SmartPractice Donates $50,000 to TGen Cancer Research

Healthcare consulting firm SmartPractice donates to TGen towards early breast cancer detection

PHOENIX, Ariz. — SmartPractice today donated $50,000 to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to support research for the early detection and more precise treatment of breast cancer.

This year’s gift is double what SmartPractice donated to TGen last year in support of research that could help prevent breast cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

“After discovering TGen for the first time last year, and seeing the how our donation made a difference in the ability of TGen researchers to further the science of cancer treatment, we decided this year to increase our gift,” said Dr. Charlotte Thrall, Healthcare Director of SmartPractice Wellness Clinic. “We at SmartPractice believe we can help make a difference in the lives of breast cancer patients by supporting the leading-edge research happening at TGen.”

Specifically, today’s SmartPractice donation will go toward TGen’s development of what are known as “liquid biopsies:” simple, non-invasive blood tests that could help detect cancer earlier. They seek to identify “at risk” genetic biomarkers in a patient’s blood circulatory system.

Liquid biopsies are less invasive, less costly and less risky than conventional tissue biopsies, which essentially are minor surgeries.

“We are proud to have merited the support of a health industry leader like SmartPractice,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “Through their very generous contribution, Dr. Curtis Hamann (President and CEO of SmartPractice) and his team will help advance TGen research in the early detection of breast cancer.”

SmartPractice® is a family-owned, Phoenix-based firm that has partnered with dental and healthcare professionals nationwide for more than 45 years to improve the health of both practices and patients. A portion of the proceeds of their innovative line of Pink Ribbon exam gloves and supplies generates a donation to fund breast cancer research and awareness programs. To learn more, please visit smartpractice.com/pinkribbon.

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Golf Classic will Help TGen Cancer Research

14th annual Seena Magowitz Golf Classic, raising research funds for TGen, is planned Aug. 27-29 in Boston

Baseball, gala dinner and golf will accelerate battle against nation’s 3rdleading cause of cancer death

BOSTON — The 14th annual Seena Magowitz Golf Classic — a multi-million-dollar fundraising spectacular supporting pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) — is set for Aug. 27-29.

More than 250 golfers and guests are expected at this three-day event, which features a Saturday night baseball game at historic Fenway Park, a Sunday gala dinner at the Boston Harbor Hotel, and Monday morning golf at the Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, Mass., northeast of Boston.

This is the Golf Classic’s first year in Boston. It previously has been held in Phoenix and Orlando. The event has helped raise more than $7 million over the years.

“Having the Golf Classic based in Boston will provide a new opportunity to raise awareness surrounding this disease throughout New England and across the upper Atlantic seaboard,” said Roger E. Magowitz, founder of the Seena Magowitz Foundation, named for his mother, who passed away from pancreatic cancer.

This year’s Honorary Chairman of the Magowitz Golf Classic is David Dombrowski, Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations. The baseball game during this year’s Classic features the Red Sox vs. the reigning World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. The game’s ceremonial first pitch will be auctioned online in July to raise additional research funds.

Dombrowski is a long-standing member of TGen’s Pancreatic Cancer National Advisory Council, a group of business leaders who assist the TGen Foundation in raising funds to support research and clinical trials for pancreatic cancer. In recent years, their efforts have led to a new treatment regimen that holds the promise of improved patient survival.

“We are extremely pleased to have David Dombrowski as the honorary chair and about moving the Seena Magowitz Golf Classic to Boston,” said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation. “We hope to attract a whole new region of participants, as well as showcase a beautiful part of the country and all that the Boston region has to offer.”

Funding raised by the Golf Classic has been directed to research and clinical trials led by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, TGen’s Distinguished Professor and Physician-in-Chief, who will deliver the gala’s keynote address about the progress being made and his vision for the future — to detect pancreatic cancer early and ultimately find a cure.

This year, pancreatic cancer will claim the lives of nearly 42,000 Americans, surpassing breast cancer as the nation’s third-leading cause of cancer-related death.

