Tag Archives: Jeffrey Trent

brain

TGen brain-tumor study guides new treatments

Led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and UC San Francisco (UCSF), a comprehensive genetic review of treatment strategies for glioblastoma brain tumors was published May 1 in the Oxford University Press journal Neuro-Oncology.

The study, Towards Precision Medicine in Glioblastoma: The Promise and The Challenges, covers how these highly invasive and almost-always-deadly brain cancers may be treated, reviews the continuing challenges faced by researchers and clinicians, and presents the hope for better treatments by harnessing the power of the human genome.

The study also describes a pioneering clinical trial underway for 15 patients at UCSF, guided by TGen research, in which an individual patient’s genomic profile is used to offer treatment recommendations to an expert, multidisciplinary panel. 

“This study thoroughly explores how we arrived at the current standard-of-care, and how — through cutting-edge genomic technologies — we might find better answers for these patients who need our help today,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director and the study’s senior author.

Funded by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation, the study is one of several simultaneous and coordinated efforts seeking to uncover the molecular source of this deadly brain cancer with the goal of prolonging survival of glioblastoma patients. 

“Despite pivotal advances in the characterization of genomic mutation in glioblastoma, targeted drug agents have so far shown minimal effect in clinical trials, and patient survival remains poor,” said Dr. Michael D. Prados, the Charles B. Wilson, MD, Endowed Chair in Neurological Surgery at UCSF, and one of the study’s co-lead authors.

One of the major difficulties in treating brain tumors is finding drugs that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which buffers the brain from the rest of the body’s blood-circulatory system. Located along capillaries, the blood-brain barrier protects the brain from rapid changes in the body’s metabolic conditions and minimizes exposure to molecules that are toxic to neurons in the brain.

“This study outlines strategies for overcoming past failures, primarily by applying targeted combination therapies that match the tumors’ genetic changes with drug compounds that can reach the central nervous system,” said Dr. Sara Byron, Research Assistant Professor in TGen’s Center for Translational Innovation, and the study’s other co-lead author.

Another major challenge in treating glioblastoma is its intrusive penetration into adjoining tissues, which prevents the complete surgical removal of the tumors from the brain, even with follow-up radiation and chemotherapy: “It is this invasive, infiltrative disease component that is the ultimate cause of recurrence, resistance and death,” the study says.

“All patients will continue to show tumor growth and progression because of rapidly proliferating infiltrative disease remaining after surgery,” according to the study. “Effective treatment for glioblastoma remains an unmet need.”

The only FDA-approved drugs to treat glioblastoma are temozolomide, nitrosoureas, and bevacizumab.

In the clinical trial begun at UCSF, multiple biopsies are performed on each patient at the time of surgery in different regions of the brain tumor. That is followed by extensive genome-wide profiling, leading to a selection of drugs that would target the brain cancer and diffuse regions of the lesion that cannot be removed by surgery.

Drug selection is individualized, and multiple FDA-approved agents (up to four) allowed. “Rules” for drug selection are implemented, using the specialized drug pharmacopeia designed for this trial. The drugs are chosen carefully, considered with knowledge about the ability of the drug to reach the brain and the patient’s past treatment history and concomitant therapies, with the assistance of multi-specialty, multi-institutional molecular tumor board that drafts a report to the treating physician.

In addition, “Small, informative, tissue-based clinical trials that take into account the individual molecular features of patients and provide early ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decisions are needed and should be prioritized over unselected, large, population-based strategies,” the study recommends.

A separate clinical trial that follows this path, also guided by TGen genomic research, is underway at Barrow Neurological Institute. This clinical trial also is funded by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. For more about this clinical trial, go to: www.tgen.org/home/news and click on March 10, 2015.

“These studies, and their associated clinical trials, have the potential to lift our knowledge of glioblastoma to an unprecedented new level,” said Catherine Ivy, President of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “Developing drug compounds that breach the blood-brain barrier and are effective against tumors would fulfill one of the medical community’s most critical unmet needs, and boost the hopes of brain tumor patients everywhere.”

Contributing to the study published today were all three TGen Deputy Directors:  Dr. John Carpten, Deputy Director of Basic Science; Dr. Michael Berens, Deputy Director for Research Resources; and Dr. David Craig, Deputy Director of Bioinformatics.

bioscience

Helios Scholars at TGen featured at symposium

The 45 interns in the 2014 Helios Scholars at TGen summer internship program graduated today, following a daylong scientific symposium at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

Arizona’s future leaders in biology and medicine worked for eight weeks in one of the nation’s premier scientific internship programs, sponsored by the Helios Education Foundation in partnership with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

At today’s symposium, students presented scientific posters and oral presentations about their biomedical investigations, which were conducted under the one-on-one guidance and mentorship of TGen researchers. Like their mentors, Helios Scholars use cutting-edge technology to help discover the genetic causes of diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, infectious disease and many types of cancer.

