Arizona Students to Hold Annual Brain Tumor Walk

Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research (SSBTR) is holding its annual walk-a-thon Saturday, Feb. 27 to raise money for research at Barrow and other institutions.

SSBTR is a nonprofit organization which formed in 2002 after three students from the Paradise Valley Unified School District were diagnosed with and ultimately succumbed to brain tumors.

Steve Glassman, the founder of the organization and then student council adviser at Pinnacle High School, organized the inaugural walk-a-thon with help from a small group of student volunteers.

The event attracted about 250 participants and raised $7,500. Ten years later, it drew more than 3,000 students and raised more than $215,000.

Ninety-three percent of every dollar raised by SSBTR goes directly to institutions that fund or conduct brain tumor research. In addition to Barrow, beneficiaries include Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the National Brain Tumor Society, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the Steele Children’s Research Center.

“These funds allowed us to open a new research direction – the use of the therapeutic ketogenic diet as a treatment for glioblastoma in addition to the standard of care, which includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation,” said Dr. Adrienne Scheck, whose laboratory at Barrow is dedicated to neuro-oncology research. “This work has been very successful and has led to the opening of a clinical trial for patients with glioblastoma. Without SSBTR, this would not have been possible.”

SSBTR President Dr. Wendy Kaye, a Valley pediatrician who became involved in the organization after losing her daughter to a brain tumor, said the organization consists of students from elementary school all the way up through medical school. She estimated that about 80 students help organize fundraising events.

Dr. Kaye said that in addition to supporting a cause, the students learn valuable career skills.

“The students really take the lead in running a nonprofit organization,” she said. “They’re expected to write a grant, solicit funds from corporations, and work with foundations. We really help them develop their leadership skills. Many of the co-chairs have gone into nonprofit management, public relations, medical school, and medical research.”

Dr. Kaye said the majority of the students involved in SSBTR have been affected by brain tumors in some way, with many students being survivors themselves.

“Our daughter asked us before she passed to please help other people and to try to find a cure for these problems,” she said. “It’s also to support people who are fighting and let them know that there are a lot of people behind them.”

The walk-a-thon will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Saguaro High School, which is located at 6250 N. 82nd St. in Scottsdale. Gates open at 11 a.m. Register at the gate or online at

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ASU Student Leaders Raise Funds for TGen Pancreatic Cancer Research

A small idea by two freshman students ignites campus awareness of TGen’s efforts to help cancer patients

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Feb. 15, 2016 — Students at Arizona State University have raised nearly $5,000 for pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Led by Lambda Chi Alpha, eight Greek social groups at ASU bought t-shirts, held a dunk tank and decorated their Greek letters during “Hunt for a Cure” events in November, which is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Today, members of the fraternity toured TGen to see how their fundraising dollars are being put to work.

The fundraising idea began with Race Carter and Braden Liu, two members of Lambda Chi Alpha. Carter and Liu hatched the idea while considering Liu’s fledgling t-shirt business, and the plight of another fraternity brother’s relative with pancreatic cancer.

“We started making all these connections. Purple is one of the colors of our fraternity. Purple is the color associated with pancreatic cancer. And the next month was Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month,” said Carter, 18, a Barrett Honors College freshman, majoring in Business.

“It was like it was supposed to happen,” said Carter, who felt that TGen, with one of the nation’s leading pancreatic cancer research units — TGen has led two Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team efforts — was the perfect organization to benefit from their philanthropy.

Carter and Liu took the idea to the leaders of Lambda Chi Alpha who jumped on board with the idea of holding a fundraising event. They enlisted the help of seven sororities, reached out to non-Greek students, and eventually sold nearly 600 t-shirts.

“Whoever is affected by pancreatic cancer is the real winner of this fundraising,” Carter said. “The researchers, the patients, everyone. It’s TGen that wins, and everyone that wins. And it’s not just the money. We need to get the message out there.”

Carter said he realizes that $5,000 may not make a huge difference in a research effort that costs tens of millions of dollars to pursue. But he and his fraternity brothers and students in the Greek system already have plans for similar events to benefit TGen in the future, and he is hoping the fundraisers snowball, building greater awareness about TGen across the ASU campus.

