IRVINE, Calif.—AstraZeneca, Agendia and the NetherlandsCancer Institute (NKI) are joining forces in a collaboration focused onaccelerating the development of targeted therapies for colorectal cancerpatients.
Financial terms of the collaboration were not released.
The announcement marks a unique collaboration betweenAgendia, developer of the "MammaPrint" breast cancer molecular diagnostic test,a major research-based pharmaceutical company and a leading national cancerinstitute to tackle a cancer that results in approximately 500,000 deathsannually in Europe and the United States.
Through the collaboration, the three organizations will workto identify differences in colorectal cancer at a molecular level. The programis expected to help physicians deliver more targeted therapies to those withthe disease, which occurs in the large intestine or at the end of the colon.
The collaboration aims to lead to the development ofpersonalized medical diagnostics sooner in the production of new drugs thancurrently possible, says Bernhard Sixt, CEO and co-founder of the moleculardiagnostics firm.
Sixt says that in AstraZeneca and NKI, his company has foundtwo partners that have long been committed to developing innovative therapiesto fight colorectal cancer.
"Agendia, NKI and AstraZeneca are working together toidentify specific molecular subtypes in colorectal cancer," he explains. "Thus,the collaboration has the potential to benefit not only the directparticipants, but also the scientific community as a whole on the basis ofproviding a much greater understanding of the various disease types in thecolorectal field."
Sixt points out that NKI has a proven track record ofsuccessful translational research that provides insights into the mechanism andbiology of drug response and drug resistance in various cancers. AstraZeneca,he adds, is a global research-based biopharmaceutical company with "anexceptional success rate in discovering, developing and marketing medicines forsome of the world's most serious illnesses."
Therefore, the expertise and knowledge of the NKI andAstraZeneca complement Agendia's strength in developing diagnostic tests thatcan help to identify the right treatment for patients.
Sixt adds that a key feature of this collaboration is thatpersonalized medicine diagnostics may be developed far earlier than previouslythought possible.
"Our collaboration marks a continued shift in how we thinkabout companion diagnostics and how they will be developed in the years tocome," he says.
Sixt also explains that NKI will perform bioinformaticsanalysis aimed at delivering new validated targets for drug discovery andaccompanying predictive markers.
"In addition, at NKI the most promising targets will beinvestigated in functional assays. AstraZeneca will provide expertise in theselection of drug targets, develop new drugs based on our results and testthese new drugs or existing drugs in predefined subpopulations," he says.
Agendia will provide data and analytic expertise to developcompanion diagnostics with the potential to help identify the predefinedsubgroups.
Sixt points out that a key challenge in cancer drugdevelopment is the need to understand patient variations in responsiveness toparticular drugs.
"A new cancer drug may commonly elicit a favorable responsein some patients, while other patients show no response," he notes. "Inclinical trial populations, the percentage of individual patients that respondto a particular drug is often too small to satisfy the trial's criteria forprogression to the next stage of clinical research. As a result, the drug is oftendeemed a failure, potentially depriving the wider cancer patient population ofthe benefits the treatment may have and resulting in the loss of the relevantcompany's research investment in the failed treatment."
Moreover, Sixt notes that when companion diagnostics aredeveloped early in the drug development process, they can provide insight intowhich patients are likely to benefit from a given new cancer drug.
"Therefore, they have the potential to contribute both tosuccess at the clinical development stage and to effective treatmentdecision-making, once a new cancer drug that is paired with a companiondiagnostic test has been approved for clinical use," he adds.
Agendia's participation follows its success with the"Symphony" breast cancer genomic profile, which includes MammaPrint.
George Orphanides, head of the colorectal cancer diseasegroup at AstraZeneca, says the company is committed to pursuing new andinnovative collaborations to accelerate the delivery of promising therapies topatients.
"We are pleased to have partnered with two organizationsthat bring complementary and world-leading capabilities to our colorectalcancer programs," he adds. "Researchers have known for some time that there aredifferent subtypes of colorectal cancer."
"Building on our discoveries in breast cancer, we haveidentified distinct molecular subtypes in colorectal cancer, each respondingdifferently to various therapies," adds René Bernards, professor of molecularcarcinogenesis at NKI and cofounder of Agendia. "Along with our new partners,we aim to identify drivers of the oncogenic process in each of these subtypes."
Agendia markets four products, with several new genomictests under development. In addition, Agendia collaborates with pharmaceuticalcompanies to develop companion diagnostic tests in the area of oncology.Agendia is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and in Irvine, Calif.