Summit, Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine to Develop Saliva Tests for COVID, Head & Neck Cancer

AURORA, Colo., Oct. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Summit Biolabs, Inc., an early-stage molecular diagnostics company specializing in saliva-based testing for COVID-19 and head & neck cancer, and the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus announced today a broad strategic collaboration involving research, development and commercialization of saliva liquid-biopsy tests for early cancer detection and diagnosis of COVID-19 and other viral contagions.

The CCPM holds one of the largest research biobanks in the United States with clinical data from more than 8.7 million de-identified patient records and plans to integrate the data with personalized genomic information.

“This partnership brings two innovative programs together to optimize COVID testing at a time when it’s desperately needed,” says Kathleen Barnes, Ph.D., Professor and Director of CCPM at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “Collaborations like this are crucial in moving research forward and advancing and expanding clinical testing to as many members of our community as possible. Working with Summit Biolabs, and leveraging technology developed by our colleagues here at the Anschutz Medical Campus, will help us achieve these goals and establish a non-invasive testing process that will benefit patients in Colorado and beyond.”

Summit Biolabs is developing breakthrough tests to improve the detection of COVID-19 and to advance the early detection of human cancers, including head & neck cancer, using simple, non-invasive saliva liquid-biopsy technology developed by Dr. Shi-Long Lu and colleagues at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Head & neck cancer has been scientifically overlooked, yet is medically important. Summit Biolabs’ research foundation and competency in head & neck cancer diagnosis enabled the company’s pivot to saliva-based testing for coronavirus, COVID-19.

“We are excited to collaborate with CCPM to develop and commercialize Summit Biolabs’ portfolio of developmental saliva or non-blood liquid-biopsy tests.” said Bob Blomquist, Chief Executive Officer at Summit Biolabs. “This collaboration broadens and strengthens Summit Biolabs’ ability to bring to market life-changing saliva liquid-biopsy tests that ultimately enable better treatment and improved outcomes for patients.”

About Summit Biolabs

Summit Biolabs is harnessing the power of saliva-based diagnostics to address critical challenges in COVID-19 and head & neck cancer testing. Founded on the discoveries of Dr. Shi-Long Lu, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Summit Biolabs is being spun out from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Summit Biolabs is pioneering early detection of head & neck cancer recurrence using a first of its kind saliva liquid-biopsy test, HNKlear. HNKlear is a proprietary, non-invasive saliva test that provides more effective, more accurate, and earlier detection of head and neck cancer recurrence than traditional diagnostic methods. Summit Biolabs is leveraging its core competencies in saliva-based molecular diagnostics and viral nucleic acid testing (i.e., oral oncogenic human papillomavirus detection) to diagnose COVID-19. Along with our clinical and laboratory partners, Summit Biolabs is developing the first comprehensive panel of highly-accurate saliva-based tests for COVID-19 infection, quantitation, and immune response. Summit Biolabs is headquartered in Aurora, Colorado.

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Breast cancer survivor urges women to get regular screenings and mammograms, thanks local non-profit ‘The Rose’

The first time Ediana Quijada found a lump in her breast, she was laughed off and told “it was happening because of her period and nothing to worry about.”

It was far from nothing. After a six-year battle with metastatic breast cancer, the cheerful Houston native is happy to share her story with other young women, advising regular breast exams, early detection having made a key difference in many cases.

In the fall of 2012, 29-year-old Ediana was finishing her construction management internship at the University of Houston.

The internship did not offer health insurance but UH hosts free mammography screenings in October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. However, when she told the nurses about her lump, they assured her, with a cursory glance, that she was too young to worry about cancer. She was sent away without a mammogram.

Reassured and a little abashed about being paranoid, she busied herself with assignments as the stresses of the semester took over. The second of four siblings (two sisters, one little brother), Ediana said she had no reason to suspect the worst because there was no history of cancer in her family.

But the lump wouldn’t stay quiet.


“I started feeling that the little lump was getting bigger and bigger,” Ediana said. “I could measure it; it was an inch now. Or is it in my head? Then I would calculate, my period must be coming, that’s why the lump’s getting big … and my breast is turning pink.”

A visit with her mother’s doctor in December confirmed the devastating news — a large mass in her breast. Could be a tumor. Clearly, the cancer had made good use of the two-month delay.

“I didn’t have insurance, so my mother took me to a walk-in clinic,” Eidana said. “The doctor said, ‘oh my God, why didn’t you come before?’”

A few hours and one $100-ultrasound later, she was advised to do a biopsy.

“The biopsy cost over $2,000, I thought ‘I can’t do that right now,’ and he (the doctor) referred me to The Rose,” Ediana said.

That first encounter with The Rose marked the beginning of Ediana’s long, painful but ultimately successful battle with breast cancer. A Houston-based nonprofit group, The Rose provides breast cancer screenings and treatment regardless of patients’ ability to pay. They began Ediana’s treatment by conducting another ultrasound, this one costing only $10.