“We want to keep doing it every year!” he said.

Pancreatic cancer annually takes the lives of more than 40,000 Americans, making it the nation’s fourth leading cause of cancer-related death. Only 1 in 4 patients survive more than a year following diagnosis, and the 5-year survival rate is less than 10 percent for all patients. Pancreatic cancer can rapidly spread to distant organs, especially the liver and the lungs. Survival remains low, in part, because no early screening test exists.

TGen is working to develop early detection of pancreatic cancer and new treatments for patients.

“We heartily applaud the philanthropic leadership of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and the hundreds of young men and women at ASU who joined them in this fundraising effort,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “Race Carter, Braden Liu and all of their brothers at Lambda Chi Alpha have shown how a simple, but thoughtful, idea can grow into a movement, raising awareness and hope for the thousands of patients who need our help.”

Dogs Accelerate the Advance of New Cancer Treatments for Both Pets and People

National review shows studying cancer in dogs offers ‘a unique opportunity’ for helping patients, saving time and decreasing costs

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Feb. 4, 2016 — A Science Translational Medicine review suggests integrating dogs with naturally occurring cancers into studies of new drug therapeutics could result in better treatments for our four-legged friends while helping inform therapeutic development for human cancers.

The review, conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Science, including faculty at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), hopes to close the gap between human and canine cancer research, and accelerate the knowledge developed by studying cancer in both people and pets, a field known as comparative oncology.

“We are hopeful this analysis will be useful in developing and advancing an agenda for the field of comparative oncology,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, and one of the authors of the study. “Many canine breeds develop naturally occurring cancers, such as breast cancer and melanoma, that share remarkable genetic similarities with their human equivalent. This allows us a unique opportunity to have what we learn in the human be of help to the dog, and what we learn in the dog to be of direct help to human patients with these cancers.”

Dr. William Hendricks, an Assistant Professor at TGen specializing in canine research, agreed: “It has been remarkable to see first hand the similarity in genetic changes, called mutations, between a dog with melanoma and a human patient with the same disease. Looking through the lens of genetics is giving us new targets and offering new hope for improving our treatment of humans and dogs.”

This “gap analysis” is the result of a National Academies Institute of Medicine workshop — The role of Clinical Studies for Pets with Naturally Occurring Tumors in Translational Cancer Research — held June 8-9, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

“Low cancer drug development success rates and the associated high attrition rates of new drugs, particularly late in human clinical trials, are indicative of a key shortcoming in the preclinical development path,” said Dr. Chand Khanna, a former Senior Scientist at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, who holds both a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Ph.D. in Pathobiology, an interdisciplinary field devoted to basic research into the mechanisms of disease.

“Strong similarities between the biology of cancer in dogs and humans have been shown, including patterns of response to therapies and cancer recurrence,” said Dr. Khanna, the review’s senior author. “Specific types of cancer are functionally identical between dogs and humans, and in some cases the cancers can be considered indistinguishable between the species.”

Findings the authors report include:

•    A limited understanding of the filed of comparative oncology in the cancer drug development community.

•    The value of comparative oncology can be seen not only in accelerating drug development and eventual FDA approval, but also in saving time, costs and risks to patients by providing early assessments of clinical trials that should be discontinued.

•    Studying canines to answer questions about drug target biology — before and after exposure to novel treatments — should be a priority.

•    Comparative oncology also should prioritize the development and validation of biomarkers in circulating blood, and guide decisions about optimal drug combination strategies.

•    There is a need to include veterinarians in clinical practice and in the pharmaceutical industry, physician and veterinary medical associations, and aligned philanthropic groups, in the discussion of opportunities presented by comparative oncology.

•    Tissue samples of canine cancers stored in tissue banks and bio-specimen repositories “should now be leveraged in order to rapidly accelerate comparative oncology.”

Importantly, this review found that the knowledge of genetic alterations that drive human cancers far exceeds knowledge of those same alterations in canine cancers. More than 30,000 human cancers have been genomically profiled, while genomic sequencing data has been published for fewer than 50 canine cancers.

