Archive for May, 2007

Bacterial Cancer Therapeutics? Maybe.

A company called EnGeneIC in Sydney, Australia have created a targeted drug delivery platform based on “mini bacteria”, or as they call it, EnGeneIC Delivery Vehicles (EDVs). These vehicles look and behave like bacteria, including cell division — albeit, without chromosomes. I may need to dig a little deeper into the science of this one!

In any case, these EDVs have been shown to target tumorigenic tissue, being fed by blood vessels; 30% of an IV dosage reached the cancerous region within 2 hours. It has so far been proven safe in dogs with advanced non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as in pigs and monkeys.

The study also suggests that these EDVs can carry RNAi or siRNA-based products to their destination, as delivery of these nucleic acids has been proven difficult due to nuclease/enzymatic degredation before reaching its target.

Adapted from [NewScientist] from [Cancer Cell (vol 11, p431) "Bacterially Derived 400 nm Particles for Encapsulation and Cancer Cell Targeting of Chemotherapeutics"]

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Personalized Medicine: Legal Update

Up until now, there has been a big problem in the realm of personalized medicine, with respect to pharmacogenomic analysis, record keeping and access to information. Previously, according to US law, anybody could have access to that information. Meaning: employers and insurance companies could scan your results, or look at your specific genotypes that pre-dispose you to specific illnesses or conditions and discriminate against you for fear of taking on too much risk financially. See my post on ethics of personalized medicine.

As of April 25th, the US House of Representatives voted 420 to 3 in favour of passing the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the senate along with President Bush are expected to approve the act in a few weeks. Undoubtedly, this will be a huge step for the world of personalized medicine. We are already seeing the use of pharmacogenomic markers such as Cytochrome P450 (including the 2C9 and 2D6 variants), warfarin and others that screen for efficacy of drugs such as Herceptin.

It is good timing for this news to come as genotyping is becoming evermore affordable.

Everyone should thank the NHGRI Director Francis Collins for pushing to get this act passed! The act has been shot down twice previously by the senate; hopefully, as the saying goes, the third time will be the charm.

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Essential Gene Clusters

I just came across a very interesting article that talks about essential gene clusters and some speculation from a lab out of the Baylor College of Medicine.

Scientists say they found a cluster of essential genes on mouse chromosome 11, which is also found to be conserved in other organisms including humans, possum, cow, dog and chimp.

“When we saw that there were all these essential genes in this region, we wondered if the reason that the chromosome remained together (and is not easily broken apart or recombined with other parts of this or other chromosomes) is that it had all these densely packed essential genes. The reason this part of the chromosome has remained intact is that it has densely packed essential genes. If the chromosome broke anywhere, the organism would not develop,” said Dr. Monica Justice, the associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor.

View full scientific publication at PLoS Genetics.
View full review article at ScienceDaily.com.

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Prostate Cancer Update: New Gene

A genetic pattern (variation) found on human chromosome 8 has been found to have an association with a 5x risk increase for developing prostate cancer. It is thought to cause 2/3 of African-American cases and 1/3 of Caucasian-American cases of the disease.

Another biomarker might be coming! Pharmacogenomics companies: ready … go!

Full story at Geneticsandhealth.com.

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