In the News

Dr. Kevin Slawin, Chief Medical Officer of Bellicum Pharmaceuticals Announces World Renowned Clinical Advisory Board Appointments

November 10, 2010

Bellicum Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company developing novel therapies that can be precisely controlled after delivery, today announced the appointment of four new members to its Clinical Advisory Board (CAB). The new appointments enhance the range and depth of expertise of the CAB, which provides medical and strategic guidance for the company's product development and commercialization activities that include two programs in clinical trials. The announcement coincides with the launch of the company's newly designed website, www.bellicum.com. The new members of the CAB are: Philip Kantoff, M.D., William Oh, M.D., Daniel Petrylak, M.D., and Oliver Sartor, M.D. They join Daniel Von Hoff, M.D., F.A.C.P., who has served as Bellicum's principal clinical advisor since 2006. Their collective resumes include leadership of pivotal trials for Taxotere® (docetaxel), Jevtana® (cabazitaxel), and Provenge® (sipuleucel-T), the only FDA-approved treatments for castrate resistant prostate cancer with a proven survival benefit. "The appointment of these outstanding clinical investigators to the Bellicum CAB is a milestone event," said Kevin M. Slawin, M.D., President and Chief Medical Officer of Bellicum. "Their deep experience in clinical trial design and their track record for advancing the care of patients with prostate cancer is unparalleled."
Click here to read the PR Newswire announcement.

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FREE Prostate Cancer Screening event at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center sponsored by the Center for Screening at the Vanguard Urologic Institute

August 31, 2010

Prostate Cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in American men, who have about a 1 in 6 chance of being diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime. Like most other cancers, the key to the best treatment is early detection. The Center for Screening, Prevention, Detection, Surveillance and Minimally Invasive and Focal Therapies for Prostate Cancer (Center for Screening) at the Vanguard Urologic Institute will be sponsoring a FREE Prostate Cancer Screening event hosted at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center on Saturday, October 9th 2010 from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Men interested should contact Memorial Hermann at (713) 222-CARE.  Reservations are required and space is limited.
Click here to read the Memorial Hermann Prostate Cancer Screening announcement.

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Urology Program led by Dr. Kevin Slawin at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center Named One of Nation’s Best 3 Years in a Row

July 15, 2010

After an absence of several years, Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center returned to the “Top 50 Hospitals” rankings in the country for its urology program in the “America’s Top Hospitals” issue of U.S. News and World Report for the third consecutive year, after it entered into a strategic partnership with the Vanguard Urologic Institute, led by Dr. Kevin Slawin, who was appointed director of urology at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center in May of 2007. “Through the hard work of our Doctors, Vanguard and Memorial Hermann have been recognized for the excellence that we strive to achieve.” said Dr. Slawin. The Vanguard Urologic Institute is now part of an elite group of programs in the country who have achieved this recognition in this specialty, including other historically strong Urology services in the Texas Medical Center such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, and Texas Children’s Hospital.
Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio. Click here to read Memorial Hermann's Press Release.

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View a Webcast of Dr. Kevin Slawin's Recent Lecture at the European Association of Urology in Barcelona Spain Chronicling the Development of the [-2]proPSA Prostate Screening Test

May 29, 2010

View a Webcast of Dr. Kevin Slawin’s recent lecture at the European Association of Urology in Barcelona Spain chronicling the development of the [-2]proPSA prostate screening test, a product of work he initiated a decade ago (See February 9th and May 11th news items below). Pivotal trial results of the performance of the Beckman Coulter “Prostate Health Index”, based on this test, were presented at the American Urological Association meeting in San Francisco May 30 – June 3, 2010 (view 1st abstract, view 2nd abstract). The Vanguard Urologic Research Foundation was a key participant in these important studies currently under review by the FDA. For more coverage of this new test, visit http://prostatecancerinfolink.net/2010/04/20/coming-soon-beckman-coulters-prostate-health-index/

Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio. Click here to view the Video. back to top

VUI Partner Dr. Tung Shu to Lecture at BIT's 3rd World Cancer Congress 2010 in Singapore

May 26, 2010

Dr. Tung Shu, Director of Endourology & Minimally Invasive Surgery and Director of the Center for Kidney Health will be lecturing on urologic cancers for the BIT's 3rd World Cancer Congress 2010 at the Singapore EXPO in Singapore from June 22nd through the 25th. This year's theme will be Health Science without Borders.

Click here to read Dr. Tung Shu's bio. Official BIT World Cancer Congress website. back to top

New Prostate Cancer Screening Test Approved in Europe and Awaiting FDA Regulatory Determination in the U.S.

