Life Technologies, TGen and US Oncology partner on “groundbreaking” breast cancer sequencing research

Life Technologies partners with TGen and US Oncology to sequence the genomes of 14 patients to demonstrate whether genomic sequencing of cancer tissue can provide clues for treatment strategies

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CARLSBAD, Calif.—In what is reportedly a first-of-its-kind project that "will sequence difficult breast cancers to provide insight into treatment strategies," Life Technologies Corp. is partnering with Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Woodlands, Texas-based US Oncology to sequence the genomes of 14 patients.

Each of the patients to be sequenced is afflicted with triple negative breast cancer in which the tumors have progressed despite multiple other therapies. Triple negative tumors, which make up nearly 20 percent of breast cancers, do not respond to treatment with common targeted breast cancer therapies such as Herceptin. The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to demonstrate whether genomic sequencing of cancer tissue can provide clues for treatment strategies for such patients.

The partners note that although genomic sequencing has been a trailblazing capability that has helped researchers make "great strides in understanding human disease," its clinical utility is not fully known, they point out.

The deal between the three entities will bring together "the accuracy of the Applied Biosystems SOLiD System, with US Oncology's expertise in cancer trials and TGen's Cancer Genome and Oncology programs, to provide additional information for oncologists and their patients."

"This study could provide insight into how cancers can be potentially treated in the future," says Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, physician-in-chief and senior investigator for TGen and chief scientific officer for US Oncology and Scottsdale Healthcare's Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center. "Current clinical trials are aimed at showing how one new drug can be safe and effective across hundreds of people."

In contract, this work between Life Technologies, US Oncology and TGen "flips that concept by using sequencing data from one individual to evaluate which anti-cancer drugs could be most effective based on normal and tumor genetic makeup," Von Hoff says. "This is truly the definition of genomic medicine."

In this collaboration, US Oncology will help enroll patients in the study to have both tumor and healthy tissue sequenced using the SOLiD system to identify mutations, which will be validated by CLIA-certified Caris Life Sciences. Scientists and oncologists will then leverage this information to more intelligently evaluate potential therapies that target the affected pathways responsible for the cancer.

"Metastatic triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive cancer for which few effective therapies exist," notes Dr. Joyce O'Shaughnessy, co-chair of the US Oncology Breast Cancer Research Committee and associate director for US Oncology clinical research. "US Oncology has conducted a number of clinical trials aimed at advancing the biologic understanding and therapeutic efficacy for these patients, and we are very excited to have the opportunity to fully sequence patients' triple negative breast cancers towards these ends."

Scientists from TGen and Life Technologies also will collaborate in the development of novel computational and informatics software that is expected to "pave the way for the use of whole genomic sequencing data for querying, identifying and interpreting mutations to provide for more effective therapeutic decisions," according to Mark Stevenson, president and chief operating officer for Life Technologies.

"Life Technologies' highly accurate SOLiD system is the appropriate tool to carry out this type of study," says Stevenson. "With an accuracy greater than 99.94 percent, we will be confident that any differences between the tumor DNA and DNA from healthy tissue will be the result of mutations as opposed to errors introduced in the sequencing itself."

As Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent, president and research director of TGen points out, our ability to best diagnose, treat and ideally cure disease in the 21st century will depend understanding the genetic cause of disease and having the ability to translate such information into new diagnostic tests, therapeutic agents and treatment strategies. And this partnership, the collaborators maintain, goes a long way toward touching on all those concerns.

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