Cancer Markers on a Fast Track
Cancer and Alzheimer disease are two disease areas that can be significantly advanced by biomarker research. Cancer is a priority because targeted drugs like Herceptin (trastuzumab), Gleevec (imatinib), and Iressa (gefitinib) are already on the market and can benefit from a more targeted therapy utilizing biomarkers.
In a session chaired by Bernward Garthoff, Ph.D., chair of cluster biotechnology of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, the use of biomarkers in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and other tumors was explored. Breast cancer was highlighted because it is believed that biomarkers could help reduce the use of chemotherapy after surgery. As an example, it was noted that in the treatment of node-negative breast cancer, research has shown that only 30% of patients benefit from chemotherapy treatment.
Three diagnostic tests for breast cancer that are currently available to predict tumor recurrence were discussed. American Diagnostica’s PAI-1/uPA tumor tissue biomarker test (Femtelle®) costs $250, is performed on fresh frozen tissue, and can indicate a low risk of recurrence.
Mammaprint from Agendia is a gene signature test from 70 related genes in a breast tumor. It is an FDA-approved oligonucleotide array that can also be performed on fresh frozen tissue. It costs $3,000 and can reportedly identify which early-stage breast cancer patients are at risk of distant recurrence following surgery.
The Oncotype DX breast cancer test from Genomic Health predicts chemotherapy response from ER+ tumors from FFPE tissue and recommends a treatment regimen. The test costs about $3,200.
A number of promising biomarkers were also discussed, including the ErbB2 receptor for Her2, which could be used to rule out chemotherapy for those individuals who do not respond to trastuzumab. Another noteworthy biomarker is P13k; it controls important cellular pathways and several drugs are currently in development. In addition, the KRAS mutation predicts response to EGFR receptor drugs such as cetuximab and is a good predictive biomarker.