Binghamton Research Group Develops New Cancer Treatment

Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:48am EDT

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The team's studies prompted The American Urological Association to recommend
cryosurgery as a primary cancer treatment, while team leader receives rare

BINGHAMTON, N.Y., Sept. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- After years of innovation and
intensive research, a team of Binghamton University (BU) researchers working
with Cell Preservation Services, Inc., Owego, NY has broken extraordinary new
ground in the recognition of cryosurgery as a primary treatment option for
prostate cancer. The American Urological Association recently issued a Best
Practices Statement that recommends cryosurgery of the prostate as both a
primary and salvage therapy for patients with prostate cancer.

It was the team's discovery of a previously unrecognized form of cell death
"apoptosis" and its research into the varying effects of treatment on
different types of prostate cancer that led to the advanced technology that
now makes cryosurgery of the prostate possible. The team working in
partnership with physicians at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital has
revolutionized the way prostate cancer is treated and continues to lead
research into the advancement of treatment. 

The recommended use of cryosurgery as a primary treatment comes as BU team
leader Dr. John G. Baust, also a Professor of Biological Sciences at BU and
UNESCO Chair, received a rare honor for his world-wide leadership in
cryomedicine and his work with the BU team. The international Society for
Cryobiology, recently elected Baust to the prestigious position of Fellow of
the Society.  He is one of only ten to receive this recognition from the

As team leader, Baust directed fellow researchers in their quest to develop
the surgical devices necessary to precisely apply the freezing temperatures to
the prostate and work out the "biology of the disease" and its responses to
freezing.  The Allegheny General team developed the surgical protocols and
managed the patients during the years that followed treatment to assure a
successful outcome.  Both teams partnered to teach this new therapy to many
thousands of urologic surgeons and interventional radiologists at many of the
major medical universities in the U.S. and Europe.

The key to perfecting the treatment came through an in-depth study that delved
into to the molecular biology of prostate cancer and low temperature responses
conducted by Dr. Robert Van Buskirk, Professor of Biological Sciences &
Bioengineering. That's when Dr. William Hollister, a former BU graduate
student now on the faculty of BCC, made a critical discovery, identifying a
previously unrecognized form of cell death following freezing known as
"apoptosis" in a population of dying cancer cells.  

"This was a key that opened the door" stated Baust.   "We now had a path to
both better understand how the freezing process killed prostate cancer but
also how we might improve the efficiency of the death process during

Another BU doctoral student, Dr. John M. Baust, a Cornell University graduate,
former Harvard Medical School Fellow and current President of Cell
Preservation Services, Inc. (CPSI, Owego, NY), meticulously analyzed the
timing of the molecular events that led to a cells demise following freezing. 

"By understanding the sequence of events that often leads to cancer cell
death, we were then able to have other researchers add secondary agents to
further stress the cells so that we could assure the complete destruction of
the cancer," said Dr. J.M. Baust. 

An important unknown needed to be addressed to assure broad-based acceptance
within the medical community was to understand and explain why some forms of
prostate cancer respond differently to treatment.  Dr. Daniel Klossner, a
recent BU graduate working with the team, provided a critical answer by
discovering that the presence or absence of a specific protein known as the
"androgen receptor" correlates with the relative "hardiness" of the prostate
cancer.  The protein is found in easy-to-kill cancers while "old cancers,"
which lack the protein, present greater curative challenges.  This discovery
helped lead to the adoption of a set of standard treatment parameters.   These
findings may contribute to a change in how hormonal therapy is used in
prostate cancer patients as the application of anti-androgen therapy often
results in the emergence of more difficult to treat prostate cancers.  Anthony
Robilotto, MS., a Cornell graduate and current BU graduate student, is
building on this foundation and working to develop the scientific basis for
yet the next improvements.  Robilotto has developed tissue-engineered human
"prostates" that contain different genetic variants of the cancer and attempts
to "cure" the cancers with innovative combinations of low temperature and
sensitizing agents.

While this team's cancer research continues, the critical results of their ten
years of patient treatment were recently published in the Journal of Urology. 
This landmark study demonstrated that 77% of patients treated at Allegheny
General were cancer-free based on biopsy data.  To date, over 40,000 prostate
cancer patients have been treated with this therapy and the improved devices
that have evolved.

The success of this project is now leading directly to its expansion into
other problematic cancers.  Dr. Kristi Snyder, a Cornell and BU graduate and
current Director of Operations and Principal Scientist at CPSI, is moving this
technology in new directions.  She is collaborating with current BU graduate
students to bring this life-saving technology into the breast, kidney and lung
cancer patients.  

"The prospects for expanding the application of cryosurgery to other focal
tumors is absolutely exciting," said Snyder.  "This is a therapeutic procedure
that is applied in just a few minutes without traditional, invasive surgery,
without the complicating co-morbidities common to radiation and chemotherapy,
is relatively pain-free, is bloodless, and in the case of prostate cancer
treatments, patients go home the same or next day.  We need to keep moving
aggressively to expand this next generation therapy."

SOURCE  Cell Preservation Services, Inc.

Mimi Hammond of Cell Preservation Services, Inc, +1-607-687-8701
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