Tag Archives: tgen

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TGen and NAU pandemic flu test patent approved

The federal government has awarded a patent to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) for a test that can detect — and assist in the treatment of — the H1N1 pandemic flu strain.

TGen and NAU initially developed this precise, genomics-based test during a significant global swine flu outbreak in 2009.

The newly-patented test, developed at TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division (TGen North) in Flagstaff, can not only detect influenza — as some tests do now — but also can quickly inform doctors about what strain of flu it is, and whether it is resistant to oseltamivir (sold by Roche under the brand name Tamiflu), the primary anti-viral drug on the market to treat H1N1.

As with other influenza strains, H1N1 flu can over time be expected to show signs of resistance to oseltamivir, and new treatments will be needed to respond to future pandemics.

“The problem with influenza is that it can become resistant to the antiviral drugs that are out there,” said Dr. Paul Keim, Director of TGen North, a Regents Professor of Biology at NAU and one of the test’s inventors. “Because it is a virus, it easily mutates and becomes resistant.”

David Engelthaler, Director of Programs and Operations for TGen North and another of the test’s inventors, said this flu detection and susceptibility test uses a molecular technique that rapidly makes exact copies of specific components of H1N1′s genetic material.

“Many people, including physicians, don’t realize that the pandemic swine flu strain from 2009 is still the most important flu strain out there. This assay is very effective with detecting and characterizing this dominant strain in the U.S. and around the world,” said Engelthaler, the former State Epidemiologist for Arizona, and former State of Arizona Biodefense Coordinator.

The third inventor of the test is TGen North Lab Manager Elizabeth Driebe.

Previously, only the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) and a few select labs could look for resistance, using time-intensive technology.

“This new test puts the power in the hands of the clinician to determine if their drugs will work or not. This is really important moving forward as we discover new strains that are resistant to antivirals,” Engelthaler said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified dozens of instances in which H1N1 was resistant to Tamiflu.

At most doctors’ offices, there is no readily available test for H1N1. Such tests generally are conducted by state and federal health agencies, and usually for those patients who require hospitalization and appear at high risk because they have a suppressed immune system or they have a chronic disease.

“Our test measures minute amounts of virus and minute changes to the virus. Not only does it detect when resistance is occurring, but it also detects it at the earliest onset possible,” Engelthaler said.

This new patent — No. US 8,808,993 B2, issued Aug. 19 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — could be licensed for development of test kits or for development of a testing service.

Earlier this year, TGen-NAU celebrated its first joint patent for a genomics-based test that can identify most of the world’s fungal infections that threaten human health.

childrens hospital

TGen, Dell help children with cancer

Dell, Terascala and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are installing state-of-the-art computing and programing specialized for human genome investigations at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

As part of a formal collaboration, Dell is providing the Dell Genomic Data Analysis Platform, designed to deliver fast analysis of the billions of data points required when sequencing, or decoding, aspects of the human DNA and other genomic data.

TGen is providing NCI with high performance computing and bioinformatics support, as well as specialized software and tools developed over the last three years as TGen and Dell have partnered in support of pediatric cancer research programs globally, including a groundbreaking personalized medicine trial for pediatric cancer conducted by the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC).

NCI is providing TGen with access to more than 800 sequenced child-cancer genomes, which will be used in TGen’s ongoing pediatric cancer research.

“This is an enormous opportunity for the government to work with top private and research organizations to share information and expertise that will help guide physicians and medical benefit for children around the world. A system like this is critical in expediting patient care,” said James Lowey, TGen’s Vice President of Technology.

The mission of the Oncogenomics Section at the NCI is to harness the power of high throughput genomic and proteomic methods to improve the outcome of children with high-risk metastatic, refractory and recurrent cancers.

The new system at NCI will be used for four purposes:

1. House genomics data of well over 800 pediatric cancers, in a user friendly database.
2. RNAseq and immunohistochemistry database for the Stand Up to Cancer Pediatric Dream team.
3. Computational server for a precision therapy trial to be conducted with the Children’s Oncology Group.
4. Computational server for a precision therapy trial to be conducted with the Center for Cancer Research, NCI.

The research goals are to integrate the data, decipher the biology of these cancers and to identify and validate biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets and to rapidly translate findings to the clinic. This new system will host the largest collection of clinically annotated pediatric cancer genomic data ever to be released to the scientific community. Not only will this system enable state-of-the-art precision therapy trials for children and adults with lethal cancers, but also provide clinically annotated high-resolution genomics data for basic science research.

“With the advent of faster, low-cost genome sequencing technology, researchers now have a critical gateway to understanding the underlying molecular pathways for diseases. And for some diseases, every hour closer to discovery and result can mean the difference between life and death,” said Walker Stemple, Dell’s High Performance Computing Product Manager.

Terascala technology is present in several key areas of the new Dell computer cluster: TeraOS improves the reliability, ease of use, and performance of the Lustre storage in the solution; Terascala gateways enable a direct interface for the genome sequencers to the Lustre storage; and Terascala Support delivers optimized technical support across the entire storage appliance.

“We are very excited to be a contributor to this significant HPC advancement at the NCI,” said Steve Butler, CEO of Terascala. “The result is a much faster and more efficient workflow for NCI researchers. Our hope and belief is that NCI researchers will be able to accelerate their work resulting in a faster timeline in breakthroughs in the battle against cancer.”

When cancer has spread beyond the site of origin it becomes hard to cure. In addition, children with relapsed or refractory cancers have about a 20 percent chance of survival. Neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that strikes one in 100,000 children annually usually before the age of 5, is so deadly that it is responsible for one in seven pediatric cancer deaths. The cancer comes from the sympathetic nervous system, which controls heart rate, blood pressure and digestion, with aggressive tumors that are unique to each child.


To overcome these challenges, parents and physicians and scientists from the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC; https://nmtrc.org) and TGen have teamed to launch a groundbreaking personalized medicine clinical trial investigation for pediatric cancer. The trial is based on research from a group of collaborating investigators who are developing a personalized medicine process that is intended to permit near “real time” processing of information on patient tumors and prediction of best drugs for a specific patient.

This process generates more than 200 billion measurements per patient that must be analyzed, shared and stored. The computation and analysis of this information can take weeks, even months, to process. The Dell solution and TGen software decreased RNA-Seq data analysis time from 7 days to 4 hours.

TGen fundraising event moves to Scottsdale

The 9th annual stepNout Run, Walk Dash, a major fundraising event for pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), is moving to the Scottsdale Sports Complex.

More than 1,000 participants have attended stepNout in each of the past few years, and even more are expected to attend this year’s morning-long event on Nov. 2 in Scottsdale, featuring fun, competitive races for all ages and abilities, including the event’s signature 5K run.

“We are thrilled to announce that our enormously successful stepNout event will come to the City of Scottsdale. By partnering in this new way with the City of Scottsdale, TGen is generating answers and hope in the search for new treatments for patients with pancreatic cancer,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff.

Vowing to “fight pancreatic cancer, one step at a time,” stepNout organizers plan to raise more than $150,000 this year on the way to eventually surpass the $1 million mark in fundraising. Participants have donated more than $750,000 since the event started in 2006 at Kiwanis Park in Tempe.

One of TGen’s goals is to develop a method of early detection for pancreatic cancer. Currently, there are no tests to catch this disease in its early stages. As a result, it often is not diagnosed until its late stages, making it more difficult to treat.

Pancreatic cancer this year will take the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans, the nation’s fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death.

TGen’s pancreatic cancer research is led by Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen’s Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief, and Chief Scientific Officer for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, a partnership with TGen.

Dr. Von Hoff is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on pancreatic cancer. He and his team have helped develop three different treatment regimens to improve survival for people with advanced pancreatic cancer. If applied earlier, these regimens have the potential to make an even more powerful impact against the disease.

“We are proud to add stepNout to the calendar of exciting and meaningful events that call Scottsdale home. TGen is one of the most significant contributors to Scottsdale’s Cure Corridor of research and medical facilities, offering world-class healthcare opportunities to residents of Scottsdale and all Arizona citizens,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane.

