Thermo Fisher Scientific, Newman-Lakka Institute pursue personalized cancer treatment
August 2013
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


SAN JOSE, Calif.óThermo Fisher Scientific Inc. and the Newman-Lakka Institute for Personalized Cancer Care at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center will work together to research and develop new methods to detect and track circulating biomarkers in blood, per an announcement made last month.  
Earlier this year, Thermo Fisher Scientific and the U.K.'s University of Birmingham became Technology Alliance Partners to advance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) techniques in life-science research. In the United States, the company has programs in place with the Barnett Institute at Northeastern University in Boston and scientists at Princeton University.  
The new collaboration will focus on applying Thermo Fisher Scientific's latest ultra-sensitive LC-MS instrumentation and technology to develop robust methods for identifying protein biomarkers for a variety of cancers, including breast and prostate cancer as well as tumor-associated angiogenesis.  
"Our challenge and hope is to change the current standard of care, and our collaboration with Thermo Fisher and access to its state-of-the-art instrumentation will accelerate our mission. We hope to be able to provide oncologists with a panel of biomarkers that sense microscopic levels of tumor cells with a simple blood test," says Charles J. Newman, president of the Newman-Lakka Cancer Foundation. "The goal is to develop diagnostic tools to make it possible for physicians to check off a panel of biomarkers when patients get regular checkups, so early detection of disease can facilitate effective treatment. Also, the goal is to enable oncologists to monitor the efficacy of treatment with a blood test, rather than waiting two months for an MRI and exposing the patients to additional harmful radiation."  
In 2012, Newman's foundation pledged $2.5 million to establish the Newman- Lakka Institute for Personalized Cancer Care at the Floating Hospital to accelerate doctors' ability to use personalized cancer treatments for children whose cancer is not responding to traditional treatment. The center is said to be the first ever to create a centralized database to analyze and track the outcomes of these groundbreaking cancer therapies, enabling physicians to share more complete information and offer lifesaving treatment to thousands more children with rare and recurring tumors.  
"There are literally thousands of medications available that can treat many of the most recalcitrant tumors," explains Dr. Giannoula Lakka Klement, scientific director of the Newman- Lakka Institute and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Floating Hospital for Children. "Until now, however, we have not had detailed information about which patients benefited from molecularly guided therapy with a specific agent, and which did not. By analyzing outcome data from patients treated with targeted therapies and developing novel mathematical and biostatistical methods, the Newman-Lakka Institute will lead the way in providing therapies for patients with difficult-to-treat tumors."  
"We were very pleased when Newman-Lakka approached us through our corporate business development office about this opportunity to collaborate with experts in the search for better cancer treatments," says Mary Lopez, director of the Thermo Fisher Scientific Biomarkers Research Initiatives in Mass Spectrometry (BRIMS) center that is supporting the collaboration. "We anticipate great synergy between Newman-Lakka's cancer research expertise and our own strength in applying mass spectrometry to biological research and the advancement of personalized medicine, which will give greater value to both organizations."
Lopez explains that BRIMS will help develop assays and work to deploy them at Newman-Lakka and the Genesis Research Institute laboratory that is adjacent to the institute. The collaboration's advanced methods will be developed at the BRIMS center in Cambridge, Mass., using Thermo Fisher Scientific's triple -quadrupole and high-resolution accurate mass spectrometry instrumentation, coupled to mass spectrometry immunoassay technology and novel software workflows. There will be informal milestones to measure progress, she notes, as biomarkers are selected and assays developed and tested against clinical samples provided by Newman-Lakka. No end date is scheduled, Lopez adds.  
"Some collaborations have lasted for years," she notes.  
In 1894, the Boston Floating Hospital was established by a Congregational minister, the Rev. Rufus Tobey. At the time, many believed in the cleansing and therapeutic qualities of sea air to improve health, and Tobey had heard of a hospital ship for children in New York. For the next 33 years, two successive ships were home to the hospital for children in Boston Harbor. When the second ship was destroyed by fire, the hospital was relocated to a permanent building onshore.  
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