Protein Interaction Stokes Hope for Brain-Cancer Treatment

Posted April 1, 2015 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, News, Research

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Brain-Cancer Treatment pic Researchers have identified an interaction between proteins that could spur the development of new treatments for brain cancer. According to a study published by a team of scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University, an interaction between the proteins created by the AEG-1 and Akt2 genes has an impact on the malignancy of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common kind of brain cancer.

Members of the research team previously discovered that AEG-1 and Akt2 were overexpressed in many cancers. Their new research showed that the proteins created by those genes led to a positive feedback loop that contributed to GBM. The study was the first to identify that particular element of GBM, leading to hopes that new drugs developed to disrupt the feedback loop could become a productive part of GBM treatment strategies.

The hope hinges on the way that cells interact in the brain. Through a process called signaling, a number of cellular functions are regulated. The Akt2 gene has a particularly active role in the way that tumors spread and survive in the brain, and the study found that the proteins created by AEG-1 and Akt2 were a key element of the signaling that regulates it. By attacking the protein interaction in mice, the researchers were able to demonstrate a reduction in the survival of GBM cells.


New Drugs Could Treat Drug-Resistant Skin Cancer

Posted March 9, 2015 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Pharmaceuticals

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Drug-Resistant Skin Cancer pic A new group of drugs could treat incurable skin cancer, a recent study shows. Clinical trials to test the new drugs could begin in 2015. The current available treatments, which target a cancer-causing protein known as BRAF that instigate about 50 percent of melanomas, are initially highly effective. However, the cancer builds resistance to these drugs in a year.

The new drugs, which are known as panRAF inhibitors, could be useful for patients with melanoma who have become resistant to BRAF inhibitors. Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found that the new drugs halted the growth of BRAF-instigated melanomas, which include melanomas that no longer responded to the current drugs that target BRAF.

In addition, the new drugs eliminated tumor growth for cancers in which BRAF-targeted drugs never worked at all. The researchers said that the new treatment attacks cancer without any possibility of drug resistance and can simultaneously block several cancer proteins. They added that the new drugs are more effective than the current available treatments in that they target a number of “cell survival routes” at the same time. The researchers hope that the new drugs will provide much-needed treatment for patients who have no other options.

Program Offers Personalized Cancer Treatment for Lung Cancer Patients

Posted February 19, 2015 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald

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For patients with advanced lung cancer, chemotherapy is generally the standard first-line treatment. However, all lung cancers are not identical. The Winship Cancer Institute lung cancer program in Georgia aims to address this issue by offering more personalized treatment. The institute has between 20 and 30 ongoing lung cancer clinical trials to test the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs. The drugs are designed to provoke the immune system to target cancerous cells and leave the healthy ones alone.

The program staff has found that patients have been able to successfully tolerate the immunotherapy treatments. One of their patients with advanced lung cancer had previously received chemotherapy, which caused chronic diarrhea. After receiving the new treatment at Winship, he only experienced mild gastrointestinal discomfort, and his tumors shrank significantly over the course of nearly a year.

Winship scientists and clinicians are working to create and test personalized treatment regimens for each patient. For instance, they may need to boost immune response for one patient. For another, they may need to focus on response to treatment or the genes associated with a particular type of cancer.

When a patient comes to Winship, the staff takes a tissue sample of the tumor. Then they examine it in a genomic screening process to identify the exact gene that has gone astray and led to the person’s cancer. By finding the specific gene that has gone rogue, doctors and clinicians can provide more personalized and targeted therapies.

Study Finds Stem Cells May Contribute to Bowel Cancer

Posted January 27, 2015 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Research

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stem cell pic Australian researchers recently announced their theory that stem cells drive the growth of bowel cancer. Professor Tony Burgess of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Dr. Chin Wee Tan, and their colleagues uncovered evidence that stem cells have a key role in the maintenance and generation of the “crypts” that are a part of the bowel lining. The researchers believe that these stem cells contribute to the development of bowel cancer.

Through 3D imaging, the researchers demonstrated that the bowel produces new intestinal crypts through a process known as “budding.” In each crypt, 300 cells die each day and are subsequently replaced. Intestinal “crypts,” which are wells in the wall of the bowel, absorb water and nutrients and create mucous.

