Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County Start Construction on New Teen Center

Harvey Berger gives back to many organizations he is dedicated to, especially to those in his local community. The Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County works with young people to reach their potential and make sure they are on track to graduate from high school. After reaching a $6 million fundraising goal, the organization has broken ground for phase 1 of the Smith & Moore Family Teen Center that will open in Belle Glade.

Plans for the new Teen Center were put into motion after the current location found themselves forced to turn away young people every day because it lacked the facilities and staff, only being able to serve 321 members. The Smith & Moore Family Teen Center will be able to offer academic, social and cultural activities for 900 members and will offer career prep programs.

“We are going to set the standard as the number one advocate for Belle Glade youth during out-of-school time.”- Jaene Miranda, president and CEO of BGCPBC

In mid-April, the Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach held a ceremonial groundbreaking. The new state-of-the-art location will be two-stories, 13,000 square feet, and provide necessary after-school resources for the Belle Glade youth. BGCPBC is now ready to move to phase 2 of the $10 million campaign and is now looking to raise an additional $4 million to go towards an endowment fund that will keep the facility up and running.

Radioimmunotherapy | An Overview

Radioimmunotherapy is a combination of both radiation therapy and immunotherapy. Immunotherapy refers to treatments that use the body’s own immune system to combat cancer.

Several specific types of immunotherapy engage monoclonal antibodies. These antibodies then target select antigens that exist on the surface of cancer cells. They will then attach to cancer cells and act as a “disease-fighters” in the immune system.
Monoclonal antibodies, without radionuclides attached, are commonly used to treat cancer. These monoclonal antibodies are called “naked antibodies.” When conjugated or attached, monoclonal antibodies are paired with a radioactive substance and injected into the bloodstream. When used in radioimmunotherapy, they often travel and bind to cancer cells and deliver high doses of radiation directly to tumor cells. These conjugated monoclonal antibodies will then target the antigen directly. This specific approach is notably less damaging to the existing normal cells in other parts of the body as opposed to naked antibodies.

Radiolabeled antibodies such as ibritumomab tiuxetan attach to the CD20 antigen found on lymphocytes when treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphoma starts in the a type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and will then travel throughout the body and settle into several places, simultaneously.

Notably, researchers have begun studying antibody pairings with different radioactive agents and their potential uses in treating many other blood cancers or solid tumors. These cancers include prostate cancer, melanoma, ovarian cancer, leukemia, high-grade brain glioma, and colorectal cancer.

How Clinical Trials Advance Cancer

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Director of the Early Drug Development Center, Geoffrey Shapiro, MD, PhD, addressed many questions that individuals often have regarding clinical trials. Additionally, he discussed how cancer treatment overall can be improved. The DFCI’s Early Drug Development Center specializes in conducting phase I clinical trials.

Shapiro discussed the importance of clinical trials noting that they are they are necessary in determining the safety and efficacy of new cancer drugs or drug combinations. He specifically noted the degree of care and attention to control necessary to generate a substantial enough amount of data that will ultimately allow medical scientists the ability to determine whether a drug is safe, what the appropriate dosage should be, and how effective the drug is.

When considering the advances made in clinical trials, Shapiro highlighted cell-cycle related agents, including CDK inhibitors. CDK inhibitors can prevent the proliferation of cancer cells and have transformed the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Shapiro and his team are now extending the uses of these drugs to other diseases, including lung cancer, glioblastoma, and some forms of lymphoma and sarcoma.

While DFCI does extremely well in filling its clinical trials, nationally, the percentage of cancer patients participating in trials is alarmingly low. One of the most meaningful ways cancer patients can impact and continue to progress cancer treatment is by enrolling in a clinical trial. To learn more about Dana-Farber’s clinical trials, read Shapiro’s full interview.