The Seena Magowitz Foundation, previous Golf Classic Honorary Chairman Gary Fazio, Mattress Firm executives and employees, and Leggett & Platt President Karl Glassman, have provided the foundational support for an ongoing series of revolutionary clinical trials that build on TGen’s previous success in setting the nation’s standard for treating this formidable disease.

One of these, called the TGen Triple, has showed amazing progress. More than half of the patients in this clinical trial saw their pancreas tumors shrink by more than 30 percent. An additional 20 percent – 1 in 5 patients – saw their tumors dissolve completely; complete remission of an advanced cancer.

A new clinical trial, called the Grand Slam, which began in April, takes the treatments successful in the TGen Triple, and adds two key therapeutic agents that will push towards the goal of attaining remission in 100 percent of patients.

Pancreatic cancer’s lethal nature stems from its propensity to rapidly spread to other organs, especially the liver and lungs. Because no early screening test exists, the disease often goes undiagnosed until its late stages, when surgery is often no longer an option, making it difficult to treat.

Importantly, as a result of TGen clinical research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013 approved the use of albumin-bound paclitaxel in combination with gemcitabine as a front-line therapy for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The Seena Magowitz Foundation helped fund the Abraxane clinical trials.

In addition to engaging New England area supporters, event organizers expect to continue attracting major support from the home furnishings and bedding industries.

For more information about the Golf Classic, visit www.seenamagowitzfoundation.org. Prospective sponsors, participants and dinner attendees may contact: Roger Magowitz at 602-524-7636 or roger@seenamagowitzfoundation.org; or Liz McBeth, event director, at 757-773-3622 or liz@seenamagowitzfoundation.org.

Lizard Tails Point Way to Human Regeneration

TGen-ASU researchers find tiny genetic switches in lizard tail regeneration

Findings from lizards may impact future therapies to regrow organs in humans

PHOENIX, Ariz. —Any kid who pulls on a lizard tail knows it can drop off to avoid capture, but how they regrow a new tail remains a mystery.  Now, researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Arizona State University (ASU) have identified tiny RNA switches, known as microRNAs, which may hold the keys to regenerating muscles, cartilage and spinal columns.

In a study published today in the scientific journal BMC Genomics, ASU and TGen scientists for the first time identified three microRNA’s — a which turn genes on and off — that are associated with the regeneration of tails in the green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis.

Using next-generation genomic and computer analysis, this interdisciplinary team of scientists hope their findings, following nearly 6 years of research, will help lead to discoveries of new therapeutic approaches to switch on regeneration genes in humans.

“Since microRNAs are able to control a large number of genes at the same time, like an orchestra conductor leading the musicians, we hypothesized that they had to play a role in regeneration,” said senior author Dr. Kenro Kusumi, a Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and an adjunct faculty member at TGen. “Our earlier work found that hundreds of genes are involved in regeneration, and we are very excited to study these three new microRNAs.”

Dr. Elizabeth Hutchins, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in TGen’s Neurogenomics Division, and co-lead author of the study, said she hopes this investigation eventually enables such things as regenerating cartilage in knees, repairing spinal cords in accident victims, and reproducing the muscles of injured war veterans.

“It is the translational nature of this work — how it could eventually be applied to people — that led to my interest in this study,” said Dr. Hutchins, who graduated from ASU’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Program. “For example, we currently don’t have the ability to regrow knee cartilage, which would really help someone like my grandmother.”

“This work highlights the importance of tiny RNA molecules in the tissue regeneration process, and showed for the first time an asymmetric microRNA distribution in different portions of the regenerating lizard tails,” said Dr. Marco Mangone, a co-author and Assistant Professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and Biodesign Institute. “It seems like microRNAs may play an active role in this process, and are potentially able to shape the regenerating lizard tail like playdough.”

The research team also included: Dr. Justin Wolter of ASU’s Biodesign Institute and School of Life Sciences; and Dr. Walter Eckalbar at the University of California, San Francisco.

This research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission.