A little monster inside your breast.

Ediana was paired with a patient navigator who helped her through the system and set up her appointments.

“It turns out I was Stage 3, Type C, which is borderline Stage 4,” said Ediana. “Very aggressive and very bad. They said, ‘it looks like you have a little monster inside’.”

Given the tumor’s massive size, treatment had to begin immediately. When three painful rounds of chemo (each lasting around eight months), one round of radiation and one surgery failed to eliminate the cancer, her doctors put Ediana on an–at the time–experimental drug called T-DM1.

“This

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Porter dentist offers free oral cancer screenings for firefighters

As a thank you to local first responders, Porter Family Dentistry is offering free oral cancer screenings to firefighters in Montgomery County for the next several weeks.

The screenings will be held on Fridays when the office is usually closed so that firefighters don’t have to wait.

In 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a multi-year study of cancer rates in firefighters, and the findings showed that firefighters had a higher number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population. Among the cancers found in the sample of nearly 30,000 firefighters, those most often found were digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.

In recent months, firefighters across the country have been traveling to areas, like California, that their help is needed. Dr. Mustafa Yamani of Porter Family Dentistry went to school in California and has fond memories of the nature and beauty of the state.

“It’s such a beautiful place, it’s really sad reading all of the stuff in the news that’s going on there,” Yamani said. “From all around the country they (the firefighters) come together and they provide this service. It’s just amazing what they’re doing and I really appreciate that. I just want to do something for them.”


The generous act of the firefighters inspired him to give back, and since oral cancer screenings are a service his office already offers he decided to give them to firefighters for free.

While this is the first year that the dental office has offered free screenings, Yamani and his wife Sabrina, who is the office manager, plan on making it an annual thing. The trials of 2020 also helped them decide to give back.

“Things seem to be going from bad to worse, to even worse, and it just doesn’t seem to be stopping for our first responders,” Sabrina said. “They’re just being hit with things one after the other.”

Sabrina started by reaching out to fire departments in the east past of Montgomery County to let them know about the opportunity and the response was immediate and positive. Already, the dental office has screenings set up with local firefighters.

Because firefighters are at a higher risk of developing cancer, many departments take an aggressive approach to screenings and check-ups. Early detection is vital. Such is the approach of the East Montgomery County Fire Department where firefighters undergo a National Fire Protection Agency physicals annually.

“It’s huge to us,” Eran Denzler, captain and PIO with the department, said of being able to get the oral screenings for free. “It’s a great show of appreciation for what we do and the risks that we take. Every day we go and put our lives on the line for the community, and for them to give back and worry about our safety is something we’re not used to but it’s much appreciated.”

The department averages around one to two structure fires a week,

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MD Anderson’s hurricane checklist for breast cancer patients

Many Houston-area residents experienced at preparing for hurricane season have likely already stocked their home with basic supplies such as extra batteries, a first-aid kit, rain gear and a 7-day supply of non-perishable food and water among other essentials needed to weather a severe storm and its aftermath. But breast cancer patients should be aware to also have additional supplies on hand, especially as Texas continues to face new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more important than ever to plan ahead.



a person riding a wave on a surfboard in the water: In this file image, a GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Beta, center, in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch is in effect Saturday for coastal Texas as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength. A storm surge watch and a tropical storm watch are also in effect for the area during an exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA via AP)


© Associated Press

In this file image, a GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Beta, center, in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch is in effect Saturday for coastal Texas as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength. A storm surge watch and a tropical storm watch are also in effect for the area during an exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA via AP)


“Cancer patients are often at greater risk of contracting an infection. So, try to get everything you need early on, to avoid the last-minute crowds in stores,” Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D., associate medical director of Critical Care at MD Anderson said. “It’s almost impossible to maintain adequate social distancing in those situations. And that could prove to be more dangerous than the storm itself.”

Von-Maszewski shared recommended hurricane preparation measures for cancer patients in a recent article published by the MD Anderson Communication Department. First off, breast cancer patients are advised to include an adequate supply of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“Evacuation could pose a risk,” Von-Maszewski said. “Face masks will be especially important if patients have to stay in crowded shelters.”

Flood water and other standing water are also a potential source of infection and breast cancer patients are advised to add mosquito spray to guard against insect bites, and antibiotic cream and bandages to cover any open wounds to their hurricane supplies.

Plan ahead for a hurricane during the COVID-19 pandemic

Plan ahead and be sure to maintain at least a two-week supply of any current medications. Make a list of all your current medications and their dosages, and talk to your doctor about what to do if you have to miss a dose or treatment. In addition, prepare a dedicated cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles for medications that need to be kept refrigerated. Research the location of the nearest emergency room and how to get there. Call your insurance company in advance to be sure which ones are covered by your policy. Remember to keep your car’s gas tank full, too, in case you need to seek medical attention or quickly evacuate.