“Our understanding of the genomic landscape of canine cancer is widely considered to be the single largest gap currently present in comparative oncology today,” said Dr. Amy LeBlanc, Director of the Comparative Oncology Program at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, and the review’s lead author.

Other recommendations included in the review: Veterinary schools are best positioned and prepared to successfully recruit and manage canine patients for comparative oncology studies; the successes in immunotherapy in human cancer treatments should be extended to canine clinical trials; and a centralized registry of canine clinical trials should be created, providing easy access for pet owners and veterinarians.

This “Focus” article, published Feb. 3, 2016, in Science Translational Medicine is titled: Perspectives from man’s best friend: National Academy of Medicine’s Workshop on Comparative Oncology:

Camaro Z/28 Donated to Barrett-Jackson Auction to Benefit Cancer Research at TGen

Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen established in memory of auction Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson’s father and brother

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.  — A powerful racetrack-worthy 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 will be auctioned at the 45th annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction to raise cancer research funds for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

This white and black Z/28, with 505 horsepower but fewer than 500 actual miles, was given by an anonymous donor to Barrett-Jackson to support TGen. It is scheduled to cross the auction block about 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 28. The auction runs from Jan. 23-31 at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

Each year on TGen’s behalf, Barrett-Jackson helps secure and auction donated rare and classic cars, raising essential dollars for 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.

“TGen’s cancer research is something very close to me,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. “I’m honored to help support this invaluable cause and to be able to do so in memory of my father and brother. It’s very moving to see the collector car community come together, bid from the heart and make a difference for organizations like TGen.”

Total giving for all charitable causes by Barrett-Jackson over the years has topped $84.6 million.

“Craig Jackson’s involvement enables TGen’s research to help patients around the world,” said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation. “Craig and his team at Barrett-Jackson have provided the leadership necessary to bring TGen’s personalized medicine to the families that need it the most.”

The Z/28’s 7-liter, 505-horsepower, V8 engine can pull more than 1G and hit 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. This model Z/28 has lapped Germany’s 12.9-mile Nurburgring — one of the world’s most challenging racetracks with an elevation climb of more than 1,000 feet — in 7:38.47 minutes in inclement weather.

Originally introduced in 1967, the Camaro Z/28 was designed specifically to compete in Trans-Am 2 class races. Lightweight, nimble and incredibly powerful, the original Z/28 was built to rule the road-racing circuit. The 2015 Camaro Z/28 track car carries the same racing credentials, incorporating a performance-first design philosophy that takes advantage of state-of-the-art, race-proven technology.

Since 2011, donated rare and classic automobiles sold at auction by Barrett-Jackson, and other gifts, have raised nearly $2 million for TGen cancer research. Cars previously auctioned for TGen have included a 2013 Ford Mustang 2 Door Coupe, a 2008 Shelby GT Barrett-Jackson Edition, and a 1993 Chevrolet Corvette 40th Anniversary coupe.

Craig Jackson also has acted as a national spokesperson for TGen, spreading the word about how the institute’s research may lead to improved quality of life for cancer patients.

More than 132,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year with colon or rectal cancer, and nearly 50,000 patients will succumb to these diseases, the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.

An additional 220,000 American men this year will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, which this year will kill more than 27,000 patients, the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S.

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TGen Study Published Today Targets SGEF Protein in Treating Glioblastoma Brain Tumors

Study funded by Ivy Foundation shows SGEF plays roles in how cancer cells survive and invade brain tissue

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Jan. 13, 2016 — The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has identified a protein called SGEF that promotes the survival of glioblastoma tumor cells and helps the cancer invade brain tissue.

TGen researchers identified SGEF as a target for new brain cancer therapies in a study published today by Molecular Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, the world’s largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research.

Glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is the most common primary tumor of the brain and central nervous system. One of the primary treatments for glioblastoma is surgical removal of the tumor. However, because of the aggressive way glioblastomas invade surrounding brain tissue, it is impossible to remove all parts of the tumors, and the cancer eventually returns and spreads.

This study found that SGEF also plays a role in how glioblastoma tumors develop resistance to treatment. Following surgery, GBM is treated with radiation and the standard-of-care chemotherapy drug called temozolomide (TMZ),

“We need to identify the genetic and cellular-pathway signaling mechanisms that make brain tumors resistant to treatment,” said Dr. Nhan Tran, Associate Professor and head of TGen’s Central Nervous System Tumor Research Lab.  “And the role of SGEF in promoting chemotherapeutic resistance highlights this previously unappreciated protein.  Importantly, this also suggests that SGEF could be a new candidate for development of targeted therapeutics,” said Dr. Tran, the study’s senior author.

This study was funded, in part, by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation.

“Contributing to the progress, TGen studies are helping uncover the mysteries behind glioblastoma,” said Catherine (Bracken) Ivy, founder and president of the Arizona-based Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “This research is fundamental to helping patients survive longer and critical to our goal of improving treatments, and eventually finding a cure.”

The ability of cancer cells to survive is influenced by the proteins that regulate cellular pathways involved in promoting how cells grow, replicate and spread, as well as whether cells will die when exposed to anti-cancer drugs. Radiation and drug treatment of GBM can lead to DNA damage. This study shows that SGEF promotes cancer cell survival in response to TMZ treatment by allowing tumor cells to rapidly repair the damaged DNA that otherwise would lead to cell death.

“Our study shows that SGEF may have an important role in helping cells survive injury — known as the pro-survival cellular signaling response — including injury to common drugs used to treat brain cancer such as TMZ,” said Dr. Shannon Fortin Ensign, the study’s lead author.

“The roles of invasion and survival are interconnected in the promotion of disease progression,” said Dr. Fortin Ensign, a former researcher at TGen who now is a resident in Internal Medicine at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. “SGEF presents a novel hub in the interrelated axes of tumor cell invasion and survival.”

The study, SGEF is Regulated via TWEAK/Fn14/NF-κB Signaling and Promotes Survival by Modulation of the DNA Repair Response to Temozolomide, was published online today by AACR’s Molecular Cancer Research.

Founded in 1907, AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates in 97 countries.

This study was funded by: the National Institutes of Health under grant number R01 CA130940; by the ARCS Foundation Eller Scholarship and Science Foundation Arizona Fellowship; and by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation.

TGen Continues to Grow as an Economic Engine for Arizona, Creating High-Paying Jobs, State Revenues and Significant Return on Investment

Report documents TGen’s $174 million in total annual economic impact, while also attracting research dollars and advancing precision medicine

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Jan. 6, 2016 — The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has a total annual economic impact on Arizona that has risen eight-fold over 8 years, according to an independent financial report released today.

Promised Economic Benefits: Positive Economic Benefits of TGen on the State of Arizona, produced by the independent auditing firm Tripp Umbach of Pittsburgh, shows that TGen is responsible for:

•    Producing a total annual economic impact — including commercial activities — of $174 million
•    Returning $8.7 million in annual tax revenues to the State of Arizona general fund, exceeding its historic 2:1 return on investment
•    Providing a rate of return in the form of direct economic impact of $46.50 for every $1 invested by the state
•    Creating more than 1,400 jobs

“As the anchor for the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, TGen is a vital economic engine that provides a significant return on investment to the State of Arizona,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

The $174 million in total annual economic impact is eight times what it was ($21.7 million) in 2006.

“Despite the recent economic environment, government budget limitations and increased competition for research grants, TGen has managed to produce and grow a highly significant economic return for Arizona,” said TGen Chief Operating Officer Tess Burleson.

“Moving forward, TGen continues to pursue new standards for medical care, leading to improvements in human health and wellness, as well as the increased associated economic impact,” added Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director.

This analysis of TGen’s economic impact for 2014, the last full fiscal year, is the fourth conducted for TGen by Tripp Umbach. Others were completed for fiscal years 2006, 2009, and 2011.

“TGen is a global leader in genomics research, generating both economic, social, scientific and health benefits for Arizona,” said William J. “Bill” Post, TGen Board Chair and former Chair of Arizona Public Service Co. and Pinnacle West Capital Corporation. “TGen is recognized both nationally and internationally, bringing global distinction to Arizona’s bioscience industry.”

