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New blood test may detect 20 types of cancers

“The results of the new study demonstrate that such assays are a feasible way of screening people for cancer,”

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New York, Sep 28 : A new blood test has shown ability to screen numerous types of cancer with a high degree of accuracy. A trial of the test showed it detected and localized more than 20 types of cancers.

The test, developed by biotechnology company Grail Inc uses next-generation sequencing technology to probe DNA for tiny chemical tags (methylation) that influence whether genes are active or inactive.

When applied to nearly 3,600 blood samples — some from patients with cancer and some from people who had not been diagnosed with cancer at the time of the blood draw — the test successfully picked up a cancer signal from the cancer patient samples, and correctly identified the tissue from where the cancer began (the tissue of origin),” said investigators from Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The test’s specificity – its ability to return a positive result only when cancer is actually present – was high, as was its ability to pinpoint the organ or tissue of origin, they found.

The new test looks for DNA, which cancer cells shed into the bloodstream when they die.

In contrast to “liquid biopsies,” which detect genetic mutations or other cancer-related alterations in DNA, the technology focuses on modifications to DNA known as methyl groups.

Methyl groups are chemical units that can be attached to DNA, in a process called methylation, to control which genes are “on” and which are “off.”

Abnormal patterns of methylation turn out to be, in many cases, more indicative of cancer – and cancer type — than mutations are.

“Our previous work indicated that methylation-based assays outperform traditional DNA-sequencing approaches to detecting multiple forms of cancer in blood samples,” said the study’s lead author Geoffrey Oxnard from Dana-Farber.

“The results of the new study demonstrate that such assays are a feasible way of screening people for cancer,” Oxnard added.

Detecting even a modest percent of common cancers early could translate into many patients who may be able to receive more effective treatment if the test were in wide use, the study said.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators presented the results of the trial during a session at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2019 Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on September 28.

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Researchers link anxiety to high Alzheimer’s disease onset risk

Each person had a baseline diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment; 72 progressed to Alzheimer’s disease while 267 remained stable.

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Alzheimer disease

New York: Researchers have discovered that anxiety is associated with an increased rate of progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.

Anxiety has been frequently observed in patients with mild cognitive impairment, although its role in disease progression is not well documented.

“We know that volume loss in certain areas of the brain is a factor that predicts progression to Alzheimer’s disease,” said study senior author Maria Vittoria Spampinato from the University of South Carolina in the US.

“In this study, we wanted to see if anxiety had an effect on brain structure, or if the effect of anxiety was independent from brain structure in favoring the progression of disease,” Spampinato added.

The study group included 339 patients, average age of 72 years, from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative 2 cohort.

Each person had a baseline diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment; 72 progressed to Alzheimer’s disease while 267 remained stable.

The researchers obtained brain MRIs to determine the baseline volumes of the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, two areas important to forming memories.

They also tested for the presence of the ApoE4 allele, the most prevalent genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Anxiety was measured with established clinical surveys.

As expected, patients who progressed to Alzheimer’s disease had significantly lower volumes in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex and greater frequency of the ApoE4 allele.

Most notably though, the researchers found that anxiety was independently associated with cognitive decline.

The link between anxiety symptoms and a faster progression to Alzheimer’s disease presents an opportunity for improving the screening and management of patients with early mild cognitive impairment, the researchers said.

For future research, the team would like to study MRIs obtained after the initial scan to better understand the connection between anxiety and brain structure.

The study was scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) from November 29 to December 5.

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Covaxin Phase-3 trials begin in AIIMS

Covaxin, India’s indigenous COVID-19 vaccine by Bharat Biotech is developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV).

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COVAXIN Corona Covid vaccine

New Delhi: The Phase-III human trials of indigenous Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin began at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in New Delhi on Thursday.

M V Padma Srivastava, the chief of Neurosciences Centre and three other volunteers received the first dose of Covaxin.

Around 15,000 volunteers at AIIMS will be given the shot as part of the clinical trials.

Bharat Biotech announced the commencement of Phase-III trials of Covaxin on November 16. The Phase-III trials will involve 26,000 volunteers across India, conducted in partnership with ICMR.

It is the largest clinical trial conducted for a COVID-19 vaccine in India. This is India’s first Phase-III efficacy study for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the largest phase III efficacy trial ever conducted in India.

Trial volunteers will receive two intramuscular injections approximately 28 days apart. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive Covaxin or placebo. The trial is double blinded, such that the investigators, the participants and the company will not be aware of who is assigned to which group.

