Study Finds Improved Detection of Cervical Cancer
A group of physicians recently found that detection of precancerous changes in the cervix improved by more than 26% when a new optical detection system (ODS) was used in conjunction with colposcopy.

The study examined 2,186 women in 13 clinical sites with 51 colposcopists. The researchers found that by using ODS in conjunction with traditional colposcopy, 238 cases of biopsy-confirmed cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (precancer) were identified compared with 218 cases identified through the use of just colposcopy.

“In traditional colposcopy, the colposcopist relies upon experience to recognize differences in the cervix as seen with reflected white light,” says Michael Gold, MD, of the University of Oklahoma Health Services Center. “The ODS uses a combination of intrinsic tissue fluorescence and reflected white-light analysis combined in what is termed a computer-generated ‘hyperspectral algorithm.’ This protects the areas on the cervix most likely to contain high-grade dysplasia, or cancer. These areas are depicted on a video overlay of the colposcopic image. The colposcopist can then use these impressions, in addition to their own, to choose sites for biopsy.”

Based on the results of the survey, physicians concluded that more than 100,000 additional cases of precancer could be identified each year if ODS is used in conjunction with colposcopy. “The new procedure may entice more women to be screened,” adds Gold. “This will eliminate unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer.”

Contact: Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (312) 644-6610

 LabAutomation 2004 Reports Record-Setting Attendance
The Association for Laboratory Automation (ALA)’s eighth annual LabAutomation conference and exhibition on laboratory science and emerging technologies attracted more than 3,800 professionals and researchers from around the world. The conference took place February 1–5, and was held for the first time in San Jose, Calif. The show’s size increased 36% compared with the 2003 show in Palm Springs, Calif.

“With San Jose as the new venue for the conference, we saw increased traffic from the biotechnology sector in that region,” says Jay Smith, ALA’s exhibitor advisory committee chair. “We noticed exhibitors leveraging their attendance with in-person client meetings both before and after the event.

The LabAutomation 2004 conference also included a presentation by Andreas Manz, PhD, professor, analytical chemistry, at the institute of Spectrochemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (ISAS), Dortmund, Germany. Manz received the Jouan Robotics award for his project titled Chip Based High Throughput Analysis. Manz also received a $10,000 check from Thermo Electron Corp, the corporate sponsor of the award.

ALA will host the LabFusion 2004 conference and exhibition June 12–16 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Contact: Association for Laboratory Automation (866) 263-4928

 PNRI Develops First Blood Test for Mesothelioma
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute (PNRI) have developed a blood test for the highly aggressive lung cancer mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure.

The test provides a technique for the early diagnosis and monitoring of the cancer, when therapy success rates are at their highest. Mesothelioma cells release distinctive molecular markers known as soluble mesothelin-related proteins (SMR) into the bloodstream. PNRI researchers have identified this group of markers and have developed an accurate test for their detection. In blood samples gathered from 273 individuals, researchers found that 84% of those with mesothelioma exhibited high levels of SMR. Only 1.9% of those with other forms of cancer or lung disease had increased SMR levels, and patients that had not been exposed to asbestos showed no biomarker increase. The research also reveals that SMR can be elevated in serum for up to several years before an actual diagnosis of mesothelioma can be made. This aspect of the findings may prove helpful for screening asbestos-exposed individuals before early evidence of mesothelioma.

“This is a very important breakthrough for the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma,” says Dr Ingegerd Hellstrom, team leader for PNRI research. “Currently, no blood test exists to detect this cancer. The new biomarker will help doctors see the disease that so far has required much more complicated and expensive tests.”

In July 2002, Fujirebio Diagnostics Inc acquired a license from PNRI to develop the findings into a commercial test for worldwide distribution. The company is in the process of initiating the clinical development for the test, and plans a commercial release within 18 to 24 months.

Contact: Pacific Northwest Research Institute (206) 726-1200 or Fujirebio Diagnostics Inc (877) 861-7246

ANA Members Make Advancements in Alzheimer’s Research
Researchers at the Farber Institute of Neuroscience in Philadelphia may have found a way to provide early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the ability to track its progress.

A recent study found evidence that levels of fatty substances called F2-isoprostanes—by-products of destructive free radical processes in the brain—increase in the blood or cerebrospinal fluid as levels of beta-amyloid, the toxic protein fragment suspected as the cause of the disease, rise in the brains of aging mice.

