Kevin Punsky (@kevinpunsky)
Activity by Kevin Punsky
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Patients with a common form of lung cancer — lung squamous cell carcinoma — have very few treatment options. That situation may soon change.
A team of cancer biologists at Mayo Clinic in Florida is reporting in the Feb. 10 issue of Cancer Cell the discovery of two oncogenes that work together to sustain a population of cells in lung squamous cell carcinoma, which may be responsible for the lethality of the disease. When these cells, termed cancer stem cells, are inhibited, tumors cannot develop.
Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Fields are available in the downloads.
“Cancer stem cells are a small population of cells in a tumor that can self-renew and grow indefinitely. They resist most treatments and are thought to be responsible for relapse,” says the study’s senior author, Alan P. Fields, Ph.D., the Monica Flynn Jacoby Professor of Cancer Studies at Mayo Clinic in Florida. “If you can shut down cancer stem cells, you may be able to stop relapse after therapy,” he says.
MARIETTA, Ga. — Feb. 6 — WellStar Health System (WellStar) and Mayo Clinic today announced that the metro Atlanta-based health system is joining the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a national network of like-minded organizations that share a commitment to better serving patients and their families. WellStar is the largest member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network in the southeast and the only member in metro Atlanta.
Using digital technology to promote physician collaboration and sharing of the latest medical information, experts from WellStar and Mayo Clinic will work together to further enhance the delivery of healthcare for patients, allowing many patients to avoid unnecessary travel for answers to complex medical questions.
“WellStar is home to some of the most accomplished and preeminent physicians in the Southeast,” says Robert Jansen, M.D., executive vice president and chief administrative medical officer of WellStar. “Working with Mayo Clinic through the Mayo Clinic Care Network offers our physicians a new resource to ensure the kind of innovative and leading care that patients have grown to expect from WellStar.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Thomas G. Brott, M.D., a neurologist and director for research at Mayo Clinic in Florida, has been named the recipient of the American Heart Association's 2013 Clinical Research Prize.
The award recognizes and rewards an individual who is making outstanding contributions to the advancement of cardiovascular science and who currently heads an outstanding cardiovascular clinical research laboratory, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Dr. Brott will be honored on stage during the opening ceremony of the American Heart Association's 2013 annual meeting in Dallas.
He is the first Mayo Clinic investigator to receive the prestigious prize, which has been awarded annually by the American Heart Association since 2005.
"This award is well deserved. Dr. Brott is a pioneer in the field of stroke and cerebrovascular disease research, and his mission to find the best therapies possible for patients has certainly saved lives," says William C. Rupp, M.D., chief executive officer at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
Dr. Brott was a leading investigator in the studies that identified tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) as an effective acute treatment for ischemic stroke. He and his team treated the very first patients using this therapy. Along with his colleagues, Dr. Brott defined the evolution of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage during the first hours after onset. In 1998, Dr. Brott came to Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida where he and his colleagues initiated the first NIH-funded genome-wide screen for stroke susceptibility.
Dr. Brott has led federally funded national clinical trials that aim to discover best treatment for stroke and uncover risk factors for the disorder. For example, he is principal investigator for the Carotid Revascularization Endarterectomy versus Stenting Trial (CREST), a study that compares two different treatments for their ability to reduce risk for stroke. The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
He also played a key role in designing the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS), a tool used internationally that measures stroke-related neurologic deficits.
COLUMBUS, GA. — Building on its reputation for delivering high quality and compassionate care to the communities in which it serves, St. Francis in Columbus, Ga., becomes the most recent member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, representatives from Mayo Clinic and St. Francis announced today. The Mayo Clinic Care Network shares Mayo Clinic's knowledge and expertise with health care systems interested in working together to enhance the quality and delivery of health care for their patients. St. Francis is the first organization in Georgia to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network.
"St. Francis is proud to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network member," said Robert Granger, president and CEO of St. Francis. "As part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, our physicians will [...]
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida, the University of Florida in Gainesville, and the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle have received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to take a new and more expanded approach to identifying drug targets to treat and possibly prevent Alzheimer's disease.
VIDEO ALERT: Video resources including an interview with Dr. Ertekin-Taner describing the study can be found on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
The investigators are working together to understand the role that innate immunity — the body's defense system — plays in Alzheimer's disease, a disorder of dementia that is rapidly increasing as the population ages.
The teams are focused on uncovering and manipulating the key molecular players in innate immunity with an ultimate goal of developing novel therapies for Alzheimer's disease, says neurologist and neuroscientist Nilufer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D., one of the grant's two principal investigators from Mayo Clinic in Florida. The other is Steven Younkin, M.D., Ph.D.
