Trial of CAR-T Cell Therapy for High-Risk Lymphoma Leads to FDA Breakthrough Designation

Lymphoma cells

CAR-T cell therapy, which targets a specific protein on the surface of cancer cells, causes tumors to shrink or disappear in about half of patients with large B-cell lymphoma who haven’t experienced improvement with chemotherapy treatments.But if this CAR-T treatment fails, or the cancer returns yet again — as happens in approximately half of people — the prognosis is dire. The median survival time after relapse is about six months. Now, a phase 1 clinical trial at Stanford Medicine has found that a new CAR-T cell therapy that targets a different protein on the surface of the cancer cells significantly improved these patients’ outcomes: Over half of 38 people enrolled in the trial — 37 of whom had already relapsed from the original CAR-T therapy — experienced a complete response of their cancers. More than half of all treated patients lived at least two years after treatment.

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Federal Funds Awarded for Biohealth, with UW–Madison Leading the Way

$49 Million to Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub

Madison, Wisconsin

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Tuesday announced $49 million in Phase 2 funding to the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub, a groundbreaking initiative set to drive transformative medical innovation, workforce development, and critical job growth across Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison, one of 18 members of the Biohealth Tech Hub consortium, was a key partner in the effort. Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, the designation showcased an unprecedented scale of collaboration among industry, higher education, government, and other stakeholders. The effect on the state is expected to be significant. Consortium members estimate that Phase 2 initiatives will directly create up to 30,000 new jobs, with an additional 111,000 indirect jobs.

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New Immune Cell Therapy Benefits Laboratory Models of ALS and Has Some Positive Results in an Individual with the Disease

Research sets the stage for a phase I clinical trial for this incurable and fatal neurodegenerative condition.

B cell

Immune system dysregulation and elevated inflammation contribute to the development of the fatal neurodegenerative condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In new research published July 5, 2024 in The FASEB Journal, repeated infusions of certain immune cells delayed ALS onset and extended survival in mice, and also reduced markers of inflammation in an individual with the disease. The work was conducted by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare. The article is titled “Allogeneic B Cell Immunomodulatory Therapy in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.” “This makes the first step towards a phase I clinical trial of our new cell therapy for ALS, which is now in the planning stage,” said senior author Mark C. Poznansky, MD, PhD, Director of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center, an attending physician in General and Transplant Infectious Diseases Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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A Stealth Fungus Has Decimated North American Bats But Scientists May Be a Step Closer to Treating White-Nose Syndrome

An invasive fungus that colonizes the skin of hibernating bats with deadly consequences is a stealthy invader that uses multiple strategies to slip into the small mammals’ skin cells and quietly manipulate them to aid its own survival. The fungus, which causes the disease white-nose syndrome, has devastated several North American species over the last 18 years. Scientists have learned much about the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, since it was first documented in a New York cave in 2006, including where it thrives, its distribution, and clinical features. But exactly how the fungus initiates its infection has remained a “black box — a big mystery,” says Bruce Klein, MD, a Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine and Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison.

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BioQuick News Wins APEX Publishing Excellence Award

BioQuick® News (bioquicknews.com) has been awarded an APEX 2024 Award for Publishing Excellence in the category of Electronic Media: Electronic Publications. BioQuick has won nine previous annual APEX Publishing Excellence Awards. The APEX awards are based on excellence in graphic design, editorial content, and the success of the entry–in the opinion of the judges–in achieving overall communications effectiveness and excellence. To register for full and free access to all BioQuick content, please go here (bioquicknews.com/my-account/) and fill in brief information, if you have not done so already. BioQuick presently features over 7,500 online articles on major life science and medicine advances in the last decade and articles on topics of interest are readily accessible by means of the publication’s powerful search engine. BioQuick has received over 960,000 page views in its time. New articles are published on a daily basis. BioQuick has readers in over 160 countries and includes a Japanese language edition (www.biomarket.jp/bioquicknews/) directed by Yoshimitsu Obata, MS, in Tokyo (wwwwBioMarket.jp). BioQuick is eager for advertising and information on these opportunities can be found here (bioquicknews.com/advertising/). BioQuick is also open to corporate sponsorship in support of science communication and education.

