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Exiqon Presents Data from Colon Cancer Biomarker Study

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Exiqon last week released data from a clinical study showing that its locked nucleic acid technology could be used to detect a microRNA biomarker for colon cancer survival.

In collaboration with Denmark's Vejle Hospital, the company analyzed levels of miR-21 in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples from 711 stage II colon cancer patients using its LNA in situ hybridization technology.

The six-year study showed that among the 33 percent of patients with the highest miRNA-21 levels, only 75 percent survived four years after surgery, whereas the same rate was 88 percent among the 33 percent of patients with the lowest miRNA-21 levels. For the medium group, 82 percent survived four years after surgery, Exiqon said.

The study followed another, published in Clinical and Experimental Metastasis in 2010, which showed that high levels of miR-21 were associated with short disease-free survival in stage II colon cancer patients.

“This is not only our second study documenting the prognostic value of microRNA-21 in stage II colon cancer, it is also to the best of my knowledge the biggest validation study ever conducted on microRNAs, demonstrating that microRNAs hold great promise as a novel group of biomarkers,” Exiqon President and CEO Lars Kongsbak said in a statement. “We are now in the process of identifying a commercial partner who can help us effectively market the product.”

Exiqon has long aimed at introducing miRNA-based cancer diagnostics. While it had intended to approach the market itself, paying $45 million in 2007 to acquire molecular oncology testing services company Oncotech (GSN 11/29/2007), it later divested the lab and said it would only commercialize such tests with a partner.

Earlier this year, the company said it could have as many as three miRNA tests on the market within two years if it inks partnerships (GSN 3/8/2012).

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