"When activated, human innate immunity results in inflammation, and previous research on this response to development of Alzheimer's disease has been contradictory because no one has yet looked at the whole picture of this effect over time," says Dr. Ertekin-Taner. "It may be that an initial inflammatory response is beneficial, perhaps even protective, but a lengthy response to toxic proteins acts to kill healthy neurons.
"Our goal is to understand exactly if and when an innate immune response is good, and when it is bad, and to identify drug targets that enhance this protective effect and shut down the destructive side of this inflammation."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nov. 7, 2013 — Use of a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure to remove superficial, early stage esophageal cancer is as effective as surgery that takes out and rebuilds the esophagus, according to a study by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida. The research, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, examined national outcomes from endoscopic treatment compared to esophagectomy, surgical removal of the esophagus.
VIDEO ALERT: Video resources including an interview with Dr. Wallace describing the study can be found on the Mayo Clinic News Network.
It found that endoscopic therapy offered long-term survival rates similar to those for esophagectomy, says lead author, Michael B. Wallace, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — September 24, 2012. Men who undergo surgical removal of prostate cancer can experience significant levels of anxiety one year after surgery, and higher levels of anxiety appear to be linked to poor sexual satisfaction and depression, say researchers at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida. Their recent study, published in the online edition of Psycho-Oncology, suggests that men who experience high levels of "cancer-specific anxiety" following surgery for prostate cancer could likely benefit from counseling designed to address their worries and improve their quality of life.
"The 10-year survival for a man undergoing surgery to remove localized prostate cancer is greater than 95 percent. Given that the majority of men who undergo prostatectomy for prostate cancer will not die from their disease, we are concerned about what life will be like for these patients decades after diagnosis and treatment," says the study's senior investigator, Alexander Parker, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and urology.
While prostate cancer can be a life threatening disease, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2.5 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive.
"The odds of surviving for long periods of time following surgery for prostate cancer are very high," says surgeon and co-author Gregory Broderick, M.D., a professor of urology. "That means a lot of men are living as prostate cancer survivors and we at Mayo Clinic are committed to understanding factors that affect their quality of life, not just their quantity of life."
Data from studies in patients with other cancer types have shown that anxiety can significantly affect an individual's quality of life. "Our study is the first to specifically show that those men with higher cancer-specific anxiety one year after surgery for prostate cancer are more likely to report lower levels of satisfaction with their sex life and higher levels of depressive symptoms," Dr. Parker says. In their study, the Mayo Clinic researchers examined findings on 365 men who, one year after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer, completed a questionnaire designed to measure anxiety levels about the fact they have been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. The men also completed additional questionnaires to measure levels of erectile function, sexual satisfaction and depression.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — September 20, 2012. To help Mayo Clinic design the most effective treatment possible for brain cancer patients, the JLG Brain Cancer Foundation is pledging to raise $250,000 to assist in the development of a brain tissue bank at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida. It has already raised $145,000 toward that goal. The brain cancer tissue bank will include brain tumor tissues for all stages and types of brain cancers.
"This vast tissue library will enable Mayo Clinic researchers to accurately identify the key molecular culprits in brain cancers — not just genes or proteins that influence cancer development, but the ones that make cancers more aggressive or resistant to therapies. Once found, these malignant forces can be stopped," says Jill Geehr, the daughter of Jacquie Lorraine Goldman, for whom the Foundation is named.
Mrs. Goldman was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most virulent form of brain cancer, in 2008. She participated in several experimental drug trials over the course of treatment at Mayo Clinic, but lost her struggle 1.5 years after diagnosis — well above the normal survival, says Ms. Geehr.
"We want to see that people diagnosed with brain cancer have options for treatment that are effective," she says. "Right now, most people who receive this diagnosis have an outcome that is pretty bleak."
"Mayo Clinic is pursuing a transformative vision for brain cancer care. We can help," says Ms. Geehr.
The Foundation's annual fundraising events are being held later this month. The second annual TASTE food and wine event is Thursday, Sept. 27 at TPC Sawgrass, and the Unlock the Cure JLG 5K Fun Run is slated for Saturday, Sept. 29, in Jacksonville Beach at The Beach Restaurant.
Brain tissue samples that are now starting to be collected at Mayo Clinic "will be instrumental in developing a new understanding of the biology and treatment of brain malignancies like that of Mrs. Goldman's," says Kurt Jaeckle, M.D., the Mayo Clinic neuro-oncologist who treated Mrs. Goldman.
