In June 2017, clinical staff from Pierian Biosciences attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held in Chicago, IL. The ASCO annual meeting brings together approximately 35,000 oncology professionals from around the world to present and discuss the results of the latest cancer research trials, potential new therapies and diagnostics, and state-of-the-art treatment options. In short, ASCO offers attendees informative educational and scientific sessions that highlight the latest in cancer research and treatment.

Three overarching themes of the ASCO meeting revolved around the increased push for personalized medicine; most notably, using advanced diagnostics to find the right drug for the patient at the right time, as well as significant progress being made in the areas of “targeted” therapeutics and immuno-oncology. For the second consecutive year, ASCO President Dan Hayes, MD remarked that a bad test or a bad biomarker is as bad or worse than receiving an ineffective drug. Hayes went on to explain that any diagnostic test that “inappropriately” directs an oncologist to give a patient a certain therapy can result in denying that patient an effective treatment.

There were active discussions regarding the need to improve clinical trial designs to ensure that the appropriate population is being studied. On the topic of clinical trials and personalized medicine, researcher Andreas Du Bois presented his team’s recent findings from their randomized controlled phase III study evaluating the impact of secondary cytoreductive surgery in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer—a study with conclusions that align with Pierian Biosciences’ mission, vision, and product development.

In the study, patients with recurrent Epithelial Ovarian cancer were randomly selected to receive surgery to remove the tumor followed by standard of care chemotherapy or only chemotherapy. The conclusions indicate that patients receiving the secondary debulking surgery seemed to fare better and have lower morbidity rates than those without surgery.

The goal of personalized medicine is not just to guide the initial treatment of each patient’s cancer, but instead personalization is needed for each cancer recurrence in the same patient.  For many patients, cancer may be a chronic condition that they will fight their entire lives.

At Pierian Biosciences, we are developing a chemosensativity assay, ChemoINTEL, to test tumor tissue and accurately predict its response to a variety of chemotherapy drugs. Using multiple markers, the ChemoINTEL assay is designed to measures the in vitro apoptotic response of a patient’s tumor to a variety of chemotherapy drugs in an effort to determine the tumor’s sensitivity within 72 hours of the tissue’s arrival in the lab. With a cancer recurrence, oncologists must be able to quickly and accurately personalize the treatment again, while pushing aside the knowledge of any prior treatment success, because the new tumor may well have different biology than the previous tumor. The ChemoINTEL assay can test tumor tissue at each recurrence to reveal its sensitivity and to significantly influence the resulting treatment regimen(s).

Any follow-up data and subsequent studies on the recurrent ovarian cancer study will help to determine how the second-line treatments fare in the long term. This study may spur similar trials in other recurrent solid tumors and further emphasize the need for personalized diagnostics and treatment with each recurrence.

Complementing the ASCO meeting’s push for personalized medicine and the recurrent ovarian cancer study results, Pierian Biosciences’ platforms (ChemoINTEL, PathwayINTEL and ImmunoINTEL) are being designed and tested to deliver specific, actionable, personalized information regarding the most appropriate cancer treatment for each patient and each tumor. Pierian Biosciences is focused on enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients by providing actionable information to allow personalized treatment every time cancer occurs.

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