Summit, Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine to Develop Saliva Tests for COVID, Head & Neck Cancer

AURORA, Colo., Oct. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Summit Biolabs, Inc., an early-stage molecular diagnostics company specializing in saliva-based testing for COVID-19 and head & neck cancer, and the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus announced today a broad strategic collaboration involving research, development and commercialization of saliva liquid-biopsy tests for early cancer detection and diagnosis of COVID-19 and other viral contagions.

The CCPM holds one of the largest research biobanks in the United States with clinical data from more than 8.7 million de-identified patient records and plans to integrate the data with personalized genomic information.

“This partnership brings two innovative programs together to optimize COVID testing at a time when it’s desperately needed,” says Kathleen Barnes, Ph.D., Professor and Director of CCPM at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “Collaborations like this are crucial in moving research forward and advancing and expanding clinical testing to as many members of our community as possible. Working with Summit Biolabs, and leveraging technology developed by our colleagues here at the Anschutz Medical Campus, will help us achieve these goals and establish a non-invasive testing process that will benefit patients in Colorado and beyond.”

Summit Biolabs is developing breakthrough tests to improve the detection of COVID-19 and to advance the early detection of human cancers, including head & neck cancer, using simple, non-invasive saliva liquid-biopsy technology developed by Dr. Shi-Long Lu and colleagues at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Head & neck cancer has been scientifically overlooked, yet is medically important. Summit Biolabs’ research foundation and competency in head & neck cancer diagnosis enabled the company’s pivot to saliva-based testing for coronavirus, COVID-19.

“We are excited to collaborate with CCPM to develop and commercialize Summit Biolabs’ portfolio of developmental saliva or non-blood liquid-biopsy tests.” said Bob Blomquist, Chief Executive Officer at Summit Biolabs. “This collaboration broadens and strengthens Summit Biolabs’ ability to bring to market life-changing saliva liquid-biopsy tests that ultimately enable better treatment and improved outcomes for patients.”

About Summit Biolabs

Summit Biolabs is harnessing the power of saliva-based diagnostics to address critical challenges in COVID-19 and head & neck cancer testing. Founded on the discoveries of Dr. Shi-Long Lu, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Summit Biolabs is being spun out from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Summit Biolabs is pioneering early detection of head & neck cancer recurrence using a first of its kind saliva liquid-biopsy test, HNKlear. HNKlear is a proprietary, non-invasive saliva test that provides more effective, more accurate, and earlier detection of head and neck cancer recurrence than traditional diagnostic methods. Summit Biolabs is leveraging its core competencies in saliva-based molecular diagnostics and viral nucleic acid testing (i.e., oral oncogenic human papillomavirus detection) to diagnose COVID-19. Along with our clinical and laboratory partners, Summit Biolabs is developing the first comprehensive panel of highly-accurate saliva-based tests for COVID-19 infection, quantitation, and immune response. Summit Biolabs is headquartered in Aurora, Colorado.

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Porter dentist offers free oral cancer screenings for firefighters

As a thank you to local first responders, Porter Family Dentistry is offering free oral cancer screenings to firefighters in Montgomery County for the next several weeks.

The screenings will be held on Fridays when the office is usually closed so that firefighters don’t have to wait.

In 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a multi-year study of cancer rates in firefighters, and the findings showed that firefighters had a higher number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population. Among the cancers found in the sample of nearly 30,000 firefighters, those most often found were digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.

In recent months, firefighters across the country have been traveling to areas, like California, that their help is needed. Dr. Mustafa Yamani of Porter Family Dentistry went to school in California and has fond memories of the nature and beauty of the state.

“It’s such a beautiful place, it’s really sad reading all of the stuff in the news that’s going on there,” Yamani said. “From all around the country they (the firefighters) come together and they provide this service. It’s just amazing what they’re doing and I really appreciate that. I just want to do something for them.”

Related: Sam Houston State University’s new Conroe campus adjusts to COVID guidelines

The generous act of the firefighters inspired him to give back, and since oral cancer screenings are a service his office already offers he decided to give them to firefighters for free.

While this is the first year that the dental office has offered free screenings, Yamani and his wife Sabrina, who is the office manager, plan on making it an annual thing. The trials of 2020 also helped them decide to give back.

“Things seem to be going from bad to worse, to even worse, and it just doesn’t seem to be stopping for our first responders,” Sabrina said. “They’re just being hit with things one after the other.”

