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Scientists at the Duke Cancer Institute have identified a molecular key that breast cancer cells use to invade bone marrow in mice, where they may be protected from chemotherapy or hormonal therapies that could otherwise eradicate them. 

Through years of experiments in mice, the scientists have found ways to outmaneuver this stealth tactic by not only preventing breast cancer cells from entering the bone marrow, but also by flushing cancer cells out into the blood stream where they could be targeted for destruction.

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On May 17, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval to nivolumab (Opdivo; Bristol-Myers Squibb) for the treatment of patients with classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has relapsed or progressed after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and post-transplantation brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris).

The approval was based on two single-arm, multicenter trials of nivolumab in adults with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma. The trials enrolled patients regardless of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression status on Reed-Sternberg cells. The primary efficacy endpoint was objective response rate (ORR) as determined by an independent radiographic review committee. Additional outcome measures included duration of response (DOR).

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Also Announces FDA approval to begin first in Human Adenoviral Vaccine  Trials for Patients with Her 2 positive Breast Cancer, another Cancer Moonshot 2020 milestone

 CULVER CITY, Calif. – May 10, 2016 – Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong CEO of NantWorks and founder of Cancer Moonshot 2020, today announced that a novel genetically engineered adenovirus vaccine designed to treat colon cancer showed, in Phase II testing, a more than doubling of survival rate, with little to no toxicity, with some patients alive now more than five years after receiving the colon vaccine while on no other therapy. Dr. Soon-Shiong said that the vaccine which treated more than 30 patients with metastatic colon cancer, who had failed over 5 rounds of chemotherapy and had an overall life expectancy of 4.5 months, showed what he believed to be very promising and exciting results.

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Cancer cells capable of using information packets as energy source

Cancer cells are well-known as voracious energy consumers, but even veteran cancer-metabolism researcher Deepak Nagrath was surprised by their latest exploit: Experiments in his lab at Rice University show that some cancer cells get 30-60 percent of their fuel from eating their neighbors’ “words.”

“Our original hypothesis was that cancer cells were modifying their metabolism based on communications they were receiving from cells in the microenvironment near the tumor,” said Nagrath, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of bioengineering at Rice and co-author of a new study describing the research in the open-access journal eLife. “None of us expected to find that they were converting the signals directly into energy.”

The results were part of a four-year study by Nagrath, his students and collaborators at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and other institutions about the role of exosomes in cancer metabolism. Exosomes are tiny packets of proteins, microRNA and nucleic acids that cells emit into their environment to both communicate with neighboring cells and influence their behavior. Nagrath, who directs Rice’s Laboratory for Systems Biology of Human Diseases, found that some cancer cells are capable of using these information packets as a source of energy to fuel tumor growth.

Nagrath’s team specializes in analyzing the unique metabolic profiles of various types of cancer.

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