Scottsdale Sports Complex, 8081 E. Princess Drive, is a state-of the-art, 71-acre competitive sport facility offering tournament level playing conditions. The facility accommodates a variety of flat field sports such as soccer, lacrosse, football, Ultimate Frisbee and rugby. In addition to sports fields, the complex has a lighted basketball court, a shaded playground, multi-use paths, open park space and two restroom facilities.

If you go to stepNout


What: TGen’s 9th annual stepNout Run/Walk/Dash for pancreatic cancer research.
Where: Scottsdale Sports Complex, 8081 E. Princess Drive, northeast of Hayden and Bell roads, between Loop 101 and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard.
When: 7-11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 2. Registration starts at 7 a.m.; races begin at 9 a.m.; an awards ceremony is set for 10 a.m.; and a kids’ dash is planned for 10:30 a.m.
Cost: Registration fees range from $15 to $35, depending on age and competition. Children ages 4 and under are free.

Registration: Register at the event, or register online by Oct. 28 by visiting www.tgenfoundation.org/step.
Parking: Free.

brain

TGen-Ivy Foundation brain cancer trial approved

In 2012, The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation awarded $10 million in grants for two groundbreaking brain cancer research projects at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). One of those projects has officially received the final regulatory approval from University of California, San Francisco, which means patient enrollment for the trial can begin.

In the $5-million-project, “Genomics Enabled Medicine in Glioblastoma Trial,” TGen and its clinical partners will lead first-in-patient clinical trial studies that will test promising new drugs that might extend the survival of GBM patients. This multi-part study will take place in clinics across the country and TGen laboratories.

“GBM is one of the top three fastest-killing cancers out there and it affects people of all ages,” said Catherine (Bracken) Ivy, founder and president of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “It is critical that we fund research that will help patients live longer so we can study and treat brain cancer.”

The project begins with a pilot study of 15 patients, using whole genome sequencing to study their tumor samples to help physicians determine what drugs might be most beneficial.

To support molecularly informed clinical decisions, TGen labs also will examine genomic data from at least 536 past cases of glioblastoma, as well as tumor samples from new cases, developing tools that will produce more insight into how glioblastoma tumors grow and survive. TGen also will conduct a series of pioneering lab tests to measure cell-by-cell responses to various drugs.

“GBM is a disease that needs answers now, and we strongly believe those answers will be found in the genome,” said Dr. David Craig, TGen’s Deputy Director of Bioinformatics, Director of TGen’s Neurogenomics Division, and one of the projects principal investigators. “Identifying the genes that contribute to the survival of glioblastoma will provide valuable information on how to treat it, and may also lead to an improved understanding of what drives other cancers as well.”

To get new treatments to patients as quickly as possible, this five-year study will include a feasibility study involving up to 30 patients, followed by Phase II clinical trials with as many as 70 patients. TGen is teaming with the Ivy Early Phase Clinical Trials Consortium that includes: University of California, San Francisco; University of California, Los Angeles; the MD Anderson Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; University of Utah; and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

The results of these clinical trials should not only help the patients who join them, but also provide the data needed for FDA approval and availability of new drugs that could benefit tens of thousands of brain cancer patients in the future.

“Working with physicians, the project will aim to understand treatment in the context of the tumor’s molecular profile. We will have the opportunity to determine when combinations of drugs might be more effective than using a single drug, quickly identify which therapies don’t work, and accelerate discovery of ones that might prove promising for future development,” said Dr. John Carpten, TGen’s Deputy Director of Basic Science, Director of TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, and another of the project’s principal investigators.

In addition to helping patients as quickly as possible, the project should significantly expand Arizona’s network of brain cancer experts.

brain

‘Get Your Jersey On’ funds TGen concussion study

Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary School students and teachers will wear their favorite sports team jersey or t-shirt to class today, the first organization to participate in “Get Your Jersey On,” a fun way to help promote and fund concussion research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The Chandler school is the first of what is expected to be many organizations this fall that will help fund TGen’s collaboration with the Arizona State University Sun Devil football team to help find new ways to protect athletes from serious injuries caused by head trauma.

“Our school is just a few miles south of ASU, and what better — and fun — way to show our support for the teams and athletes than to help fund a program that will ultimately help protect their health. Concussions affect not just athletes, but people of all ages. We are proud to partner with TGen to help raise the awareness of this important research,” said Dino Katsiris, Assistant Principal at Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary School.

Teachers and parents of students participating in “Get Your Jersey On” are encouraged to make small donations of $5 or $10 to TGen. If you would like your organization to participate, contact Dean Ballard, Assistant Director of Development for the non-profit TGen Foundation, at dballard@tgen.org, or 602-343-8543.

Student-athletes at ASU wear football helmets made by Riddell, a leader is sports helmet technology, with sensors that record the number, direction and intensity of impacts during games and practices.

TGen researchers, working with Barrow Neurological Institute and A.T. Still University, are attempting to connect data about the helmet impacts with biological changes that could be detected in the players’ blood, urine or saliva samples.

The goal is to discover a biomarker — some change in the student-athlete’s genetic makeup — that would objectively indicate when they are too injured to continue playing, and when they are fit enough to return to the game.

Representatives from the Sun Devil medical team and TGen will collect the molecular samples from the participating athletes, all of whom volunteered to partake in the study.

“It is so exciting to have the children of Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary School join us in this important work,” said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation. “We welcome the participation of Brisas Elementary School and other businesses and organizations who want to turn their love of sports into a way to help protect the athletes they admire.”

For more information about the TGen-led concussion study, please visit tgen.org.

Conquering Concussions

ASU, TGen Team Up for Concussion Research

Riddell, the leader in football helmet technology and innovation, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a leader in cutting-edge genomic research, today announced that the Pac-12’s Arizona State University and its Sun Devil football program will again participate in a genetic research study designed to advance athlete concussion detection and treatment.

Now in its second year, the joint research project will combine molecular information and head impact data from Sun Devil football student-athletes to identify whether the effects of sub-concussive hits are identifiable. The researchers will monitor the players’ changing molecular information throughout a season of typical head impact exposure associated with football practice and games. Representatives from the Sun Devil medical team and TGen will collect the molecular samples from the participating athletes, all of whom volunteered to partake in the study.

“This partnership represents another dynamic and innovative step toward ensuring that the health and well-being of our student-athletes remains our most important goal,” Vice President for Arizona State University Athletics Ray Anderson said. “Sun Devil Athletics continues to serve as a pioneering force in this important issue and is proud to participate in this world-class research study for the second consecutive year with two outstanding industry trendsetters in Riddell and TGen.”

Arizona State’s preferred helmet and protective equipment provider, Riddell, has again deployed its Sideline Response System (SRS) to obtain real-time head impact data from Arizona State football student-athletes. Riddell SRS provides researchers with a wide range of valuable information on the frequency and severity of head impacts a player receives during games and practices. Data gathered from the system will be combined with genetic information from players that experience concussion, with the objective of helping physicians diagnose concussion and better identify when a player might be expected to recover and return to the field.

“Player protection has become an essential part of football, and this cutting-edge partnership sets ASU apart from not only the rest of the conference, but every collegiate football program in the nation,” ASU Head Coach Todd Graham said. “We are not only looking out for our student-athletes while they are enrolled at ASU, but for the rest of their lives. You become a part of the brotherhood once you put on the maroon and gold, and that doesn’t end at graduation.”

Riddell will also utilize the player head impact data collected from the ASU and TGen research partnership to inform the development of new football helmets and further refine updates to smart helmet technologies like Riddell SRS and its recently launched Riddell InSite Impact Response System.

“We’re impressed by the enthusiasm exhibited by our partners, Arizona State University and TGen, as we enter the second season of our important research collaboration,” President of Riddell Dan Arment said. “They have matched our level of passion for football, and we are all committed to better protecting those that play the sport we love. We are left encouraged following the first year of our project and look forward to continuing on the path towards advancing concussion detection and treatment of athletes.”

