Almac forms alliance with academia for new oesophageal cancer test

23 April 2019 (Last Updated April 23rd, 2019 11:21)

UK-based Almac Diagnostic Services, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Cambridge have validated a new test to determine the suitable chemotherapy for patients with early stage oesophageal cancer.

Almac forms alliance with academia for new oesophageal cancer test
The test is based on Almac’s DNA Damage Immune Response (DDIR) Signature, a gene expression assay. Credit: Queen’s University Belfast.

UK-based Almac Diagnostic Services, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Cambridge have validated a new test to determine the suitable chemotherapy for patients with early stage oesophageal cancer.

The test is based on Almac’s DNA Damage Immune Response (DDIR) Signature, a gene expression assay for the detection of tumours that are DNA damage response deficient.

DDIR is intended to predict outcomes of treatment with DNA damaging medicines. It is a 44 gene signature that analyses the expression of each gene in each tumour to provide a score for each patient.

A high score suggests that the cancer has a greater probability of responding to DNA damaging chemotherapies.

This diagnostic technique was initially meant for use in early stage breast cancer but was found to have potential applications in other cancers as well.

Almac Diagnostic Services Biomarker Development global vice-president Richard Kennedy said: “This study highlights the benefits of close collaboration between academia and industry and the strong links between Queen’s and Almac in particular.

“In order to cure more oesophageal cancers we need to identify the most effective treatment for each patient to give them the best chance of all of their cancer being removed.”

“It expands the indications for the DDIR signature to oesophageal adenocarcinoma and brings stratified medicine a step closer in this difficult to treat cancer.”

The partners expect that the new oesophageal cancer test will enable personalised medicine and help more patients in the successful removal of their tumours, improving prognosis and quality of life.

Existing therapies for this cancer involve a standard chemotherapy regimen to mitigate the tumour size prior to follow-up surgery for its removal.

Statistics show that approximately 20% of tumours reduce in size after the standard chemotherapy course, indicating the need for determining the most effective chemotherapy to reduce the tumour size.

Queen’s University Belfast senior clinical lecturer Richard Turkington said: “In order to cure more oesophageal cancers we need to identify the most effective treatment for each patient to give them the best chance of all of their cancer being removed.

“At present we apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach where everyone gets the same type of chemotherapy before their surgery.

“This test enabled us to gain a molecular understanding of each patient’s cancer, which could then inform the decision to select the right chemotherapy to shrink the tumour.”

The research has been published in the Gut journal. The partners are further studying the new test in additional samples and clinical trials.