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"Tragic and sad." – Dr. Eric Green on funding uncertainties.

Posted on October 15th, 2013 by Admin

Dr. Eric Green, NHGRI

I write this two weeks after Mayo Clinic's Individualizing Medicine Conference. The first keynote talk at that conference, on Sept. 30, was Dr. Eric Green, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Following his talk, he spoke with Mayo Clinic Radio about how genomics is transforming medicine (the theme of the conference). He flew out that afternoon and the next day the government, including the institutes of NIH, shut down. So, this was undoubtedly his last interview before federal health science went dark.

When asked about the impact of the sequester and the then looming shutdown on research, he quickly responded, "Tragic, it's absolutely tragic."  Now I suppose you would expect that kind of response from a director whose main job is to ensure sustainability of his organization through continued funding, but what he said after that was what resonated with me. Referring to the five-point-eight percent cut to the NHGRI budget under sequestration, he said "That would be tolerable if   genomics was some kind of boring, not very exciting and we didn't see a real potential for improving human health.

"If there was ever a moment in time where we should be pushing the accelerator (it's now)...the opportunities are boundless.  And to not have enough fuel in our tank to push the accelerator hard is truly tragic. And it's particularly sad because in many ways the United States has led in genomics and we've written the playbook. And what's sad is the U.S.. is not funding science as aggressively as other countries and these countries are going to use our playbook and move this faster than us. And that seems to me really tragic."

And the next day, other than its hospital and a skeleton staff,  the NIH was silent.

World’s First Phase III Trial for Pre-Programmed Cellular Therapy Uses Technology Developed at Mayo

Posted on October 3rd, 2013 by jenniferschutz

The Belgian biotechnology company, Cardio3 BioSciences recently announced its authorization to begin the world's first phase III clinical trial in regenerative medicine for heart failure in Spain. Spain is the sixth country to have authorized this unique study after the United Kingdom, Belgium, Israel, Serbia and Hungary.

The multicenter, phase III trial will evaluate efficacy and safety of a breakthrough process developed at Mayo Clinic which uses stem cells harvested from a patient's bone marrow. The stem cells undergo a conditioning treatment that optimizes their repair capacity in heart failure. The treated cells are then injected into the patient's heart in an effort to restore health in patients suffering from end-stage heart failure.

Read more about this technology and the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine here:

Mayo-Illinois Collaborations in Individualized Medicine

Posted on October 1st, 2013 by Admin

UIUC Leaders visiting the Center for Individualized Medicine

University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise and her administrative team attended Mayo Clinic's Individualizing Medicine Conference this week and held meetings on ongoing collaborations between the two institutions. The group from Urbana-Champaign included (l-r) Associate Vice Chancellor Jennifer Eardley; Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., director of the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo; Vice Chancellor Peter Schiffer; Chancellor Wise; Provost Ilesanmi Adesida; and Bryan White, Ph.D., who served as co-chair of the conference. Mayo and Illinois have been collaborating for years on medical genomic projects under the banner of the Mayo Illinois Alliance for Technology Based Health Care. Recently extensive work has been done in microbiome research and dozens of students and researchers have traveled between the campuses to work together.

Does Anesthesia Cause Problems for Kids Later On?

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by Admin

A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic Children's Center are trying to answer that question. From what they can tell from animal studies, it may cause problems with learning and memory. They've conducted a study of records -- both medical and school records - in the area around Rochester, Minn. There was some correlation: an association with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder for some children who'd been exposed to anesthesia multiple times at a young age.

But as we know, correlation does not mean causation. So they are now working on a much larger and detailed study to test  1000 children to see if they can better define what injury or injuries may be associated with anesthetic exposure (if any).

Ultimately they hope to find if there is a problem with how anesthesia is administered or if changes are needed to minimize potential problems. It's one more way Mayo Clinic is trying to improve safety of the medical practice and share its findings with everyone.

If you, as a parent, are interested in having your child participate in this study -- and you live in the Rochester, Minn. area, you may be interested in learning more about it from this YouTube video:  

How Fast Can You Do Research? Mayo Responds to the NIH Challenge

Posted on July 10th, 2013 by Admin

Mayo Clinic is among the handful of centers launching one-year fast-track studies of existing drugs to determine their value for other conditions. In Mayo's case, Jordan Miller, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher in the Departments of Surgery and Physiology, and two colleagues were awarded the grant to study the drug from pre-clinical tests through the first clinical trial, all in one year. The targeted condition is aortic valve stenosis -- a type of cardiac stenosis in which the valve area calcifies, leading to serious heart problems.

In a world where some research findings take a decade or more to surface in the world of patients, the National Institutes of Health is trying to whittle that time of translation down to a single year. That includes several rounds of preclinical studies and then a phase one clinical trial to determine efficacy by the end of the twelve months.

“This is highly significant, not only because of the speed of the process, but the impact that it may have on prolonging lives,” says Dr. Miller. “We have a year to determine if there’s a positive change in experimental models and in patients. If so, we move on with more studies.”