This is the eighth class of Helios Scholars at TGen, funded for 25 years by Helios Education Foundation. Helios is focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida.

“TGen’s summer intern program enables students to learn first-hand what it is like to work in a professional scientific environment, and helps them discover the skills they will need to make important contributions in science and medicine,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “The Helios Scholars at TGen program is helping prepare students for further academic success and for meaningful careers that not only benefit them, but will improve people’s lives through breakthrough medical and scientific research.”

The program is open to Arizona high school, undergraduate and graduate level students, including those in medical school.

“Our partnership with the Helios Education Foundation helps prepare a new generation of biomedical investigators for Arizona,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s President and Research Director. “As we help them explore the biosciences beyond the classroom, TGen provides them with opportunities to participate in potentially life-changing research that can benefit actual patients.”

Helios Scholars also participate in professional development programs in science communication, public speaking, and basic business etiquette. This year’s interns were selected from among more than 500 applications.

“Our students arrive here with a passion for science and medicine,” said Julie Euber, TGen’s Education and Outreach Specialist and supervisor of the Helios Scholars at TGen. “Participating in authentic research projects helps shape their skills and abilities, preparing them for a lifetime of discovery and achievement in the biosciences.”

The program application opens in January of each year for the following summer at www.tgen.org/intern.

dan-von-hoff

TGen’s Von Hoff inducted into Joshua Lederberg Society

Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), was inducted into the Joshua Lederberg Society for his work in developing the drug Abraxane for advanced pancreatic cancer patients.

The Lederberg Society is named for the late Dr. Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel Prize laureate and leader in bacterial genetics whose expertise and guidance played a key role in the birth of Celgene, a global biopharmaceutical company that produces Abraxane.

Dr. Von Hoff, who is considered among the nation’s leading authorities on pancreatic cancer, will present a talk during his induction ceremony at 1 p.m. ET today at Celgene headquarters in Summit, N.J. This is the 7th induction ceremony of the Lederberg Society, which annually honors no more than two new members whose work has changed the practice of medicine.

“Dr. Von Hoff’s life long achievements in pancreatic cancer treatment and research are truly remarkable, but even more remarkable is his commitment to the patients who benefit from his tireless efforts on their behalf,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director. “I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Dr. Von Hoff.”

Dr. Von Hoff was the principal investigator of MPACT (Metastatic Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Clinical Trial), a multi-year international study involving 861 patients, at 151 community and academic centers in 11 nations in North America, Europe and Australia.

The study, whose findings were published Oct. 31 in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, found that Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel), when combined with the previous standard therapy, gemcitabine, significantly improved overall survival, progression-free survival, and drug response rates for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. As a result of the study, the FDA on Sept. 6 approved Abraxane as a front-line therapy for such patients. In December, the European Commission also granted its approval.

“This is a new standard for treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer that could become the backbone for other new treatment regimens,” said Dr. Von Hoff at the time of the FDA approval. “The fact that Abraxane plus gemcitabine demonstrated an overall survival benefit is a significant step forward in offering new hope for our patients.”

Abraxane wraps traditional chemotherapy, paclitaxel, in near-nano sized shells of albumin, a protein that the tumor could recognize as food. Once inside the tumor, the Abraxane may act like a “Trojan Horse” to release chemotherapy and kill the cancer cells.

Dr. Von Hoff also was the principal investigator for the first clinical trial of gemcitabine, the first therapy to show improvement in survival for patients with pancreatic cancer. The FDA approved gemcitabine in 1996.

The pancreas is a glandular organ behind the stomach that secretes enzymes to help digestion, and produces hormones, including insulin, which helps regulate blood-sugar metabolism.

Krauss Honored For Science

Scientific internship helps build Arizona’s biomedical workforce

Arizona’s future leaders in biology and medicine graduated today from one of the nation’s premier scientific internship programs, sponsored by Helios Education Foundation and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The 45 interns in the 2013 Helios Scholars at TGen summer internship program completed eight weeks of biomedical investigations and presented their findings at a daylong scientific symposium July 26 at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.
Under the mentorship of TGen researchers – who provide one-on-one instruction – Helios Scholars use cutting-edge technology to help discover the genetic causes of diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

This is the seventh class of Helios Scholars at TGen, funded for 25 years by Helios Education Foundation. Helios is focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida.

“TGen’s summer intern program is one of the premier examples of how students can become immersed in the sciences and see a real connection between the work they’re doing in labs and future career opportunities in the field,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “At Helios Education Foundation, we believe in the transformational power of education. The Helios Scholars at TGen program is helping prepare students for academic success while potentially making scientific breakthroughs that could improve the lives of future generations.”

The program is open to high school, undergraduate and graduate level students, including those in medical school.

“Our partnership with the Helios Education Foundation is helping prepare a whole new generation of biomedical investigators for Arizona,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s President and Research Director. “We help them explore the biosciences beyond the classroom, honing their skills through participating in potentially life-changing research projects.”

