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London Genetics, Astrimmune to Seek PGx Markers for Investigational Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine

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After observing differential response rates in clinical studies involving gastrin-blocking treatments, Astrimmune has decided to work with London Genetics to identify pharmacogenomic response markers to personalize a pancreatic cancer vaccine.

A grant from the UK's East Midlands Development Agency will support the biomarker discovery collaboration between London Genetics and Astrimmune, announced this week. The amount of the grant was not announced.

According to a statement from the collaborators, Astrimmune's pancreatic cancer vaccine, in early-stage development, spurs the production of antibodies against gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the growth of gastrointestinal cancer cells.

"Since differential response rates have been observed in clinical trials of other gastrin-blocking products, with some patients responding very well and others hardly at all, there is a clear need for biomarkers to help identify those patients most likely to benefit from Astrimmune’s product," the companies said in a statement. "There is a possibility that the variable response rates may have been due in part to the inclusion of some patients with gastrin-insensitive tumors, or those not able to respond immunologically."

There is an unmet medical need for personalized treatment strategies in pancreatic cancer, since the five-year survival rate for patients with the disease is around 5 percent, and patients have few treatment options. London Genetics and Astrimmune said they planned to put together a proposal outlining their plan for the identification of predictive biomarkers.

In conducting this research, pharmacogenomics service provider London Genetics noted that it would be able to draw on its seven academic partners to provide expertise in tumor biopsy samples, animal models, and the genetics of immune responses to cancer vaccines. Additionally, through the collaboration, Astrimmune will have access to London Genetics’ network of more than 3,000 investigators to help carry out the biomarker identification study.

Last month, London Genetics announced a partnership with the personalized medicine consultancy Diaceutics to develop software tools that will allow drug firms, like Astrimmune, to access data and samples from academic research groups (PGx Reporter 09/15/10). The software, slated for launch next year, will allow researchers to build biomarker hypotheses, request expressions of interests for patient samples, and prepare proposals for clinical development.

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