UB’s CTSI Community Partnership Development Seed Grant

The University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) provides seed grants that support the planning of community-based participatory research projects and engagement of communities in research.
The goal of these awards is to increase the number of community-academic partnerships that are prepared to collaborate on the design and implementation of research projects, specifically those that address health disparities, aim to improve health equity, and generate preliminary data for submission of larger grants to intramural and extramural sources. Seed grants not exceeding $5,000 will be awarded to academic-community teams for:

  • Development of community-engaged research partnerships
  • Collaboration on the design of pilot research
  • Development of community-engaged research proposals for external funding

Letters of Intent are due by March 9, 2020. Selected LOIs will be invited to submit full proposals based on criteria outlined in the RFP.

CLICK HERE for more information!

The Future of Medicine Book Inspired by the Jacobs Institute

Western New York may seem an unlikely place to invent the future of medicine. But in fact, Western New York—and the many communities like us around the country—are where the real battle over the future will take place.

While we are not home to the biggest pharmaceutical companies, nor are we the home of famous biotech and healthcare unicorns, we are where their creations are inevitably headed. Silicon Valley may be their pilot market, but places like Western New York are their proving ground. As you’ll see in Trickle-Up Innovation (p. 28), breakthroughs can—and, increasingly, will—hwp-contenten everywhere. But no matter where an innovation originates, until it works on Main Street, under our constraints, the future of medicine hasn’t really arrived.

Our challenges in Western New York are typical of so many other places around the country. With 2 million people, we are plenty big—so we’re no small challenge. Few in our community have the wealth reserves to pay for super-premium care; the vast majority have to accept what their insurance alone can cover. The health of our population shows the wear and tear of long winters, lives spent working on our feet and a steady diet of hearty but not heart-healthy comfort food. We’re aging, and presenting the typical signs that go hand in hand with aging—higher rates of stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

L. Nelson “Nick” Hopkins, MD, FACS Founder & Chief Scientific Officer The Jacobs Institute

Those of us who take care of this com- munity feel deeply invested. We care not just for our patients, but for the greater community and the healthcare system itself, across all providers. We’ve built the Jacobs Institute on the premise that fostering innovation is the most important thing we can do to ensure improved quality of care for current and future generations. We commissioned this report to rally and prepare local medical communities for the impending future. Our hope is that this report brings the stakeholders in our community and yours to the table to form long-term strategic innovation plans.

The report accurately describes the current state of affairs in major cities, and it wp-contentlies here. Providers are swamped with new mandated reporting requirements and are competing at too many levels, from primary care through specializations, rather than focusing on what they do best in the market, and getting ever better and more efficient at it. Our brands lack clarity, so patients feel confused and uninformed. All this accomplishes is slowly leaking market share to outsiders. Today, it’s patients choosing to get care down in Pittsburgh—or at Walmart. Soon, as the report warns, it’ll be national and global health brands reaching out to our patient population with virtual care. The same way Amazon has run roughshod over retailers’ business models, it—or Google, or Apple—could suddenly turn healthcare on its head by digitizing medicine at scale.

As mighty a challenge as it was to gaze into the years ahead and envision med- icine’s future, the even harder work will be done here, locally. It’s somewhat like solving a Rubik’s Cube—you understand what it’s supposed to get to, but it’s a puzzle to get there, one twist at a time. As you read this report, we encourage you to ponder how the future depicted creates new opportunities and might shape our strategic development plans for the years ahead.

Download the Report

Buffalo Building a Biomedical Powerhouse

Buffalo Building a Biomedical Powerhouse

Buffalo Business First

Observers say there are several reasons why a cluster of ambitious biomedical companies emerged on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

It partly has to do with investments in local facilities such as the University at Buffalo’s Center for Computational Research, the local center for big data projects.

It also is owed to general technological advances, allowing researchers to turn their science into more specific medical testing and more effective cures.

And it has to do with an evolving economy of entrepreneurship in Buffalo, which is finally turning research hotbeds such as UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute into engines of economic growth.

“It’s the computing power along with the science and the confluence of all those facilities that are allowing this to occur,” said Kim Grant, a UB business development executive who works with emerging companies.

Those who are paying attention, such as Grant, recognize an obvious trend in biomedical entrepreneurship in Buffalo. There are more companies being founded, gaining funding and building out real businesses rather than just research projects.

One of the breakouts is Athenex, which was established out of UB in 2002 but more recently raised more than $200 million and is leveraging significant government subsidies to build factories in China and Western New York. Company officials are aggressively pursuing an international strategy to design and manufacture cancer therapies.

But it’s not just about one company. Buffalo now hosts dozens of high-tech companies attacking many sides of the medical industry. Companies that are pursuing cancer therapies which direct chemicals directly to tumors won both the UB Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (POP Biotechnologies) and the 43North competition (Oncolinx).

They join the list of growing personalized cancer companies that includes Roswell spin-offs OmniSeq, Photolitec and MimiVax; and For-Robin, out of UB.

Meanwhile, a Buffalo Billion program directed multimillion-dollar grants to two companies in 2016, Garwood Medical Devices and Circuit Clinical. Both are located downtown.

Garwood raised $3.6 million in venture capital in 2016 while Circuit Clinical raised more than $1 million.

Then there are the companies tackling medical testing, such as Empire Genomics, AccuTheranostics and Disease Diagnostic Group.

And that’s just an unscientific sampling of the young companies sprinkled throughout facilities on the medical campus or based near UB’s Amherst footprint, some of which were founded here and others that were recruited.

So when Grant goes to trade shows in Boston or New York City, she doesn’t hear snow jokes anymore, she gets genuine interest.

Local experts are starting to make bold comparisons about historical precedents for the Buffalo medical ecosystem. Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg, an entrepreneur who was a professor at Harvard University before he was recruited to become surgery chair at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, recently said Buffalo looks like Boston in the late 1980s just before it became an international biomedical powerhouse.

And Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute CEO Edward Snell said Buffalo is starting to resemble the Stanford area in California, where a long history of top-notch research blossomed dramatically into a worldwide medical and tech hotbed.

“You’re seeing the same thing in Buffalo, a mixture of industry, academia and clinical experts all in the same area,” Snell said. “We’re seeing incremental growth but we’re nowhere near saturation point yet.”

He said the final key is pulling in more private investment. There are a handful of investment groups that actively consider seed funding for medical companies in Buffalo. But these types of companies often require major capital infusions to catalyze their growth.

Snell said he’s optimistic.

“I see a steady increase in venture capital and federal research funding,” he said. “And I think you’re going to see quite a few stories about that in the not-too-distant future.”

UB, Empire Genomics Partner with Life Technologies to Accelerate Innovative, Genetics-based Clinical Research in WNY

Collaboration Will Strengthen Regional Life Sciences Industry

Empire Genomics, Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) and the University at Buffalo (UB) will embark on a new partnership to develop world-class gene sequencing facilities for genetics-based clinical research on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The collaboration capitalizes on each organization’s strengths to help establish a new standard for genomic research in Western New York and continue to grow the life sciences sector of the region’s economy.

Life Technologies, a global provider of biotechnology products and services, will provide state-of-the-art genome sequencing equipment enabling UB and Empire Genomics to establish their initial set up of Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified sequencing facilities on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The advanced sequencing technology available from Life Technologies, combined with the expertise of UB researchers and the Empire Genomics team, will help clinical researchers develop new diagnostic tests that, in the future, could enable physicians to prescribe treatments tailored to each individual based on genetic make-up.

“We are very pleased that after carefully looking at all of the alternatives, the University at Buffalo and Empire Genetics decided that Ion semiconductor sequencing was the best platform to help them reach their goal of advancing genetics-based clinical research, and ultimately driving growth in the life sciences industry in Western New York,” said Mark Stevenson, president and chief operating officer at Life Technologies.

Achieving CLIA certification will enhance and expand the services Empire Genomics and UB provide to clients across the globe, and holds the promise of spawning new diagnostic tests for a number of diseases or conditions. The results will eventually lead to new tools to deliver better health care while growing new jobs in Western New York.

“This collaboration is a great example of the impact that can be made when industry and academic partners work together toward shared goals,” said Marnie LaVigne, PhD, associate vice president for economic development at UB. “We look forward to continuing to partner with Life Technologies and Empire Genomics on these efforts to support the advancement of genetics-based clinical research and the life sciences as key economic drivers in our region.”

The CLIA-certified laboratories will be set up at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and at the downtown Buffalo headquarters of Empire Genomics, a provider of genetics-based research and testing services.

“Genetics-based diagnostics will play a major role in developing personalized medicine, and that in turn will create new job opportunities in Western New York,” said Norma J. Nowak, PhD, founder and chief scientific officer at Empire Genomics and director of science and technology at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. “Leveraging our combined strengths will ensure that we remain at the forefront of technological and research capabilities while making greater long-term contributions to the public health.”

*All products referenced are for Research Use Only and not intended for use in diagnostic procedures, unless otherwise noted.