The researchers at TGen are exploring whether the effects of sub-concussive hits are identifiable through blood-based molecular information. Their findings could prove pivotal to the game of football and other sports. Similar to last season, during this phase of the study the TGen faculty and staff are on the sidelines collecting samples and data. A baseline sample was collected from all participating players prior to their pre-season workouts. Since then, the researchers have followed the team through their daily workouts and will continue throughout the season.

Through the collection of samples over various points in time and the data generated by Riddell SRS, the goal is to identify the genomic changes in athletes exposed to routine head impacts during practice and games, athletes with diagnosed concussions that recover on both a routine time scale, and athletes with persistent symptoms following concussion that require additional treatment.

“As the mother of a young son who has played football, I’m keenly aware of the need to improve the current standards in place today for dealing with this issue,” said TGen Associate Professor Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, whose technique for studying the collected samples drives this unique partnership. “As a researcher whose daily work looks for ways to determine the early warning signs of head injury, I get to see first hand how committed Arizona State University and Riddell are to student-athlete safety, and their determination to improve the game at all levels.”

Following the season long campaign, the researchers will gather post-season data and begin the analysis process with their colleagues at Barrow Neurological Institute and A.T. Still University. During this process, TGen will work closely with Barrow, whose B.R.A.I.N.S. (Barrow Resource for Acquired Injury to the Nervous System) program treats patients who have sustained a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury. The Barrow data will provide the researchers with additional concussion data and allow for comparison between data sets.

Medical Technology - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

NIH awards BAI, Mayo $8.3 million

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) renewed funding for the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) and Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, longitudinal study of the earliest changes associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. The award, an estimated $8.3 million over the next five years, continues NIH’s long-term support of the investigation.

The study, which began two decades ago, has been examining the subtle brain imaging, memory and thinking changes that occur in healthy late-middle-aged and older adults who have inherited from their parents either one, two or no copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s. Each additional copy of the gene significantly increases a person’s chance of developing the disease.

“We are extremely grateful to the NIH and our wonderful research volunteers for their support,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director and one of the study’s principal investigators. “From the beginning, this study has been driven by our interest in finding treatments to prevent or end Alzheimer’s as quickly as possible, and to provide the information and tools needed to do just that.”

By studying individuals at three levels of genetic risk, researchers have been able to get a sneak peek at the changes associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s. As study participants begin to reach older ages, researchers hope to further clarify the extent to which characteristic brain imaging and other biological changes are associated with subsequent clinical decline. Additionally, researchers hope to further clarify the number of at-risk persons needed to conduct prevention trials, as well as share this valuable resource with other researchers and further develop the methods needed to test the range of promising treatments as quickly as possible.

This longitudinal study began in 1994, soon after researchers discovered the APOE4 gene’s contribution to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They have been following approximately 200 healthy volunteers with varying copies of the APOE4 gene, starting between the ages of about 50-65. Every two years, participants are monitored using an extensive battery of brain imaging, memory and thinking tests. A growing number of participants have also been providing cerebrospinal fluid samples. As many of the volunteers reach older ages, a growing number are now at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia. This disease progression will give researchers the opportunity to characterize the extent of change in various biomarker and cognitive measurements. Data will be used to evaluate potential treatments that could combat amyloid plaques, which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s, as well as help inform the design of future prevention trials.

“Like Dr. Reiman, I am excited about the opportunity we have been given to help advance the study of preclinical Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Richard J. Caselli, Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the study’s other principal investigator. “We also look forward to the chance to share our data and samples with other researchers to help advance the scientific fight against this terrible disease.”

The study has had a profound impact on Alzheimer’s prevention efforts. It has helped shape the field’s understanding of the progressive brain changes that precede the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s by almost two decades. It has also served as the foundation for the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, an international collaborative formed to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven therapies. Data from this longitudinal study has also contributed to the development of the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association research criteria for pre-clinical Alzheimer’s. It has also provided key information for the first reconceptualization of Alzheimer’s as a sequence of biological changes that progress over a person’s lifetime.

“By providing insights into the earliest Alzheimer’s-related changes to brain function and structure, this study is contributing to the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’ Disease goal of finding effective interventions by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads the NIH research program on Alzheimer’s.

This work also includes researchers from Arizona State University, University of Arizona and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, organizations that are partners in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium. Dr. Eric M. Reiman of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Dr. Richard J. Caselli of Mayo Clinic are the two principal investigators.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older, according to a number of estimates. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

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.

Hiv+Aids+xgold+2012

TGen study provides new insights on HIV

A new study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) provides insights into the interplay among bacteria, viruses and the immune system during HIV infection.

Currently, doctors measure HIV-positive men’s infectivity — their potential to infect others — based on their blood viral load. However, some men produce large amounts of virus in their semen despite having low levels in their blood. Researchers call this “compartmentalization,” where different levels of the virus can be found in different parts of the body; in this case, in the semen, versus the blood.

Because of the importance of semen in HIV transmission — in both homosexual and heterosexual populations — researchers who conducted the study published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens sought to understand how HIV could be localized, or compartmentalized, in the semen.

Significantly, the study revealed a link between higher levels of HIV and higher levels of both bacteria and cytokines, biochemicals that can be described as the immune system’s alarm bells.

“Our study is trying to tackle an important problem in HIV research,” said Dr. Lance Price, Director of TGen’s Center for Microbiomics and Human Health, and one of the study’s senior authors. “We found that HIV infection affects the relationship between semen bacteria and immune system, and both are linked to semen HIV levels.”

These findings could point to new ways to control the spread of HIV, said Dr. Price. “Our data suggest that semen bacteria may play a role in localized inflammation and HIV viral load in the semen, which is an important target for reducing HIV transmission.”

While HIV can be found in many body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, blood and breast milk), it is most commonly transmitted via semen in both homosexual and heterosexual sex.

Homosexual men were the focus of this study because they continue to be the population most at risk for HIV in North America. The study included 27 homosexual men infected with HIV, and 22 homosexual men who were uninfected.

The 27 infected individuals were examined before treatment, and at both one-month and six-month intervals following treatment with anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Samples from the 22 uninfected participants in the study served as controls.

“By comparing the semen bacteria in both uninfected and infected men, we found that HIV can cause an imbalance in the semen microbiome,” said Dr. Cindy Liu, the study’s lead author, a clinical pathology resident at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and an adjunct professor at TGen at the time of the study. “This imbalance can be corrected by HIV treatment. This suggests that there are complex host-microbe interactions in the semen.”

“We have taken the first step to show that bacteria, HIV, and immune response in the semen may be connected,” said Dr. Rupert Kaul, an immunologist from the University of Toronto, and another senior author of the study. “What we need to better understand next is the precise relationship between these three factors — whether the bacterial imbalance is the trigger or the result of the localized immune response.”

The authors of the study, The Semen Microbiome and Its Relationship with Local Immunology and Viral Load in HIV Infection, are particularly excited about what this research may mean for another important patient population.

“Even though we have focused on men whose semen viral load can be controlled with HIV treatment in this study,” said Dr. Kaul, “we need to study men who continue to have high HIV levels in their semen despite being on treatment. This will be important to improving how we treat patients and control the spread of HIV.”

medical.research

TGen study finds origin of lung fungus

Cryptococcus gattii, a virulent fungus that has invaded the Pacific Northwest is highly adaptive and warrants global “public health vigilance,” according to a study by an international team led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

C. gattii, which likely originated in Brazil, is responsible for dozens of deaths in recent years since it was first found in 1999 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, well outside its usual tropical habitats.

“We identified several genes that may make the outbreak strains more capable of surviving colder environments and that make it more harmful in the lungs,” said David Engelthaler, Director of Programs and Operations for TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division (TGen North) and lead author of the study published today in the scientific journal mBio.

This study should form the basis of additional investigations about how and why C. gattii disperses and emerges. It identified several new genomic targets for diagnostic tests, and possible new targets for therapeutic drugs and preventative vaccines.

