their notes, and that they would be both as enthusiastic and report so many clinically important changes in their behavior.”

Delbanco led the study with Jan Walker, a nurse at Beth Israel.

They and other researchers implemented the program at Beth Israel, Geisinger Health System in Northeast/Central Pennsylvania and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The current study involved 105 primary care doctors and more than 13,000 of their patients who participated in the trial of the system, called OpenNotes.

Over the course of a year or more, 87 percent of those patients opened at least one note and four in ten responded to a survey about their general experience.

Most patients said having access to their doctors’ notes gave them more control over their care and helped them take any prescribed medications more reliably. That was all based on surveys; the researchers didn’t track how often patients actually filled their prescriptions, for example.

Between one-quarter and one-third of patients still had privacy concerns about having the notes online, but 99 percent wanted to keep their access after the study ended. Read more…

Personalized Cancer Treatments Approach Tipping Point

Captured by HealthLeaders Media

When then President Richard Nixon in 1971 called for a “cure for cancer,” he envisioned a crusade akin to the efforts that developed the atomic bomb and led to the moon landing.

But more than 40 years later, it has proven to be an elusive goal, and one that has changed dramatically over the decades. Now, the vision has transformed from seeking a singular cure for cancer to finding a multitude of cures for a complex disease that differentiates into the hundreds of types. The emerging singular focus now in the so-called war on cancer is personalized medicine, which involves tailoring drugs for each patient to attack that person’s individual kind of cancer. Some have dubbed it one pill for one patient, or even named it individualized medicine. Others have a different take, describing it more as precision medicine, narrowing treatment for groups with certain ailments.

To pursue and exploit innovative technology, some health systems are developing service lines or special institutes for personalized medicine, with a focus on one-patient-at-a-time cancer care. While some healthcare systems are making slow and cautious moves into the frontier of personalized medicine, others are moving quickly in a this-is-the-future-right-now environment.

Some are moving ahead because they “perceive themselves on the frontier of the movement in personalized medicine,” says Edward Abrahams, president of the Personalized Medicine Coalition, an education and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “Not only do we hope systemic expenses can be cut with personalized medicine, but also the possibility of adverse events by targeting cost-effective diagnoses. Researchers will use tumor and patient genomes to find new therapies and drugs for individual patients.”

There are economic gaps that personalized medicine advocates believe can be bridged over time, particularly related to government reimbursements. As of now, there are technological improvements for genomic sequencing that are reducing costs significantly, according to Maurie Markman, MD, senior vice president of clinical affairs and national director of medical oncology for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which has five acute care hospitals and is headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill.

“The future is here,” Markman says, noting that there have been gradual and significant cost reductions for genome sequencing over the past decade or so. “Within the next year, it will be possible to sequence the entire genome of a tumor and the corresponding normal genome of an individual cancer patient for $3,000. Twelve to 15 years ago, it would cost about $6 million.” Read more…

 

No More Snickers? Junk food may be banned in NYC hospitals

Captured by The Associated Press

People nervously waiting around in New York City hospitals for loved ones to come out of surgery can’t smoke. In a few months from now, they can’t have a supersized fast-food soda. And soon, they won’t even be able to get a candy bar out of the vending machine or a piece of fried chicken from the cafeteria.

In one of his latest health campaigns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is aiming to banish sugary and fatty foods from both public and private hospitals.

In recent years, the city’s 15 public hospitals have cut calories in patients’ meals and restricted the sale of sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks at vending machines. But now the city is tackling hospital cafeteria food, too. And the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative is expanding its reach: In the past year, 16 private hospitals have signed on.

Earlier this month, the city moved to ban the sale of big sodas and other sugary drinks at fast-food restaurants and theaters, beginning in March. Critics say the hospital initiative is yet another sign that Bloomberg is running a “nanny state,” even though the guidelines are voluntary and other cities — including Boston — have undertaken similar efforts.

Hospitals say it would be hypocritical of them to serve unhealthy food to patients who are often suffering from obesity and other health problems.

“If there’s any place that should not allow smoking or try to make you eat healthy, you would think it’d be the hospitals,” Bloomberg said Monday. “We’re doing what we should do and you’ll see, I think, most of the private hospitals go along with it.” Read more…