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Veristat to Assist on Adaptive Enrichment Trial for Verastem’s Defactinib in Mesothelioma

Veristat, LLC., a leading, Boston-based clinical research organization, recently announced its advisory role on the implementation of an adaptive enrichment trial design for Verastem, Inc. (NASDAQ: VSTM). The enhanced design aims to optimize the current trial of defactinib, a novel, small molecule inhibitor of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

“We have identified a biomarker in mesothelioma that may predict increased sensitivity to defactinib,” said Dr. Joanna Horobin, Chief Medical Officer at Verastem. “We felt strongly that the application of an enrichment design would help us to accelerate the program to a potential regulatory decision. We are excited to have Veristat’s experience in enrichment trial design and execution supporting this trial.”

Veristat’s input on the overall trial design, as well as the adaptive enrichment design architecture and planned analyses will help facilitate decisions required at key development intersections of the program.

“The Verastem clinical development team has taken a dynamic approach to the design of this study,” commented Dr. John Balser, president and chief science officer at Veristat. “Our team at Veristat will be assisting them with the statistical and operational challenges inherent in the adaptive enrichment design architecture. Our goal is to produce a trial that will quickly and cost effectively yield the highest likelihood of success for their target patient population.”

Source: Veristat

AB SCIEX Proteomics Scientist Wins HUPO 2013 Science and Technology Award

The Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) recently awarded Christie Hunter, Ph.D, director of proteomics applications at AB SCIEX, its 2013 Science and Technology Award at an award ceremony during last week’s HUPO 2013 conference in Japan. Dr. Hunter was recognized for her contributions to the development and commercialization of a breakthrough approach for targeted proteomics. The analytical strategy of targeted proteomics was recently named “Method of the Year” by Nature Methods.

Targeted proteomics is a standardized, biological research workflow that focuses on reproducibly quantifying a specific subset of proteins within a sample. It generates data that is vital for biologists to answer hypothesis-driven, biological questions.

A decade ago, proteomics research was dominated by discovery workflows, which provided valuable information on a single sample but lacked the reproducibility to generate robust quantitation across a larger sample set. New innovation was needed at the time to move the field beyond simply producing large lists of identified proteins and toward providing highly quantitative answers.

This led to the development of a multiple reaction monitoring (MRM)-triggered, tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) workflow at AB SCIEX to rapidly create high sensitivity MRM assays to target peptides that are unique to their associated proteins. This workflow was made possible by the combination of triple quadrupole and linear ion trap functionality in a single system called the AB SCIEX QTRAP® System.

Dr. Hunter ‒ in collaboration with researcher Dr. Leigh Anderson, the founder of the Plasma Proteome Institute and head of SISCAPA Assay Technologies ‒ pioneered a workflow that applied MRM to the targeted quantification of proteins and peptides in plasma by mass spectrometry. In their initial publication[1], Dr. Hunter and Dr. Anderson demonstrated that a targeted workflow could be applied to multiplexed quantitation of proteins in human plasma with high reproducibility and high confidence in the results.

The impact of the paper resulted in broad adoption of the MRM technique around the world to accelerate the verification and validation of putative protein biomarkers, generating more than 800 citations, according to Google Scholar. Less than a decade after this important work, most proteomics laboratories today use a triple quadrupole-based mass spectrometer to perform MRM analysis.

“We congratulate Dr. Christie Hunter on receiving such a prestigious award from HUPO in recognition of her significant contributions to the rise of targeted proteomics as a viable technique to advance biomarker research,” said Dave Hicks, Vice President and General Manager of the Pharmaceutical and Academic Business at AB SCIEX.

“Dr. Hunter and her AB SCIEX colleagues continue to participate in exciting collaborations with leading proteomics researchers around the world to drive new innovations in software, chemistries and instrumentation that further expand quantitative proteomics workflows for the growing community of mass spectrometry users at large,” added Hicks.

Currently, Dr. Hunter is playing a pivotal role in the development of higher specificity workflows for targeted protein quantitation to overcome situations where sensitivity is limited by interferences or background. She is involved in the investigation of the utility of differential mobility separations for added selectivity of quantitation of peptides in complex mixtures. She is also working to enhance data-independent acquisition strategies, such as SWATHTM Acquisition, for quantitative proteomics to increase the multiplexing and reproducibility that can be achieved in a single experiment.