The internships help students from diverse backgrounds – selected from a competitive pool of nearly 500 applicants – sharpen their research skills as they prepare for careers in science and medicine.

In addition to technical skills, students participate in professional development seminars that broaden their knowledge and skills in science communication, networking, career development, business etiquette and public speaking. The ultimate goal of the seminars is to produce savvy, polished future scientists and physicians.

“Many of this year’s Helios Scholars were born after the start of the Human Genome Project,” said Brandy Wells, TGen’s Manager of Science Education and Outreach. “These students of the genome-age are torchbearers for future medical discoveries, based on a precise understanding of the genetic underpinnings of human disease.”

The program application opens in January of each year for the following summer at www.tgen.org/intern.

medical.research

TGen, Ventana announce research collaboration

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. (Ventana), a member of the Roche Group, today announced a collaborative research agreement to discover and develop diagnostic markers for treating cancer.

The two Arizona-based institutions will leverage each other’s expertise in discovery and diagnostic product development, bringing innovative cancer diagnostic tests to patients.

The first project under the umbrella research agreement will focus on diagnostic, prognostic and drug biomarkers for pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. This year, an estimated 45,000 people will be diagnosed and more than 38,000 patients will die from the disease. Worldwide, more than 213,000 are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and the numbers are growing. Fewer than 1 in 4 pancreatic cancer patients survive more than a year, and fewer than 6 percent survive more than five years – the worst survival rate of any cancer.

This dismal picture of pancreatic cancer is mainly due to the lack of tools for early detection and the ineffectiveness of current therapeutics. This is why new diagnostic markers and more efficacious therapies are desperately needed.

“TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research, where investigators discover the genetic components of disease,” says Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., President and Research Director of TGen. “Our goal is to rapidly translate basic research findings into actionable targets. Partnering with Ventana we hope will accelerate our goal to deliver meaningful discoveries to cancer patients today.”

“When a patient is faced with cancer, getting an accurate diagnosis quickly is the most important part of their treatment,” says Ventana President and CEO Mara G. Aspinall. “As the global leader in tissue-based cancer diagnostics, our strength is moving research into the clinic in order to improve the lives of all patients afflicted with cancer. We are thrilled to be able to pursue this with a partner right in our Arizona backyard.”

Who To Watch: Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent

Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent
President and Research Director
TGen

Since it was founded in 2002, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has been helping people with neurological disorders and such diseases as cancer and diabetes through business spin-offs and commercialization of its research. Today, TGen’s president and scientific director, Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent, believes this Phoenix nonprofit has built an “underlying bioscience engine” in Arizona.

In fact, with TGen helping to attract and retain a knowledge-based work force, Arizona’s bioscience-research sector has held its own during the recession and even expanded. “As far as jobs are concerned, bioscience is still an area that shows growth in Arizona,” Trent says. That doesn’t mean the recession did not affect the bioscience sector as a whole.

“The area that has fallen the furthest is venture capital to seed new company formation,” Trent says. “There is no question Arizona has been behind the curve in venture capital for biomedical science.”

Last year, TGen announced the formation of its 10th business, but Trent says the organization must “look around the world for funding for these companies.” This is a national problem, he adds, but he is optimistic it will improve this year. Philanthropic donations for bioscience research also slowed during the economic downturn, but Trent already sees a return of that type of funding and is hopeful it will continue to gather momentum this year.
Still, TGen has managed to prosper.

“In less than three years, we doubled our economic impact, doubled employment and increased commercial activities 375 percent,” Trent says. “The biomedical sector and nonprofits are being hit as hard as anyone (by the recession), but we were able to not only maintain, but also to grow the last two or three years.”

In an independent analysis, Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh research firm, concluded that TGen generates an annual economic impact of $77.4 million, including spin-off businesses and commercialization. TGen’s economic clout is expected to reach $321.3 million annually by 2025, according to Tripp Umbach. Again, including business formation and commercialization in its calculations, Tripp Umbach reported that TGen produced $5.7 million in state taxes, created 461 full-time jobs and generated $14.07 for every dollar invested by the state in 2008.

In addition to federal funding and donations, and grants from businesses, foundations and individuals, TGen receives $5.5 million a year from state tobacco taxes. In 2025, the state’s return on investment is expected to reach $58.42 per dollar invested, tax revenues are estimated to climb to $27.4 million, and TGen is expected to generate more than 4,000 jobs when business and commercialization activities are factored in.

TGen reached several milestones last year, but from Trent’s point of view, the standout was its affiliation with the Van Andel Research Institute, a global organization headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“This affiliation brings a remarkably complementary scientific skill set under one roof,” Trent says. “Van Andel is basically a discovery engine and TGen gets to capture that and move it to a new test or treatment for patients. We are constantly renewing information that we can pull toward the patient.”

www.tgen.org


Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010