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Personalized therapy for aggressive brain cancer shows promising results

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Newly announced results from a preliminary clinical trial testing a novel kind of brain cancer drug have revealed incredibly promising responses in a particular subset of patients. A larger Phase 2 trial is now underway targeting patients with a specific biomarker.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive and often deadly form of brain cancer, with around only five percent of patients surviving longer than five years after initial diagnosis. Lisavanbulin is one of several new drugs in development designed to inhibit tumor growth and treat this devastating form of cancer.

Long-term data from a recently completed Phase 1 human trial initially revealed mixed results, with only two of 20 patients showing significant improvement. However, looking more closely at the data the researchers discovered those two successful cases shared a particular characteristic.

Those two patients were found to have high expression of a particular protein called end-binding protein 1 (EB1) in their tumor tissue. Three out of the 20 subjects in this early trial showed strong EB1 expression.

“EB1 plays a pivotal role in the regulation of microtubule dynamics during cell division and has been shown to interact with microtubule-targeting agents, such as lisavanbulin, inhibiting tumor growth,” reports Basilea, the company developing the new drug.

Preclinical studies also found EB1 positivity was a strong predictor of efficacy. Following these findings a Phase 2 trial is now underway specifically focusing on glioblastoma patients with EB1-positive tumors.

“We are in a new era of personalized medicine, with markers in cancer cells offering vital clues to what treatment could target an individual’s disease,” says Juanita Lopez, from the Institute of Cancer Research. “This encouraging early study suggests some patients with advanced brain cancer who are EB1-positive could be treated with lisavanbulin, a targeted drug which blocks the growth of cancer cells.”

New findings presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting indicate EB1 expression can be found in approximately five percent of glioblastoma cases. The research also looked at EB1 expression in a number of other cancer samples, finding it in low levels in some metastatic melanoma, lung cancer and breast cancer tissue.

“We are looking forward to the interim results in our phase 2 study, which is enrolling patients with recurrent glioblastoma that is EB1-positive, towards the end of 2021,” says Marc Engelhardt, Basilea’s chief medical officer. “A clinical proof-of-concept in glioblastoma based on positive interim results would support exploring the selection of patients based on EB1-positivity in other tumor types as well, such as melanoma, breast, colorectal and lung cancers or rare cancer types such as medulloblastomas or neuroblastomas.”

Paul Nicholson, one of the patients in this early trial, saw his cancer shrink by more than 80 percent. Three years later his scans are still looking positive.

Lopez points out this novel targeted treatment may not work for all glioblastoma patients but it could offer new hope to those with EB1-positive cancers. Initial results from the international Phase 2 trial are expected later this year.

“We believe that our findings could be a key step in the development of the world’s first targeted brain cancer treatment, offering hope to some patients with aggressive glioblastoma,” says Lopez. “People with brain cancer currently have very poor survival rates and lack treatment options, so this could be a very welcome addition to our limited arsenal of tools to combat the disease.”

Source: ICR, Basilea

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Source: https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/personalized-therapy-glioblastoma-cancer-early-trial-results/

NEWATLAS

New CAR-NK cell immunotherapy safely tackles breast cancers in lab tests

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Immunotherapy is a promising avenue for cancer treatment, but it has trouble against solid tumors without triggering major side effects. Now, researchers at McMaster University have developed a new form of the treatment that supercharges a different type of immune cell.

The human immune system is our most effective defense against disease, but it’s not infallible. Cancer is particularly crafty, using a range of tricks to avoid detection and fight off immune cells that come knocking.

Immunotherapy aims to swing the odds back in our favor. The most common form of the treatment is called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T cell) therapy, where doctors extract T cells from the patient, engineer them to target cancer proteins, then return them to the body. Once there, they can launch a more effective attack.

So far, the technique has worked well on some forms of leukemia, but not so great against solid tumors. That’s because those cancers produce a strong environment around themselves that exhausts T cells quickly, or make it difficult for them to target the cancer. Other times the souped-up T cells can proliferate out of control, leading to a potentially fatal immune condition called a cytokine storm.

So for the new study, the McMaster scientists investigated alternatives to CAR T cell therapy. Rather than removing and editing T cells, they used a different type of immune cell called natural killer (NK) cells, which the team says should be more selective in targeting only cancer.

