Changing the game

SAIC-Frederick, Biomatrica launch partnership focused on improving molecular analysis in cancer research

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FREDERICK, Md.—SAIC-Frederick Inc. and San Diego-based biostability company Biomatrica have launched a collaboration targeted at improving the molecular analysis of tumors in cancer research, and ultimately aimed at designing the next generation of therapies tailored to the characterizations of the patient and the tumor.

This kind of personalized treatment modality is expected to deliver the most effective medicine to the patient more quickly—and with better results, the companies say.

The collaboration, announced May 31, was developed under the Advanced Technology Partnerships Initiative (ATPI) of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). SAIC-Frederick is the operations and technical support contractor for the NCI's federal national laboratory in Frederick and facilitates partnerships for the ATPI, which aims to move basic research findings more rapidly into the clinic.

In this role, scientists at SAIC-Frederick have been carrying out detailed molecular analysis of samples from both experimental animal models and human samples in CLIA-certified laboratories, says Frank Blanchard, director of public affairs for SAIC-Frederick.

Under the collaboration, SAIC-Frederick researchers at the Laboratory Animal Sciences Program will explore integration of proprietary reagents from Biomatrica into molecular pathology workflows, with the objective being to streamline processes while increasing efficiency and integrity of RNA isolated from histological samples in cancer studies.

Each entity has had its well-defined responsibilities in the agreement. Biomatrica's role is to develop the formulation/stabilizer to enhance nucleic acid quality preservation in cancer research workflow—nucleic acid isolation, preservation and analysis. SAIC-Frederick's Laboratory Animal Sciences Program will be testing the proof-of-concept application of Biomatrica reagents in new molecular pathology workflows, Blanchard says. In particular, testing will be carried out to determine whether the Biomatrica reagents can extend the useful life of tissue sections being dissected during histopathological analysis.

"Of keen interest is the quality of the nucleic acid—both RNA and DNA—that is recovered from the dissected samples, and a determination if the nucleic acid is of sufficient quality to perform detailed molecular analysis such as microarray analysis, next-generation sequencing and PCR," Blanchard says.

This collaboration could prove to be a game-changer in cancer research, the companies say. Preserving nucleic acids, particularly RNA, is important for correlating histology of tumor tissues and molecular analysis. Traditional methods for preserving these nucleic acids are not well-adapted to the clinical setting, they point out, so their usefulness in research has until now been limited.

Microdissection of tissue or tumors under conditions that leave molecular signatures and profiles intact for subsequent analysis is a slow and tedious procedure that requires maintenance of the sample at ultralow temperatures, as Blanchard points out. If methodologies could be developed that allow microdissection to be carried out at room temperature, the procedure could be transitioned to a higher-throughput procedure that requires less infrastructure and costs less.

"Success under this collaboration will help meet the continuing demand for nucleic acid from relevant subsections of tissues for the ever-growing number of molecular analyses aimed at developing personalized treatments for cancer," Blanchard adds.

Conventional RNA isolation from histological samples is typically a low-throughput operation that requires considerable infrastructure and can be too expensive for large-scale studies, adds Biomatrica spokesman Omoshile Clement.

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