SU2C Awards $200,000 to TGen Cancer Research

TGen SU2C Melanoma Dream Team member receives $200,000 Sharp Award

Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award recognizes teamwork and development of new ideas among SU2C researchers

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) has selected Dr. Muhammed Murtaza of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), paired with Dr. Antoni Ribas of UCLA, as recipients of a $200,000 SU2C Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award, named for the Nobel Laureate and Chair of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

The award, first established in 2014, supports opportunities for SU2C scientists from different teams to explore innovative collaborations to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments.

One of five awards totaling $1 million, the award to Dr. Murtaza, an Assistant Professor at TGen, and Dr. Ribas, supports a collaboration to investigate whether it’s possible to predict patient response to immunotherapy by studying the makeup of their microbiomes in blood samples.

Dr. Murtaza is a member of the SU2C-Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) Melanoma Dream Team. Dr. Ribas is a leader of the SU2C-Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Immunology Dream Team. The selections were made Jan. 29 at the SU2C Scientific Summit in Santa Moncia, Calif.

“The selection of Dr. Murtaza for a Sharp award recognizes his knowledge in the field of liquid biopsies and the potential benefits this technique may offer cancer patients, particularly those with metastatic melanoma, as our Dream Team works to accelerate treatment breakthroughs to improve the survival outcomes against this deadly cancer,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, and leader of the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team.

While immunotherapy has improved outcomes in metastatic melanoma for a number of patients, for some it remains ineffective and carries toxic side effects. The study by Drs. Murtaza and Ribas is titled: “Fingerprinting the systemic microbiome in plasma to predict immunotherapy outcomes in melanoma.” It will analyze an extensive set of clinically annotated longitudinal blood samples available from the SU2C-CRI Immunology Dream Team to predict immunotherapy response and adverse effects. Recent results show that the gut’s microbial composition may, in part, affect response to immunotherapy. If successful, Drs. Murtaza and Ribas will pursue additional funding to validate their findings.

There also is a prospective study of circulating tumor DNA planned with colleagues at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where Dr. Murtaza holds a joint appointment an Assistant Professor of Medicine.

Dr. Murtaza joined the Melanoma Dream Team upon his arrival at TGen in 2014 from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, where he began his work on circulating tumor DNA analysis.

“It’s an honor to receive this award, but more importantly the recognition brings further attention to the work of the entire Melanoma Dream Team and the collective efforts of all SU2C Dream Teams to defeat cancer,” said Dr. Murtaza. “Our goal is to investigate if we can predict how patients with melanoma respond to immunotherapy by looking at evidence of the makeup of their microbiomes in blood samples.”

SU2C and MRA established the Melanoma Dream Team — led by Drs. Trent and Patricia M. LoRusso, D.O., of Yale University — to explore the use of genomic sequencing to examine both the normal and cancer genomes of patients with metastatic melanoma. The study leverages advances in genomics, informatics, and health information technology with hopes of yielding more precise medical treatments for patients with this devastating disease.

In June 2015, clinical trials based on the Dream Team’s research findings began enrolling patients lacking a particular genetic mutation in the BRAF gene, and whose treatment for cancer with immune therapy had failed. Trial results will evaluate if using this precision therapy approach improves outcomes over current treatments.

Patients whose melanoma tumors do not have BRAF alterations will have other specific genetic alterations identified, and investigators will match these changes to an appropriate therapy that directly targets those alterations. The hope is that this “precision medicine” approach will lead to more effective and lasting treatments and potentially spare patients from unnecessary treatments that all too often offer little or no benefit.

In addition to Mayo Clinic in Arizona, the initial clinical trial site in Arizona, other locations include Yale Cancer Center, New Haven, Conn.; the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit; Biometrics Research Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Md.; University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMCCC), Ann Arbor, Mich.; Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center/Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas; Indiana University, Indianapolis, Ind.; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

“From the beginning, Stand Up To Cancer has striven to break down silos, encourage collaboration, and bring together the best research that will benefit cancer patients,” said Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Chair of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee and a Nobel Prize winner for his research in genetics. “These awards will help bring us closer to the day we defeat cancer.”

Gateway for Cancer Research Foundation provided additional support for the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team. AACR, SU2C’s Scientific Partner, provides expert peer review and grants administration, as well as ongoing scientific oversight.