Kerry Jones Waring (UB CoE);  kerryjon@buffalo.edu
;716.881.7997

Media Coverage:

Collaboration Brings Genetic Testing to Med Campus

UB, Life-sciences Firms Partner on Gene Sequencing

 

 

UB Researchers Have Developed and Validated a New Diagnostic Test for Chronic Sinusitis

The new test will provide chronic sinusitis patients with a definitive diagnosis for the first time

Clinical studies conducted at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have completed the clinical development of the first immunologic test for diagnosing chronic rhinosinusitis.

The new test, which is being launched this month nationwide by Immco Diagnostics of Amherst, N.Y., makes it possible, for the first time, to definitively diagnose the condition. Immco Diagnostics licensed the test from the Mayo Clinic, where the researchers, who later joined UB, first developed and patented it.

“This is a game-changer,” says Jens U. Ponikau, MD, clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology at UB, who led the university’s clinical trials on the new test with David A. Sherris, MD, professor and chair of the UB Department of Otolaryngology, and Kishore Malyavantham, PhD, of Immco. “It provides physicians with a way to precisely identify what kind of inflammation is present in the nose and can help guide their treatment wp-contentroach.”

Chronic rhinosinusitis is one of the most common chronic diseases in the U.S., with more than 30 million sufferers, about 14 percent of the population. There are no wp-contentroved drugs or treatments that target chronic rhinosinusitis, mainly, Ponikau says, because physicians have not had sufficient insight into what causes it.

“The symptoms for chronic rhinosinusitis include long-term nasal congestion, thick mucus, headache, loss of sense of smell and opportunistic bacterial infections, most of which are similar to other common conditions,” Ponikau says. “So is it a year-round allergy, a deviated septum, the common cold, some recurrent bacterial infection or chronic sinusitis? Until now, there were few ways to tell.”

Some patients have even undergone endoscopic surgery in hopes of getting some relief, but often the disease comes back after surgery, he says.

While working at the Mayo Clinic, Ponikau and Sherris made the discovery that chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is an immunologic condition in which rare white blood cells called eosinophils travel through the nasal skin into the mucus, where they release a toxic protein called major basic protein (MBP), damaging tissue and causing symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic patented the discovery as a clinical test and Ponikau and Sherris brought the research to Western New York when they were recruited to UB in 2003 to reestablish its program in otolaryngology, a specialty focusing on the ear, nose and throat.

“The major basic protein is specific only to chronic rhinosinusitis and does not wp-contentear in acute sinusitis, allergy or the common cold,” explains Ponikau, “but we and researchers at other centers around the world had to confirm this.”

“Patients afflicted with CRS show a specific kind of airway inflammation, which is usually not caused by bacterial infection,” says Lakshmanan Suresh, PhD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences in the UB School of Dental Medicine and vice president of R&D and clinical services at Immco. “Our CRS test shows inflammation elicited due to fungus and is helpful in identifying patients where antibiotic therapy may not be helpful.”

In February, the New York State Department of Health provided regulatory wp-contentroval for the test to measure MBP in nasal mucus.

The test can be performed in a physician’s office. A sample of nasal mucus is taken from a patient and is then sent to Immco Diagnostics for analysis, which will typically take a few days.

Physicians who want to obtain the test should contact Dr. Suresh at Immco at 716-691-0091 ext. 312 or ext. 149.

Ellen Goldbaum (UB); goldbaum@buffalo.edu; 716.645.4605

Insulin Fights Inflammation and Even Small Amounts of Glucose Trigger it in Type 1 Diabetics

Findings of small UB study are significant for understanding, treating infections in Type 1 diabetics

A small University at Buffalo (UB) study has found for the first time that in Type 1 diabetics, insulin injections exert a strong anti-inflammatory effect at the cellular and molecular level, while even small amounts of glucose result in “profound inflammation.”

The findings show that in Type 1 diabetics, insulin has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. This effect essentially suppresses the important pro-inflammatory protein called HMG-B1, which facilitates the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines (messenger proteins) that induce even further inflammation when secreted and released by the injured cell.

The work builds on previous research by the investigators in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which showed that insulin had the same anti-inflammatory effect in obese and Type 2 diabetes patients, but it highlights some important differences.

According to the paper, published in February in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, insulin’s anti-inflammatory effect takes longer to occur in Type 1 diabetics, about six hours, as opposed to two hours in Type 2 diabetics and obese patients. It also took about six hours for inflammatory markers known as reactive oxygen species to wp-contentear in Type 1 diabetics after glucose infusion whereas it took wp-contentroximately one to two hours in Type 2 diabetics and obese patients.

“The reason for this delayed response to insulin and glucose in Type 1 diabetes patients is not clear and requires further investigation,” says Paresh Dandona, MD, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine; chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism in the UB medical school; and first author on the study. “It is possible that these patients have a more intense level of inflammation, which requires a greater effort to induce a change.”

Another significant difference was found when the Type 1 diabetics were infused with glucose alone. While Type 2 diabetics and obese patients demonstrated no changes in glucose concentrations when administered small amounts of glucose, there was a small but significant increase in glucose concentrations in the Type 1 diabetics.

“The infusion of small amounts of glucose, 5 grams per hour over four hours, leads to a profound inflammatory effect, including the generation of the HMG-B1 protein,” says Dandona. “Since 20 grams of glucose is the equivalent of just four teaspoonfuls of sugar, this has extremely important implications for Type 1 diabetics.”

According to Dandona, even relatively small and brief increases in glucose concentrations induce an increase in the expression of inflammatory markers, such as toll-like receptors (proteins that play a key role in the innate immune system) and others at the cellular and molecular level in Type 1 diabetics, because they have no insulin reserve.

“Our findings show that even a small amount of carbohydrate cannot be tolerated by Type 1 diabetics without the protection of injectable insulin even over a short period of time without the risk of inflammation,” he says. “This has profound implications for the severity of inflammation in patients with infections and in terms of taking insulin before meals.”

In the study, 10 Type 1 diabetics received either insulin infusions of two units per hour with 100 milliliters of dextrose per hour or just the dextrose, following an overnight fast. Blood samples were collected at intervals of zero, two, four and six hours after the infusions.

In the group that received insulin plus dextrose, markers of inflammation were suppressed and blood sugar readings stayed normal, at around 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter).

But those who received just dextrose experienced a blood sugar spike from 115 mg/dl after fasting to 215 mg/dl at four and six hours, as well as an increase in the generation of key inflammatory markers. These include reactive oxygen species and several toll-like receptors, which may be involved in inflammatory processes, including gram positive and gram negative infections, metabolic inflammation as associated with obesity and diabetes and atherosclerosis.

“We were interested in these inflammatory markers in particular because although Type 1 diabetics are already being treated with insulin injections, they can be susceptible to infections and other inflammatory conditions, which lead to very serious, even life-threatening, complications, such as septicemia,” he said.

“Based on these observations, we are now beginning a study on meals taken with and without insulin in Type 1 diabetics, so that we can better understand what missing even a single insulin injection at mealtime means to a Type 1 diabetic patient,” he concludes.

Co-authors with Dandona, all from UB, are Husam Ghanim, MD, research assistant professor; Kelly Green and Chang Ling Sia, research assistants; Sanaa Abuaysheh, research associate; Nitesh Kuhadiya, MD, UB medical resident; Manav Batra, UB medical resident; Sandeep Dhindsa, MD, and Ajay Chaudhari, MD, both formerly associate professors at UB.

Ellen Goldbaum (UB); goldbaum@buffalo.edu; 716.645.4605

American Cancer Society Seeks Participants for Cancer Prevention Study

To better understand ways to prevent cancer, the American Cancer Society is recruiting men and women across the US and Puerto Rico for a landmark new research study – Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3). Enrollment is being made possible in partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on Wednesday, June 19th at Roswell Park’s Gaylord Cary Conference Room from 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Individuals may choose to participate if they are willing to make a long-term commitment to the study (which involves completing follow-up surveys periodically over the next 20-30 years), are between the ages of 30 and 65 years old and have never been diagnosed with cancer. For more information, visit www.cps3buffalo.org, call 1-888-604-5888 or e-mail mcps3@cancer.org.

CANCER

Light Smokers Benefit from Nicotine-Replacement Medications

75% of smokers in Roswell Park-led study said offer of free cessation medication ‘very important’ to quit effort

Light daily smokers, those who smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes per day, have greater success quitting when provided stop-smoking medications and assisted by counselors. Those are the key conclusions of research conducted by scientists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and the Medical University of South Carolina and published in the latest issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

While the number of light smokers is increasing, most studies have focused on the benefits of counseling and nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) for moderate and heavy smokers. This study found that light smokers who contacted a telephone quitline are typically interested in using NRT and achieve higher quit rates than those who were not offered NRT.

“While many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of nicotine medications for smoking cessation, very few have examined these questions in lighter smokers, as we have done,” says Martin Mahoney, PhD, MD, Associate Professor in the departments of Health Behavior and Medicine at RPCI and senior study author. “A unique strength of this study is the use of an experimental design implemented in a real world community setting of a state quitline.”

