Connect with us

News

Researchers uncover ‘on/off switch’ for breast cancer metastasis

The research could help clinicians better predict patient response to existing medicines

Published

on

Songnan Wang, MD-PhD student in biochemistry and Arc researcher and Lingyin Li, associate professor of biochemistry at Stanford and Arc Core investigator

Researchers from Stanford University have discovered an “on/off switch” for breast cancer metastasis, in a move that could redefine treatment.

Despite their promise, immunotherapies fail to treat many cancers, including over 80 per cent of some of the most advanced breast cancers and many of those patients who do respond still experience metastases eventually.

Researchers from Stanford University and the Arc Institute has revealed a better way to predict and improve patient responses.

A team led by Lingyin Li, associate professor of biochemistry at Stanford and Arc Core investigator, found that a protein called ENPP1 acts as an “on/off switch” that controls breast cancer’s ability to both resist immunotherapy and metastasise.

The study, published in December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that ENPP1 is produced by cancer cells and by healthy cells in and around the tumour, and that high patient ENPP1 levels are linked to immunotherapy resistance and subsequent metastases.

The research could lead to new, more effective immunotherapies and help clinicians better predict patient response to existing medicines.

“Our study should offer hope for everyone,” said Li, who is also an institute scholar at Sarafan ChEM-H.

Thawing cold tumours

Immunotherapies, like pembrolizumab (Keytruda), work by blocking an immune-dampening interaction between a cancer cell and a T cell, a kind of immune cell. For this to be effective, though, T cells need to permeate the tumour. So-called “hot” tumours, like those in melanoma and a subset of lung cancer, are treatable through immunotherapies, but many others, like breast and pancreatic cancers, are “cold,” devoid of T cell infiltration.

In her quest to turn cold tumours hot, Li started with cGAMP, a molecule that cells produce when their DNA is damaged, which happens when a cell becomes cancerous. If left intact, cGAMP activates an immune response through what is known as the STING pathway, which can help make a tumour hot.

Li previously discovered that cGAMP is exported outside the cells but often, before it can trigger a response, a protein called ENPP1 chews up these molecular “danger” signals. ENPP1, she proposed, helped keep cold tumours cold.

High levels of ENPP1 correlate with poor prognosis in many cancers, but the protein can perform many actions in the body, so Li set out to determine if its cGAMP-chewing ability is behind its clinical significance.

An on/off switch

Li began collaborating with two professors at the University of California, San Francisco: Hani Goodarzi, also an incoming Arc Institute Core investigator, and Laura Van’t Veer, a clinician who leads the I-SPY 2 trial, a groundbreaking breast cancer trial.

ENPP1 levels naturally vary across individuals, so the team looked at data from patients in the I-SPY 2 trial to see how responses to pembrolizumab varied with ENPP1 levels at the time of diagnosis.

Patients with high ENPP1 levels had low response to pembrolizumab and high chance of metastases. Those with low ENPP1 levels had a high response to pembrolizumab and no metastases. ENPP1 predicted both response to immunotherapy and likelihood of relapse.

Two things were suddenly clear: that ENPP1 was critical in metastases, not just in primary tumours and that they should be looking at ENPP1 in healthy cells, not only in cancer cells.

Songnan Wang, an MD-PhD student in biochemistry, Arc researcher and first author on the paper, said: “Using the finest molecular scalpels developed in our lab, I was excited to dig deeper and figure out exactly how ENPP1 has such a dramatic influence on clinical outcomes.”

In a series of mouse studies, Wang proved that removing ENPP1 entirely or eliminating only its cGAMP-chewing ability in normal and cancer cells yielded exactly the same result: decreased tumour growth and decreased metastases. And the team proved that it resulted directly from suppressing the STING pathway. They found an on/off switch.

News

Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

Published

on

Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

Continue Reading

News

US start-up raises US$2.32m to address pelvic health concerns

The Flyte intravaginal device aims to treat stress urinary incontinence and strengthen pelvic floor muscles

Published

on

The US women’s health start-up Pelvital has raised US$2.32m in funding to address “unanswered” pelvic health issues.

Minnesota-based Pelvital aims to restore pelvic health with its first product Flyte, an FDA-cleared intravaginal treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and weakened pelvic floor muscles.

The device, originally developed by physicians from the Arctic University of Norway, uses mechanotherapy, a treatment modality that when paired with an active pelvic floor contraction stimulates tissue regeneration and the creation of neuromuscular memory.

The company will use the funding to speed up the commercialisation of Flyte and raise awareness of pelvic health issues.