One of the most important findings in the new report from Tripp Umbach is that, even in an increasingly competitive funding environment, TGen’s economic impact has increased significantly since 2010.

The total annual operational economic impact of TGen grew to $174 million in 2014, from $137 million in 2010, an increase of more than 27 percent. Meantime, research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an estimated 25 percent less in 2014, than in 2003, when converted to constant dollars.

TGen’s significant contribution to Arizona’s economy

According to the report, the combined economic impact of TGen’s operations, the commercialization of research conducted through TGen partnerships, and the operations of TGen-related business spin-offs, represents a significant contribution to Arizona’s economy.

TGen creates “highly-compensated, knowledge-based” jobs, according to the report, directly and indirectly generating full-time employment for 664 Arizona residents. Including the employment from spin-off companies TGen was responsible for more Arizona jobs in 2014 (1,428), than in 2010 (1,124).

Tax revenues for the State of Arizona generated annually by TGen and its spin-off companies grew to $8.7 million in 2014, from $6.9 million in 2010, an increase of more than 26 percent. This return exceeds historic levels from past economic analyses and represents a positive return to the general fund for the State of Arizona.

In addition, the $93 million annually in direct economic impact from TGen operations represents a return on investment of $46.50 for every $1 invested by the state.

Report’s conclusion: Arizona should continue to support TGen

TGen has developed a national, and international, reputation for its pioneering work and is emulated broadly across the personalized medicine field.

Because of TGen, Arizona is recognized as a desirable location for biomedical investment. Multiple companies have formed as a result of the commercialization of research performed at TGen, generating additional economic and employment impacts for the state.

To continue these positive returns, the report concludes that it would benefit the State of Arizona to continue support of TGen, as the institute leads the translational research industry and the application of genomics to patient care.

“It is a testament to the value and resilience of TGen that its economic and employment impacts have grown, even in an increasingly competitive environment,” said Todd Sanders, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, which awarded TGen with its 2014 Economic Driver IMPACT Award. “As a home-grown enterprise, TGen is a vital catalyst for Arizona’s continuing transformation as a national center for biomedical innovations, and deserves continued support by the state.”

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Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation Funds Promising Students Who Study Brain Disease and Disorders at TGen

Ivy Neurological Science Internship Program provides dedicated students committed to helping benefit brain cancer patients

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Ivy Neurological Science Internship Program at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is hosting five promising young students for the 2015-16 academic year, sponsored by the Arizona-based Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation.

Now in its fourth year, the Ivy program offers hands-on biomedical research experience for high school, undergraduate and medical school students pursuing careers in brain tumor research, neuroscience and neurogenomics.

World-class scientific investigators at TGen mentor interns in the translational process of moving laboratory discoveries into new treatments for patients. Clinical training enables the interns to understand the ultimate focus of TGen’s investigations — patients.

“The Ivy internships at TGen provide the exposure and additional training needed by a new generation of scientists to help solve the complex problems faced by patients with brain cancer,” said Catherine Ivy, President of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “This elite group of students will be called on one day to elevate brain research to a new level.”

The program allows TGen to offer top students time in the laboratory to further develop their bioscience skills. Students benefit from the immersive experience in scientific inquiry and the opportunity to take ownership of a patient-centered research project.

Marya Sabir, who has majored in Biochemistry at ASU and graduates in December (2015), is an aspiring medical school student who will defer one year of classroom studies to work full-time at TGen. She would like to pursue a M.D./Ph.D. degree.

“I would like to gain an enhanced understanding of the human organism particularly in the field of neurology, observe the intricate connection between scientific advances and bedside medicine, and examine a broad range of pathologies and understand their molecular underpinning as this would allow for the system to be altered to reverse the detrimental effects,” said Sabir, who is mentored by Dr. Nhan Tran, head of TGen’s Brain Tumor Unit. “The Ivy research experience allows me to work alongside expert scientists at TGen to advance clinical treatments for patients, and provide a foundation for me to connect textbook learning to cutting-edge research.”

