Cellular soldiers created using the body’s own defenses can track down and kill cancer cells that escape during surgeries, researchers report.
This could prevent metastasis and save lives, particularly in cases of triple-negative breast cancer.
Researchers attached two proteins to the surface of lipid nanoparticles: TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand—or TRAIL—and the adhesion receptor E-selectin. The injected nanoparticles then adhere to white blood cells, and the introduction of these TRAIL-coated leukocytes into the bloodstream before, during, and after tumor removal kills all cancer cells loosed as a result.
“Collisions between the TRAIL-coated leukocytes and cancer cells in the bloodstream are happening constantly,” says Michael King, a professor of engineering and chair of the biomedical engineering department at Vanderbilt University.
“We’ve tested this both in the bloodstream and in hundreds of blood samples from cancer patients being treated in clinics across the country. In all cases, within two hours, the viable cancer cells are cleared out. This has worked with breast, prostate, ovarian, colorectal, and lung cancer cells.”
Not only can the method work during surgeries, King says, but also potentially with patients who already suffer metastatic cancer in multiple sites and who have no worthwhile treatment options. Because all the components of the TRAIL-coated leukocytes occur naturally in the body, it increases the potential for a quicker path from the bloodstreams of mouse models to human trials.
Surgical intervention in breast cancer is a known cause of metastatic growth and accelerated tumor relapse, either because of cancer cells shed during the process, inflammation at the wound site, or a combination of the two factors. Chemotherapy is the most widely used treatment for the resulting metastasis, but still, the five-year survival rate for triple negative breast cancer sits well below 30%.
The group’s past experiments with TRAIL-coated leukocytes were effective in blocking metastasis, but required multiple repeated injections to sustain their beneficial effect. King says this new breakthrough overcomes those issues by designing three simple doses to coincide with the surgical procedure.
The paper appears in Science Advances. Support for the work came from the National Institute of Health and the NCI/NIH Cancer Center.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have used a cryo-electron microscopy technique to observe the interactions between a drug molecule and its protein receptor. The approach provides valuable information which could offer clues as to how to modify drug molecules to improve their effectiveness.
The way that drug molecules bind to their target receptors in the body can have significant consequences in terms of their efficacy. Enhancing drug binding could lead to better therapeutic effects for a wider range of patients. To achieve this, researchers need to understand the role of various components of the drug molecule in the interaction with the receptor binding pocket. However, observing and modeling the interactions between drug molecules and their target receptors is challenging.
This new technique is called single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, and it involves cooling a sample down to very low temperatures and then imaging it using a new type of electron microscope. The technique allows researchers to image drug/receptor interactions at less than a billionth of one meter.
past, we didn’t have the confidence to model the drug in its binding pocket,” said Sandip Basak, a researcher involved in the study. “Now we can precisely do that. We can also watch the drug move in the pocket using molecular dynamics simulations.”
The research team used single-particle cryo-electron microscopy to investigate the interaction of setrons, a class of drugs used to manage vomiting and nausea, with their target serotonin receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. Setrons don’t work for everyone, meaning that there is room for improvement. “Cancer patients who have vomiting later in their treatment plans—delayed emesis—don’t tend to respond to setrons,” said Sudha Chakrapani, another researcher involved in the study. “There is a constant need for better drugs.”
Using cryo-electron microscopy, the research team could watch the motions of setrons as they bind to serotonin receptors. The observations revealed components of the drug and receptor that are important for binding, which the team validated by tweaking
these components to change the binding activity. In the future, the technique could lead to more effective drugs by providing researchers with a wealth of information on drug/target interactions.
Following on a strong performance in 2018, global venture capital funding for digital health companies hit $5.1 billion in the first half of this year, the highest it has ever been, a new report says.
According to a new report by global communications and research firm, Mercom Capital Group, VC funding for the first half of 2019 was $5.1 billion compared to $4.9 billion in 2018. However, there were fewer deals in the first half of 2019: 318 compared to 383 in the previous year.
The report focuses on funding and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity for the digital health (Healthcare Information Technology) sector for the second quarter and first half of 2019. The second quarter recorded a strong performance showing $3.1 billion in 169 deals. In the first quarter, $2 billion was raised in 149 deals.
Weak M&A activity not a cause for concern
“Funding activity was robust in digital health in the first half of 2019, while M&A activity was weak. Weak M&A activity has not affected investment activity over past years. We are in an ‘invest first and ask questions later’ environment where investors are more worried about missing out in this hot space,” Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group, said.
Prabhu added that after a long break, several digital health companies were entering the initial public offering (IPO) market in the United States. “Successful IPOs could open the floodgates, whereas if IPOs fizzle out, it could shut the IPO exit path for many digital health companies.”
Breaking down the deals
The report said the top digital health VC deals in the first of 2019 were $250 million raised by Tencent Trusted Doctors, followed by $205 million raised by Collective Health, $200 million raised by Tempus, $170 million raised by Doctolib, and $100 million raised by Health Catalyst.
The report further breaks down funding stats, revealing that 821 investors participated in digital health funding deals in the first half of 2019. Also, 450 investors participated in funding deals in the second quarter of this year compared to 371 investors in the first quarter.
