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Archive for 2021

Canary Scientists are on the right track!

October 14, 2021

Canary Center continues as a world class facility, acting as a hub for innovative research, collaborations, cross-disciplined studies, and international partnerships.

After their train ride, our scientists gave an informative update at a recent meeting observing distancing measures. Subjects covered included the Canary Center at Stanford, Ovarian and Prostate Programs and examples of work from the lab of Dr. Joseph DeSimone, who has been appointed as the inaugural Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professor in Translational Medicine.

Below are two highlights and a link to a 2-page report.

Canary Ovarian Initiative is focusing on the microenvironment of the fallopian tubes, high grade serous carcinoma originates in the fallopian tubes, to look for changes that signal cancer.

  • Using bioinformatics and methylated DNA to determine origins of ovarian cancer.
  • Looking for changes in the fallopian tubes decades before cancer can be diagnosed, especially for high risk women (i.e. BRCA mutations). Single cell sequencing – looking for changes in cells that can signal cancer early.
  • Remaining patient-focused for compassion and team-focused for efficiency.

Prostate Cancer Team and the Prostate Active Surveillance Study (PASS), more than a decade on, helps patients in the study as well as informing the medical profession on ways to understand which men are at greatest risk, requiring aggressive treatment versus those who have slow growing cancer. Recent Pass accomplishments include:

  • Advanced imaging with MRI.
  • African Americans do not have worse outcomes in active surveillance
  • Created models to predict non-progression.
  • Fewer painful prostate biopsies.
  • PASS Risk calculator to aid patients and physicians with decisions.
  • High risk patients (BRCA mutation) personalized screening.

Read the full update report here:

Canary Brief Report Oct 2021

Don Listwin Award For Outstanding Contribution to Cancer Early Detection 2021 goes to Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD, FMedSci

October 11, 2021

The Don Listwin Award for Outstanding Contribution to Cancer Early Detection recognizes a sustained contribution to, or singular achievement in, the cancer early detection field.

The 2021 Award goes to: Rebecca Fitzgerald MD FMedSci, MRC Cancer Unit, University of Cambridge and an internationally recognized pioneer for her exceptional research into the prevention and detection of oesophageal cancers.

This award was announced at the recent Early Detection of Cancer Conference – EDx21.

This award is given to recognize and thank Rebecca for the work she has done to develop, grow and establish the research needed to detect cancer early.

She is the Interim Director of the MRC Cancer Unit, Hutchison-MRC Research Centre, Professor of Cancer Prevention, and Clinician Scientist leading research in the Early Detection of Cancer for the University of Cambridge and the CRUK Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED). Rebecca is known for the development of the Cytosponge technology, a sponge on a string that patients can swallow instead of undergoing an endoscopy. The Cytosponge collects cells from the oesophagus for staining, which can flag the presence of TFF3-positive cells indicative of Barrett’s oesophagus, a precursor to oesophageal cancer. Recently Rebecca and her team published work demonstrating that Cytosponge increases the identification of Barrett’s in individuals with frequent heart-burn symptoms by 10-fold compared to standard of care. The building of evidence for its clinical implementation for surveillance of high-risk individuals and in endoscopy sparing due to COVID-19 related pressures on health systems continues to make a vital impact to patients’ lives and is internationally recognized for its contribution towards breaking barriers in research.

Congratulations to Rebecca and we are pleased to have her within the early detection community.

The 2021 Gambhir Symposium (virtual) –celebrating ongoing work of visionary and pioneer Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir

August 6, 2021


The 2021 Gambhir Symposium (virtual) held on July 19, 2021 included discussions and presentations celebrating the continuing work on paths forged by Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, (1962-2020) in the fields in which he launched new directions:
Molecular Imaging, Cancer Early Detection, Precision Health.

Click Here to see the Conference Agenda & Videos.


Click here to see the videos from the Cancer Early Detection Session.

2021 Virtual PHIND Symposium

April 13, 2021

Dr. DeSimone gestures wearing an Oura monitoring ring, which made the news recently as the company partnered with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to help monitor the health of players.

The 2021 Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics (PHIND) Center at Stanford held the virtual PHIND Symposium on March 23, 2021. The event showcased the exciting PHIND work that is going on campus-wide, featuring current PHIND investigators and Precision Health experts. Professor of Radiology Dr. Garry Gold gave an update on the PHIND center, reflecting upon former Radiology Chair Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir’s visionary leadership and the continuation of this work, now with Dr. Gold’s direction, aimed at monitoring health to identify early transitions from health to disease.