The study evaluated long-term quitting success among 1,365 adult tobacco users who smoked less than 10 cigarettes daily and who contacted the New York State Smokers’ Quitline for assistance between January and July 2010. All smokers received two calls from trained stop-smoking counselors, and about half of the smokers were provided with stop-smoking medications.

Nearly all the light smokers offered the free nicotine medications wanted the medications, and 75% of smokers rated the offer of a free supply of NRT as very important to their quit effort. The quit rates measured at seven months were 20% higher in the group offered the NRT (33%) compared with those who received only counseling (27.2%).

“These findings demonstrate that low-level daily smokers are interested in and benefit from using NRT when they make a quit attempt,” said Laurie Krupski, first author on the study and a Training and Development Coordinator in the Department of Health Behavior at RPCI.

“Smoking cessation is a highly cost-effective intervention because the health consequences of smoking are enormously expensive and compound over time. This study demonstrates that quitline counseling in combination with NRT is a good return on investment,” said K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina.

This work was supported in part by the New York State Department of Health and by the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Support Grant to RPCI (P30CA016056).

The study, “Nicotine Replacement Therapy Distribution to Light Daily Smokers Calling a Quitline,” is available at http://goo.gl/dUiio.

Annie Deck-Miller, RPCI Senior Media Relations Manager; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org; 716.845.859

UB Helps to Launch Two Zimbabwe National Programs

UB Helps to Launch two Zimbabwe National Programs in Nanotechnology and HIV/AIDS Eradication

What does it take to launch two major international HIV/AIDS research initiatives involving the University at Buffalo (UB) and the University of Zimbabwe?

It requires attention to issues as diverse as working with government officials, choosing the right scientists, establishing ethics in research, training for quality control and good laboratory practices, transferring paper patient records into electronic formats and understanding how different cultures respond to serious illness and treatment.

And it requires face-to-face information exchange and planning.

Morse-ZimbabweA UB-led research team recently traveled to Zimbabwe to participate in a week-long program of workshops that included the formal launch of two Zimbabwe national programs: the Zimbabwe International Nanotechnology Center (ZINC) and the Zimbabwe Evidence-To-Action (ETA), an implementation project to eradicate HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.

With 14 percent of Zimbabwe's population living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as a co-infection, the need for new drugs and new formulations of available treatments is crucial.

UB’s role in the ZINC partnership is to provide training to young scientists and students in Zimbabwe in multiple areas within nanotechnology. The trip to Zimbabwe included identifying research areas of common interest to Zimbabwe and prioritizing them according to the country’s needs.

UB has built a partnership with Zimbabwe over seven years through an NIH Fogarty International Center program.

Paras Prasad, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering; Samuel P. Capen Chair of Chemistry and executive director of UB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB), and Gene Morse, PharmD, professor and associate director of  the UB Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences headthe UB-ZINC collaboration.

“There was an incredible feeling of optimism and high energy toward both initiatives,” said Morse.

The week began with the second Zimbabwe National Nanotechnology Consultative Meeting on March 18 – 19.

Prasad, who will direct the international nanotechnology contributions for ZINC, gave the keynote address.

Morse, who will direct the international nanomedicine component of ZINC, presented the role that UB and the CoE will play in ZINC. Other participating UB faculty included Stanley Schwartz, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Peter Horvath, PhD, associate professor of exercise physiology and nutrition.

Background and details of ZINC were provided during presentations from the minister for science and technology development (MSTD), the Honorable Professor Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, UB alumnus, Chiedza Maponga, PharmD, technical director for nanotechnology (MSTD) and director of the UZ School of Pharmacy, and Josephat Zimba, Technical Consultant to the MSTD on nanotechnology. Additional presentations from Professor Levi Nyagura, UZ Vice Chancellor, and Professor David Simbi, CUT Vice Chancellor, described the leadership roles for their universities.

The week continued with a two-day workshop on March 20 – 21 for the ETA Project.

Hosted by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the first day summarized:

  • Recent compelling data that provide the rationale for preventing HIV transmission through pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment as prevention (TaSP)
  • The national statistics for prevention of mother-to-child transmission and pediatric HIV infection
  • HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 and the dramatic results obtained in discordant couples when the HIV-infected partner was treated early after infection leading to a reduced transmission rate
  • The need for a strategy to provide treatment to key populations with HIV infection including high risk groups such as prisoners, men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers and pregnant women.

At a concurrent workshop, Robin DiFrancesco, manager of the UB Clinical Pharmacology Quality Assurance Program (CPQA) and an AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) mentor, provided lectures focused on building laboratory skills and bioanalytical method development.

In a second afternoon workshop, Kathleen Tooley, senior research support specialist in the UB Translational Pharmacology Research Core, and Education and Operations Administrator for CPQA and AITRP, and an AITRP mentor, moderated a group at the UZ College of Health Sciences to address challenges in research ethics and research administration for faculty and students who will conduct research within ETA.

Morse chaired the second day of the workshop and provided a presentation on the progress of the UB-UZ AITRP. Highlights included a review of the Training Advisory Group and the recently established Scientific Advisory Board, new research programs, nutritional and traditional medicine pharmacology, clinical pharmacology and healthcare informatics.

The second half of the morning program was chaired by Morse and focused on Bioinformatics and Health Information Technology (HIT) required for the ETA infrastructure in collaboration with the Zimbabwean health care system.

In the HIV Nutrition Pharmacology working group, Horvath and faculty and graduate students from the Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry discussed nutritional considerations for the ETA project.

Horvath also provided a seminar on March 25 for the UZ Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry titled “Nutritional Aspects of HIV Infection and Treatment.”

Morse was pleased with the results achieved during the visit.

“I was very proud that a country that has faced so many challenges to advancing the health of the nation and plan for scientific and economic growth was linked to the UB-UZ AITRP and the efforts that have been put forward over the last seven years.”

Morse said that the UB team’s visit contributed to two Zimbabwean national initiatives and conducted numerous sessions, workshops and small group meetings.

“The outcome created a new level of collaboration, reaching beyond university campuses to the highest levels of government ministries as well as community programs. This extensive spectrum of research and education programs has been built on the strong AITRP link between UZ and UB,” he said.

The events were jointly sponsored by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare; the University at Buffalo – University of Zimbabwe (UZ) AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) and the UZ – UB International Pharmacotherapy Education and Research Initiative (IPERI).

Sara R. Saldi (UB); saldi@buffalo.edu; 716.645.4593

*Photo courtesy of UB: Breakfast meeting with UB-UZ AITRP fellows and families and UB's Gene Morse, Robin DiFrancesco (both upper left), Kelly Tooley (AITRP Education and Operations Coordinator) and Amy Moss (current UB HIV Resident and AITRP Mentor). Dr. Maponga is left next to Dr. Morse.

New Biotech Companies Move Into Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Banner Letterhead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 11, 2013

For more information, contact:

Contact Kari Bonaro
kbonaro@bnmc-old.local, 716.218.7157

(BUFFALO, NY) – The Thomas R. Beecher, Jr. Innovation Center is pleased to welcome Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) spin-off companies Tartis Aging, Inc., and OncoTartis, Inc., as its newest tenants. The companies will occupy a combined 5,700 sq. ft. of wet lab and office space on the fourth floor of the building. Approximately half of this space will be built up as the companies continue to grow in size.

OncoTartis and Tartis Aging are discovery-stage biotechnology companies seeking novel anti-cancer and anti-aging drugs. Their proprietary technologies are licensed from the laboratories of Andrei Gudkov, PhD, from RPCI.

Dr. Gudkov was recruited to Buffalo by RPCI and other local partners in 2007. He moved his research lab and his first commercial company, Cleveland BioLabs, Inc. (CBLI), from the Cleveland Clinic to serve as Senior Vice President of Basic Science and Chair of the Department of Cell Stress Biology at Roswell Park.

The laboratory building at 73 High Street, shared with Cleveland BioLabs, Inc., had been the first home for both corporations. With 15 employees and a growing portfolio, the two companies have outgrown the space available on High Street but wanted to remain on the BNMC.

“We are very hwp-contenty to find space in the Innovation Center, which allows us to expand our research and at the same time continue to be close to our colleagues at CBLI and Roswell Park,” said Aleksandra Kotlyarova, Director of Operations for both companies.

“OncoTartis and Tartis Aging are perfect examples of what we need to see more of here in Buffalo,” said Patrick J. Whalen, Chief Operating Officer of the BNMC, Inc., which owns and operates the Innovation Center. “Dr. Gudkov and Cleveland BioLabs moved to the BNMC several years ago to better collaborate with Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and thanks to the groundbreaking research at Roswell Park, they continue to grow and spin off companies, creating more jobs and economic-development opportunities in Buffalo as they evolve.”

