Google Glass Might One Day Diagnose And Track Diseases Like HIV
Feb28

Google Glass Might One Day Diagnose And Track Diseases Like HIV

When Google began releasing its new head-mounted computer to beta testers last year, technology enthusiasts were pumped. After all, the futuristic device, called Glass, might one day enable people to answer email hands-free or view driving directions projected onto the road in front of them. Others, though, have complained that Google Glass is a cool piece of tech that hasn’t yet justified its existence. (Still others have complained that Glass is creepy, but that’s a story for another day.) Slowly but surely, though, beta testers in Google’s Explorers program have been making a case for the sophisticated eyewear by demonstrating its unique—sometimes scientific--capabilities. Physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel famously shared his visit to the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, with his students via Glass. Ohio surgeon Christopher Kaeding gave medical students a live, bird’s eye view of a knee operation he conducted while wearing the device. And now, a research team led by Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California, Los Angeles, is using Google Glass to help diagnose and track disease. The engineers designed an app for the wearable computer that images and reads rapid diagnostic tests such as pregnancy pee sticks. It also links the results to a scannable QR code, stores them, and tags them geographically. “The new technology could enhance the tracking of dangerous diseases and improve response time in disaster-relief areas or quarantine zones where conventional medical tools are not available or feasible,” Ozcan says. Among the first to be selected by Google as Explorers, Ozcan and his team demonstrated the capabilities of their new app by using it to read a few types of home HIV and prostate cancer tests—ones that require an oral swab or a drop of blood to work. They recently published their efforts in ACS Nano (2014, DOI: 10.1021/nn500614k). True, it doesn’t take much to read one of these tests—either lines appear or they don’t in the case of the HIV tests. But the app could save time for clinicians who routinely have to read a multitude of different types of sticks and remember which symbols and lines signify a positive or negative result, Ozcan points out. After a single calibration run, the online tool recognizes a particular test stick and can even assign a biomarker concentration to the lines that appear. These rapid diagnostic tests typically use nanoparticles to create these lines (which is why Ozcan’s study appears in ACS Nano). Coated with an antibody, the particles recognize a specific biomarker in blood, urine, or saliva samples and bind to it. As the particle-biomarker complex flows down the test stick, rows of a different type of antibody already...

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New Targets in Advanced Prostate Cancer
Mar18

New Targets in Advanced Prostate Cancer

The following is a guest post from Sally Church (known to many in the twittersphere as @MaverickNY), from the Pharma Strategy Blog. Much hullabaloo has been in the medical news over the past year over new options for the treatment of metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). FDA approval for two new drugs, abiraterone acetate (J&J's Zytiga) and enzalutamide (Astellas/Medivation's Xtandi), has meant a sharp focus on drugs that target the androgen receptor. But at the the American Society of Clinical Oncology Genitourinary (ASCO GU) symposium, held last month in Orlando, intriguing data on new targets for CRPC emerged. Zytiga and Xtandi target the androgen receptor (AR) in very different ways, but the overall effect is similar, in that they can effectively reduce the levels of prostatic serum antigen (PSA), which is reactivated in tumors with advanced disease. Zytiga acts high up in the steroidogenic pathway and one side effect associated with monotherapy is the development of mineralcorticosteroid effects, leading to over stimulation of the adrenal glands and hypokalaemia.  This toxicity must therefore managed with concomitant prednisone therapy. Xtandi, meanwhile, more directly targets the androgen receptor, which tends to be amplified in advanced prostate cancer. The drug doesn't have same effect on cortisol production as Zytiga, and can therefore be taken without steroids. The androgen receptor isn't the only valid target in CRPC, however.  Aldo-keto reductase 1C3 (AK1C3), an enzyme that can facilitate androstenedione conversion to testosterone, is also over-expressed in advanced prostate cancer. Several new agents in early development appear to specifically target AK1C3. At ASCO GU, a couple of abstract particularly caught my eye and are worth highlighting here: 1) Bertrand Tombal et al., presented the initial data on Xtandi monotherapy in advanced prostate cancer in the hormone-naive setting, that is prior to CRPC.  Traditionally, Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT) is given to patients with high risk disease.  In the US, LHRH antagonists are used first-line, followed by AR antagonists such as bicalutamide, giving a basis for the rationale testing Xtandi, which is a more complete antagonist of the AR than bicalutamide. In this trial, the single arm design sought to determine whether not enzalutamide would have activity in patients who had not received standard ADT therapy. The waterfall plots in this study (n=67) were impressive. The results showed that: a) Ninety-three percent of study participants experienced a ≥80% PSA decrease at week 25. b) Median change in PSA was -99.6% (range -100% to -86.5%). In other words, most of the men in this trial responded well to Xtandi, suggesting that a randomized trial is well worth pursuing next. You can read more about the specifics of this new development and what Dr Tombal had to say...

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Dendreon Outlines European Strategy for Provenge
Jan07

Dendreon Outlines European Strategy for Provenge

Getting ahead of the crush of biotech news likely to come out of next week’s J.P.Morgan Healthcare conference, Dendreon held a conference call this morning to outline its strategy for the European launch of its prostate cancer immunotherapy Provenge. If you'll recall, last April, Provenge became the first cancer immunotherapy approved in the U.S.  Launching the drug in Europe would be a boon for Dendreon. As the biotech’s CEO Mitch Gold pointed out on the call, low rates of PSA testing in Europe meant that many men arrived in their physicians office with metastatic disease. As a result, Europe has the largest metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer population—the same population Provenge is approved to treat--in the world. That said, Dendreon expects the actual market size to be more in line with the U.S., due to the challenging reimbursement environment in Europe. The majority of the call was focused on the company’s manufacturing plan in Europe. As we wrote several years back, it's a highly personalized treatment with a complicated manufacturing process: The personalized component comes from a blood sample taken from a patient in order to isolate dendritic cells, which deliver antigens to T-cells and B-cells, the lymphocytes that control the immune response. Those dendritic cells are then cultured with the general component, prostatic acid phosphatase, a recombinant protein found in 95% of prostate cancers. The dendritic cells, now loaded with the antigen, are then injected back into the patient to trigger a reaction from the immune system. Indeed, the roadblock to the treatment’s growth in the U.S. has been Dendreon’s ability to expand its manufacturing capacity here, and it wants to be ready to hit the ground running in Europe. The first goal is to enlist a contract manufacturing organization in Europe to make the treatment. Having someone on the ground will enable Dendreon to file its marketing authorization application in Europe much faster than if it was building from the ground up. It will also allow the biotech to start European trials of Provenge—a move management reminded investors was not necessary for the MAA filing, but would help give physicians some hands-on experience with the treatment before its approval. At the same time, Dendreon will this year start construction on its own immunotherapy manufacturing facility in Germany. The biotech notes that because Europe is so much more compact than the U.S., half the patient population will be within an eight hour drive of that site. If all goes well, the biotech plans to file for approval in Europe in late 2011 or early 2012, a timeline dependent on how fast it can transfer its manufacturing technology to a CMO. That puts...

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