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OncoTrack Consortium Launches $35.6M Colon Cancer Initiative

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – OncoTrack, a new international consortium of academic researchers, pharmaceutical firms, and commercial partners, launched today with a five-year, €25.8 million ($35.6 million) project to develop and assess new biomarkers for colon cancer.

OncoTrack was founded to create next-generation methods of biomarker development to bring personalized medicine to the treatment and management of cancer. The consortium is spearheaded by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics.
The consortium's first project is directed at colon cancer. In the project, called "Methods for systematic next-generation oncology biomarker development," members of OncoTrack, which includes more than 60 scientists, will seek to generate high-quality genomic and epigenetic data from clinically well-defined colon cancer tumors and their metastases.

They will then compare the data to the germline genome of the patients. The data will be complemented by a detailed molecular characterization of the tumors, and OncoTrack will establish and characterize a new series of xenograft tumor models and cell lines derived from the same set of tumors in order to support tumor biology research and the early stages of biomarker qualification.

"The combined data from all phases of the project will allow OncoTrack to address fundamental questions regarding the relationship between tumor genotype and phenotype, thus providing the starting point for discovery and selection of suitable candidates for development as biomarkers of colon cancer," OncoTrack said in a statement.

Participants in the colon cancer project include AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Merck, Pfizer, and Roche Diagnostics. Their in-kind contributions along with funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative — a private-public partnership between the pharmaceutical industry and the European Union — bring the total budget for the project to €25.8 million.

Academic partners in the effort include the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics; Uppsala University; University College London; Paris South University; Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin; Medizinische Universität Graz; and Technische Universität Dresden.

International Prevention Research Institute, Experimental Pharmacology and Oncology, and Alacris Theranostics also are members of OncoTrack. SME GABO:mi in Germany will manage the project.

"OncoTrack is a prime example of the manner in which public-private partnerships are breaking new ground in collaborative research involving academic and industrial partners," said David Henderson, principal scientist in translational sciences at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. "The joint efforts of this consortium will generate the critical mass required to tackle the complex task of using large-scale genomic analysis as a basis for rational selection of novel cancer biomarkers."