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Mayo Clinic Researchers Identify Biomarker for Smoker’s Lung Cancer

Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that a specific protein pair may be a successful prognostic biomarker for identifying smoking-related lung cancers. The protein — ASCL1 — is associated with increased expression of the RET oncogene, a particular cancer-causing gene called RET. The findings appear in the online issue of the journal Oncogene.

“This is exciting because we’ve found what we believe to be a ‘drugable target’ here,” says George Vasmatzis, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic molecular medicine researcher and senior author on the study. “It’s a clear biomarker for aggressive adenocarcinomas. These are the fast-growing cancer cells found in smokers’ lungs.”

ASCL1 is known to control neuroendocrine cell development and was previously linked to regulation of thyroid and small cell lung cancer development, but not smoking-related lung cancer. The research also showed that patients with ASCL1 tumors with high levels of the RET oncogene protein did not survive as long as ASCL1 patients with low levels of RET.

When researchers blocked the ASCL1 protein in lung cancer cell lines expressing both genes, the level of RET decreased and tumor growth slowed. This leads researchers to believe this mechanism will be a promising target for potential drugs and a strong candidate for clinical trials.

The co-authors of the study include Farhad Kosari, Ph.D.; Cristiane Ida, M.D.; Marie Christine Aubry, M.D.; Lin Yang, Ph.D.; Irina Kovtun, Ph.D.; Janet Schaefer Klein; Yan Li, M.D.; Sibel Erdogan; Sandra Tomaszek, M.D.; Stephen Murphy, Ph.D.; Lynn Bolette; Christopher Kolbert; Ping Yang, M.D., Ph.D.; and Dennis Wigle, M.D., Ph.D., all of Mayo Clinic.

The research was supported by a Waterman Biomarker Discovery grant and by the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.

Study: ASCL1 and RET expression defines a clinically relevant subgroup of lung adenocarcinoma characterized by neuroendocrine differentiation [Oncogene]

Source: Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic Study: Blood Biomarker Could Mark Severe Cognitive Decline, Quicker Progression Among Parkinson’s Patients

A genetic mutation, known as GBA, that leads to early onset of Parkinson’s disease and severe cognitive impairment (in about 4 to 7 percent of all patients with the disease) also alters how specific lipids, ceramides and glucosylceramides are metabolized. Mayo Clinic researchers have found that Parkinson’s patients who do not carry the genetic mutation also have higher levels of these lipids in the blood. Further, those who had Parkinson’s and high blood levels were also more likely to have cognitive impairment and dementia. The research was recently published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

The discovery could be an important warning for those with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. There is no biomarker to tell who is going to develop the disease — and who is going to develop cognitive impairment after developing Parkinson’s, says Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher and first author of the study.

Cognitive impairment is a frequent symptom in Parkinson’s disease and can be even more debilitating for patients and their caregivers than the characteristic motor symptoms. The early identification of Parkinson’s patients at greatest risk of developing dementia is important for preventing or delaying the onset and progression of cognitive symptoms. Changing these blood lipids could be a way to stop the progression of the disease, says Dr. Mielke.

There is a suggestion this blood lipid marker also could help to predict who will develop Parkinson’s disease and this research is ongoing.

“There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but the earlier we catch it — the better chance we have to fight it,” says Dr. Mielke. “It’s particularly important we find a biomarker and identify it in the preclinical phase of the disease, before the onset even begins.”

Dr. Mielke’s lab is researching blood-based biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease because blood tests are less invasive and cheaper than a brain scan or spinal tap — other tools used to research the disease.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (U01 AG37526) and from George P. Mitchell and the late Cynthia W. Mitchell. The DEMPARK study was being funded by an unrestricted grant from Novartis and a grant from the International Parkinson Fonds (Deutschland) gGmbH (IPD). The continuation of the study (LANDSCAPE) is part of the Competence Network Degenerative Dementias (KNDD), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (project number 01GI1008C)).