Dr. Tan said the team’s research showed a connection between bowel cancer and crypt “budding.” In healthy intestinal development, each regenerating crypt creates one bud at a time. However, he said that in precancerous and cancerous bowel tumors, a number of buds are connected with one crypt, and there is a lot of uncontrollable budding. He said that this suggests that the genes that direct the budding process may be absent, leading to the development of bowel cancer.

Burgess said that while stem cells are silent in a normal bowel, they probably instigate bowel cancer. He said that the reason that the stem cells are causing uncontrollable budding is linked to the APC (adenomatous polyposis coli) gene. Approximately 85 percent of cases of bowel cancer involve the absence of APC function and an overabundance of crypt budding. APC is necessary to curb crypt production and to help bowel stem cells adhere to one another. The loss of APC leads to cancerous and precancerous tumors, Burgess said.

He said that in order to more effectively target bowel cancer, further research is necessary to find out how to eliminate stem cells that lack the APC gene.

Rosenwald Discusses Success of Abiraterone Acetate

Posted November 5, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Pharmaceuticals

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Abiraterone Acetate pic In a recent interview with CNN iReport, Dr. Lindsay Rosenwald discussed abiraterone acetate, a drug developed by Cougar Biotechnology that is one of the most promising cancer treatments available. The drug has demonstrated a significantly higher survival rate among patients with late-stage prostate cancer, and in trials, it has shown that it could benefit patients with advanced breast cancer. Rosenwald said the drug, which inhibits the growth of androgens that encourage cancer, is in on track to be a “multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical.” Rosenwald is a co-founder and original financial backer of Cougar Biotechnology.

Marketed as Zytiga, abiraterone acetate has the potential to prolong or enhance the lives of thousands of people, Rosenwald said in the interview. As people live longer, they are exposed to more cancer-causing agents that require the development of alternative treatment options.

Zytiga was released to the market in 2011 after being tested on more than 1,200 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Cougar Biotechnology, which was acquired for more than $1 billion by Johnson & Johnson during clinical trials for abiraterone acetate, now operates as a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant.

Biotechnology’s Banner 2014 Driven by Big-Data-Wielding Investors

Posted October 13, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Biotechnology, Lindsay Rosenwald

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big data pic Midway through 2014, the biotechnology industry has significantly outperformed the general market. The Standard & Poor’s biotech index shows a 13.6 percent gain in valuation over the past six months, a 175 percent increase over the previous year. While some, including Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, have expressed concern over the sharp rise in biotech investments, industry experts have found that much of the growing activity in the market is the direct result of increasingly shrewd investors. While the biotech market continues to be volatile, big valuations seem to be coming as the result of big data.

Many investors – rather than looking at individual companies – have begun performing cross-analyses of the drug development pipelines of numerous companies, charting the growth of specific therapies and treatments, as multiple firms explore specific research opportunities. Biotech companies, which have begun offering more data than ever before, have made it easier for investors to see which new initial public offerings are launching with promising technological and medical foundations. Investors, with the knowledge necessary to digest the research coming out of new firms, have the ability to make smart decisions in a market that has been known to be capricious, creating opportunities that have driven huge gains in valuations, as well as 43 percent more IPOs compared to the previous year.

Early Safety Tests on Lead Compounds

Posted September 30, 2014 by lindsayrosenwald
Categories: Lindsay Rosenwald, Research

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Lead Compounds pic Since the drug discovery process eventually results in tests on humans, safety plays a central role in all stages of research. Scientists generally begin by identifying a promising compound via bioengineering, high-throughput screening, nature, or de novo drug design. After finding a compound that acts on the target molecule, researchers perform preliminary safety tests to determine whether a compound may be suitable for consumption.

In general, early safety tests screen compounds for five pharmacokinetic pathways: absorption into the bloodstream, distribution to the appropriate site in the body, effective and efficient metabolism, successful excretion from the body, and demonstrated non-toxicity. If a compound fails in one or more of these categories, researchers can push it back in favor of compounds that pass all five tests. Researchers conduct early safety tests of compounds using computational models, living cells, and animals. Human testing does not occur until much later in the drug discovery process.