Category Archives: P4 Medicine Update December 2011

Ohio State’s P4 Medicine Update Dec. 13, 2011

Captured by Sherri Kirk

ASU, Pfizer Partner on $5M Type 2 Diabetes Biomarker Project

Captured by Arizona State University

Arizona State University will lead a four-year, $5 million expanded initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to discover proteins, or biomarkers, to help predict cardiovascular disease and to assess potential new treatments in people with type 2 diabetes.

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. The disease is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation. The national cost of diabetes was an estimated $174 billion in 2007, the majority for direct medical costs.

Controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels is vital for treating diabetes and preventing or slowing complications. However, heart attack and stroke remain leading causes of death in diabetes.

“There are no standard biomarkers to identify people with type 2 diabetes who are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. We assembled a highly integrated, multidisciplinary research team to discover, validate and translate novel protein biomarkers for cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes and their use in drug development,” said project leader Randy Nelson, director of the Molecular Biosignatures Analysis Unit at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. Nelson is an expert in proteomics, a scientific discipline that studies the structure and function of the proteins that constitute an organism.

The project is supported under an NIH program that encourages scientists from different disciplines to collaborate on a single, critically important research problem that has the potential to advance clinical research.

“Identifying markers to predict heart and blood vessel diseases in people with type 2 diabetes is challenging but important,” said Salvatore Sechi, Ph.D., who oversees the project for the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.  “We are looking to the project’s team of experts in proteomics, drug development, biostatistics and clinical studies to advance the difficult search for markers that may be useful for both diagnosis and for assessing potential new drug therapies.” Read more…

Genetic Tests Can Predict Who Needs Higher Doses of Plavix

Captured by Liz Szabo, USA TODAY 

Genetic tests can now help predict which heart patients need higher doses of a common anti-clotting drug, shows a news study that is the latest example of “personalized medicine.”

Doctors commonly prescribe the blood thinner Plavix to prevent blood clots in the hearts of people who’ve survived heart attacks.

Yet nearly one-third of heart patients have genes that can prevent them from properly processing the drug, says cardiologist Jessica Mega, author of the study presented today at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando.

Genetic tests can now identify which patients have these mutations.

More importantly, Mega’s study shows that tripling or quadrupling the typical dose of Plavix, 75 milligrams a day, helps most patients with these genes to process the drug normally. Read more…

Researchers Examine Role of Inflammatory Mechanisms in a Healing Heart Opening New Avenues for Prevention and Treatment of Heart Failure

Captured by Virginia Commonwealth University 

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have found that an inflammatory mechanism known as inflammasome may lead to more damage in the heart following injury such as a heart attack, pointing researchers toward developing more targeted strategies to block the inflammatory mechanisms involved.

Following a heart attack, an inflammatory process occurs in the heart due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients. This process helps the heart to heal, but may also promote further damage to the heart. The mechanisms by which the heart responds to injury are not fully understood, so researchers have been examining the cellular pathways involved to gain further insight.

In a study published online the week of Nov. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers addressed the role of a specific inflammatory mechanism, called inflammasome, during the process of healing in the heart. Using an animal model, the team found that inflammasome amplifies the response by generating the production of a key inflammatory mediator known as Interleukin-1β. Further, they described that pharmacologic inhibition of the formation of inflammasome prevents heart enlargement and dysfunction.

“Defining the role of the inflammasome in the response to injury in the heart and the possibility to intervene opens a new area of investigation for the prevention and treatment of heart failure following a heart attack,” said Antonio Abbate, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the VCU Department of Internal Medicine and Division of Cardiology.

According to Abbate, who serves as the interim director for the cardiac intensive care unit at the VCU Pauley Heart Center, this study supports the team’s previous findings that showed that Interleukin-1β affects the heart, and blocking Interleukin-1β benefits patients of heart attack and heart failure.

“Based on the findings of the current study we are even more convinced that blocking Interleukin-1β may be safe and beneficial, and we are now exploring novel ways to do so,” he said. Read more…

Mass General Partners with Spanish Institute to Develop Personalized Oncology Drugs

Captured by Pharmacogenomics Reporter 

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Spain’s Vall d’Hebrón Institute of Oncology said this week that they will partner to develop personalized cancer treatments.

The BBVA Foundation, the scientific funding arm of Spanish financial group Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, has committed $3.4 million (€2.5 million) to fund collaborative biomarker research at the two institutions over the next five years. MGHCC will match the BBVA Foundation’s contribution.

