Study Confirms Long-Term Benefits of Melanoma Immunotherapy

A long-term follow up of people on an international clinical trial has confirmed the benefit of immunotherapy for certain patients with advanced (stage 3 or 4) melanoma. More than 18 percent of patients were still alive five years after being treated with ipilimumab (Yervoy) in combination with a chemotherapy drug called dacarbazine. This compared to fewer than nine per cent who were treated with chemo alone. Ipilimumab is one of a new class of cancer treatments that target the immune system, and works by homing in on a molecule found on immune cells called CTLA-4. This relieves the molecular 'brakes' on a patient's immune system, allowing it to attack their cancer.
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Early Immunotherapy Helps Kids Beat Peanut Allergy

Very young children who have shown reactivity to peanuts had a high rate of "sustained unresponsiveness" after stopping oral immunotherapy, researchers reported here. A total of 29 out of 30 patients were able to consume 5 g peanut protein in a food challenge 4 weeks after stopping oral immunotherapy, which had been given for at least 1 year, said Brian P. Vickery, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a press conference at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology annual meeting. Sustained unresponsiveness is a term that has been introduced to describe an individual's ability to undergo a food challenge without becoming symptomatic and then have the food introduced into the diet ad libitum.
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Synthetic Biology Yields New Approach to Gene Therapy

Bioengineers at The University of Texas at Dallas have created a novel gene-delivery system that shuttles a gene into a cell, but only for a temporary stay, providing a potential new gene-therapy strategy for treating disease. The approach offers distinct advantages over other types of gene therapies currently under investigation, said Richard Taplin Moore MS'11, a doctoral student in bioengineering at UT Dallas. He is lead author of a study describing the new technique in the Jan. 30 issue of the journal Nucleic Acids Research.
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Former Dendreon CEO Launches Stealth Next-gen Immunotherapy Startup in Seattle

Dendreon may be on its last legs, but former CEO Mitchell Gold is happily entrenched in other projects: He’s launching a next-generation immunotherapy startup called Alpine Immune Sciences, seeding about $1.3 million into the company through his investment firm, Alpine BioVentures. It’ll be a recombinant protein-based therapeutic, Gold told MedCity News – and unrelated to the platform used by Dendreon. Beyond that, he’s keeping mum about the venture and will for a while, he said.
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New Nanoparticle Gene Therapy Strategy Effectively Treats Deadly Brain Cancer in Rats

Nanoparticles have been used to successfully deliver a new therapy to cancer cells in the brains of rats, prolonging their lives, scientists report. Previous research on mice found that nanoparticles carrying genes can be taken up by brain cancer cells, and the genes can then be turned on. However, this is the first time these biodegradable nanoparticles have effectively killed brain cancer cells and extended survival in animals.
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U.K. Parliament Approves Controversial Three-Parent Mitochondrial Gene Therapy

The United Kingdom’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly today to allow British researchers to pursue a new fertility treatment that could prevent certain kinds of genetic diseases. The technique, called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy, could allow women who carry disease-causing mutations in their mitochondrial genes to give birth to genetically related children free of mitochondrial disease. The measure, which passed 382 to 128, has been controversial, especially because it would alter the DNA of an embryo in a way that could be passed on to future generations. Some scientists and nongovernmental organizations have argued that not enough is known about possible side effects of the technique to go forward in human patients. “We believe the House of Commons has made a serious mistake, which we hope does not have dire consequences,” said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California, in a statement.
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Parkinson’s Gene Linked to Lung Cancer

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), in collaboration with other colleagues of the Genetic Epidemiology of Lung Cancer Consortium (GELCC), have identified a gene that is associated with lung cancer. The findings are published in American Journal of Human Genetics. Through whole exome sequencing, researchers identified a link between a mutation in PARK2, a gene associated with early-onset Parkinson's disease, and familial lung cancer.
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Millions of GMO Insects Could Be Released in Florida Keys

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases. Dengue and chikungunya are growing threats in the U.S., but some people are more frightened at the thought of being bitten by a genetically modified organism. More than 130,000 people signed a Change.org petition against the experiment. Even potential boosters say those responsible must do more to show that benefits outweigh the risks of breeding modified insects that could bite people.
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Immunotherapy Inhibits Heroin Effects in Research Animals

Immunotherapy could have a place in the treatment of substance abuse in the future. A specific antibody can reduce the acute effects of heroin, according to a new experimental study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Researchers investigated whether a monoclonal antibody can block heroin's effects. It is known that heroin itself has a minor intoxicant effect but it is the conversion products that are formed when heroin is metabolized by the body that cause the intoxicant effect.
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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron, to Give Plenary Keynote Presentation at Cytokines & Inflammation Conference

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George Yancopoulos is the company’s Founding Scientist, and currently serves as President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron. Dr. Yancopoulos has helped invent all three of the company’s FDA-approved drugs and all of the company’s foundation technologies. His success has made him the top-paid executive in biotech.
Regeneron currently has several late-stage candidates. Dupilumab, an IL-4 and IL-13 antibody being developed in collaboration with Sanofi for asthma, atopic dermatitis, and chronic sinusitis, recently showed positive results in its Phase 2b study in patients with asthma. Dr. Yancopoulos will share updates on the company’s work and research, and provide insight on novel approaches in the immunotherapeutics field along with fellow plenary speakers Francisco Leon (Janssen) and Shane Crotty (La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology).
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