“Completing this round is an important step in continuing Pelvital’s unwavering dedication to provide women with innovative solutions for pelvic health, including the treatment of SUI,” said Lydia Zeller, president and CEO of Pelvital.

“This funding will play a crucial role in accelerating our commercialisation of Flyte with a strong emphasis on expanding payor coverage and enhancing clinical education and clinician awareness.”

With this final close, Zeller said, Pelvital would welcome new investors including Pier 70 Ventures, Life Science Angels, Tech Coast Angels Orange County, and Blue Pacific Fund.

Preetha Ram, managing partner at Pier 70 Ventures, would join the Pelvital board of directors.

“Joining Pelvital’s board alongside this investment round is truly an honour,” Ram shared.

“Pier 70 and I are thrilled to be part of this transformational opportunity, as Pelvital’s mission aligns beautifully with our dedication to support disruptive technologies that shake up the status quo in healthcare.

“Pelvital’s pioneering work is shaping a future where women’s health receives the attention and innovation it deserves with novel medical devices like Flyte.”

Oscar Moralez, founder and managing partner of Boomerang Ventures who led the investment round, said: “We are thrilled for the successful completion of this round as we aim to tackle the most pressing healthcare challenges.

“Our participation aims to address the chronic underfunding in women’s healthcare. Investing in Flyte, a truly groundbreaking treatment, addresses underserved pelvic health issues like SUI and contributes to raising vital awareness.”

Two published clinical trials have validated Flyte’s safety, efficacy and durability of treatment effect for women with SUI.

Most recently Pelvital published a paper in Therapeutic Advances in Urology, showing that 71 per cent of study participants achieved dry or near dry conditions as evidenced by a reduction in 24-hour pad weight after using Flyte for between two and 12 weeks.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

Continue Reading

News

Cleveland Clinic launches new women’s health and research center

The programme aims to address women’s unique health needs during midlife and beyond

Published

on

From left: Cleveland Clinic CEO and president Dr Tom Mihaljevic, Maria Shriver and Dr Beri Ridgeway / Source: clevelandclinic.org

Cleveland Clinic has launched its new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center, an initiative dedicated to helping women during midlife.

The center, which will focus on access, connectivity, education and research and innovation, aims to empower women to navigate their health journey with confidence and clarity.

Maria Shriver, founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic, will serve as chief visionary and strategic advisor.

“I’ve always believed our nation needed a first-class comprehensive women’s health center, and now we have one,” said Shriver.

“Over the past several years, I’ve been honoured to work alongside so many talented and passionate doctors at Cleveland Clinic to bring this vision to life. This is a place for women at every stage of life where they will feel seen, will get the research they need, and the care they deserve, from their brains to their bones.

“I am thrilled that today the WAM Prevention and Research Center expands, as it deserves to.”

Dr Tom Mihaljevic, Cleveland Clinic CEO and president, said: “Maria’s unwavering commitment to raising awareness and driving meaningful change aligns perfectly with the mission of our new center.

“Her passion for advancing the quality of care for women is remarkable and will help us transform how we deliver care for women today and into the future.”

The population of women in midlife and in need of healthcare continues to grow. According to US Census Bureau 2020 data, more than 63 million women in the US are 50 years of age or older, and approximately 6,000 women enter menopause each day.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 80 per cent of women aged 55 and older have at least one chronic condition, such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, which strengthens the need for more comprehensive medical care for women in this stage of life.

The new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center will bring together specialty care in various areas, including behavioural health, breast health, cardiovascular care, center for infant and maternal health, endocrinology, menopause, osteoporosis and metabolic bone density, wellness and disease prevention.

Through initiatives focused on streamlining appointment processes, enhancing outreach programmes and prioritising health equity, the center will seek to ensure that all women can readily access the care they need.

“Midlife is an important milestone and a time to empower women to address health issues and focus on future health,” said Dr Beri Ridgeway, chief of staff at Cleveland Clinic.

“Taking a holistic approach, including menopausal and hormonal health, reproductive health, mental health, chronic conditions and preventive care, is critical to optimise health outcomes.

“Our priority is to help women in this stage of life make educated decisions about their health and have access to the services they need to thrive, while also feeling seen, heard and supported.”

The center, Ridgeway said, will offer support groups and resources to help address health disparities, reach diverse communities and bridge gaps in health literacy.

The institution’s ultimate mission, she explained, is to advance research and innovation specific to women during midlife.

To receive the Femtech World newsletter, sign up here.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2023 Aspect Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.