The First U.S. Commercial Implants of Innovative EluNIR™ Drug-Eluting Stent Announced

In early January, Medinol and Cordis announced that the EluNIR™ drug-eluting stent (DES) was used commercially for the first time in cases in the United States. The procedures using the EluNIR™ were performed at two prestigious hospitals, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and the Piedmont Heart Institute.

Medinol’s Executive Chairman, Harvey Berger, M.D., stated that the commercial launch of the EluNIR drug-eluting stent is a major step forward for Medinol and for patients with obstructive coronary artery disease.  This new stent system has important advantages for interventional cardiologists who are always looking for better and more effective ways to safely open occluded or narrowed vessels. Harvey Berger, M.D. to work with Medinol’s core business of interventional cardiovascular devices, in addition to its businesses developing sub-millimeter implantable sensors, unique percutaneous aortic valves and other complementary products.

The New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center’s Director for Interventional Vascular Therapy, Martin B. Leon, M.D., noted, “Our first patient cases with the EluNIR™ stent went perfectly and we are enthusiastic about the overall performance including the uniform vessel coverage and the delivery system with the metallic spring tip, which is unlike any other product in the market. I have been following Medinol for over 20 years and am excited to see yet another one of the company’s innovative products launch in the U.S. market.”

The EluNIR™ stent was approved for the treatment of patients with narrowing or blockages to their coronary arteries. It is currently being distributed to cath labs throughout the United States by Cordis. The stent system is designed to help clinicians easily deliver this new DES in highly complex anatomy and disease.

“The physicians and staff at Columbia and Piedmont have played pivotal roles in the evolution of the EluNIR™ stent,” said Dr. Yoram Richter, chief scientific officer at Medinol. “We are honored to have the first commercial cases with EluNIR™ performed at such notable institutions. This event marks another step in Medinol’s legacy, which has continued to stretch the limits of innovation, starting with our NIR stent in 1996.”

Under a long-term distribution agreement between Cardinal Health and Medinol, Cordis was given Cardinal Health’s interventional vascular business, which includes the rights to sell Medinol’s coronary stent portfolio. This portfolio now includes the EluNIR™.

Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Discovery suggests a new strategy for attacking high-profile but elusive target in cancer

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center scientists have presented drug developers with an unprecedented targeting of a highly dangerous molecular cause of cancer.

The study targets a mutant form of the protein KRAS. This specific protein has proven to be untouchable by current therapies despite it being commonly altered in human cancers. The researchers identified the KRAS’s basic structure as a “dimer.” Its ability to function depends on the composite of two similar or identical proteins. That being said, KRAS can’t work if it is not a dimer. This finding has raised the possibility that drugs that inhibit the mutant KRAS from forming a dimer could in turn impede the protein’s ability to drive cancer growth.

Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD, senior author of the new study stated, “The KRAS gene is one of the most frequently mutated genes in human cancers. It’s mutated in 20-25 percent of lung cancers, making it the largest genomic subtype of lung cancer, as well as in a large percentage of colon, pancreatic, and other cancers. That kind of prevalence has made the KRAS protein one of the prime targets for new therapies. So far, however, it has resisted targeting with small-molecule drugs.”

While drugs capable of blocking the process of forming protein dimers do not currently exist for cancer or any other disease, this discovery reported by Jänne and his colleagues could potentially ignite new research in this area, the study authors state.

The Lead Author of the study Chiara Ambrogio, PhD said, “Our findings suggest that dimerization appears to be an essential aspect of KRAS’s role within the cell.” Pasi A. Jänne added, “On the one hand, in the dimer formed by normal and mutant KRAS, the normal portion counteracts the negative effect of the mutant portion. At the same time, we’ve shown that dimerization is critical for KRAS mutants to be fully oncogenic, or cancer-causing. This reliance on dimerization suggests that disrupting dimerization with novel therapies may be an effective way of attacking some cancers at their root.”

The KRAS gene exists in two copies, and each is inherited from the parent. When one copy of KRAS is mutated, potentially speeding up cell growth, the normal copy then reins it back in. In the new study, researchers sought to understand how the normal copy achieves this restraining effect.