For more information about this clinical trial, please call the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Clinical Trials Referral Office at (855) 776-0015.

Sale of Clarion BMW Nets $125,000 for TGen Research

Clarion’s modernized classic 1974 BMW raises $125,000 for TGen cancer research

First ‘Clarion Builds’ restoration vehicle auctioned by Barrett-Jackson to support early diagnosis and treatment

CYPRESS, Calif. —  Clarion Corporation of America announced today that the sale of its first Clarion Builds vehicle restoration, an iconic 1974 BMW model 2002, raised $125,000 for cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The fjord-blue Beemer sold April 9 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Palm Beach, Fla., with all proceeds donated to the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen, in Memory of Russ and Brian Jackson. The fund, established in 2010, is a salute to auction Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson’s father, Russ — one of the founders of Barrett-Jackson — and brother, Brian, whose lives were cut short by colon cancer.

“We are beyond pleased with the generous donation earned from Barrett-Jackson’s charity auction sale of Clarion’s fully restored 1974 BMW 2002,” said Michael Bassoff, President of TGen Foundation. “All $125,000 received from the sale of the car will go toward advancing our research in applying translational genomics to the early detection and treatment of cancer. We are grateful to Clarion and their Clarion Builds partners for recreating such an iconic piece of automotive history and donating it to benefit the patients we serve.”

Clarion’s next Clarion Builds project car, a beautifully restored and tastefully modified first-year Acura NSX will be on display at Clarion’s booth during Barrett-Jackson’s January 2017 auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is scheduled to cross the block at a subsequent Barrett-Jackson auction later next year.

“Barrett-Jackson began as a charity fundraiser and giving back to the community has long been a pillar of our company,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. “We’ve helped raise more than $89 million for deserving charities over the years and we couldn’t do it without the help of partners like Clarion. TGen has had a longstanding relationship with Barrett-Jackson and is a cause very close to my heart. I’m proud that the sale of the 1974 BMW 2002 went to benefit the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen and I’m excited to further our relationship as the official auction partner for the Clarion Builds program.”

“From the beginning, we were determined to develop the Clarion Builds program into an industry benchmark. It is especially rewarding to look back at our achievements of the past two years as we have irrevocably delivered upon all our goals,” stated Allen H. Gharapetian, vice president of marketing and product development for Clarion Corporation of America and chief of the Clarion Builds program.

“From bringing a true automotive legend back to life and pulling millions of fans and followers together across the globe who celebrated this amazing project, to raising a significant sum of money for a worthy cause, Clarion Builds has set a new standard. None of this would have mattered without the support from Barrett-Jackson, who shares our passion of philanthropy, and the avant-garde life saving research being conducted at TGen. Both Barrett-Jackson and TGen were indisputably instrumental in delivering a grand finale worthy of our iconic BMW 2002,” Gharapetian said.

To learn more about the Clarion Builds program, or to follow the build of iconic classic cars, visit Clarion Builds at www.clarionbuilds.com or watch the latest Clarion Builds videos at www.youtube.com/clarionUS.

TGen TEDx Presents Hope for Brain Cancer

TGen Deputy Director presents “A Visit to the Brain” at TEDx Talk in Arizona

Dr. Michael Berens among a dozen speakers April 30 urging ‘Act Today … Change Tomorrow’ at first TEDxArrowheadRanch event

GLENDALE, Ariz. —Dr. Michael Berens, Deputy Director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), will present “A Visit to the Brain” at the first TEDxArrowheadRanch, part of the TED Talks series that enable unique ideas and passions to be shared worldwide.

Dr. Berens will join a dozen other speakers under the theme “Act Today … Change Tomorrow,” emphasizing the power and lasting effect that one person, one voice, one action, one choice, one question today can have on our society and our world tomorrow.

TEDxArrowheadRanch is set for 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 30 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, AT&T Auditorium, 59th Avenue and Greenway Road in Glendale, Ariz. Tickets are $45-$60.

“We believe spreading worthwhile ideas and sharing unique stories have the power to inspire and connect us to our communities and beyond,” said Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, lead organizer and curator of TEDxArrowheadRanch.