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Microproteins Found in Tumors Could Lead to Cancer Vaccines

A study published in Science Advances identifies a set of microproteins that are exclusively produced in liver tumors. This makes them a clear target for immune system cells and a potential target for cancer vaccine development. A study led by the Hospital del Mar Research Institute, with Cima University of Navarra, and Pompeu Fabra University, has identified a group of small molecules exclusive to liver tumors that could be key to developing cancer vaccines. These are microproteins, very small proteins expressed only by tumor cells. This can result in the activation of immune cells against the tumor. The study was published July 10, 2024 in Science Advances. The open-access article is titledMicroproteins Encoded by Noncanonical ORFs Are a Major Source of Tumor-Specific Antigens in a Liver Cancer Patient Meta-Cohort.”

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Atlas of Proteins in Condensates Reveals Inner Workings of Cells

Liquid protein condensates (red) are stabilized by Pickering agents (green) that adsorb to the condensate surface. (Courtesy of Andrew Folkman).

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed an atlas of proteins describing how they behave inside human cells. This tool could be used to search for the origins of diseases which are related to proteins misbehaving such as dementia and many cancers. The atlas, which was published on July 10, 2024 in Nature Communications, has allowed the researchers to find new proteins inside cells that are responsible for a range of important bodily functions. The team focuses on a droplet-like part of the cell called a condensate which is a meeting hub for proteins to go and organize themselves. These hubs are also key sites where disease processes start. The predictions are available with the paper so researchers around the globe can explore their protein targets of interest and any surrounding condensate systems. The open-access article is titled “Protein Condensate Atlas from Predictive Models of Heteromolecular Condensate Composition.” “This model has allowed us to discover new components in membraneless compartments in biology, as well as discover new principles underlying their function,” said Professor Tuomas Knowles, PhD, who led this research.

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Researchers Capture Never-Before-Seen View of Gene Transcription

Depiction of an intermediate complex that forms when RNA polymerase encounters DNA

Every living cell transcribes DNA into RNA. This process begins when an enzyme called RNA polymerase (RNAP) clamps onto DNA. Within a few hundred milliseconds, the DNA double helix unwinds to form a node known as the transcription bubble, so that one exposed DNA strand can be copied into a complementary RNA strand. How RNAP accomplishes this feat is largely unknown. A snapshot of RNAP in the act of opening that bubble would provide a wealth of information, but the process happens too quickly for current technology to easily capture visualizations of these structures. Now, a new study, published July1, 2024 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, describes E. coli RNAP in the act of opening the transcription bubble.

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The Role of DNA Methylation in Trees’ Climate Response: A New Frontier in Epigenetics

by Manisha Kashyap, PhD

The ever-pressing challenge of climate change has led scientists to explore various mechanisms that plants, particularly trees, use to adapt to changing environments. Recent research highlights the potential role of DNA methylation, an epigenetic process, in shaping the climate response of trees. This groundbreaking study by Lily D. Peck and Victoria L. Sork, published June 8, 2024 in Trends in Plant Science, delves into the enigmatic role of DNA methylation in trees and its implications for conservation and forest management. The open-access article is titled “Can DNA Methylation Shape Climate Response in Trees?”

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Blue and Great Tits Deploy Surprisingly Powerful Memories to Find Food, New Study Finds

A great tit wearing a radiofrequency identification tag. (Credit: James O’Neill)

Blue and great tits recall what they have eaten in the past, where they found the food, and when they found it, a new study shows. In the first experiment of its kind to involve wild animals, blue and great tits demonstrated “episodic-like” memory to cope with changes in food availability when foraging. The same study may suggest that humans leaving out seeds and nuts for garden birds could be contributing to the evolution of these memory traits. Episodic memory is a memory system involving the conscious recollection of personally experienced events. Many psychologists believe that episodic memory is uniquely human but a growing body of evidence suggests that many non-human animals possess episodic-like memory.

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