Mayo Clinic is one of only nine awardees of a new type of research grant, one that takes an existing but unused drug from a participating pharmaceutical company and studies it for a different disease or condition. In this case the drug is supplied by Sanofi and Mayo’s team led by Dr. Miller, will see if it will work to slow the advance of aortic valve stenosis, in which calcification keeps the heart valve to the aorta from opening fully.

While only three percent of Americans of retirement age develop aortic valve stenosis, calcium can be seen (using x-ray or CT scanning) on the valves of approximately half of the population over 65.  As baby boomers continue to live longer, the actual numbers of patients expected to progress to aortic valve stenosis are expected to grow dramatically, and less than 40 percent survive beyond five years from diagnosis. Right now there is no effective treatment for advanced stenosis, other than replacing the heart valve – a surgical procedure that carries its own risk.

Dr. Miller says this new application of the drug may not remove existing calcification, but it may slow the progression or stop it from getting worse. “Even slowing progression of valve calcification by 50 percent will greatly reduce or delay the need for surgical intervention in these patients.” The first steps of the study are already underway.





What Docs Are Saying About Our Docs

Posted on July 9th, 2013 by Admin

Trials and Fibrillations is a blog on the, by Kentucky physician John Mandrola.  He happens to be an electrophysiologist, thus the blog title. We wanted to offer up here one of his recent posts -- for reasons very apparent you'll if you read it -- in which he outlines his recent experience at a presentation by Mayo Clinic cardiologist and long QT expert Michael Ackerman, M.D., Ph.D.

The talk is titled Five Reasons To Not Do Genetic Testing. It seems counterintuitive, but there are instances when testing isn't the best approach -- including when there's no one around to properly interpret the results.  But we'd rather that you hear Dr. Mandrola's take on the talk...and on Dr. Ackerman.   In any case, we're glad he's in the house.



Hypoparathyroidism – New Insights in Patient Conditions

Posted on June 17th, 2013 by Admin

The parathyroid glands, located in the back of the neck, secrete parathyroid hormone which controls calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D in the blood and in your bones. In hypoparathyroidism not enough hormone is produced, causing calcium levels to drop and phosphorous levels to rise. People who have this relatively rare condition are treated with hormone supplements but a new study has shed light on their daily health, which can be problematic. A collaborative study presented at the meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Francisco showed that many of these patients suffer from a range of other health problems. In a survey of 374 patients, more than half reported fatigue, muscle pain or cramping, mental lethargy, inability to concentrate, memory loss, sleep issues, anxiety and emotional disturbances. Some have acute symptoms requiring hospital stays or emergency room visits. The findings will be considered as researchers look for new treatments. Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Bart Clarke, M.D., talked about the survey findings.

No Need to Test Breast Cancer for This Biomarker

Posted on June 3rd, 2013 by Admin

Edith Perez, M.D., an internationally known breast cancer researcher, and deputy director at large of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, is fond of finding simplicity in treatment where possible. Her recent study has done just that. Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a national team of researchers, including investigators at Mayo Clinic in Florida and Minnesota, found it is not necessary to test for presence of tumor suppressor PTEN protein in the HER2-positive subset of breast tumors.

“Many people hypothesized that this marker would be very important for treatment decisions — that it could predict resistance to trastuzumab, which is standard therapy. It almost became something people took as a fact,” Dr. Perez says. “Several small studies gave conflicting results, but people still paid more attention to the positive results.”

The study was the first to thoroughly test for this protein marker in the setting of long-term follow up of 1,802 patients with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer. The results conclusively showed that there was no difference in disease-free survival between PTEN-positive and PTEN-negative tumors, Dr. Perez says. Clinically, then, patients with HER2-positive early breast cancer with or without PTEN benefit from treatment with trastuzumab.

“This will help many investigators now and in the future because we can focus our attention on evaluating other markers that predict effectiveness of trastuzumab treatment in the adjuvant setting, instead of continuing to test for PTEN protein,” she says.

Individualized Medicine and BIO 2013

Posted on April 23rd, 2013 by Admin

Scott Beck of Mayo Clinic at BIO 2013

CHICAGO-- There was a time at the BIO conference when the term genomics was scarcely known. Today it ranks with other buzz words on the exhibit floor here in Chicago and as a topic in the hundreds of meetings that happen every day during this meeting. Individualized Medicine has also become a major topic in the Minnesota pavilion, especially this year. Many visitors have heard about Mayo Clinic's initiative in this field or have heard about our IM Clinic or have attended our annual conference. Present at this year's BIO 2013, is Scott Beck, administrator for Mayo's Center for Individualized Medicine, who has been holding group and one-on-one meetings with a wide range of attendees.

Sweden Comes to Minnesota at BIO 2013

Posted on April 23rd, 2013 by Admin

Swedish delegation visits the Minnesota pavilion at BIO

Talk about a meeting of minds. I had to take a step back, literally as the Minnesota pavilion here at BIO got a little crowded. For two hours today trade and research delegates from Sweden crowded into the pavilion for formal and casual one-on-one meetings with delegates from the state. In all, 90 people were involved. The event, sponsored by LifeScience Alley and DEED, was a great example of what's possible at these events. The Swedish representatives came from government, academic and industry organizations. All had questions and had done their homework. I have no doubt that this morning's talks will grow the existing relationships and spark new ones. The whole thing wound up with joint lunch.