At the recently held conference hosted by OncoDNA in the IPG building (Gosselies, Belgium) Jean-Pol Detiffe (CEO, OncoDNA) and Martine Piccart (Co-founder and chair, BIG) announced the launch of a multi-year analysis program AURORA, conducted by BIG, that aims to significantly improve the life of patients with metastatic or locally relapsed breast cancer. The project, which focuses on both the development of treatments targeting specific molecular aberrations and a better understanding of metastatic disease, will use OncoDNA’s recently launched OncoDEEP® to perform cancer related targeted gene sequencing. Initially, 1300 women and men treated in about 60 hospitals spread across 15 European countries are expected to take part in AURORA, launched on 15 April 2014.
OncoDNA, at the forefront of providing cancer theranostic solutions combining Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and protein expression analyses for clinical use, will use OncoDEEP® to sequence the tumor DNA and provide a comprehensive analysis of key proteins. These analyses will allow for the creation of a molecular DNA “passport” or “ID” of each patient’s disease. In turn, this information is expected to help physicians better determine the optimal treatment for each patient.
For AURORA, OncoDEEP® will sequence 3900 samples of primary and metastatic tumor tissue as well as blood, targeting a panel of 411 cancer related genes. Piccart expressed how, “decoding the genome of the tumor will dramatically accelerate the research effort“ and could bring us a step closer to “getting to know the face of the enemy”.
How does the technology work? watch video
The process starts with the receipt of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor samples and frozen blood. First, a complete pathology review is conducted to confirm the diagnosis, the presence of tumor tissue in the sample and, if needed (when little cancer tissue is present), to isolate tumor cells for further DNA extraction.
Then, mapping of the genetic alterations (mutation/amplification) is performed using NGS. OncoDEEP® guarantees deep sequencing (1000X the coverage of OncoDEEP® DX), which allows the assessment of samples containing mixtures of cancer and normal cells, as well as clonal heterogeneity between tumor and metastasis. In parallel, an analysis of cancer pathway activation is performed using immunohistochemistry (IHC), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and methylation (MSI) analysis using PCR,
Data generated by these two approaches are then integrated into a theranostic report, which is available through a web interface called OncoSHARE. The OncoDEEP® portfolio has been designed to provide fast answers for oncologists) and cost effective theranostic tools for patients.
Time is of the essence
Within ten working days, results from the OncoDEEP® test are then reported to the respective oncologist. Jean-Pol Detiffe expressed, “Our aim is to provide the most adapted solution to help cancer treatment decisions, taking into account the latest clinical data available, cost effectiveness requirements and time to treatment”, adding, “besides the rich and informative results we are generating on a daily basis for oncologists’ practices, this major agreement underlines the importance and the quality of OncoDEEP® as an accurate and fast solution to help improve cancer treatment”
With AURORA, the hope is not only to help tackle the ongoing battle to find a cure for recurrent breast cancer, but also contribute substantially to the development of more effective treatments aimed at preventing recurrence all together. Although AURORA will enable guidance for trials and medication available the program cannot be held responsible for choice or treatment outcome and therefore will not recommend therapy, this remains the choice of the physician/patient.
The conference was attended by more than 300 people and brought together a range of participants comprising oncologists, pathologists, diagnostic specialists, investors, researchers, BioWin representatives and patients. Additionally, Charleroi Mayor Paul Magnette, and a representative of the Vice-President of Wallonia, also highlighted the significant role the Walloon region plays in diagnostics, specifically theranostics, and cancer research globally.
Over time, BIG hopes to be able to expand AURORA well beyond Europe and involve several thousand more patients. The initial funding for AURORA project includes a significant grant from the US based Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as well as funding from the Fondation Cancer (Luxembourg), the Belgian National Lottery, and individual donors.
With the help of OncoDNA, the hope is to be even cleverer and more powerful than the disease; starting with metastatic breast cancer, the aim is to be one “BIG” step ahead so as to stop this disease dead in its tracks and prolong the lives of cancer victims worldwide.
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Disclosure: Dr. Marine Piccart, Chair of BIG, serves as a scientific advisor to OncoDNA. However, she has not received any financial compensation in this respect nor does she have any other financial or nonfinancial interests in the company. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by BIG, in accordance with its Conflict of Interest Policy.