Michael Wang, Author at NFCR

Michael Wang

NFCR’s Genomics Newsroom: New genes linked to increased risk of ovarian and brain cancer

What is “genomics”?

Cancer develops when genetic material (DNA) becomes damaged or changed. We know some cancer causing genetic changes are acquired (i.e. smoking), while others are inherited. Studying cancer genomics explores the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. Advances in understanding how cancer behaves at a genomic and molecular level is helping doctors treat cancer “smarter”.

12 new genes identified that drive ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of death for women worldwide. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose ovarian cancer is detected early is about 93%. However, only 15% of women are diagnosed at the early stages when treatment is most successful. Ovarian cancer can be difficult to diagnose because initial symptoms are similar to gastrointestinal illness and indigestion.

Using a novel genotyping technique, an international team of scientists from the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Australia analyzed the DNA of almost 100,000 people, including 17,000 patients with the most common type of ovarian cancer. Their findings revealed 12 new genetic variants that raise the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer and could eventually help doctors predict someone’s chances of developing this disease with greater accuracy and/or treat it with greater success.

13 new gene mutations identified that drive brain cancer

Another study led by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK uncovered 13 new gene mutations linked to increased risk of glioma- the most common form of brain cancer. One of the genetic changes discovered increases risk of brain cancer by as much as 33%, with the rest by at least 15%. These findings are significant as currently there are no effective means to detecting brain cancer early – and this may provide researchers the chance to understand more about how brain cancer develops and how we may one day best treat it, or even prevent it.

Genomics research is helping us attack these cancers – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics. To learn more about specific research by NFCR-funded scientists, click here.

 

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Nano-Particles Open New Window for Biological Imaging

“Quantum dots” that emit infrared light enable highly detailed images of internal body structures


Researchers have found a way to make tiny particles, known as quantum dots, that can be injected into the body and emit short-wave infrared light, enabling a new way to capture detailed images of internal body structures. In this next-generation of in vivo optical imaging, these nano-sized quantum dots that are 7,000 times smaller than the diameter of a piece of hair, can be seen through surrounding skin and muscle tissues. Details of motion, such as the flow of blood, can be captured making it possible for researchers to distinguish between veins and arteries. Internal organs in mice that are awake and moving could also been seen, as opposed to previous methods that required them to be anesthetized.

Although initial applications will be used for preclinical research in animals, researchers are also working on developing versions that could be used in humans. Such imaging could potentially be used to study how the blood flow pattern in a tumor changes as the tumor develops, and may also lead to new ways of monitoring disease progression or responsiveness to a drug treatment.

These new findings are described in a paper in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering (“Next-generation in vivo optical imaging with short-wave infrared quantum dots”), by MIT research scientist Oliver Bruns, recent graduate Thomas Bischof PhD ’15, professor of chemistry Moungi Bawendi, and 21 others including NFCR-funded scientist Rakesh Jain.

The team included members from MIT’s departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biological Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Raytheon Vision Systems, and University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany.

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the Warshaw Institute for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Massachusetts General Hospital Executive Committee on Research, the Army Research Office through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation.

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NFCR’s Genomics Newsroom: Using Molecular Imaging to Guide Cancer Therapy

What is “genomics”?

Cancer develops when genetic material (DNA) becomes damaged or changed. We know some cancer- causing genetic changes are acquired (i.e. smoking), while others are inherited. Studying cancer genomics explores the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. Advances in understanding how cancer behaves at the genomic and molecular level are helping oncologists treat cancer with greater success. This is the key to precision medicine, treating each individual’s cancer as unique.

Guiding Cancer Therapy Using Molecular Imaging

Molecular-genetic imaging (also known as molecular imaging) combines conventional anatomic imaging (MRI, CT, PET or ultrasound) with genomic testing and enables doctors to literally see cancer at its molecular or genetic level. Because of this, molecular imaging has the potential to characterize the genotype and phenotype of cancer as well as predict response rates and likely outcomes to selected treatments… all without the need for tissue samples that would be obtained through surgery or biopsy.

