Tag Archives: P4 Medicine Update 9/7/11

EU Initiative to Develop ‘Virtual Patient’ Models for Personalized Medicine IT

Captured by GenomeWeb

To develop the IT side of personalized medicine, researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK are using a massive computer network to create “virtual patients.” These computational patient models will contain genetic data along with traditional health metrics. These computer models are intended to be prototypes of next-generation, easy-to-use health records for personalized medicine. The Manchester team is part of the pan-European IT Future of Medicine initiative, a 10-year project that unites more than 25 academic institutions and industrial partners.

“The information gathered from sequencing an individual’s genome, or measuring the levels of certain chemicals in their blood, or a more comprehensive screen of quantities of proteins and metabolites within their serum will be used to create an individual mathematical model of that person, the virtual patient,” says Daniel Jameson, project manager for ITFoM. “A large part of the vision here is to model bottom-up from the molecules, [so] the final virtual patient will undoubtedly be a multi-scale model, with layers of different granularity.”

Eventually, Jameson says, the project will produce a range of individualized models that physicians can query, along with an entire IT ecosystem that could support personalized genomics data in the clinic. “When a clinical decision needs to be made about the treatment of an individual, the physician will be in a position to ask ‘What if I combine these two drugs?’ or ‘What if they reduce their sugar intake?'” Jameson says. To do this, he and his colleagues intend to develop a human-computer interface, the IT infrastructure to support asking these questions, the technology to facilitate processing of these data both at the point of acquisition and as model outputs, as well as the processing power needed to run these simulations on what will be a massive scale.

Before they can roll out a workable IT model for all this data, there are some hurdles the researchers must face. “Firstly [is] the challenge of developing models that support effective prediction for an organism that is massively complex and not necessarily experimentally tractable,” Jameson says. Then, he adds, “there is the sheer scale of what is required and the sheer number of people from multiple disciplines who will have to be involved — coordinating all of this effectively across multiple institutions and companies in multiple countries.”

Johns Hopkins Lands $30M for Personalized Cancer Center

Captured by GenomeWeb

The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center will use a $30 million donation from the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research to fund a new center that will focus on genomics and personalized cancer medicine research.

Johns Hopkins will use the funding from the Richmond, Va.-based foundation to support the Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine, which initially will undertake three pilot projects focused on DNA mutations inside cells and epigenetic alterations.

The researchers at the new center, which began operations last month, will study genomic and epigenomic factors that affect leukemia and lung cancer patients’ responses to treatment and develop tests for early detection of various types of cancer. The long-term aim will be for these genetic discoveries to inform the development of individualized immunotherapies such as cancer vaccines and pharmacogenomics-based treatment tools.

The Commonwealth Foundation also supports research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Virginia Cancer Center, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center.


Simple Test May Help Identify People at Risk of Stroke

Captured by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN)

A new study shows that a simple ultrasound test may help to identify people at high risk of stroke who have a condition called asymptomatic carotid stenosis, a narrowing of the carotid artery found in the neck, in which few or no symptoms are present. The research is published in the August 17, 2011, online issue ofNeurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“There is debate over how to best treat people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis. A procedure called carotid endarterectomy can reduce the risk of stroke, but there are risks and costs involved with the surgery. Identifying people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis who are at higher risk of stroke would help determine whether carotid endarterectomy is needed,” said study author Raffi Topakian, MD, of the Academic Teaching Hospital Wagner-Jauregg in Linz, Austria.

The surgery removes the plaque buildup in the carotid artery, which is the main artery from the heart to the brain.

For the study, 435 people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis were followed for two years. They underwent ultrasound of the carotid artery and of blood vessels in the brain to determine whether two markers for high risk of stroke were present. The markers were signs of blood clots passing into the brain, and a type of carotid plaque called echolucent plaque, which has a higher fat content than other plaque.

Of the participants, 164 people had echolucent plaque, or 38 percent, and 73 people, or 17 percent, had at least one sign of a blood clot. Six percent, or 27 people, had both markers. During the study, 10 people had strokes and 20 people had transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes.

The study found that people with the echolucent plaque in their carotid artery were more than six times more likely to have a stroke than those people without the plaque. People who had the plaque and signs of blood clots were more than 10 times more likely to have a stroke than those without both markers. The results remained the same regardless of high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and vascular disease. Read more…

No Bones About It: Eating Dried Plums Helps Prevent Fractures and Osteoporosis

Captured by Florida State University

When it comes to improving bone health in postmenopausal women — and people of all ages, actually — a Florida State University researcher has found a simple, proactive solution to help prevent fractures and osteoporosis: eating dried plums.

“Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have,” said Bahram H. Arjmandi, Florida State’s Margaret A. Sitton Professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences in the College of Human Sciences. “All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.”

Arjmandi and a group of researchers from Florida State and Oklahoma State University tested two groups of postmenopausal women. Over a 12-month period, the first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums (about 10 prunes) each day, while the second — a comparative control group of 45 women — was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples. All of the study’s participants also received daily doses of calcium (500 milligrams) and vitamin D (400 international units).

The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna (one of two long bones in the forearm) and spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples. This, according to Arjmandi, was due in part to the ability of dried plums to suppress the rate of bone resorption, or the breakdown of bone, which tends to exceed the rate of new bone growth as people age. Read more…

Researchers Discover Antibody that May Help Detect Ovarian Cancer in its Earliest Stages

Captured by Rush Medical Center

Using a new approach to developing biomarkers for the very early detection of ovarian cancer, researchers at Rush University Medical Center have identified a molecule in the bloodstream of infertile women that could one day be used to screen for those at high risk for the disease — or even those with early-stage ovarian cancer.

The molecule, an antibody that the human body manufactures, is an autoimmune response to mesothelin. This well-studied protein is found in abundance on the surface of ovarian cancer cells but present only in limited amounts in normal human tissue.

The study is published in the online version issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, published by the American Society for Cancer Research.

“The finding is extremely important because at present medical tests are unable to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages, which is why death rates from this disease are so high,” said Judith Luborsky, PhD, professor of pharmacology, obstetrics and gynecology and preventive medicine at Rush and lead author of the study.

“Our approach to discovering cancer biomarkers was unique in this study. Instead of investigating molecules specific to ovarian cancer alone, we asked what molecules women with a risk of ovarian cancer and those with ovarian cancer had in common,” Luborsky said.

The study enabled the researchers to explain the link between infertility and ovarian cancer that has been established in numerous epidemiological surveys. Read more…

Researchers Discover Five Inherited Genetic Variants that Could Help Identify the Most Lethal Prostate Cancers

Captured by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

An international team of researchers led by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has identified five inherited genetic variants that are strongly associated with aggressive, lethal prostate cancer. The discovery ultimately could lead to the development of a simple blood test that could be given upon diagnosis to determine which men should receive aggressive treatment versus a more conservative “watchful waiting” approach.

The findings, by Janet L. Stanford, Ph.D., co-director of the Hutchinson Center’s Program in Prostate Cancer Research and a member of its Public Health Sciences Division, are published online Aug. 16 ahead of the September issue ofCancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

A substantial number of men with indolent tumors – which have a low probability of progressing to clinically significant, lethal prostate cancer – are overtreated and, as a result, suffer side effects such as sexual impotence and urinary incontinence. In addition to its personal toll, overtreatment of indolent prostate cancer also carries a substantial economic burden, with an average of $2 billion to $3 billion spent annually in the U.S. on initial therapy alone.

“Biomarkers that could distinguish between patients with indolent versus more-aggressive tumors are urgently needed,” Stanford said. “The panel of markers we’ve identified provides the first validated evidence that inherited genetic variants play a role in prostate cancer progression and mortality. Ultimately these markers could be used in the clinic, along with other known predictors that are used to assess tumor aggressiveness, such as a high Gleason score, to identify men with a high-risk profile.” Read more…