Prior to the findings, physicians weren’t able to find evidence of increases in beta-amyloid levels by testing either blood or spinal fluid. Unlike beta-amyloid, F-2 isoprostane levels in blood or cerebrospinal fluid reflect their brain levels, and more importantly, they also appear to mirror beta-amyloid brain levels. Ultimately, F2-isoprostanes may prove to be useful for predicting, diagnosing, and monitoring drug response in Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers plan to test the method by following a group of patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, to see how well the F-2 isoprostane levels or trends predict who will develop the disease.

Contact: Farber Institute of Neurosciences (215) 503-4200 or American Neurological Association (952) 545-6284

Innovative Parkinson’s Drug to Enter FDA Clearance Procedures
Avigen Inc has filed an investigational new drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration seeking clearance to enter clinical testing for its AV201, an innovative treatment for advanced Parkinson’s disease.

Current therapy for the disease consists of oral administration of levodopa, which is converted in the brain by the enzyme aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) into dopamine. Early in the disease, levodopa is capable of alleviating most symptoms; however, as Parkinson’s disease progresses, the level of AADC declines, meaning increasingly larger doses of levodopa are necessary. The raised levels of levodopa heighten the side effects characteristic of Parkinson’s disease, such as abnormal movements, psychosis, and hallucinations. Most patients experience negative side effects within 5 years of beginning levodopa therapy and eventually need to limit the dosage. Further, levodopa becomes less effective as the disease advances, which leads to an inadequate therapeutic response.

AV201 is designed to restore the therapeutic effectiveness of levodopa by inserting the gene for AADC into the striatum of patients’ brains. This process triggers patient response to a lower dose of levodopa and eliminates debilitating side effects. Treatment with AV201 is intended to permit the level of dopamine in the brain to continue to be regulated by the original dose of the oral medication consumed.

“I’m very excited by the potential of Avigen’s approach to treating Parkinson’s disease,” says Michael Aminoff, MD, Avigen’s principal investigator of AV201. “I have worked with Parkinson’s patients for more than 30 years and have been involved in many research studies. While treatments have improved over the years, I have high hopes that AV201 may be the next step forward in treating this disease.”

Primate studies have shown AV201 to be effective, long lasting, and safe. The earliest primates with parkinsonian symptoms to be treated with AV201 were treated more than 3 years ago. Before treatment, they did not respond to low levels of levodopa. After a single administration of AV201 to the striatum, they continue to show stable expression of AADC and significant behavioral response to low doses of levodopa and have not developed any character side effects.

Contact: Avigen Inc (510) 748-7112

 ADVR Sells $12 Million in Common Stock to Fund Research
In an effort to support future clinical trials of its drug AVR 118, Advanced Viral Research Corp (ADVR) has entered into an agreement to sell 120 million shares of its common stock to James Dicke II, chairman and CEO of Crown Equipment Corp and a former member of ADVR’s board of directors, and his son James Dicke III. The stocks will have a total aggregate purchase price of $12 million, and transactions will be made in four installments of $3 million.

ADVR has already seen positive results from a phase I clinical trial done in the United States to evaluate the safety of AVR 118. The peptide–nucleic acid, which has shown no indication of human toxicity, appears to stimulate the proinflammatory responses required to combat viral infections, such as AIDS and human papillomavirus (HPV). AVR 118 also is being considered to dampen aberrant autoimmune-type inflammatory responses. Currently, clinical trials are taking place in Israel for the treatment of cachexia in patients with AIDS. The recent funding from the sale of the company’s common stock will allow ADVR to establish a phase II trial for the topical use of AVR 118.

Contact: Advanced Viral Research Corp (914) 376-7383

Troemner Receives ISO 9001:2000 Certification
An industry provider of precision weights, calibration services, and laboratory equipment, Troemner LLC is now certified to the new ISO 9001:2000 quality standard. The 2000 revisions of the ISO 9000 are considered by industry professionals to be the most thorough overhaul of the ISO quality standards since they were first published in 1987.

The certification encompasses Troemner’s entire line of products and services, including the new calibrations for humidity measuring devices, such as chart recorders, data loggers, hygrometers, hygrothermographs, dew point gauges and sensors.

All Troemner humidity calibrations are traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The company’s facility is ISO/IEC 17025-compliant and an application for NVLAP accreditation has been made.

Contact: Troemner (856) 686-1600