To learn more about this study, visit the Dana-Farber website.

The other co-lead authors of the study are Jens Köhler, MD, of Dana-Farber and Zhi-Wei Zhou, PhD, of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. David Santamaria, PhD, of the University of Bordeaux, France, is a co-senior author. Co-authors are Raymond Paranal, Jiaqi Li, Marzia Capelletti, PhD, Cristina Caffarra, PhD, and Shuai Li, MD, of Dana-Farber; Haiyun Wang, PhD, and Qi Lv, of Tongji University, China; Sudershan Gondi, PhD, John C. Hunter, and Jia Lu, PhD, of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Roberto Chiarle, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Torino, Italy.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals To Acquire TiGenix

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company recently announced its plan to acquire an advanced biopharmaceutical company developing novel stem cell therapies for serious medical conditions, TiGenix NV. This acquisition will expand Takeda’s late stage pipeline and leadership in gastroenterology, strengthening its presence in the United States specialty care market. Takeda Pharmaceutical Company will subsequently enter into an offer and support agreement with TiGenix. This acquisition will extend the existing collaboration between Takeda and TiGenix to develop and commercialize darvadstrocel, which has received a positive CHMP opinion to treat complex perianal fistulas in Crohn’s disease. This will facilitate a recommended potential voluntary public takeover bid for TiGenix. This deal has the unanimous support of the CEO and TiGenix board of directors. The acquisition is a natural extension of an already existing partnership agreement between Takeda and TiGenix. Together, they have aimed to created new treatment options for patients with gastrointestinal disorders.

“As a leader in gastroenterology, Takeda recognizes the complex physical, emotional and social barriers that people living with fistulizing Crohn’s disease experience,” said Andrew Plump, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, Takeda. “Limited treatment options exist today and I believe we can be most effective in serving this population by working in collaboration with partners whose unique skill sets allow us to more efficiently explore innovative approaches, including stem cell therapies. I have had the opportunity to work alongside the TiGenix team throughout our collaboration and know that we have shared goals and varied, but complementary expertise. I am thrilled at the prospect of welcoming them as part of our organization.”

Dr. Harvey Berger is Appointed to the Dana-Farber Board of Trustees

On February 21, 2018, Dr. Harvey Berger, MD was appointed to the Board of Trustees at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is among six other newly appointed individuals who will serve on the Hospital’s governing body.

In addition to providing his leadership and expertise to the Dana-Farber team, Dr. Harvey Berger is the Executive Chairman of Medinol, Inc., a global interventional cardiovascular-device company. Dr. Berger joined the Medinol team in February of 2017. Prior to joining Medinol, Inc., he founded a global biotechnology company, ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he served as the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

“As a governing trustee, I look forward to working closely with the outstanding leadership and trustees of the DFCI.  CEO, Laurie Glimcher, and Board chair, Josh Bekenstein, have set a clear vision for the Institute in a world of personalized cancer medicines. The DFCI is second-to-none among cancer institutes and brings clinical scholarship, outstanding basic and translational research, and a historic dedication to patients to its mission every day. Being selected to work with them is a special honor for me,” said Harvey Berger.

Dr. Berger adds an extensive portfolio of experience in cardiology, oncology and life sciences. He has held both academic and administrative positions at Yale University, Emory University and University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Berger has published over 150 original papers, editorials, and reviews in scientific and medical journal and serves as an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association.

Dana-Farber elaborates on the differences between Basic, Clinical and Translational Research: What’s the Difference?

“Research” is an exceedingly broad term. However, when considering medical research, there are important distinctions among the three principal types  — basic research, clinical research and translational research.

Basic research is evaluating to how nature works, translational research takes knowledge acquired from basic research and applies that in the development of solutions to medical problems. Clinical research takes those solutions and applies them in clinical trials and studies them. When combined, each form of research creates a continuous research cycle.