About the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) is dedicated to the cultivation of a world-class medical campus for clinical care, research, education, and entrepreneurship on 120 acres in downtown Buffalo. It is home to the region’s top clinical, research, and medical education institutions, including: the University at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Olmsted Center for Sight, Kaleida Health, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Buffalo Medical Group, Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Unyts, and the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care. There are over 40 public and private companies on the BNMC. More than 12,000 people come to work at the Medical Campus every day, and BNMC institutions see over one million patients and visitors annually. The Campus has an annual economic impact of $1.5 billion on the region. The Medical Campus consists of more than 6 million square feet of research, clinical, and support space.  bnmc-old.local

About Roswell Park Cancer Institute

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

About the Thomas R. Beecher Innovation Center

The Thomas R. Beecher, Jr. Innovation Center, located at 640 Ellicott Street in downtown Buffalo, is a LEED-certified research and development space housing life sciences and biotech companies, as well as companies offering support services like IP attorneys, talent acquisition, sales, and marketing. This state-of-the art facility is designed to accommodate small to medium companies seeking office, wet lab and/or research space, on a month-to-month basis or via longer term leases, located in the heart of the thriving Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. There are currently 40 companies located in the building.

The Innovation Center is owned and operated by the BNMC, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that fosters conversation and collaboration among its member institutions, their 12,000 employees, and the community; coordinates activities related to sustainable planning, development and enhancement of its 120-acre space; and works to create a distinct, innovative environment that provides opportunities for entrepreneurship and active and healthy living.

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Brain Imaging to Identify Physical Reasons Why IBS Symptoms Improve with Drug-free Treatments

UB researchers and colleagues will correlate objective measures of brain changes with patients’ reports of relief from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

Patients who suffer from the painful, often disabling, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often are surprised to find that behavioral changes, not drugs, provide significant relief. Jeffrey Lackner

Now, researchers at the University at Buffalo who have pioneered some of these behavioral treatments, along with colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Northwestern University, are using functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to reveal the biological basis for the relief. The research could help doctors choose the best treatment method for individual patients and could improve the quality of life for millions of people with IBS.

“We’re going to look at biological mechanisms that underlie these non-drug treatments, to discover what is going on in the brain that explains treatment benefits achieved by teaching patients specific skills to control and reduce their symptoms,” says Jeffrey M. Lackner, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a project principal investigator. “By using a brain scan to compare brain activity before and after treatment, we expect to get a picture of changes in the brain that correspond to improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms.”

The work is funded by a $2.3 million grant to UCLA, the lead institution; Northwestern; and UB by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It builds on the work of UCLA researchers at its Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress and a pilot neuroimaging study conducted by Lackner and colleagues at UB.

The brain imaging study came about partly as a result of a major, $8.9 million, seven-year, multi-site clinical trial Lackner is leading at UB to test behavioral treatments in IBS patients. It is the largest IBS clinical trial conducted to date and one of the largest behavioral trials ever funded by the NIH without a drug component. Developed at UB, these treatments are regarded as some of the most powerful treatments available to IBS sufferers.

Lackner is currently recruiting IBS patients for the behavioral and imaging studies at the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of the UB Department of Medicine at Erie County Medical Center. For more information on participating in one of the studies, call 716-898-4458 and leave a name, telephone number and convenient times to be contacted.

IBS is among the most common, disabling and intractable gastrointestinal disorders. Twice as common among women as men, it is estimated to affect between 25 million and 50 million Americans. Symptoms include pain, stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation.

“We’re excited about the possibility of providing the first evidence for biological markers that correlate with treatment-induced symptom changes, and developing a better understanding of the mechanism behind IBS,” says Lackner. “Such cutting-edge translational research is going to help foster individualized, specific treatments for patients.”

One treatment developed at UB aims to control symptoms by changing specific thinking patterns and behaviors found to aggravate IBS. Using state-of-the-art brain-imaging methods, UCLA researchers, under the leadership of Emeran Mayer, MD, hope to identify the biological mechanisms underlying their effectiveness. Mayer is a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA, director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and principal investigator of the imaging study.

Scientists believe that IBS symptoms are the result of dysregulation of brain-gut interactions, resulting in abnormal muscle contractions in the gut and heightened sensitivity to painful stimuli.

“Just as faulty wiring between the neural connection of the brain and gut can bring on symptoms, so learning new ways of thinking and behaving may ‘rewire’ brain-gut interactions, resulting in reduced pain and bowel symptoms that otherwise take a major toll on patients,” says Lackner. “Determining whether behavioral treatments work by targeting specific areas of the brain that have a direct effect on gut function and sensation is a major goal of this study.”

Correlating structural brain changes with symptom reduction is, for both Lackner and Mayer, a primary goal that they say will demonstrate an ‘organic’ component to IBS, which is critical. “IBS is often unfairly dismissed as a psychosomatic condition,” says Mayer. “These findings will be important in dispelling the notion once and for all that IBS symptoms are not real and are ‘only psychological.’”

Lackner’s UB’s colleagues on the study include Michael Sitrin, MD, professor, Christopher Radziwon, PhD, research assistant professor, Greg Gudleski, PhD, clinical research assistant professor, Leonard Katz, MD, professor emeritus and Rebecca Firth, senior research support specialist, all in the Department of Medicine and Susan Krasner, PhD, clinical assistant professor of anesthesiology.

Ellen Goldbaum (UB); goldbaum@buffalo.edu; 716.645.4605

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Honors Researchers Making a Difference

A group of innovative and influential tycoons came together to form the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions in the life sciences field. The most lucrative prize offered for any academic achievement in the world, the first group to receive the annual Breakthrough Prize included 11 recipients, all scientists, in February. The awardees received $3 million and recognition for their “excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.”
Lauretes included:

  • Cornelia I. Bargmann – For the genetics of neural circuits and behavior, and synaptic guidepost molecules.
  • David Botstein – For linkage mwp-contenting of Mendelian disease in humans using DNA polymorphisms.
  • Lewis C. Cantley – For the discovery of PI 3-Kinase and its role in cancer metabolism.
  • Hans Clevers – For describing the role of Wnt signaling in tissue stem cells and cancer.
  • Napoleone Ferrara – For discoveries in the mechanisms of angiogenesis that led to therapies for cancer and eye diseases.
  • Titia de Lange – For research on telomeres, illuminating how they protect chromosome ends and their role in genome instability in cancer.
  • Eric S. Lander – For the discovery of general principles for identifying human disease genes, and enabling their wp-contentlication to medicine through the creation and analysis of genetic, physical and sequence maps of the human genome.
  • Charles L. Sawyers – For cancer genes and targeted therapy.
  • Bert Vogelstein – For cancer genomics and tumor suppressor genes.
  • Robert A. Weinberg – For characterization of human cancer genes.
  • Shinya Yamanaka – For induced pluripotent stem cells.

Russian venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Yuri Milner, established the prize along with additional founding sponsors Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki and Mark Zuckerberg. All accomplished Internet and business gurus in their own right, the group has already guaranteed that the prize be presented for the next 5 years.

Life sciences companies including those involved with biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and biomedicine are coming up with innovative and effective ways to treat different types of cancer. Academic and health care institutions are leading research efforts to use genomics to identify personalized medicine. With all of the developments taking place on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus alone, it is easy to understand why it is important to recognize the individuals making life-enhancing discoveries. The Prize is public validation that the work being done in labs, under the microscopes, in the manufacturing companies and during simulations is highly valued and respected.

“I believe this new prize will shine a light on the extraordinary achievements of the outstanding minds in the field of life sciences, enhance medical innovation, and ultimately become a platform for recognizing future discoveries,” said Art Levinson. In addition to his current position as Chairman of both the Apple Inc. and Genentech Boards, Levinson will serve as the Chairman of the Board of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Bound to spark an influx of submissions for consideration since any third party can nominate a researcher or scientist for the Prize, the major qualification is that it must recognize a major achievement, with special attention to recent developments. A person can win the Prize any number of times and there are no age requirements. The Prize can also be shared amongst a group of people.

In realizing that the next generations will lead the development of the next big breakthrough, the Prize is a recognition well-deserved for those whose jobs may not be as glamorous or well-known. It will serve as one more way to shed light on how impactful and relevant scientists and researchers are and will open the door for more students to take interest in pursuing those career paths.

International Partnership to Train and Educate Future Nanotechnologists in Zimbabwe

The University at Buffalo (UB) welcomed Minister of Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe, Professor Heneri Dzinotyiweyi to Buffalo to tour its Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB) and New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CoE). Both research facilities will play a role in the international academic partnership with the University of Zimbabwe and Chinhoyi University of Technology.
Receiving the award to establish a Fogarty International Center AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) in 2009, UB professor, CoE associate director, and director of Translational Pharmacy Research Gene D. Morse, PharmD and collaborators set out to use the award for its intended purpose, providing education and training for HIV-related research in low- and middle-income countries.

UB Robin DiFrancesco, Zimbabwe Minister, Dr. Dzinotyiweyi, and Charles Chiedza MapongaThrough the Zimbabwe International Nanotechnology Center (ZINC), the collaboration will primarily serve as a nanotechnology research program where UB will help educate and train young researchers at the University of Zimbabwe  and the Chinhoyi University of Technology to wp-contently nanotechnology to treat and prevent prevalent diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the south-African country. Nanotechnology is molecular manufacturing on a 100 nanometer or smaller scale. Nano-particles (particles with dimensions less than 100 nanometers) have become important to the equation of new HIV/AIDS drug development because they can provide effective treatment options with shortened duration of therapy, reduced systemic side effects and limited development of drug resistance.