May 11, 2010

Prostate cancer remains the leading cancer diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer mortality in men in the United States. Despite these sobering statistics, and the common sense notion that earlier detection through prostate cancer screening can reduce these numbers, there remains significant controversy about the role prostate cancer screening should play in the management of this disease. At the root of this controversy is the use of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test in prostate cancer screening, which has been the mainstay of early detection programs since its development in the early 1990’s. When elevated, the PSA blood test signifies an abnormality in the prostate gland but it is not specific enough to differentiate prostate cancer from other benign problems in the prostate gland, including benign enlargement or inflammation. In order to determine the cause of the PSA elevation, a urologist must perform a prostate biopsy which, while safe, may sometimes lead to complications like infection.

Recently published randomized clinical trials have demonstrated this lack of specificity associated with PSA-based screening leads to some overdiagnosis and overtreatment for each life saved. Based on these findings, the American Cancer Society recently updated their screening recommendations cautioning against routine PSA-based screening without careful input from each patient’s physician, and the American Urologic Association, while reaffirming their support for PSA-based screening beginning at age 40, also emphasized the importance of an individualized approach directed by physicians. Despite these controversies, it is widely agreed that new screening tests that are more specific for identifying aggressive cancers would be a major advance in the field.  Over the past two decades, research into the molecular biology of PSA has led to advancements and new tests that have move the field closer to this goal.In 1998, based on a pivotal clinical trial performed by six leading investigators nationwide, including Kevin Slawin, M.D., director of the Vanguard Urologic Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, the FDA approved the “free PSA” test as a more specific way to differentiate between men with prostate cancer and those with a benign condition when the PSA blood test was modestly elevated. “The PSA test has evolved in the same way measuring cholesterol has,” says Dr. Slawin. “We used to evaluate cholesterol as a single level but now we look at the ratio of LDL (“bad cholesterol”) to HDL (“good cholesterol”) to predict the risk of heart disease. In a similar way, the “free” or “good” PSA in a ratio with the total PSA improved the specificity of PSA testing and reduced the risk of unnecessary biopsies in men with an elevated PSA.

However, over the next decade, through successful use of these tests in ferreting out many men with prostate cancer, the “free” PSA test has lost much of its ability to enhance the specificity of PSA based screening, leaving doctors back to the drawing board in searching for a better, more specific prostate cancer screening test.

Dr. Slawin, instrumental in performing the pivotal studies that led to FDA approval of the free PSA test, has now once again played a leading role in advancing the field of PSA and prostate cancer screening. In studies initiated in his laboratory and published back in 2000, he and his co-workers discovered two novel, disease specific forms of “free” PSA, BPSA or “benign” PSA associated with benign enlargement of the prostate, and [-2]proPSA, associated with prostate cancer. Now, after a decade of clinical development by Beckman Coulter, Inc., which licensed this technology, and after completing pivotal international clinical trials, has obtained regulatory approval for a new test, the “Prostate Health Index (phi)” in Europe and is awaiting a decision by the FDA for determination of this test in the United States. The results of these trials, to be presented at the Annual Urological Association meeting this spring, demonstrated that the “phi” improved the specificity of PSA by 3-fold for the detection of prostate cancer, fulfilling the call for more specific tests to screen and diagnose prostate cancer. Furthermore, researchers at Johns Hopkins recently reported that the phi could also help determine which cancers were the more aggressive needing treatment and which might be safely monitored.

‘It’s been gratifying to play a role in moving the field of prostate cancer screening and early detection forward over the years with focused research on the problem”, Dr. Slawin said. “I’m excited that work we began a decade ago is now finally achieving regulatory approval so that patients and physicians can benefit” he added. Dr. Slawin is continuing his work in advancing the field of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, and is a leader in robotic surgery for prostate cancer, and in developing protocols for active surveillance, focal therapy and other modalities of therapy including advance image guided radiation therapy, vaccine therapy, etc.
Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio. Click here to view the Video.

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A New Vaccine Technology Shows Promise in the Treatment of Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer

April 29, 2010

In a development likely to be viewed as a major milestone in the history of cancer therapy, the Food and Drug Administration on April 29, 2010 approved the first cancer vaccine, Provenge, developed by Dendreon Corp. for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. In clinical trials, it extended the lives of patients about four months compared with placebo, longer than the 2 to 3 month survival advantage gained using the only other approved therapy for these patients, docetaxel chemotherapy, but without the serious side effects including fatigue, hair loss and neuropathy associated with chemotherapy. One unusual aspect of treatment with Provenge that has generated controversy is that the vaccine doesn’t shrink tumors or change the PSA level in most patients, so while the vaccine extends survival, patients have no way of knowing whether the vaccine is working.

Now, researchers at the Vanguard Urologic Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center are conducting a trial to test an innovative vaccine product, BPX-101, that builds on this success but will hopefully lead to more effective, longer responses in patients while maintaining the safety and lack of side effects seen with Provenge.