Molecular imaging is emerging as yet another tool doctors can use to help choose the most effective treatment(s) for individual patients.  With molecular imaging, doctors can provide more personalized, effective treatments to their patients.

Genomic Testing

While traditional methods treat cancer based on the body part where the cancer first originated, genomic testing looks at cancer on the gene level. Genomic testing reveals the unique genomic drivers or the driver genes for each patient’s cancer.

When combined with the molecular imaging technology, deeper and more detailed information that is specific to an individual cancer patient could be obtained and analyzed by the oncologists, which empowers them to design optimal, individualized therapies to maximize treatment success.

Click here to learn more about genomic testing.

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NFCR’s Genomics Newsroom: Bladder Cancer Could Be Treated the Same Way as Breast Cancer

What is “genomics”?

Cancer develops when genetic material (DNA) becomes damaged or changed. We know some cancer causing genetic changes are acquired (i.e. smoking), while others are inherited. Studying cancer genomics explores the differences between cancer cells and normal host cells. Advances in understanding how cancer behaves at a genomic and molecular level is helping doctors treat cancer “smarter”.

Bladder Cancer: Stepping into the Era of Precision Medicine

Correct diagnosis is the foundation for effective treatment. And looking at the genes instead of just the cancer class is helping improve diagnosis. Traditionally, cancer diagnosis depends heavily on assigning a cancer into certain classes by analyzing cancer’s cell and tissue features. In recent years, gene and other molecular analysis tools have been used more frequently – and the molecular diagnosis practice is paving the road toward the era of precision medicine.

By analyzing molecules and gene sequencing data, a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently found that a subtype of bladder cancer has the same molecular signatures as a subset of breast cancer. Both groups express low levels of a protein called claudin and share a same type of immune deficiency.  These similarities could mean it is possible to treat these two types of cancer originating from different anatomic locations with the same regimen of checkpoint inhibitor drugs or an approach of modern immunotherapy.

More research is still needed, but the door is now open to make more accurate and clinically meaningful diagnoses of cancers based on genetic testing results than just on the tissue features viewed from under the microscope. This would make precision medicine possible to benefit thousands of cancer patients around the world.

Genomic Testing

The era of precision medicine is here: Doctors could choose the right therapy for the right patient with the information derived from genomic testing. While traditional methods treat cancer based on the body part where the cancer first originated, genomic testing looks at cancer on the molecular and gene levels.

Genomic testing reveals the unique genomic drivers for each patient’s cancer. This empowers oncologists to design optimal, individualized therapies to maximize treatment success. Click here to learn more about genomic testing.

 

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NFCR’s Genomics Newsroom: New Method to Detect Biomarkers

What is “genomics”?

Cancer develops when genetic material (DNA) becomes damaged or changed. We know some cancer- causing genetic changes are acquired (i.e. smoking), while others are inherited. Studying cancer genomics explores the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. Advances in understanding how cancer behaves at the genomic and molecular level are helping oncologists treat cancer with greater success.  This is the key to precision medicine, treating each individual’s cancer as unique.

New Method for Detection: MishCTC

Metastasis— the spread of cancer to a different organ or tissue— is responsible for the vast majority of cancer-related deaths.  As cancer grows, certain cells detach from a primary tumor and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body. Detecting these circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from blood samples could help with early diagnosis of cancer, but the biggest challenge facing CTC detection is that there is a lack of reliable biomarkers.genomics-feature-image

A new method called MishCTC is being developed to enhance the detection sensitivity.  The new method is designed to detect a molecular biomarker called miRNA-21, which is a small RNA molecule that exists inside the tumor cells but can’t be detected in normal blood cells. Thus, miRNA-21 is an ideal marker for detecting CTCs.

With continual optimization, the MishCTC method could be used for molecular diagnostics in hospitals in the future. The results of this new test would provide vital and personalized information about a patient’s diagnosis, prognosis and metastasis, which will guide the doctors to make much better and effective decisions to treat their patients.

