Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton Proclaims Nov. 26 as TGen ‘Get Your Jersey On’ Day

ASU-UA rivalry football game is focus of fundraising for groundbreaking TGen-led concussion study

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton today proclaimed Wednesday, Nov. 26, as TGen “Get Your Jersey On” Day in support of a groundbreaking sports concussion study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

In anticipation of Arizona’s biggest rivalry football game of the year, TGen invites businesses, schools and other organizations throughout the state to join TGen’s “Get Your Jersey On” campaign, and allow their employees to wear their favorite sports jersey or t-shirt to work or school on Wednesday, Nov. 26 — the day before Thanksgiving.

The day was selected in anticipation of the 88th Duel in the Desert, pitting the Arizona State University Sun Devils against the University of Arizona Wildcats onNov. 28 in Tucson, which could decide which team (both with records of 9-2) goes to the PAC-12 Championship.

Among those already participating Nov. 26 in Get Your Jersey On day are the Phoenix and Tucson offices of CBRE, a nationwide commercial real estate firm, and HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehabilitation Hospital.

TGen encourages participants to make small donations of $10 towards TGen’s groundbreaking concussion research, which consists of ASU student-athletes voluntarily wearing sensors in their helmets to measure the number, location, duration, direction and force of impacts during practices and games.

These measurements, combined with biological tests, could result in the discovery of a biomarker — a measurable change in the athlete’s genetic makeup — that would objectively indicate when a player is too hurt to take the field, or when they are fit enough to re-enter the game.

TGen’s multi-year study is in conjunction with Riddell — the industry leader in football helmet technology and innovation — Barrow Neurological Institute and A.T. Still University. The study could help protect the health of student athletes by replacing subjective examinations players currently undergo on the sidelines after a serious hit with a definitive genomics-based test.

Hundreds of Chandler’s Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary School students and teachers and Arizona employees of Bank of America Merrill Lynch already have participated in Get Your Jersey On events earlier this fall. Additional Get Your Jersey On events are anticipated surrounding the inaugural NCAA college football playoffs in late December and early January, as well as the Jan. 25 NFL Pro Bowl and Feb. 1Super Bowl, both being played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Mayor Stanton’s proclamation reads, in part:

“The schools (ASU and UA) have amassed a significant presence in downtown Phoenix, providing new educational opportunities and driving creativity, culture, business development and jobs. TGen is encouraging all alumni to wear their maroon and gold or red and blue in support of the research — and the fun nature of the rivalry.

“Participating organizations are not only showing team spirit — they’re also contributing to TGen’s concussion research with small donations.

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG STANTON, Mayor of the City of Phoenix, Arizona, do hereby proclaim November 26, 2014, as TGEN “GET YOUR JERSEY ON” DAY and ask each resident on this twenty-sixth day of November, in the year two thousand fourteen to wear their favorite sports jerseys to help raise awareness and funds for TGen’s ongoing concussion research.”

Dean Ballard, TGen Foundation Assistant Director of Development, said: “TGen is thrilled that Mayor Stanton has issued this proclamation. He is helping us shine a bright light on this important research. We welcome additional businesses and organizations across Arizona to Get Their Jersey On in support of this study, which will help protect athletes in any sport now, and in the future.”

If you would like your organization to participate in Get Your Jersey On, contact Ballard at dballard@tgen.org, or 602-343-8543.

ASU and UA annually vie for the coveted Territorial Cup, the nation’s oldest rivalry trophy in college football. It dates to 1899 — 13 years before Arizona became a state — when Arizona’s two largest institutions of higher learning first met on the gridiron. The Wildcats lead the series 47-39, with one tie.

About TGen
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

 

TGen Receives Approval for Patient Enrollment in Brain Cancer Clinical Trial

Catherine Ivy and Dr. David Craig

 

Glioblastoma (GBM) Pilot Trial funded by Ivy Foundation

In 2012, The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation awarded $10 million in grants for two groundbreaking brain cancer research projects at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). One of those projects has officially received the final regulatory approval from University of California, San Francisco, which means patient enrollment for the trial can begin.

 

In the $5-million-project, “Genomics Enabled Medicine in Glioblastoma Trial,” TGen and its clinical partners will lead first-in-patient clinical trial studies that will test promising new drugs that might extend the survival of GBM patients. This multi-part study will take place in clinics across the country and TGen laboratories.