BPX-101 is a novel cancer vaccine specifically designed to be “activated” precisely at the optimal time and location in the body through the administration of an activating agent
called AP1903. AP1903 acts as a molecular “key” that exactly fits a complementary molecular “switch” engineered into the cells comprising the vaccine product. AP1903 is
administered to patients once vaccinated cells have traveled to local lymph nodes, where activation leads to a potent immune response against the targeted cancer cells. BPX-101 is designed to be effective against a broad range of cancers, including prostate cancer.

Developed by Kevin Slawin, M.D., a nationally recognized expert in prostate disease and director of the Vanguard Urologic Institute, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine researcher David Spencer, Ph.D., the promising new therapy is mid-way through completion of the first-in-human Phase I-II clinical trial for patients with mCRPC, with the results recently reported in a Late-Breaking abstract session at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research held recently in Washington, D.C.

The trial was designed to establish the safety and maximum tolerated dose of BPX-101 in combination with activating agent AP1903, administered every other week for six doses. Exploratory efficacy endpoints include radiological and biochemical assessments of clinical response, and assessments of serum and biopsy samples for systemic and antigen-specific immunological responses.

Interim data from six subjects shows the combination of BPX-101, with no unexpected drug-related adverse events reported. Clinical responses, including shrinking tumors and reduced PSA levels, were evident within the first 12 weeks of treatment, in both low and mid dose cohorts.

The apparent dose-response correlation between clinical and immunological responses will be further investigated in six subjects now enrolling in the final, high dose cohort. “We are very excited and encouraged by this early data, which appears to contradict the prevailing belief that while cancer vaccines can prolong overall survival, they do not elicit measurable clinical or biomarker responses in the near term,” said Dr. Slawin. “We look forward to completing our trial later this year and initiating Phase II trials in 2011.”

All procedures are being conducted on an outpatient basis at the Memorial Hermann-TMC Clinical Research Unit under the auspices of The University of Texas Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences.

Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio. KPRC Local 2 News story. Houston Chronicle/NY Times story. KHOU Channel 11 News story.back to top

Dr. Tung Shu, Director of Endourology & Minimally Invasive Surgery and Director of the Center for Kidney Health at the Vanguard Urologic Institute presenting as the 2010 Herbert Seybold Lecturer in Urology at UTMB Galveston

April 29, 2010

Dr. Tung Shu, Director of Endourology & Minimally Invasive Surgery and Director of the Center for Kidney Health will be presenting as the 2010 Herbert Seybold Lecturer in Urology at annual meeting of the Singleton Surgical Society at UTMB Galveston on Friday, June 11th, 2010. This program will be held on campus in the Caduceus Room. Organized in April of 1953, the Singleton Surgery Society was established in honor of Albert Olin Singleton, Professor of Surgery from 1927 - 1947 at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Dr. Tung Shu is a renowned urologist with many subspecialties including treatment of the Prostate, Bladder and Kidneys. For additional information on Dr. Shu, you may read his bio below.

Click here to read Dr. Tung Shu's bio. back to top

VUI leader Dr. Kevin Slawin, Director of Urology at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center, Among Elite Group of Prostatectomy Experts in the Nation

February 15, 2010

A recent study published in The Journal of Urology suggests that prostate cancer patients treated by more experienced urologic surgeons achieve improved results.

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in American men, who have about a 1 in 6 chance of being diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime. Radical prostatectomy, performed either through a standard incision, or more recently through a robotic-assisted minimally invasive approach, is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon attempts to remove the cancer-containing prostate gland, without damaging the surrounding structures that control sexual and urinary function.

According to the study, “Low Annual Caseloads of United States Surgeons Conducting Radical Prostatectomy”, conducted by Caroline Savage and Andrew Vickers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a surgeon needs to have completed a minimum of 250 prostatectomies to reach the “learning curve plateau” at which point cancer cure is maximized and surgical complications minimized. After adjusting for tumor severity, a typical patient treated by a surgeon who reached the learning curve plateau had a 10.9% risk of recurrence at 5 years compared to 17.7% for those treated by a less experienced surgeon. Similarly, surgical complications were decreased by 20% in patients treated by the highest versus the lowest volume surgeons studied.

Furthermore, for the 75% of patients diagnosed today with cancers still confined to the prostate gland, the most highly experienced surgeons, those who had performed at least 1,500 prior surgeries, achieved recurrence rates of less than 1%, suggesting that recurrence is largely dependent on surgical technique.