The major corporate investors in the first half of the year included Amazon’s Alexa Fund, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Goldman Sachs, Merck, Wells Fargo, MassMutual Ventures, UnitedHealthcare’s Optum Ventures, Piper Jaffray, BlueCross BlueShield, Honda, Oracle, Merrill Lynch, Fidelity, and Cisco Investment among others.
Twenty-six different countries recorded digital health VC funding deals in the first half of the year. Of these, 21 recorded digital health VC funding deals in the second quarter.
In addition, the report says in the first half of this year, there were 91 digital health M&A transactions (16 disclosed) down from 116 transactions (26 disclosed) in 1H 2018.
“Notable M&A transactions in 1H 2019 were: Dassault Systemes acquired Medidata for $5.8 billion, Golden Gate Capital acquired a 51 percent stake in Ensemble Health Partners for $1.2 billion, Nordic Capital acquired a majority stake in ArisGlobal for $700 million, JPMorgan Chase acquired InstaMed for more than $500 million, Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL) acquired Nextech Systems for $500 million, and Hill-Rom Holdings acquired Voalte for $195 million,” a release accompanying the report said.
The top VC funded digital health categories in the second quarter of 2019 were telemedicine with $676 million, followed by analytics with $551 million and wellness with $304 million. There were 73 early stage deals in Q2 2019, compared to 48 in Q1 2019.
Wearable sensors also had a strong performance, raising $285 million in funding, while mobile wireless raised $264 million, and healthcare benefits brought in $208 million.
The report adds that since 2010, digital health companies have now raised over $40 billion in VC funding deals since 2010. U.S. digital health companies have raised approximately $30 billion to date.
Funding for digital health has had a strong performance in recent times. In its annual report for 2018, Mercom Capital Group said investments in the sector hit $9.5 billion, a rise of 32 percent compared to 2017, where there were deals worth $7.2 billion.
As wearable devices multiply and gather ever more data about our bodies, the batteries and wireless networks they rely on can become strained. To give wearables a longer battery life and to allow gigabytes of data to be transmitted at the same time, researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a new type of textile with embedded sensor networks that use very little electricity.
These days wearables typically use Bluetooth wireless connectivity to connect with users’ smartphones. This is very inefficient if you have small devices that are supposed to work for a long time. The new “metamaterial textiles” can gather signals from nearby sensors and transmit them over a conductive network woven throughout a piece of clothing. Very little energy is used to transfer data throughout the system and many sensors can be used at the same time.
From the study in Nature Electronics:
Here, we report energy-efficient and secure wireless body sensor networks that are interconnected through radio surface plasmons propagating on metamaterial textiles. The approach uses clothing made from conductive fabrics that can support surface-plasmon-like modes at radio communication frequencies. Our body sensor networks enhance transmission efficiencies by three orders of magnitude compared to conventional radiative networks without the metamaterial textile, and confine wireless communication to within 10 cm of the body. We also show that the approach can offer wireless power transfer that is robust to motion and textile-based wireless touch sensing.
Here’s a video from the University of Singapore showing off the new textiles:
The winners of the coveted Digital Health Awards have been revealed at the 2019 Summer Schools.
Jon Hoeksma, editor and CEO of Digital Health, announced the winners during a special networking and awards dinner held at the University of Leeds.
The awards, now in their second year, aim to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the leaders making the biggest contributions to UK healthcare IT.
The winners were revealed at the annual two-day Digital Health Summer Schools, which this year runs from 18-19 July, University of Leeds.
The winners of the Digital Health Awards 2019 are:
Digital Health Awards 2019 winners
• CIO of the Year (sponsored by Socitim): Mandy Griffin, CIO and Managing Director, The Health Informatics Service, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust
• CCIO of the Year (sponsored by CareWorks): Gareth Thomas, Group CCIO, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
• CNIO of the Year (sponsored by Nervecentre): Natasha Phillips, CNIO University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Future Digital Leader of the Year (sponsored by Equal Experts): Nicola Henderson, NHS Forth Valley
• Team of the Year (sponsored by WellSky): Informatics Department, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Outstanding contribution award sponsored by Sectra (sponsored by Sectra): Marianne Williams, Specialist Gastroenterology Community Dietitian, Somerset Partnership NHS FT
Speaking to Digital Health News at the awards, Future Digital Leader of the Year winner, Nicola Henderson from NHS Forth Valley in Scotland, said she was “absolutely amazed”.
She added: “This is not just about me, this is about everyone who is trying to transform the NHS through digital.”
Henderson also said that as a Scottish female, she felt the award was a “major recognition” for women and Scotland.
A number of the winners were peer-voted by the 3,500 NHS chief information officers, chief clinical information officers and other digital health leaders who make up the Networks panel.
This included the Outstanding contribution award, and this year’s winner, Marianne Williams, Specialist Gastroenterology Community Dietitian at Somerset Partnership NHS FT, who said she was “stunned” and “incredibly chuffed” to win.
While CIO of the Year, Mandy Griffin, from the Health Informatics Service at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said she was “gobsmacked” and “felt very privileged” to win.
Earlier in the day, delegates heard international keynotes from Nick Adkins, John Halamka and Margunn Aenestad.
The Shuri Network, which aims to support and encourage women of black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in digital health roles, was launched.