Front line of defense against prostate cancer

Berg Pharma pact with U.S. Department of Defense marries vast research resources with powerful data analysis platform

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ROCKVILLE, Md.—Biopharmaceutical company Berg Pharma hasannounced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) under acooperative research and development agreement with the Uniformed ServicesUniversity of the Health Sciences' Center for Prostate Disease Research (CPDR)and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military MedicineInc.
Berg will apply its Interrogative Biology discovery platformto the DoD's vast clinical records, specifically the CPDR's extensive libraryof prostate cancer data. The CPDR has 27,000 clinically annotated records ofprostate cancer patients within the military healthcare system dating back tothe 1980s. The DoD's records are rare in their longitudinal nature andcomprehensiveness; they contain samples of both cancerous and healthy tissuefrom the same patients along with serum and blood samples spanning threedecades, making them perhaps the world's most valuable sample set in prostatecancer.
Berg's Interrogative Biology platform uses systems biologyand big data to establish linkages among multiple datasets that include notonly genomes, but also proteomes, metabolomes and lipidomes. The platformcompares these "-omes" among cells in healthy as well as diseased states in thehopes of identifying outliers that represent the signatures of prostate cancerprocesses in cells. The platform integrates molecular data directly from apatient with clinical and demographic information and uses artificial intelligenceto learn predictive patterns.
Currently, the medical community has the greatest unmet needin prostate cancer for men who test in a "gray area" of the commonly usedGleason test—with a Gleason score of 5 to 7—where it may be difficult forphysicians to determine whether these patients need to be treated immediatelyor may simply be monitored closely. Often times, men with Gleason scores inthis range may be encouraged to choose treatment out of an abundance ofcaution, but in some cases treatment may ultimately be unnecessary.
The goal of applying the Interrogative Biology platform tothe CPDR's vast stores of data is to identify a better, more predictivebiomarker set to diagnose prostate cancer and follow patients at the greatestrisk of becoming ill.
"Together, we have the potential to change the meaning of aprostate cancer diagnosis—and hopefully, prognosis," said Niven R. Narain,president and chief technology officer of Berg, in a media statement announcingthe collaboration.
The partnership developed after both organizations attendeda cancer conference and began informal discussions. The DoD invited Berg topresent about their work and their Interrogative Biology platform. Berg hadalready used their platform to identify two novel markers in prostate cancer,which helped to earn them the partnership. Berg now hopes to be able use theDoD's approximately 7,000 serum samples to validate these markers.
"This relationship underscores how government and industrycan work together and use their synergy to tackle one of our most importanthealth crises," says Narain.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-cutaneouscancer among men, with nearly a quarter of a million cases diagnosed in theUnited States in 2012. It is also the second most common cause of cancer deathamong U.S. men, with approximately 28,000 prostate cancer deaths in 2012.Population disparities have been well recognized in prostate cancer, with CPDRconducting a considerable share of the health disparity research.
"In light of predicted change in the ethnic landscape of theUnited States, it is important to define biomarkers that perform equally wellin all ethnic groups," says Gwendolyn Smalls, director of media affairs at theUniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. 
Berg is the parent company to Berg Pharma, Berg Biosystemsand Berg Diagnostics. The company has a deep pipeline of early-stagetechnologies in CNS diseases and metabolic diseases that complement itslate-stage clinical trial activity in cancer and prevention of chemotoxicity.Berg's discovery platform translates biological output into viable therapeuticsand a robust biomarker library.
The Uniformed Services University's Center for ProstateDisease Research is a state-of-the-art translational research program thatstudies prostate cancer and prostate disease in the military healthcare system.Since its inception in 1992, the center has developed a comprehensive prostatecancer database within the DoD, a leading prostate cancer research centercredited with groundbreaking discoveries and a prostate cancer clinical trialscenter at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The CPDR is a programof the Department of Surgery at USU and is administered by the Henry M. JacksonFoundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine Inc.

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