 

“GBM is one of the top three fastest-killing cancers out there and it affects people of all ages,” said Catherine (Bracken) Ivy, founder and president of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “It is critical that we fund research that will help patients live longer so we can study and treat brain cancer.”

 

The project begins with a pilot study of 15 patients, using whole genome sequencing to study their tumor samples to help physicians determine what drugs might be most beneficial.

 

To support molecularly informed clinical decisions, TGen labs also will examine genomic data from at least 536 past cases of glioblastoma, as well as tumor samples from new cases, developing tools that will produce more insight into how glioblastoma tumors grow and survive. TGen also will conduct a series of pioneering lab tests to measure cell-by-cell responses to various drugs.

 

“GBM is a disease that needs answers now, and we strongly believe those answers will be found in the genome,” said Dr. David Craig, TGen’s Deputy Director of Bioinformatics, Director of TGen’s Neurogenomics Division, and one of the projects principal investigators. “Identifying the genes that contribute to the survival of glioblastoma will provide valuable information on how to treat it, and may also lead to an improved understanding of what drives other cancers as well.”

 

To get new treatments to patients as quickly as possible, this five-year study will include a feasibility study involving up to 30 patients, followed by Phase II clinical trials with as many as 70 patients. TGen is teaming with the Ivy Early Phase Clinical Trials Consortium that includes: University of California, San Francisco; University of California, Los Angeles; the MD Anderson Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; University of Utah; and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

 

The results of these clinical trials should not only help the patients who join them, but also provide the data needed for FDA approval and availability of new drugs that could benefit tens of thousands of brain cancer patients in the future.

 

“Working with physicians, the project will aim to understand treatment in the context of the tumor’s molecular profile. We will have the opportunity to determine when combinations of drugs might be more effective than using a single drug, quickly identify which therapies don’t work, and accelerate discovery of ones that might prove promising for future development,” said Dr. John Carpten, TGen’s Deputy Director of Basic Science, Director of TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, and another of the project’s principal investigators.

 

In addition to helping patients as quickly as possible, the project should significantly expand Arizona’s network of brain cancer experts.

 

About The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation

The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., was formed in 2005, when Ben Ivy lost his battle with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).  Since then, the Foundation has contributed more than $50 million to research in gliomas within the United States and Canada, with the goal of better diagnostics and treatments that offer long-term survival and a high quality of life for patients with brain tumors.  The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation is the largest privately funded foundation of its kind in the United States.  For more information, visit http://www.ivyfoundation.org. We have regular updates via social media – please find us on:

Blog:  Ivy Foundation http://www.IvyFoundation.wordpress.com

Facebook:  Ivy Foundation  http://www.facebook.com/IvyFoundation

Twitter:  @IvyFoundation https://twitter.com/IvyFoundation

Google+:   Ivy Foundation https://plus.google.com/105982076267406579679/posts

LinkedIn:  Ivy Foundation http://linkedin.com/company/the-ben-and-catherine-ivy-foundation

YouTube:  IvyFoundationGBM http://www.youtube.com/user/IvyFoundationGBM

 

About TGen

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

Learn About Brain Cancer

Brain Cancer

A disease of the brain in which cancer cells (malignant) arise in the brain tissue. Cancer cells grow to form a mass of cancer tissue (tumor) that interferes with brain functions such as muscle control, sensation, memory, and other normal body functions.

Brain Tumor

An abnormal growth of tissue in the brain.  Unlike other tumors, brain tumors spread by local extension and rarely metastasize (spread) outside the brain.

Clinical Trials

Research studies done to determine whether new drugs, treatments, or vaccines are safe and effective.  They are conducted in three phases:

  • Phase I
    In this phase, small groups of people are treated with a certain dose of a new agent that has been extensively studied in the laboratory. During the trial, the dose is increased group by group to find the highest dose that does not cause harmful side effects. Usually there is no control treatment for comparison. This process determines a safe, appropriate dose for use in Phase II.
  • Phase II
    This phase provides continued safety testing of a new agent, along with an evaluation of how well it works against a specific type of cancer. The new agent is given to groups of people and is usually compared with a standard treatment.
  • Phase III
    This phase answers research questions across the disease continuum and includes large numbers of participants so that the differences in effectiveness of the new agent can be evaluated. If the results of this phase merit further use of the new agent, the pharmaceutical company will usually submit a New Drug Application to the FDA.

Diagnostics

The determination of the nature of a disease or ailment.  A clinical diagnosis is based on the medical history and physical examination of the patient.

