Tag Archives: cancer

UCSF’s Elizabeth Blackburn Wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

6 Oct

Today, UCSF’s Elizabeth Blackburn won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Here’s the video from the press conference held in San Francisco:

I-Spy Trial Offers Key Insights Into Locally Advanced Breast Cancer

30 May

Dr. Laura Esserman, director of UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Care Center is spearheading the development of a clinical trials model designed to accelerate and improve the efficiency with which experimental breast cancer therapies are assessed.  The strategy, which involves the use of molecular markers and MRI, utilizes “adaptive design,” in which drugs are assessed over the course of months – rather than decades – and the information used in real time to direct the course of a trial.

The series of studies are known as I-SPY (investigation of serial studies to predict therapeutic response with imaging and molecular analysis) and are being carried out  in patients with locally advanced i.e., aggressive – breast cancer. The goals of I-SPY  are to establish a clinical trials model that supports the identification of drugs targeting the molecular profiles of aggressive cancers, and to reduce the duration of the drug-assessment process from the current 15 to 20 years down to a few years.

Dr. Esserman’s team presents several findings at ASCO today.  One provocative finding shows that large, locally advanced forms of breast cancer often emerge between regular mammogram exams. These “interval” cancers present an important opportunity for doctors and patients to take advantage of neoadjuvant therapies in advance of surgery, with the hope they would be responsive. The other finding is that using molecular markers, UCSF researchers identified a subset of patients who do well regardless of how they respond to neoadjuvant treatment. They also identified a subset  with poor prognosis for whom response to neoadjuvant therapy is a good predictor of long term outcome.

Read the press release:
Continue reading

Obama Seeks a Cure for Cancer: Makes Historic Commitment to Health Care Reform

24 Feb

ph2009022404312

“The time to take charge of our future is here,” Obama proclaimed this evening in his first address to a joint session of Congress, where he outlined his agenda for rebuilding America. He focused on  three priorities– energy, health care and education. President Obama made a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform and said that he will seek a cure for cancer.

Here are the health care highlights from today’s address:

Already, we’ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we’ve done in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American children whose parents work full-time.

Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives.

It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American, including me, by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.

And — and it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that’s one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform, a down payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American.

You can read the full transcript here.

Sources: Politico, CNN

links for 2009-02-17

17 Feb

Creating Designer Babies: Screening for Disease and Desirable Traits

15 Feb

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, has been used to screen for genes that lead to diseases such as cystic fibrosis and cancer.  Now, the lab procedure that screens for diseases in embryos is being offered to create designer children. Two articles on the topic have appeared recently; they both address the medical and ethical implications.

Last month, the New Scientist reported that the first UK baby genetically selected to be free of a form of breast cancer caused by BRCA1 was born in London.  It was reported that the parents underwent IVF, and the resulting embryos were screened with PGD, where a small number of cells are removed and tested. Only embryos free of the BRCA1 gene were implanted. Five  embryos tested were found to be free of the gene and were implanted; one resulted in the pregnancy.

Gautam Naik reported in February 12 issue of The Wall Street Journal that LA- based Fertility Institutes, will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo fertility treatment. Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic, claims that trait selection “is a service” that he intends to offer soon.  According to Naik:

For trait selection, Steinberg is now betting on a new approach for screening embryos. It involves taking cells from an embryo at day five of its development, compared with typical PGD, which uses cells from day three. The method potentially allows more cells to be obtained, leading to a more reliable diagnosis of the embryo.

Many countries have banned the use of PGD for gender selection; it is permitted in the U.S. According to a 2006 survey by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University,42% of 137 PGD clinics offered a gender-selection service.

Creating Designer Babies: the Smackdown Continues

15 Feb

ob-dc896_design_ns_20090211191015

PGD, or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is being used to screen embryos for diseases such as cancer, and it’s now  being used to pick traits like gender, eye and hair color.  Last month, the New Scientist reported that the first UK baby genetically selected to be free of a form of breast cancer caused by BRCA1 was born in London.  Gautam Naik reported in February 12 issue of The Wall Street Journal that LA- based Fertility Institutes, will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo fertility treatment. Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic, claims that trait selection “is a service” that he intends “to offer soon.”

Are we going too far? You decide.

New Gene Therapy Targets Alzheimer’s

15 Feb

bankiewiczA new approach to delivering gene therapy to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, was revealed in research findings published in the February 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UCSF neuroscientist Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz has developed a promising way to get nerve cells to help disperse gene therapy to targeted brain cells. He uses a technique called convection-enhanced delivery. The fluid containing the gene therapy is injected under pressure, delivered in pulses. Says Bankiewicz:

For the first time, specific regions of the cortex can be supplied with therapeutic agents by targeting defined regions of the thalamus…Translational experiments now are in progress to evaluate the potential of this unique gene delivery technology for the treatment of cortical dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease…

Bankiewicz’s research at UCSF has a strong focus on the development of practical approaches to gene and cell replacement therapies; he synthesizes several individual technologies into powerful new approaches to the treatment of such serious disease as brain cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Science Cafe