With 14 percent of Zimbabwe’s population living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as a co-infection, the need for new drugs and new formulations of available treatments is crucial.

To prepare for ZINC implementation and discuss logistics, Morse and Paras Prasad, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering and Samuel P. Capen Chair of Chemistry invited Professor Dzinotyiweyi to Western New York. “Professor Dzinotyiweyi’s visits to the ILPB, as well as the center, provided an opportunity for faculty leaders, regional scientists and public officials to discuss the recently announced international collaboration of UB and ZINC,” says Morse.

A public symposium will take place in Harare, Zimbabwe on March 18th and 19th. The symposium will include representatives from government, academia and the community. Meetings in Zimbabwe and Buffalo are scheduled to help all participants continue to get acquainted.

A future hope is to develop partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, drawing private-sector investments. In addition to that goal, a positive effect on economic development is expected to take place in Western New York and in Zimbabwe.

Roswell Park Study Finds Substantial Use of E-Cigarettes by Smokers

Nearly 80% of smokers who use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, believe the devices are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and authored by a team of scientists led by Richard O’Connor, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology and Director of the Tobacco Research Laboratory at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI).
“This study offers a snapshot in time on the use of e-cigarettes from mid-2010 to mid-2011 and examines awareness, use and product-associated beliefs among current and former cigarette smokers in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom,” said Dr. O’Connor.

Nearly 6,000 adult smokers from the four largest English-speaking countries participated in the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey. Study results include:

  • Overall, 46.6% of those surveyed were aware of e-cigarettes (US: 73%, UK: 54%, Canada: 40%, Australia: 20%)
  • Younger, non-minority, heavy smokers with higher incomes were more likely to be aware of e-cigarettes.
  • Younger, non-daily smokers and those who believe e-cigarettes to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes were four times more likely to try e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarette use was higher among non-daily smokers and those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day.
  • 79.8% of smokers believe using e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes.
  • 85% of current e-cigarette users indicate that they are using the devices as a tool to help them quit smoking, yet only 11% had successfully stopped smoking.

“This study provides valuable insights into the use and attitudes surrounding e-cigarettes among smokers,” adds Dr. O’Connor. “However, questions remain regarding the impact of these devices in nonsmokers, such as what potential exists to induce nicotine addiction in non-smokers and/or maintain addiction in current smokers who might otherwise stop smoking.”

Regarding future steps, the researchers suggest that the net impact of e-cigarettes on public health be examined. If evidence shows that e-cigarettes reduce the number of cigarette smokers and do not attract use among nonsmokers, they note, then the net public health effect is likely to be positive.

The study, “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems International Tobacco Control Four-Country Survey,” will be published online today at http://www.ajpmonline.org.

Annie Deck-Miller, RPCI Senior Media Relations Manager; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org; 716-845-8593

 

Roswell Park's Center for Personalized Medicine

center-personalized-medicine-press-conference.2013-01-30-35Roswell Park Cancer Institute‘s (RPCI) new 5,000-square-foot facility, the Center for Personalized Medicine (CPM), will provide individualized therapies for patients through genetic code sequencing (an analysis of genomes – the entire inherited genetic makeup of humans). Using state-of-the-art, next-generation technology, advanced research has led to the identification of unique genetic characteristics that will help determine effective and custom treatments for patients with certain diseases. Utilizing high-throughput screening for drug discovery, personal gene sequence machines and a 1,600-processor supercomputing cluster, the RPCI team will efficiently be able analyze individual genome data.
Located within RPCI’s Center for Genetics & Pharmacology, the Center will also act as a resource for scientists and medical providers to use for national clinical care wp-contentlication. In addition to having a mobile unit, the CPM is the first regional resource for next-generation gene sequencing to have met federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) requirements.

At the end of  last year, RPCI was awarded a $5.1 million grant to begin the pilot phase of the genome project from Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council, established to promote regional economic development. Since then, RPCI has garnered an additional $18.5 million in investments to support the project. From RPCI, $16 million has been invested in equipment and infrastructure, and Computer Task Group (CTG), a Buffalo-based national leader in healthcare IT, has committed to $2.5 million. As a local and nearby partner, CTG will provide its healthcare and bioinformatics expertise to deliver personalized medicine quickly and cost-effectively. The University at Buffalo, IMMCO Diagnostics and Western New York Urology Associates LLC are additional supporters of the project.

Candace Johnson, PhD, Deputy Director of the CPM stated that “We now have the ability to do robust, ‘next-generation’ gene sequencing on blood and tissue samples, with tremendous possibilities in terms of what we can learn diagnostically, prognostically, therapeutically.” Johnson also stated that personalized medicine is the future, not just for oncology patients but for treatments across all diseases.

The CPM is a prime example of the type of support that Cuomo’s Council looks to provide for organizations throughout the region to capitalize on resources and developments that will support the local economy by creating more jobs and economic growth. Recognizing the growth hwp-contentening on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and throughout the region, Cuomo stated that “Western New York has a thriving health and life sciences industry cluster, which the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and Roswell Park Cancer Institute recognized. Through the Regional Council process, they created a custom-tailored plan to take advantage of this opportunity, which will rebuild the regional economy.”

center-personalized-medicine-press-conference-2013-01-30-34RPCI’s President and CEO, Dr. Donald Trump captured the significance of the Center’s presence. He stated that “The doors are wide open in terms of the opportunities for entrepreneurship and technology transfer that will flow from [the Center].” The CPM team, partners and supporters increase RPCI’s menu of services, giving the institution the opportunity to contend with other small circle healthcare organizations providing similar medical services.

Immediately on the agenda, the CPM will undertake its first 3 sequencing projects, clinical research studies that will:

  • Predict on a case-by-case, personalized basis which of the two main types of standard chemotherapy, anthracycline-based or platinum-based, will be most effective in treating a woman’s breast cancer, and with fewest adverse side effects;
  • Develop, in collaboration with Western New York Urology Associates, a diagnostic test for superficial bladder cancer, the ninth most common cancer in the U.S. and the most expensive of all cancers in terms of cost to treat; and
  • Engage 600 healthy volunteers representing the ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and geographic diversity of the eight-county Western New York region in an initiative to identify the particular healthcare priorities of this community, aided by a mobile tissue-collection unit that will travel to disparate and underserved areas.
  • In addition, RPCI expects to use the resources of the CPM in planning individualized care for its lung, melanoma and leukemia patients in the near future.

Read more about the CPM below:

Roswell Launches Center for Personalized Medicine

Groundbreaking Cancer Research Hwp-contentening in Buffalo

Progressive Medicine is Roswell’s Newest Venture

 

Molecule Inhibitor, CFAK-Y15, Could Treat Certain Brain Cancers

Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) have published findings from a preclinical study assessing the effectiveness of a small-molecule inhibitor, CFAK-Y15, in treating some brain cancers. The paper, published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, demonstrates for the first time that inhibiting the protein focal adhesion kinase (FAK) with CFAK-Y15 is an effective wp-contentroach to controlling growth of glioblastoma tumors, especially in combination with the standard chemotherapy agent temozolomide (Temodar).
FAK is overexpressed, or produced in excessive amounts, in tumor cells, and has been shown to play a key role in survival of cancer cells. In this study, a team led by Vita M. Golubovskaya, PhD, an Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Surgical Oncology, found that animal models treated with CFAK-Y15 demonstrated significantly prolonged survival compared to the control group. CFAK-Y15 provides FAK kinase-specific inhibition by upstream targeting of autophosphorylation sites on the FAK protein. It belongs to a class of ‘two for one’ compounds that also inhibit the oncoprotein Src by inhibiting its autophosphorylation.

“We found that CFAK-Y15 significantly decreased the viability of the glioblastoma cells, and in many cases wp-contenteared to cause tumor shrinkage — especially when CFAK-Y15 was given in combination with temozolomide,” noted Dr. Golubovskaya, the paper’s first author. “These compounds target FAK signaling, which is critical for cancer cell and cancer stem cell survival, especially in invasive and metastatic cancers.”

“We’re eager to see this research move to the clinical phase because of the great need for more effective treatments for glioblastoma,” noted senior author William G. Cance, MD, FACS, Surgeon-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology. “The potential impact is great because glioblastomas are such an aggressive tumor, and because we know they produce FAK in especially high quantities.”

The authors also included researchers from the University of California at San Diego and faculty from the Department of Pathology at RPCI. CFAK-Y15 is being developed by CureFAKtor Pharmaceuticals LLC (www.curefaktor.com). Drs. Cance and Golubovskaya, both of whom also serve on the management team of CureFAKtor, were part of the team that first identified CFAK-Y15, in research published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in 2008.

