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Archives for July 2013

Psychemedics Launches New Hair Alcohol Test

Psychemedics Corporation (NASDAQ: PMD), hair testing pioneer and global leader for over twenty-five years, announced the launch of its hair alcohol test – a test that measures average alcohol consumption over a period of approximately three months, indicates the level of alcohol use during that time period, and can provide a behavioral indication of excessive use.

Alcohol is the most abused substance in the world, and excessive use poses serious health and safety issues to society. In other regions of the world, this test has been used effectively in the courts, corporate alcohol screening programs, and in monitoring medical issues and probation compliance. Psychemedics’ new hair alcohol test provides answers about alcohol abuse and can be an indicator of those dependent on alcohol.

The test measures the amount of ethyl glucuronide (EtG) in the hair – a trace metabolite of ethanol and a direct alcohol biomarker – and follows the guidelines determined by the World Health Organization in association with the Society of Hair Testing for measuring consumption.

This non-invasive testing procedure uses a small sample of hair that is easily collected and shipped. All work is done by Psychemedics’ College of American Pathologists (CAP) and ISO/IEC 17025:2005 certified laboratory.

Advancing The Science Of Hair Testing

Psychemedics established its technological and market leadership position in 1987 with the development of the first hair test to detect drugs of abuse. Continued advancement in the science of hair testing is critical to Psychemedics, and this new alcohol test provides clients with another method to identify substance abuse.

Raymond C. Kubacki, Chairman and CEO stated, “We are excited to announce the availability of this new hair alcohol test. Our company has, for over twenty-five years, offered the most effective hair testing technology based upon scientifically validated drug testing methods. After many years of investing time and research into developing a hair alcohol test, we are proud to now provide the market with a reliable test to measure alcohol consumption over a period of time.”

Source: Psychemedics Corporation

Genewiz, Inc. and the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center Announce Collaboration to Advance Ovarian Cancer Biomarker Discovery

GENEWIZ, Inc., leading global genomics service provider, and the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center recently announced a collaboration that will combine efforts towards the advancement of ovarian cancer biomarker discovery research.

This research collaboration will enable analysis of ovarian cancer samples for the identification of biomarkers predicting prognosis and chemotherapy outcomes for ovarian cancer. GENEWIZ will process and analyze clinical samples supplied by the John Theurer Cancer Center in CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited laboratories located at their global headquarters in South Plainfield, NJ.

“GENEWIZ’s cutting-edge genomic analysis technologies and informatics capabilities, including our recently launched OncoGxOne™ Discovery ovarian cancer panel, enable us to comprehensively assay ovarian cancer-related genes for the detection of all types of genomic aberrations, including gene fusions and copy number variance (CNV), in addition to Indels and point mutations,” stated Dr. Shihong Li, GENEWIZ Principal Investigator.

“Working with GENEWIZ offers the confidence of proven competencies in comprehensive genomic analysis for cancer research, as well as the benefit of having a CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited laboratory for working with our clinical samples,” remarked Dr. K. Stephen Suh, Principal Investigator at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. “We are excited to work together for the improvement of cancer care and women’s health overall.”

Source: Genewiz

New Research from SRI Points to Biomarker that Could Track Huntington’s Disease Progression

A hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s is that by the time symptoms appear, significant brain damage has already occurred—and currently there are no treatments that can reverse it. A team of SRI International researchers has demonstrated that measurements of electrical activity in the brains of mouse models of Huntington’s disease could indicate the presence of disease before the onset of major symptoms. The findings, “Longitudinal Analysis of the Electroencephalogram and Sleep Phenotype in the R6/2 Mouse Model of Huntington’s Disease,” are published in the July 2013 issue of the neurology journal Brain, published by Oxford University Press.

SRI researchers led by Stephen Morairty, Ph.D., a director in the Center for Neuroscience in SRI Biosciences, and Simon Fisher, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at SRI, used electroencephalography (EEG), a noninvasive method commonly used in humans, to measure changes in neuronal electrical activity in a mouse model of Huntington’s disease. Identification of significant changes in the EEG prior to the onset of symptoms would add to evidence that the EEG can be used to identify biomarkers to screen for the presence of a neurodegenerative disease. Further research on such potential biomarkers might one day enable the tracking of disease progression in clinical trials and could facilitate drug development.

“EEG signals are composed of different frequency bands such as delta, theta and gamma, much as light is composed of different frequencies that result in the colors we call red, green and blue,” explained Thomas Kilduff, Ph.D., senior director, Center for Neuroscience, SRI Biosciences. “Our research identified abnormalities in all three of these bands in Huntington’s disease mice. Importantly, the activity in the theta and gamma bands slowed as the disease progressed, indicating that we may be tracking the underlying disease process.”

EEG has shown promise as an indicator of underlying brain dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases, which otherwise occurs surreptitiously until symptoms appear. Until now, most investigations of EEG in patients with neurodegenerative diseases and in animal models of neurodegenerative diseases have shown significant changes in EEG patterns only after disease symptoms occurred.

“Our breakthrough is that we have found an EEG signature that appears to be a biomarker for the presence of disease in this mouse model of Huntington’s disease that can identify early changes in the brain prior to the onset of behavioral symptoms,” said Morairty, the paper’s senior author. “While the current study focused on Huntington’s disease, many neurodegenerative diseases produce changes in the EEG that are associated with the degenerative process. This is the first step in being able to use the EEG to predict both the presence and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.”

Although previous studies have shown there are distinct and extensive changes in EEG patterns in Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease patients, researchers are looking for changes that may occur decades before disease onset.

Huntington’s disease is an inherited disorder that causes certain nerve cells in the brain to die, resulting in motor dysfunction, cognitive decline and psychiatric symptoms. It is the only major neurodegenerative disease where the cause is known with certainty: a genetic mutation that produces a change in a protein that is toxic to neurons.