“By closely analyzing the genomes of dozens of outbreak strains, as well as globally diverse strains, we were able to closely compare and determine the genomic differences that may cause their clinical and ecological changes,” said Dr. Paul Keim, one of the study’s senior authors. Dr. Keim also is Director of TGen North, and Director of the Microbial Genetics and Genomics Center at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

TGen, working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, conducted one of the largest global fungal genome analyses of a specific species to understand its emergence in new environments. The collaborative team included 24 researchers from 13 institutions in seven nations who sequenced 115 genomes of C. gattii collected from 15 countries.

“By thinking globally, we were able to better understand what was happening locally,” Engelthaler said.

C. gattii was typically a tropical fungus before it was discovered in the temperate environs of Vancouver Island. It soon evolved into a new, more virulent, pulmonary disease that quickly spread to mainland Canada and south into the state of Washington. That was followed by an outbreak in Oregon of another new strain of C. gattii, which also displayed increased lethality and similarly spread throughout the Pacific Northwest.

C. gattii previously was associated with neurological disease in strains found elsewhere in the world. But the strains discovered in the Pacific Northwest not only establish a new environmental niche, but also display increased virulence and produce severe lung infections.

“We provide evidence that the Pacific Northwest strains originated from South America, and identified numerous genes potentially related to habitat adaptation, virulence expression and to clinical presentation,” said Dr. Wieland Meyer, the study’s other senior author.

“Further elucidation and characterization of these genetic features may lead to improved diagnostics and therapies for infections caused by this continually evolving fungus,” said Dr. Meyer, who is affiliated with: Sydney Medical School-Westmead Hospital; the University of Sydney; and the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research.

This study concludes that: “Public health vigilance is warranted for emergence in
regions where C. gattii is not thought to be endemic.”

New tests developed for this study by TGen are making it easier to detect this and other fungi, and could lead to better monitoring and treatments. The same tools used in this study also were used to investigate the cause of a fungal meningitis outbreak associated with steroid back injections, and the recent outbreak of Valley Fever in the state of Washington.

The journal, mBio, is published by the American Society for Microbiology.

Collaborators in this study include researchers at the University of California-Davis, and in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Caledonia, Thailand, Columbia, and Brazil.

The study, “Cryptococcus gattii in North American Pacific Northwest: whole population genome analysis provides insights into species evolution and dispersal,” was supported by a grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) of South Africa.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH under Award Number R21AI098059. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

bioscience

TGen teams up with Ceres Nanosciences

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Ceres Nanosciences, Inc. (Ceres) today announced a development collaboration to benefit patients with cancer, infectious diseases, and other life-threatening illnesses.

TGen, at the heart of Phoenix’s Biomedical Campus, is recognized as a pioneer in studying genomics, or DNA, to uncover the underlying molecular causes of disease, as well as developing automated workflows to enable molecular medicine. Ceres, a biotechnology company located in northern Virginia, has developed and commercialized a novel nanotechnology, the “Nanotrap®”, which provides powerful sample processing capabilities for a wide array of diagnostic applications and sample handling needs.

The Nanotrap technology was invented at George Mason University (Mason) under funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for biomarker discovery applications, and currently is being developed into commercial grade products by Ceres with continuing support from NIH, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The combination of Ceres’ Nanotrap technology and TGen’s world-class research capabilities and resources will lead to significant improvements in high sensitivity and high throughput clinical diagnostics, providing substantial patient benefit with newer, more accurate, and more reliable testing methods for a range of life-threatening diseases.

The collaboration has already produced data that demonstrates the Nanotrap particles’ performance in automated high-throughput biomarker discovery applications. Ceres, TGen and Mason will use the exciting preliminary results to seek additional collaborations and support to develop an array of new sample processing and diagnostic solutions.

“There is great patient demand and clinical utility for new, groundbreaking diagnostic tests for the early detection of cancer and other life-threatening diseases,” said Ross Dunlap, CEO of Ceres. “The biggest challenge to delivering these tests is building the scale and efficiency required to make these new tests cost-effective. Speed and throughput coupled with even higher analytical sensitivities than have ever been achieved before is the key. The collaboration between Ceres and TGen is already addressing this challenge by integrating advanced automation solutions, analytical platforms, and sample processing technologies to deliver groundbreaking protein and DNA based clinical tests.”

“TGen’s collaboration with Ceres enables additional research to expand our work into other disease settings,” said Dr. Michael Berens, TGen Deputy Director for Research Resources, “and Nanotrap allows us to do so by functioning at the fastest and most-sensitive levels while using only minimally- or non-invasive patient samples.”

medical.research

TGen, SHC begin clinical trial for anti-tumor drug

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are studying the safety and effectiveness of a new drug, AG-120, for treatment of patients with solid tumors, especially those with brain tumors and gallbladder bile duct cancer.

“AG-120 is designed specifically for those patients who carry the IDH1 gene mutation,” said Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief at TGen, and Chief Scientific Officer for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, a partnership between Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen that delivers new treatments to cancer patients based on precision medicine.

The IDH1 gene mutation is most commonly found in gliomas, which make up the largest group of “primary” brain tumors, those that start in the brain. Gliomas include all tumors arising from the gluey or supportive tissue of the brain. They represent about 30 percent of all brain tumors, and about 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors.

As with all brain cancers, gliomas are difficult to treat and many grow back after surgery, radiation and standard of care chemotherapy. Many drugs cannot get to the brain because of a filtering mechanism in the body called the blood-brain barrier.

“There is a great need for more effective treatments for patients with gliomas and other solid tumors, such as gallbladder bile duct cancer,” said Dr. Von Hoff, who is the Principal Investigator for AG-120 clinical trial. This study will enroll as many as 50 patients. Researchers will use precision medicine to match treatments to patient’s specific genomic, or molecular, makeups.

Mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) 1 and 2, originally discovered in 2008, occur in the vast majority of low-grade gliomas and secondary high-grade gliomas. IDH mutations are oncogenic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer. These mutations occur early in the formation of gliomas and in gallbladder bile duct cancer.

AG-120 is produced by Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass.

IDH1 is a metabolic enzyme identified by Agios as a protein that is mutated in a wide range of malignant tumors. Agios and its collaborators recently demonstrated that IDH1 mutations initiate and drive cancer growth by blocking differentiation, or maturation, of primitive cells. According to Agios, the inhibition of these mutated proteins may lead to clinical benefit for those cancer patients whose tumors carry them.

stem.cell

TGen and NAU celebrate 5-year research pact

Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) announced a five-year agreement to promote innovation and quality research benefiting Arizona.

The NAU-TGen Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) implements the allocation of state funding as directed by Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature, and reaffirms the commitment of both institutions toward quality research, training and educational opportunities, protection of public health and improved patient care. The Governor and Legislature recommitted state funding support as part of the 2014-15 state budget, recognizing the positive dividends from a viable, competitive bioindustry in Arizona.

“TGen has played a valuable role in developing and advancing Arizona’s bioscience industry,” said Governor Brewer. “From delivering medical breakthroughs and first-rate research — to creating quality jobs and growing our economy — TGen is a shining example of the innovative companies we seek to attract and expand in Arizona. By enhancing the successful partnership between TGen and NAU, we can ensure that both our bioscience industry and our economy will continue to thrive for years to come.”

NAU and TGen also announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved a patent for a new set of genetically-based tests, jointly developed by NAU and TGen, that accurately identify fungal pathogens that threaten public health worldwide. Broad-based identification of fungi is essential for clinical diagnostics and also for environmental testing. This is the first of many patents anticipated through NAU-TGen collaborations.

The two institutions also are celebrating other joint research, including highly accurate, genetically-based tests for detecting and monitoring Valley Fever, influenza and different types of staph bacteria infections, especially the potentially deadly Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.

These achievements, and numerous other collaborations underway between NAU and TGen, will be celebrated at 2 p.m. today at NAU’s Applied Research and Development building.