The new abstract and paper, “Pharmacological blockade of FAK autophosphorylation decreases human glioblastoma tumor growth and synergizes with temozolomide,” can be accessed online at http://mct.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2012/12/12/1535-7163.MCT-12-0701.

This work was supported by Susan Komen for the Cure Foundation grant BCTR0707148 and three National Cancer Institute (NCI) grants: R01CA065910, R01HL073396, and the NCI’s Cancer Center Support Grant for Roswell Park Cancer Institute (P30CA016056).

Annie Deck-Miller, RPCI Senior Media Relations Manager; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org; 716-845-8593

New Center of Excellence Tenant's Research to Help Treat Muscular Dystrophy

Inspired by his grandson, JB’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy diagnosis, Jeff Harvey, Tonus Therapeutics co-founder and chief financial officer, along with Frederick Sachs, University at Buffalo (UB) Distinguished Professor, Thomas Suchyna, Research Assistant Professor, and Philip Gottlieb, Research Associate Professor, all from UB’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics, partnered to develop a therapy for muscular dystrophy. Establishing Tonus Therapeutics in 2009, the group began to work together based off of initial research Sachs and his team first came across nearly 10 years ago, studying the effect of venoms on mechanosensitive ion channels.
As one of several forms of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne is the most lethal, rapidly getting worse over time causing respiratory problems in addition to severe and increased limb-muscle weakness. The absence of the dystrophin protein is due to a defective gene commonly found in males. Dystrophin helps muscle cells maintain their shape structure. Without that protein, cell membranes tear apart more easily and cause the muscle to contract abnormally. According to Sachs, when this hwp-contentens, the body “starts digesting muscle from the inside out.”

A UB spin-off company, having made the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences (CoE) its home headquarters, Tonus Therapeutics will continue its quest to develop drugs that help distribute and control the transfer of mineral substances like calcium to cells through the tiny conduits known as mechanosensitive ion channels. These channels, which Sachs co-discovered in 1983, connect the inside of a cell with its outside. Normally, in healthy cells the channels are closed, but when a cell is stretched or contorted, the channels open and let calcium and other substances into the cell.

Using GsMTx4, a peptide that scientists at UB discovered in the venom of the Chilean rose tarantula, Tonus Therapeutics will use the FDA “orphan drug” designation to move forward with the development of a therapy for muscular dystrophy. The designation of GsMTx4 comes with recognition from the government agency that the peptide is a promising method of treatment for a rare disease like muscular dystrophy. Research shows that GsMTx4 is capable of staying in the body for a long time without breaking down. This means it could be possible to deliver low doses infrequently, reducing costs for patients. The company has gathered preliminary data showing that GsMTx4 is nontoxic in mice and did not disturb heart function in mice or ferrets or isolated human heart muscle.

In November, Tonus Therapeutics licensed UB patents relating to GsMTx4 through UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (UB STOR).

Harvey stated that “Being located in a hub of research activity in Buffalo, close to other entrepreneurs and biotech startups, is important to [Tonus Therapeutics].” He also stated that “The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is extremely important to us because it provides ready contact with experienced entrepreneurs and potential clinical and commercial partners, including those within the [CoE].”

The CoE, a part of the 400,000 sq. ft. Buffalo Life Sciences Complex, houses more than 100 scientists with biological, physical and computational expertise. The CoE’s efforts aims to leverage its research resources, helping to create new technological advantages for health care and life sciences industry sectors, partnering with and supporting biomedical, research and development companies like Tonus Therapeutics. Marnie LaVigne, UB associate vice president for economic development stated that “Tonus benefits from the technological and business resources available here, and their continued growth will be an asset to Western New York’s economy.”

Prior to their move into the CoE, the Tonus team benefited from other UB resources and partnerships. Harvey is a graduate of the UB School of Management’s High-Tech Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership program, and Tonus received funding through the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT). The Children’s Guild Foundation and the John R. Oishei Foundation have provided additional funding.

Learn more about Tonus Therapeutics below:

Research from UB and Immco Diagnostics Leads to Early Detection of Sjogren’s Syndrome

Patients suffering from the painful autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, will soon be able to be properly diagnosed much earlier, thanks to the discovery of novel antibodies by researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB) and Immco Diagnostics, Inc. The breakthrough, described in a paper in the December issue of Clinical Immunology, will allow patients to be treated sooner when they are much more likely to benefit. The new diagnostic test will be available to physicians in early 2013.Ambrus-Shen
“Sjogren’s patients get diagnosed too late,” says Julian L. Ambrus Jr., MD, professor in the Department of Medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, an immunologist at Buffalo General Medical Center and senior author on the paper.  “They go to the doctor because their eyes are dry or they can’t swallow, but by that time, their salivary or tear glands are already dead. They’re way past the point where they can generally benefit from any treatment.”

The new antibodies were seen in 45 percent of patients who met most of the clinical criteria for Sjogren’s except for the antibodies currently required for diagnosis, called Ro and La. At least one of the novel antibodies is present in 76 percent of patients who have had symptoms for less than two years and who also lacked the two antibodies required for definitive diagnosis, which wp-contentear late in the disease.

“The vast majority of patients we tested who have early symptoms of severe dry mouth and dry eyes also have these antibodies,” says Ambrus.

The journal highlighted the research paper with an editorial by Robert I. Fox, MD, PhD, of Scripps/Ximed, considered one of the world’s top Sjogren’s Syndrome scientists.

Considered one of the three most common autoimmune diseases, Sjogren’s Syndrome affects more than 4 million Americans, 90 percent of them women; last year, Venus Williams, the tennis champion, announced that she had the disease. Symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth so severe that they are painful. Despite its high incidence, Sjogren’s is not well-known and can take years to diagnose; once diagnosed, it is often too late to effectively treat it.

Beyond the chronic pain associated with not being able to produce tears or saliva, the disease is associated with additional, systemic consequences, such as mild kidney and lung disease. Five to 10 percent of Sjogren’s patients also will develop lymphoma, cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that is continually produced in Sjogren’s Syndrome.

The discovery of novel antibodies grew out of a strong collaboration between UB and Immco, which in 2006 resulted in a new, far superior animal model for Sjogren’s Syndrome.

“Our animal model has completely changed how people think about this disease,” says Ambrus. “Sjogren’s disease in our animal model marches along in exactly the same way that the human disease does, reproducing every stage of the disease.”

Labs studying Sjogren’s around the world have now adopted the new model developed at UB and Immco, which is based in Amherst.

Once the new antibodies were detected in mice, the scientists started testing human patients at Buffalo General Medical Center. The researchers found the same antibodies in humans even at early stages of the disease.

UB has filed a patent on the biomarker-based method and licensed the technology to Immco, which has developed a new diagnostic tool based on the research.

“We believe this is one of the most undiagnosed autoimmune diseases,” says William Maggio, Immco’s chief executive officer.

The new diagnostic tool his company developed for Sjogren’s Syndrome has significant proprietary value. “We will be the only company in the world to offer and market this test across any platform,” he says.

And because Sjogren’s Syndrome presents with various symptoms, unlike other autoimmune diseases, this diagnostic test will be marketed to several different types of physicians, including dentists, oral surgeons, ophthalmologists and rheumatologists.

The assay will undergo validation by the New York State Department of Health. Once complete early next year, physicians will be able to start using the test. Patient samples from around the nation will be sent to Immco for testing. Immco also is developing a diagnostic kit for customers to be marketed internationally.

“If the market is as successful as we anticipate, then it will lead to more employment opportunities locally,” says Maggio.

Already, the UB and Immco scientists have begun collaborating with several international groups working on Sjogren’s Syndrome, giving them access to many more patients.

“Sjogren’s patients are miserable,” says Lakshmanan Suresh, DDS, vice president, research and development at Immco and clinical associate professor in the Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences in the UB School of Dental Medicine. “They cannot taste anything, they often have serious tooth decay, and they feel as though they have sandpaper or grit in their eyes all the time. If we can find the antibodies early, then we can start to develop therapies to target them. The first step though, is to make the diagnosis.”

“This is a very good example of how research and industry collaborate to produce something that will bring a lot of good to the health-care industry and it’s hwp-contentening here in Buffalo,” says Maggio.

The UB researchers recently received a $450,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how the immune system becomes dysfunctional in Sjogren’s disease.

Last summer, the project also received funding from UB’s Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology, one of 15 centers across New York State funded by the Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation to support university-industry collaboration in research, education and technology transfer.

Along with Ambrus, Shen and Suresh, co-authors on the Clinical Immunology paper are Jingxiu Xuan, PhD, research assistant professor in the UB Department of Medicine and Matthew Lindemann, PhD, director of assay development, Przemek Kowal, PhD, director of biopolymers, and Kishore Malyavantham, PhD, director of scientific initiatives, all from Immco.