Despite these findings, the study authors found that approximately 25 percent of United States surgeons performing radical prostatectomy surgery perform only a single procedure per year, while about 80 percent of surgeons performed fewer than 10 procedures per year. Nationally, only 1.8 percent of surgeons perform more than 50 prostatectomies per year. The study also concluded that most surgeons will never reach the key threshold of 250 radical prostatectomy cases in their surgical careers.

“Practice patterns in which the majority of prostate cancer patients undergoing surgery are treated by surgeons performing fewer than 10 procedures a year suggest that better results may be achievable for many of these men. The study provided data that supports what common sense suggests; that a more experienced surgeon will likely produce more positive results for patients undergoing a procedure as technically complex and challenging as radical prostatectomy,” said Kevin Slawin, M.D., director of urology at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and the Vanguard Urologic Institute.

In a February 13 article on the outcomes achievable with either open or robotic prostatectomy reported on the front page of the New York Times, respected NYT medical correspondent Gina Kolata suggested that experienced surgeons achieve the best outcomes regardless of the approach. However as Dr. Michael Barry, a professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital said in the article, “Everyone tends to cite data from centers of excellence as though they were their own,”. The handful of expert surgeons in both open and robotic prostatectomy quoted in the article had performed thousands, not tens or even hundreds, of operations.

During the course of his career, Dr. Slawin, a nationally renowned urologist and prostate specialist, has performed more than 1,700 prostatectomies, consistently averaging between 100 – 150 cases per year for more than a decade. This makes him a member of this small, select group of surgeons in the country that are true experts in the field.

Since joining Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in 2007, Dr. Slawin has continued his high volume practice in early stage prostate cancer, and has broadened his focus to patients with more advanced disease, spearheading the clinical development of a novel cancer vaccination technology for metastatic, castration resistant prostate cancer.

Just this month, Dr. Slawin was recognized as one of America's Top Doctors in Urology & Cancer for 2009 - 2010 by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. Dr. Slawin has consistently been recognized as one of America's Top Doctors for over a decade as a leader in his field.

Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio.back to top

Dr. Kevin Slawin to lecture at the European Association of Urology in Barcelona about a New Blood Test for the Screening and Detection of Prostate Cancer

February 9, 2009

Dr. Kevin Slawin, Director of the Vanguard Urologic Institute and the Texas Prostate Center will be presenting to the European Association of Urology at the Fira Gran Via Convention Centre in Barcelona on April 19th. His presentation, titled’ “Serum Prostate Health Index (phi) Significantly Increases Specificity when Selecting Men for Biopsy”, will review the discovery of molecular forms of free PSA associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and prostate cancer made in his laboratory, and their subsequent clinical development culminating in the new Prostate Health Index (phi), that incorporates -2proPSA, a novel form of free PSA, together with total PSA and free PSA, into a new index to identify men at higher risk of prostate cancer. The Prostate Health Index (phi) immunoassay is marketed by Beckman Coulter in Europe and is pending FDA review in the United States.

Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio.  Click here to view Event FlyerClick here to visit Beckman Coulter. Click here to view the Video.  Click here to visit the Vanguard Centers of Excellence.back to top

Dr. Kevin Slawin recognized as one of America's Top Doctor's in Urology & Cancer for 2009 - 2010 by Castle Connelly's established survey and research process

January 21, 2009

Dr. Kevin Slawin, Director of the Vanguard Urologic Institute was once again recognized as one of America's Top Doctors in Urology & Cancer for 2009 - 2010 by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a healthcare research and information company that has an established survey and research process, under the direction of an MD, involving tens of thousands of top doctors in America and the medical leadership of leading hospitals.

Dr. Slawin has consistently been recognized as one of America's Top Doctors for over a decade as a leader in his field.

Click here to read Dr. Kevin Slawin's bio. back to top

Dr. Tung Shu establishes the Center for Kidney Health at the Vanguard Urologic Institute

January 1, 2010

Dr. Tung Shu, Director of Endourology and Minimally Invasive Surgery, announces the establishment of the Center for Kidney Health. The Center for Kidney Health focuses on the management of kidney diseases/conditions such as benign and malignant kidney tumors, ureteral diseases (e.g. ureteropelvic junction obstruction and ureteral obstruction) and kidney stone management. The Kidney Cancer Program is an integrated, multidisciplinary team of specialists in urology, oncology, and radiology offering the highest standard of patient care and current treatment advances. Our comprehensive evaluation, personalized treatment and minimally invasive approach provide a seamless integration of medical care. Our Kidney Stone Management Program offers a multidisciplinary management approach to the treatment of kidney stones and is designed for all patients who suffer from renal stone disease. Dr. Shu sets a plan of long-term management for recovery and prevention designed to keep the patients free of future kidney stones.

Click here to read Dr. Tung Shu's bio.  Click here to visit the Vanguard Centers of Excellence.