Trangenomic seeks to develop early detection tools for pancreatic cancer

Company receives $100,000 grant from NIH for joint project

Kelsey Kaustinen
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OMAHA,Neb.—Transgenomic, Inc. has announced the receipt of a $100,000 Small BusinessTechnology Transfer Program (STTR) Phase I grant from the National Institutesof Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Studies. The grant,"Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer Using ICE COLD-PCR," consists of a jointproject with Tony Hollingsworth, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska MedicalCenter, head of a research team studying pancreatic cancer and other diseasesof the organ, including pancreatitis.
"This successfulpeer-reviewed grant award reinforces the promise of our ICE COLD-PCR technologyin being able to deliver high-sensitivity genetic information to support thetreatment of oncology patients, such as those suffering from pancreatic cancer,"Craig Tuttle, CEO of Transgenomic, said in a press release. "Both the financialsupport of the NIH and working with prominent cancer research groups, such asDr. Hollingsworth and his team, will accelerate the development of ourhigh-sensitivity cancer diagnostic assays."
Transgenomic, inconjunction with Hollingworth's team, will test the application of its ICECOLD-PCR technology to the high sensitivity detection of key mutations inpancreatic cancer in pancreas, urine and blood. Provided the Phase I studiesproduce encouraging results, a Phase II STTR application will be submitted formore comprehensive studies of ICE COLD-PCR's ability to detect DNA mutationsassociated with early- and late-stage pancreatic cancer.
The ICE COLD-PCRtechnology being used was developed in collaboration with the Dana-FarberCancer Institute, and is exclusively licensed by Transgenomic for DNAsequencing analysis. Multiple validation studies have confirmed itsreproducible ability to detect mutations at very high sensitivity, as it is upto 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than traditional sequencing and PCRtechniques. ICE COLD-PCR technology is also being investigated in an ongoingstudy with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to analyze DNA isolatedfrom circulating tumor cells, which break off from tumor to circulate throughthe bloodstream and are thought to be main contributors to cancer metastasis.
"This grant fundsresearch that builds upon our ongoing collaboration with Transgenomic, which isalso facilitated by our active participation in the Early Detection ResearchNetwork of the National Cancer Institute," said Hollingsworth in a statement."This research project is an excellent example of how an academic-industrialcollaboration can rapidly determine the potential utility of a promisingdiagnostic or prognostic assay for one of the most insidious diseases –pancreatic cancer. It is highly commendable that Transgenomic, a smallbusiness, is willing to attack the difficult problem of diagnosing pancreaticcancer."
While it does notsee as many cases or cause as many deaths as lung or breast cancer, pancreaticcancer remains one of the most aggressive and deadly. The National CancerInstitute estimates that 43,920 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be seen in2012, with 37,390 deaths attributed to the disease for the year. In addition,the disease is not easily diagnosed in its early stages, and in late stages,pancreatic cancer responds poorly to therapy, with an average survival of six monthsafter diagnosis and a five-year survival rate of less than 4 percent. The hopeis that this project will succeed in developing a highly sensitive genetic testthat can identify pancreatic cancer biomarkers in blood or urine samples forearlier diagnosis.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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