Companies claim disabling protein could reverse resistance to existing cancer therapeutics.

Minerva Biotechnologies granted Clarient exclusive rights to develop and commercialize a MUC1* biomarker test for use in cancer diagnostics and monitoring. Clarient estimates that it will take about a year to thoroughly evaluate the predictive value of measuring MUC1* in patients’ samples.

“We believe MUC1* has the potential to have an impact on cancer diagnostics,” says Clarient CEO Ron Andrews. “It’s early in the evaluation process, but it may have significance in diagnosing, selecting therapy, and monitoring therapeutic efficacy in solid tumors.” The company also believes that although there is currently no MUC1*-targeting drug available in the cancer therapeutics arsenal, a test for the protein could also potentially help identify patients who would benefit from a future drug designed to disable MUC1* activity.

“Early research has demonstrated that MUC1* may play a role in developing resistance to cancer drugs,” Andrews says. “If you can block MUC1*, you may be able to overcome resistance to a drug and, once again, offer that therapy.”

Interest in MUC1* has gathered momentum following Minerva’s discovery that MUC1 is present in its altered form, MUC1*, on embryonic stem cells and cancer cells, explains founder and CEO Cynthia Bamdad, Ph.D. “This is the first direct evidence that cancer cells grow by hijacking a normal stem cell mechanism that usually exists in a dormant state on healthy adult cells. Minerva has compelling evidence that cancer cells that grow resistant to anticancer drugs do so by producing more MUC1*.”

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