Discussions included one with Dr. Joseph DeSimone, recently named recipient of the Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professorship in Translational Medicine, who stated that although he is new to PHiND, his group has been thinking about precision delivery, using new devices such as microneedles to deliver treatments locally, rather than systemically throughout the body. Dr. Utkan Demirci, leading the Canary Center at Stanford, discussed his group’s Exosome-Total-Isolation-Chip (ExoTIC) device for identification of exosome-based biomarkers for monitoring health from a variety of biological fluids.

Besides devices, like the one in the picture, there was a focus on data. What kinds of data are we capturing as the clinical enterprise has transformed through Covid and telehealth? Can we separate patients into cohorts with online and in person visits to optimize the clinical workflows? How can we access and mine data from non-identifiable electronic health records? Participants also discussed ways to ensure equity in access to these devices and data, as well as ways to ensure clinical trial participants are engaged in meaningful ways in monitoring their health.

The Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics Center (PHIND) at Stanford is dedicated to longitudinal monitoring and improvement of overall human health on a lifelong basis. Stanford advancements in biology and technology are leading to the potential to understand disease risk, detect disease early and enable preventative interventions.

Click Here to watch the videos from the Symposium.

Canary Foundation’s Ovarian Cancer Initiative: moving forward with matching specimen and imaging tissue in 3D

March 8, 2021

The Canary High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer (HGSC) study is leveraging the expertise and resources of four institutions to study the microenvironmental factors that can lead fallopian tubes to develop this deadly type of ovarian cancer and thus provide a signal to alert for the presence of early disease. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the University of Pennsylvania, the Van Andel Institute in Michigan, and the University of California San Francisco have built the infrastructure to share fallopian tube specimens, experimental and clinical data, and analytical teams.

The small pilot study goals are to ask whether it is possible to compare women carrying the BRCA mutations (who are at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer) compared to those who do not carry the mutation and determine whether it is possible to find a measurable difference in the microenvironment.

Based on their first results, the team is selecting a larger set of specimens, matched for clinical factors and BRCA mutation status, and will conduct RNA, DNA and methylome sequencing. The group is also comparing competing platforms for imaging the tissue expression in 3D so that differences along the length of the tube can be evaluated and tested for correlations with the genetic data.

The Canary Center is utilizing expertise to enhance COVID-19 vaccinations

COVID-19 is caused by a novel strain of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which infects cells along the respiratory tract. Early on in the pandemic, Dr. Ramasamy Paulmurugan’s research group sought to explore a non-invasive and efficient vaccination strategy to raise the immune system to fight against COVID-19 at the initial site of infection: the nasopharyngeal region and the lungs.

The pulmonary immune system is considered a major immune organ in humans, containing the majority of T cells, which respond rapidly to infections in the respiratory tract. Hence, developing a vaccination approach for respiratory mucosal immune system can mount a strong immune response against the virus and raise the amount of resident memory B and T cells to provide a long-lasting neutralizing and cell mediated immunity to infectious agents.

With this promising scope in sight, Dr. Paul’s research group is exploring intranasal delivery of a multivalent mRNA vaccine, that effectively induced antibodies as early as two weeks after two doses of the DNA vaccine. This is expected to provide a long-term immunity to COVID-19.

Currently the team is expanding the study to multivalent mRNA vaccine for its wide spectrum antibody to encounter a range of mutant strains, which are dominating and contributing to second and third waves of infection around the world.

Canary’s International Collaboration – ACED

The International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED) joins researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom in a $70 million partnership. Founded in 2019, ACED is a partnership with the Canary Center at Stanford University, CRUK, the University of Cambridge, the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), University College London and the University of Manchester. The following is one study chosen for it’s innovative approach to early detection:

Stratifying Risk for Early Detection in Hereditary Breast and Ovarian cancer
Project Award, led by: Marc Tischkowitz, University of Cambridge; Allison Kurian, Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection; and Gareth Evans, University of Manchester. Stanford Team: Allison Kurian, Alice Fan, James Ford

CanRisk is a cancer risk assessment tool which combines genetic, lifestyle, clinical and imaging data to calculate an individual risk estimate for women with high-risk mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. The ability to provide personalized cancer risk estimates will identify women at particularly high risk. Currently, the ranges of cancer risk estimates for women with hereditary mutations in breast cancer genes are wide and not personalized, so all women are given the same figures. Creating a customized approach can solve this problem.

By implementing personalized risk estimates, early detection strategies can be tailored for the individual, therefore identifying those at the highest risk. Once feasibility is assessed, women undergoing predictive testing for BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, ATM or CHEK2 in US and UK genetics centers will be randomized to conventional vs personalized risk estimate based on genetic/lifestyle/hormonal modifiers.

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