The following was taken from WV Public Broadcasting
by Clark Davis
Marshall University professor Vincent Sollars recently received a $432,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute for his unique cancer research. It involves something called canalization.
Dr. Sollars is an associate professor in the Marshall University School of Medicine. He’s taking an unusual approach to find better treatments for cancer.
“In the end what we’re looking at is making life better for people that have this deadly disease, that’s the main reason I became a scientist,” Sollars said.
The idea of canalization is that as cells develop and mature they become different things.
“As they develop they start as very immature cells that look like each other, and then they mature,” Sollars said. “That process is structured and they’re pushed a long a certain direction like a canal pushes water.”
And he said when that canalization does not work appropriately that is when cancer cells develop. Sollars is examining why some of those cells do not follow the path and end up becoming cancerous. Sollars said that some of the cells will stop listening and cooperating with neighboring cells. That communication with the other cells is necessary for the complex mix that becomes the different cells in our body. When the cells do not listen, bad things happen.
“The loss of this canalization is a force that will allow those cells that are normal to become cancerous, if we understand how that occurs we can develop new chemotherapies,” Sollars said. “If it is truly a force that helps a cancer cell progress we can put breaks on that force.”
Sollars and a team of student researchers will the test the role of canalization in the maturing process of cells and cancer development in mice. They will target leukemia specifically with this grant, but the results can apply to all cancer types. Sollars said most often with cancer research, the examination is of the genes that mutate and become cancerous. His work differs because it looks at the process those individual cells are taking in becoming a normal part of the body or cancer down the road.
“What I’m doing is understanding not a particular gene, but a process,” Sollars said. “So how do cells bring about the changes in these genes, not the specific genes themselves, but the process and so this is a fundamental process is my theory that most cancers use to progress.”
Sollars says ultimately the hope is that if his hypothesis can be proved true, a certain type of chemotherapy could be used in conjunction with the already occurring treatment of leukemia. He says often times the initial treatment of leukemia will seem successful, putting the cancer into remission. But often he said cancer cells will be hiding and growing without the knowledge of the doctor until it’s too late.
Sollars hopes to hire 8 undergraduate and graduate students along with a full-time technician.
Marshall Professors Create Groundbreaking New Test In Fight Against Cancer
Reported by: Kennie Bass
Videographer: Matt Durrett
Also Contributing: Larry Clark
It’s called ChemoID, and it could represent a big step forward in cancer care.
Nearly a decade ago, two Marshall University professors met on this bridge, which connects the Science Building and the Byrd Biotechnology Center. That moment of serendipity, of blind chance bringing two people together, was the beginning of a relationship which led to combining research and work leading to revolutionary new way to fight cancer.
“It’s a new paradigm in cancer treatment,” Dr. Jagan Valluri, Marshall University professor said. “Simply because this particular assay that we developed is simply going to deliver great results in improving clinical outcomes. And more importantly there is a lessening of the financial burden on patients because the assay is going to select the right chemotherapy for that particular patient.
“A particular patient will respond to a certain drug better than another patient,” Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, Marshall University professor said. “Why is that? Because those cancers are, although they look the same, they are really different. You and I, we are different genetically, so is cancer. And so, therefore the different response is due to that. So our test is a functional test that is able to find, select correct drugs, more useful drugs for that individual patient. And deselect those that are not useful that would cause more harm than benefit.
Identifying the best treatment for cancer has long been the subject of comprehensive research. The Marshall professors developed their second-level test, which subjects cancer stem cells to a multitude of different medicines.
Claudio says clinical tests show ChemoID is very effective and accurate in predicting which chemotherapy drugs or combination of drugs work best in individual cancer patients.
Let me illustrate how ChemoID works using this deck of cards. Let’s say each card is a federally-approved chemotherapy treatment against cancer and let’s say you’re diagnosed with lung cancer. So, your doctor picks a card. First generation testing is right about 60 to 70 percent of the time in choosing the right chemotherapy to deal with a general type of cancer. So, your oncologist picks this type of chemotherapy and it proves to be effective. But then another person is diagnosed with the exact same type of cancer. Their oncologist also prescribes this form of chemotherapy but it doesn’t work on them. So the oncologist is forced to go to a second type, this drug which is a little bit more effective. What the ChemoID researchers say is that their second generation test finds the correct medication to deal specifically with your type of cancer. They say that ChemoID will save money, it will save time and most importantly it will save lives.
“We have introduced a novel part to this test which is testing the cancer stem cell population,” Claudio said. “Which are the seeds of cancer, the roots of cancer. Just like normal tissue have stem cells, also cancer has stem cells. However, those are evil stem cells able to regrow and repair cancer following a failed chemotherapy. So if we leave those bad boys behind what happens is that cancer will recur. Our ability with this test is to select those cancer stem cells and grow them up so that we have material now to make a test and predict against cancer stem cells which chemotherapy will be more effective for selected patients, for individual patients.