Dr. Berens will speak about: “A visit to the brain, its structure and composition, and what happens when brain cells turn malignant. What are better ways to control brain tumors? By acting today, how can affected individuals and their families help change tomorrow for future victims of this disease?

“This is certainly a unique opportunity for us at TGen to inform the world about advances being made in our laboratories, and how they are quickly being translated to patients in the form of new diagnostics and treatments for neurological disorders, pathogens, and the many types of cancer that plague humanity,” said Dr. Berens, who also is Professor and Director of TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division.

Dr. Berens’ research focuses on how cancer spreads. Specific projects include: accelerating drug discovery and development for glioblastoma, a lethal form of brain cancer; use of genomic profiling for treatment planning in cancer patients, also known as Precision Medicine; and biomarkers of tumor response to therapy. Dr. Berens holds four patents, has launched two biotech companies, and is active in the entrepreneurial and business development community in Arizona.

What are TED and TEDxArrowheadRanch?

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It was started in 1984, and has become an annual event bringing together the world’s leading thinkers and doers, shaping our lives and ideas ever since. Over the years, TED has grown to include scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, social activists, adventurers, and leaders in all disciplines, all sharing their ideas and passions with the world through the TED stage. The most inspiring and powerful of these TED Talks can be found online at TED.com.

In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” TED created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, live speakers and TED Talk videos, combined with musical and artistic performances, offer a setting and opportunity to learn, discuss, and connect.

TEDxArrowheadRanch is a non-profit, independently organized TED event.

“I am extremely proud of the program my team and I have put together for the first TEDxArrowheadRanch. The hope is that it becomes a local forum for ideas within the Arizona community that inspires people to change their lives, their futures and, ultimately, their world. There is an abundance of valuable ‘ideas worth spreading’ right here in Arizona,” said Dr. Tipirneni, an emergency physician and Scientific Review Officer at SRA International. “Our local TEDx Talks eventually will be available online, and may even be selected to be posted on TED.com.”

TGen Begins Grand Slam Cancer Study

TGen researchers go to bat for cancer patients in two innovative clinical trials for pancreatic cancer patients

Mattress Firm-funded trials seek to shrink tumors in advanced cases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pairing new combinations of drugs to shrink pancreatic cancer tumors, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and HonorHealth Research Institute have launched a pair of groundbreaking clinical studies.

The two studies, which are being funded in part thanks to a $1.5 million contribution to TGen from Mattress Firm, are relying on cutting-edge approaches to how new therapies are combined to determine the best way to treat the disease.

One of the two studies, known as the Grand Slam, opened for enrollment today for its first group of patients. Grand Slam is a unique five-drug regimen that blends a combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and a special form of Vitamin D. It builds upon the positive findings from TGen Triple, the first of the two clinical trials, which paired three drugs and resulted in high percentage shrinkage of tumors for the patients that were treated.

“Both of these clinical trials are new stepping stones, building on previous TGen-led studies that have produced the current FDA-approved treatments for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Distinguished Professor and Physician-in-Chief, and Chief Scientific Officer for the HonorHealth Research Institute. Dr. Von Hoff is the architect of both studies. Dr. Erkut Borazanci and Gayle Jameson, N.P., both of HonorHealth and TGen, are the principal investigators for the studies.

TGen Triple uses two anti-cancer agents, gemcitabine and (albumin-bound) nab-paclitaxel, the current standard of care for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. It adds a third drug, platinum-based cisplatin, to boost its effectiveness.

Grand Slam, also known as the NAPPCG clinical trial, relies on those three chemotherapy drugs plus two additional elements: nivolumab, an immunotherapy drug designed to inhibit proteins that block the body’s immune system from attacking cancer cells, and paricalcitol, which is a Vitamin D derivative that researchers hope will extend patients’ survival. Dr. Von Hoff hopes this new trial will prove to be a significant next step in the treatment of this devastating disease that strikes so quickly and aggressively.

