Image is everything
October 2013
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


DIJON, France—Contract research laboratory Oncodesign and Banook Central Imaging, a company that specializes in the centralized reading of medical images, have begun a partnership to expand the use of new approaches in pharmaco-imaging. While no financial details were released, the partners will co-promote joint activities and collaborate to standardize image acquisition and analysis protocols in early clinical phases. The first phase of the collaboration agreement will run three years, and the first results are expected early next year.  
"Oncodesign leads the way in pharmaco-imaging. As well as conducting preclinical proofs of concept, we have a long tradition of striving to provide our clients with tools for improving the characterization of their molecule's therapeutic potential, to expedite clinical trials in humans," said Dr. Philippe Genne, CEO and founder of Oncodesign. "In the coming weeks, our partnership with Banook Central Imaging will help us to provide our clients with practical solutions, ensuring that the measure of efficacy of anticancer therapies is attainable from one phase of development to the next."  
Jonathan Ewing, business development director at Oncodesign, says "the overall objective of this collaboration is to provide cancer patients with more effective treatment solutions by offering them novel pharmaco-imaging approaches, novel imaging biomarkers and validated image analysis protocols." To this end, he notes, Oncodesign will transfer its preclinical imaging methodologies, applications and image analysis techniques to Banook Central Imaging for clinical application. For its parts, Ewing says, Banook Central Imaging will work with Oncodesign to provide guidance on the clinical feasibility of novel imaging techniques during the preclinical development process to help optimize the techniques for clinical use.  
The companies share common core values, Ewing explains, noting that Banook Central Imaging's capabilities complement Oncodesign's, "as Oncodesign brings the imaging approach from the discovery side and Banook Central Imaging from the clinical." This represents their first collaboration.  
"The imaging market offers immense opportunities for companies that innovate and develop imaging probes or techniques that will fulfill an unmet critical need. It is essential for studies to be performed and reported in a particular manner without significant variation from one imaging center to another. Determining drug candidate potential will also be improved by getting the most appropriate drugs to the right patients, knowing whether treatment should be continued or not based on early predictors of activity and by better understanding how novel drug candidates can be used in combination with standard therapeutic agents. And all of this can be started from the first clinical trials, because the biomarker parameters will have been previously validated pre-clinically," says Ewing.
Imaging capabilities are particularly important in oncology, where determining the efficacy of treatments requires more than one approach, such as CT or MRI scans or biopsies. Ewing notes that the advantages of imaging over biopsies include "non-invasive evaluation, detection of tumor recurrence [and] eliminating the exposure of normal tissue to radiation thanks to molecular imaging."  
"However, many targeted therapies exert anti-cancer effects that are cytostatic rather than cytotoxic, making early responses difficult to appreciate according to RECIST criteria," says Ewing. "Instead of conventional CT/MRI to assess novel therapies, we see a significant interest in developing and validating specific imaging biomarkers (dynamic contract-enhanced CT and MRI, PET imaging of molecular pathway receptors, etc.) to demonstrate the biological activity of the various classes of targeted therapies."  
"It is crucial that the challenges of standardizing biomarkers in pharmaco-imaging are considered from the early phases of clinical development," said Dr. Pascal Voiriot, MSc, chairman of Banook Central Imaging. "Our partnership with Oncodesign is in line with our strategy, which aims to implement relevant biomarkers in medical imaging, focusing ultimately on personalized medicine and the ability to produce a considerable time saving for the direct benefit of research laboratories and patients."  
Code: E101319

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