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WIB-NY: Ovarian Cancer: Changing the Early Detection Paradigm; Controlling Your Destiny, November 30th, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Thursday, June 13, 2019

In Breast Cancer, Progress is Good, More to Come, Says Guest Speaker Linda Vahdat of Weill Cornell

Even as researchers have made remarkable progress breast cancer over the past two decades, their work is progressing, with more promise to come.
With the introduction of targeted therapies, and a better understanding of how to use existing treatments, care has progressed significantly over the past 20 years, but breast cancer still kills 41,000 women a year, largely because of metastasis, so “we still have a long way to go,” WIB Metro NY guest speaker Linda Vahdat, MD, director of breast cancer research at Weill Cornell Medical College- New York Presbyterian Hospital told a rapt audience at a member’s evening on Nov. 30.

Vahdat gave a perspective of the current state of treatment in 2016, highlighting a ‘less is more’ approach, precision medicine initiatives that target treatment to individual patients based on genomic make up of their tumors, and the enormous promise of immunotherapy (which has not yet been realized in breast cancer, although she expects it to). The following summary highlights the fascinating research she and colleagues at Weill Cornell began more than a decade ago on inhibiting metastasis, which is the core cause of breast cancer deaths.

In her own and colleagues’ labs at Weil Cornell, researchers are moving beyond immunotherapies, to explore strategies to target the tumor microenvironment, because tumor cells can’t metastasize unless the infrastructure around them is ‘co-opted’ in a way that makes it welcoming for them to grow.  Their interest stems in part from the limitations of targeted therapy approaches, which become less effective as clonal abnormalities proliferate in tumor cells.
How to change that? Current strategy is a ‘scorched earth policy’ to kill primary tumors and metastatic cells, but the toll on the body is high and efficacy is limited. Precision medicine addresses some of this, but it does not resolve the issue of abnormal clones. The hope is that by altering the microenvironment that so welcomes tumor cells, the genomic structure might be less important, and while the tumor might be there, they won’t be able to proliferate and spread, she says.

Over the past decade, her group and others have gained enormous insights into the metastatic process, including detailed understanding of the steps tumors go through to ‘soften’ up the normally hostile microenvironment, in particular, regions of the body, and make it more accommodating for them.
A key to this puzzle has been copper, which plays an important role in angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels necessary for tumor cell growth.  The group has conducted a Phase II study of women with Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer – a particularly aggressive form of the disease—who are in remission with no evidence of disease, and found that if those women receive an oral copper depletion compound – tetrathiomolybdate – there were many fewer relapses than predicted in followups of two, then seven years. Results of the study were published in Clinical Cancer Research shortly after Vahdat spoke to our group and she is now seeking funding for a randomized, controlled clinical trial, which will follow 75 women, most with triple negative disease over three years, randomizing them to a copper depletion pill versus placebo. In addition to grants, they are seeking crowdfunding. For those interested, the link is:

WIB Metro NY was lucky to have the opportunity to hear a thought leader- researcher/clinician speak so expansively to our group.


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WIB-Metro New York: Valerie Barber Palmieri, Speaks On Ovarian Cancer, October 20, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Thursday, June 13, 2019

At WIB-Metro New York’s October 20, 2016, networking meeting held at PRIDE Global Event Space, Valerie Barber Palmieri, CEO of Vermillion, urged all in attendance to pay close attention to changes in our bodies: persistent, unexplained changes may indicate a serious condition.

To illustrate Valerie’s point, patient advocate and ovarian cancer “thriver” Sherry Pollex, who has teamed up with the National Ovarian Cancer Alliance, joined Palmieri on stage and recounted her frightening diagnosis after a harrowing six months of seeking answers to her symptoms.

These symptoms, which can be found in a brochure titled “Ova and Beyond: A Zine Created for Every Woman” from Vermillion, include:

Trouble eating, or feeling full quickly


Abdominal or pelvic pain

Frequent or urgent need to urinate


Back pain

Upset stomach or heartburn

Constipation or menstrual changes

Pain during intercourse

The brochure authors state that if you experience these symptoms for longer than two weeks, make an appointment with your physician. To learn more about your risk for ovarian cancer, take a quiz to determine where you stand. For information found in the brochure, visit here.

While there is still no cure for ovarian cancer, some advancements have been made in how the disease is diagnosed and treated. Tools and tests like the ones developed at Vermillion include OVA1 and Overa, which are helping physicians more accurately sort pelvic masses.

Vermillion, Inc. is dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialization of novel high-value diagnostic and bio-analytical solutions that help physicians diagnose, treat, and improve gynecologic health outcomes for women.

Vermillion, along with its prestigious scientific collaborators, discovers, develops, and delivers innovative diagnostic and technology tools that help women with serious diseases. The company’s initial in vitro diagnostic test, OVA1(R), was the first FDA-cleared, protein-based In Vitro Diagnostic Multivariate Index Assay, and represented a new class of software-based liquid biopsy in vitro diagnostics. In March, 2016, Vermillion received FDA clearance for Overa (TM), a second generation OVA1 test with significantly improved specificity and ease of use. For additional information on these products, including published clinical trials, visit here.

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WIB-Metro New York: Spring Networking Event, May 25, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Thursday, June 13, 2019

As WIB-Metro New York welcomed warmer weather, our chapter’s vibrancy was on full display at its second annual spring networking evening on May 25, 2016. With no special program on the agenda, members came to 48 Lounge in mid-town NYC to enjoy informal conversation, food and drinks, and, most of all, each other, intermingling with a mix of old and new friends. With the New York region's life sciences industry thriving, an incredibly active and productive winter behind them, summer around the corner, and an impressive fall ahead, attendees had much to talk about.

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