Posts (176)

5 days ago · Genomics and computer science intersect to improve patient care

Computational genomics is a field that brings high-performance computing resources to drive precision medicine research toward new discoveries. However, when over 50 Mayo Clinic physicians, researchers and students gathered in June to participate in the Computational Genomics Course, the emphasis was on the needs of the patient.

The annual week-long intensive course is sponsored by the Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance for Technology-Based Healthcare. The collaboration between Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign provides an overview of the latest tools of the genomics trade used to rapidly analyze the vast amounts of data generated by DNA testing.

Participants in this year’s course from Mayo Clinic and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois gained a better understanding of the computational processes used to analyze genomics data. University of Illinois faculty led hands-on lab exercises in a variety of subject areas, including genome sequencing and assembly, polymorphism and variant analysis, epigenomics and data visualization.

Educating the next generation of researchers and physicians

Timothy Curry, M.D., Ph.D.

“The Center for Individualized Medicine’s mission includes
educating the next generation of researchers and physicians about the rapidly
advancing field of genomics. This course offers attendees practical experience,
providing them with tools and insights about how genomics can foster the
development of new diagnostic tests and therapies for individualized care,” says
Timothy
Curry, M.D., Ph.D.
, director, Mayo
Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Education Program
.

Nidhi Jalan Sakrikar, Ph.D., a course participant, wanted to
learn how to improve care for patients with liver disease.  Dr. Sakrikar is a research associate working
with Robert
Huebert, M.D.
, and his research team. The team aims to develop new
therapies for patients with liver and biliary diseases.

Nidhi Jalan Sakrikar, Ph.D.

“My research involves using genomics sequencing on samples
from patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis,” says Dr. Sakrikar. “The
techniques covered in the Computational Genomics course will help me curate all
of the research data into one comprehensive data set that we hope will reveal
some new therapeutic targets to treat these patients, especially those that do
not respond to standard therapies.”

Justin
Nguyen, M.D.
, also wanted to learn how to improve care for patients with
liver disease, but from the physician side.

Justin Nguyen, M.D.

 “As a liver transplant surgeon, one of my goals is to optimize how to make the liver work better,” says Dr. Nguyen.  “This course really offered me a new perspective and better tools to dive deep into the genetic and molecular levels of the liver to achieve better outcomes for patients.”

Computational genomics — a rapidly evolving science

Michael Kalmbach

Mike Kalmbach, a Mayo Clinic lead analyst and programmer in Bioinformatics Systems and teaching assistant for the course, often consults with participants, offering advice on how to use computational genomics to advance research projects.

“Computational genomics offers participants a glimpse into the possibilities of this evolving science,” says Kalmbach. “We’re at the very beginning with genomics we have much more to learn, but what we’ve been able to do already to improve our understanding of health and disease showcases how this science can guide more precise medical care.”

Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine sponsored the course with support from the Brandt Family Foundation.

The latest advances in cancer care

Join us for Individualizing Medicine 2019 Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The conference brings together experts from Mayo Clinic and across the country to present and discuss case-based approaches to using genomics and new immunotherapies that oncologists and their teams can bring back to their own patients.

Other key conference themes include:

  • CAR-T cell therapy
  • Clonality
  • Pharmacogenomics
  • Lineage Plasticity
  • National Cancer Institute match

Preview the conference program.

Stay informed

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Thu, Aug 15 10:00am · Shaping the landscape of cancer care with precision therapies

Article by Sara Damore

Jeffrey Tyner, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Tyner, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at Oregon Health & Science University, will join several precision cancer care leaders from across the country at the annual Individualizing Medicine Conference. Dr. Tyner will present “Precision Therapy through Functional Genomics in Hematologic Malignancies.”

Dr. Tyner’s research has helped shape the landscape of cancer care as he identifies cancer-causing gene targets in patients with cancer and precision genetic therapies. Last year he published an analysis of the genomic composition and unique tumor response to 122 drug therapies, the largest cancer dataset of its kind. His data was made available to other researchers using  a novel data visualization platform (Vizome).

New treatment approaches for a rare and deadly cancer

Dr. Tyner’s research utilizes a unique functional screening
approach, which he has spent the past decade developing. The process involves ex vivo sampling from patients with hematologic
malignancy to screen genes and cell signaling pathways responsible for cancer
cell growth using a library of small-molecule inhibitors. His test has now been
used to help over 2,000 patients, a critical component of care for patients
with hematologic malignancies.

His research has played a key role in gaining a better understanding of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) — a rare and deadly cancer with an approximately 28% five-year survival rate with 20,000 new cases each year.  The treatment of AML has remained largely unchanged over time, which makes genomic research crucial to identifying new therapy targets.

Connecting cancer experts across the globe

The cancer and immunotherapy focus of this year’s
Individualizing Medicine conference will bring together oncology researchers,
practitioners, and experts from across the globe. Attendees will network with
and learn from leaders in cancer care as they cover topics such as CAR T-Cell
therapy, oncolytic viruses, epigenetic markers, and immunotherapy. The course
will also include three unique pre-conference
sessions
:

  • Drugs and Genes: Pharmacogenomics for the Modern
    Healthcare Team
  • Basic Science of Immunotherapy, and Advanced
    Molecular Oncology Testing: A Focus on Next Generation Sequencing Panels
  • Novel Genetic Technologies

For more information and a complete schedule and list of speakers, please visit the conference website.

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Tue, Aug 13 10:34am · An Artificial Intelligence Tool to Improve Pancreatic Cancer Outcomes

Article by Barbara Toman

Only
9% of people with pancreatic cancer live for five years after diagnosis.
“That is an abysmally low number, probably the worst in human
cancers,” says Michael Wallace, M.D., a digestive disease specialist
at the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida. “We want to get that rate
substantially higher.”

Artificial
intelligence is providing a way to do just that. In collaboration with the University
of Central Florida (UCF)
,
Mayo Clinic has developed an algorithm that can identify individuals at high
risk of pancreatic cancer. Typically, pancreatic cancer is found when it’s too
advanced for curable surgery. But people who are identified as high risk can be
monitored to catch cancer early.

“Outcomes
from other cancers — colon, breast, prostate and lung — have improved
dramatically in the past decades, largely through early detection programs such
as colonoscopy and mammograms,” Dr. Wallace says. “We are applying
that model to pancreatic cancer.”

Michael Wallace, M.D.

Through
the Center for Individualized
Medicine
, Mayo
Clinic is committed to a personalized medicine approach to assessing disease
risk. Artificial intelligence is key to evaluating the risk of pancreatic
cancer because screening for that disease is challenging.

“The only effective screening modalities for pancreatic cancer are very expensive and somewhat invasive. We wouldn’t want to screen the general population,” Dr. Wallace says. “But identifying individuals who are at above-average risk for pancreatic cancer allows us to apply that screening only to them.”

A first in artificial intelligence

Artificial
intelligence is increasingly used to inform image analysis. But the Mayo
Clinic-UCF work is the first to address pancreatic cancer.

Recent
studies have found that pancreatic cancer often starts with a precancerous cyst
known as an intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN). Like a skin mole, an
IPMN is capable of remaining harmless or developing into cancer. Pancreatic
cysts are commonly seen on abdominal and lung MRIs that people might have for another
purpose.

“About
40% of people have some sort of pancreatic cyst. The vast majority are
benign,” Dr. Wallace says.

Radiologists
who analyze scans of pancreatic cysts look for certain factors such as a cyst’s
size and location. But those factors aren’t very accurate at predicting cancer
risk. “If you sent people to surgery based on the existing criteria, only
about half would turn out to have pancreatic cancer or an advanced precancerous
cyst,” Dr. Wallace says.

Like the
human brain, Mayo Clinic’s artificial intelligence tool learns from experience.
The researchers fed into the algorithm MRIs of individuals whose IPMNs
progressed to cancer, and MRIs from a control group whose IPMNs remained benign
for many years. Once the algorithm was “trained,” its classifications
of high-risk and low-risk cysts were compared to classifications made by Mayo
Clinic radiologists.

