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New Blood Test Detects Colon Cancer Before it Develops

A new blood test developed in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor Research Institute is showing very promising results for finding cancer-related microRNA in the blood before a tumor develops in the colon.

The test results, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, are exciting and promising because this simple blood-based test examines the levels of a single microRNA – a small RNA molecule that can be readily identified in a wide variety of bodily fluids, including blood. In this seminal study the investigators studied several hundred patients with colorectal polyps and cancers and reported that measuring levels of miR-21 in the blood can accurately identify up to 92 percent of patients with colorectal cancer. Even more importantly, not only is this test good for non-invasively identifying patients who already have colorectal cancer, but it can accurately identify up to 82 percent of patients with advanced colonic polyps, which present the highest risk for developing into colorectal cancers several years later in life.

“The development of this biomarker is highly encouraging because high mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer is a consequence of late detection of this disease, underscoring the need for improved early detection, prevention, risk assessment and intervention,” said Ajay Goel, PhD, director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute. Early detection of advanced colorectal polyps and cancers is considered the most relevant target for screening strategies and the best approach to improving survival of these patients. “This blood-based test could be transformative in how we screen patients for colorectal cancer; it would save lives and could result in major savings of health care dollars,” said Michael Ramsay, MD, president of Baylor Research Institute.

While more testing needs to be done, the findings were enough to warrant an editorial in the highly regarded Journal by Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, associate director for clinical research at the University of Southern California‟s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. “MiR-21 may not be ‘just another brick in the wall’ but rather may be the keystone leading to a molecularly justified, miRNA-based biomarker era in colorectal cancer,” Dr. Lenz said in the Journal.

Study: Serum miR-21 as a Diagnostic and Prognostic Biomarker in Colorectal Cancer

Source: PR Newswire

CollabRx Forms Pan Cancer Molecular Oncology Editorial Board

CollabRx, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLRX), a data analytics company focused on informing clinical decision making in molecular medicine, recently announced the formation of a Pan Cancer (biomarker-focused) molecular oncology editorial board to be led by Razelle Kurzrock, M.D., who will serve as Chief Editor.

Dr. Kurzrock is Director of the Center for Personalized Therapy at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Vice Chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Senior Deputy Center Director, Clinical Science, for UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Previously, Dr. Kurzrock developed one of the largest Phase 1 clinical trials programs in the nation at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. A central theme of that program was a personalized medicine strategy that utilized advanced molecular technologies to match patients with targeted cancer treatments that optimized chances for response.

Dr. Kurzrock leads a distinguished group of physicians from UC San Diego, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and other institutions both in the US and abroad. Background about the complete editorial board can be found on the company’s website (http://www.collabrx.com/expert-affiliations/cancer-specific-editorial-boards/pan-cancer/).

The newly formed Pan Cancer board is the most recent addition among CollabRx’s existing editorial boards, which identify clinically actionable biomarkers in the context of individual cancer types such as lung cancer or melanoma. The Pan Cancer editorial board is differentiated in that it will apply a broad molecular oncology perspective in the identification of biomarkers that are clinically actionable in any cancer type. Both types of editorial boards link biomarkers to therapy considerations including drugs and clinical trials. This complementary approach supports the emerging view in personalized oncology that cancers are defined not just by their tissue of origin (e.g., lung cancer), but also by the molecular aberrations they harbor (e.g., EGFR mutations) that can be targeted by specific drugs or combinations of drugs (e.g., EGFR inhibitors).

“It is with great pleasure and anticipation that I assume my new role as Chief Editor of the Pan Cancer editorial board,” said Dr. Kurzrock. “I look forward to working with my board and CollabRx staff to provide our physician colleagues with a high-level understanding of how tumor genetics are being leveraged in therapy development and to develop a best-in-class online educational resource for understanding how to use tumor genetic profiles to inform treatment planning for cancer patients.”

The Pan Cancer board’s initial activities will focus on the development of a Web-based application that will associate specific biomarkers with expert-vetted and clinically relevant information on drugs and clinical trials. The application functionality will be extended in stages and at launch will address sequencing-based biomarkers such as gene mutations, insertions/deletions, fusions and other aberrations. CollabRx will make a version of this application freely available online for physicians and researchers to learn about clinically actionable biomarkers in any cancer type. Subsequently, pathologists and oncologists will be able to use the application at the point of care to annotate their own data generated on any next-generation sequencing platform or sequencing-based test results obtained from any laboratory.