The collaboration, called the Tumor Biomarkers Research Program, will be led by José Baselga and Daniel Haber of MGHCC, and Josep Tabernero of VHIO.

The project aims to discover new individually tailored treatments and use biomarker data to guide treatments to best responder populations.

“Biomarkers can measure alterations of the genome, of the proteins encoded by the genome, and at times enzymes or metabolites,” VHIO said in a statement. “The information they give can be prognostic – how the disease is likely to evolve – or predictive – how it may respond to a given treatment.”

At first, studies will work on identifying biomarkers implicated in colorectal, breast, and lung cancer. The researchers plan to eventually investigate biomarkers involved in melanomas, lymphomas, and prostate cancer.

Additional objectives of the program include designing protocols for clinical trials that will allow patients to benefit earlier from newly discovered and developing tools to measure patients’ responses to targeted cancer drugs. Read more…

In Three-Continent Effort, Duke Works to Uncover Genetic Basis of Epilepsy

Captured by Duke University Medical Center 

Duke University Medical Center has been awarded a $25 million grant to study the genetic basis of human epilepsy in order to improve our understanding of the biology of epilepsy and to develop new directions for its treatment.

Epilepsy affects up to 3 percent of people at some point in their lives. While there is clearly a strong genetic basis, few genes have been found to date.

The grant was awarded as part of a genetics of epilepsy “Center Without Walls” initiative funded by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke to a team of leaders in epilepsy and human genetics from around the world.

“Epilepsy is a difficult disorder to live with, and it has a large impact on the lives of patients and their families,” said Nancy Andrews, MD, PhD, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine.

“This new center is a remarkable and powerful effort, bringing together outstanding scientists from Duke and around the world to find important clues to understand, and ultimately, to treat epilepsy.”

“This grant allows us to study the genomes of epilepsy patients on a sufficiently large scale that we should be able to identify many new genes involved in the risk of epilepsy,” said principal investigator David Goldstein, PhD, director of the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation and the Richard and Pat Johnson Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

“Our hope is that these discoveries will provide validated targets for the development of new drugs and will help to determine how best to treat each individual patient based on their own genetic profile.” Read more…

GenomeWeb story

U Mich IDs Diagnostic/Prognostic Markers for Graft vs. Host Disease, Hopeful for Predictive Potential

Captured by University of Michigan Health System 

A University of Michigan Health System-led team of researchers has found a biomarker they believe can help rapidly identify one of the most serious complications in patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders who have received a transplant of new, blood-forming cells.

Known as a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, these patients receive bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells from a matched donor who is either a family member or an unrelated volunteer.

The most common fatal complication of this type of transplant is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), where the newly transplanted immune system of the donor attacks the patient’s skin and internal organs. Up to 30 percent of recipients develop GVHD in their gastrointestinal tract, which is the organ most resistant to treatment.

Without invasive tests such as biopsies, however, GVHD can be difficult to distinguish from other causes of gastrointestinal distress, such as infection or side effects from medication.

The U-M team tested blood samples from over 1,000 patients who were treated in Ann Arbor, Germany and Japan.

“We believe we’ve found a reliable biomarker in the patients’ blood that is specific to graft-versus-host disease and therefore can help us to rapidly identify patients for whom standard treatment is likely to be insufficient,” says James L.M. Ferrara, M.D., co-lead author of the study and director of the U-M Combined Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. “This marker can also tell us whether a patient is likely to respond to therapy and may lead to an entirely new risk assessment for the disease. The findings were recently published online ahead of print publication in the journal Blood. Read more…

GenomeWeb story

U.S. Surgeon General Declares Thanksgiving as “Family Health History Day”

Captured by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

United States Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin today declared Thanksgiving 2011 as the nation’s eighth annual “Family Health History Day,” when families can share information by using the My Family Health Portrait website to gather their family’s health history in one place.

“An important first step in preventing illness and disability is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, mental illness and many others,” said Dr. Benjamin.  “Discussing health information with other members of your family can often uncover conditions and explanations for health problems which you never knew about, simply because no one ever asked.”

My Family Health Portrait is available on the Office of the Surgeon General’s website at  This tool is secure, free and takes about 20 minutes to create your unique family health portrait. Information can be shared with other family members who may not be home for Thanksgiving. They can build on your Family Health Portrait by adding their health information and can choose to share with you.

