Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Patent Award for Brain Cancer Rx


sarah crawfordChristmas ferns are pretty ordinary plants in the botanical world – they are in abundance in the eastern half of the United States, and if you walk through a shaded area of a park, you can find them pretty easily.
Yet the properties inside this ostensibly unremarkable fern may be a catalyst toward combatting an aggressive form of brain cancer. So says, Sarah Crawford (left), a professor of biology at Southern who has an extensive background in cancer research.
But her statement is more than just an abstract theoretical possibility. An extract made from the Christmas fern has demonstrated anti-cancer properties in pre-clinical testing conducted by Crawford and her students. In fact, the results were impressive enough to spur the U.S. Patent Office to award Crawford, as well as Erin Boisvert, a former student of Crawford, a patent for the extract.
"This is really exciting news," Crawford says. "I applied for the patent more than six years ago and was hopeful it would grant its approval. But it's a long, thorough process. You're never quite sure whether it is going to be approved or not."
The extract was tested as part of a three-component cocktail – carmustine, a powerful chemotherapy drug used to treat brain cancer; curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric that has anti-inflammatory qualities; and polystichum acrostichoides, the technical name for the Christmas fern. The plant is believed to have antioxidant properties, but to Crawford's knowledge, it has not previously undergone rigorous testing for its anti-cancer ability.
cancer researchThe tests showed that the cocktail was effective in killing nearly half of the cancer cells in tiny tumors created in the Biology Department lab – far more effective than use of any of the three substances alone. "I won't rest until we can kill 100 percent of the cancer cells, but it's a good start," she says, adding that she plans to experiment by using different levels of each substance to see if that increases the efficacy of the extract's anti-cancer properties. She said she also may test other chemotherapy drugs with the Christmas fern and curcumin.
Crawford says that a reduction in the level of carmustine, but maintaining or increasing the effectiveness of the cocktail, would be ideal. That could reduce the side effects commonly associated with chemotherapy drugs.
The tests were conducted on glioblastoma multiforme, considered to be the most deadly form of brain cancer with a fatality rate of more than 90 percent within five years.
Two current students are assisting Crawford with this project.
Brielle Hayward, who is a graduate fellow, is examining the Christmas fern's antioxidant properties and comparing its anti-cancer effects with other phytochemical antioxidants, such as American and Korean ginseng.
Paulina Mrowiec, who is a member of the Honors College, is continuing her research on the project after completing an undergraduate thesis last spring on pre-clinical models for cancer drug testing.
Crawford says she looks forward to the opening of the Academic and Laboratory Science Building, scheduled for 2015, which promises state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to conduct further research.


511 ‘Ex vivo’ culture of human micro-tumors in unfertilised avian eggs
Avian eggs, for tumour culturing / Pre-clinical models / Tumour culturing, in avian eggs
S. Crawford P. Mrowiec, K. Floyd Southern Connecticut State University, Biology, New Haven Connecticut USA
Background: The quest for more relevant pre-clinical models for testing cancer drug efficacy is a primary focus of cancer research. Current in vitro protocols are poor representations of the cancer microenvironment inside the body. The focus of this research study was to evaluate a novel pre-clinical model involving the culture of tumor cells in unfertilised avian eggs. The choice of this experimental system is based on the hypothesis that the avian egg may represent a pre-clinical model of intermediate complexity between the in vitro system and the in vivo setting that combines essential elements of the in vivo system with the simplicity of a highly accessible, stable and quantifiable 'ex vivo' system to assess tumor biology and drug sensitivity. Fertilised avian eggs inoculated with human tumor cells have been used to assess tumor neo-angiogenesis of the chorioallantoic membrane; to date, there are no reported studies of tumor cells cultured in unfertilised avian eggs.
Materials and Methods: Unfertilised avian eggs were inoculated with tumor cells from glioblastoma and juvenile osteosarcoma cell lines in the following procedure: a 1–2 cm opening in the egg shell and membrane was made by small punctured hole on top of the egg. Egg white (albumen) was removed with a syringe and different amounts of media were replaced. Trypsinised tumor cells or tumor spheroids from suspension culture were inoculated into the albumin portion of the egg. Eggs were covered with sterile gauze pads and placed into the incubator where they were incubated at 37°C with a atmospheric saturation of 5–10% CO2 from 4 days to 2 weeks. To assay tumor growth, 1 ml of incubated albumin contents were removed with a syringe and placed onto a monolayer culture plate containing standard culture media. After 24 hours the egg contents were observed. Tumor attachment to culture dish substrate and the trypan blue exclusion assay were used as indicators of viability.
Results: Live cell photo microscopy studies showed that both cell lines were capable of proliferation and micro-tumor formation in the albumin component of unfertilised avian eggs when at least 15–20% of the egg albumen was replaced by complete culture medium (RPMI 1640 or DMEM) supplemented with 10% serum. When cells inoculated into avian eggs were transferred to liquid culture, cells were able to reattach and form small cell masses indicative of micro-tumor formation.
Conclusion: This research has shown that two tumor cell lines of diverse tissue type can be successfully cultured in unfertilised avian eggs. This may be the first series of experiments to show the possible use of this system to support the growth of tumor cells. Future studies will attempt to quantify the growth parameters, biological properties and treatment sensitivity of tumor cell lines cultivate in this novel ‘ex vivo’system. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

2012 Meeting Presentations

2012 BRN Symposium

2012 BRN Symposium
Advancing Cancer Research Through Biospecimen Science
February 22-23, 2012

The 2012 BRN Symposium, held in Bethesda, Md., attracted more than 425 attendees and 125 webcast participants from all over the United States and abroad. The meeting participants represented a range of sectors, including federal, academic, industry, non-profit, and hospital/clinic. Attendees engaged in interactive discussions, presentations and workshops on biospecimen quality and recent advances in biospecimen science.
As evidence of the growth of the field of biospecimen science, the number of abstract submissions for the 2012 BRN Symposium was the highest it has been in five years of hosting the meeting. The abstracts also covered a range of topics. In the field of biospecimen science, the abstracts dealt with blood and fluids, tissues and cells, and purified analytes. Other abstracts were related to technology/protocol, international biobanking, domestic biobanking, biobanking informatics and quality management.
If you missed the event, or want to hear a presentation again, we invite you to view the video webcast.
Please check the BRN Symposium homepage for updates about our upcoming 2013 symposium. For suggestions and recommendations please contact:

Experimental Ex Vivo Human Tumor Models

Sarah Crawford

Latest publication

The long journey of stem cell therapeutics

Crawford Snull
Genome Medicine 2012, 4:5 (27 January 2012)
Sarah Crawford presents the highlights and roadblocks of therapeutic applications from the Euroepistem 2011 meeting on 'Epigenomic Programming and Stem Cells for Drug Discovery'.

Greetings from Dr. Crawford

Looking forward to a long and busy summer in the Cancer Biology Research Lab-new studies on culturing tumor cells in chick eggs....I'll keep you posted!