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UPDATE: Veridex, Mass General to Develop Platform for Circulating Tumor Cells

The story has been updated to include additional information.

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Veridex today announced a collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital to develop a circulating tumor cell technology for capturing, counting, and characterizing tumor cells from patient blood samples.

The partners will develop a bench-top platform to isolate and explore the biology of rare cells at the protein, RNA, and DNA levels, they said in a statement, adding they expect the system to be used by oncologists as a diagnostic tool for personalizing care and by researchers "to accelerate and improve the process of drug discovery and development."

The partnership also involves Ortho Biotech Oncology Research & Development, a unit of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Veridex also is a J&J company.

The alliance combines Mass General's experience in clinical research and novel CTC technologies with Veridex's experience as the only diagnostic company to launch a US Food and Drug Administration-cleared in vitro assay for capturing and counting tumor cells in blood. It also will leverage Ortho's expertise in oncology therapeutics, biomarkers, and companion diagnostics.

Veridex noted that it launched the first commercial CTC test in 2004.

Clinical validation and regulatory submissions for diagnostic applications stemming from the new technology will be managed by Veridex. Further terms of the alliance with Mass General were not disclosed.

In a separate statement, Mass General said that its researchers have already developed a microfluidic chip that can capture CTCs with a "high rate of efficiency."

The hospital will be testing that technology in collaboration with researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Mass General confirmed.

The effort is part of Stand Up to Cancer, an initiative launched in 2008 to progress cancer research. According to the vice chairman of its scientific advisory committee, Arnold Levine, the study by the four centers will initially target lung cancer and prostate cancer, with other cancers to be decided by the individual centers.

The technology being developed with Veridex, however, will be based on a new technology platform and "will aim for even higher sensitivity, as well as suitability for broad applications and ready dissemination," Mass General said.

In the hospital's statement, Mehmet Toner, director of the Mass General's BioMicroElectroMechanical SystemsResource Center, said that the deal with Veridex will be directed at bringing new technology developed at Mass General from its current very early stage "through prototype and scale-up, to our ultimate goals of FDA approval and clinical adoption. Our innovation team will be dedicated to developing this technology from its basic scientific principles all the way to initial prototyping within the biological research and clinical environments."

Nicholas Dracopoli, vice president of biomarkers for Ortho Biotech Oncology Research & Development, added in Veridex's statement, "The role of CTCs in drug discovery and development is growing as new technologies allow us to use CTCs for the first time as templates for novel DNA, RNA, and protein biomarkers. Given the demand for actionable data to guide personalized medicine for patients with cancer, there is a rapidly growing need for advanced, automated non-invasive technologies that can aid in selection of treatment and monitor response throughout the course of their disease."