Source: AB SCIEX

Key Assay Development at HUPO

Proteome Sciences presented novel data and key assay developments at the HUPO 12th Annual World Congress in Japan covering Tau in Alzheimer’s disease, SysQuant® in pancreatic cancer and a missing isoform in sugar structures of clusterin, a plasma protein biomarker for Alzheimer’s in brain atrophy.

pTau

The new Tau phosphorylation assay (pTau SRM) demonstrated powerful sensitivity and reproductivity measuring Tau phosphorylation on human and mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease from a much smaller sample amount.

In a different application the pTau SRM was successfully used to determine the effect of Tau kinase inhibitors PS110 and PS278-05 on CK1d on the Tau protein in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. The results confirmed that Tau phosphorylation was reduced by the two compounds but not affected by the control substance.

SysQuant®

Over 5,000 different phosphorylation sites were quantified in tumour and healthy tissue in pancreas cancer with SysQuant®. In addition to major alterations in proteins related to cell morphology and motility, individual patterns of pathway activation were able to accurately predict the likelihood of tumour recurrence and to provide a truly personalised treatment regime.

Glycopreotomics

Novel data was presented that showed diagnostic changes in sugar structures attached to clusterin, a plasma marker for Alzheimer’s in brain atrophy. This revealed a unique isoform that lacked a specific branching pattern in patients with high levels of brain atrophy.

Commenting from Yokohama, Dr. Ian Pike, Chief Operating Officer, said: 

“We were delighted to be invited to the 12th HUPO congress to show results from the powerful biomarker services platform that we have developed from our TMT® mass tags for customers where we are at the forefront in proteomics. New assays for pTau and clusterin glycoprotein provide important additions to the range of assays and services that we offer our customers in Alzheimer’s The added power delivered by SysQuant® identifies thousands of phosphorylation sites across key signalling pathways that give clinicians the ability for the first time to provide real time patient management, in this case in pancreas cancer. These are exciting developments from proteomics that are fundamentally changing how clinicians identify and manage disease.”

Source: Proteome Sciences

Abcodia Licenses the ‘Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm’ (ROCA) Developed at Massachusetts General Hospital and Queen Mary, University of London

Abcodia, the biomarker validation company with a focus on screening for cancer, today announced that it has entered into an agreement for an exclusive world-wide commercial license to the Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm (ROCA) developed at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Queen Mary, University of London.

ROCA has the potential to be a major breakthrough for the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The diagnosis of ovarian cancer is usually made when the disease has spread outside the ovaries and as a result the outcome is poor. In the 80% of cases of ovarian cancer in which diagnosis occurs in the later stages, the 5-year survival rate is less than 20%. If diagnosed early, 5-year survival exceeds 85%. Hence the need for early diagnosis, in the hope that current treatments will be more effective. Around the world, an estimated 200,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in women each year and there are over 125,000 deaths.

ROCA is a test being validated for the screening of ovarian cancer. It was invented by Professor Ian Jacobs, Dean & Head School of Medicine, Faculty of Medical & Human Sciences, University of Manchester, and formerly of Queen Mary, University of London, and Dr Steven Skates of the Biostatistics Center, MGH, who together studied longitudinal patterns of CA125 in multiple cohorts of post-menopausal women to develop a statistical algorithm efficiently combining information in age and serial CA125 levels. ROCA has since shown excellent specificity, Positive Predictive Value (PPV) and sensitivity in large studies including UKCTOCS (UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening) and UKFOCSS (UK Familial Ovarian Cancer Screening Study).

A recent study by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in normal risk postmenopausal women reported a specificity of 99.9% and a PPV of 40% for ROCA when ultrasound was used as a secondary test. This confirms, in a USA population, results previously reported by the larger UKCTOCS trial involving 202,000 normal risk postmenopausal women. The published results from UKCTOCS2 indicate that, as well as achieving high specificity and PPV, ROCA can achieve a sensitivity of 89% for screen detection of ovarian cancer. UKCTOCS is a randomised trial comparing screening with standard care, and in 2015 will provide results on the impact of screening with ROCA on mortality and survival from ovarian cancer. The final data from UKCTOCS will be of great importance in guiding future clinical use of the ROCA in clinical practice.