Study: Longitudinal Analysis of the Electroencephalogram and Sleep Phenotype in the R6/2 Mouse Model of Huntington’s Disease

Source: SRI International

Proteome Sciences Announces $2.1m Contract with Thermo Fisher Scientific

Proteome Sciences recently announced its largest contract to date, a technology agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific, valued at $2.1million by Proteome Sciences, to develop advanced methods to profile changes in key cancer pathways. Proteome Sciences will provide Thermo Fisher with access to its patents covering a three-stage mass spectrometry (MS3) fragmentation methodology to deliver significantly improved analysis and accuracy. Proteome Sciences will receive cash and Thermo Fisher will provide a no-cost lease for mass spectrometry equipment for Proteome Sciences to develop the pathway assays. In addition Proteome Sciences will continue to develop advanced 20 and 30-plex Tandem Mass Tags (TMT®) for Thermo Fisher for the next additions to the TMT® range of tags.

The new MS3 TMT® (three-stage MS Tandem Mass Tag) mass spectrometry technique is a breakthrough mass spectrometry based workflow, enabling mass spectrometers to determine relative quantitation of proteins in multiple samples simultaneously and with improved accuracy.
“We are at a critical juncture toward the development of personalised medicine which requires high-resolution maps of the protein networks regulating disease,” said Dr. Ian Pike, Chief Operating Officer at Proteome Sciences. “The combination of the highest sample multiplexing rates from TMT with the industry-leading Thermo Scientific Orbitrap mass spectrometer enables us to provide an unrivalled platform to investigate subtle but significant changes in the proteome.”
Proteome Sciences will leverage the combined power of TMT® and Orbitrap® technology to develop an expanded range of mass spectrometry assays for the pharmaceutical industry. Through its SysQuant® workflows, Proteome will profile the low-level changes in activity of key cancer signalling pathways to facilitate optimal drug selection across a range of solid tumours. This will enable clinicians to provide real-time patient management and the ability, for the first time, to deliver truly personalised medicine.

“Life sciences researchers today need to perform high-quality relative quantitation of many samples quickly,” said Ian Jardine, Chief Technology Officer, Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry, Thermo Fisher Scientific. “MS3 TMT® technology greatly improves quantitative accuracy and throughput, while Orbitrap® technology dramatically increases depth and quality of data. This agreement offers customers a new paradigm in proteomics research.”
“Our agreement with Thermo Fisher sets a new benchmark to establish and apply novel diagnostic and prognostic strategies in healthcare management,” said Christopher Pearce, Chief Executive of Proteome Sciences. “It has long been our goal to provide clinicians the tools they need to provide early diagnosis of disease and better match molecular targeting medicines to the most likely responders. The output from this agreement should have a profound positive impact on the lives of large numbers of patients suffering from chronic diseases and, at the same time, provide considerable economic benefits to the health care system.”

Source: Proteome Sciences

Biomarker Predicts Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence After Tamoxifen Treatment

A biomarker reflecting expression levels of two genes in tumor tissue may be able to predict which women treated for estrogen-receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer should receive a second estrogen-blocking medication after completing tamoxifen treatment. In their report being published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center investigators describe finding that the HOXB13/IL17BR ratio can indicate which women are at risk for cancer recurrence after tamoxifen and which are most likely to benefit from continuing treatment with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole (Femara).

“Most patients with early-stage, ER-positive breast cancer remain cancer-free after five years of tamoxifen treatment, but they remain at risk of recurrence for 15 years or longer after their initial treatment,” says Dennis Sgroi, MD, of the MGH Cancer Center and Department of Pathology, lead and corresponding author of the report. “Our biomarker identifies the subgroup of patients who continue to be at risk of recurrence after tamoxifen treatment and who will benefit from extended therapy with letrozole, which should allow many women to avoid unnecessary extended treatment.”

Previous research by Sgroi’s team, in collaboration with investigators from bioTheranostics Inc., discovered that the ratio between levels of expression of two genes – HOXB13 and IL17BR – in tumor tissue predicted the risk of recurrence of ER-positive, lymph-node-negative breast cancer, whether or not the patient was treated with tamoxifen. The current study of patients from MA.17, the highly successful clinical trial of letrozole, was designed to evaluate the usefulness of the HOXB13/IL17BR ratio for both prognosis – predicting which tamoxifen-treated remained patients at risk of recurrence – and for identifying who could benefit from continued treatment with letrozole.

To answer those questions the investigators analyzed primary tumor samples and patient data from the placebo-controlled MA.17 trial, which confirmed the ability of extended letrozole therapy to improve survival after the completion of tamoxifen treatment. Tissue samples were available from 83 patients whose tumors recurred during the study period – 31 who had received letrozole and 52 in the placebo group – and 166 patients with no recurrence, 91 of whom had received letrozole, with 75 getting the placebo. Analysis of the tumor samples revealed that a high HOXB13/IL17BR ratio – meaning the expression level of HOXB13 is greater than that of IL17BR – predicts an increased risk for tumor recurrence after tamoxifen therapy, but that elevated risk drops significantly if a patient receives letrozole

Paul E. Goss, MD, PhD, director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at the MGH Cancer Center and a co-author of the report, explains, “This discovery means that about 60 percent of women with the most common kind of breast cancer can be spared unnecessary treatment with the concommitant side effects and costs. But more importantly, the 40 percent of patients who are at risk of recurrence can now be identified as needing continued therapy with letrozole, and many will be spared death from breast cancer.” He and Sgroi note that their findings need to be validated by additional studies before they can be put into clinical practice.

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital