Asterand and Rubicon collaborate to improve cancer diagnostics

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cancer Dna

Asterand has announced the formation of a partnership with Rubicon
Genomics to develop new cancer diagnostic tests that identify the
DNA methylation mechanism that causes cells to become cancerous
making the assignment of treatment easier.

The partnership aims to introduce new methods to establish the presence of biomarkers that are prominent in cancer occurrences, which current tests have proved sensitive enough to detect.

Several recent studies have shown that specific methylated DNA sequences can be detected in the blood of various cancer patients. Thus, these modified DNAs can be sensitive markers for the presence of cancer.

Under the terms of the non-exclusive agreement, Asterand will supply tissue and biofluid samples from its biorepository and its worldwide network of clinical collaborators.

Further terms of the agreement will see Asterand provide access to their biobank and research services in exchange for a royalty on diagnostic tests that are developed and marketed.

Meanwhile Rubicon will perform retrospective and prospective studies with the samples using its MethylPlex technology to discover sensitive and specific methylated DNA markers for cancer diagnosis and prognosis.

MethylPlex achieves the required degree of sensitivity to quantify methylated DNA in tissue, serum, urine, and other non-invasively collected fluids by amplifying methylated genomic DNA more a thousand fold before testing for methylation of any specific gene.

MethylPlex has achieved gene methylation detection in serum, urine, or tissue DNA from as little as ten cancer cells in a background of DNA from 10,000 normal cells (i.e., 0.1 per cent relative sensitivity).

"The current tests to detect cancer are often not sufficiently sensitive to detect cancer at an early stage,"​ said >Asterand​'s Chief Scientific Officer James Eliason.

"This partnership will help Rubicon develop tests for detecting cancer sooner, in turn leading to more effective treatment."

Human cancer is characterised by abnormal patterns of methylated DNA (meDNA) involving thousands of genes. The pattern of methylation in small subset of genes can be used as very sensitive and specific diagnostic or prognostic test for cancer.

Published data shows that prostate cancer could be detected with a sensitivity and specificity of nearly 100 per cent by detecting the methylation status of only ten genes.

The challenge is making a non-invasive test that would have the same sensitivity and specificity as a tissue test.

Three limitations prevent effective non-invasive meDNA testing using the current "bisulfite conversion" methods.

First, current tests have insufficient sensitivities to reliably detect multiple cancer markers from 1 - 2 mL of serum or 100 - 200 mL of urine, because the cancer DNA in those fluids is highly degraded, is present in nanogram quantities, and is highly diluted with normal DNA.

Second, current bisulfite methods require too large a volume of serum or urine to profile the methylation pattern of hundreds of promoters. Third, the bisufite tests are not simple to automate and therefore costly and slow.

"This is an ideal area for our companies to collaborate,"​ said Eliason.

"Our sample collection, combined with Rubicon's technology for sensitive detection of methylated DNA sequences will open up discoveries in cancer detection and treatment."

Related topics Preclinical Research

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