“People have been trying to personalize chemotherapy,” Valluri said. “Because chemotherapy, when you provide chemotherapy to a patient it is generally based on clinical trials on generalized populations. It’s never specific to a patient group or subset of people. And so, what our process does is we minimize the trial and error by truly personalizing the chemotherapy and going after what we call the seeds of the cancer, the cancer stem cells. And so, the seeds of the cancer, if we can effectively target them and lower the load of the cancer stem cells there there is a greater clinical outcome.”
Finding the best chemotherapy option for each individual cancer patient could save time and avoid the harsh side effects of chemo treatments which aren’t most effective.
“Every person is different,” Claudio said. “So because every person is different, although every single card could be a good play to be played, drugs that may work better, we can find the drugs that can work better for that particular patient and therefore play that card instead of a different card.”
Clinical trials at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center showed very positive results. ChemoID has been used to help dozens of patients during the testing period. One patient is celebrating six years of treatments. That’s six years longer than they were expected to live.
“By using the correct drug and by impacting more the cancer than the patient will in the end, prolong life and provide a better quality of life for patients,” Claudio said.
ChemoID is not a cure for cancer. But, for people with lung, brain, spine and breast cancer, it represents finding their best chance at making their disease chronic instead of fatal.
Claudio says an additional benefit is that ChemoID could save money. He and his partner recently talked with Senator Joe Manchin about their research and how it could cut Medicaid costs if its implemented on a wide basis.
“First of all, the quality of life, the ability to extend a person’s life that might be terminal,” Manchin said. “But the other thing is the amount of money that would be saved from treating so many different things that doesn’t have an effect.and being able to pinpoint what will be effective.”
The researchers say your oncologist, your doctor, will still have the final say as to which medicine they want to use to treat your cancer.
However, ChemoID is an additional tool which could give both doctors and patients more information about the best path to take and could provide an additional edge leading to longer and better quality lives.
“It’s gonna have an impact worldwide,” Valluri said. “Because when you think about in the U.S. alone we spend 30 billion dollars on chemotherapy drugs. The cost of cancer in this country alone is over 210 billion and it is a tremendous financial burden on patients. What this assay does is truly personalizes the chemotherapy selection. You’re not only reducing toxicity improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. So, there’s many facets to this technology.”
“By using this test,” Claudio said. “Oncologists can have a new pair of glasses that magnifies drugs that are working for that particular patient and can provide a benefit to the patient better than other drugs that wouldn’t.
Cabell-Huntington Hospital is planning to implement the new ChemoID cancer screening this fall.
The test’s creators say they hope to share the ChemoID technology with the hospitals across West Virginia, the nation and eventually the world.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Mohit Harsh,a research student at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and an entering first-year medical student, presented his team’s findings last month during a poster session at the 16th International Congress of Endocrinology in Chicago.
The research was done in the laboratory of Dr. Nader G. Abraham, one of the foremost researchers on the topic of obesity and metabolic syndrome in the world, as well as the Vice Dean for Research for the School of Medicine. The study focused on fructose and a metabolic by-product of fructose metabolism called uric acid and their effects on bone marrow-derived stem cell development. The use of fructose is becoming increasingly popular as a sweetener in western society and has been linked to worsening obesity and obesity-related complications like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“This was significant study because it’s the first study to demonstrate that fructose treatments on stem cells increase the development of fat cells and actually decrease the secretion of adiponectin, a hormone known to have cardio-protective properties,” Harsh said.“Our results may provide an avenue for our better understanding of diet-induced obesity and obesity-related cardiovascular complications.”
Harsh worked with fellow students Jordan P. Hilgefort, a second- year medical student, and George E. Banks V, also a second-year medical student. Faculty members on the team include Zeid J. Khitan, M.D.; Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine; Komal Sodhi, M.D.; Luca Vanella, Ph.D.; and Abraham.
“Obesity is preventable and can be achieved by controlling calorie intake and physical activity,” Abraham said. “Our goal is to empower our community with science-based information about what can be done to prevent child and adult obesity and how an increase in fructose intake can be detrimental on body weight gain and heart disease.”
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Brickstreet Foundation.
Contact: Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713
Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine has released the spring edition of its Professional Enhancement Newsletter (PEN). It is extremely informative about happenings in the fields of both clinical medicine and basic science research at Marshall University.
Twenty-five (25) Marshall University School of Medicine basic science faculty and biomedical sciences graduate students (and a few of our former faculty and students) are highlighted in this edition. They are recognized for numerous reasons ranging from winning teaching and/or service awards to receiving grant funding to publishing their research.