The clinical trials are taking place at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, and could expand to other facilities, including Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Bristol Myers Squibb is providing the immunotherapy drug nivolumab, plus other partial support, for the Grand Slam clinical trial. Nivolumab, initially approved by the FDA in 2014 for treatment of advanced melanoma, and more recently lung cancer, works by inhibiting a protein called PD-1, which otherwise blocks the body’s immune system from attacking cancer cells.

Both studies are supported by funding from Mattress Firm, the nation’s largest bedding specialty retailer based in Houston, Texas, which is dedicated to stopping pancreatic cancer. This year, pancreatic cancer will kill nearly 42,000 Americans, surpassing breast cancer as the third-leading cause of cancer-related death. By 2020, it is predicted to surpass colon cancer to become the second-leading cause of cancer death; second only to lung cancer. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, the lowest among all cancer types in the U.S.

“Many of our colleagues, their families and friends have been affected by this terrible disease,” said Steve Stagner, Executive Chairman of Mattress Firm. “We are backing TGen in this extraordinary effort because we have a duty to be part of their incredible journey toward improving lives and finding a cure for pancreatic cancer.”

Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation, voiced high praise for Mattress Firm’s commitment to TGen research: “Steve Stagner, Ken Murphy, and the entire Mattress Firm team are bringing hope to thousands of patients and their families across the nation and around the world. Their latest contribution, and the launch of the Grand Slam trial, adds to the incredible legacy that this extraordinary company is building through its fight against pancreatic cancer.”

Patients seeking information about research studies may contact the HonorHealth Research Institute at 480-323-1339 or toll free at 1-877-273-3713, or emailclinicaltrials@honorhealth.com.

TGen Pioneers RNA Sequencing For Patient Care

Beyond DNA: TGen points the way to enhanced precision medicine with RNA sequencing

Deeper genetic analysis with RNA sequencing provides better diagnostics and treatments for patients with everything from cancer to deadly viruses

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Uncovering the genetic makeup of patients using DNA sequencing has in recent years provided physicians and their patients with a greater understanding of how best to diagnose and treat the diseases that plague humanity. This is the essence of precision medicine.

Now, researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are showing how an even more detailed genetic analysis using RNA sequencing can vastly enhance that understanding, providing doctors and their patients with more precise tools to target the underlying causes of disease, and help recommend the best course of action.

In their review, published today in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics, TGen scientists highlight the many advantages of using RNA-sequencing in the detection and management of everything from cancer to infectious diseases, such as Ebola and the rapidly spreading Zika virus.

RNA’s principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for the synthesis of proteins. Building on the insights provided by DNA profiling, the analysis of RNA provides an even more precise look at how cells behave and how medicine can intervene when things go wrong.

“RNA is a dynamic and diverse biomolecule with an essential role in numerous biological processes,” said Dr. Sara Byron, Research Assistant Professor in TGen’s Center for Translational Innovation, and the review’s lead author. “From a molecular diagnostic standpoint, RNA-based measurements have the potential for broad application across diverse areas of human health, including disease diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic selection.”

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequencing spells out —in order— the billions of chemical letters that make up the genes that drive all of our biologic make up and functions, from hair and eye color to whether an individual may be predisposed to cancer or other diseases.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequencing provides information on the genes that are actively being made into RNA in a cell and are important for cell function. While more complex, RNA holds the promise of more precise measurement of the human physical condition.

There simply are more forms, or species, that RNA takes, explains Dr. Byron. “RNA-sequencing provides an deeper view of a patient’s genome, revealing detailed information on the diverse spectrum of RNAs being expressed.”

One of the most promising aspects of RNA-based measurements is the potential of using extracellular RNA (exRNAs) as a non-invasive diagnostic indicator of disease. Monitoring exRNA simply takes a blood sample, as opposed to doing a tumor biopsy, which essentially is a minor surgery with greater risks and costs.

“The investigation of exRNAs in biofluids to monitor disease is an area of diagnostic research that is growing rapidly,” said Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, TGen Associate Professor of Neurogenomics, Co-Director of TGen’s Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics, and one of the review’s authors. “Measurement of exRNA is appealing as a non-invasive method for monitoring disease. With increased access to biofluids, more frequent sampling can occur over time.”