Commenting on the recent MD Anderson publication, Professor Ian Jacobs, also Director of the UKCTOCS trial, said: “I am delighted to see the outcome of the MD Anderson 11 year study. The results reassuringly confirm in a USA setting those reported from the UKCTOCS prevalence study published in 2009. We now await further data from UKCTOCS in 2015 to establish whether the encouraging specificity and sensitivity data translate into improvements in survival and mortality which through early detection can help women affected by ovarian cancer.”

Dr Julie Barnes, Abcodia’s CEO, said: “The licensing of ROCA is a significant opportunity for Abcodia and we now intend to work with the co-founders to actively plan a commercialisation path that will in due course enable ROCA to be made available to women in Europe, US and around the world. We are currently in active discussions with partners in different territories to support our mission. Based on the reports to date, and in particular the sensitivity, specificity and PPV data, we will begin to explore ways in which the ROCA could be implemented in clinical practice. The eventual clinical use will of course be informed and guided by the outcome of UKCTOCS and other clinical trials.”

Source: Abcodia

Discovered a Genetic Biomarker that Detects Lewy Body Dementia

The Germans Trias i Pujol Health Sciences Research Institute (IGTP) and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) have discovered the first genetic biomarker to detect Lewy body dementia (LBD), a disease that can be confused with Alzheimer’s. This biomarker is found in 20% of cases and differentiates one of the sub-groups of the pathology. Licensed to the Grifols company, it will lead to more precise diagnosis and treatment.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms of both diseases are very similar, since in both cases there is a gradual deterioration in mental capacity, affecting memory, thought processes, behaviour and physical activity. These similarities mean that some patients with LBD are wrongly diagnosed and treated with the usual drugs for Alzheimer’s. But this treatment causes adverse reactions in approximately half of these patients, making the disease much worse in some cases.

Currently there is no specific test to diagnose LBD. In practice, various neurological and neuropsychological tests are used to detect the disease and its possible overlap with other disorders, but clinical diagnosis of LBD is not very accurate.

The research, conducted by the IGTP and the UAB, has led to the discovery of the first genetic biomarker, found in 20% of LBD cases, and differentiating between one sub-group of LBD and Alzheimer’s disease. “Although this marker only detects a certain number of LBD sufferers, it significantly increases diagnostic sensitivity to the disease and these patients can get an accurate diagnosis and therefore the right treatment”, explains Dr Katrin Beyer, head of the research project and belonging to the Group of Structural and Molecular Pathology, Department of Pathology at the Germans Trias Hospital and Institute.

The researchers first detected the marker through a study of post mortem brain samples, in which they observed an alteration in the expression of the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE) in the brains of patients with LBD. These data indicated that there could be genetic alterations in the BCHE gene promoter, causing changes in the expression of the gene. In fact, they found four polymorphisms in the LBD promoter region that, in certain combinations, are associated with LBD. These findings, which have been patented, make it possible to determine if a patient has LBD, distinguishing it from Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, the patent is in its last stage of validation, which is being carried out in collaboration with neurologists from the Neurodegenerative Disease Unit of the Germans Trias Hospital and Bellvitge Hospital.

The licensing agreement with the Grifols company means the results can be applied, thus providing a simple, rapid, and effective procedure for diagnosing LBD in hospitals. Moreover, the marker can also be used to design clinical studies to help identify groups of patients with a more accurate diagnosis, removing, for example, LBD cases from a group of Alzheimer’s patients.

Grifols is a global company that for over 70 years has been providing therapeutic treatments with plasmatic proteins, technology for clinical diagnosis and pharmaceutical products for hospital use. It is now the third worldwide producer of biological drugs derived from plasma, is present in over 100 countries and is a world leader in plasma supplies, with 150 blood donation centres in the United States.

Source: EurekAlert!