Sabrina started by reaching out to fire departments in the east past of Montgomery County to let them know about the opportunity and the response was immediate and positive. Already, the dental office has screenings set up with local firefighters.

Because firefighters are at a higher risk of developing cancer, many departments take an aggressive approach to screenings and check-ups. Early detection is vital. Such is the approach of the East Montgomery County Fire Department where firefighters undergo a National Fire Protection Agency physicals annually.

“It’s huge to us,” Eran Denzler, captain and PIO with the department, said of being able to get the oral screenings for free. “It’s a great show of appreciation for what we do and the risks that we take. Every day we go and put our lives on the line for the community, and for them to give back and worry about our safety is something we’re not used to but it’s much appreciated.”

The department averages around one to two structure fires a week,

MD Anderson’s hurricane checklist for breast cancer patients

Many Houston-area residents experienced at preparing for hurricane season have likely already stocked their home with basic supplies such as extra batteries, a first-aid kit, rain gear and a 7-day supply of non-perishable food and water among other essentials needed to weather a severe storm and its aftermath. But breast cancer patients should be aware to also have additional supplies on hand, especially as Texas continues to face new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more important than ever to plan ahead.



a person riding a wave on a surfboard in the water: In this file image, a GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Beta, center, in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch is in effect Saturday for coastal Texas as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength. A storm surge watch and a tropical storm watch are also in effect for the area during an exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA via AP)


© Associated Press

In this file image, a GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Beta, center, in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch is in effect Saturday for coastal Texas as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength. A storm surge watch and a tropical storm watch are also in effect for the area during an exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA via AP)


“Cancer patients are often at greater risk of contracting an infection. So, try to get everything you need early on, to avoid the last-minute crowds in stores,” Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D., associate medical director of Critical Care at MD Anderson said. “It’s almost impossible to maintain adequate social distancing in those situations. And that could prove to be more dangerous than the storm itself.”

Von-Maszewski shared recommended hurricane preparation measures for cancer patients in a recent article published by the MD Anderson Communication Department. First off, breast cancer patients are advised to include an adequate supply of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“Evacuation could pose a risk,” Von-Maszewski said. “Face masks will be especially important if patients have to stay in crowded shelters.”

Flood water and other standing water are also a potential source of infection and breast cancer patients are advised to add mosquito spray to guard against insect bites, and antibiotic cream and bandages to cover any open wounds to their hurricane supplies.

Plan ahead for a hurricane during the COVID-19 pandemic

Plan ahead and be sure to maintain at least a two-week supply of any current medications. Make a list of all your current medications and their dosages, and talk to your doctor about what to do if you have to miss a dose or treatment. In addition, prepare a dedicated cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles for medications that need to be kept refrigerated. Research the location of the nearest emergency room and how to get there. Call your insurance company in advance to be sure which ones are covered by your policy. Remember to keep your car’s gas tank full, too, in case you need to seek medical attention or quickly evacuate.

Organize your medical information in one place

It’s possible you won’t immediately be able

Finding breast cancer early through screening major tool for beating disease

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. Dr. Srinath Sundararajan, an oncologist and hematologist with Texas Oncology-Katy, says early detection saves lives and that screening is important, even during the pandemic.

“Delaying cancer screenings will lead to detecting cancer at a later stage, and definitely that leads to more aggressive disease, more lengthy treatment and an increased healthcare cost,” Sundararajan said. “Cancer when identified early, there is a better chance of it being a curable cancer and better chance of having less intensive treatment. Screening cancer and finding it early is the single most effective way of improving cancer survival rates.”

He explained that since the 1980s, advances in breast cancer treatments have improved mortality rates, but screening has played a major role because it allows patients to seek treatment earlier in the disease.


While Sundararajan said mammograms are the main breast cancer detection tool, women talking with their health care providers about how to do a proper self-breast exam can enhance their breast health awareness and act as another tool. He said they should look for unusual changes in their breasts, including lumps, changes in the contour of the nipple, skin color changes, puckering of the skin or a new nipple discharge that occurs without apparent reason. Women should seek immediate medical attention with their health care provider if any of these symptoms occur.

While the age that a woman should get her first mammogram depends on several factors such as family history, Sundararajan explained that a woman with average risk should have a discussion with her doctor when she is between 40 and 50 years old. He said the frequency for mammograms will vary based on the results of that first one. Women should certainly have mammograms from age 50 to age 75, Sundararajan said.

