Bringing it back home

Affymetrix extends Collaborations in Cancer Research Program to North American region

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Roughly a year after launching its Collaborations in Cancer Research Program (CCRP) in Europe, Affymetrix Inc. recently extended CCRP into North America, forming an alliance between Affymetrix and 25 leading cancer researchers in the region. All of the researchers in the program are using Affymetrix's integrated genomics solution to accelerate research on more than 10 types of cancer.

"Using Affymetrix technology, for the first time these scientists can study six genomic parameters: gene expression, alternative splicing, exon expression, copy number, LOH and allele-specific copy number," notes Ruby Gadelrab, senior market development manager at Affymetrix and director of CCRP. "With the Affymetrix integrated genomics solution, a single cancer sample can be studied on just two Affymetrix arrays."

Affymetrix's integrated genomics solution combines copy number data from the SNP Array 6.0 and expression information from the Human Exon 1.0 ST Array and provides researchers with a deeper understanding of the cancer genome, she adds.

CCRP participants were selected based on past contributions to their respective fields and their potential to make significant advancements in cancer research. The expansion builds on the success of the European CCRP, Affymetrix reports, which also involves 25 partners.

"Several of our European collaborators are close to publication and we look forward to showcasing their results when they become available," Gadelrab says.

The integrated genomics approach used in CCRP should accelerate the discovery and validation of candidate genes associated with the disease, Affymetrix predicts, and a better understanding of the molecular basis of cancer should enable researchers to develop more effective, personalized treatments for a disease that reportedly costs Americans more than $72 billion a year. It can also help refine population-specific work.

"The genomics of cancer disparities among racial minorities is a rapidly evolving field," says Dr. Norman H. Lee, professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at George Washington University Medical Center. "We are excited to be partnering with Affymetrix to identify and investigate new molecular targets as a prelude to reduce cancer health disparities."

"The continued advancement of microarray technologies has enabled characterization of the cancer genome in unprecedented detail," adds William M. Lin, computational biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the Yale University School of Medicine. "While this development simultaneously presents new challenges, working with these tools at the forefront of discovery is an exciting opportunity to better understand tumor biology and improve clinical cancer care."

Initial data from the studies is expected to be released in the next three to six months. As part of the program, Affymetrix is partially funding selected research projects that demonstrate clinical utility, in addition to helping participants obtain tools and training, and providing forums where investigators can exchange knowledge and share best practices. Later this year, Affymetrix will also expand CCRP into the Asia-Pacific region.

"We see a lot of potential in Asia-Pacific," Gadelrab says. "The World Bank reported in 2007 that pollution, especially in large Chinese cities, is leading to higher incidences of lung diseases, including cancer. The World Health Organization reports that cancer is the second largest cause of death after cardiovascular disease, in countries in 'transition' or middle-income countries, such as [those in] in Asia. Given this, we expect to see strong interest particularly in China."

She adds that Affymetrix is "actively gauging" interest from other regions for participation in CCRP.

"Our aim is to accelerate cancer research by providing scientists the most comprehensive view of the cancer genome, enabling them to focus their discovery, accurately identify candidate genes and accelerate their validation," Gadelrab says.

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