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Broad Institute and Bayer Join Forces to Develop Novel Treatment Options in Cancer Therapy

The Broad Institute has entered into a strategic alliance with Bayer Healthcare in the area of oncogenomics and drug discovery. The goal of this collaboration is to jointly discover and develop therapeutic agents that selectively target cancer genome alterations over a period of five years.

“We look forward to working together with our Bayer colleagues to translate scientific discoveries into novel cancer therapeutics,” said Professor Eric Lander, President and Director of Broad Institute. “The Broad’s deep expertise and knowledge in cancer genomics, chemical biology and drug discovery perfectly complement Bayer’s decades of experience in pharmaceutical development. We are thrilled to be working with Bayer in such a visionary collaboration.”

Oncogenomics is a promising field of oncology research that identifies and characterizes genes which are associated with cancer. Cancer is caused by the accumulation of DNA mutations which lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation and tumor formation. The goal of oncogenomics research is to identify new genes which, when mutated, stimulate or lose the ability to suppress tumor cell growth. These genes may provide new insights into cancer diagnosis, prediction of clinical outcomes, and new targets for cancer therapies. Targeting individual patient tumor mutations will allow for the development of more personalized cancer treatments.

“We are excited to collaborate with such a prestigious research institute as the Broad Institute which brings together researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the Harvard hospitals,” said Professor Andreas Busch, Head of Global Drug Discovery and Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer HealthCare. “The Broad Institute’s scientists have created impressive systematic catalogues of mutational changes across different types of tumors, laying a foundation for the development of new cancer therapies and diagnostics. The alliance is another significant step underlining our engagement in the field of oncology and personalized medicine.”

As part of the collaboration, the Broad Institute will share its oncogenomic expertise. Both parties will explore their compound libraries and use their screening platforms as well as medicinal chemistry expertise to benefit joint projects. The collaboration will be based on joint decision-making and the rights to the research findings are shared equally between the partners. Joint research and joint steering committees will be established for the initiation and selection of projects, and as governance structures. Bayer will have an option for an exclusive license for therapeutic agents at preclinical development stage. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Source: Broad Institute

Biomarker Identification May Lead to New Noninvasive Test for Colorectal Cancer Detection

The average 5-year survival for colorectal cancer (CRC) is less than 10% if metastasis occurs, but can reach 90% if detected early. A new non-invasive test has been developed that measures methylation of the SDC2 gene in tissues and blood sera. This test detected 87% of all stages of colorectal cancer cases (sensitivity) without significant difference between early and advanced stages, while correctly identifying 95% of disease-free patients (specificity). The results are published in the July issue of The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CRC is the second leading cancer killer in the US affecting both men and women. In 2009, close to 137,000 people in the US were diagnosed with CRC, with close to a 40% mortality rate.

There are other screening choices for CRC, including fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), fecal immunochemical testing, and colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is the gold standard of CRC screening, but patient resistance – mostly due to the unpleasant preparation – has curbed widespread adoption. FOBT is non-invasive but has limited sensitivity, particularly for early disease. A sensitive and specific non-invasive test using blood or stool could to be a more preferable option with the potential of saving many lives.

In their search for a biomarker that could be used for the early detection of CRC, investigators from Genomictree, Inc. and Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, performed DNA microarray analysis coupled with enriched methylated DNA using tissues from primary tumors and non-tumor tissues from 12 CRC patients. After step-wise filtering, they found a set of genes that were highly methylated across all of the CRC tumors. Ultimately they identified one gene, SDC2, which encodes the membrane syndecan-2 protein, a protein that is known to participate in cell proliferation, cell migration, and is expressed in colon mesenchymal cells. The methylation level of target region of SDC2 assessed in tumor tissue was found to be significantly higher than that from paired adjacent non-tumor tissue.

The next step was to clinically validate the biomarker by analyzing SDC2 methylation levels in primary tumors and paired-adjacent non-tumor tissue samples from 133 CRC patients. Investigators found that in the transcriptional regulatory region of the SDC2 gene, tumor samples showed significantly higher levels of methylation than the control samples. SDC2 methylation positivity ranged from 92.9% to 100% when samples were stratified according to stages of cancer.

Further, investigators found that the SDC2 biomarker could be measured in serum samples from CRC patients and healthy individuals. “The SDC2 methylation test was able to detect 92% for detection of stage I cancer patients indicating that SDC2 is suitable for early detection of CRC where therapeutic interventions have the greatest likelihood of curing the patient from the disease,” says first author TaeJeong Oh, PhD.

The authors suggest that the SDC2 methylation test they describe could possibly be used as an alternative to or in conjunction with colonoscopy. It could also be used to monitor cancer progression and treatment. Dr. Sungwhan An, corresponding author and CEO of Genomictree, Inc., commented: “We are very excited with this result using a small amount of serum DNA from less than 1ml of blood. I believe a greater volume of blood will further improve the clinical performance of this test. We are currently preparing another set of clinical validation studies evaluating SDC2 methylation in serum DNA from patients with early adenoma.” In future research the authors will explore whether this biomarker is specific to CRC or universal among other cancers.

Source: Gnome-Wide Identification and Validation of a Novel Methylation Biomarker, SDC2, for Blood-Based Detection of Colorectal Cancer

Source: EurekAlert!

Singapore Scientists Identify New Biomarker For Cancer In Bone Marrow

Singapore scientists have identified FAIM, a molecule that typically prevents cell death, as a potential biomarker to identify an incurable form of cancer in the bone marrow. Patients with this form of cancer usually do not get cured with current standard treatments such as chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation, with an average survival of only about four years. FAIM could thus be a therapeutic target in these patients, as drugs developed to target the molecule could destroy multiple myeloma cells and hence eradicate the cancer.

Metabolic Protein Launches Sugar Feast that Nurtures Brain Tumors

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have tracked down a cancer-promoting protein’s pathway into the cell nucleus and discovered how, once there, it fires up a glucose metabolism pathway on which brain tumors thrive.

They also found a vital spot along the protein’s journey that can be attacked with a type of drug not yet deployed against glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and lethal form of brain cancer. Published online by Nature Cell Biology, the paper further illuminates the importance of pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) in cancer development and progression.

Early Biomarker for Pancreatic Cancer Identified

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have identified a new biomarker and therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer, an often-fatal disease for which there is currently no reliable method for early detection or therapeutic intervention. The paper will be published May 15 in Cancer Research.