Insight Genetics Inc, of Nashville, Tenn, is collaborating with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) to enhance how researchers and oncologists classify and treat patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. The molecular diagnostics company is working with scientists at the cancer center to identify genetic markers that will help select the targeted therapeutics most effective for each individual TNBC patient.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 230,000 women will be diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer in 2014. Many of these cases can be genetically characterized as estrogen receptor-positive, progesterone receptor-positive, or HER2-positive. Such characterizations are important because they assist clinicians in matching patients with targeted therapeutic options. Breast tumors that do not express genes for any of these three known markers are classified as having triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Patients with TNBC currently have limited treatment options and a higher risk of relapse than patients with other forms of the disease.
As part of their research project, Insight Genetics will be collaborating with Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, director of VICC, and BF Byrd Jr, professor of oncology, as well as the laboratory group at VICC, in a continuation of their work to identify novel genetic markers for TNBC. Recent work from the Pietenpol laboratory published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation used an algorithm to examine gene-expression data from more than 500 TNBC cases and identified up to six distinct subtypes of triple-negative breast cancers.
Insight Genetics and Pietenpol will now focus on identifying novel genetic drivers for these various TNBC subtypes and developing a better understanding of effective treatment options for each. The work is also designed to identify new TNBC biomarkers and develop assays based on these biomarkers.
“We are enthusiastic to be entering into this research collaboration and licensing agreement with Vanderbilt,” said Eric Dahlhauser, chairman and CEO of Insight Genetics. “Dr. Pietenpol’s work shows tremendous promise for identifying unique treatment options for each molecular subtype of triple-negative breast cancer. We look forward to working closely with her and her colleagues at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center as we apply our expertise in assay design and commercialization to improve treatment development and selection for this population of cancer patients.”
As part of its licensing agreement with VICC, Insight Genetics obtained exclusive worldwide rights to the patent application PCT/US12/65724, “Markers of the Triple-Negative Breast Cancer and Uses Thereof,” which will be used to develop and commercialize molecular assays to determine the TNBC subtypes.
Insight Genetics also received commercial rights to the TNBCtype software algorithm (Chen et al., Cancer Informatics 2012 (11): 147–156), a web-based service that interprets raw data obtained through independent genetic sequencing methods.
Insight Genetics’ agreement with VICC expands the company’s existing portfolio of advanced diagnostic tools to improve the lives of cancer patients, including multiple diagnostic assays for lung and other cancers.
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