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University Of California, San Diego School Of Medicine To Investigate Risk Factors For Parkinson’s Disease Via Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI)

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine will be one of 23 official clinical sites of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative’s (PPMI) new arm to study at-risk populations for Parkinson’s disease (PD). The $55 million landmark observational clinical study launched in 2010 to define one or more biomarkers of PD and now seeks to better understand potential risk factors of the disease. The University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has been a part of PPMI for three years and is currently enrolling for the new, pre-motor arm of the study.

The pre-motor arm of PPMI will enroll participants who do not have Parkinson’s disease and are living with one of three potential risk factors for PD: a reduced sense of smell (hyposmia); rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD); or a mutation in the LRRK2 gene (the single greatest genetic contributor to PD known to date). Validating these risk factors could not only enable earlier detection of the disease, but open new avenues in the quest for therapies that could slow or stop disease progression.

“Understanding risk factors for Parkinson’s disease could help to identify therapies that may prevent the onset of motor symptoms in future generations of PD patients,” said Douglas Galasko, MD, the principal investigator for the study at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Local residents can easily get involved in this research by being one of 10,000 individuals needed to complete a brief online survey (www.michaeljfox.org/takethesmellsurvey) about their sense of smell. People over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson’s disease are needed to take the survey. Most respondents will be sent a scratch-and-sniff smell test and brief questionnaire in the mail to be completed at home. Some individuals may also be asked to undergo more extensive testing.

“In the third year of PPMI, it is evident that a large-scale biomarker study is not only possible in Parkinson’s disease, but is already yielding scientific insights that could help transform the field of Parkinson’s research,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “None of this progress would be possible without the willing volunteers who donate their time and energy to the pursuit of a cure.”

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

Using Biomarkers to Identify and Treat Schizophrenia

In the current online issue of PLoS ONE, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say they have identified a set of laboratory-based biomarkers that can be useful for understanding brain-based abnormalities in schizophrenia. The measurements, known as endophenotypes, could ultimately be a boon to clinicians who sometimes struggle to recognize and treat the complex and confounding mental disorder.

Early Biomarker for Pancreatic Cancer Identified

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have identified a new biomarker and therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer, an often-fatal disease for which there is currently no reliable method for early detection or therapeutic intervention. The paper will be published May 15 in Cancer Research.

New Test Spots Early Signs of Inherited Metabolic Disorders

A team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Zacharon Pharmaceuticals, have developed a simple, reliable test for identifying biomarkers for mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS), a group of inherited metabolic disorders that are currently diagnosed in patients only after symptoms have become serious and the damage possibly irreversible. The findings will be published online January 8 in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.