“These CAR-NK cells are a little bit smarter, in a way, in that they only kill the enemy cells and not good cells that happen to have the same marker,” says Ali Ashkar, corresponding author of the study. “These cells have a sober second thought that says, ‘I recognize this target, but is this target part of a healthy cell or a cancer cell?’ They are able to leave the healthy cells alone and kill the cancer cells.”

To test it out, the researchers took NK cells from patients with breast cancer, engineered them to target receptors found on cancer cells, and introduced them to tumor cells derived from the patients. They found that CAR-NK cells were able to kill more cancer cells than CAR T cells tested in the same way, even in the presence of the suppressive environment that solid tumors build around themselves.

But perhaps most importantly, the CAR-NK cells did not kill healthy cells in the samples – even those that expressed the same protein that the therapy was targeting on the cancer cells. Altogether, the study could open up new therapy options for hard-to-treat solid cancers.

“We want to be able to attack these malignancies that have been so resistant to other treatments,” says Ana Portillo, lead author of the study. “The efficacy we see with CAR-NK cells in the laboratory is very promising and seeing that this technology is feasible is very important. Now, we have much better and safer options for solid tumors.”

Of course, it is very early days for this work – so far it’s only been tested in the lab – and animal tests will need to be conducted before we even think about humans.

The research was published in the journal iScience.

Source: McMaster University

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Source: https://newatlas.com/medical/car-nk-cell-cancer-immunotherapy/

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New battery gives Sono Motors’ PV-paneled car a range boost

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German startup Sono Motors has introduced new battery technology for its forthcoming Sion electric vehicle that promises to not only power the vehicle across longer trips but allow higher charging rates in between. The battery design also does away with expensive metals in favor of greener components, while adding 50 km (31 miles) of range.

Sono Motors first put its Sion electric vehicle up for pre-order in 2017, and following a big crowdfunding campaign in 2019, finally introduced a pre-production prototype at CES earlier this year.

The car features integrated solar cells across the hood, roof, doors and rear, which top up the onboard battery with the Sun’s energy whenever possible. The electric drive offers 150-kW peak power and 75 Nm (129 lb-ft) of torque, while top speed is listed as 140 km/h (87 mph).

The solar cells still expected to add a peak of 245 km (152 miles) of range per week in optimal conditions, but these will now feed energy into a newly designed 54-kWh lithium-iron phosphate battery, which, along with nickel and manganese, eschews cobalt, a traditional and troublesome battery component.

Exploded view of the new Sono Motors EV battery
Exploded view of the new Sono Motors EV battery

Sono Motors

According to the company, this increases the range from 255 km (158 miles) to 305 km (190 miles), and also boosts the charging rate from 50 kW to 75 kW. Sono Motors says the battery will also remain safe and functional across 3,000 cycles, or enough to travel 900,000 km (560,00 miles).

“The growing EV market is generating enormous demand for longer-lasting, more sustainable batteries,” says Markus Volmer, Chief Technology Officer at Sono Motors. “This enhanced battery enables Sion drivers to extend the time between charges, whilst reducing the charging time itself. This effectively optimizes the Sion to deliver easy and affordable sustainable mobility for everyone.”

Sono Motors says it has now received more than 13,000 down payments for the Sion, which carries a full purchase price of €25,500 (about US$30,000). Production was originally planned to start next year, though that timeline is now unclear due to issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Sono Motors

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Source: https://newatlas.com/automotive/sono-motors-solar-panels-electric-vehicle-car-range-new-battery/

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NEWATLAS

Venturi’s cutting-edge electric polar explorer readies for Antarctica

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With a princely heritage and sub-zero ambitions, the all-electric Venturi Antarctica has been slowly evolving for more than a decade, preparing to tackle the extreme weather and terrain of the Antarctic continent. The snow-and-ice-hungry all-terrain mini-tank enters its third iteration this month as it prepares to embark on a grand Antarctic mission in December. The latest version gains a new layout, increased range, redesigned tracks and double the passenger capacity.

Venturi’s Antarctica rover got its start back in 2009 after Monaco’s Prince Albert II returned from an Antarctic trip puzzled by the fact that the research stations did not use cleaner vehicles. His foundation teamed with Venturi on creating a zero-emissions Antarctic-grade vehicle for shuttling scientists and equipment around the frozen continent.