Glial Cells

Cells that provide structure to the central nervous system and insulate and protect neurons (cells that transmit electrical impulses that allow seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting).

Glioma

The term used to refer to the most prevalent primary brain tumors.  Gliomas arise from glial tissue, which supports and nourishes cells that send messages from the brain to other parts of the body.

Glioblastoma

Also known as glioblastoma multiforme, this is the most common and aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans, involving glial cells and accounting for 52 percent of all functional tissue brain tumor cases and 20 percent of all intracranial tumors.

GBM

GBM is an abbreviation for glioblastoma multiforme.

Translational Genomics

Innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project, applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases

Innovative Technology for Brain Tumor Patients

Dr. Tarik Moussad is working with Sam Gambhir using technology only available to the University of Virginia and Stanford. This innovative technology would be applied to brain tumor patients for the first time anywhere in the world!

Former NFL Coach Loses Battle To Brain Cancer

Chuck Fairbanks, ex-New England Patriots coach, 79

By Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Chuck Fairbanks, who spent six seasons as coach of the New England Patriots and coached Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens at Oklahoma, died Tuesday in Arizona after battling brain cancer. He was 79. Oklahoma said in a news release that Fairbanks died in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.

Colorado hired Fairbanks away from the Patriots, but he was just 7-26 in three seasons, including an 82-42 loss at home to the Sooners and his replacement, Barry Switzer. He won 46 games for New England, a franchise record at the time. The Patriots made the playoffs in their fourth season under Fairbanks in 1976 and two years later were on their way to their first outright AFC East title when owner Billy Sullivan angrily suspended him for the final regular-season game because he had agreed to go to Colorado. Fairbanks returned for the playoffs, but New England lost to Houston. He was 0-2 in the playoffs with New England.

Fairbanks left the Buffs to become coach and general manager of the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. He was fired after one season.

Fairbanks was 52-15-1 in six years with the Sooners, including an Orange Bowl victory his first season and consecutive Sugar Bowls wins in 1971-72 before taking over the Patriots.

The Sooners went 10-1 and beat Tennessee in the Orange Bowl in Fairbanks’ first year in 1967. He won 11 games each of last two seasons with OU, beating Auburn and Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

“His squads won three Big Eight championships and helped lay the foundation for the program’s ongoing success with the installation of the wishbone-T offense,” current Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said in a statement.

Fairbanks worked in real estate and golf-course development after his coaching career. He occasionally worked as a consultant for NFL teams in training camp, including with the Dallas Cowboys when Bill Parcells was coach.

 

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000156947/article/chuck-fairbanks-exnew-england-patriots-coach-79

A Virtual Brain

Bringing a Virtual Brain to Life

By TIM REQUARTH

For months, Henry Markram and his team had been feeding data into a supercomputer, four vending-machine-size black boxes whirring quietly in the basement of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

The Blue Brain computer has 10,000 virtual neurons. The colors represent the neurons’ electric voltage at a specific moment.

The boxes housed thousands of microchips, each programmed to act like a brain cell. Cables carried signals from microchip to microchip, just as cells do in a real brain.

In 2006, Dr. Markram flipped the switch. Blue Brain, a tangled web of nearly 10,000 virtual neurons, crackled to life. As millions of signals raced along the cables, electrical activity resembling real brain waves emerged.

“That was an incredible moment,” he said, comparing the simulation to what goes on in real brain tissue. “It didn’t match perfectly, but it was pretty good. As a biologist, I was amazed.”

Deciding then that simulating the entire brain on a supercomputer would be possible within his lifetime, Dr. Markram, now 50, set out to prove it.

That is no small feat. The brain contains nearly 100 billion neurons organized into networks with 100 trillion total connections, all firing split-second spikes of voltage in a broth of complex biological molecules in constant flux.

In 2009, Dr. Markram conceived of the Human Brain Project, a sprawling and controversial initiative of more than 150 institutions around the world that he hopes will bring scientists together to realize his dream.

In January, the European Union raised the stakes by awarding the project a 10-year grant of up to $1.3 billion — an unheard-of sum in neuroscience.

“A meticulous virtual copy of the human brain,” Dr. Markram wrote in Scientific American, “would enable basic research on brain cells and circuits or computer-based drug trials.”

An equally ambitious “big brain” idea is in the works in the United States: The Obama administration is expected to propose its own project, with up to $3 billion allocated over a decade to develop technologies to track the electrical activity of every neuron in the brain.