Ellen Goldbaum (UB); goldbaum@buffalo.edu; 716.645.4605

Research Shows Effectiveness of New Biomarker to Measure Prostate Tumors

New Research Uncovers Promising New Biomarker for Aggressiveness of Prostate CancerRoswell Park-led effort found increased levels of serum glutamate in both primary and metastatic prostate tumors

Research out of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) supports the adoption of a new biomarker to measure the aggressiveness of primary prostate tumors. A team of investigators from three institutions, led by Shahriar Koochekpour, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Cancer Genetics, Urology and Oncology in RPCI’s Department of Cancer Genetics, has for the first time produced data showing that levels of serum glutamate, a naturally occurring nonessential amino acid that plays a key role in cancer metabolism, are increased in patients with primary and metastatic prostate cancer.

Collaborators included James L. Mohler, MD, Gissou Azabdaftari, MD, and Kristopher Attwood, PhD, from RPCI; Robert L. Vessella, PhD, from the University of Washington School of Medicine; and Oliver Sartor, MD, from Tulane Cancer Center and the Tulane University School of Medicine. In a study involving 366 men, the team measured serum glutamate levels in 60 healthy adult males, 197 with primary prostate cancer and 109 with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer — cancer that progresses following androgen depletion therapy.

“Comparing normal, primary and metastatic prostate cancer tissues, we discovered that glutamate receptor is expressed at very high levels in primary and metastatic tumors, but at very weak or undetectable levels in benign prostate tissues,” notes Dr. Koochekpour. “And serum glutamate was detected at increased levels proportional to Gleason score, the standard index for rating prostate cancer aggressiveness and prognosis in patients with primary tumors.”

The researchers also demonstrated, for the first time, that glutamate deprivation significantly decreases the growth, migration and invasiveness of prostate cancer cell lines, suggesting potential clinical wp-contentlications. They also report that the glutamate antagonist riluzole (Rilutek), a well-tolerated oral medicine used for mood and anxiety disorders, depression and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), induces cell death while inhibiting the progression and motility of human prostate cancer cells.

“We detected one major difference between African-Americans and Caucasians in the study,” Dr. Koochekpour notes. “In African-Americans, serum glutamate levels were higher among those men with metastatic disease than in those with primary prostate cancer, and we didn’t see that trend in Caucasian men. This finding may implicate a role for glutamate metabolism in inter-racial disparities of prostate cancer.”

Dr. Koochekpour and colleagues are currently conducting a preclinical study assessing the effectiveness of riluzole in preventing growth of human prostate cancer cells in animal models, and hope to build on these results in the clinical setting within the next 12-18 months. The paper, “Serum Glutamate Levels Correlate with Gleason Score and Glutamate Blockade Decreases Proliferation, Migration, and Invasion and Induces Apoptosis in Prostate Cancer Cells,” was published October 16 in Clinical Cancer Research and can be accessed at http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2012/10/10/1078-0432.CCR-12-1308.

Annie Deck-Miller; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org; 716-845-8593

Investigational Brain Cancer Vaccine to Be Tested in Phase I Roswell Park Study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESeptember 27, 2012
Contact: Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org

Investigational Brain Cancer Vaccine to Be Tested in Phase I Roswell Park Study
Peptide vaccine targets cancer survival protein, putting tumor cells in a Catch 22

BUFFALO — A new clinical research study at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) will test a first-of-its-kind cancer “vaccine” that may prove effective against many forms of solid-tumor cancers. The vaccine, to be investigated in a trial involving patients with brain cancer, generates an immune response that wp-contentears to put the target molecule, the cancer survival protein survivin, into a bind it can’t escape.

The peptide vaccine, developed at Roswell Park by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, is based upon a specially engineered small protein molecule called a “peptide mimic.” Dr. Fenstermaker is principal investigator of the phase I clinical research study, which will test the safety and immunological effects of the vaccine in patients with two types of brain cancer: glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and anaplastic glioma. Called SurVaxM, the injectable vaccine will initially be given in four doses to nine patients.

Survivin, produced by at least 80% of cancers, is a protein that helps cancer cells to survive under stressful conditions. It is present only in diseased cells, which are caught in an unwinnable situation when exposed to the vaccine.

“SurVaxM puts cancer cells in a Catch 22,” says Dr. Fenstermaker, who is Chair of RPCI’s Department of Neurosurgery and Director of the Institute’s Neuro-Oncology Program. “The vaccine kills tumor cells that express survivin. If the cells turn survivin off to escape the vaccine, they’re essentially committing suicide.”

The engineered peptide used in the vaccine is able to stimulate an immune response because the cancer recognizes it as a foreign molecule.

“We arrived at this peptide through reverse immunology,” notes Dr. Ciesielski. “We knew we wanted to target survivin because it is expressed by so many tumors. We looked at many survivin peptides trying to find the best one to use as our vaccine. Once we identified one that looked promising, we engineered it to be more potent and produce a better response by enlisting multiple arms of the immune system.”

In preclinical studies, the vaccine was effective against several cancers, including gliomas and prostate, ovarian, breast and kidney tumors that produce survivin. Studies in which human glioma, lymphoma and leukemia cells were exposed to the vaccine outside the body also produced a strong response. “In those earlier studies, the response was persistent,” Dr. Ciesielski says. “It wp-contentears that the vaccine continues to provide lasting immunity after the tumor has been eliminated.”

Roughly 15,000 people are newly diagnosed with glioblastomas and anaplastic gliomas in the U.S. every year. These cancers are very difficult to treat, and are often fatal.

“Survival rates for malignant gliomas have improved modestly over the last two decades, but better therapies are desperately needed,” Dr. Fenstermaker says. “We’re anxious to move ahead with this study and, hopefully, go on to larger studies in the years ahead, but we first have to show that this is a safe and well-tolerated drug for a group of terrible diseases.”

Because they enlist the body’s own cells to fight cancer, immune-based therapies generally have few adverse side effects. The trial is the fourth clinical research study launched through RPCI’s Center for Immunotherapy this year.

The study is National Cancer Institute trial no. NCT01250470. For more information about SurVaxM and this new phase I research study, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

Ciesielski and Fenstermaker credit early seed funding from donations with helping to move their research forward and generating additional dollars in new grant funding from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (R21 NS049309-01) and the American Cancer Society. Additional support from The Jayne and Phil Hubbell Family was instrumental in advancing the team’s research.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

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Editor’s note: Photo caption: Robert Fenstermaker, MD, left, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD. Video interview with Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski available at https://vimeo.com/48443468. For additional photos and multimedia, including B-roll video, send request to: annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org.

J. Craig Venter Receives Honorary Doctorate, Extols Virtues of the CTRC, UB's Newest Research Facility

[ photograph ]“I’m actually jealous,” said J. Craig Venter, speaking of UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, after receiving the SUNY Honorary Doctorate in Science.

World-renowned genomic researcher calls UB facility “some of the most beautiful lab space I’ve seen.”

J. Craig Venter, PhD, the pioneering biologist who led the first team to sequence the human genome, received a State University of New York Honorary Doctorate in Science at the University at Buffalo on Sept. 20. The honorary degree was conferred on him at a ceremony that followed the grand opening of UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center in the joint UB-Kaleida Health building in downtown Buffalo.

UB President Satish K. Triapthi called Venter “one of the 21st century’s most influential scientists and widely regarded as the world’s foremost leader in the field of genetic research.” He said he couldn’t think of a more fitting individual to honor on the occasion of the CTRC opening.

The degree was conferred on Venter by Angelo Fatta, UB Foundation board of directors chair, and SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin.

Venter, a former UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute scientist, developed a revolutionary strategy for rapid gene discovery while working at the National Institutes of Health. He later founded The Institute for Genomic Research and, in 1995, he and his team decoded the genome of the first free-living organism. At Celera Genomics, which he founded in 1998, Venter sequenced the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed. The successful completion of this research culminated with the February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal Science.

Speaking before the audience that gathered in the fifth floor atrium of the CTRC, Venter expressed his honest admiration for UB’s newest research facility.

“I’m actually jealous,” he said, after accepting the SUNY honorary degree. “This is some of the most beautiful lab space I’ve seen and the views are always improving.” Venter then described his newest building, now under construction on the University of California San Diego campus, which, he conceded, will have even better views because it is located right next to the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to the CTRC’s physical assets, Venter praised UB and Buffalo for committing to the creation of a life sciences economy. “I’m a strong believer that the future does rest in a bioeconomy,” he said.

Venter also gave an update on genomics, describing the massive amounts of digital information that the research has produced and the challenge caused by this “digitizing of biology.” While the mammalian genome has largely been completed, he said, there is plenty of genetic diversity on the planet that has yet to be discovered.

“By sequencing the microbiome, we find we are not alone,” he said. “In addition to the 2 million human genes we have, each of us also contains about 10 million additional microbe genes. We live in a microbial world; we are visitors here.”

He and his colleagues are also looking at the vast genetic diversity in the ocean. “Every time we take a sample of seawater, we see between 1 and 3 million genes that haven’t been seen before,” he said.

While noting that the idea that it’s possible to sequence your own genome for about $1,000 may be an overstatement, he said that personalized medicine based on a patient’s genetic information “will be a standard part of medicine within a few years.”

