Tackling cancer in Tennessee
August 2013
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


NASHVILLE, Tenn.—AstraZeneca PLC and the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI), a global strategic research organization that focuses on advancing therapies for patients, are teaming up in a personalized medicine collaboration for the development of new oncology compounds from AstraZeneca's pipeline. The partners will be working on molecular profiling in order to classify tissue based on genetic profiles for use in treating cancers and predicting patient response to therapy.  
"Building upon this unique collaboration with SCRI allows us to continue honing our capabilities to deliver high-quality research in a timely and cost-effective manner," Prof. Andrew Hughes, vice president of early clinical development at AstraZeneca, said in a press release. "Through this cutting-edge program design, we can rapidly and effectively implement clinical trials with greater access to a network of cancer patients for enrollment."  
Per the terms of the agreement, SCRI will collaborate with AstraZeneca on identifying potential patients for clinical trials and exploring biomarkers that could predict patient response to specific treatments. This expansion will now include clinical program development leadership, medical expertise and oversight and operational contract research organization trial management for early-phase clinical development of several oncology compounds.  
According to Cindy Perettie, president of SCRI Development Innovations, SCRI will design, interpret and deliver the clinical program for the chosen molecules, and will work with AstraZeneca representatives to secure approvals from AstraZeneca's governance committees and the necessary regulatory bodies. SCRI will also develop, validate and conduct biomarker testing, and "correlate patient molecular profiling data with clinical outcome data."  
"Through our research, we know how vital and impactful individualized treatment options are for patients battling this complex disease," Dee Anna Smith, CEO of SCRI, commented in a statement. "By partnering with AstraZeneca, we are expanding opportunities to accelerate drug development and deliver more targeted therapies to patients who urgently need them."  
The organizations have worked together since 2005, with SCRI "serving as a contributing site or the sole comprehensive CRO service provider for studies," says Perettie.
AstraZeneca and SCRI announced an agreement to develop novel oncology compounds in late 2010, with this most recent agreement expanding SCRI's offerings for more of AstraZeneca's compounds. In addition, AstraZeneca is one of the first participants in SCRI's molecular profiling program, which is a facet of the latter's personalized medicine initiative in the United States and the United Kingdom.  
On its website, SCRI identifies molecular profiling as "an important facet of personalized medicine, classifying tissue based on genetic profiles for the purposes of diagnosing or treating cancers, or predicting response to therapy." As for the future of personalized medicine in indications beyond cancer, Perettie says that with the SCRI's experience in oncology and cardiology, "we certainly see how other therapeutic areas can benefit from growth in personalized medicine. Understanding genetic profiles for diseases such as blood disorders, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune diseases can assist with predicting and tailoring effective treatments for these individuals."  
"Accurate diagnosis improves patient care and helps to limit healthcare spending. In order to ensure targeted therapies are developed to combat a greater variety of cancers, new biomarkers need to be identified," says Perettie. "New diagnostics need to be developed to accurately and reliably identify those patients who may benefit from these targeted therapies, initially as part of a clinical trial, and latterly, in the clinic.  
"With access to thousands of patients with multiple different tumor types and with our access to technical capabilities, we are able to more rapidly identify eligible patients for early and late-phase clinical trials and explore novel biomarkers that predict response to specific treatments. We are also able to better understand the molecular characteristics of tumors and pre-screen potential candidates for inclusion in early-phase clinical trials, with the potential to significantly reduce enrollment time and increase patient access to novel therapies," she adds.  
Code: E081305

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