Mount Sinai, Sema4 data scientists tout brain cancer breakthrough

Researchers identify biomarker for progression and drug response to glioblastoma.
By Bernie Monegain
11:33 AM
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Sagittal MRI with contrast of a glioblastoma. Photo via ChristarasA

Scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Sema4, a company of scientists, doctors, engineers, and genetic counselors,with roots at Mount Sinai, have pinpointed a biomarker for brain cancer.

Collaborating with Mount Sinai and Sema4 are Colorado State University and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

The glioblastoma study validated a biomarker indicative of a patient's prognosis and likely response to specific therapies. The results of the research were published in an article in the October 15 issue of Cancer Research.

[Also: LSU Health, Moffitt aim to cut disparities in cancer precision medicine]

U.S. Sen. John McCain was diagnosed with this particularly aggressive type of brain cancer last July. McCain called his prognosis “very poor.”

Efforts to classify glioblastoma tumors into molecular subtypes for precision treatment have been largely unsuccessful. In the Mount Sinai-Sema4 study, scientists developed an innovative computational method to classify tumors based on their dependency on a molecule called BUB1B that some glioblastomas need to survive. The project revealed new tumor subtypes and found that BUB1B-sensitive tumors had significantly worse prognoses, but were more likely to respond to many drugs already in clinical use.

"It was truly remarkable to see our predictive model yield a new set of molecular subtypes, which appear to be far more indicative of prognosis and therapeutic response than existing subtypes," noted Jun Zhu, head of Data Sciences at Sema4 and professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai, and senior author of the study. "For patients who receive the grim diagnosis of glioblastoma, this signals new hope for tailored treatment more likely to be effective against their cancer.”

Raymund Yong, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery and assistant professor of Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, sees the research as “an outstanding example of how theoreticians working with complex datasets, and clinicians on the frontlines of patient care, can collaborate to uncover new insights into cancer biology that will directly impact clinical decision-making.”

"These findings underscore the significant potential we see to improve patient outcomes by investing in predictive modeling of even the most complex types of cancer,” said Eric Schadt, Sema4 CEO and dean for precision medicine at Mount Sinai.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com