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3 days ago · NIH awards Mayo Clinic researchers $3.4 million glioblastoma grant

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3 days ago · NIH awards Mayo Clinic researchers $3.4 million glioblastoma grant

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Julie Janovsky-Mason

Sr. Communications Specialist, Mayo Clinic, Public Affairs
 

Thu, Oct 12 8:00am · NIH awards Mayo Clinic researchers $3.4 million glioblastoma grant

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Mayo Clinic researchers in Arizona a $3.4 million grant to study how mathematical modeling can be used to help treat patients with glioblastoma – the most common type of malignant brain cancer.

Glioblastomas are made up of many different cell types and tumor cell subtypes. These cells can invade far into the brain and well beyond where the tumor can be seen on clinical imaging, such as MRIs. Surgical removal of these invasive tumor cells is risky. Yet, little is known about these residual tumor invaded tumor cells and how best to treat them using other treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Kristin Swanson, Ph.D., before work starts for the day in her Arizona-based lab at Mayo Clinic

Kristin Swanson, Ph.D., vice chair of research, Mayo Clinic Department of Neurosurgery, is utilizing mathematical modeling to extract new information from MRI scans to unlock clues for how to best treat these residual tumor cells.

Achieving this project requires a team with complementary skills. Dr. Swanson teamed with neuroradiologist, Leland Hu, M.D., molecular biologist, Nhan Tran, Ph.D. and imaging informaticist, Joseph Ross Mitchell, Ph.D. Using MRI data, their team produce maps of the different tumor subtypes found within a patient’s brain.

“MRI-based mathematical models can be used to to predict genomic content of these invasive tumor region. These models provide a non-invasive way to identify the different tumor subpopulations in this invasive region for each patient. If we know the genetic content of the different parts of each patient’s tumor, we can match treatments that target each of the different genetic abnormalities,” says Dr. Swanson, whose team also leverages genomics, computer vision and artificial intelligence as part of their approach.

Dr. Swanson says these new mathematical models can be applied to each patient’s MRIs over time, providing crucial data on how tumor cells grow or respond to treatment in each patient.

“This knowledge allows us to better advance individualized medicine,” she says. “We can better match each patient with the combination of treatments that will best target the different populations of tumor cells within each tumor. This information may also reveal new treatment targets, open up additional treatment pathways and improve a physician’s ability to monitor the effects of treatment.”

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Mon, Oct 9 3:21am · Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University researchers working on a new tool to diagnose valley fever

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Julie Janovsky-Mason

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Fri, Oct 6 8:00am · Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University researchers working on a new tool to diagnose valley fever

Douglas Lake, Ph.D., Arizona State University (left); and Thomas Grys, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; pause for a moment in their lab, where they hope to find a faster way to detect valley fever.

Infectious-disease researchers at Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University (ASU) are working on a new test to detect valley fever more quickly and efficiently.

Getting there involves looking for the fungus that causes valley fever rather than searching for antibodies in potentially infected patients. That elusive fungus, say the researchers, can be hard to diagnose on the first try early on in infection, a reality that they are looking to change.

“Valley fever is a condition where current testing could be further optimized for patients,” says Thomas Grys, Ph.D., a microbiologist and researcher at Mayo Clinic, who teamed up with Douglas Lake, Ph.D., an immunologist and researcher at ASU.

The precise focus of their collaboration is a microscopic fungal spore, which continues to pose a health risk to people and pets.

The spores are from the fungus called Coccidioides, which is native to the southwestern soil. These spores may cause the infection known as valley fever if inhaled. In some, valley fever may cause temporary flu-like symptoms that eventually resolve on their own. In others, it can cause a host of respiratory ailments if left untreated, including pneumonia. According to the latest scientific data, an estimated 15 to 30 percent of community-acquired pneumonias can be attributed to valley fever in the Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, metropolitan areas.

Diagnostic tests currently available in the U.S. for valley fever rely on a blood test that looks for antibodies in potentially infected patients. The problem, says Dr. Lake, is that some patients don’t develop antibodies until several weeks or even months after being infected. “Some patients never make antibodies at all, even though they are sick with the disease,” he explains, adding this segment of tough-to-diagnose patients are often treated with antibiotics as a first line of defense to combat their symptoms (which typically include fever, cough, chest discomfort and fatigue). These patients might benefit from treatment with an antifungal, since antibiotics don’t work against fungi.

The new test that the Mayo Clinic and ASU team are in the process of developing doesn’t rely on a patient’s ability to develop antibodies when exposed to the coccidioides fungus. Rather, their proposed test would detect the microscopic “bits and pieces” of fungus in their system if present.

ASU was recently awarded a $750,000 grant from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission to fund Drs. Lake and Grys’ research to develop this new test. This research is also partially supported through the Mayo Clinic Geraldine Colby Zeiler Professorship of Cytopathology Fund and through a grant from the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.

“Our hope is that our proposed method will one day help diagnose patients quicker, reduce the use of antibiotics and cut the number of return visits to the doctor,” says Dr. Grys of the test that may be a few years in the making.

“We are excited about the potential our research may uncover for patients. It’s truly been a great collaboration,” adds Dr. Lake.

Drs. Grys and Lakes’ most recent findings on this topic were published in the Journal of Proteome Research.

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Related research:

T.E. Grys, et al. Total and Lectin-Binding Proteome of Spherulin from Coccidioides posadasii. Journal of Proteome Research. 2016 Oct 7;15(10):3463-3472. Epub 2016 Aug 29.

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