The pandemic has had a large impact on cancer. A study showed that diagnoses of breast, cervical and colon cancer were down about 90 percent at one point. Sundararajan said the numbers have improved but are still down overall by about 30 percent since before COVID-19.

“It doesn’t mean that cancer was not happening or that new cancer was not occurring during those times,” he said. “Those are all missed diagnoses, which would probably impact them later in the future. Once they’re diagnosed, they might be at a later stage.”

Sundararajan explained that 90 to 95 percent of patients whose breast cancer is detected early respond well to treatment and are still living five years later. Those survival rates decrease when the cancer is found later.

Sundararajan emphasized that it is safe to go out for cancer screenings. He said clinics, diagnostic offices and doctors’ offices are taking precautions so that people do not catch or spread the novel coronavirus. Many medical facilities require masks and temperature checks to enter and are

Cancer takes heavy toll on women’s work, finances, study shows

Young women with cancer are at a high risk for employment and financial consequences, a new study finds.

“Our study addresses the burden of employment disruption and financial hardship among young women with cancer — a group who may be at particular risk for poor financial outcomes after cancer given their age and gender,” said researcher Clare Meernik, a fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She and her colleagues surveyed more than 1,300 women in North Carolina and California a median of seven years after diagnosis. Their cancer was diagnosed when they were 15 to 39 years of age and working.

Following their diagnosis, 32% of the women had to stop working or cut back on their hours. Twenty-seven percent said they had to borrow money, go into debt or file for bankruptcy because of cancer treatment.

Women with disrupted employment were more likely — by 17 percentage points — to have these problems than women who were able to keep working.

Half of the women said they were stressed about their big medical bills, and women with disrupted employment were more likely to suffer psychological distress by 8 percentage points than women who were able to keep working.

The findings were published online Oct. 12 in the journal Cancer.

“Our findings highlight the need for effective interventions to promote job maintenance and transition back to the workforce after cancer treatment, as well as increased workplace accommodations and benefits, to improve cancer outcomes for young women,” Meernik said in a journal news release.

More information

To learn more about work and financial effects of cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Balstilimab, Zalifrelimab Active in Advanced Cervical Cancer

Checkpoint blockade with the PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab, alone or in combination with the anti-CTLA-4 drug zalifrelimab, showed activity in women with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer, preliminary results from two phase II trials indicated.

In patients treated with balstilimab alone, the overall response rate (ORR) was 14%, including complete responses in 2%, reported David O’Malley, MD, of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.

And in those who received both investigational agents — balstilimab plus zalifrelimab — the ORR increased to 22%, including complete responses in 6%.

“What is really interesting about the combination arm is that while we did see a median duration of response in the single-agent [arm] that was a very impressive 15 months, the duration of response has not been reached in the combination arm,” O’Malley told MedPage Today.

He said that the tripling of the complete response rate as well as the better duration of response suggest that combination immunotherapy may be “the future of cervical cancer treatment.”

Each of the studies involved women with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer from cancer centers across the U.S. and Europe who previously received platinum-based chemotherapy as first-line treatment.

“These are the two largest trials of immunotherapy in recurrent metastatic cervical cancer that have been reported thus far,” he said.

In the single agent trial, 160 women were given balstilimab at 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks, while in the second trial balstilimab was evaluated in 155 women at the same dosage in combination with zalifrelimab at a dose of 1 mg/kg every 6 weeks. Findings from the trials were recently presented by O’Malley at the 2020 European Society for Medical Oncology virtual congress.

O’Malley emphasized that in both trials there were responders who were PD-L1 negative. In the single agent trial the ORRs were 19% for those with PD-L1-positive disease and 10% for those with PD-L1-negative disease, while in the combination trial those rates were 27% and 11%, respectively.

Furthermore, O’Malley noted, when broken down by histology, the ORR was higher in patients with squamous cell carcinoma who received the combination therapy (27% vs 18% with balstilimab alone), while the ORRs were higher with single-agent balstilimab for patients with adenocarcinoma, adenosquamous, or other histology (8% vs 5% with the combination).

Histology may be a main predictor of response rather than PD-L1 status, O’Malley suggested.

