Other Areas of Interest
In addition to colon cancer, we continue to apply the Sentinel Principle and our Discovery Funnel process to create a pipeline of biomarkers for other cancers and diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and arthritis. The Sentinel Principle is broadly applicable and our preliminary results in Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, osteoarthritis and cancers of the prostate, bladder, ovary and breast are highly encouraging.
Central Nervous System and Psychiatric Disorders
Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders encompass a wide array of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We have initially focused on two mental disorders; schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Mental disorders are, in general, very difficult to diagnose, especially in the early phases. A definitive diagnosis may take months or years to make. Treatments are not usually prescribed until a diagnosis is made. As with most disease, early treatment usually leads to better clinical outcomes or less severe chronic symptoms.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease characterized by profound disruption in cognition and emotion, affecting the most fundamental human attributes: language, thought, perception, affect, and sense of self. The disorder often appears in the late teens or early twenties in men, and in the twenties to early thirties in women. Approximately 1 percent of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime. More than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness in a given year with an estimated annual cost of US$ 70 billion in direct and indirect costs.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone experiences, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. More than 2 million American adults, or about 1 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have bipolar disorder with an estimated annual cost of over US$50 billion. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated.
Cardiovascular (CV) disease, which includes coronary artery disease, heart failure and hypertension, is the leading cause of death in many developed countries. Many of these conditions are detected only after the disease has progressed significantly and symptoms develop. In some cases, no warning is given and the patient suffers a fatal heart attack or stroke.
Heart failure is commonly caused by an underlying heart condition such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure. Typically the disease develops slowly over many years. The development of heart failure usually means that the heart's ability to pump blood has weakened, so it can't circulate enough blood to meet the body's needs. Shortness of breath, fatigue and leg swelling may result. When fluid builds up, heart failure is called congestive. Sometimes the heart becomes too stiff to fill properly, and that also can lead to heart failure. About five million Americans are living with heart failure, and between 400,000 and 700,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Heart failure is serious and can be life-threatening. About 250,000 people die annually of heart failure.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries) become hardened and narrowed. The arteries harden and become narrow due to the buildup of plaque on the inner walls or lining of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Blood flow to the heart is reduced as plaque narrows the coronary arteries. This decreases the oxygen supply to the heart muscle. CAD is the most common type of heart disease. Approximately 13 million Americans suffer from some form CAD. In 2002, 494,000 deaths were attributable to CAD in the US. It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. in both men and women.
Hypertension, or elevated blood pressure, indicates that the heart is working harder than normal, putting both the heart and the arteries under a greater strain. This may contribute to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and atherosclerosis. If high blood pressure isn't treated, the heart may have to work progressively harder to pump enough blood and oxygen to the body's organs and tissues to meet their needs. Hypertension affects over 65 million people in the US alone. About 20,000 deaths annually are directly caused by hypertension.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) being the two most recognizable forms. Although arthritis rarely causes death, it can greatly affect the quality of life of those afflicted by restricting mobility and causing constant pain. The direct and indirect economic costs to healthcare systems and individuals are significant.
OA accounts for over 80% of all arthritis cases. This is the form of arthritis that is associated with old age. It afflicts large percentages of the population worldwide. Current treatments only address the symptoms of pain and inflammation. Mild disease can be a nuisance causing pain and inflammation in joints, but as the disease progresses, symptoms can incapacitate individuals, sometimes requiring joint replacement as the treatment. In a recent study, it was estimated that approximately one third of adult Americans have osteoarthritis in varying degrees.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by swollen, misshapen joints. Although the incidence of the disease is low compared to OA, the disease can have devastating consequences. In severe cases the patient is completely incapacitated and in constant pain. RA affects 1 percent of the U.S. population or 2.1 million Americans.