Two undergraduates are spending their 2015-16 academic year learning in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division: Heather Sonnemann, a Senior at Arizona State University who is majoring in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology; and Nghia Millard, a Junior at ASU who is pursuing a double-major in Microbiology and Statistics.

“I like that I am able to spend all of my free time working in a lab that I love,” said Sonnemann, who is being mentored at TGen by Dr. Tran and Dr. Alison Roos. She hopes to continue a career in brain tumor research.

“Programs like the Ivy Internship Program are great because they emphasize the benefits that translational research gives to patients, and provide hands-on research experience in the context of ultimately helping patients,” said Millard, who also is being mentored at TGen by Dr. Tran and Dr. Harshil Dhruv.

Millard plans to earn a Ph.D. in cancer biology or immunology, and because of his experience at TGen he wants to some day run his own research lab. “My goal is to develop ideas and contribute to scientific knowledge, as well as help develop treatments that can improve a patient’s quality of life or even cure them of their disease,” he said.

Two high-school students — Tristan Neal of Paradise Valley High School, and Talia Khan of Xavier College Preparatory — have already completed their 10-week summer internships.

“Through Catherine Ivy’s vision and support, we are developing a local, highly-skilled workforce that will continue to push the boundaries of biomedical research,” said TGen President Dr. Jeffrey Trent.

For more information, please contact Brandy Wells, Manager of TGen’s Education and Outreach program, at or 602-343-8655.

Dr. Paul Keim of TGen and NAU is Named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

AAAS recognizes Dr. Keim for contributions to microbiology, genetics, genomic analysis, evolution, forensics and public health

Dr. Paul Keim, Director of the Pathogen Genomics Division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Cowden Endowed Chair of Microbiology at Northern Arizona University (NAU), has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Election as a Fellow of AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.

Dr. Keim’s peers recognized him for “distinguished contributions to the fields of microbiology, evolution and genetics through the use of genomic analysis for applications in forensics, biology and public health,” according to the AAAS, which will formally announce this year’s Fellows in the Nov. 27 issue of the organization’s journal Science.

Dr. Keim and other new Fellows also will be recognized Feb. 13 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Keim is a world-renowned expert in anthrax and other infectious diseases. At TGen and NAU he directs investigations into how to bolster the nation’s biodefense, and to prevent outbreaks — even pandemics — of such contagions as flu, cholera, E. coli, salmonella, and even the plague.

“There is no question that AAAS’s recognition of Dr. Keim is extremely well deserved,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director. “Paul’s achievements in revealing the genomes of microbial pathogens — both natural and those made into weapons — are of profound worldwide importance. His research, along with his dedication to his students and to the cause of public health, place him in the upper echelon of premier scientists, and cements Arizona’s place on the map in this critical and growing area of research.”

“Thousands of NAU students have participated in research organized by Dr. Keim, and from there have launched successful scientific careers,” said NAU President Rita Cheng. “His research group has forged a strong partnership between the university and TGen North, generating an important economic impact and producing health benefits for Arizona and beyond.”

Dr. Keim is Director of TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division, also known as TGen North in Flagstaff, which aims to protect human health though genomic investigations of some of humankind’s most deadly microbes.

Dr. Keim also is Director of NAU’s Microbial Genetics & Genomics Center, also in Flagstaff, a program that works with numerous government agencies to help thwart bioterrorism and the spread of pathogen-caused diseases.

“I’m gratified to know this honor also brings recognition to everyone in the lab, including the students who work with us,” said Dr. Keim, a Professor at TGen and Regents Professor of Microbiology at NAU. “Their contributions, achieved through dedication and talent, are meaningful and well deserving of the attention.”

Dr. Keim is a former member and chair of the federal government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), where he helped draft national research policy guidelines for blunting bioterrorism while elevating ethical standards and improving the quality of scientific research.

“Our science has been completely transformed by the rapid advancements of technology. Now, TGen’s job is to use these advancements to make positive impacts on human health. We have that ability, therefore, we feel that we have that responsibility to mankind,” Dr. Keim said.