“We reported similar response rates in our squamous cell carcinoma patients as we saw in the PD-L1-positive patients,” he said. “But when we looked at the adenocarcinoma and adenosquamous patients, we saw the rates were similar to PD-L1-negative patients. This calls into question whether the better predictor of response is histology rather than PD-L1 status, and that may be something to look at in the future.”

Regarding a comparison of balstilimab with pembrolizumab (Keytruda), O’Malley pointed out that pembrolizumab has only been approved for women with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer with disease progression on or after chemotherapy whose tumors express PD-L1.

“We know that these drugs are more similar than they

Prostate Cancer Highlights From ESMO 2020

Dr Johann S. de Bono, of The Institute of Cancer Research in London, reviews key studies on prostate cancer presented at the 2020 ESMO Virtual Congress, including the phase 3 PROfound trial, which led to the approval of the PARP inhibitor olaparib for patients with metastatic prostate cancer.

He also discusses updated results of the STAMPEDE phase 3 trial of abiraterone plus ADT and the IPATential150 study of the AKT inhibitor ipatasertib plus abiraterone for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Finally, he reviews several emerging new immunotherapies for prostate cancer that are showing promise in early clinical trials.

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Woman’s painful toothache turns out to be dangerous cancer

‘In addition to my health, my personal life was hit too as I went through a divorce last year’ (Picture: MDWfeatures/@nicolescrookedsmile)

A woman has been left toothless after her unchecked toothache turned out to be cancer.

Nicole Kowalski, 28, first started experiencing pain in her mouth back in 2017.

The student from Los Angeles, California, went to see a dentist but was brushed off and told it was nothing to worry about.

Six months later, the pain was only getting worse and was so bad that it made it impossible for Nicole to sleep.

In January, 2018, she went back and this time the x-ray showed that there was bone missing in her upper jaw. The dentist referred the student to an oral surgeon, who performed a biopsy and found that Nicole had a rare, benign tumour in her mouth.

Although the mass was not deadly, the blonde still had to undergo surgery to remove it, which involved taking out four of her teeth.

She was given an obturator to use, a prosthetic retainer fitted into the hole in her mouth post-surgery. Despite the necessity of this medical item, without which she wouldn’t be able to eat or talk, it is considered ‘unnecessary’ by the US healthcare system.

Unfortunately, this surgery was also not the end of Nicole’s misery.

During a check-up two weeks later, doctors discovered that she had salivary gland cancer.

Nicole’s smile is now unrecognisable, with her having recently removed seven teeth – including those in the front (Picture: MDWfeatures/@nicolescrookedsmile)

Nicole said: ‘Cancer runs in my family so you kind of realise that the chance you might get it is always there but I wasn’t prepared to hear those words.

‘I thought about my age and all the things I wanted to do. I felt an immense sense of loneliness.

‘It started with a toothache. The dentist told me it was nothing to worry about but over the next six months, the pain increased and spread to my jaw and face.

‘It was so intense that I couldn’t sleep. Eventually after a few trips to the doctors, an x-ray at the dentists revealed some bone loss.

‘A biopsy revealed that I had a benign tumour. This was in my upper right jaw and I underwent surgery to remove it.

‘The doctor removed four teeth and a portion of my soft palate and I was given my obturator to fill in the defect and replace the teeth.

‘It wasn’t until I went back for my follow up appointment that I found out I was misdiagnosed and had salivary gland cancer.’

Nicole still suffers from pain but the cancer is gone, for now (Picture: MDWfeatures/@nicolescrookedsmile)

What followed was a month of radiation treatment, which in turn caused side effects including trismus – also known as lockjaw – a condition that makes the muscles spasm.

As a result, Nicole could barely open her mouth, and had to undergo physical therapy for her jaw as well as speech therapy.

Despite the

Scientists develop new ‘precision medicine’ approach to treating damaged DNA in pancreatic cancer

dna
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have developed a new “precision medicine” approach to treating the damaged DNA in the cancer cells of Pancreatic Cancer patients.

The findings mark an important step forward for potential treatment options for pancreatic cancer, improving the options and outcomes for a disease where survival rates have remained stubbornly low.

The study detailing the approach—led by the University of Glasgow and published in Gastroenterology—used cell lines and organoids that were generated from patients with pancreatic cancer to develop new molecular markers that can predict who will respond to drugs targeting DNA damage.

