May 17, 2020

MedStar Health collaborates with Indivumed in new oncology research

Cancer
healthcare services
USA
Medicine
Catherine Sturman
3 min
Situated in Maryland and Washington DC, non-for-profit health company MedStar Health has recently partnered with global oncology research company Indivu...

Situated in Maryland and Washington DC, non-for-profit health company MedStar Health has recently partnered with global oncology research company Indivumed GmbH. The union will enable MedStar health to advance its understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the analysis of clinical data, enabling the breakthrough of further cancer treatments.

MedStar’s Health Research Institute is renowned for its medical care, and is responsible for the training of medical professionals in the region. MedStar Health currently represents 10 hospitals, the MedStar Health Research Institute and a comprehensive scope of health-related organisations, which are recognised regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care.

Indivumed has also become an established, ISO certified, global oncology research company. Launched in 2002, it has established a leading cancer database, delivering a unique platform to understand the underlying mechanisms of a patient's cancer. This has therefore allowed the implementation of translational research and molecular diagnostics to support the development of personalised healthcare. 

MedStar’s biospecimen collection started nearly a decade ago at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Over the term of the agreement, its cancer biobank will encompass MedStar's most active cancer programs throughout the system to partner with Indivumed's global annotated cancer biobank of human tumour tissue samples used to develop anti-tumour drugs and personalised medicine for cancer.

MedStar's Cancer Network has recently been granted a three-year accreditation with Commendation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons (ACoS). In addition, the Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center holds the distinction of being a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only cancer center in the Washington area with such distinction. 

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This partnership will allow MedStar researchers to access highest quality biospecimens and associated clinical data contributed by consenting patients. In addition, MedStar cancer researchers will have access to samples contributed by more than 30,000 patients within Indivumed's global cancer database operating within Europe, Asia and the United States.

"By participating in the Indivumed global network, we'll have access to a critical mass of biological samples and clinical data for use in unique research for our community," said Neil Weissman, MD, President of the MedStar Health Research Institute. "Indivumed is a world leader in tissue collection and preservation and will expand our ability to conduct metabolic, as well as gene-based, cancer research."

Under an initial multi-year agreement, MedStar will collect lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic and other cancer tissues at its most active cancer programs throughout the system for research and storage according to Indivumed's unique biobanking standard. Tissue collection at Georgetown Lombardi will continue pursuant to Georgetown University's existing agreement with Indivumed.  

Last year, Invidumed announced a partnership with the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, to create a new human tissue and tumour biobank, and also cemented partnerships with the Medical University of Bialystok, Northwell Health, alongside the Indian Institute of Technology Madras this year, in order to develop the organisations cancer biobank and database within precision medicine.

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Jun 14, 2021

Long haul Covid, the brain and digital therapies

#longcovid
#digitaltherapy
#neuroplasticity
#covid19
4 min
Neuroplasticity expert Ashok Gupta tells us about the symptoms of long Covid, how it affects the brain, and digital therapies

It is estimated that around 10% of people who get Covid-19 develop long haul Covid, a debilitating condition that can last many months and cause breathlessness, exhaustion and pain. 

Research is underway to find out who is more likely to get it and how to treat it. Here neuroplasticity expert and owner of Harley Street Solutions in London Ashok Gupta tells us how the condition affects the brain. 

What is long Covid exactly? 

Long Covid is when patients who have experienced Covid-19 go on to have continuing symptoms for weeks and months afterwards. These symptoms can include breathlessness, exhaustion, brain fog, gastric issues, pain, and post-exertional malaise. It is estimated that around 10% of Covid-19 infections may result in developing long haul symptoms, and in the USA, this may be affecting over 3 million people.

How does it affect the brain?
Here at our clinic, we hypothesise that it is due to a malfunction in the unconscious brain, creating a conditioned response that keeps the body in a hyper-aroused state of defensiveness. At the core of this hypothesis is the idea that we are here because our nervous system and immune system have evolved to survive. We are survival machines!

When we encounter something such as Covid-19, the brain perceives it as life threatening, and rightly so. And in the era of the pandemic, with more stress, anxiety and social isolation, our immunity may be compromised, and therefore it may take longer for the immune system to fight off the virus and recover. 

If the brain makes the decision that this is potentially life threatening and we get to the stage where we’re overcoming the virus, a legacy is left in the brain; it keeps over-responding to anything that reminds us of the virus. Even if we’ve fought off the virus, the brain will react in a precautionary way to stimuli reminiscent of the virus. 

The brain may get stuck in that overprotective response, and keeps stimulating our nervous system and our immune system, just in case the virus may still be present.

What symptoms does this cause? 

These signals cause a cascade of symptoms including breathlessness, extreme fatigue, brain fog, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and many others. And these are caused by our own immunes system.

In the case of long-haul Covid, symptoms in the body get detected by a hypersensitive brain which thinks we’re still in danger. The brain then chronically stimulates the immune and nervous systems, and then we have a continuation of a chronic set of symptoms.

This isn’t unique to long-haul Covid. Many patients develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes known as “ME”, for example, after the flu, a stomach bug, or respiratory illness. Covid-19 may be a severe trigger of a form of chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.

How does long-haul Covid affect mental health? 
Anxiety is a very common symptom in long haulers. It can be frightening to wonder about what may be happening in your body, and what the prognosis is going to be for one’s long term health. Reaching out for support for mental health is crucial for long-haulers.

How does neuroplasticity treatment work for long-haul COVID patients?
We have been working with patients for two decades with a brain retraining programme using neuroplasticity or “limbic retraining.” 

We believe that through neural rewiring, the brain can be “persuaded” that we are no longer in danger and to come back to homeostasis. But to be very clear, we are not saying it is psychological in any way, but we believe there are novel ways of accessing the unconscious brain. 

We recently worked successfully with a 56-year-old male with long-haul Covid, who prior to contracting Covid-19 in March of 2020 was running half-marathons and cycling, but afterwards he struggled to get off the sofa for months. Within 3 months he’s now back to 100% and  running half marathons again.

At our clinic, we train the patient to be able to recognise those subtle unconscious danger signals on the periphery of consciousness. This, coupled with supportive techniques and the natural hallmarks of good health such as sleep and diet help prepare the patient to respond to perceived threats that might trigger the response. 

The natural state of our brain is to default to protection. The brain prioritises survival and passing on our genes to the next generation, over any other impulse. It cares more about that than you feeling healthy and well. Protective responses are evolutionary, and are the right thing for the brain to do – it’s survival. 

What digital therapies or apps are proving effective at treating long-haul Covid? 
It seems that long haul patients are availing themselves of many online therapies and services, including meditation apps and wellness websites. We have an online neuroplasticity “brain retraining” video course called the “Gupta Program” which hosts 15 interactive videos and many audio exercises. This is proving very popular with long haul patients, and we are currently conducting a trial to test the effectiveness of this therapy. 

What is the danger of leaving long-haul Covid untreated?
The longer it goes untreated, we hypothesise that it may become more entrenched in the brain, and  become chronic in the longer term. Therefore we advise all patients to get help and advice as soon as possible.

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