The NAU-TGen developed genetic-based tests allow real-time tests in any location, including laboratories, but also clinics, physician offices, emergency rooms and even field settings. Immediate diagnosis of pathogens is a critical part of TGen’s push for precision medicine, in which patients receive the correct treatments as quickly as possible, speeding their recovery and saving lives.

The genetic-based tests for various pathogens were developed by a team from NAU and TGen that includes Dr. Paul Keim, Director of TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division (also known as TGen North) in Flagstaff, and a Regents Professor and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology at NAU.

“These advanced diagnostics have far reaching implications for protecting public health, quickly treating patients and lowering the cost of healthcare,” Dr. Keim said. “Through our joint NAU-TGen research, we are continuing to develop tools and technologies that have a great impact on human health.”

This joint effort has generated other intellectual property, stimulated the founding of a startup company, and now generates licensing revenues for both NAU and TGen.

“Our relationship with TGen exemplifies the importance of the biosciences to NAU and to Arizona’s economy,” said NAU President John Haeger. “An important mission of our university is to produce research with direct benefits to the state and to the world, and together with TGen that is what we are accomplishing. We look forward to much more.”

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, praised President Haeger, Gov. Brewer and the Arizona Legislature for helping ensure TGen’s continuing role in stimulating local research that directly benefits Arizona patients.

“We are enormously grateful to Governor Brewer and the state Legislature, particularly the leadership, for their continuing confidence and support in us,” said Dr. Trent. “In addition, as demonstrated by the leadership and cooperation of President Haeger, Dr. Keim and NAU, there is no question that these types of collaborations between universities and research institutions can result in significant commercial applications.”

bioscience

Pancreatic cancer drug successfully tested by TGen

A clinical trial conducted by researchers at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials, a partnership between Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), showed that a new drug called MM-398, given in combination with 5-flourouracil (5FU) and leucovorin, produced a significant overall survival rate in patients with advanced, previously-treated pancreatic cancer.

The NAPOLI-1 (NAnoliPOsomaL Irinotecan) Phase 3 study — a final confirmation of a drug’s safety and effectiveness — was conducted among patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who previously received gemcitibine, which has been the standard-of-care therapy for such patients.

The study, sponsored by Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, evaluated 417 patients enrolled at more than 100 sites in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, including patients at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare. Merrimack expects to submit a New Drug Application this year to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the MM-398 combination regimen.

“This demonstration of a survival benefit from the MM-398 plus 5-FU and leucovorin combination is particularly important given that we have very few treatment options for patients in this tough clinical setting,” said Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, FACP, global principal investigator of the NAPOLI-1 study, Chief Scientific Officer for Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials and Physician-In-Chief and Distinguished Professor at TGen. “The results of the NAPOLI-1 study are important because of the critical need to help patients with this devastating illness and move forward towards FDA approval.”

The combination of MM-398 with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin achieved an overall survival of 6.1 months, a 1.9 month improvement over the 4.2 month survival demonstrated by the control arm of 5-FU and leucovorin alone.

Each year in the U.S., nearly 46,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and more than 39,000 patients die, making it the fourth leading cause of cancer death. Only about 1 in 4 patients survive more than one year after diagnosis, and only 6 percent survivor more than five years.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually do not appear until the cancer is in its late stages, making it difficult to treat. Once the disease spreads to other parts of the body, most patients are not candidates for surgery and receive chemotherapy as their primary treatment.

This study will be presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology World Conference on Gastrointestinal Cancer being held June 25-28 in Barcelona, Spain.

Patients seeking information about research studies may contact the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare at 480-323-1339 or toll free at 1-877-273-3713 or e-mail: clinicaltrials@shc.org.

Michael Gordon MD

Gordon named clinical trials medical director

Michael S. Gordon, MD, one of the greater Phoenix area’s leading medical oncologists and cancer researchers, has been named the new Medical Director for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials program at Scottsdale Healthcare. Dr. Gordon will oversee the center’s internationally recognized Phase I clinical trials program, which is known for its leadership in first-in-human studies of new cancer therapies.

Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, a partnership with TGen, is a leading clinical research site for Phase I studies of new cancer drugs. It is often among the first in the world to offer a new investigational drug for eligible patients with a broad range of cancers.

Dr. Gordon is a medical oncologist who serves as CEO of Pinnacle Oncology Hematology, a division of Arizona Center for Cancer Care, in Scottsdale, focusing on translational research and the care and management of cancer patients seeking phase I and phase II clinical trials. He is a Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, and is actively engaged in the education of medical students as co-director of the Oncology Block.

Dr. Gordon’s principal research interests are in development of new cancer therapies with a focus on targeted and immunologic therapies as well as drugs that affect angiogenesis (tumor blood vessel supply). Avastin®, Perjeta® and Neumega® are among the drugs Dr. Gordon has helped validate for FDA approval. His disease focuses include kidney cancer, melanoma, prostate cancer, lung cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and ovarian cancer.

Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, through its relationships with top physician scientists, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies world wide, offers a variety of early-phase cancer research studies providing local impact to the citizens of Arizona, according to Dr. Gordon.

“The care and management of patients with cancer and associated diagnoses is rapidly evolving. The ability to provide patients with cutting-edge treatments has the potential to transform the way cancer care is delivered. The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare has always been a leader in this regard and its relationships with its community partners defines Scottsdale Healthcare’s commitment to our patients and our community,” said Dr. Gordon.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and to the evolution of a new dynamic as we work to accelerate the access to new cancer drugs to our patients in need. By focusing on innovation in a collaborative spirit with our community physicians, we reinforce our primary commitment to our patients and their families,” he continued.

Dr. Gordon specifically noted the strength of the talent in Scottsdale and their commitment to excellence. “Our programs have a tremendous core of individuals at all levels of clinical research and primary patient care who ensure that we do the best work possible, drawing greater focus on Scottsdale as the “go to” place for cancer drug development.”

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare and Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute are known for collaborations with leading genomic scientists, academic centers and community-based physicians such as the Arizona Center for Cancer Care, Palo Verde Hematology Oncology and Arizona Oncology Associates, said Mark Slater, PhD, chief executive, Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute.

“We will continue to collaborate with our community physicians, our partners at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Translational Drug Development (TD2), nationally recognized universities and others to better serve our community and accelerate breakthrough innovations for cancer treatment,” added Dr. Slater.

Examples of recent successes in accelerating new drug development at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center are skin cancer drug Erivedge® and the use of Abraxane for treating pancreatic cancer. Both worldwide studies were led in Scottsdale by Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, chief scientific officer of the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen Physician-in-Chief.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Erivedge® for advanced basal cell carcinoma in January 2012 and approved Abraxane in combination with standard therapy for pancreatic cancer in September 2013.

“We are honing in on the pathways to help tailor the right drug to the right patient at the right time,” said Dr. Von Hoff. “This is an exciting era of precision medicine and the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials program at Scottsdale Healthcare provides unprecedented access to new therapies for people in our community.”

Ramesh Ramanathan, MD, an investigator at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials specializing in treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, agreed that the program will benefit from the inclusion of Dr. Gordon.

“My passion is cancer research and I look forward to growing our program along with Dr. Gordon, Dr. Von Hoff and everyone involved in this important work at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare. I’m optimistic that we can continue our strong track record of success as we battle this disease,” said Dr. Ramanathan, who is also a senior investigator and Clinical Professor at TGen and the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix.

“Our campus is becoming the epicenter of research activity across the Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network, and we are creating an infrastructure that continues to attract top talent to our organization,” added Gary Baker, senior vice president and CEO, Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center.

Baker noted that the depth of science through the diagnostic and genomic capabilities available to local cancer patients is a key benefit of the inclusiveness and collaborative spirit fostered within the Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute.

“It’s a great example of locally based, yet nationally respected leading researchers, community physicians and clinical teams working together to develop new therapies and innovative treatments that benefit patients here in Arizona and across the United States,” concluded Ron Korn, MD, PhD, medical director of the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare.

