Trangenomic seeks to develop early detection tools for pancreatic cancer
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


OMAHA, Neb.—Transgenomic, Inc. has announced the receipt of a $100,000 Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) Phase I grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Studies. The grant, "Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer Using ICE COLD-PCR," consists of a joint project with Tony Hollingsworth, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, head of a research team studying pancreatic cancer and other diseases of the organ, including pancreatitis.
"This successful peer-reviewed grant award reinforces the promise of our ICE COLD-PCR technology in being able to deliver high- sensitivity genetic information to support the treatment of oncology patients, such as those suffering from pancreatic cancer," Craig Tuttle, CEO of Transgenomic, said in a press release. "Both the financial support of the NIH and working with prominent cancer research groups, such as Dr. Hollingsworth and his team, will accelerate the development of our high-sensitivity cancer diagnostic assays."  
Transgenomic, in conjunction with Hollingworth's team, will test the application of its ICE COLD-PCR technology to the high sensitivity detection of key mutations in pancreatic cancer in pancreas, urine and blood. Provided the Phase I studies produce encouraging results, a Phase II STTR application will be submitted for more comprehensive studies of ICE COLD-PCR's ability to detect DNA mutations associated with early- and late-stage pancreatic cancer.  
The ICE COLD-PCR technology being used was developed in collaboration with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and is exclusively licensed by Transgenomic for DNA sequencing analysis. Multiple validation studies have confirmed its reproducible ability to detect mutations at very high sensitivity, as it is up to 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than traditional sequencing and PCR techniques. ICE COLD-PCR technology is also being investigated in an ongoing study with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to analyze DNA isolated from circulating tumor cells, which break off from tumor to circulate through the bloodstream and are thought to be main contributors to cancer metastasis.  
"This grant funds research that builds upon our ongoing collaboration with Transgenomic, which is also facilitated by our active participation in the Early Detection Research Network of the National Cancer Institute," said Hollingsworth in a statement. "This research project is an excellent example of how an academic- industrial collaboration can rapidly determine the potential utility of a promising diagnostic or prognostic assay for one of the most insidious diseases – pancreatic cancer. It is highly commendable that Transgenomic, a small business, is willing to attack the difficult problem of diagnosing pancreatic cancer."  
While it does not see as many cases or cause as many deaths as lung or breast cancer, pancreatic cancer remains one of the most aggressive and deadly. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 43,920 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be seen in 2012, 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 months after diagnosis and a five- year survival rate of less than 4 percent. The hope is that this project will succeed in developing a highly sensitive genetic test that can identify pancreatic cancer biomarkers in blood or urine samples for earlier diagnosis.
Code: E08221201

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