“We
found that the algorithm reads a scan — which is about 1,200 images — in
roughly half a second, versus the 20 to 30 minutes an average radiologist would
need,” Dr. Wallace says.

But the
benefits go far beyond speed. The algorithm is accurate, identifying high-risk
cysts with the same precision as Mayo Clinic’s expert pancreatic radiologists. Yet
the algorithm doesn’t require a world-class radiologist.

“The
algorithm can be embedded in any MRI scanner,” Dr. Wallace says.
“This artificial intelligence has the potential to provide high-quality
image interpretation to people anywhere in the world.”

The
next step is further enhancing the algorithm’s accuracy. Dr. Wallace and his
UCF colleagues recently received National Institutes of Health funding that
will allow them to feed more pancreatic cyst scans into the algorithm.

“The more cases we have, the better we can train and refine the algorithm,” Dr. Wallace says. “It’s like an online photo collection — the more times you tag someone’s face on your photo app, the better the app is at detecting that person on unknown photographs. An algorithm that is as good as our best radiologists isn’t good enough. We want the algorithm to be better than that.”

More tools for earlier cancer detection

Kristin Clift

In
addition to applying artificial intelligence to imaging, Mayo Clinic is using
patient questionnaires and genetic DNA testing to better characterize
pancreatic cancer risk. Both approaches can help patients through earlier
detection and treatment of cancer.

The
patient questionnaire — designed by CIM with support from the Florida
Pancreas Cancer Coalition

and Champions for Hope — seeks to identify individuals
with genetic syndromes that can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. People
who see Dr. Wallace for any gastrointestinal issue complete the questionnaire
before their appointments.

“Although
this tool is low-tech, it has already helped us direct people to genetic
counseling and to identify individuals with pathogenic variants associated with
pancreatic cancer,” says Kristin Clift, who coordinates research for the
Center for Individualized Medicine.

The
questionnaire goes beyond pancreatic cancer to ask about a family history of
other diseases, including breast cancer. “Many people understand that the
BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation can increase your risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
But those mutations also increase risk for pancreatic cancer,” Clift says.

Among
430 people who completed the questionnaire, 25% met National
Comprehensive Cancer Network

guidelines for referral to genetic counseling and testing. Three individuals
were found to have pathogenic variants associated with pancreatic cancer,
including one who was found to have the disease.

“The
genetic testing helped determine the best treatment option for that individual.
Her sister also came in for genetic testing and was found to have the
variant,” Clift says. “We were able to put the sister on a screening
regimen so that we can catch the cancer earlier if it develops.”

For Dr. Wallace, genetic testing and artificial intelligence are critical to improving pancreatic cancer outcomes. “They both allow for early detection. There is a strong need for better classification of individual risk, and we are committed to it.”

The latest in cancer care

Join us for Individualizing Medicine 2019 Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The conference brings together experts from Mayo Clinic and across the country to present and discuss case-based approaches to using genomics and new immunotherapies that oncologists and their teams can bring back to their own patients.

Other key conference themes include:

  • CAR-T cell therapy
  • Clonality
  • Pharmacogenomics
  • Lineage Plasticity
  • National Cancer Institute match

Preview the conference program.

Stay informed

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Register to get weekly updates about new stories on Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

Tue, Aug 6 9:07am · Meet Mukesh Pandey, Ph.D. - developing a new drug to detect prostate cancer in its earliest stages

Mukesh Pandey, Ph.D.

With a background in organic chemistry, Mukesh
Pandey, Ph.D.
, initially planned to work in the pharmaceutical industry
developing medications. But after completing a post-doctoral research
fellowship in radiology at Harvard Medical School, he chose to focus his skills
on improving imaging technologies to better detect the first signs of disease. Now
he is part of a Mayo Clinic team that has developed a new radioactive tracer
used with molecular imaging to identify the early biochemical changes linked to
prostate cancer. With support from the Mayo
Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine
, Dr. Pandey and his colleagues are
testing the radioactive tracer in the clinic, with the goal of detecting and
treating the disease sooner.

“Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. If detected early when it is confined to the prostate, treatment can be more successful. We hope this new technology will improve patient care by providing a clearer understanding of the biochemical status of the disease, allowing for more individualized treatment,” says Dr. Pandey.

Worldwide drug shortage prompts innovation in prostate cancer screening

A radio chemical element known as Gallium-68 (Ga-68) is used to create a radioactive tracer to detect prostate cancer. The drug illuminates biological changes linked to the disease on a molecular imaging test. However, a worldwide shortage of Ga-68 prompted Dr. Pandey and his team to search for alternative ways to produce the radioactive tracer.

“These radioactive tracers are critical to helping us screen
for prostate cancer with molecular imaging tests, such as a positron emission
tomography (PET) scan.  These tests allow
physicians to search for disease on the cellular level. While x-rays, CT scans
and MRIs provide an anatomical picture of the body, molecular images take a
deeper dive into the biological and chemical processes taking place,” he says.  

“While many types of prostate cancer grow slowly and require
minimal or no treatment, some forms are more aggressive and can spread
throughout the body. That’s why it is critical to detect the disease in its
earliest stages when it is most treatable,” adds Dr. Pandey

Timothy DeGrado, Ph.D.

Dr. Pandey, Timothy DeGrado, Ph.D., from the Department of Radiology and their team were the first group to successfully publish a study on producing the Ga-68 tracer using a machine known as a cyclotron. This approach enables the production of more Ga-68 than other methods. 

Together with a team of international experts, Dr. Pandey
and his colleagues published another
study
in the International Atomic Energy Agency journal, opening the
gateway for laboratories worldwide to use this new method to produce the
radioactive tracer.

“There’s been great interest in this new technology. Our publication is one of the most downloaded documents from the journal’s website. We’re excited that this work has the potential to impact care for men with prostate cancer worldwide,” says Dr. Pandey.

Moving discoveries from the lab to the clinic 

With support from the Center
for Individualized Medicine Biomarker Discovery Program
, the first cyclotron
produced Ga-68 drug was introduced into Mayo Clinic earlier this year and a
clinical trial evaluating the new approach is already underway.

“While many institutions are working with this new
technology, we are among the first to test this cyclotron produced Ga-68
labeled tracer in the clinical setting,” explains Dr. Pandey.

The new radioactive tracer is not limited to screening for
prostate cancer.

“Going forward, we will also use the cyclotron produced Ga-68 to screen for neuroendocrine cancer and other cancers with similar biological characteristics,” he says.

Mentorship and teamwork – key to advancing discovery

Val Lowe, M.D.

“After my training, I shifted my career focus to work more
closely with the medical field so my work could have a greater impact on patients.
While I had a strong background as a chemist, it was with the help of many mentors,
including Dr. DeGrado and Val
Lowe, M.D.
, that I learned about the broad capabilities of molecular
imaging,” says Dr. Pandey.

While Dr. Pandey and his colleagues began work on developing
their new method to generate a Ga-68 radiotracer in 2010, it took time to
identify the correct production process.

“Medical discoveries are often made by diving deeper into the biochemical mechanisms that trigger disease. Over the years, my mentors have encouraged me to try new paths as we searched for answers,” says Dr. Pandey. “With the freedom to explore and collaborate, we were able to create a new method of producing Ga-68 labeled tracers that we hope will help physicians to diagnose prostate cancer sooner, improving outcomes for our patients.”

The latest advances in cancer care

Join us for Individualizing Medicine 2019 Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The conference brings together experts from Mayo Clinic and across the country to present and discuss case-based approaches to using genomics and new immunotherapies that oncologists and their teams can bring back to their own patients.

Other key conference themes include:

  • CAR-T cell therapy
  • Clonality
  • Pharmacogenomics
  • Lineage Plasticity
  • National Cancer Institute match

Preview the conference program.

Stay informed

Want to read more stories like this one?