“The formation of a Pan Cancer editorial board illustrates our company’s strategy of developing products and services for pathologists and laboratories, and it represents a significant step forward in our commitment to provide a best-in-class, expert-vetted interpretation to next-generation clinical cancer sequencing panels,” said Thomas Mika, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of CollabRx. “We are honored that Dr. Kurzrock and her board members are joining our large and growing expert advisory network and are working with us to assist physicians in matching patients to targeted agents based on actionable genetic aberrations.”

Source: CollabRx

New Effort to Identify Parkinson’s Biomarkers

Last month, the National Institutes of Health announced a new collaborative initiative that aims to accelerate the search for biomarkers — changes in the body that can be used to predict, diagnose or monitor a disease — in Parkinson’s disease, in part by improving collaboration among researchers and helping patients get involved in clinical studies. As part of this program, launched by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH, Clemens Scherzer, MD, a neurologist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), was awarded $2.6 million over five years to work on the development of biomarkers and facilitate NINDS-wide access to one of the largest data and biospecimens bank in the world for Parkinson’s available at BWH. This NINIDS initiative is highlighted in an editorial in the March issue of Lancet Neurology.

“There is a critical gap in the research that leads to lack of treatment for diseases like Parkinson’s,” said Scherzer. “Biomarkers are desperately needed to make clinical trials more efficient, less expensive and to monitor disease and treatment response. We are hopeful that this initiative will fast track new discoveries in this area.”

According to Scherzer, most of our knowledge of the human brain is based on the analysis of just 1.5 percent of the human genome that encodes proteins. The first part of Scherzer’s project will examine the function of the remaining 98.5 percent of the genome that, so far, has been unexplored in the human brain. While this remainder had been previously dismissed as “junk”, it is now becoming clearer that parts of it actively regulate cell biology. Scherzer and colleagues believe that “dark matter” RNA transcribed from stretches of so called “junk” DNA is active in brain cells and contributes to the complexity of normal dopamine neurons and, when corrupted, Parkinson’s disease.

“This offers a potentially ground breaking opportunity for biomarker development. Initially, the team will search for these RNAs associated in brain tissue of individuals at earliest stages of the disease. Then, this team will look for related biomarkers in the bloodstream and cerebrospinal fluid in both healthy brains and those with Parkinson’s,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer’s lab has been spearheading biomarker research in this field since 2004 and the team already has 2,000 patients enrolled and being followed in a longitudinal study with rich clinical data and one of the largest biobanks in the world for Parkinson’s tissue with support from the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center. The biobank was designed as an incubator for Parkinson’s research and until now was chiefly available for research collaborations within the Harvard-affiliated community. As part of this new project, this vast resource will be open to all NIH-funded investigators.

“Our ultimate goal is to personalize treatment for our patients with Parkinson’s.” said Scherzer. “By opening up this vast collection of specimens, we are exploding the resources that are available to NIH-funded investigators looking at this disease. We hope to harness the power of collaboration to speed up biomarkers discovery.”

Study: NINDS boosts research for biomarkers in Parkinson’s disease

Source: EurekAlert!

Parkinson’s Brain Chemistry Changes Now Trackable in Man

KineMed, Inc. announced today the publication of a novel discovery in biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases from a study funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation. The absence of meaningful biomarkers has remained a roadblock in the development and clinical application of treatments for neurological disorders. The publication describes in detail a unique class of biomarkers that measure the transport efficiency of key cargo molecules through neurons in the living human brain. Biomarkers of this pathogenically causal process may be used for the development of drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Study Suggests Link Between H. pylori Bacteria and Blood Sugar Control in Adult Type II Diabetes

A new study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center reveals that the presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria is associated with elevated levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), an important biomarker for blood glucose levels and diabetes. The association was even stronger in obese individuals with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). The results, which suggest the bacteria may play a role in the development of diabetes in adults, are available online in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.