Organize your medical information in one place

It’s possible you won’t immediately be able

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Finding breast cancer early through screening major tool for beating disease

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. Dr. Srinath Sundararajan, an oncologist and hematologist with Texas Oncology-Katy, says early detection saves lives and that screening is important, even during the pandemic.

“Delaying cancer screenings will lead to detecting cancer at a later stage, and definitely that leads to more aggressive disease, more lengthy treatment and an increased healthcare cost,” Sundararajan said. “Cancer when identified early, there is a better chance of it being a curable cancer and better chance of having less intensive treatment. Screening cancer and finding it early is the single most effective way of improving cancer survival rates.”

He explained that since the 1980s, advances in breast cancer treatments have improved mortality rates, but screening has played a major role because it allows patients to seek treatment earlier in the disease.


While Sundararajan said mammograms are the main breast cancer detection tool, women talking with their health care providers about how to do a proper self-breast exam can enhance their breast health awareness and act as another tool. He said they should look for unusual changes in their breasts, including lumps, changes in the contour of the nipple, skin color changes, puckering of the skin or a new nipple discharge that occurs without apparent reason. Women should seek immediate medical attention with their health care provider if any of these symptoms occur.

While the age that a woman should get her first mammogram depends on several factors such as family history, Sundararajan explained that a woman with average risk should have a discussion with her doctor when she is between 40 and 50 years old. He said the frequency for mammograms will vary based on the results of that first one. Women should certainly have mammograms from age 50 to age 75, Sundararajan said.

The pandemic has had a large impact on cancer. A study showed that diagnoses of breast, cervical and colon cancer were down about 90 percent at one point. Sundararajan said the numbers have improved but are still down overall by about 30 percent since before COVID-19.

“It doesn’t mean that cancer was not happening or that new cancer was not occurring during those times,” he said. “Those are all missed diagnoses, which would probably impact them later in the future. Once they’re diagnosed, they might be at a later stage.”

Sundararajan explained that 90 to 95 percent of patients whose breast cancer is detected early respond well to treatment and are still living five years later. Those survival rates decrease when the cancer is found later.

Sundararajan emphasized that it is safe to go out for cancer screenings. He said clinics, diagnostic offices and doctors’ offices are taking precautions so that people do not catch or spread the novel coronavirus. Many medical facilities require masks and temperature checks to enter and are

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Research Areas – Cancer Health Disparities

Why Research on Cancer Health Disparities Is Critical to Progress against the Disease

Although there has been substantial progress in cancer treatment, screening, diagnosis, and prevention over the past several decades, addressing cancer health disparities—such as higher cancer death rates, less frequent use of proven screening tests, and higher rates of advanced cancer diagnoses—in certain populations is an area in which progress has not kept pace.

These disparities are frequently seen in people from low-socioeconomic groups, certain racial/ethnic populations, and those who live in geographically isolated areas.

Documented cancer health disparities include:

  • a higher incidence of a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer (the triple-negative subtype) among African American women than women of other racial/ethnic groups
  • substantially higher rates of prostate cancer incidence and death among African American men than men of other racial/ethnic groups
  • higher rates of kidney cancer among American Indian and Alaska Natives than other racial/ethnic groups
  • higher rates of liver cancer among Asian and Pacific Islanders than other racial/ethnic groups
  • higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and death among Hispanic and African American women than women of other racial/ethnic groups

Many of the same population groups that experience cancer health disparities are also significantly underrepresented in cancer clinical trials.  

There has been some recent evidence of progress against cancer health disparities, including reductions in lung and prostate cancer deaths among African American men over the past decade. But researchers and public health officials agree that progress has come too slowly, and the cost of disparities—in terms of premature deaths, lost productivity, and the impact on communities—remains substantial and must be addressed.

Cancer disparities and equity research is needed to understand why some groups of people may be more or less likely to develop cancer, experience cancer-related health problems, or die from cancer than other groups of people.

Opportunities in Cancer Health Disparities Research

As recognition of cancer health disparities has grown, so have efforts to move beyond simply documenting the problem toward understanding all of its causes and developing and testing interventions to remedy it. Studies suggest that the differences observed in cancer incidence and mortality between various population groups are the result of a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and social factors.

For example, access to care is a critical element that contributes to cancer health disparities. Access to care is influenced by a web of factors, such as insurance status and proximity to health care facilities. Changes that have been implemented as a result of the Affordable Care Act are already helping to address the issue of access to health care by making recommended cancer screening and prevention interventions more affordable and expanding Medicaid.

Patient navigation, which is a strategy to help patients maneuver through our complex health care system, has also shown promise as a means of addressing cancer health disparities. Navigators can help patients overcome the multitude of barriers that can derail access to quality care, such as insufficient finances and lack of transportation.

As the issue of disparities has gained more

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Health Article On Cancer

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