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare opened in 2001 as the first major cancer center in greater Phoenix, offering comprehensive cancer care and research through Phase I clinical trials, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and support services in collaboration with leading researchers and community oncologists.

Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare is known worldwide for its expertise in studying new treatments for pancreatic cancer. It is a co-lead site with Dr. Von Hoff as the principal investigator for Stand Up to Cancer’s Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team comprised of scientists working to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer.

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare, an affiliate of the Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network, is designated by the Association of Community Cancer Centers as a Community Resource Center for Pancreatic Cancer and holds Accreditation with Commendation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.

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Az Business honors healthcare leaders

Each year, Az Business magazine hosts the Healthcare Leadership Awards to honor the women, men and institutions that bring excellence and innovation to Arizona’s healthcare system. Here are the winners and finalists who were chosen by a panel of industry experts and were recognized at the 2014 Healthcare Leadership Awards on Thursday, April 10 at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix. See photos from the event here or on our Facebook page.

BIOSCIENCE COMPANY
Winner: Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)
TGen has made great strides in the field if genomics medicine. TGen researchers work to help physicians prescribe drugs that are designed more intelligently, work more effectively and have fewer toxic side effects. They have received numerous grants to support research into brain cancer and brain injuries, advanced cancers, Parkinson’s, rare childhood disorders, and more.

Finalists:
Barrow at PCH
Sonora Quest

COMMUNITY OUTREACH/EDUCATION
Winner: Barbara Kavanagh, Arizona Myeloma Network
Kavanagh’s mission is to change the lack of information and support resources for myeloma cancer by forming the Arizona Myeloma Network and the Living with Myeloma Conference, which has grown to 300 people. She also introduced the Pat and Bill Hite Cancer Caregivers Education and Support Program for caregivers to receive support and answers.

Finalists:
Catherine Ivy, Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation
Kathleen Goeppinger, Ph.D., Midwestern University

HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVE
Winner: Robert L. Meyer, Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Meyer is credited for the rapid and significant turnaround of Phoenix Children’s Hospital from the edge of financial failure to a successful $588 million expansion that made the hospital into one of the largest pediatric medical centers in the country. PCH is ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals.

Finalists:
Tim Bricker, Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert
Mary Lee DeCoster, Maricopa Integrated Health System
Tony Marinello, CEO of Mountain Vista, IASIS Healthcare
Ed Myers, St. Luke’s Medical Center, IASIS Healthcare

HEALTHCARE ADVOCATE
Winner: Dr. John Chen, Maricopa Integrated Health System
Serving the community’s most vulnerable residents, Chen has helped thousands of patients within the Maricopa Integrated Health System. He sees patients who are in urgent need of treatment because of their lack of dental insurance or location in third world countries. He promotes dental care and hygiene to help prevent serious diseases.

Finalists:
Dr. Randal Christensen, Crews ‘n’ Healthcare
Gerri Hether, Orchard Medical Consulting

INSURANCE PROVIDER
Winner: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
Marking its 75th anniversary in Arizona, BCBSAZ is committed to improving the quality of life for all Arizonans. The company focuses on providing the best value in health insurance as well as outside programs targeted to children and their families to help reduce childhood obesity.

Finalists:
Health Net of Arizona
UnitedHealthcare of Arizona

LEGAL ADVOCATE
Winner: Kristen Rosati, Polsinelli
As an attorney dedicated to the healthcare industry, especially to healthcare privacy, health information exchange and clinical research, Rosati has written 12 books, 30 articles and made 200 presentations on healthcare topics. She also helped establish two nonprofits in Arizona that support health information exchange and health information technology.

Finalists:
Richard Mallery, Snell and Wilmer
Martin L. Shultz, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

MEDICAL CENTER OR HOSPITAL
Winner: Scottsdale Healthcare
As a nonprofit, Scottsdale Healthcare not only employs 6,500 staff members, but also is comprised of 1,400 volunteers who donate more than 155,000 hours of service each year. They are the largest employer in the City of Scottsdale and is known for its innovative medical technology, research and patient care.

Finalists:
Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
St. Joseph’s Medical Center
St. Luke’s Medical Center

MEDICAL COMPANY OF THE YEAR
Winner: Ventana
Ventana is driving personalized healthcare through the development of “companion diagnostics” to identify patients most likely to respond favorably to specific therapies. Ventana has worked is currently engaged in more that 150 collaborative projects to develop and commercialize companion diagnostics globally.

Finalists:
Medtronic
W.L. Gore and Associates

MEDICAL RESEARCH COMPANY
Winner: Banner Alzheimer’s Institute
BAI has undergone a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative API, an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies.

Finalists:
Banner MD Anderson
University of Arizona Cancer Center

PHYSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Winner: Jimmy Chow, IASIS Healthcare
Chow improved the field of orthopedics by helping to design and teach a hybrid technique of a minimally invasive total hip replacement where the surgeon builds a new hip from inside the body. This surgery results in no post-operative limitations and many patients are discharged within 24 hours. Chow is one of 10 surgeons in the world to perform his surgery.

Finalists:
Karen Corallo Chaney, Magellan Health Services
David Notrica, Phoenix Children’s Hospital

RESEARCHER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Venkatesh G. Ramaiah, Arizona Heart Hospital
Ramaiah, the medical director and director of vascular and endovascular research, successfully created the “un balloon,” which is used to remodel thoracic endografts without the wind sock effect. This products was able to be marketed and sold.

Finalists:
David Jacofsky, CORE Institute
Glen Weiss, CTCA

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Linda Hunt, Dignity Health
Hunt, who has served as the leader of Dignity Health in Arizona since 2012, has taken a leadership role to advance healthcare and the biosciences for the people of Arizona. She has worked diligently with legislators, business leaders, educators, scientists and community organizations in order to identify, formulate, and support policies that will give Arizonans better healthcare and raise the bar of knowledge.


Click here to see all the photos.

cancer

TGen finds clue to stop spread of lung cancer

Two cell surface receptors might be responsible for the most common form of lung cancer spreading to other parts of the body, according to a study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The hepatocyte growth factor receptor (HGFR/MET) and fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14 (FN14) are proteins associated with the potential spread of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to the TGen study published online April 8 by the scientific journal Clinical & Experimental Metastasis.

NSCLC represents more than 85 percent of all lung cancers, which this year will kill an estimated 159,000 Americans, making it by far the leading cause of cancer-related death. It has a 5-year survival rate less than 10 percent.

The invasive and metastatic nature of NSCLC contributes to this high mortality rate, and so finding the cause of this potential to spread is key to helping patients survive.

Therapies targeting MET and FN14 are in clinical development, which could lead to treatments that could help halt or slow the spread of this lung cancer.

“As the metastatic phenotype is a major cause of lung cancer mortality, understanding and potentially targeting these pathways may reduce the high mortality rate in advanced lung cancer,” said Dr. Timothy Whitsett, an Assistant Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s lead author.

Significantly, the TGen study found that MET and FN14 were elevated in metastatic tumors compared to primary lung tumors and suppression of MET activation or FN14 expression reduced tumor cell invasion.

“The elevation of these receptors in metastatic disease opens the possibility for therapeutic intervention,” said Dr. Nhan Tran, an Associate Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s senior author.

Dr. Glen Weiss, Co-Unit Head of TGen’s Lung Cancer Research Laboratory and Director of Clinical Research at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center, said, “This study identifies some targets that already have drugs in clinical trials, and helps put them into context for what might be a rational drug development approach for the treatment of this deadly cancer.”

Other institutes that assisted with this study are: the University of Arizona; St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; and Humboldt Medical Specialists.

The study, FN14 expression correlates with MET in NSCLC and promotes MET-driven cell invasion, was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and grants from the St. Joseph’s Foundation and the American Lung Association.

stem.cell

TGen’s Barrett awarded $200,000 research grant

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) awarded a $200,000 grant today to Dr. Michael Barrett of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Dr. Barrett, an Associate Professor in TGen’s Clinical Translational Research Division, was one of 14 “outstanding scientists” across the nation named to receive a total of $5 million in grants for pancreatic cancer research.

