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Sep 17, 2015 · New Drug Combo Attacks Melanoma Cancer Cells

Metastatic melanoma is known as “the cancer that gives cancer a bad name.” While melanoma makes up less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases, it accounts for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 73,870 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2015.

A Mayo Clinic clinical trial is combining two drugs to create a compound that specifically targets melanoma tumor cells. The drug Abraxane has unique packaging that insulates the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, providing the drug safe passage through the body until it gets to the intended target.

Metastatic melanoma tumor cells have distinct protein markers called VEG-F. Abraxane is combined with anti-VEG-F antibodies that recognize and bind to the VEG-F proteins. The packaging dissolves in the body, releasing the chemo drug and killing the cancer cells. The animation below shows how the new compound precisely and safely delivers chemotherapy to tumors.

This new technology has the potential to be used in other cancers, immune system disorders and organ transplantation, as well. “Much of this is the subject of ongoing research, as we’ve now built nanoparticles that target B cell malignancies [and] breast cancer, as well as more potent nanoparticles that carry not only paclitaxel as the chemotherapy payload but cisplatin as well,” says Mayo Clinic’s Svetomir N. Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., one of the world’s leading melanoma researchers. “By adding different chemo drugs into the nanoparticle we can make the chemo payload more effective for unique tumor targets.”

Dr. Markovic discovered this therapy’s potential three years ago while running a clinical trial. He noticed that a group of patients treated with two drugs given in a particular way had far better results than other patients enrolled. “The delivery method changed the way the drugs interacted,” he says. “We were able to get enough of the medication in the right place—the tumor—and not contaminate surrounding tissue.”

In this new trial’s first year, just a handful of patients are being enrolled. But if the drug is proven safe and effective, Dr. Markovic says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should give approval to expand to other patients and other drug combinations. Phase 1 is expected to be complete in the next 12–18 months, with the B cell malignancy targeting study to start in about 12 months.

Aug 27, 2015 · Sequencing patient DNA to prevent adverse drug reactions and maximize drug efficacy

photo1Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, is planning to sequence the DNA of 10,000 Mayo patients for 69 genes that can affect how the body metabolizes, transports and reacts to certain drugs. The gene variations observed that are known to influence drug response will be entered into each patient’s electronic health record and a drug alert will pop up when the prescription is written for a drug for which that patient might have an adverse reaction or require a special dose.

“All of us carry common variations in our genes that might mean we respond differently to drugs,” according to Richard Weinshilboum, M.D., Pharmacogenomics Program Director at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine and the Mary Lou and John H. Dasburg Professor of Cancer Genomics. For example, most people express the CYP2D6 gene, which the body uses to metabolize codeine into morphine. However, some people don’t have the gene, which means codeine won’t reduce their pain. Other people have too many copies of the CYP2D6 gene and make too much morphine, which could lead to a life-threatening drug reaction that causes a patient’s breathing to become dangerously depressed.

Over the past four years, Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine photo2has been adding drug-gene alerts to its electronic health records, but they weren’t specific to a patient. Instead, if a clinician prescribed one of 20 specific drugs, an alert would pop up recommending the physician consider testing the patient for a genetic variation.

However, for the 10,000 patients in this study, the alert would say, “Your patient has the genetic variant”—no additional testing would be required. Mayo will be able to analyze the results to evaluate the potential value of having the genomic information pre-emptively. The theory is that this critical information will help prevent life-threatening drug reactions and reduce health care spending.

Dr. Weinshilboum hopes that the results of the study will help to determine the value—medically and financially—of pre-emptive pharmacogenomic testing. “The speed at which this is happening is astonishing,” Dr. Weinshilboum said. “This is the aspect of clinical genomics that will have the greatest potential impact, earliest, for the largest number of people.”

This study builds on foundational research and experience gained through funding from the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health — and from experience obtained via eMERGE, a national network organized and funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute that combines DNA biorepositories with electronic medical record systems for large scale, high-throughput genetic research in support of implementing genomic medicine.

Aug 12, 2015 · Mayo Clinic THINK BIG Challenge to offer entrepreneurs $100,000 start-up funds, expert guidance

Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, Mayo Clinic Ventures and AVIA have issued the Mayo Clinic THINK BIG Challenge, a national competition offering awards totaling $100,000 for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to transform the future of health and health care.

Entrepreneurs can apply for one of two $50,000 THINK BIG challenge awards in these categories:

Got Health?
This challenge will focus on healthy people staying healthy and explore areas such as eating healthy, enhancing well-being, monitoring risk factors and engaging in daily exercise.

I Am Not My Disease
This challenge will tackle the presumption that people are defined by their disease and explore areas such as access to health data, health literacy and behavior modification.

In addition, Mayo Clinic experts will guide winners for a year as they develop their concepts for market. Apply for the Mayo Clinic THINK BIG Challenge by Saturday, Aug. 15, at transformconference.mayo.edu/think-big.

The THINK BIG competition will culminate on Thursday, Oct. 1, in Rochester, Minnesota, at the Transform 2015 conference, a gathering of industry leaders exploring the future of health and health care. Finalists will compete on stage in a live presentation. A panel of judges will select the winners with input from the Transform audience using smartphone technology.

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