Genomic Testing

MishCTC is a new method to detect cancer biomarkers.  Once detected, we can more easily detect the “Achilles heel” of the cancer.  While traditional methods treat cancer based on the body part where the cancer first originated, genomic testing looks at cancer on the molecular level.

Genomic testing reveals the unique genomic drivers for each patient’s cancer. This empowers oncologists to design optimal, individualized therapies to maximize treatment success. Click here to learn more about genomic testing.

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NFCR’s Genomics Newsroom: Discovery of New Lung Cancer Mutation

What is “genomics”?

Cancer develops when genetic material (DNA) becomes damaged or changed. We know some cancer causing genetic changes are acquired (i.e. smoking), while others are inherited. Studying cancer genomics explores the differences between cancer cells and normal host cells. Advances in understanding how cancer behaves at a genomic and molecular level is helping doctors treat cancer “smarter”.

More Treatment Options for NSCLC Patients with ROS1+ Gene Mutation

lung-cancer-blogIn March 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first and only drug – crizotinib (also known as Xaldori) – to treat people with advanced (metastatic) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express the ROS1+ mutation. For NSCLC patients with ROS1+ mutation, crizotinib has stopped the growth and spread of their cancer.

Researchers at University of Colorado Cancer Center have uncovered what they believe to be the cause of this drug resistance: A mutation in the KIT gene, as well as a potential solution. Initial studies show that introducing the drug ponatinib to the treatment regimen may reverse drug resistance, allowing patients to reap the benefits of crizotinib for a longer period of time.

Although further research is needed, this is an important milestone for patients with ROS1+ NSCLC who previously had limited treatment options.

Genomic Testing

While traditional methods treat cancer based on the body part where the cancer first originated, genomic testing looks at cancer on the molecular level.

Genomic testing reveals the unique genomic drivers for each patient’s cancer. This empowers oncologists to design optimal, individualized therapies to maximize treatment success.

To find out if your cancer has ROS1+ or KIT gene mutation, learn more about genomic testing and ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

Related NFCR-Funded Research

A team lead by Dr. Alice Shaw, an NFCR-supported scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, is developing a new platform that can rapidly identify effective drug combinations for lung cancer patients whose tumors have stopped responding to targeted therapy. The team is growing cells in the laboratory that were taken directly from the patients’ cancer and treating them with a host of different drug combinations to find the ones that work. Dr. Shaw says “this strategy might be used to select the optimal treatment for each individual patient, and could also be applied to other types of cancer.”

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Renal Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) represents a heterogeneous group of cancers arising from the nephron. Traditionally, the treatment decisions are made by doctors based on the histologic types of the tumors and their clinical stages. Over 90% of RCC could be divided into 3 major types of tumor under the microscope by pathologists: clear cell, papillary, and chromophobe, and chemotherapy or other treatment options are usually selected according to which type of a patient’s tumor falls into. However, the treatment results of RCC are not good in many cases because the microscope-based tumor classification approach don’t have the power to provide sufficient clinical information to guide the clinical treatment. This situation will be changed in the near future with the advances of large scale of genetic research on the RCC.

A group of scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine and their collaborators performed genetic research on nearly 900 cases of RCC at multiple levels and found out that the 3 major types of kidney cancer are actually consisted of 9 different subtypes when the cancer cells are looked at not only under the microscope but with multiple genetic analysis as well. Each subtype has its specific genetic abnormality, molecular pathway and degree of immune cell involvement. Also, different survival situation is associated with different genetic subtype.

This scientific finding is very important to improve the treatment of RCC in the future. More research will be performed by this group of scientists to develop clinical applications of their research findings, which will allow the doctors to select more effective treatment approaches based on the 9 subtypes of RCC and provide patients with more personalized strategies and precision medicine that are tailored to each patient’s specific genetic abnormalities.

Michael Wang, MD, PhD, Chief Science Officer, NFCR

Source:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794376/

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