The first test measuring exRNA was released earlier this year, the review said, for use measuring specific exRNAs in lung cancer patients. And, the potential for using RNA-seq in cancer is expanding rapidly. Commercial RNA-seq tests are now available, and provide the opportunity for clinicians to more comprehensively profile cancer and use this information to guide treatment selection for their patients, the review said.

In addition, the authors reported on several recent applications for RNA-seq in the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases, such as monitoring for drug resistant populations during therapy and tracking the origin and spread of the Ebola virus.

Using examples from discovery and clinical research, the authors also describe how RNA-seq can help guide interpretation of genomic DNA sequencing results. The utility of integrative sequencing strategies in research studies is growing across broad health applications, and points to the promise for incorporation of RNA-seq into clinical medicine, the review said.

The paper, Translating RNA-sequencing into Clinical Diagnostics: Opportunities and Challenges, was published online today in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics.

This review was funded by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation of Scottsdale, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and a Stand Up To Cancer–Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant.

6th Annual Cycle for the Cure

Organizers add Chandler and Phoenix health clubs in May 1 quest to raise a record $200,000

PHOENIX, Ariz.  The 6th annual Cycle for the Cure on May 1 — one of the most exciting ways to support cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) — is bigger than ever for 2016.

Slots are quickly selling out for the 2-hour, heart-pumping indoor cycling events, hosted by the all four Village Health Clubs and Studio 360. Cycle for the Cure organizers hope to raise a record $200,000 this year, eclipsing the $182,000 raised for TGen cancer research in 2015.

Riding slots require a minimum $200 tax-deductible donation, and riders are encouraged to raise additional research funds.

Two locations have been added this year:
•    The recently opened Ocotillo Village Health Club & Spa, 4200 S. Alma School Road, Chandler; 8-10 a.m.
•    Studio 360, 3627 E. Indian School Road, #102, Phoenix; 12-2 p.m.

Returning sites are:
•    Gainey Village Health Club & Spa, 7477 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale; 8-10 a.m.
•    DC Ranch Village Health Club & Spa, 18501 N. Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale; 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
•    Camelback Village Racquet & Health Club, 4444 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix; 3-5 p.m.

In addition, Cycle for the Cure this year includes yoga classes for $50 donations:
•    DC Ranch, 90-minute hot yoga; 10 a.m.
•    Camelback Village, 90-minute yoga; 3:30 p.m.

All locations welcome non-members to participate in Cycle for the Cure. Registration starts today, March 3, at www.tgenfoundation.org/cycle. Corporate sponsorships are available: Platinum, $7,500 and higher; Gold, $5,000; Silver, $2,500; and Bronze, $1,000.

A post-ride party for all participants from all the clubs will be hosted at Camelback Village at 5 p.m., following the last ride. It will feature a return musical performance by Nate Nathan and MacDaddy-o’s band, which was a huge hit last year. The party is free for riders; $20 donation for guests.

Using genomic sequencing, TGen helps doctors match the appropriate therapy to each patient’s DNA profile, producing the greatest patient benefit. This year, Cycle for the Cure is focused on raising research funds for work on a revolutionary diagnostic method called “liquid biopsies” — biomarkers in circulating blood — as a means of providing patients and their doctors with early detection of disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, will be among TGen’s renowned scientists participating in Cycle for the Cure.

“Funds raised by Cycle for the Cure remain in Arizona for TGen research. Local research means local patients benefit first,” said Robyn DeBell, one of the event’s co-chairs. “Being involved in TGen is like having a sneak peak at the future of medicine.”

Cycle for the Cure is getting bigger and more exciting every year,” said Vicki Vaughn, the event’s other co-chair. “In supporting this event, the public not only supports TGen, but also supports the economic impact — now at $174 million annually — that TGen provides Arizona.”

“TGen is so very fortunate to have collaborative partners like the Village Health Clubs and to the dynamic volunteers like Robyn DeBell and Vicki Vaughn who work tirelessly to advance TGen’s research,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “Cycle for the Cure helps us provide hope and answers for cancer patients and their families who need our help today.”