The Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has established a study collaboration with the life sciences company VolitionRx Limited, which has been working on the development of blood tests for the diagnosis of many types of cancer.
The cooperation agreement will focus on VolitionRx NuQ tests, which defines if patients suffer from anaplastic prostate cancer, a more severe form of the disease, or castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), a less aggressive type.
The MD Anderson Cancer Center investigators will study the efficiency of VolitionRx’s NuQ assays in identifying anaplastic prostate cancer. “If our NuQ tests can identify objective molecular markers for anaplastic prostate carcinomas, there could be exciting potential for the tests to advance our understanding of the disease process and improve patient outcomes,” Chief Medical Officer at VolitionRx, Jason Terrell, MD stated in a company’s press release.
The partnership study will use samples from two previous clinical trials, comprised either of selected men suffering from CRPC with one of the seven anaplastic clinical criteria, or unselected men with non-anaplastic CRPC. The NuQ tests will be used to look for specific histone modifications of circulating nucleosomes, which are indicative of certain types of cancer. Using the samples, the researchers expect to evaluate the competency of the test in the identification of anaplastic CRPC.
“Previous studies of VolitionRx’s NuQ assays have produced promising results in detecting and differentiating various cancers. We hope to build on this by demonstrating that VolitionRx’s NuQ tests can distinguish anaplastic prostate cancer from castration-resistant prostate cancer,” explained the principal collaborator in the partnership, Ana Aparicio, MD, an associate professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The company is also simultaneously conducting other clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of the cancer diagnostic tool. At the Hvidovre Hospital, in the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, a retrospective study is planned, with 4.800 patients, along with a prospective study including 14,000 patients, on colorectal cancer. Additionally, the CHU-UCL Mont Godinne Hospital, Belgium will conduct a study with 250 colorectal cancer patients while the University Hospital in Bonn, Germany will enrol 4,000 patients for a prospective study on 20 of the most prevalent cancer types.
“Partnering with MD Anderson, which is consistently rated in U.S. News & World Report’s ”Best Hospitals” survey as the leading US hospital for cancer care, is a unique and significant opportunity,” Dr. Terrell added. “This is another clear milestone for our company, as we continue to make solid progress on executing our strategy of broadening our trials beyond colorectal cancer.”
Anaplastic prostate cancer is a subtype of prostate cancer similar to small cell prostate carcinoma. Even though the condition is rare during the initial diagnosis, it often emerges during the castration-resistant progression of the disease due to the body’s resistance to standard prostate cancer treatment, and exhibits a distinct and aggressive clinical behaviour.
Approximately 20 to 30% of the lethal cancers are anaplastic prostate carcinomas, spreading quickly and requiring early chemotherapy, unlike typical CRPC cases. In order to identify it as early as possible, it is necessary to find an objetive and non-invasive molecular marker.
The researcher responsible for the partnership, Ana Aparicio, was also one of the authors of an editorial published last year at the Annals of Oncology journal, regarding adverse reactions and cross-reactivity among chemotherapeutic agents. Following the release of two studies that revealed two new androgen-blocking drugs able to cross-react and decrease the efficacy of prostate cancer therapy, the researcher alerted that the only option for physicians was “pondering the opportunity cost of starting with one agent and keeping the others until later.”
The MD Anderson Cancer Center had recently announced other company collaboration, this time with Bristol Myers Squibb Company, and is now about to start a a novel clinical research, which will focus on the evaluation of multiple immunotherapies, that may become therapeutics for acute and chronic leukemia and other hematologic diseases, including Opdivo (nivolumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab) and three early-stage clinical immuno-oncology investigational products from Bristol-Myers Squibb.