As you read the newsletter, look specifically for our BMS faculty and students; they are listed below in order of appearance in the newsletter:
Lora Beth Fetty, M.D. – former Medical Sciences’ student
Aaron Dom – former Medical Sciences’ student
Beverly Delidow, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Jung Han Kim, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Miranda Carper – Ph.D. candidate
Sarah Sexton – former Medical Sciences’ student
Richard M. Niles, Ph.D. – Vice Dean for Biomedical Sciences Research
Elsa I. Mangiarua, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Maria A. Serrat, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Uma Sundaram, M.D. – BMS faculty
Matt Christiansen, M.D. – former Medical Sciences’ student
Todd L. Green, Ph.D. – Director of Graduate Studies, BMS
Sasha N. Zill, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Mitchell Berk, Ph.D. – retired Anatomy professor
Susan Jackman, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Monica A. Valentovic, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Pier Paolo Claudio, M.D., Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Hongwei D. Yu, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Wei-ping Zeng, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., F.A.H.A., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.N. – School of Medicine Dean
Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Travis Salisbury, Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Jiang Liu, M.D., Ph.D. – BMS faculty
Nader G. Abraham, Ph.D., Dr. H.C., F.A.H.A. – Vice Dean for Research
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Commercializing scientific research will be the focus of an upcoming program featuring Dr. Shaomeng Wang, who is widely recognized for his pioneering work in the field of drug discovery and his ongoing efforts to bring the fruits of that work to the market.
The talk titled “Translating Your Research Discoveries into Practice: It takes a village!” will begin at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 25, in Room 109 of the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center on Marshall University’s Huntington campus. The event is part of a series of public lectures hosted by the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research.
Wang is the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Medicine and professor of internal medicine and pharmacology in the University of Michigan Medical School, and professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy. He also serves as co-director of the Molecular Therapeutics Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and is the director of the Cancer Drug Discovery Program. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the most-cited journal in the field.
As part of his research, Wang’s laboratory has successfully developed several classes of anticancer drugs designed to specifically kill tumor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
His work has resulted in 33 U.S. patents and four license agreements.
He co-founded Ascenta Therapeutics with former Michigan faculty members Drs. Marc Lippman and Dajun Yang in 2003, and established Ascentage Pharma Group in 2009. More recently, he created OncoFusion Therapeutics with fellow faculty member Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan to develop personalized cancer therapies.
To date, he has advanced four novel cancer drugs into Phase I/II clinical development and several more drugs into late-stage preclinical development.
Wang received a B.S. in chemistry from Peking University in 1986 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Case Western Reserve University in 1992. After completing postdoctoral training in drug design at the National Cancer Institute in 1996, he served as assistant and associate professor at Georgetown University until 2001. He then joined the faculty at the University of Michigan Medical School as a tenured associate professor in 2001 and was promoted to professor in 2006.
In March, he was honored with the University of Michigan’s Distinguished University Innovator Award, which honors faculty who have made important and lasting contributions to society by developing novel ideas and insights through their research, and then translating them to practice.
For more information about the program, contact Hollie Bailey at email@example.com or 304-696-3549.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, a researcher at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, is traveling to Paphos, Cyprus, next month to present his work to personalize chemotherapy for cancer treatment.
Claudio was invited to give the talk at the 5th International Conference on Recent Advances in Health and Medical Sciences, which will be held July 6-12.
He will be discussing the results of clinical trials conducted at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center. The studies tested ChemoID, a cell culture method he developed with colleague Dr. Jagan Valluri to measure the sensitivity of patients’ tumors to chemotherapy treatment for lung, brain/spine and breast cancer.
He says more evaluation of the technology is needed, but preliminary tests on a small number of patients found ChemoID 100 percent accurate in predicting which drug is more effective in treating patients affected by brain cancer if the tumor-initiating cancer stem cells were evaluated.
“Oncologists every day face many challenges in determining the best course of therapy for an individual cancer patient,” says Claudio. “The basic problem is that patients with similar diagnoses don’t always respond to the same chemotherapy. This technology we have developed could help physicians select the appropriate chemotherapy for an individual patient—giving them an edge in the fight against cancer.”
He says the good news for cancer patients is that ChemoID may make possible personalized treatment by predicting the most effective drug combination to successfully target that specific patient’s cancer—increasing the chance the drugs will work and perhaps reducing side effects by helping the patient avoid unnecessary drugs.
In addition to presenting his own research at the conference, Claudio will be moderating a session, “Advances in Oncology and Anticancer Research. Cancer Pathology.”
Summaries of the research presented at the meeting will be published in the journal Frontiers in Bioscience.