Teams at UC Davis are working to advance the underlying disciplines, systems and technologies that contribute to precision medicine, such as data analytics, genomics, and workforce training. Some examples:
Snapshot: Study seeks to improve cancer survival for Latinos, Asians and Blacks
The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is leading a five-year effort using patient-derived cancer models to tease out why some ethnic and racial minority groups fare worse when they get cancer — and to find more precise treatments to improve their chances of survival.
Supported by a $6.3 million grant from the NCI’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, the collaborative study engages four NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers that are part of the recently created UC Cancer Center Consortium, with a combined patient population among the most diverse in the U.S.
The study will focus on four cancers that disproportionately affect minorities: lung, liver, gastric (stomach) and bladder, with a minimum of 60% of tumor samples used for UC Davis research drawn from minority patients to grow tumors (or xenografts) in mice. The rest will be from non-Hispanic whites and used as controls.
Once a patient-derived xenograft or “PDX” is established, it can be replicated so that a single patient tumor can be used to test numerous drugs at the same time. The goal is to generate at least 200 PDXs for use in two research projects, and to share findings with the NCI and other scientists to aid development of more precise treatments.
Snapshot: Preclinical methodology to differentiate useful or potentially harmful cardiac arrythmia drugs at the molecular level
In an effort to help enable better development of new drugs for cardiac arrhythmias, a group of UC Davis researchers and clinicians developed a series of novel simulations that provide insights on vital interactions of drugs and cardiac cells at the atomic scale.
Before the study, authors said there was no effective preclinical methodology to differentiate useful or potentially harmful drugs at the molecular level. Led by Eleonora Grandi, Ph.D., of the Department of Pharmacology and collaborations with clinical cardiologists such as Uma Srivatsa, M.B.B.S., M.A.S., this study will change the treatment of common arrythmias such as atrial fibrillation.
Combining molecular modeling software with simulations to study drug-channel interactions is a novel approach that allows future automated virtual drug screening, and a technology that can be applied to any ion channel and benefit multiple treatments. Ultimately, the approach advances precision medicine by predicting individual patient responses to drug therapy based on a patient’s specific ion channel mutation.
A unique application of metabolomics
In their effort to improve co-treatment of burns and traumatic brain injuries in soldiers, UC Davis researchers are applying metabolomics to trauma research in an innovative approach that’s unique to the university. Metabolomics — the study of intermediate biochemical metabolism byproducts — can help quantify changes taking place inside cells or body fluids at specific times or conditions.
Identifying and quantifying cellular metabolites involves advanced technologies such as mass spectrometry, combined with sophisticated statistical interpretation. Working with Oliver Fiehn, Ph.D., director of the NIH West Coast Metabolomics Center, UC Davis researchers are using metabolomics to find biomarkers, or measurable indicators of injury severity or disease presence. The approach can provide a methodical, precise way to identify and characterize clinical conditions such as a traumatic brain injury alone or in conjunction with burns and other trauma injury. By being able to assess and profile TBI pathologies this way, the team hopes to move beyond 'one-size-fits-all' assessments and care.
Education and workforce
Training the next generation of data-fluent professionals
Meyers promotes precision medicine research opportunities through the Academic Research Careers for Medical Doctors (ARC-MD) Program, an innovative training pathway for the next generation of UC Davis School of Medicine students and resident physicians who aspire to become engaged in research. The school has provided substantial support for the program, which provides research and career mentorship, special experiences, a unique curriculum, and community engagement within a supportive longitudinal learning community.