The researchers tested these markers using multiple drugs, and have developed a strategy that are now being taken forward into clinical trial. The trial will help doctors and researchers predict which patient will respond to which one of these drugs, either alone or in combination.

Funding for the trail has come from AstraZeneca and will now be included in the PRIMUS-004 clinical trial as part of the Precision-Panc therapeutic development platform for pancreatic cancer.

PRIMUS-004 is a ground-breaking pancreatic cancer trial, which aims to match patients with more targeted and effective treatment for their tumors. Run by Precision-Panc, a flagship therapeutic development program dedicated to pancreatic cancer—led by the University of Glasgow with major funding from Cancer Research UK—the trial brings a precision medicine approach to pancreatic cancer treatment for the first time in the UK.

The trial will open for recruitment in Glasgow shortly, with 20 other centers throughout the UK to follow.

Although survival for many types of cancer has improved, pancreatic cancer survival has lagged significantly behind in the last 40 years. The disease is particularly hard to treat, partly because it’s often diagnosed at a late stage.

A major limitation to treating pancreatic cancer effectively is that there are very few treatment options for patients with the disease. Currently, some patients with pancreatic cancer cannot repair damaged DNA in the cancer cells, which makes the cancer vulnerable to some new and established drug treatments.

Dr. David Chang, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences, said: “Our study is a huge breakthrough in terms of what might be possible with future treatments. As part of our research, the strategy we’ve developed is extremely promising, and we’re very pleased and proud to see it now be taken into clinical trial. For us, this is a demonstration of a bench-to-bedside precision oncology approach to tackle this terrible disease.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We urgently need new ways to treat pancreatic cancer. The disease only has a few treatment options and is generally diagnosed at a late stage, so survival has remained stubbornly low. The Precision Panc study offers a dynamic way to explore new tailored treatments, and it’s fantastic that we now have new drug candidates to add to the PRIMUS-004 trial. We look forward to seeing if these drugs, which have shown promise in the lab, have the same impact for people with pancreatic cancer.”

Social media helps mom spot rare cancer in her baby’s eye

A mom who followed her instincts is the reason her daughter is now being treated for cancer in her eye.

It was July 30, Jasmine Martin told “Good Morning America,” when she saw it. Prior to that day, she said, there had been “a small glow” in her daughter Sariyah’s eye. “But that day, it was like a moon.”

MORE: My son died from open-air carbon monoxide poisoning: Here’s what parents need to know

She posted the photo to Facebook looking for advice. Several people commented it could be cancerous.

Martin took her daughter to the pediatrician, who told the Knoxville, Tennessee, mom it was nothing to worry about. But Martin’s instincts told her otherwise.

“It was going to take weeks to get an ophthalmologist appointment,” Martin told “GMA.” So, she said she emailed the photo to a friend who worked at a hospital, who in turn showed it to a doctor.

MORE:A grandpa’s note, a bucket of baseballs and an emotional tweet

“She was taken to St. Jude’s that night,” Martin told “GMA.”

Since then, little Sariyah has been diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is, according to the St. Jude’s web site, a rare form of cancer affecting about 250-300 children each year. It “typically develops in children before 5 years of age. This cancer develops in the retina — the part of the eye that helps a person see color and light. Retinoblastoma may affect one or both eyes. In about two-thirds of all cases only one eye is affected,” the website reads.

There’s been strides forward and steps back for the 17-month-old and her family. Though the toddler was released from the hospital and sent home in late September, there’s cause for concern: a tiny spot in her left eye that had been laser treated has returned. At the same time, the tumor in her right eye, the one with the large glow, is shrinking.

Martin wrote in her most recent Instagram update, “We are so early in this but … days are mentally draining, because you just never know what they are going to find. It’s hard and it’s scary. If I allow myself to really think about it, if something happens to the good eye, then there’s still so many risks with the right eye. It’s a never ending battle of what ifs right now.”

Sariyah is “so happy,” her mom said, “You wouldn’t even know she is going through this,” she said, referring to hospital stays and chemotherapy. “Even when it makes her sick and she has a fever she’s still playing with her siblings,” Martin told “GMA.”

Friends and neighbors have stepped up to help the family through this difficult time, something Martin said has touched her. From meal trains to a car, “there are so many good people in the world,” she told “GMA.”

She’s hopeful sharing her Sariyah’s story, which she does both on Instagram and Facebook. will encourage mothers to follow their instincts when it comes to their