When you complete the questions, the website creates a personalized “family health tree” that can be saved to your home computer. From there, families may update the information at any time.  Your information remains private.  The federal website does not retain the information once the tool has been used to assemble it.

Prepare for a Thanksgiving Day conversation by making a list of your relatives including your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins. Because some health conditions skip generations, be sure to talk to your older relatives who may know additional family history. Read more…

e-Patient Dave: How an Empowered Patient Recovered from Stage IV Cancer and Found a Higher Calling

Captured by The Huffington Post 

Dave deBronkart, “e-Patient Dave,” was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer in 2007. The median survival time for his condition was 24 weeks. Thanks to the help of an online network for patients with his disease, he quickly learned about treatment options and found support for his recovery. The treatment was successful, and now e-Patient Dave is cancer-free and has found a higher calling: empowering patients to have access to the best health care possible — by connecting with resources online. I was inspired by e-Patient Dave’s amazing TEDx video and was fortunate to meet up with him at the recent TEDMED conference.

PF: e-Patient Dave, the story of how you healed from cancer is so inspiring. How did you get started in your Internet search for a cure?

ePD: Funny, I didn’t really think of it as the Internet; I was just using everything within reach. Books, phones, family, email, Web pages, everything. They’re all just pipelines to information and connecting with people. I’ve been online since 1989; I was sysop on several CompuServe forums. Mainly I did desktop publishing, and at one point I ran the ADD Forum, where families solved problems when schools and jobs didn’t help.

It rocked: peer-to-peer problem solving. And back then, I wasn’t even dying. So when I was in big trouble, the most natural thing was to supplement what my doctors were doing by going online.

PF: What did your doctor think about your proactive approach?

ePD: Think about it? Heck, he referred me to a patient community. His name is Dr. Danny Sands, a real pioneer, famous in some circles for co-authoring the first published guides on doctor-patient email, and that was in 1998! That’s one of the reasons we hit it off well: We’re both early adopters of things that become widespread later. So get used to it — we is the future.

It’s not just Dr. Sands, by the way. My oncologist, Dr. David McDermott, is one of the tops in the world for my disease, so if anyone had a right to be snooty it would be him, but when I apologized after one question I emailed him, he responded, “I am happy to field your questions.” My orthopedist, Dr. Megan Anderson, gladly accepted a digital photo my wife took of an infection on the incision, saving us a trip to the hospital. They’re modern. Read more…

OSU Lands $23 Million for Comprehensive Cancer Center

Captured by The Ohio State University 

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) has received a 5-year, $23 million core grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute(NCI) to support its broad range of clinical, research and educational programs focused on creating cancer-free world. This award follows a rigorous review process by the NCI, including a site visit by 28 scientists from other universities, which led to OSUCCC’s rating of “exceptional,” which is the highest possible rating.

The OSUCCC will retain its elite designation as an NCI “comprehensive” cancer center, a coveted status held by only 41 institutions nationwide. This is the largest core grant Ohio State has ever received, and represents a 23.8 percent increase from the amount awarded in 2005, which was the last time NCI reviewed Ohio State’s cancer program.

“This award validates the remarkable cancer research being conducted at Ohio State,” said Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee. “I am grateful of the recognition of the work of our NCI-funded researchers, who collaborate across the University and across the nation to find cures and give hope to thousands of people every day.” 

 Dr. Michael Caligiuri, director of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute said, “This core grant is truly transformative and validates the commitment for resources dedicated to cancer research across the spectrum at Ohio State. The money provided to us by the NCI is critical for our infrastructure and facilitation of groundbreaking research to prevent, detect, treat and cure cancer.” Through Dr. Caligiuri’s vision and the hard work of many, the NCI reviewers wrote that the OSUCCC is “the model for other matrix university-based centers.”

Ohio State has been recognized with “comprehensive” status since 1976. The designation is awarded only to cancer centers that show that they make substantial research contributions in the all the critical areas of cancer research, namely basic, clinical and population sciences. The center was evaluated for scientific impact, improving cancer care and clinical trials enrollment, and service to the community. For OSUCCC, the NCI reviewers characterized these activities as “exceptional.” 

The core grant is the major funding source for scientific leadership and administration, and for shared technology and services provided to more than 250 cancer researchers, representing a vast number of disciplines from 11 of the 14 colleges at Ohio State.  Read more…