PHOENIX, Ariz. - Aug. 7, 2009 - Dr. Glen Weiss of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Scottsdale Healthcare this week announced two significant advances in treating lung cancer at an international cancer research conference.
Dr. Weiss, M.D., an Associate Investigator in TGen's Cancer and Cell Biology Division and Director of Thoracic Oncology at TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare, made both announcements at the 13th World Conference on Lung Cancer in San Francisco.
In one presentation, Dr. Weiss described research that eventually could help prevent lung cancer from spreading to the brain. In non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), brain metastasis is a devastating complication that occurs in as many as 1 in 4 patients. The ability to identify those at risk for developing brain metastasis may guide new therapies.
A team led by Dr. Weiss found several microRNAs, which are single-stranded RNA molecules that regulate how genes control cellular development - as well as several high-tech imaging characteristics - all associated with the spread of lung cancer to the brain.
The biological significance of these microRNAs are being explored, and more studies are warranted, according to the team, which was funded by the Ibis Foundation of Arizona, the TGen Foundation and the Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation.
"With additional validation, this work can lead to better techniques to predict, treat and ultimately prevent brain metastasis in patients with non-small cell lung cancer," Dr. Weiss said. "Identifying the highest-risk population for brain metastasis, so that informed therapeutic trials can be undertaken, could enable a paradigmatic shift in treating these patients."
The study team included researchers from: TGen; the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare's Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute; Scottsdale Medical Imaging LTD; and the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
In another presentation, Dr. Weiss discussed the release this week by Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc. and the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare of results from two Phase I clinical trials for a drug called TH-302.
The two clinical trials are both evaluating the safety and effectiveness of TH-302, a drug activated in the absence of oxygen. Both clinical trials involve patients with advanced solid tumors. In one, they are treated with TH-302 in combination with other chemotherapy agents. In the other, they are treated only with TH-302, which is produced by Threshold Pharmaceuticals of Redwood City, Calif.
In the study of those treated only with TH-302, six of eight, or 75 percent, of patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) "achieved stable disease or better." In the study of those treated with TH-302 in combination with other chemotherapy agents, eight of 12, or 67 percent, of patients with NSCLC "achieved stable disease or better," according to a release by Threshold and Scottsdale Healthcare. More details about the trials are available at www.shc.org/content.asp?lnavid=39.
"TH-302 is a new, novel, small molecule that is activated when cells are under conditions that lack oxygen, which is a metabolic condition characteristic of cancer cells," Dr. Weiss said. "We are excited to continue investigations with TH-302 and about the potential benefit that it might confer to people living with lung cancer."
About the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare
The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare offers diagnosis, treatment, research and support in its facilities at the Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, attracting patients from across Arizona and the U.S. Groundbreaking cancer research is conducted through its Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute and TGen Clinical Research Service. It is a primary clinical research site for the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic Cancer Research Dream Team. Scottsdale Healthcare is the not-for-profit parent organization of the Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center and Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak Hospital, Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute and Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation. For additional information, please visit www.shc.org.
Keith Jones, Director of Public Relations
Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare
About Threshold Pharmaceuticals
Threshold is a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of drugs targeting Tumor Hypoxia, the low oxygen condition found in microenvironments of most solid tumors. This approach offers broad potential to treat most solid tumors. By selectively targeting tumor cells, we are building a pipeline of drugs that hold promise to be more effective and less toxic to healthy tissues than conventional anticancer drugs. For additional information, please visit www.thresholdpharm.com.
Denise T. Powell, Senior Director of Corporate Communications
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, please visit: www.tgen.org.
TGen Senior Science Writer