Science based “basic” research describes something that’s an essential starting point. Associate Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, David Frank, MD, explains “If you think of it in terms of construction, you can’t put up a beautiful, elegant house without first putting in a foundation. In science, if you don’t first understand the basic research, then you can’t move on to advanced applications.”

Basic medical research is usually performed by scientists with a PhD in fields like biology and chemistry, to name a few. They will typically seek to answer fundamental questions about the structures of DNA, cells, proteins, molecules, etc. learning how they work.

“Basic research is fundamentally curiosity-driven research. Think of that moment when an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head. He thought to himself, ‘Why did that happen?’ and then went on to try to find the answer. That’s basic research,” notes Program Director, Chemical Biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Milka Kostic. To learn more about research, visit the Dana-Farber website.

Dana-Farber’s Year of Milestones – 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, has completed her first full year as President and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Under Gilmcher’s leadership, Dana-Farber has achieved many milestones in cancer science and medicine. Dana-Farber is one of the world leaders in leveraging the human immune system to fight cancer, and in 2017 its team of researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of the first-ever personalized cancer vaccine in a clinical trial for melanoma.

Each patient a part of its melanoma study achieved complete remission from advanced phases of the disease, either from the vaccine they developed or in combination with another immunotherapy. These findings marked a transformation for cancer research. Dana-Farber remains as determined as ever to keep expanding the benefits of such discoveries to more patients.

Dana-Farber has been pivotal to drug development. Of the 75 cancer drugs approved by the FDA since 2011, Dana-Farber has been deeply involved in nearly half—including the recent landmark approval of CAR T-cell therapy, a new immunotherapy, for adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Dana-Farber currently has 900 clinical trials of various innovative therapies underway. Only select trials are supported by federal funding, the rest are available to patients because of the support Dana-Farber receives from its partners. Dana-Farber is considered a prestigious cancer center because it not only offers a commitment to research but also to patient care. Its success and commitment to its patients was recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review when they named Dana-Farber one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America for 2017.

NIH partners with 11 leading biopharmaceutical companies to accelerate the development of new cancer immunotherapy strategies for more patients

In late 2017, The National Institutes of Health and 11 leading biopharmaceutical companies started the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT). PACT is a five-year, $215 million, public-private research collaboration that is part of the Cancer Moonshot. PACT’s initial efforts will be focused on identifying, developing and validating robust biomarkers with the goal of advancing new immunotherapy treatments that harness the immune system to attack cancer. The PACT partnership will be managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the Food and Drug Administration serving in an advisory role.

Eric Hargan, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary stated, “This new public-private partnership is a significant step forward in the battle against cancer and a real boost to the potential of immunotherapy. We are excited for this partnership, which will strengthen efforts already underway across HHS.”

“We have seen dramatic responses from immunotherapy, often eradicating cancer completely for some cancer patients,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.  “We need to bring that kind of success — and hope — for more people and more types of cancers, and we need to do it quickly. A systematic approach like PACT will help us to achieve success faster.”

This partnership will help to increase the overall understanding of response mechanisms and resistance to cancer therapy by facilitating systematic and uniform clinical testing of biomarkers. PACT’s research will define a set of standardized biomarkers to be tested across a variety of studies allowing them to be integrated into immune and other related oncology biomarkers into clinical trials.

In addition, PACT will facilitate information sharing amongst stakeholders to better coordinate clinical efforts, align investigative approaches, reduce duplication and enable more high-quality trials to be conducted. The constant gene uniform and harmonized assays will be facilitated in support of data reproducibility, comparability of data across trials, and discovery and validation of new biomarkers for immunotherapy and related combinations.

FNIH President and Executive Director Maria C. Freire, Ph.D. stated, “A scientific and organizational challenge this complex cannot be addressed effectively by any one organization acting alone. Instead, it requires the energies and resources of public and private partners working in close collaboration.”