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Opportunity knocks
January 2011
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author


ELMWOOD PARK, N.J.—Targeted toward expanding personalized medicine for cancer patients, Bio- Reference Laboratories and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have entered into a definitive agreement to collaborate in the development of clinical diagnostic tests for the identification and treatment of solid tumors. The independent clinical laboratory and Boston-based general hospital made the announcement Nov. 30.
This joint project is based on innovative technology that may prove superior to current diagnostic methodologies, according to a joint press release.
The agreement will build upon a solid tumor genotyping and pharmacogenomics testing platform that MGH has been offering to its patients for the past few years. This genotyping platform will allow for the simultaneous assessment of more than 100 cancer mutations in clinical tumor specimens, allowing for the optimal choice of targeted therapies in each patient.
In addition, the agreement is expected to accelerate research, especially involving clinical correlations with drug responses that will be accessible to other entities, including pharmaceutical companies that are expected to cooperate in the development of personalized medicine therapies.
  Amar Kamath, vice president of marketing for BioReference Laboratories, says the collaboration began with a cup of coffee.
"BioReference CEO Dr. Marc Grodman met Dr. Daniel Haber of MGH at a meeting and the two discussed an opportunity to work together," Kamath tells ddn. "This was followed-up by a capabilities meeting where several topics were discussed, and the cancer personalized medicine project was selected as the best first opportunity to implement."
BioReference brought to the table an existing oncologist client base, as well as a dedicated oncology sales team, Kamath says, adding, "MGH believes that it has developed a valuable approach to personalized method and sought a partner with content expertise and commercialization skills."
MGH "will be responsible to transfer the technology and provide control specimens for validation, while BioReference will be responsible for assay development, validation, informatics, marketing and sales," he says.
The venture will enhance personal medicine in many ways.
"There is a large gap in our knowledge of the genetic basis of cancers and how it impacts therapy," Kamath says. "Most people know about the current markers—HER2, KRAS, BRAF, EGFR—and warfarin genomics has received a lot of publicity recently."
However, "there is still a large unknown about all the other—over 100 at last count—genetic markers that have a role in cancer," he says. "This venture will try to advance our knowledge of these markers and their role in cancer therapy."
Today, oncologists and cancer patients do not have a lot of choice, Kamath says, adding, "Therapies have variable effectiveness and many side effects. If the relationship between cancer, therapy and the biomarkers can be properly established, then the personalized medicine can truly be implemented for these patients.
"This would help us make sure the right patients get the right therapy in the right amount," he says.
Matching new, targeted drugs to specific genetic alterations in tumors has proven "incredibly effective," Kamath says. The MGH-Bio-Reference Laboratories collaboration will allow a "more rapid realization of this approach for many more cancer patients."
Grodman says that personalized therapies in the treatment of solid tumors "hold great promise that still remains largely untapped."
Since starting "our discussions with Dr. Daniel Haber, Dr. John Iafrate and the other physicians of the MGH Cancer Center, I have been delighted not only in the shared vision, but shared values in bringing the latest clinical understanding to physician clients," Grodman says. Haber and his colleagues "have taken a leap of faith in making pharmacogenomics a reality for thousands of patients undergoing cancer care at Mass General, and we look forward to working with them to expand access and knowledge to these critical and timely services," he adds.
Iafrate, director of Molecular Diagnostics at MGH, hopes the collaboration will lead to giving more patients the chance to benefit from optimal therapy, Iafrate says.
BioReference is a national laboratory in certain specialized areas of clinical medicine, as well as one of the largest full service clinical laboratories in the NYC super regional area. BioReference serves focused national clinical markets in oncology specializing in hematopathology under GenPath, in women's health under GenPap, in genetics through its GeneDx subsidiary and in correctional healthcare. GeneDx, along with GenomeDx, is based on a CGH array platform. Its next-gen sequence offerings that are currently offered in cardiology will be offered in the future in other disease specific areas, the company states.
Code: E011113



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