PHOTO CREDIT: Mayo Clinic

  • Personalized blood biopsies demonstrate potential as early-warning signal of breast cancer recurrence

    Researchers in the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have increased the sensitivity of blood biopsies, demonstrating that they can monitor up to hundreds of different cancer mutations in blood samples from individual patients, with potential to detect cancer recurrence — and inform treatment decisions — years before traditional approaches could. The study appears today in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. In the new study, the scientists tested their approach on blood samples from breast cancer patients. Breast cancer is most deadly when it comes back in patients, often years after their first treatments for the disease. Existing diagnostics aren’t yet sensitive enough to tell whether a patient’s initial therapy eliminated the disease or left behind tumor cells that pose future danger — and by the time the cancer is found the second time around, it’s often too late to stop. Blood biopsies, which scan patient blood samples for genetic traces of cancer, could potentially provide an earlier warning of metastatic cancer before it is picked up through standard monitoring.

    Read more at broadinstitute.org
  • #RealCollege 2020 Report: Five Years of Evidence on Basic Needs Insecurity
    February 21, 2020

    Now in its fifth year, the #RealCollege survey is the nation’s largest, longest-running annual assessment of basic needs insecurity among college students. In the absence of any federal data on the subject, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice created the survey to evaluate access to affordable food and housing among college students. This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2019 at 227 two- and four-year institutions across the United States. It also considers the cumulative evidence on campus basic needs insecurity amassed over five surveys from 2015 to 2019. The lessons the Hope Center has learned are drawn from over 330,000 students attending 411 colleges and universities.In 2019, nearly 167,000 students from 171 two-year institutions and 56 four-year institutions responded to the #RealCollege survey. The results indicate: 39% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 46% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year and 17% of respondents were homeless in the previous year. These rates of food and housing insecurity are lower than they were for the sample of students and colleges assessed in 2018, while results for homelessness are the same. Basic needs insecurity continues to be more common among students attending two-year colleges compared with those attending four-year colleges. Students often marginalized in higher education, including Black and Indigenous students, students identifying as nonbinary or transgender, students enrolled part-time, and students who are former foster youth or returning citizens, are at greater risk of basic needs insecurity. The Hope Center’s findings point to a need for an evolution of programmatic work to advance cultural shifts on college campuses, engagement with community organizations and the private sector, more robust emergency aid programs, and a basic needs-centered approach to government policy at all levels.

    Read the full report
  • How Simple Blood Tests Could Revolutionize Cancer TreatmentHow Simple Blood Tests Could Revolutionize Cancer Treatment
    February 21, 2020

    When 49-year-old Star Dolbier landed at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in the summer of 2018 with a large mass on her left lung, she’d done enough research to know the situation was dire. So when she met with her new oncologist, Dolbier was surprised to learn that the medical center was part of a research trial that would analyze tiny fragments of cancer DNA that the tumor had shed in her blood. The results revealed that she was part of the 15 percent of lung cancer patients with a mutation in their EGFR gene, which made her eligible for a new drug treatment that been approved just four months earlier for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The drug is part of a new generation of targeted therapies that work according to patients’ unique biology. Dolbier is a poster child for the potential of precision medicine in oncology—the rapidly expanding field in which doctors use insights from patients’ DNA to better understand what drives their disease and prescribe personalized drug treatments, rather than resorting to a one-size-fits-all standard of care. Last year saw the approval of more than two dozen such drugs, and over the next two years, analysts predict that the number of new personalized treatments will outnumber those for the general population. As part of this whirlwind of innovation, more cancer centers are setting up genetic sequencing labs, and more oncologists are advising patients to get their tumor tissue genetically sequenced. Yet scientists are also hoping to learn the deeper secrets of cancer from our blood, which they believe offers more comprehensive information about the complexity of a patient’s cancer. “The existing technology we have available is imaging scans and surgical tissue biopsies. Both are powerful but limited,” says Viktor Adalsteinsson, associate director of the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Imaging can’t see the smallest cancers and can lead to inconclusive results. Surgical biopsies are invasive and painful and can’t be done repeatedly throughout care." New technology aims to identify a returning cancer’s DNA presence long before a new tumor grows big enough to be seen again on a conventional scan and when treatment is likely to be more effective. The Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics is developing blood-based biopsies for tracking disease progression and other cancer diagnostics that may potentially benefit millions of patients worldwide.

    Read more at smithsonianmag.comRead more on the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics
  • Top Ways Regenerative Medicine is Advancing the Health Care of Tomorrow

    Regenerative medicine accelerated from the bench into the practice in new ways in 2019, ushering in an era of care focused on the body’s amazing ability to heal itself. “The regenerative toolkit keeps on expanding concomitantly, and applications of regenerative medicine into practice is increasingly broadening to more conditions that benefit more patients. Across Mayo Clinic sites and specialties, from neurosurgery, neurology, otorhinolaryngology, pulmonary medicine, cardiology and cardiac surgery to cancer and musculoskeletal care, women’s health and plastic surgery, medicine, laboratory medicine and radiology, this year has seen remarkable achievements,” says Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine. Bolstered by robust research, Mayo Clinic is at the forefront of delivering new therapies that restore form and function to diseased cells, tissues, or organs — and ultimately to the individual as a whole. Regenerative medicine is redefining clinical care, going beyond mitigating disease symptoms to addressing the underlying cause. Mayo Clinic aspires to cure, connect and transform through new regenerative therapies grounded in rigorous science and in line with regulatory standards for quality and compliance. Within the next decade, regenerative medicine is predicted to account for 10% of all clinical care.

    Read more at mayoclinic.org
  • Mayo Clinic Regenerative Medicine on the International Stage

    Mayo Clinic experts shared their leadership and knowledge of regenerative medicine with an international audience at the World Stem Cell Summit in Miami. Every year more than 2,000 physicians, scientists, bioethicists, industry, government watchdogs and patient advocates from 44 countries convene at the World Stem Cell Summit to collaborate and focus on ways to advance emerging regenerative sciences. “This conference attracts some of the most preeminent minds in regenerative medicine and is representative of the field’s eco system. It’s a chance to share our latest research and newest applications of validated regenerative procedures,” says Shane Shapiro, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine Therapeutic Suites at Mayo’s Jacksonville, Florida campus. Dr. Shapiro and fellow speakers Dr. Terzic and Dr. Qu receive funding from Gerstner Philanthropies.

    Read more about the summit at mayoclinic.org