Register to get weekly updates about new stories on Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

Tue, Jul 30 12:11pm · Community voices guide use of biobank samples in research

Article by Caitlin Doran

Community Advisory Board members interact with a Mayo researcher while attending a Mayo Clinic Biobank open house.

Mayo Clinic supports biobanks — large collections of patient biological samples—near each of its three campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota, with the goal of advancing research to broaden the understanding of health and disease. Paired with each biobank, Mayo fields a community advisory board (CAB), whose members are recruited from the local community to help guide the direction and conduct of research.

“Each sample in the biobank represents a person from our
local community,” says Barry Hall, a member of the Florida CAB. The board’s job
is to safeguard those samples: to make sure they’re used in research that
honors the donor’s contribution, even though the person who donated their
samples may never be able to see or benefit from the results.

Community advisory board members also want to ensure that research using biobank resources aligns with the needs of the community. In Phoenix, Mayo Clinic collaborates with Mountain Park Health System and Arizona State University to host a CAB that works with the Sangre Por Salud (Spanish for Blood for Health) Biobank. This biobank was created to expand precision medicine research to the Latino community, a population that is underrepresented in biobanks and in research.

“Every community is different, and what they need from research is different too,” says Crystal Gonzalez, community advisory board coordinator for Sangre Por Salud.

Sangre Por Salud Community Advisory Board, 2014

In addition, community advisory board members ground research in the values of the community, helping investigators understand how their work may be perceived from the outside.

“I think researchers are so passionate about curing disease that they sometimes have blinders on,” says Kathryn Hollenhorst, a member of Mayo’s community advisory board in Minnesota. “I feel it is our responsibility to make sure they take the blinders off and be challenged to see things from a lay person’s perspective.”

A mutually-beneficial arrangement

The community advisory boards in Arizona, Florida and
Minnesota play a critical role in Mayo’s
individualized medicine
research, says Richard
Sharp, Ph.D.
, director of the Mayo
Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Bioethics Program
. “Their
perspectives are invaluable in developing individualized medicine approaches
that will one day benefit the community.”

Suzette
Bielinski, Ph.D.
, a Mayo Clinic epidemiology
researcher, agrees. She recently worked with the Mayo community advisory board
in Minnesota to review her study’s recruitment brochure and consent document.
She says the CAB’s feedback was “invaluable, because it made the study
materials easier to understand and more accessible to the general public.”

Not all researchers who use Mayo’s biobanks choose to engage with the community advisory board. Dr. Bielinksi considers that a missed opportunity. 

“Bottom line,” she says, “collaboration with the community advisory board enhances my research.”

Community advisory board members also benefit from the opportunity to take part in research. The more they participate, the more knowledgeable they become about the fields of genomics and individualized medicine.

“Members are ideal partners and advocates for Mayo investigators,” says Karen Meagher, Ph.D., associate director of public engagement, Mayo Clinic Biomedical Ethics Research Program. “They help communicate the value of the research back to the community.”

Mayo Clinic Biobank Community Advisory Boards

Rochester, Minnesota

The Minnesota community advisory board works with a wide range of researchers and its members draw on their history of engagement, which dates back to helping the biobank get started in 2007. Most of the current collection has been donated by Mayo Clinic patients.  

In addition to its research advisory role, the community advisory board is also actively engaged in community outreach. In 2016, they joined the Rochester Public Library to develop the Bioethics at the Cinema events, a movie screening and discussion series free and open to the public, designed to engage the community in conversations about important bioethics issues in research and clinical care.

Northeast Florida

Northeast Florida Community Advisory Board, 2015

The Florida community advisory board meets at Mayo’s campus in Jacksonville, but the group draws its members from throughout northeastern Florida. Jacksonville has a large and diverse population, with a significant number of retirees, which is reflected in the membership of the board and in the donors to the biobank.

Jacksonville also has a large geographic footprint and is home to many other medical institutions. The community advisory board is working to have membership reflect how patients in the area often move in and out of these different health systems.

Phoenix, Arizona

The Arizona community advisory board works with Sangre por Salud (blood for health), a biobank collaboratively managed by Mountain Park Health Center, Arizona State University, and Mayo Clinic. The biobank was created to expand precision medicine research the local Latino community. 

Research conducted with biological samples from Sangre por Salud focuses on health issues specific to this population; in particular, chronic health conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes that disproportionately impact the Latino community. Community members who donate materials to the biobank are patients at Mountain Park Health Center, a Federally-Qualified Health Center that provides comprehensive health care to underserved populations.

More information

The latest advances in cancer care

Join us for Individualizing Medicine 2019 Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The conference brings together experts from Mayo Clinic and across the country to present and discuss case-based approaches to using genomics and new immunotherapies that oncologists and their teams can bring back to their own patients.

Other key conference themes include:

  • CAR-T cell therapy
  • Clonality
  • Pharmacogenomics
  • Lineage Plasticity
  • National Cancer Institute match

Preview the conference program.

Stay informed

Want to read more stories like this one?

Register to get weekly updates about new stories on Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

Thu, Jul 25 8:28am · Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D. - leading melanoma researcher to speak at #CIMCON19

Article by Sara Damore

Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D.

Melanoma is an aggressive skin cancer caused by extensive sun
exposure and the fifth most common cancer in the U.S. If detected and treated
early, the survival rates for melanoma are high (98%). However, once the cancer
spreads to other areas of the body, survival rates for malignant melanoma drop
dramatically to 20%.

Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and President Elect of the American Association for Cancer Research, is one of the world’s leading physician-scientists in malignant melanoma research. Under his guidance, Dr. Ribas’ lab has discovered critical treatment targets and developed novel therapeutics for melanoma. He’ll share the lessons he and his team have learned in their exhaustive aim to cure this deadly skin cancer at this year’s Individualizing Medicine Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics, hosted by Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Improving outcomes through creative therapeutics

Dr. Ribas’ unique therapies involve the creative use of the
patient’s own immune system in detecting and destroying cancer cells.

One such treatment uses antibodies that enable immune cells
to recognize cancer cells. Cancer cells have been found to use the programmed
death-1 (PD-1) proteins on the surface of immune cells to evade detection. By
harnessing antibodies that block the PD-1 proteins through the use of the drug
pembrolizomab, the patient’s immune system can identify and attack cancer
cells. Dr. Ribas’ lab was the first to use PD-1-blocking antibodies in this way
and the treatment is now approved by the Food and Drug Administration for
melanoma and other cancer types.

While one third of the patients responded to the treatment, Dr.
Ribas and his team sought to understand why the PD-1 blocking treatment was not
effective for all patients. After adding a modified Herpes virus (Talimogene
laherparapvec) to the therapy, 62% of patients in a clinical trial responded to
therapy. This treatment is now being tested in a Phase III clinical trial.

Dr. Ribas also seeks to understand the role of genetics in
melanoma. Approximately half of melanoma patients have a variation in the BRAF gene. Normally, this gene produces
a protein that regulates cell growth, but modifications to the gene can
encourage the development and distribution of cancer cells. By enhancing the
understanding of melanoma biomarkers and patterns in genetic variations, Dr.
Rabis and his colleagues hope to continue to foster the creation of new
immunotherapies and improve their ability to target specific cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 100,000 adults in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma. The incidence of the disease has steadily increased over the past three decades. Although the average age of diagnosis is 63, melanoma is also the most common form of cancer diagnosed in 25-29 year olds.

Learn more about precision cancer care

Dr. Ribas is one of many cancer experts who be sharing their
expertise at this year’s Individualizing Medicine Conference, which will
emphasize immunotherapy and precision cancer care.

The conference is designed for practicing clinicians and researchers who want up to date information on the latest treatment strategies for cancer care.  Speakers will cover topics ranging from breast cancer genomics, to precision immunotherapy, CART therapy, and serum tumor DNA analysis.

Preconference
sessions
will provide an in-depth look at the science driving many advances
in cancer care:

  • Drugs and Genes: Pharmacogenomics for the Modern Health Care Team
  • Basic Science of Immunotherapy
  • Advanced Molecular Oncology Testing: A Focus on Next Generation Sequencing Panels and Novel Genetic Technologies

For a complete schedule and list of speakers, visit the conference website

Stay informed

Want to read more stories like this one?

Register to get weekly updates about new stories on Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

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For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

Tue, Jul 23 8:07am · From ancestry to health traits - how do I know if genetic testing may be right for me?

Article by Shannon Wieloch

Last
month we posted a blog on helpful tips to
know before taking a DNA test
. In part II of this topic, we delve
deeper into the types of genetic testing commonly available to help you decide
what type of testing may be right for you.

Some
genetic tests inform you about your ancestry. Other tests provide you with
information about your disease risk, health traits, response to medication, or
if you carry a genetic change that could impact the health of your children.
Some comprehensive tests provide all of this information.

Selecting the right genetic test depends on your specific interests and how you intend to use the results. Let’s explore different genetic testing categories.

Ancestry

Your
ancestry, or ethnicity, describes the origins of your family. Clues about your
ancestry come from genetic variants, or changes, in your DNA. Each ethnic group
has variants that are more common to that group than another. Genetic testing
companies can estimate your ancestry by comparing variants from people of
different ethnicities.

Companies
use a process, or a specific set of rules, to calculate ethnicity. NOTE: Each testing company uses different rules
based on large sets of data, so companies may report different ethnic
interpretations.

Ancestry is about more than the country your family came from. It may also provide information about your health since some medical conditions are more common in certain ethnicities. For example, people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher likelihood to carry a genetic variant associated with some hereditary cancers. This doesn’t mean that a person with this heritage will eventually develop these cancers. However, this information, along with other clinical information, may help you and your physician make decisions about cancer screening.

Disease Risk

Alzheimer’s
disease, cancer, depression and heart disease are common conditions. Many
people hope that genetic testing will predict if they’ll develop these
conditions, but more than just genes affect your disease risk; lifestyle
choices also make a difference.

Genetic
testing companies may tell you if you have a genetic variant that can increase
your risk for a particular condition, but no company will be able to give you
an exact risk for any disease. This is because research into the potential
impact of genes on health is still emerging. Scientists are still trying to better
understand how genetic variants may work together or with environmental factors
to cause disease.

For some conditions, lifestyle choices can have a big impact while gene variants play a smaller role. For other conditions, it’s the reverse. But remember, even when it is the latter, genes are not destiny. You can often lower your risk by leading a healthy lifestyle.

Medication Response

Genes
can influence how we react to medications. This area of genetics is referred to
as pharmacogenomics.

While
most people respond to medications as expected, the same dose of the same drug
can either have little effect or cause serious side effects in other people. In
both cases, genetic variants may be the cause.

Pharmacogenomics may help your health care provider determine the best medication and dose for you. Not all differences in drug response are due to genetic variants though, so be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before making changes to your medications!

Heath Traits

One
person’s DNA is 99.9% the same as any other person’s; variants in that 0.1% are
what make you unique!

A health trait is a distinguishing quality related to your well-being, such as how
you digest dairy products or your response to alcohol. Most health traits have
a complex inheritance, meaning that both genetic and environmental factors
impact a person’s risk to develop a condition. For example, those with lactose
intolerance never have an issue unless they eat dairy foods.

For the most part, these differences aren’t health concerns. Think of them as quirks that make you “You”. However, it can be helpful to know about these differences to avoid unnecessary discomfort.

Carrier Screening

You
have two copies of almost every gene, one copy from your mom and one from your
dad. Genetic variants can cause genes to malfunction, changing biological
process within your body.

Many
genetic conditions only affect a person if they get a non-working copy of a
gene from each parent. That form of inheritance is called autosomal recessive.
Examples of this type of inherited condition include cystic fibrosis and sickle
cell anemia.

When
a person has one non-working copy, they do not tend to show signs or symptoms
of the condition associated with that gene. This is because the other copy
works well enough to make up for the copy that has the genetic change in it. This
person is referred to as a carrier.