Venter is founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit, research and support organization dedicated to human, microbial, plant and environmental genomic research, the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics, and alternative energy solutions through genomics. He and his team continue to blaze new trails in genomics research and have published numerous important papers covering such areas as the first complete diploid human genome, environmental genomics and synthetic genomics.

Venter also is founder and chief executive officer of the company Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company commercializing genomic advances.

 

Ellen Goldbaum; goldbaum@buffalo.edu; 716-645-4605; @egoldbaum

UB Partners with Zimbabwe Universities to Create International Nanotechnology Center

For release: September 24, 2012Contact: Sara R. Saldi, saldi@buffalo.edu
University at Buffalo
716-645-4593

UB Partners with Zimbabwe Universities to Create International Nanotechnology Center

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With 14 percent of Zimbabwe’s population living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as a co-infection, the need for new drugs and new formulations of available treatments is crucial.

To address these issues, two of the University at Buffalo’s leading research centers, the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB), and the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences have signed on to launch the Zimbabwe International Nanotechnology Center (ZINC) — a national nanotechnology research program — with the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT).

This collaborative program will initially focus on research in nanomedicine and biosensors at UZ and energy at CUT.  ZINC has grown out of the NIH Fogarty International Center, AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) that was awarded to UB and UZ in 2008 to conduct HIV research training and build research capacity in Zimbabwe and neighboring countries in southern Africa.

UB faculty and research directors in the ZINC partnership include Paras N. Prasad, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering, the Samuel P. Capen Chair, executive director of ILPB; Gene D. Morse, PharmD, Professor of Pharmacy Practice, associate director of the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and director of the Translational Pharmacy Research Core; Alexander N. Cartwright, PhD, UB vice president for research and economic development and interim executive director of the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences , who will work with Professor Levi Nyagura, UZ vice chancellor; Professor David T. Simbi, CUT vice chancellor, and Dr. Charles Maponga, PharmD, UZ pharmacy school director.

ZINC will establish a long-term international research and training platform in the field of nanotechnology, focused in areas that promote Zimbabwe’s strength, and advance the development of nanotechnology as an avenue for Zimbabwe’s commercial growth.

The UB ILPB and TPRC collaboration recognized that the fields of pharmacology and therapeutics have increasingly developed links with emerging areas within the field of nanosciences in an attempt to develop tissue/organ targeted strategies that will lead to disease treatment and eradication. Research teams will focus on emerging technologies, initially focused in nanobiotechnology and nanomedicine for health care.

“Developing nanoformulations for HIV and tuberculosis diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as new tuberculosis drug development, are just a few of the innovative strategies to address these co-infections that this research collaboration can provide,” said Morse.

“In addition, the development of new nanotechnology-related products will jumpstart the economy and foster new economic initiatives in Zimbabwe that will yield additional private-public partnerships.”

A photo of Morse is available at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13694.

Morse says that the current plans for a “Center of Excellence” in clinical and translational pharmacology in Harare at UZ will create a central hub in Africa, not just for Zimbabwe but for other countries to gain new training and capacity building in many exciting aspects of nanotechnology as well.

Morse adds that this initiative creates an opportunity for additional involvement from a number of UB centers such as those represented by UB’s Strategic Strengths in areas such as Health and Wellness across the Lifespan, Integrated Nanostructured Systems, Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics and Information and Computing Technology.

“With an international program like ZINC, we are hoping to attract pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms who will have similar interests in joining this unique partnership that will enhance the likelihood of economic success through efficient, innovative research.”

“Locally, these efforts will be linked to the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus resulting in a truly global partnership with one anchor in Buffalo–a comprehensive ‘UB matrix’ of innovation and excellence,” says Morse.

RPCI Scientists Publish Findings About Novel Anticancer Agent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2012
Contact: Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org

RPCI Scientists Publish Findings About Novel Anticancer Agent
Camptothecin analog FL118 shown to inhibit production of key cancer survival genes

BUFFALO — Some 500,000 people die of cancer in the United States each year, often because their cancers have become resistant to wp-contentroved therapies. Scientists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) have made headway in the effort to overcome resistance to treatment, publishing findings about a novel cancer drug that has been shown to inhibit several genes associated with the ability of cancer cells to survive and reproduce.

A team led by Fengzhi Li, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in RPCI’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, assessed the antitumor effects of FL118, a camptothecin analog that is structurally similar to irinotecan and topotecan, in preclinical studies.

The ability of cancers to resist treatment with chemotherapy or radiation is rooted in the tendency of tumor cells to overproduce key genes that enable cancer cells to survive, such as survivin, Mcl-1, XIAP and cIAP2. Dr. Li and his colleagues found that FL118 inhibits expression of these genes in cancer cells and ultimately causes those tumor cells to die.

They also found that cancer cells die in the presence of FL118 even when the cells contained no p53, a key tumor-suppressing gene product. Because this protein is functionally eliminated in many cancers, it is important that cancer cells are sensitive to FL118 regardless of their p53 function. Preclinical studies showed a complete loss of detectable tumor mass in animal models following treatment with FL118, even for tumors that did not express “wild-type” p53 — a level of efficacy rarely seen with standard cancer therapies.

Importantly, FL118 was equally effective against tumor cells that are not normally considered to be resistant to therapy, and showed no wp-contentarent toxicity at these therapeutic levels.

“Our studies show that FL118 may become a superior option for effective control of both early and late-stage cancer, with or without metastasis,” said Dr. Li. “We still need to identify the exact biochemical targets as well as the pharmacokinetic and toxicological profile for FL118 before it goes into clinical studies, but we are encouraged by the implications of these compelling preclinical findings.”

The paper, “A Novel Small Molecule FL118 That Selectively Inhibits Survivin, Mcl-1, XIAP and cIAP2 in a p53-Independent Manner, Shows Superior Antitumor Activity,” published September 19 in PLOS ONE, is available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0045571.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

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RIA Takes the Challenge on Reducing College Student Substance Use

For release: September 20, 2012Contact: Sara R. Saldi, saldi@buffalo.edu
University at Buffalo
716-645-4593

RIA Takes the Challenge on Reducing College Student Substance Use

BUFFALO, N.Y. — No longer considered an innocent rite of passage, binge drinking among college students contributes to wp-contentroximately 1,800 deaths and nearly 600,000 injuries each year.

And that’s just alcohol.

The University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), an internationally recognized leader on the subject of substance use and abuse since 1970, is tackling this problem head on.

This fall RIA will offer a three-pronged wp-contentroach to educating students, health care and mental health workers, and college administrators about the dangers, new trends and treatments for reducing substance use and excessive drinking in college kids.

RIA Director, Kenneth Leonard, PhD “Despite strong efforts, excessive alcohol and substance use among college students have not substantially diminished in the past decade. While many colleges have educational programs or referral services, many college administrators are not aware of or have not implemented services that have been shown to be the most effective.

“Therefore, there is a pressing need for a more active and ongoing dialogue among researchers, practitioners and administrators regarding the current state of knowledge about college student drinking and substance use—a dialog that will also benefit parents and their children in college.”

A photo of Leonard is available at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13681.

First, the RIA is releasing the fifth in its series of expert summaries, “RIA Reaching Others: College Student Drinking,” a fact sheet describing the dangers of college student drinking, especially binge drinking—the scope of the problem, specific points for parents and the value of prevention.

The fact sheet is available at: http://www.ria.buffalo.edu/ExpertSummaries/ES5.html.

Second, as part of RIA’s Fall 2012 Seminar Series, Mark Wood,  PhD, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Rhode Island (URI) and an expert on substance use among college students, will speak on “Individual and Environmental Preventive Intervention to Reduce Collegiate Alcohol Abuse: A Full-Cycle Approach.”

His presentation will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 26 in Room 132 of the RIA building, 1021 Main St. on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It will be free and open to the public.

For more information on the Wood presentation, visit: http://www.ria.buffalo.edu/events/index.html

Third, RIA is hosting a two-day conference, titled “The Challenge of Reducing College Student Substance Use: A Conversation in the Disciplines,” to take place Nov. 8 and 9 in the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, 2402 North Forest Road near the Audubon Parkway in Getzville, adjacent to the UB North Campus.

The two-day event will feature alcohol and substance use experts from UB and from across the state.  It is sponsored by the Conversations in the Disciplines Program of the State University of New York.

The conference will bring together front-line staff from throughout the SUNY system who grwp-contentle with the real problems of college students’ alcohol and substance use and abuse, and the researchers who seek to develop and evaluate substance-use prevention and intervention strategies. It also will provide an opportunity for participants to present information about their programs and to discuss issues regarding the startup and operation of effective programs.

Even more importantly, however, the conference will explore the potential for developing a multi-campus network of researchers and practitioners across New York State to address excessive college student substance use.

“This will facilitate the development and evaluation of innovative and comprehensive wp-contentroaches to reducing substance use, and provide a communications network that will enhance the efforts of practitioners to offer the most effective strategies for their campuses,” Leonard said.

Information about the conference and how to register are available at http://www.ria.buffalo.edu/CID2012/index.htm

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