Originally published Aug. 2.
By Turna Ray
Agendia has joined several European clinical centers and translational research groups to launch two consortia with the aim of advancing individualized treatments for breast and colon cancer.
The two efforts — Rational Therapy for Breast Cancer, or RATHER, and the Colon Cancer and Therapeutics, or COLTHERES — together have received nearly €12 million ($17 million) in funding from the European Union’s 7th Framework Program. In these projects, Agendia will develop molecular diagnostics that will help inform personalized treatment approaches. The company has received $1.8 million for this task.
RATHER is a five-year effort to identify targeted therapies for triple-negative and lobular breast cancers with the help of molecular diagnostics. Researchers in this consortium, affiliated with Agendia, OncoMark, Lund University, Institut Curie, and five other organizations, will analyze 300 clinical samples from patients with these diseases using a number of technology platforms in order to characterize "the fundamental differences between normal and diseased breast tissue." In particular, the researchers hope to pinpoint kinase alterations that are drivers of disease and identify treatments that inhibit these kinases.
"Two patients might exhibit different kinase alterations, and so respond to different kinase inhibitor drugs," the consortium states on its website. "RATHER will address this issue by developing molecular diagnostic tests to accompany the alterations that we target. These tests will allow us to establish the particular alteration(s) a patient exhibits, and therefore allow us to choose appropriate therapies for that patient."
COLTHERES, a four-year project involving researchers from Agendia, the University of Torino, University Hospital Leuven, Horizon Discovery UK, and several other organizations, is focused on identifying biomarkers of response or resistance to targeted therapeutics in colon cancer.
The consortium model is expected to enable "rapid translation of results from research and discovery into a clinical setting that benefits patients." Rene Bernards, Agendia's chief scientific officer, said in a statement.
Agendia markets molecular diagnostics for breast and colon cancer, called MammaPrint and ColoPrint, respectively. These tests gauge patients' risk of breast and colon cancer recurrence. In its Symphony suite of breast cancer diagnostic products, Agendia markets MammaPrint as well as the molecular subtyping assay BluePrint, the ER/PR/HER2 expression assay TargetPrint, and the therapy selection assay TheraPrint.
Agendia may develop new breast and colon cancer tests through its involvement in the RATHER and the COLTHERES projects. "We expect the tests to be developed based on Agendia’s existing platforms but we can’t rule out the possibility that new arrays could arise," the Agendia spokesperson said. All of Agendia's tests are currently based on Agilent microarrays.
The spokesperson cited European Union funding for RATHER and COLTHERES as examples of increased interest in companion diagnostic development within the European Union and the 7th Framework. However, "there is little payor involvement in these programs, which is a pity as this hampers the ultimate clinical adoption of companion diagnostics," the spokesperson added.
The 7th Framework Program in May awarded $19.1 million for a four-year project called P-Medicine, in which 19 partners from nine European countries and Japan aim to create new infrastructure for integrating and sharing clinical trial data in order to discover new personalized medicine strategies. Under this project, BioVista received $500,000 to apply its Clinical Outcomes Search Space platform to identify subpopulations of cancer patients that will respond to various treatments (PGx Reporter 05/11/2011).
Outside of its involvement in RATHER and COLTHERES, Agendia-developed tests are also being studied in the ISPY-2 and MINDACT trials.
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