Blood Test to Diagnose Depression

First Blood Test to Diagnose Depression in Adults

First Blood Test to Diagnose Depression in Adults

Test identifies nine blood markers tied to depression; predicts who will benefit from therapy

The first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults has been developed by Northwestern Medicine® scientists, a breakthrough approach that provides the first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression. The test identifies depression by measuring the levels of nine RNA blood markers. RNA molecules are the messengers that interpret the DNA genetic code and carry out its instructions.

The blood test also predicts who will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy based on the behavior of some of the markers. This will provide the opportunity for more effective, individualized therapy for people with depression.

In addition, the test showed the biological effects of cognitive behavioral therapy, the first measurable, blood-based evidence of the therapy’s success. The levels of markers changed in patients who had the therapy for 18 weeks and were no longer depressed.

“This clearly indicates that you can have a blood-based laboratory test for depression, providing a scientific diagnosis in the same way someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol,” said Eva Redei, who developed the test and is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This test brings mental health diagnosis into the 21st century and offers the first personalized medicine approach to people suffering from depression.”

Redei is co-lead author of the study, which was published Sept. 16 in Translational Psychiatry.

Redei previously developed a blood test that diagnosed depression in adolescents. Most of the markers she identified in the adult depression panel are different from those in depressed adolescents.

 

Source:  scienceblog.com

Doctors Test Tumor Paint

Doctors Test Tumor Paint

Doctors Test Tumor Paint

Eighteen months ago, Shots first told readers about tumor paint, an experimental substance derived from scorpion venom. Inject tumor paint into a patient’s vein, and it will actually cross the blood-brain barrier and find its way to a brain tumor. Shine near-infrared light on a tumor coated with tumor paint, and the tumor will glow.

The main architect of the tumor paint idea is a pediatric oncologist named Dr. Jim Olson. As a physician who treats kids with brain cancer, Olson knows that removing a tumor is tricky.

“The surgeons right now use their eyes and their fingers and their thumbs to distinguish cancer from normal brain,” says Olson. But poking around in someone’s brain with only those tools, it’s inevitable surgeons will sometimes miss bits of tumor or, just as bad, damage healthy brain cells.

So Olson and his colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle came up with tumor paint. They handed off commercial development of the compound to Blaze Bioscience.

After initial studies in dogs showed promise, the company won approval to try tumor paint on human subjects. Those trials are taking place at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Chirag Patil is one of those surgeons. He says it’s remarkable that you can inject tumor paint into a vein in a patient’s arm, have it go to the brain and attach to a tumor, and only a tumor. “That’s a concept that neurosurgeons have probably been dreaming about for 50 years,” he says.

An image of a mouse brain tumor under near-infrared light. The blue-green glow in the upper right quadrant is the tumor, labeled with tumor paint.

Patil says they’ve now used tumor paint on a about a half-dozen patients with brain tumors. They use a special camera to see if the tumor is glowing.

“The first case we did was a deep tumor,” says Patil. “So with the camera, we couldn’t really shine it into this deep small cavity. But when we took that first piece out and we put it on the table. And the question was, ‘Does it glow?’ And when we saw that it glows, it was just one of those moments …’Wow, this works.’ ”

In this first study of tumor paint in humans, the goal is just to prove that it’s reaching the tumor. Future studies will see if it actually helps surgeons remove tumors and, even more important, if it results in a better outcome for the patient.

That won’t be quick or easy. Just getting to this point has been a long slog, and there are bound to be hurdles ahead.

And even if tumor paint does exactly what it’s designed to do, Dr. Keith Black, who directs neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, says it probably isn’t the long-term solution to brain cancer. “Because surgery is still a very crude technique,” he says.

Even in the best of circumstances, Black says, surgery is traumatic for the patients, and tracking down every last cell of a tumor is probably impossible. Plus, it’s inevitable that some healthy brain tissue will be damaged in removing the tumor.

“Ultimately, we want to eliminate the need to do surgery,” says Black. A start in that direction will be to use a compound like tumor paint to deliver not just a dye, but an anti-cancer drug directly to a tumor. That’s a goal several research groups, including Jim Olson’s, are working on.

 

Source: npr.com

New Test Helps Predict Ovarian Cancer

New Test May Help Predict Ovarian Cancer Survival:

 

New Test May Help Predict Ovarian Cancer Survival

New Test May Help Predict Ovarian Cancer Survival

 

A sensitive new DNA test can predict how long ovarian cancer patients will survive, and guide personalized treatment decisions, according to new research.

The technology, called QuanTILfy, counts the number of cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in a cancer patient’s tumor biopsy. Cancer patients with more of these cells in their tumor tend to have better outcomes, previous studies in ovarian, colorectal and other cancers have shown.

This test is the first that can precisely count the number of immune cells present in a tumor sample.

“We are providing a new tool,” said Jason H. Bielas, a cancer geneticist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and lead researcher of the study. Unlike currently available tests, which rely on staining tumor tissue and are subject to interpretation, the new test provides a sensitive, numerical readout.

“This is a big step forward to accurately count how many [immune cells] have infiltrated into the tumor,” Bielas said.

In a proof-of-concept study, the researchers tested 30 tumors from ovarian cancer patients who had survived between one month and 10 years with their cancer. [5 Things Women Should Know About Ovarian Cancer]

They found the number of immune cells, as measured by the test, was threefold higher in patients who lived for more than five years after their cancer diagnosis, compared with those who lived less than two years with ovarian cancer. The results are published today (Dec. 4) in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The test is based on research showing that the strength of a patient’s immune response to their cancer, as well as the effectiveness of the response, varies from patient to patient. The immune response results from TILs recognizing the mutated genes on the surface of cancer cells as “foreign,” zeroing in on these tumor cells and launching an immune reaction to destroy the cancer cells directly.

“The size of the immune response in a tumor has been known for many years to predict survival, and has recently been shown to determine which patients will respond to immunotherapy,” said study researcher Harlan Robins, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson.

The QuanTILfy test provides a standardized way to count the immune cells in the tumor, using a digital approach. DNA is extracted from a tissue sample, and then the DNA from the TILs is identified and quantified using a technique called digital polymerase chain reaction.

“This is clearly an outstanding science result that sets the scene for the further development of the test to quantify [immune biomarkers] in different malignancies,” said Dr. Jeffrey Weber, an immunologist and oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., who was not involved in the study.

Still, the test is not yet ready for use in clinics. First, further validation by other researchers is needed, Weber said.

The older, staining-based tests have not been used to make important treatment decisions for cancer patients because of their high variability, Bielas said. He and his colleagues would like to see if the QuanTILfy test could be used in treatment decisions by including the test in clinical trials of cancer treatments. It’s possible that the test could be used to better predict whether a patient’s cancer is likely to respond to a treatment or combination of treatments.

Particularly, Bielas said he thinks this test could be used to gauge whether a patient is likely to respond to a new class of cancer drugs, called immune therapy drugs, which are still in development but have so far been shown to be effective in some patients.

“Now that we have these immune therapies that work, a test that could indicate whether a patient is more likely to respond to the treatment becomes an important issue” and the ultimate goal of personalized therapy, Weber agreed.