Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Testing the Market Brain Cancer Breakthrough at Upmc Could Bring Commercial Opportunities

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Testing the Market Brain Cancer Breakthrough at Upmc Could Bring Commercial Opportunities

Article excerpt

UPMC is exploring the possibility of creating a for-profit business to capitalize on the health system's expertise in cancer diagnostics, part of a strategy to diversify revenue in an area of growing interest among research institutions nationwide.

The Pittsburgh health system recently developed and trademarked a test that can guide doctors in the treatment of brain cancers based on a tumor's genetic makeup. Marina Nikiforova, director of UPMC's 3-year-old Molecular & Genomic Pathology Laboratory in Oakland, led a team that developed the test given the trademarked name "GlioSeq."

"The test can be done on a very small tissue sample," she said. "It provides such a wealth of information. This is a personalized approach."

Brain cancers can be among the deadliest forms of the disease and physicians have historically used a one-size-fits-all treatment regimen of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. With the new test, doctors can predict the aggressiveness of the tumor and what kind of chemotherapy will be most effective in treatment.

GlioSeq also promises to identify a variety of genetic mutations that cause brain cancer, eliminating the time and expense of individual tests that had been necessary in the past.

As part of a National Institutes of Health-funded study published in December, GlioSeq was tested on 54 adult and pediatric tumor samples for genetic abnormalities that had already been identified through other means. GlioSeq correctly identified all previously known gene aberrations, as well as many additional gene markers in the tumors.

An estimated 77,670 new cases of brain and central nervous system cancers are expected to be diagnosed in 2016, according to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, a Hinsdale, Ill.- based nonprofit, and most of the lesions will be non-malignant. But tumor cells that look the same under the microscope can respond very differently to treatment, depending on individual genetic malformations.

In addition, more than 25 percent of the so called "novel new" drugs approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration were either targeted to the individual patient's molecular information or were new therapeutic biologics. Of the 45 new novel drugs approved, 13, or more than 25 percent, were personalized medicines, according to the FDA.

UPMC is working with the University of Pittsburgh's Innovation Institute, the university's commercialization arm, to develop a business model for the new test.

One option is simply to license the technology to other laboratories; another is to create a for-profit lab to do the testing, which is now being offered to research institutions around the country, Dr. Nikiforova said.

The size of the market and other issues related to commercialization are still being worked out, but universities nationwide are increasingly looking to licensing royalties as a way to make up for stagnant federal research funding. …

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