Study: Plasma Ceramide and Glucosylceramide Metabolism Is Altered in Sporadic Parkinson’s Disease and Associated with Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Study [PLOS ONE]

Source: Mayo Clinic

Exosome Diagnostics Enters Collaboration Agreement with Lilly for Exosome Blood-Based Biomarker Discovery

Exosome Diagnostics recently announced it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) for biomarker discovery and validation using Exosome Diagnostics proprietary EXO50 nucleic acid extraction kit. Under the agreement, Lilly will gain early access to Exosome Diagnostics technology to help identify key gene mutations and expression levels in blood that may be correlated with drug response and disease recurrence. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“Exosome Diagnostics technology may provide a unique opportunity to gain insight into the biology of complex conditions such as cancer and immune disorders,” said Andrew Schade, senior medical director, diagnostic and experimental pathology at Lilly. “Exosome technology enables biofluid molecular sampling and the ability to monitor disease progression in real time. As Lilly explores new ways to pursue patient tailoring, we’ll continue to work with partners to expand our capabilities.”

“Accessing high quality messenger and microRNA directly from frozen patient fluid samples offers a rapid, cost-effective route to identify and validate biomarkers, which may be correlated with drug response and disease recurrence,” said James McCullough, chief executive officer of Exosome Diagnostics. “Lilly has accumulated an extensive and well annotated clinical blood sample biobank that provides a unique opportunity to track target biomarkers through the clinical trial process and help overcome the limitations of stored biopsy tissue.”

Exosomes and other microvesicles are secreted by all cells into all biofluids, and provide a natural biological packaging and distribution mechanism for RNA and DNA. Exosome Diagnostics’ rapid exosome isolation and extraction technology produces high-quality RNA and DNA, including full length mRNA and microRNA, from small volumes of patient biofluids, such as blood (serum and plasma), urine and cerebrospinal fluid, for analysis by standard PCR, array and sequencing instruments. Analysis can be performed on fresh or frozen fluid samples, allowing for broad, flexible and convenient analyses of clinical trial samples, both in real-time and retrospectively, with no special preservation methods required. Exosomes and their protected nucleic acid contents are being investigated in a broad range of diseases including cancer, CNS disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, maternal/fetal medicine, and chronic kidney disease, among others. In July, QIAGEN and Exosome Diagnostics signed an agreement for the creation of High-Performance Biofluid Sample Preparation Kits for Personalized Healthcare Research which covers the exclusive supply of these products upon availability in 2014.

Source: Exosome Diagnostics

Researchers to Identify Genetic Biomarkers for Aggressive Breast Cancer

The Avon Foundation for Women recently awarded a $300,000 grant to Dolores Di Vizio, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Surgery and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and a member of the Cancer Biology and Urologic Oncology Research Programs at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute to advance scientific research in aggressive breast cancer.

Di Vizio will collaborate with the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program to investigate biomarkers in patient blood samples that may identify individuals with aggressive breast cancer. Biomarkers are genes or other molecules that can indicate a person’s predisposition to specific medical conditions.

Research findings have the potential to create a novel standard of care and a new source of biomarkers. The possible new source of biomarkers, known as large oncosomes, are tumor-derived vesicles that transmit signaling complexes between cell compartments, providing valuable insight into the progression of disease. Findings may also help researchers and clinicians predict the aggressiveness of breast cancer earlier in the diagnostic process.

“This kind of research is the essential foundation to get us to our real goal, which is to improve diagnostic and prognostic capabilities and find effective treatments for breast cancer,” said Di Vizio. “With this study, we hope to identify previously unrecognized large oncosomes as potential biomarkers in advanced tumors that can be visualized, quantified and isolated using methods easily translatable to the clinic.”

Funding from the Avon Foundation for Women, a nonprofit organization and longtime supporter of Cedars-Sinai, will provide an opportunity for researchers to further spearhead new technologies, therapies and surgical interventions that may provide better patient outcomes, beginning at diagnosis.

