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New Knowledge on Molecular Mechanisms Behind Breast Cancer

Researchers are constantly trying to learn more about the body’s advanced communication processes. Receptors serve as a kind of switchboard in the cell, which connects specific signaling proteins to specific cellular functions. Using state-of-the-art technology, researchers at University of Copenhagen have studied a special cell surface receptor of major importance for health and disease. The findings have been published in a new scientific paper.

Test Could Identify Which Prostate Cancers Require Treatment

The level of expression of three genes associated with aging can be used to predict whether seemingly low-risk prostate cancer will remain slow-growing, according to researchers at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center. Use of this three-gene biomarker, in conjunction with existing cancer-staging tests, could help physicians better determine which men with early prostate cancer can be safely followed with “active surveillance” and spared the risks of prostate removal or other invasive treatment. The findings were published recently in the online edition of Science Translational Medicine.

Analysis Published In New England Journal of Medicine Highlights Discovery of New Predictive Biomarkers for Vectibix (Panitumumab)

Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) recently announced the publication of a biomarker analysis of Vectibix® (panitumumab) in combination with FOLFOX, a type of oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy, for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the analysis found that RAS mutations, beyond the known KRAS exon 2 mutations, predict lack of response to Vectibix in combination with FOLFOX. RAS mutations are mutations occurring in exons 2, 3 and 4 of KRAS and NRAS.

Joint Assurex Health and Mayo Clinic Study Demonstrates Clinical Utility of Assurex Health’s Pharmacogenomic Test to Guide Treatment of Major Depressive Disorders

Assurex Health, a personalized medicine company focused on pharmacogenomics for neuropsychiatric disorders, recently announced the publication of a joint clinical study conducted by Assurex and Mayo Clinic which provides additional evidence for the effectiveness of the GeneSight pharmacogenomic test over the current method for selecting psychotropic medications. The study results were published on July 24, 2013 in Pharmacogenetics and Genomics. The primary outcome of the study showed a substantially greater baseline to endpoint decrease in depressive symptoms with higher rates of response and remission in the guided GeneSight group over empiric prescribing, which is the current standard of care. These results reinforce the benefit of GeneSight in providing more objective, evidence-based support for clinicians in selecting medications for patients with psychiatric disorders.

The prospective clinical trial, involving 227 participants divided into pharmacogenomic-guided treatment and treatment-as-usual groups, utilized the GeneSight interpretive report to categorize 26 antidepressants and antipsychotics into color-coded green, yellow, and red “bins” based on each participant’s genetic information and pharmacology of the medications. Significantly greater reductions in symptoms were observed for the GeneSight-guided group using multiple symptom rating scales completed by both clinicians and patients. Participants in the GeneSight-guided group experienced an overall greater than 2-fold improvement in both symptoms and likelihood to achieve remission.

Overall, results with GeneSight-guided treatment were superior to unguided treatment-as-usual. The study showed the ability of GeneSight to identify individuals who are likely to have a favorable outcome with specific pharmacotherapies, supporting the clinical utility of the GeneSight test. A four-fold greater improvement in depressive symptoms was observed in the GeneSight-guided group among participants who entered the study on medications most discordant (red-bin) with their pharmacogenomic profile.

Physicians for nearly 94% of patients in the GeneSight-guided group used the report to either switch participants off medications discordant with their genetics to medications in the green bin or to adjust medication dosages according to the participant’s GeneSight report.

These findings replicate and expand on the magnitude of the effect observed in a previous prospective joint clinical study from Assurex and Mayo Clinic published in Translational Psychiatry (Oct. 2012). This smaller study compared GeneSight-guided prescribing versus treatment-as-usual in adult patients with a primary diagnosis of a major depressive disorder over an 8 week period. Furthermore, a one-year blinded retrospective study of adult patients with a diagnosis of depressive or anxiety disorder published in Translational Psychiatry (Mar. 2013) demonstrated that patients taking discordant red bin medications based on the GeneSight report had substantially higher rates of medical utilization, 3-fold greater medical absence days, and 4-fold greater medical disability claims than patients on non-red bin medications.

“Multiple clinical studies have now demonstrated the clinical validity and clinical utility of our integrated, GeneSight combinatorial pharmacogenomic testing platform,” according to Bryan M. Dechairo, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs & Clinical Development at Assurex Health. “Prescribing a medication regimen that is more likely to succeed because it is tailored to an individual patient’s genetic profile can help clinicians better manage each patient’s disorder and improve clinical outcomes.”

Source: PR Newswire

BIDMC Cardiovascular Institute Researchers Will Lead $4 Million NIH Grant to Study MicroRNAs

A cardiovascular research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), led by BIDMC Principal Investigator Saumya Das, MD, PhD, has been awarded a $4 million Common Fund grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a newly formed program on Extracellular RNA Communication. The five-year grant will focus on identifying microRNA biomarkers in heart disease.

Each year, complications from heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) contribute to more than half a million cases of heart failure and 300,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops. Both of these conditions are closely related to a process known as remodeling, in which the structure and function of the heart changes – or remodels — following a heart attack.

“Our goal is to explore the role that microRNAs play in predicting which heart-attack patients will go on to experience complications,” explains Das, an electrophysiologist in BIDMC’s Cardiovascular Institute and co-director of the cardiovascular genetics program within the Outpatient Cardiovascular Clinic.

“Current strategies used to identify the highest risk patients have often been inaccurate,” he adds. “We think that a blood test that makes use of microRNA biomarkers could replace existing strategies and more accurately predict which patients might experience poor outcomes and thereby identify who would most benefit from frequent monitoring and medical care.” Other investigators who are part of the NIH grant, “Plasma miRNA Predictors of Adverse Mechanical and Electrical Remodeling After Myocardial Infarction,” include BIDMC Director of Cardiovascular Research Anthony Rosenzweig, MD, and BWH investigators Raymond Y. Kwong, MD, MPH, and Mark Sabatine, MD, MPH.

microRNAs are one type of extracellular RNA. Once considered nothing more than genomic “junk,” microRNAs have more recently been recognized as playing a key role in cellular functions. Several years ago, scientists began to recognize that these small, noncoding RNAs were not only found inside cells, but could also be found in blood and other tissue fluids.

Using patient plasma samples from extensively characterized patients who have suffered heart attacks, the scientific team will first identify which specific microRNAs are related to poor heart remodeling. They will then use cell culture and animal models of heart disease to further prioritize which microRNAs play a functional role in disease progression. Finally, the investigators will validate these prioritized microRNAs as prognostic markers for poor health outcomes after heart attacks in a large prospective clinical trial.

“Ultimately, we think that miRNA-based tests could replace current tests to predict which patients might be at risk of complications and, therefore, be good candidates to receive an implanted defibrillator,” says Das. “At the same time, we hope to be able to better predict which individuals are at less risk of complications – and thereby spare them unnecessary and costly procedures.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

BIDMC has a network of community partners that includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Health Care, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.

Source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center