His lab was involved in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax-letters attacks. Anthrax samples from the U.S. House and Senate buildings were rushed under heavy guard to Dr. Keim’s laboratory in Flagstaff for analysis. At the time, the FBI didn’t have a biosafety Level 3 lab. Dr. Keim’s lab became the major repository for anthrax samples gathered for comparison by the FBI from across the globe.

TGen North collaborates with local, national and international universities, biotech companies, security agencies, health care providers, public health departments and other institutions in its quest to protect human health.

Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Physician-In-Chief and Distinguished Professor, was named an AAAS Fellow in 1992 for his work in Medical Sciences.

Dr. Thomas Witham, NAU Regents Professor of Biology, was named an AAAS Fellow in 2011 for his research in Ecological Sciences.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Fellows are elected by the AAAS Council, which is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

TGen Identifies Drug That Could Limit the Spread of Deadly Brain Tumors

Study funded by Ivy Foundation shows PPF could help treat glioblastomas by sensitizing tumors to chemotherapy and radiation treatments

In a significant breakthrough, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has identified a drug, propentofylline or PPF, that could help treat patients with deadly brain cancer.

In a study published today in the Journal of NeuroOncology, TGen researchers report that PPF works to limit the spread of glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM — the most common primary tumor of the brain and central nervous system — by targeting a protein called TROY.

In addition, TGen laboratory research also found that PPF increases the effectiveness of a standard-of-care chemotherapy drug called temozolomide (TMZ), and radiation, to treat glioblastoma.

“We showed that PPF decreased glioblastoma cell expression of TROY, inhibited glioma cell invasion, and made brain cancer cells more vulnerable to TMZ and radiation,” said Dr. Nhan Tran, Associate Professor and head of TGen’s Central Nervous System Tumor Research Lab.

An advantage of small-molecule PPF — which has been previously used in clinical trials in an attempt to treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia — is that it can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and reach the tumor. And, the FDA has already approved it.

“Our data suggests that PPF, working in combination with TMZ and radiation, could limit glioblastoma invasion and improve the clinical outcome for brain tumor patients,” said Dr. Tran, the study’s senior author.

This study was funded, in part, by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation.

“GBM is one of the most aggressive of all cancers and it affects people of all ages,” said Catherine (Bracken) Ivy, founder and president of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “Funding research focused on helping patients survive longer is critical, and studies such as this advance our goal of not only improving treatments for brain cancer, but eventually finding a cure.”

One of the primary treatments for glioblastoma is surgical removal of the tumor. However, because of the aggressive way glioblastomas invade surrounding brain tissue, it is impossible to remove all parts of the tumors, and the cancer eventually returns and spreads. This insidious cancer invasion also limits the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy.

TGen found that PPF works to limit the spread of glioblastomas by targeting and knocking down the expression of the TROY protein. TGen researchers have linked TROY to the cellular mechanisms that enable glioblastomas to invade normal brain cells, and resist anti-cancer drugs.

“New therapeutic strategies that target the molecular drivers of invasion are required for improved clinical outcome,” said Dr. Harshil Dhruv, a TGen Research Assistant Professor and lead author of the study. “Propentofylline may provide a pharmacologic approach to targeting TROY, inhibiting cell invasion and reducing therapeutic resistance in glioblastomas.”

One of the fundamental challenges in treating brain cancer with drugs is what is known as the blood-brain barrier that separates circulating blood from the brain extracellular fluid in the central nervous system. This barrier works to protect the brain from toxins. However, this security system is so effective at protecting the brain that it prevents many life-saving drugs — all but some small molecules — from being able to treat cancer and other diseases of the brain.

As a result, there has been little progress in recent decades in finding new effective treatments for GBM. Median survival for newly diagnosed GBM patients is only 14.6 months. Only 5 percent of patients survive more than 5 years.

“Clinical trials revealed that PPF can cross the blood-brain barrier, and has minimal side effects,” Dr. Tran said. “PPF could be easily translated to the clinic as an adjuvant therapy in combination with standard of care treatment for GBM patients.”

This study — Propentofylline inhibits glioblastoma cell invasion and survival by targeting the TROY signaling pathway — also was funded by the National Institutes of Health under grants NS86853 and P50 CA108961. To read the abstract, visit: