The Lankenau Institute for Medical Research
A team of LIMR investigators led by Dr. Alexander Muller has published preclinical proof that blocking the IDO immune modulatory enzyme can stimulate the immune system to inhibit cancer progression and metastasis, thereby enhancing survival. This study, published in the prestigious journal Cancer Discovery, provides a firm scientific foundation for clinical trials of the first IDO-blocking drug, which are slated to begin at Lankenau Cancer Center in 2013.
A recent study in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology by LIMR researchers Leah Lande, MD and Janet Sawicki, PhD suggests that having a mycobacterial lung infection might elevate the risk of developing lung cancer. These findings could indicate a need to monitor patients more closely with these infections, which tend to be chronic and difficult to clear, particularly in the elderly.
Studies from LIMR researchers Drs. Jim Mullin, George Prendergast and Tom Stamato published in PLoS One and Digestive Diseases and Sciences have seeded the development of a new blood test and new drug therapies for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The blood test reads a unique set of so-called “microRNAs” found at LIMR to be in the blood of IBD patients. This test can distinguish IBD from other gastrointestinal disorders, or define different types of IBD that otherwise can only be diagnosed by colonoscopy. Therapeutically, new treatments for IBD are being developed at LIMR as a result of basic laboratory discoveries on the nutritional supplement zinc and on the inflammatory modifier gene Bin1, both of which affect the so-called barrier function of the colon which is disrupted in IBD.
LIMR investigators Gan-Xin Yan, MD, PhD and Peter Kowey, MD, experts in the study of heart arrhythmia, published the superior qualities and validity of their laboratory model – a ventricular ‘wedge’ preparation – in predicting the desirable or undesirable effects that drugs may exert on heart beat. Studies in this model will advance understanding of arrhythmias and the EKG, a test of underlying heart functions that is still poorly understood (despite being clinically informative). Additionally, this model might offer a worldwide standard for safety and efficacy testing of the effects of new drugs in clinical development.
Several important papers from neurologist Elliott Schulman, MD, a nationally recognized leader in headache treatment, establish new approaches and contribute to formulation of new standards of care for treatment of migraine headache, a common debilitating condition which remains problematic for millions of people seeking solutions for their condition.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) renewed the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) grant awarded to LIMR for another three years. LIMR has one of only 47 NCI-sponsored clinical trial programs in the U.S., where it ranks in the top 5 programs overall for enrolling patients in radiation oncology and breast cancer trials of the latest advances.
LIMR Chemical Genomics Center, Inc. (LCGC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of LIMR, was awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant from the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The $100,000 award is to develop and validate a strategy to find novel drugs which might cure malaria. Founder and CSO of LCGC, Melvin Reichman, PhD has created a robotic technology which facilitates drug development between for-profit and non-profit partners. Dr. Reichman and his team published the first description of their novel technological capabilities in Combinatorial Chemistry and High Throughput Screening, along with a demonstration of its use with collaborating scientists in the journal Chemical Biology.
LIMR has created a partnership with the biotechnology company Genisphere for clinical development of three projects. In one project, microRNA biomarkers discovered by Dr. Thomas Stamato will be used in blood tests to detect Ulcerative Colitis (UC), Crohn’s Disease and other Inflammatory Bowel Disorders which affect more than 1.4 million people per year in the US. In another project, Genisphere will help co-develop Dr. Janet Sawicki’s cancer nanotherapies to treat ovarian, cervical, prostate, and pancreatic cancer using the company’s proprietary DNA dendrimer technology. Lastly, Genisphere will also use this technology to help LIMR co-develop an antibody from Dr. Mindy George-Weinstein’s laboratory to improve cataract treatment.
One of the most common tasks in a biomedical research laboratory is counting cells, which are cultured in petri dishes for many kinds of experiments. Dr. Iraimoudi Ayene developed a novel method for cell counting at LIMR as an offshoot of his work in cancer cell biochemistry. This year, the publication of this method in the journal Toxicology in Vitro was chosen as a Key Scientific Article by the research news website Global Medical Discovery, which compiles the latest innovative discoveries in the scientific, medical, and pharmaceutical communities.
To commercialize this method, the Institute’s business subsidiary company LIMR Development, Inc. (LDI) created and sold a lab kit called CellCountEZ®. Recently, this assay kit was exclusively licensed to the research reagent company Rockland Immunochemicals, Inc. to sell worldwide, generating royalties to support LIMR research.