But just as many obstacles stand in the way of the American project, a number of scientists have expressed serious reservations about Dr. Markram’s project.

Some say we don’t know enough about the brain to simulate it on a supercomputer. And even if we did, these critics ask, what would be the value of building such a complicated “virtual brain”?

Henry Markram traces his fascination with the brain to a school assignment in his native South Africa. He was 14, and as he sat in the library reading about depression, he was astonished to discover there might be “molecular explanations to mental illness” that could be treated with drugs.

That set him on a path to medical school, where he planned to become a psychiatrist. But as a medical student, he realized that we know next to nothing about what prescription drugs really do to the brain.

To understand mental illness, he reasoned, we need to understand the brain first. “So I dropped out of medical school,” he said, “and got on a plane to do some real neuroscience.”

He went to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel to earn a Ph.D., followed by a stint at the National Institutes of Health in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship. That work led to a position with the Nobel Prize-winning neurophysiologist Bert Sakmann at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

At Dr. Sakmann’s lab, Dr. Markram made his most famous discovery.

He was pondering how the brain learns cause and effect. He set up an experiment to record the electrical activity from two connected neurons in a slice from a rat’s brain, and discovered that the neurons required a precise sequence of voltage spikes to change the strength of their connections. He speculated that the mechanism might be at the root of our notion of causality.

That work has now been cited thousands of times. Yet as Dr. Markram’s reputation grew, so did his impatience.

Neurons are organized into interconnected circuits that can number in the millions. Dr. Markram realized that to make real progress linking neurons to behavior, experimenting on two neurons at a time “just wasn’t enough.”

In his first faculty position, at the Weizmann Institute, he set up a wildly ambitious new experimental rig that could record data not just from 2 neurons in a rat’s brain but also from 12.

“His rig made NASA look tame,” recalled Dr. Markram’s postdoctoral adviser at the N.I.H., Elise F. Stanley, who visited him at the Weizmann in 1995. “There was so much equipment that you couldn’t even see the brain tissue.”

Soon Dr. Markram would learn that his son, Kai, had autism. “You know how powerless you feel,” he said. “You have this child with autism, and you, even as a neuroscientist, really don’t know what to do.”

He began to question the impact of his work. “I realized that I could write a high-profile research paper every year, but then what?” he said. “I die, and there’s going to be a column on my grave with a list of beautiful papers.”

Dr. Markram decided he needed to change his approach. Experiments, he realized, were not enough.

After hearing of a new I.B.M. supercomputer, he asked himself, What if each microchip of the supercomputer represented a neuron in the brain? You could run simulations to perform virtual experiments and, unlike in real experiments, watch every single “neuron” in action. “If I build in enough biological detail,” he reasoned, “it would behave like a real brain.”

Dr. Markram moved his lab to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which agreed to buy the $10 million supercomputer. Armed with data from 20,000 experiments, Dr. Markram began to build Blue Brain.

By 2008, he said, his team had created a “digital facsimile” of a cylindrical piece of tissue in the rat cortex. In 2011, the team announced it had simulated a “virtual slice” of brain tissue with one million neurons.

He proposed the Human Brain Project, which would scale up Blue Brain to simulate the human brain. Dr. Markram would not be able to do it alone, so he appealed to the broader scientific community for support.

But many scientists are highly skeptical of Blue Brain’s accomplishments.

While the team may have achieved a computer simulation of something, critics say, it was not a brain slice.

“It was completely meaningless, just random activity,” said Alexandre Pouget, a neuroscientist at the University of Geneva, referring to the stunning visualizations that Dr. Markram’s group presents at conferences. “The claim that he simulated a rat’s cortex is completely ridiculous.”

And in a time of increasing competition for research grants, some scientists worry that the Human Brain Project will make funds even scarcer. “There could be indirect effects,” acknowledged Andrew Houghton, a deputy at the European Commission.

But concerns run even deeper.

Some researchers say it is premature to invest money in a simulation while important principles of brain function remain to be discovered.

“We’re probably in the time of Galileo in biology,” said Christof Koch, of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “Darwin, Crick and Watson have given us the equivalent of Galileo and Newton, but there isn’t any equivalent to Einstein’s theory of relativity.”

Other critics say the project is too open-ended — that it makes little sense without clearly defined criteria for success.

“It’s not like the Human Genome Project, where you just have to read out a few billion base pairs and you’re done,” said Peter Dayan, a neuroscientist at University College London. “For the human brain, what would you need to know to build a simulation? That’s a huge research question, and it has to do with what’s important to know about the brain.”

