PALO ALTO, Calif.—Target Discovery Inc. recently announced a collaboration with the Virginia Prostate Center at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., to develop clinical assays for prostate cancer that will provide critical information on tumor aggressiveness and help guide clinicians and patients toward appropriate course of treatment. The proteomics-based techniques are also expected to have an impact on refining drug discovery efforts and perhaps reducing drug candidate failure rates, according to Jeffrey N. Peterson, CEO of Target Discovery.
Genomics and proteomics has been something of a roller coaster ride for drug discovery, Peterson notes, with early euphoria at the beginning of the '90s leading to a realization in the mid-'90s that if the industry wanted to do more than "pick the low-lying fruit," it would have to move to functional genomics. Then the late 90s brought a focus on protein expression when even functional genomics didn't bring all the answers researchers were seeking. And even with emerging platforms and techniques to better use proteomics, there has been a lot of disappointment with the end results, Peterson says, which has led to a further realization in the past couple years that it is at the isoform level where, as he puts it, "the rubber really hits the road with actual biological function and utility in terms of the role of a protein turning on or off a pathway."
Although his company's current effort is focused on clinical diagnostics, Peterson believes the basic technology will ultimately help inform drug discovery researchers by giving them more understanding of isoform-level protein effects in humans and helping them to validate targets going into preclinical work and do more effective toxicology screening.
"Being specific to the isoform level will be a terrific boon to that kind of work, not only in prostate cancer but across the board for diseases and treatments," Peterson says. "It will also be very important in moving toward personalized medicine approaches."
The first phase of the study involves validating protein isoform biomarkers using Target Discovery's patented mass defect technology. Target Discovery will then integrate validated protein isoform biomarkers into its proprietary Isonostics clinical platform. Eastern Virginia Medical School will provide both retrospective patient samples and mass spectrometric analysis to support the biomarker and assay validation studies.
"Approximately 230,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually, yet comparatively few of these cases are cancers that merit aggressive treatments, such as radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy. Unfortunately, current diagnostics are unable to differentiate between aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancer, which leads to unnecessary invasive treatments and complications for the vast majority of prostate cancer patients that have indolent, non-aggressive cancers," says Dr. O. John Semmes, scientific director of the Virginia Prostate Center, director of the George L. Wright, Jr. Center for Biomedical Proteomics, professor of microbiology and molecular cell biology, and professor of pathology and anatomy at Eastern Virginia Medical School.