Abbott will partner with Merck to evaluate the use of a fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) based companion diagnostic test to aid the development of Merck’s investigational cancer therapy.

FISH-based companion diagnostic assays are intended to detect specific DNA sequences to help guide physicians determine which patients are more or less likely to respond favourably to Merck’s investigational cancer therapy.

As per the agreement, Abbott will develop a test based on its proprietary FISH technology, designed to identify deletions of the TP53 gene in cancer patients.

Abbott Molecular diagnostics business head Stafford O’Kelly said the aim of the collaboration is to ensure the right medicine gets to the right patient.

“As one of the early pioneers in companion diagnostics, we believe that linking genetic testing with drug development at the earliest stages can increase the effectiveness and predictability of medicines and help physicians make more informed treatment decisions,” O’Kelly added.

FISH technology will help identify whether too many, or too few, copies of a particular gene are present in the body’s cells or whether certain genes have rearrangements that play an active role in disease progression.

Abbott’s portfolio of companion diagnostic tests includes the PathVysion HER-2 DNA Probe Kit, which is cleared for use in selecting breast cancer patients for whom herceptin (trastuzumab) therapy is being considered.

Approved in 2011, Abbott’s Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit helps in detecting non-small cell lung cancer patients for xalkori (crizotinib) treatment.

The molecular diagnostics tests of the company can also detect key changes in patient genes and chromosomes for earlier detection or diagnosis, provide information relevant to the selection of appropriate therapies, and may improve monitoring of disease progression.

Abbott is a health care company focused on the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics.