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Category Archives: P4 Medicine Update December 2011
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 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
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…
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…
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…
U Mich IDs Diagnostic/Prognostic Markers for Graft vs. Host Disease, Hopeful for Predictive Potential
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…