Working with Di Vizio to provide these advancements is collaborator Beth Y. Karlan, MD, director of the Women’s Cancer Program, director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Chair in Gynecologic Oncology and the director of the Cedars-Sinai Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program.

“I’m excited to be a collaborator on this research study, as it holds promise to provide tangible improvements in earlier diagnostics and detection in aggressive breast cancer and is perfectly aligned with the program goals of the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program,” said Karlan. “This Avon Foundation for Women grant will further our program’s commitment to studying cancer biology, developing new approaches to early detection and preventing and improving cancer survival for all patients.”

This is the first study on large oncosomes analyses in patients with breast cancer. Pilot funding for this grant is supported by the Martz Breast Cancer Discovery Fund.

Source: EurekAlert!

AB SCIEX Proteomics Scientist Wins HUPO 2013 Science and Technology Award

The Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) recently awarded Christie Hunter, Ph.D, director of proteomics applications at AB SCIEX, its 2013 Science and Technology Award at an award ceremony during last week’s HUPO 2013 conference in Japan. Dr. Hunter was recognized for her contributions to the development and commercialization of a breakthrough approach for targeted proteomics. The analytical strategy of targeted proteomics was recently named “Method of the Year” by Nature Methods.

Targeted proteomics is a standardized, biological research workflow that focuses on reproducibly quantifying a specific subset of proteins within a sample. It generates data that is vital for biologists to answer hypothesis-driven, biological questions.

A decade ago, proteomics research was dominated by discovery workflows, which provided valuable information on a single sample but lacked the reproducibility to generate robust quantitation across a larger sample set. New innovation was needed at the time to move the field beyond simply producing large lists of identified proteins and toward providing highly quantitative answers.

This led to the development of a multiple reaction monitoring (MRM)-triggered, tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) workflow at AB SCIEX to rapidly create high sensitivity MRM assays to target peptides that are unique to their associated proteins. This workflow was made possible by the combination of triple quadrupole and linear ion trap functionality in a single system called the AB SCIEX QTRAP® System.

Dr. Hunter ‒ in collaboration with researcher Dr. Leigh Anderson, the founder of the Plasma Proteome Institute and head of SISCAPA Assay Technologies ‒ pioneered a workflow that applied MRM to the targeted quantification of proteins and peptides in plasma by mass spectrometry. In their initial publication[1], Dr. Hunter and Dr. Anderson demonstrated that a targeted workflow could be applied to multiplexed quantitation of proteins in human plasma with high reproducibility and high confidence in the results.

The impact of the paper resulted in broad adoption of the MRM technique around the world to accelerate the verification and validation of putative protein biomarkers, generating more than 800 citations, according to Google Scholar. Less than a decade after this important work, most proteomics laboratories today use a triple quadrupole-based mass spectrometer to perform MRM analysis.

“We congratulate Dr. Christie Hunter on receiving such a prestigious award from HUPO in recognition of her significant contributions to the rise of targeted proteomics as a viable technique to advance biomarker research,” said Dave Hicks, Vice President and General Manager of the Pharmaceutical and Academic Business at AB SCIEX.

“Dr. Hunter and her AB SCIEX colleagues continue to participate in exciting collaborations with leading proteomics researchers around the world to drive new innovations in software, chemistries and instrumentation that further expand quantitative proteomics workflows for the growing community of mass spectrometry users at large,” added Hicks.

Currently, Dr. Hunter is playing a pivotal role in the development of higher specificity workflows for targeted protein quantitation to overcome situations where sensitivity is limited by interferences or background. She is involved in the investigation of the utility of differential mobility separations for added selectivity of quantitation of peptides in complex mixtures. She is also working to enhance data-independent acquisition strategies, such as SWATHTM Acquisition, for quantitative proteomics to increase the multiplexing and reproducibility that can be achieved in a single experiment.

Source: AB SCIEX