The Antarctica V2 prototype does some testing in the cold snow
The Antarctica V2 prototype does some testing in the cold snow

Venturi/Sarah Del Ban

To create an electric vehicle ready to tackle roadways of drifted snow, ice and rock in the world’s most extreme cold is certainly no small task, and it’s been a slow but steady push toward the finish line. The last we heard of the Antarctica, the V2 prototype was preparing for cold-weather testing in northern British Columbia. The testing went well, as Venturi tells it, but the company still further evolved the Antarctica design over the two years since.

The third iteration of the Antarctica steps back from V2 to a body design more similar to the original. Like that original design, the new model features a driver cab/rear cabin split, with the driver and navigator seats split by the joystick controls. The rear cabin is separated from the driver cab by tubular frame members, housing a pair of two-person folding benches that double the vehicle’s total capacity to six, as compared with the three-person V2.

Antarctica rear cabin with foldaway benches
Antarctica rear cabin with foldaway benches

Venturi

Despite the added 500 kg (1,100 lb) that accompanies the new build, the Antarctica roams an extra 5 km (3 miles) farther than the older version for an even 50-km (31-mile) range. Its 52.6-kWh battery pack powers two 60-kW (80-hp) motors and takes between two and 18 hours to charge, depending upon the infrastructure doing the charging. The vehicle is designed to operate in temperatures as low as -60 °C (-76 °F).

Venturi presented the new model as part of its World Environment Day celebration earlier this month, ahead of plans to ship it to Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth research station, Antarctica’s first zero-emissions station. Plans call for it to be put into operation at the station in December. In addition to serving in place of a traditional ICE-powered vehicle, the Antarctica will be available to take scientists on trips they’d usually take on foot for fear of polluting their samples.

The Antarctica comes equipped with an easy-to-use joystick control system
The Antarctica comes equipped with an easy-to-use joystick control system

Venturi

“With the Venturi Antarctica, scientists are getting an efficient, easy-to-handle vehicle with very good performance,” Venturi president Gildo Pastor said during this month’s Antarctica presentation. “They will be able to carry out their research in optimum conditions, without polluting sites where the quality of analyses needs to be accurate down to the last molecule.”

Before putting the Antarctica in the hands of those polar scientists, Venturi will continue running it through a gauntlet of rugged dry-ground tests to ensure that the brakes, controls and other systems are operating smoothly. You can see some of the footage below.

Antarctica’s road tests explained by Lead Designer Louis-Marie Blondel

Source: Venturi

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Source: https://newatlas.com/automotive/venturi-antarctica-v3-electric-polar-vehicle/

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Rheinmetall’s new Spectac stun grenade takes on smartphone form factor

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German defense company Rheinmetall has unveiled a new rectangular, pocket-sized stun grenade for military and law enforcement. About the size of a smartphone, it’s also designed to be easily concealable for undercover agents or bodyguards.

Originally designed for Britain’s SAS in the 1970s, stun grenades are a less-lethal munition for temporarily blinding and deafening opponents, especially in close quarters. With a brightness of around seven megacandela and a noise level of up to 180 decibels, at close quarters such grenades can overload the retina, causing five seconds of blindness, and temporarily deafen and throw an opponent off balance.

Famously used in lifting the 1980 siege on the Iranian Embassy in London, stun grenades, also called flash grenades, flash-bang grenades, or thunder grenades, have been routinely used by the military and law enforcement. However, there is always room for improvement. The standard stun grenade is a bulky cylinder that is hard to conceal or control and tends to bounce and roll when thrown, which can not only result in missing the target, but also in dangerous, even lethal, accidents.

Spectac is intended to prevent these shortcomings with a new ergonomic design that makes it pocket-sized. The grenade measures only 110 x 63 x20 mm (4.3 x 2.5 x 0.8 in) and weighs only 350 grams (12.3 oz). This allows it to fit neatly in a pocket or tactical vest with the locking ring and rocker arm igniter tucked neatly away.

According to Rheinmetall, Spectac’s rectangular design not only makes it compact, but also easier to place. It won’t roll and stops quickly to within 35 cm (12 in) of its landing point when thrown. It can also be used on stairways. The fuse can be set to delay from 0.5 to 1.5 seconds and the grenade is water resistant up to 66 ft (20 m).

Now available for deployment, the Spectac uses bottom top venting (BTV) to protect the user’s hand in the event of an accidental detonation, and it doesn’t break into dangerous fragments. For environmental reasons, the grenade complies with the European Chemicals Directive and the detonator contains no lead.

Source: Rheinmetall

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Source: https://newatlas.com/military/rheinmetall-presents-new-spectac-pocket-sized-stun-grenade/

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