And Haim Sompolinsky, a neuroscientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: “The rhetoric is that in a decade they will be able to reverse-engineer the human brain in computers. This is fantasy. Nothing will come close to it in a decade.”

Some say the controversy surrounding Dr. Markram’s work distracts from the real issue: How should neuroscience harness its resources to achieve true understanding of the brain?

“Some 10,000 laboratories worldwide are pursuing distinct questions about the brain,” Dr. Koch of the Allen Institute wrote in the journal Nature. “Neuroscience is a splintered field.”

Dr. Markram agreed. The Human Brain Project, he said, will provide a “unifying principle” for scientists to rally around.

For the first time, data from laboratories around the world will be in one place, he said, adding that trying to build a simulation will drive advances in fields like computing and robotics. An entire division of the project is devoted to creating a new breed of intelligent robots with “neuromorphic” microchips designed like neurons in the human brain.

“The biggest success for me,” Dr. Markram said, “would be if after 10 years we have a new model for neuroscience, where everyone works together. It’s about a new foundation.

“Putting the problem on the horizon is very important,” he continued. “When people say, ‘Well, the brain is so complicated that our grandchildren will solve it,’ we put it over the horizon.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/science/bringing-a-virtual-brain-to-life.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

The American Dream

Dr. Q: From Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon

Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa’s life is so storied it could fill a book. In fact, it has, as the doctor authored his recent autobiography Becoming Dr. Q. He was also featured in a recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy that found 35 percent of the physician scientists at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center are immigrants.

Known by many as Dr. Q, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa is Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Brain Tumor Surgery Program. He also leads the Brain Stem Tumor Cell Laboratory.

There are more than 100 types of brain cancer and of the approximately 600,000 Americans with brain or nervous system tumors about 124,000 have malignant brain cancers. “The research is really the most exciting part of what I do,” said Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa. “I’m not only trying to save lives in the operating room. The research we are doing with this tissue is to try and find out whether or not there are stem cells within brain cancer – stem cells that are going crazy, stem cells that cannot regulate their own growth, and are therefore killing patients. That’s my research.”

In his book, Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa describes as a teenager, at the age of 14, entering the United States on a tourist visa and working illegally over a long summer as a farm worker, managing to bring back to Mexico almost $1,000, which he believed could feed his family for a year. On a later trip, U.S. Border Patrol Agents caught and returned him to Mexico but he later succeeded in entering the United States and benefitted from the aftermath of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan, which gave legal status to many undocumented immigrants. With little knowledge of English, he entered community college in San Joaquin, later graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a degree in medicine from Harvard Medical School.

Along the way, he had at least four close personal brushes with death. He nearly died as a young man when, working as a laborer, he fell into the bottom of a railway fuel tank car and came within minutes of suffocating. While fulfilling his residency at a San Francisco hospital he was pricked by a needle used on an HIV-positive patient and endured a year of testing (and worry) before it could be determined the infection did not pass to him. While in community college, a driver who accused him of cutting him off pointed a gun in his face, threatened to shoot him, and then drove away. And while windsurfing, Alfredo developed a cramp and was unable to swim back to the boat. His date that day was fortunately a lifeguard, his future wife Anna, and she saved him from drowning.

Along the way to becoming a neurosurgeon he faced other obstacles, including the belief that perhaps a young man born in Mexico could not possess the intelligence or ability to serve patients in such a demanding field of medicine.

 In an interview on C-SPAN, Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa described why he wrote his book and his feelings about America. “I wanted to tell the story about this underdog, this kid, who came to the United States with nothing and now based on hard work, mentorship, and doors being opened, and opportunities being given, and me taking those opportunities I was able to show the world that you can still fulfill the American Dream and that America is still the most beautiful country in the world.”

While his rise from farm worker to brain surgeon is a great personal achievement, Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa gives credit to mentors like Harvard faculty members Dr. Ed Kravitz and Dr. David Potter, who both gave him $500 when, while in medical school at Harvard, nearly all his family’s possessions were stolen from his apartment. Dr. Potter told him, “You’ll do for others what others have done for you. I have no doubt.” Dr. Q continues to do for others, meeting students all over the U.S. who may or may not have the same opportunities he has had and encouraging them to never give up their dreams, performing 250 brain surgeries a year on patients – over 2,000 surgeries in his career – and leading a laboratory that he hopes one day will unlock the mysteries of cancer and its cure.