The grants were announced during the AACR Annual Meeting 2014 in San Diego, April 5-9. With more than 34,000 members, AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research.

Specifically, Dr. Barrett was one of five scientists to receive a 2014 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-AACR Innovative Grant, “intended to promote the development and study of novel ideas and approaches in basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological research that have direct application and relevance to pancreatic cancer.”

Dr. Barrett’s project, “Genomic drivers of therapeutic responses in metastatic disease,” will investigate the molecular underpinnings of how and why pancreatic cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
“The fundamental hypothesis of this application is that distinct clonal tumor populations that arise during the natural history of pancreatic cancer mediate the clinical responses in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer,” Dr. Barrett said.

“The vision of our work is to bring together advanced genome technologies and the clinical resources available through TGen and our various collaborators to make an immediate impact in the lives of patients with pancreatic cancer and other malignancies,” said Dr. Barrett, who also is a consultant with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center-Arizona.

The grants support research into high-priority areas in an effort to reach the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s goal to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020.

“The most promising science has been selected for funding through a rigorous peer-review process. This year’s grant recipients hail from leading institutions throughout the country and range from early career investigators continuing to build the field of pancreatic cancer leaders to more senior scientists,” said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Their collective efforts have the potential to answer important questions that could lead to significant scientific advances for pancreatic cancer, and ultimately improve patient outcomes. We look forward to working with our new grantees and welcoming them to our team.”

Pancreatic cancer annually takes the lives of more than 38,000 Americans, making it the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. A staggering 75 percent of those diagnosed die within the first year, and only 6 percent survive more than five years.

“Pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly of cancers,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), and Chief Executive Officer of AACR. “With death rates steadily climbing over the past decade, more research into pancreatic cancer is urgently needed. The AACR is, therefore, proud to be partnering with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to support cutting-edge scientific research projects that have the potential to lead to major breakthroughs in the prevention, detection, and treatment of this devastating disease.”

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in collaboration with the AACR, introduced the grants program in 2003, and has since awarded 108 research grants totaling more than $22 million to bright and motivated scientists across the country with the goals of developing a pipeline of researchers dedicated to studying the disease, supporting innovative ideas and approaches, and enabling the organization to reach its 2020 goal.

dan-von-hoff

TGen expert honored for cancer research

Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, who has been instrumental in developing numerous new cancer treatments, is among this year’s recipients of the Award of Excellence from the Hope Funds for Cancer Research.

Dr. Von Hoff, M.D., FACP, who is Physician-In-Chief and Distinguished Professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and Chief Scientific Officer for Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials, will receive the 2014 Hope Funds Award of Excellence in Medicine.

The Hope Funds for Cancer Research is dedicated to advancing innovative research for the most difficult-to-treat cancers.

Dr. Von Hoff is being recognized for his work over the past decade in the clinical development of many new cancer treatments. He was nominated by past recipients, and selected by the Hope Funds Board of Trustees.

His accomplishments will be celebrated April 24 at the 2014 Award of Excellence Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The gala provides support for programmatic activities and raises funds for postdoctoral fellowships in cancer research.

Dr. Von Hoff is a medical oncologist and oncology drug developer whose major interest is in the development of new anticancer agents. His clinical research is conducted at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, a partnership between Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Among the other five recipients of the 2014 Hope Funds Award is Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. James D. Watson, best known as the co-discoverer in 1953 of the double-helix structure of DNA, a scientific turning point in the understanding of life. Dr. Watson is receiving a special Award of Excellence for Extraordinary Achievement. Other recipients of this year’s Award of Excellence are: Dr. Tyler Jacks for Basic Science; Dr. Charles L. Sawyers for Clinical Development; and Dr. Jan Vilcek for Advocacy.

“With the occasion to celebrate the greatest living scientist of the 20th Century (Watson) along with this year’s Honorees, plus our past Honorees, this will be a gathering of many of the greatest minds in the field of cancer research,” Dr. Malcolm A.S. Moore, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Hope Funds for Cancer Research, said in a press release.

At the gala, Hope Funds will present its Awards of Excellence in recognition of outstanding achievements in the fields of basic research, drug development, medicine, patient support and philanthropy.

“This event, a white tie dinner set in the shadow of an ancient Egyptian temple, will highlight a remarkable group of scientists who are making a radical difference in cancer research. It is truly an extraordinary experience,” Bill Rueckert, Honorary co-chair of the 2014 Gala said in a press release.

Dr. Von Hoff and his colleagues have conducted early clinical investigations of many new cancer agents, including: gemcitabine, docetaxel, paclitaxel, topotecan, irinotecan, fludarabine, mitoxantrone, dexrazoxane, nab-paclitaxel, vismodegib, and others. These treatments are helping many patients with breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, leukemia, advanced basil cell and pancreatic cancers.

“I am truly honored to be included in the company of such distinguished physicians and scientists whose work has been furthered by the Hope Funds for Cancer Research,” said Dr. Von Hoff. “This recognition not only celebrates past accomplishments, but also is a reflection of the advances we are making right now for the benefit of our patients.”

He and his colleagues are concentrating on the development of molecularly targeted therapies for individual patients with cancer. His other major accomplishment is the development of two specific treatments, which have improved the survival for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Von Hoff also is Professor of Medicine at both Mayo Clinic Scottsdale and the University of Arizona College of Medicine; and Chief Scientific Officer at US Oncology.

Dr. Von Hoff graduated cum laude from Carroll University, and received his M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, then completed a medical oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Von Hoff served a six-year term on President Bush’s National Cancer Advisory Board (2004-10).

He is a Fellow and past President of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the world’s largest cancer research organization; a Fellow of the American College of Physicians; and a member and past board member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Dr. Von Hoff is a founder of ILEX™ Oncology, Inc. (acquired by Genzyme after Ilex had 2 agents, alemtuzumab and clofarabine approved by the FDA for patients with leukemia). He received ASCO’s 2010 David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award for his outstanding contributions to cancer research leading to significant improvement in patient care.

economic development - 8 honored

TGen recognized as ‘2014 Economic Driver’

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce has selected the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) for one of its 2014 Impact Awards.

TGen was selected among small to medium business in the category of 2014 Economic Driver.

“These companies represent the spirit of the entrepreneur — a spirit that truly makes an impact on our community and our Chamber,” Todd Sanders, GPCC President and CEO, said in a press release. “It’s a privilege to honor those who continue to innovate, take risks, boost our economy and create jobs. Their ability, tenacity and sense of community are an inspiration to all.”

The IMPACT Awards honor the accomplishments of small and large businesses and the impact they have on the Valley’s business community and economy.

“TGen is honored to be recognized by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Through our research into the human genome, we strive to not only make an impact on the Arizona economy, but also endeavor — though precision medicine — to help develop new tools, capabilities and therapies that benefit our patients, and benefit Arizona patients first,” said Tess Burleson, TGen’s Chief Operating Officer.

This year, GPCC recognizes two recipients in each of four categories: Community Champion, Economic Driver, Entrepreneurial Excellence, and Response to Adversity.

Small to Medium Business Category:

2014 Community Champion: Native American Connections

2014 Economic Driver: Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

2014 Entrepreneurial Excellence: Risas Dental and Braces

2014 Response to Adversity: NJOY, Inc.



Large Business Category:

2014 Community Champion: Phoenix Children’s Hospital

2014 Economic Driver: Sundt Construction, Inc.

2014 Entrepreneurial Excellence: The CORE Institute

2014 Response to Adversity: Phoenix Zoo

The 2014 IMPACT Businesses of the Year will be selected from these honorees and announced at the 27th annual IMPACT Awards luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 15, at the Arizona Biltmore. For more information, visit www.phoenixchamber.com/impact.

brain

PCH, Barrow and TGen earn NIH grant

Under a new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Barrow Neurological Institute and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are studying the role of extracellular RNA (exRNA) as biomarkers in hemorrhagic brain injuries.

