Researchers ID Cancer Gene-Drug Combinations Ripe for Precision Medicine

Yeast, human cells and bioinformatics help develop one-two punch approach to personalized cancer therapy —

In an effort to expand the number of cancer gene mutations that can be specifically targeted with personalized therapies, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center looked for combinations of mutated genes and drugs that together kill cancer cells. Such combinations are expected to kill cancer cells, which have mutations, but not healthy cells, which do not. The study, published July 21 in Molecular Cell, uncovered 172 new combinations that could form the basis for future cancer therapies.

“Oncologists here at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health and elsewhere can often personalize cancer therapy based on an individual patient’s unique cancer mutations,” said senior author Trey Ideker, PhD, … Read the Full Story by Heather Buschman from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Trey Ideker, PhD

Trey Ideker, PhD

Senior author of the study report in Molecular Cell is Trey Ideker, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Professor of Bioengineering at UC San Diego.

Poison Drummer Rikki Rockett Cancer-Free Following Immunotherapy at UC San Diego Health

Rikki Rockett, drummer for the band Poison, got the best news of his life last week: his cancer is gone. Rockett was diagnosed with oral cancer more than a year ago. Several months ago, he came to Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, where he underwent experimental cancer immunotherapy, which has now eradicated the tumor.

Rockett says he joined the clinical trial not only out of concern about himself, but also about being around for his three-year-old daughter, Lucy, and his seven-year-old son, Jude. … Read the Full Story by Heather Buschman from the UC San Diego Newsroom

New Computer Program Can Help Uncover Hidden Genomic Alterations that Drive Cancers

Tested on large tumor genomics database, REVEALER method allows researchers to connect genomics to cell function —

Cancer is rarely the result of a single mutation in a single gene. Rather, tumors arise from the complex interplay between any number of mutually exclusive abnormal changes in the genome, the combinations of which can be unique to each individual patient. To better characterize the functional context of genomic variations in cancer, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Broad Institute developed a new computer algorithm they call REVEALER. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Jill Mesirov

Dr. Jill Mesirov

Co-senior authors on the REVEALER study report are Jill P. Mesirov, PhD, and Pablo Tamayo, PhD. Dr. Mesirov is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Associate Vice Chancellor for Computational Health Sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Dr. Tamayo is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Co-Director of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center Genomics and Computational Biology Shared Resource.

CAR Trials Drive Leukemia and Lymphoma Treatment in New Direction

Experimental cellular-immunotherapy may boost body’s ability to find and destroy specific cancers —

Cancer immunology is based upon boosting the body’s own immune system to vanquish malignancies. It is among the fastest growing areas of oncology research. Researchers at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center have launched three clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of a novel cellular-immunotherapy that uses modified T cells – one of the immune system’s primary weapons – to treat three different types of blood cancer that often defy existing therapies.

“Lymphomas and leukemias affect thousands of Americans every year and unfortunately a good number of them die as a direct consequence of the disease progression or toxicity from existing treatments,” said Januario E. Castro, MD … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Januario E. Castro, MDDr. Januario E. Castro is the principal investigator of the three ZUMA clinical trials of the potential treatment, KTE-C19. Dr. Castro is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Bone Marrow Transplantation.
For more information about the trials, contact Amy Guzdar at (858) 822-6843 or aguzdar@ucsd.edu

UC San Diego Health Researchers Join Pancreatic Cancer “Dream Team”

November 10, 2015

International effort will seek to develop and test new therapies for deadly malignancy —

In an effort to advance research on one of the deadliest forms of cancer, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers Andrew Lowy, MD, and Tannishtha Reya, PhD, have been recruited for their expertise in preclinical modeling, clinical trials and stem cell biology to join a “dream team” of international pancreatic cancer researchers.

The three-year, $12-million effort, sponsored by Stand Up To Cancer, Cancer Research UK and The Lustgarten Foundation, will pursue a three-pronged strategy to better understand and reset so-called “super-enhancers” that may be abnormally active in pancreatic tumors. Super-enhancers are bits of DNA that can cause over-expression of genetic signals, fueling cancer cell growth. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Tannishtha Reya, PhD, is Professor of Pharmacology in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Professor of Medicine in the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Cancer-associated Mutations are Common in Patients with Unexplained Low Blood Counts

November 4, 2015

Researchers use genetic tools to propose a new diagnostic category —

Patients with unexplained low blood counts and abnormally mutated cells who do not fit the diagnostic criteria for recognized blood cancers should be described as having clonal cytopenias of undetermined significance (CCUS), suggest University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers in a recent paper published in the journal Blood. The researchers found the condition surprisingly common in older patients with low blood counts. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Rafael Bejar

Dr. Rafael Bejar

The senior author of the study is Rafael Bejar, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Bone Marrow Transplantation.

Read Article Abstract

Dr. Bejar was one of 41 UC San Diego Health physicians named on the list of San Diego’s Top Doctors for 2015. The annual list is compiled by the San Diego County Medical Society and San Diego Magazine.

American Cancer Society Pilot Grants for Junior Investigators

The Moores Cancer Center is now accepting applications from junior investigators for American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grants (ACS-IRG #70-002).

Applicants must be Assistant Professors at UC San Diego, within six years of their first independent faculty appointment. Up to five pilot grants will be awarded, for up to $30,000 per award.

Applications are due electronically by 5 p.m. September 10, 2015. Grants will be awarded in December, 2015.

Nanospheres Safely Deliver High Chemotherapy Doses in Response to Tumor Secretions

Scientists have designed nanoparticles that release drugs in the presence of a class of proteins that enable cancers to metastasize. That is, they have engineered a drug delivery system so that the very enzymes that make cancers dangerous could instead guide their destruction.

“We can start with a small molecule and build that into a nanoscale carrier that can seek out a tumor and deliver a payload of drug,” said Cassandra Callmann, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and first author of the report published in the journal Advanced Materials July 14. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

UC San Diego and GSK Collaborate to Eradicate Cancer Stem Cells, Treat Leukemia

First California institution selected to participate in GSK’s bench-to-bedside academia-industry collaboration program —

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center are working with GSK on a bench-to-bedside project to treat leukemia and other diseases by eliminating cancer stem cells. The collaboration is part of GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) program, where academic partners become core members of drug-hunting teams. Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Regenerative Medicine, will lead UC San Diego’s effort in the new DPAc team. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

New Biomarkers Might Help Personalize Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Low levels of two genes predicts positive response to chemotherapy and longer survival times —

Metastatic colorectal cancer patients tend to live longer when they respond to the first line of chemotherapy their doctors recommend. To better predict how patients will respond to chemotherapy drugs before they begin treatment, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine conducted a proof-of-principle study with a small group of metastatic colorectal cancer patients. The results, published June 17 in PLOS ONE, revealed two genes that could help physicians make more informed treatment decisions for patients with this disease. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Paul Fanta, MD, MS

Paul Fanta, MD, MS

Senior author of the study is Department of Medicine oncologist Paul Fanta, MD, MS, Health Sciences associate clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology. Dr. Fanta is a researcher in the Solid Tumor Therapeutics Program at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Read the article in PLOS ONE (Open Access)