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Predicting Autism: Researchers Find Autism Biomarkers in Infancy

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age.

Researchers from the University of Washington were part of a North American effort led by the University of North Carolina to use MRI to measure the brains of “low-risk” infants, with no family history of autism, and “high-risk” infants who had at least one autistic older sibling. A computer algorithm was then used to predict autism before clinically diagnosable behaviors set in. The study was published Feb. 15 in the journal Nature.

Matrix-Bio Options Metabolite Biomarker Technology from Purdue University to Evaluate Opportunities for New Cancer Diagnostic Tests

Matrix-Bio Inc., a diagnostics company that uses metabolite profiling to detect cancer and other diseases, has signed an exclusive agreement with the Purdue Research Foundation optioning metabolite biomarker technology and eight patent applications to evaluate the commercial potential of cancer diagnostics tests based on the technologies.

The optioned technologies include metabolite biomarkers for detecting esophageal, liver, pancreatic and colon cancer; for identifying liver cancer in patients with hepatitis C; and for predicting preoperative chemotherapy effectiveness for breast cancer treatment. Matrix-Bio’s agreement is for one year with an option to extend the agreement. No other terms of the agreement were released.

The new agreement builds on the existing master license agreement between Matrix-Bio and Purdue Research Foundation for breast cancer biomarkers and metabolite profiling technology developed by Dan Raftery, Matrix-Bio chief scientific officer and founder, while he was a member of the Purdue University research faculty. Raftery is now director of the Northwest Metabolomics Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, and is also a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, one of the world’s leading cancer research centers.

Matrix-Bio CEO Eric Beier said the agreement will enable the company to significantly expand its pipeline of cancer detection and monitoring tests, further advancing the company’s leadership in metabolomics-based cancer diagnostic technologies.

“Metabolite profiling is an emerging field of diagnostics that looks at the changes in small molecule biomarkers in cells. Patterns of these metabolite biomarkers in the blood are altered when cancer is present,” Beier said. “Dr. Raftery’s technology identifies metabolic changes with very high sensitivity and specificity, and can detect various cancers in early, more treatable stages more accurately than currently available tests. Studies have also demonstrated that metabolite profiling can assist in monitoring cancer treatment.”

The announcement comes on the heels of an exclusive global licensing and marketing agreement for metabolomic biomarkers Matrix-Bio signed with Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services. Under the agreement, Quest Diagnostics has the rights to use the Matrix-Bio biomarkers for the future, potential development of a clinical lab-developed test to aid in the detection of breast cancer recurrence. Quest Diagnostics also has the option to pursue an appropriate regulatory pathway for an in vitro diagnostic version of the test. Additional terms were not disclosed.

Source: Business Wire

Matrix-Bio Signs Metabolomics Biomarker Licensing Agreement with Quest Diagnostics for Development of Breast Cancer Recurrence Test

Matrix-Bio Inc., a diagnostics company that uses metabolite profiling to detect cancer and other diseases, recently signed an exclusive global licensing and marketing agreement for metabolomic biomarkers with Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX).

Presage Biosciences Announces First Patient in Clinical Trial of CIVO™ Precision Oncology

Presage Biosciences, a leader in precision oncology, recently announced the initiation of a clinical trial and the first patient use of CIVO™, the company’s precision oncology platform designed to improve treatment decisions for cancer patients. The single arm, non-therapeutic, observational study, being conducted at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, is intended to evaluate the feasibility of Presage’s CIVO in assessing lymphoma response to multiple microinjected candidate chemotherapy agents.

“Results from this initial study will assess the potential of CIVO to guide personalized clinical treatment for lymphoma patients,” said Richard Klinghoffer, Ph.D., Vice President of Research & Development at Presage Biosciences. “CIVO is designed to enable analysis of the potential therapeutic effect of multiple drugs simultaneously following precise delivery of each agent to a distinct location on the patient’s tumor. By employing this technology we hope to discern which drugs induce a localized anti-tumor response, indicative of therapeutic effect, prior to systemic administration of chemotherapy.”

The trial will enroll up to 12 patients with either newly diagnosed lymphomas who have not yet received treatment or relapsed lymphoma previously treated with one or more agents in the R-CHOP chemotherapy regimen (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, prednisone). Patients’ lymphomas will be microinjected with up to four drugs comprising rituximab, vincristine, doxorubicin and prednisolone. Twenty-four hours later, the lymph node of interest will be removed and analyzed for target engagement and tissue response.

More information about this study, including additional eligibility criteria and contact information, can be found on clinicaltrials.gov. Study participants are not expected to benefit medically from participation or to directly benefit from the data generated in this feasibility study. None of the data will be released to the patient or treating physician in a manner that could be used to make treatment decisions. Patients may contact Jennifer Lindquist, Patient Care Coordinator / Lymphoma – Intake Office at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, jlindqui@seattlecca.org or 206-288-6202 for more information.

“When a patient learns they have cancer, they want effective drugs that cause as little toxicity as possible. An expert panel from the American Society for Clinical Oncology found that previous attempts to predict cancer sensitivity to therapeutic agents using cancer cells grown in tissue culture dishes have not helped the way we hoped they would,” said Oliver W. Press, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and the Principal Investigator for the study. “Oncologists and patients are eager for a reliable method to assess cancer drug sensitivity or resistance in the patient’s own tumor. We look forward to evaluating the Presage’s CIVO precision oncology platform and gathering patient data to evaluate the potential of this innovative approach.”

Source: Presage Biosciences

Tenfold Boost in Ability to Pinpoint Proteins in Cancer Cells

Better diagnosis and treatment of cancer could hinge on the ability to better understand a single cell at its molecular level. New research offers a more comprehensive way of analyzing one cell’s unique behavior, using an array of colors to show patterns that could indicate why a cell will or won’t become cancerous.

A University of Washington team has developed a new method for color-coding cells that allows them to illuminate 100 biomarkers, a ten-time increase from the current research standard, to help analyze individual cells from cultures or tissue biopsies. The work is published in the March 19 issue of Nature Communications.

“Discovering this process is an unprecedented breakthrough for the field,” said corresponding author Xiaohu Gao, a UW associate professor of bioengineering. “This technology opens up exciting opportunities for single-cell analysis and clinical diagnosis.”

The research builds on current methods that use a smaller array of colors to point out a cell’s biomarkers – characteristics that indicate a special, and potentially abnormal or diseased, cell. Ideally, scientists would be able to test for a large number of biomarkers, then rely on the patterns that emerge from those tests to understand a cell’s properties.

The UW research team has created a cycle process that allows scientists to test for up to 100 biomarkers in a single cell. Before, researchers could only test for 10 at a time.

The analysis uses quantum dots, which are fluorescent balls of semiconductor material. Quantum dots are the smaller version of the material found in many electronics, including smartphones and radios. These quantum dots are between 2 and 6 nanometers in diameter, and they vary on the color they emit depending on their size.

Cyclical testing hasn’t been done before, though many quantum dot papers have tried to expand the number of biomarkers tested for in a single cell. This method essentially reuses the same tissue sample, testing for biomarkers in groups of 10 in each round.

“Proteins are the building blocks for cell function and cell behavior, but their makeup in a cell is highly complex,” Gao said. “You need to look at a number of indicators (biomarkers) to know what’s going on.”

The new process works like this: Gao and his team purchase antibodies that are known to bind with the specific biomarkers they want to test for in a cell. They pair quantum dots with the antibodies in a fluid solution, injecting it onto a tissue sample. Then, they use a microscope to look for the presence of fluorescent colors in the cell. If they see particular quantum dot colors in the tissue sample, they know the corresponding biomarker is present in the cell.

After completing one cycle, Gao and co-author Pavel Zrazhevskiy, a UW postdoctoral associate in bioengineering, inject a low-pH fluid into the cell tissue that neutralizes the color fluorescence, essentially wiping the sample clean for the next round. Remarkably, the tissue sample doesn’t degrade at all even after 10 such cycles, Gao said.

For cancer research and treatment, in particular, it’s important to be able to look at a single cell at high resolution to examine its details. For example, if 99 percent of cancer cells in a person’s body respond to a treatment drug, but 1 percent doesn’t, it’s important to analyze and understand the molecular makeup of that 1 percent that responds differently.

“When you treat with promising drugs, there are still a few cells that usually don’t respond to treatment,” said Gao. “They look the same, but you don’t have a tool to look at their protein building blocks. This will really help us develop new drugs and treatment approaches.”

The process is relatively low-cost and simple, and Gao hopes the procedure can be automated. He envisions a chamber to hold the tissue sample, and wire-thin pumps to inject and vacuum out fluid between cycles. A microscope underneath the chamber would take photos during each stage. All of the images would be quantified on a computer, where scientists and physicians could look at the intensity and prevalence of colors.

Gao hopes to collaborate with companies and other researchers to move toward an automated process and clinical use.

“The technology is ready,” Gao said. “Now that it’s developed, we’re ready for clinical impacts, particularly in the fields of systems biology, oncology and pathology.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the UW’s Department of Bioengineering.

Study: Quantum dot imaging platform for single-cell molecular profiling

Source: University of Washington