Positive Image Sports Holds Community Fundraiser for TGen Research; Attempts to Set Guinness Record

Celebrities to Turn Out in Sierra Vista to Support TGen Cancer Research

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — July 15, 2014 — Arizonans are encouraged to turn out in force Aug. 2 at Sierra Vista Mall to raise funds for cancer research while attempting to set a world record for dribbling basketballs.

Dubbed Dribble for Cancer, the organizations and individuals who register and participate, will become part of the attempt to break the world record for the most individuals dribbling a basketball at the same time. Guinness World Records personnel will witness the event. The organizers, Positive Image Sports, are hoping that at least 7,996 people will participate between 7 and 10 a.m. that day, breaking the record.

“This is a fun way to meet new people, get some exercise, and raise money for a worthy cause,” said Scott Andres, a volunteer at Positive Image Sports.

Positive Impact
Among the organizations benefiting from the event is the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a Phoenix-based non-profit biomedical research organization focused on helping patients with cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research — the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit.

“For the first time in history we have the ability to fully study the genetic components of complex diseases such as cancer,” said Dr. John Carpten, Deputy Director of Basic Science and Director of the Integrated Cancer Genomics Division at TGen. “And thanks to advocates like Scott and David, their focused public attention brings increased awareness to this disease and research funding that helps support TGen’s patient-focused research.”

Established in 2002, TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children.

“Whether through family or friends, most people have personally been affected by cancer on some level,” said David Jones, President of Positive Image Sports. “People say, ‘Early diagnosis is the key.’ What better way to provide this solution than to contribute to research working toward improved ways to diagnose and treat cancer, especially since the research is happening here in our own state.”

Special guests at the event include former NBA player Corey Gaines and former UCLA standout and noted sports executive and commentator Anne Meyers-Drysdale. Gaines played for UCLA and was drafted with the Seattle Supersonics in 1988. He played for five years for the NBA and also played for the Japanese league. After playing for the NBA he became the basketball sports coach for the Phoenix Mercury leading the women’s team to a WBA Championship in 2009.

Meyers-Drysdale is a major figure in the history of women’s basketball and sports journalism. A standout player in high school, college, the Olympic games, international tournaments, and the professional levels, she was the first player to be part of the U.S. national team while still in high school. She was the first woman at UCLA to be signed to a four-year athletic scholarship for college and while at UCLA she became the only woman in history to sign a contract with an NBA Team when the Indiana Pacers signed her in 1979.

She currently serves as the vice president for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. For nearly 30 years, she served as a network television sports analyst for ESPN, CBS, and NBC. In 2006, Meyers Drysdale was awarded the Ronald Reagan Media Award from the United States Sports Academy.

How To Register:
Individual registration is available online at http://www.dribbleforcancer.org or pick up the forms at various locations in Sierra Vista: IHOP, Holiday Inn Express, Peter Piper Pizza, Down Home BBQ, Substandards, Hot Diggety Dog, Valor Hospice Care, Complete Nutrition, Sears or Sierra Vista City Hall.

TGen-led International Study Finds Likely Origin of Virulent Lung Fungus Invading Pacific Northwest

Cryptococcus gattii Evolving as it Spreads to Temperate Climates

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — July 15, 2014 — Cryptococcus gattii, a virulent fungus that has invaded the Pacific Northwest is highly adaptive and warrants global “public health vigilance,” according to a study by an international team led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

C. gattii, which likely originated in Brazil, is responsible for dozens of deaths in recent years since it was first found in 1999 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, well outside its usual tropical habitats.

“We identified several genes that may make the outbreak strains more capable of surviving colder environments and that make it more harmful in the lungs,” said David Engelthaler, Director of Programs and Operations for TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division (TGen North) and lead author of the study published today in the scientific journal mBio.

This study should form the basis of additional investigations about how and why C. gattii disperses and emerges. It identified several new genomic targets for diagnostic tests, and possible new targets for therapeutic drugs and preventative vaccines.

“By closely analyzing the genomes of dozens of outbreak strains, as well as globally diverse strains, we were able to closely compare and determine the genomic differences that may cause their clinical and ecological changes,” said Dr. Paul Keim, one of the study’s senior authors. Dr. Keim also is Director of TGen North, and Director of the Microbial Genetics and Genomics Center at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

TGen, working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, conducted one of the largest global fungal genome analyses of a specific species to understand its emergence in new environments. The collaborative team included 24 researchers from 13 institutions in seven nations who sequenced 115 genomes of C. gattii collected from 15 countries.

“By thinking globally, we were able to better understand what was happening locally,” Engelthaler said.

C. gattii was typically a tropical fungus before it was discovered in the temperate environs of Vancouver Island. It soon evolved into a new, more virulent, pulmonary disease that quickly spread to mainland Canada and south into the state of Washington. That was followed by an outbreak in Oregon of another new strain of C. gattii, which also displayed increased lethality and similarly spread throughout the Pacific Northwest.

C. gattii previously was associated with neurological disease in strains found elsewhere in the world. But the strains discovered in the Pacific Northwest not only establish a new environmental niche, but also display increased virulence and produce severe lung infections.

“We provide evidence that the Pacific Northwest strains originated from South America, and identified numerous genes potentially related to habitat adaptation, virulence expression and to clinical presentation,” said Dr. Wieland Meyer, the study’s other senior author.

“Further elucidation and characterization of these genetic features may lead to improved diagnostics and therapies for infections caused by this continually evolving fungus,” said Dr. Meyer, who is affiliated with: Sydney Medical School-Westmead Hospital; the University of Sydney; and the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research.

This study concludes that: “Public health vigilance is warranted for emergence in
regions where C. gattii is not thought to be endemic.”

New tests developed for this study by TGen are making it easier to detect this and other fungi, and could lead to better monitoring and treatments. The same tools used in this study also were used to investigate the cause of a fungal meningitis outbreak associated with steroid back injections, and the recent outbreak of Valley Fever in the state of Washington.

The journal, mBio, is published by the American Society for Microbiology.

Collaborators in this study include researchers at the University of California-Davis, and in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Caledonia, Thailand, Columbia, and Brazil.

The study, “Cryptococcus gattii in North American Pacific Northwest: whole population genome analysis provides insights into species evolution and dispersal,” was supported by a grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) of South Africa.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH under Award Number R21AI098059. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.