Covaxin has been evaluated in 1,000 subjects in Phase-I and Phase-II clinical trials, with promising safety and immunogencity data. Volunteers who wish to participate in this trial should be adults over 18 years of age.

Covaxin, India’s indigenous COVID-19 vaccine by Bharat Biotech is developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV).

This indigenous, inactivated vaccine is developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech’s BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) bio containment facility. Covaxin is a highly purified and inactivated vaccine, manufactured in a vero cell manufacturing platform with an excellent safety track record of more than 300 million doses supplied.

This multicenter phase-III study is conducted at the following sites across India. Participating Volunteers who undergo vaccination in the Phase-III trials, will be monitored to detect occurrence of COVID-19 disease.

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Oxford vaccine viable even at 60-70% efficacy: Serum Institute

The PM visit will be followed by a visit by ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 100 countries, Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

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Vaccine Covid

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate, even at the lowest efficacy of 60-70 per cent, is a viable one against the novel coronavirus, the Serum Institute of India (SII) said on Thursday.

SII has partnered with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca for the manufacture and distribution of the vaccine candidate.

“Even though the lowest efficacy results are at 60-70%, it is a viable vaccine against the virus. That said, varied age groups with different dosage forms will result in slight variations and efficacy. We must be patient and not panic,” SII said in a statement.

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India trial results not in

The efficacy results of AstraZeneca were based on trials being conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil. It does not include the trials of the same vaccine being conducted by the Serum Institute in India. The results of the Indian trials are expected to come out in December.

The statement — a couple of days before PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the company — comes amid an acknowledgment on Wednesday by AstraZeneca of a key error in the dosage received by some of the study participants of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222 (named Covishield in India).

According to partial results announced on Monday from ongoing trials in the UK and Brazil, the vaccine showed a striking difference in efficacy, depending on the amount delivered. A regimen of two full doses given a month apart was 62 per cent effective while participants who received half a dose of the vaccine in the first round and then the full dose a month later were found to be 90 per cent less likely to develop Covid-19. The average efficacy was pegged around 70 per cent.

But on Wednesday, according to reports, AstraZeneca admitted that the half dose was an error since some of the vials did not have the right vaccine concentration.

In its statement, SII said there were no concerns about the trial in India.

“The Indian trials are running smoothly with strict adherence to all the necessary processes and protocols. So far, there are no concerns. However, we are going through the data that is available and will make a further statement, if needed,” the statement said.

Phase 3 trials are underway across 17 sites in the country and data on the Indian trials should be out in a month or so, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier told The Indian Express.

While scientists and experts say a vaccine with efficacy of 60 per cent and above is good, they have, however, raised concerns over the company’s communication strategy.

When contacted, Dr Gagandeep Kang, virologist and professor of Christian Medical College, Vellore, said, “You need to be absolutely straight upfront and transparent. We have learnt that the low dose in the Oxford study with higher efficacy was an accident. To first say that low dose gives 90 per cent efficacy and later say that the dose was an error creates doubt about the process that is unnecessary.”

Saying she “trusted the researchers at Oxford”, Kang said, “Usually when the researchers at Oxford work on vaccines, they go all the way through Phase 1 and sometimes through Phase 2 of the trial on their own. I understand that in this case, they were advised to not do everything on their own and as early as possible link up with a large vaccine company. Oxford started to work with AstraZeneca and this error in dosing may have happened in that switch from doing early phase studies themselves and the later trials with AstraZeneca. This would need to be informed to the regulators and in the trial registry.”

However, none of this is any reason to dismiss the vaccine, she said. “This is not a vaccine that should be put in the dustbin just because of 60 per cent efficacy. It is a good vaccine that has exceeded the WHO and FDA benchmarks. There is a lot more data to come and we will learn more when it does,” she said.

Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said he was intrigued by the results. “As a scientist, I am now thinking what sort of response would one get if the first dose was even smaller – half of what they give — whether by design or accident, I don’t care. Would one get an equal or better response then?” Dr Jameel told.

Calling the results a “blessing in disguise”, he said, “The advantage is that if half or quarter dose gives a better response, then there would be twice as many vaccine doses to vaccinate people. That is a big plus. Many scientific discoveries have happened serendipitously,” he said.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Serum Institute of India “to understand the process of vaccine production and distribution”. Officials said the PM would reach around 1 pm and depart around 2.30 pm.

The PM visit will be followed by a visit by ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 100 countries, Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

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