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Transgenomic, MD Anderson to Evaluate Ice Cold-PCR for CTC Mutation Detection

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Transgenomic and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have initiated a collaboration to evaluate Transgenomic's mutation detection technology in cancer patients, Transgenomic said this week.

Specifically, the groups will evaluate Transgenomic's "improved and complete enrichment coamplification at lower denaturation temperature," or Ice Cold-PCR, technology to analyze DNA isolated from circulating tumor cells in blood samples from patients with advanced cancer.

The study will be supervised jointly by Filip Janku, assistant professor of investigational cancer therapeutics at MD Anderson; and by Katherine Richardson, vice president of R&D, and Marcia Lewis, vice president of biomarker development, at Transgenomic.

Janku's research interest at MD Anderson is understanding the effectiveness of targeted therapies as cancer treatments, specifically those that block mutated proteins in tumor cells, switching off key tumor growth pathways. Selecting the correct pathway-blocking drugs requires knowledge about the DNA mutations in tumor cells.

One way to do this is to isolate circulating tumor cells from a cancer patient's blood sample and analyze the cells for biomarkers. However, CTCs are extremely rare in blood and difficult to analyze using traditional genomic methods, Transgenomic said.

The company's Ice Cold-PCR technology can enrich very low levels of mutant DNA in order to detect these mutations, according to the company. As such, the collaborators will attempt to use the technique to determine the presence or absence of biomarkers before, during, and after targeted therapy, which could guide a clinician on the effectiveness of specific cancer treatments, cancer relapse, or the appearance of new mutations that cause new drug resistance in a patient’s cancer, Transgenomic said.

Based in Omaha, Neb., Transgenomic originally licensed exclusive rights to the Cold-PCR technology — an early generation of the Ice Cold-PCR tech — from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in October 2009. The company expanded its license to include Ice Cold-PCR last March (PCR Insider, 3/17/2011).

The license also allows the company and its customers to exclusively analyze Cold-PCR and Ice Cold-PCR products by pyrosequencing, Sanger sequencing, and mitochondrial DNA analysis.

In November, Transgenomic said that it had signed a worldwide collaboration and distribution agreement with Paris-based ScreenCell covering that company's isolation devices and dilution buffers for collecting CTCs in peripheral blood (PCR Insider, 11/10/2012).

Transgenomic is exclusively distributing ScreenCell's technologies in combination with its own Blocker-Sequencing cancer mutation assays, Surveyor Scan cancer mutation kits, and Wave instrument systems; and said it would eventually combine the technology with Ice Cold-PCR assays.

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