February 2017

Viewing posts from February , 2017

Ebola Biomarker Discovery

A team of researchers led by Boston University, the University of Liverpool, Public Health England, and other international agencies has discovered a biomarker that can help predict the progression of the Ebola disease: a handful of genes that are overactivated in patients who succumb to the disease.

The research, funded by the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research and the US Food and Drug Administration, and published on January 19, 2017, in the journal Genome Biology, suggests a new type of blood test that while still in the preliminary stages of development, might be useful in future outbreaks to steer patients to the best treatment.

“We can get a sense of who will survive and who won’t, and we can get it earlier. This is the first study of this type ever done on this scale.”

– John Connor, a School of Medicine associate professor of microbiology at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories

Get the full story at Science Blog

The Importance of microRNAs

New Article in GEN Explores miRNA

After advances to genomics and transcriptomics technology, scientists have realized that about 98% of the genome contains sequences that perform key regulatory functions. Some of these sequences give rise to microRNAs (miRNAs), small noncoding RNA molecules that have emerged as one of the most complex, multilayered, and intriguing constituents of gene-regulatory networks.

“The future is bright for the diagnostic use of microRNAs”

– Christos Argyropoulos, M.D., Ph.D.

“The goal in biomarker development is to use microRNA expression-based biomarkers to better manage the clinical treatment of cancer,” declares Dr. Jingfang Ju,Ph.D., professor of pathology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Historically, mRNA expression, DNA mutations, and proteins have been used as the most common biomarkers.

Expanding the biomarker universe to create new diagnostic and treatment solutions is critical to improving the human condition and a main focus of Forentis Fund. To read the whole article in GEN, click here.

Promising Pancreatic Cancer Biomarkers

Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths because it often goes undetected in early stages, according to the Mayo Clinic. Researchers report a rapid and inexpensive nanoparticle-based diagnostic fueled, in part, by a biomarker on the surface of vesicles released by pancreatic tumors according to a recent article in Chemical and Engineering News.

As tumors develop, they release microscopic vesicles into a person’s blood. If biosensors could isolate and identify these vesicles, researchers could potentially catch cancer early by pricking a person’s finger and analyzing blood droplets. This process could be easier and less costly than more conventional biopsies or positron emission tomography scans.

Read the entire article here.

Liquid Biopsy Boom

If liquid biopsies can prove effective as a diagnostic tool in the pre- and post-cancer settings, some in the industry predict the market’s value could balloon to anywhere from $20 billion to over $100 billion, according to a recent article BioPharma Dive.

Forentis finds this interesting, as much of our focus is on funding the research that can bring these types of diagnostics to market. Advancing precision medicine by applying new technologies like liquid biopsies is in our DNA. Liquid biopsies and clinical trial enrichment are critical to developing the precision treatments and companion diagnostics that will make precision medicine a reality.

“Another use of liquid biopsies is in clinical trials. As targeted therapies proliferate, pharma companies need to cast a wide net in order to enroll patients who match the specific criteria of drug studies. Using liquid biopsies to screen patients could greatly accelerate enrollment as well as lowering costs.”

BioPharma Dive

What is exciting to us is that while the industry is focused on circulating tumor cell biomarkers, we are going deeper into the human biology. If you are interested in finding out more about how we are accessing multi-omic biomarkers – give us a call!

CAR-T Advances in Cancer Fight

Doctors in London say they have cured two babies of leukemia in the world’s first attempt to treat cancer with genetically engineered immune cells from a donor.

Treatments using engineered T-cells, commonly known as CAR-T, are new and not yet sold commercially. But they have shown stunning success against blood cancers. In studies so far by Novartis and Juno, about half of patients are permanently cured after receiving altered versions of their own blood cells.

Check out the entire article at MIT Technology Review.

Cancer Breath Test

A test that measures the levels of five chemicals in the breath has shown promising results for the detection of cancers of the oesophagus and stomach in a large patient trial presented at the European Cancer Congress 2017. The new research aimed to test whether this “chemical signature” that seemed to typify cancer could be the basis of a diagnostic test.

“A breath test could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies. In the longer term this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment, and better survival.”

– Dr Sheraz Markar, NIHR Clinical Trials Fellow from Imperial College London

The trial was based on the results of previous research that suggested differences in the levels of specific chemicals (butyric, pentanoic and hexanoic acids, butanal, and decanal) between patients with stomach or oesophageal cancer and patients with upper gastrointestinal symptoms without cancer.

The results showed that the test was 85% accurate overall, with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 81%. This means that not only was the breath test good at picking up those who had cancer (sensitivity), it was also good at correctly identifying who did not have cancer (specificity).

Find out more about this test at http://bit.ly/2juaaGQ

Lipidomics – an important ‘omic modality

Lipidomics is a new frontier of ‘omics research and offers much promise for new-generation biomarkers for common complex phenotypes. According to a white paper from the Computational and Structural Biology Laboratory, Division of Biological Sciences and Engineering, Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, Dwarka, India, traditional clinical markers for prognosis of hyperlipidemic individuals are inadequate to forecast or diagnose cardiac events.

The white paper describes attributes from lipidomics that can help identify risk of future cardiac events and other areas of concern. It concludes that additional studies are required to establish the range of normal and disease levels of the identified lipids in different populations and conditions and that lipidomics deserves greater research attention from the biomarker and precision medicine research communities.

You can read an abstract of the report here. Lipidomics is one of the many ‘omics modalities being investigated by Blueprint Bio.