Carrier
screening looks for certain genetic changes in specific genes that fall into
this category. We are all carriers of many recessive conditions. People of
certain ethnic groups have an increased risk to be carriers of specific genetic
conditions. For example, French Canadians have a higher chance to be carriers
of Tay-Sachs-disease.

You are at an increased risk to have an affected child if both you and your partner are carriers of the same genetic condition. Knowing this information can be helpful in understanding your reproductive risks and options.

Working with your health care provider

Genetic
testing can offer a lot of information. It’s best to know what you want, and
what information a test provides before you order any test.

Talk with your health care provider for more information about genetic testing. You may also want to talk with a genetic counselor, a health professional who is trained in genetics and can help explain your genetic testing options and how results may help guide your health care.

Learn more

Want to learn more about genetics and how it can affect your health? Explore Mayo Clinic GeneGuide™, a genomics educational app.

The latest advances in cancer

Join us for Individualizing Medicine 2019 Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The conference brings together experts from Mayo Clinic and across the country to present and discuss case-based approaches to using genomics and new immunotherapies that oncologists and their teams can bring back to their own patients.

Other key conference themes include:

  • CAR-T cell therapy
  • Clonality
  • Pharmacogenomics
  • Lineage Plasticity
  • National Cancer Institute match

Preview the conference program.

Stay informed

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Register to get weekly updates about new stories on Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

Shannon Wieloch, MS, LCGC is a Mayo Clinic genetic counselor supporting the Center for Individualized Medicine.

Thu, Jul 18 8:34am · Targeting therapy to each patient's unique cancer

Article by Sara Damore

Funda Meric-Bernstam, M.D.

As DNA sequencing technology helps bring genetic factors driving disease into focus, researchers have developed new cancer therapies to target a patient’s unique cancer, especially for those who do not respond to standard therapy.

Funda Meric-Bernstam, M.D., a physician-scientist at MD Anderson Cancer Center will speak on Decision Support  for Precision Oncology – Evolving from Monotherapy to Combinations, highlighting innovative research efforts at this year’s Individualizing Medicine Conference: Precision Cancer Care through Immunotherapy and Genomics, hosted by Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine on Sept. 20-21, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Alan Bryce, M.D.

“We’re excited to welcome Dr. Meric-Bernstam to this year’s conference. With her leadership, cancer research is bringing precision treatment options to thousands of patients,” says Alan Bryce, M.D., chair, Hematology and Oncology, and medical director of the Genomic Oncology Clinic at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Arizona.

Sharing expertise – using genomics to guide cancer care

Dr. Meric-Bernstam is one of many experts in precision oncology who will be sharing their expertise in genomics at this year’s conference. She is the chair of the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics—the Phase I Program, and medical director, Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, at MD Anderson. Her basic and translational research programs focus on molecular therapeutics and identifying the mechanisms of action in targeted treatments in order to identify those patient populations who will benefit from these therapies.

In addition, she has an active basic, translational and clinical research program focused on breast cancer biology and novel breast cancer therapies.

Dr. Meric-Bernstam joined MD Anderson in 2001 after completing her research fellowship. She earned her medical degree from Yale University and completed her residency at University of Michigan and a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

Join us at the conference

As one of the conference directors, Dr. Bryce notes,”CIMCON19 is designed for practicing clinicians and researchers who want up to date information on the latest treatment strategies for cancer care.  Speakers will cover topics ranging from breast cancer genomics, to precision immunotherapy, CAR-T cell therapy, and serum tumor DNA analysis.”

Preconference sessions will provide an in-depth look at the science driving many advances in cancer care:

  • Drugs and Genes: Pharmacogenomics for the Modern Health Care Team
  • Basic Science of Immunotherapy
  • Advanced Molecular Oncology Testing: A Focus on Next Generation Sequencing Panels and Novel Genetic Technologies

For a complete schedule and list of speakers, visit the conference website.

Stay informed

Want to read more stories like this one?

Register to get weekly updates about new stories on Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo
Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine
, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

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