The study is being funded by a $4 million grant that is part of an international effort to determine the roles of exRNA in multiple biological processes.

The Phoenix Children’s group will focus on the evaluation of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in newborns, a form of bleeding in the brain that affects approximately 12,000 premature babies in the U.S. every year. Perinatal IVH is commonly associated with the development of cerebral palsy and hydrocephalous. It’s unclear, however, how hydrocephalous develops and how IVH impacts the potential for developing cerebral palsy.

This study is aimed to identify the modulating effects of exRNA on these processes and if so, to develop a testing mechanism to help clinicians identify children who are at increased risk. The development of a prognostic tool would guide doctors to more effective and less invasive treatments.

Investigators at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital are evaluating a similar model in adults. They are evaluating the role of exRNA in the development of vasospasm following hemorrhagic stroke.

For a video explanation of exRNA, check out this video.

dan-von-hoff

SHC’s Von Hoff honored for cancer advances

In association with its 50th anniversary, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has named Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., FACP, one of ASCO’s 50 Oncology Luminaries, celebrating 50 doctors who over the past half-century have significantly advanced cancer care.

Dr. Von Hoff is Chief Scientific Officer for Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials and Physician-In-Chief and Distinguished Professor at Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). He is an internationally recognized physician and scientist whose research during the past 30 years has contributed to the development of many anticancer agents that are routinely used in clinical practice. Among these drugs are fludarabine, mitoxantrone, paclitaxel, docetaxel, irinotecan, topotecan, nelarabine, gemcitabine, vismodegib, and nanoparticle paclitaxel.

ASCO was founded in 1964 by oncologists to improve the care of cancer patients. Profiles of the 50 Oncology Luminaries are being featured on the ASCO website, and their accomplishments will be celebrated at ASCO’s 50th annual meeting, May 30-June 3 in Chicago.

Although it is difficult to pick one highlight of his career, Dr. Von Hoff and his team played an instrumental role in the development of gemcitabine, the first drug to improve the survival of patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer. In 1997, they published the results of a clinical trial that showed that gemcitabine not only increased the rate of clinical benefit in patients with pancreatic cancer compared with fluorouracil (5-FU), but it also improved overall survival.

This work was followed by recognition of the activity of nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine against pancreatic cancer with the recent finding that that regimen also improved survival for patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer. On Sept. 6, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved nab-paclitaxel as a frontline therapy for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

International clinical trials that led to the FDA’s approval were led by Dr. Von Hoff at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, a partnership of Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen, at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Von Hoff has also been instrumental in the concept of development of personalized therapy for patients with refractory cancer based on using molecular techniques to profile their cancers. This work included the initial clinical trials to determine what percentage of patients could benefit from that approach.

Dr. Von Hoff has spent the past 30 years of his career leading teams in phase I trials and the development of new therapies, first as the founding director of the Institute for Drug Development at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio, then as the director of the Cancer Center and Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona. He also is Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic and serves as Chief Scientific Officer for US Oncology.

When Dr. Von Hoff was awarded ASCO’s David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award in 2010, he took several minutes at the beginning of his lecture to memorialize all of the patients that he and his team had lost during phase I trials the previous year, mentioning several of them by name. The gesture reflected what Dr. Von Hoff named as the greatest accomplishment of his career: working hard to help as many people as he could.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have many great (and incredibly patient) teachers, mentors, and co-workers,” Dr. Von Hoff said. “Truly though I think the greatest teachers and mentors for me have been those I have been privileged to care for.”

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LaneTerralever Wins Best in Class

Phoenix-based LaneTerralever earned three 2013 Interactive Media Awards (IMA) including a Best in Class award for Thunderbird for Good, and two Outstanding Achievement awards – one for Honeywell Aerospace and the other for Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

IMA is a competition designed to elevate the standards of excellence on the Internet, and is presented by the non-profit organization, Interactive Media Council, Inc. (IMC). IMC is a group of industry leaders made up of web designers, developers, programmers, advertisers and other web-related professionals.

“A key part of our business is solving our clients’ problems with the best solutions available,” said Chris Johnson, president of LaneTerralever. “Receiving industry recognition for doing so is particularly rewarding – especially for clients the caliber of Thunderbird, TGen and Honeywell.”

LaneTerralever created a website for DreamBuilder, an online business education program developed by Thunderbird for Good and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, specifically for women all around the world. Although the courseware was complete, the program was lacking an attractive website to house DreamBuilder and showcase it to students, partner institutions and the media.

LaneTerralever created a more aesthetically pleasing DreamBuilder website that is more functional for all users, including those with low bandwidth. The English version of the program, DreamBuilder America, received its website just in time to be announced at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America. The Spanish version of the website, using translated content, is expected to reach several thousand women in the coming years across the U.S. and around the world.

TGen, a non-profit organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments, is a globally renowned leader in genomics research. TGen tasked LaneTerralever with consolidating its main website with its Foundation website, as there was a lack of efficiencies due to significant overlap and duplication with the two sites. A new website was instrumental for helping the organization achieve its online marketing and communication goals more effectively.

The new website provides a richer visual experience for visitors as they engage with the brand. It has a fully responsive design which adapts to the dimensions of varying screen sizes with seamless content integration to mobile devices. The site also provides a connection port with an e-mail marketing system and enables TGen staff to make updates and changes to the website, keeping content fresh and relevant.

Honeywell Aerospace leaders in products and services in the aviation category, required a website that would drive users with ease and accuracy through a highly developed taxonomy system. By segmenting audience members into different groups with specific interests and relevant content, the new Honeywell Aerospace website provides a powerful user experience not typically found in the aerospace industry.

cancer

TGen identifies key lung cancer enabler

Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have discovered a protein, Mcl-1, that helps enable one of the most common and deadly types of cancer to survive radiation and drug treatments.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up about 85 percent of the nearly 160,000 Americans expected to die this year from lung cancer, which by far kills more patients than any other type of cancer; accounting for more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the U.S. annually. The 5-year survival rate for advanced NSCLC is less than 10 percent.

In the absence of more effective targeted therapies, most lung cancer patients currently rely on platinum-derived chemotherapeutics, such as cisplatin, or radiation therapy.

Previous TGen studies have shown that excessive activation of a cellular signaling mechanism known as TWEAK-Fn14 is linked to the survival and spread of cancer cells.

In a new laboratory study published in the scientific journal Molecular Cancer Research, TGen investigators found that a protein called Mcl-1 helps enable TWEAK-Fn14, which in turn helps protect NSCLC tumors from being destroyed by radiation and drugs.

“Our study demonstrates that the expression of Mcl-1 is necessary to promote the TWEAK-mediated survival of NSCLC tumor cells,” said Dr. Timothy Whitsett, an Assistant Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s lead author. “By deactivating Mcl-1, we believe we can give these lung cancer patients a better response to standard therapy.”

Employing a drug called EU-5148, laboratory researchers using lung cancer cell lines found they could block Mcl-1 function and halt the TWEAK-Fn14 cellular signaling mechanism.

“Inhibition of Mcl-1 function enhanced chemo- and radio-sensitivity in NSCLC cells. The depletion of Mcl-1 … was sufficient to abrogate the protective effects conferred on lung tumor cells by TWEAK-Fn14 signaling,” according to the study, Mcl-1 Mediates TWEAK/Fn14-induced Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Survival and Therapeutic Response, published online Jan. 27, and awaiting print publication on April 14.

“This work positions both the TWEAK-Fn14 cellular pathway and the Mcl-1 protein as potential therapeutic interventions,” said Dr. Nhan Tran, an Associate Professor in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and the study’s senior author. “Our evidence shows that, if we can bypass these mechanisms, it will be more difficult for these lung cancer cells to evade therapies.”

The study concludes that additional research of Mcl-1 and TWEAK-Fn14 mechanism is needed, eventually leading to clinical trials and more effective treatments that could reduce lung cancer mortality.

The drug, EU-5148, was provided by Eutropics Pharmaceuticals, based in Cambridge, Mass.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Goodyear) also contributed to this study.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).