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OncoTrack Launches Search for Novel Genomic Cancer Diagnostics

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A new European consortium called OncoTrack has just launched one of Europe’s largest collaborative academic-industry research projects to develop and assess novel approaches for the identification of new biomarkers for colon cancer. The five year project, Methods for systematic next generation oncology biomarker development, brings together top European academic researchers with a wide range of expertise and partners them with pharmaceutical companies.

With the inherent heterogeneity of most tumors, targeted therapies typically only help a sub-population of patients. The challenge for clinicians to accurately diagnose tumor type and stage are further compounded by the need to predict therapeutic response. Tumor-specific biomarkers are recognized as a key factor in improving diagnosis, refining the selection of therapies and tracking the response of patients during treatment. Thus, a prerequisite for the broad application of modern targeted therapies is a more sensitive, reproducible and systematic approach to the discovery and quantification of biomarkers reflecting neoplastic disease status and their downstream translation into clinically useful diagnostic methods.

The international consortium of over 60 scientists is managed by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. The objective of OncoTrack is to establish new methods for systematic next generation oncology biomarker development. The consortium’s initial project is focused on colon cancer. The group intends to generate high quality genomic and epigenetic sequence data from clinically well-defined tumors and their metastases, and compare these to the germline genome of the patients. The data will be complemented by a detailed molecular characterization of the tumors. At the same time, the consortium plans to establish and characterize a series of xenograft tumor models and cell lines derived from the same set of tumors, which will support tumor biology research as well as the early stages of biomarker identification.

According to Dr. David Henderson, Principal Scientist in Translational Sciences at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, and Coordinator of the OncoTrack consortium:

OncoTrack is a prime example of the manner in which Public-Private Partnerships are breaking new ground in collaborative research involving academic and industrial partners. We have assembled a team of clinicians, molecular scientists, bioinformaticians and associated experts; thus creating a Europe-wide network of complementary capabilities extending far beyond the scope of a traditional ‘one-on-one’ industry-academic collaboration. The joint efforts of this consortium will generate the critical mass required to tackle the complex task of using large-scale genomic analysis as a basis for rational selection of novel cancer biomarkers.

Commercial participants in the colon cancer project include AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Merck, Pfizer and Roche Diagnostics. Their in-kind contributions to the project are matched by funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative, Europe’s largest public-private partnership between the European Union and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), resulting in a budget of €25.8 million.

Academic partners include the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (Germany); Uppsala University (Sweden); University College London (UK); Paris South University (France); Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany); Medizinische Universität Graz (Austria); and Technische Universität Dresden (Germany).

Additional members of OncoTrack include the International Prevention Research Institute (France), Experimental Pharmacology and Oncology (Germany), and Alacris Theranostics (Germany). SME GABO:mi in Germany will manage the multi-national project.

Source: OncoTrack