"This Brain Cancer Tissue Bank never would have been possible without the kind donation and pledge of the JLG Brain Cancer Foundation," he says.
"It is our hope that every person who has fought or continues to fight brain cancer will lead us closer to unlocking a cure," says Ms. Geehr.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — September 17, 2012. An enzyme that could represent a powerful new tool for combating Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida. The enzyme — known as BACE2 — destroys beta-amyloid, a toxic protein fragment that litters the brains of patients who have the disease. The findings were published online Sept. 17 in the science journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Video resources, including an interview with Dr. Leissring, are available for journalists at the Mayo Clinic News Network.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common memory disorder. It affects more that 5.5 million people in the United States. Despite the disorder's enormous financial and personal toll, effective treatments have not yet been found.
The Mayo research team, led by Malcolm A. Leissring, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, made the discovery by testing hundreds of enzymes for the ability to lower beta-amyloid levels. BACE2 was found to lower beta-amyloid more effectively than all other enzymes tested. The discovery is interesting because BACE2 is closely related to another enzyme, known as BACE1, involved in producing beta-amyloid.
"Despite their close similarity, the two enzymes have completely opposite effects on beta-amyloid — BACE1 giveth, while BACE2 taketh away," Dr. Leissring says.
Beta-amyloid is a fragment of a larger protein, known as APP, and is produced by enzymes that cut APP at two places. BACE1 is the enzyme responsible for making the first cut that generates beta-amyloid. The research showed that BACE2 cuts beta-amyloid into smaller pieces, thereby destroying it, instead. Although other enzymes are known to break down beta-amyloid, BACE2 is particularly efficient at this function, the study found.
Previous work had shown that BACE2 can also lower beta-amyloid levels by a second mechanism: by cutting APP at a different spot from BACE1. BACE2 cuts in the middle of the beta-amyloid portion, which prevents beta-amyloid production.
"The fact that BACE2 can lower beta-amyloid by two distinct mechanisms makes this enzyme an especially attractive candidate for gene therapy to treat Alzheimer's disease," says first author Samer Abdul-Hay, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The discovery suggests that impairments in BACE2 might increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This is important because certain drugs in clinical use — for example, antiviral drugs used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — work by inhibiting enzymes similar to BACE2.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — September 12, 2012. Today's researchers have a new set of tools to help uncover the roots of human disease and personalize prevention and treatment efforts. To take advantage of the emergence of faster, more affordable DNA sequencing technology, Mayo Clinic is establishing a biobank at its campus in Jacksonville. The Mayo Clinic Biobank is an extension of an effort that started at Mayo in Rochester, Minn. in 2007.
Mayo Clinic in Florida has already begun enrolling volunteers in the Biobank, and expects to add at least 5,000 in the next five years, says Alexander Parker, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and Florida-based associate director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.
"Our mission at Mayo is to improve understanding of human disease and translate this knowledge into better prevention and care for all populations," Dr. Parker says. "We are grateful to our participants in the Mayo Clinic Biobank for their willingness to provide the DNA samples and information that will support the next generation of scientific inquiry, and drive us closer to more individualized medical care for everyone."
Participants who enroll in the Mayo Clinic Biobank are asked to grant access to their medical records, complete a 12-page lifestyle questionnaire and donate a blood sample, from which DNA is extracted and stored for future use. Participation in the Biobank is currently limited to people already receiving routine care at Mayo Clinic. It likely will eventually be opened to non-Mayo patients.
More than 40 research projects are using genetic and health information housed in the Mayo Clinic Biobank to explore questions related to a range of human diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, hypothyroidism and cancers such as myeloma and leukemia, and cancers of the colon, breast, brain, lung, liver and kidney.
Dr. Parker, a kidney specialist, says one study is looking at how frequently a genetic mutation found in kidney cancer patients occurs in healthy individuals. The Biobank makes it easier for researchers to perform studies because samples and information from many different people will be available in one place. Researchers can use the Biobank like a library. When they want to study a health issue they can use Biobank samples instead of finding new samples.
"One of my goals is to understand how genetics interacts with the environment to affect a person's risk of developing kidney cancer," he says. "Now, through a simple query of the Mayo Biobank, we are able to rapidly identify control individuals who have no history of kidney cancer and gain access to their DNA and lifestyle data. This essentially reduces the time needed to do the work from years to months, which moves the process along at a faster pace."
Other benefits of opening the Mayo Biobank in Florida include access to more diverse populations outside the Midwest and allowing for better design of studies aimed at disorders that have a higher prevalence in Southern states, such as skin cancer and kidney stones.