A team of scientists at GE Global Research, the technology development arm for the GE (NYSE: GE), has launched a study with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, (MSKCC) one of the world's premier cancer centers, to better understand the early stages of colon cancer. The goal is to yield new insights that improve treatment selection and outcomes for cancer patients in the future.
“Information is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against cancer”
"Information is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against cancer," said John Burczak, Chief Scientist for Molecular Imaging at GE Global Research. "With colon cancer, we know that not all cases in the early stages of the disease are alike. Some are more aggressive than others. Through the promise of molecular analysis, we can identify those patients at higher risk and help ensure they receive the best possible treatment option."
One of the primary issues in cancer diagnosis today is the limited amount of molecular information pathologists have about a particular cancer. At the time of diagnosis, little is determined about the characteristics of cancer itself such as how fast or slow it may be growing. New breakthroughs in molecular medicine are promising to change this paradigm.
Last October, GE scientists announced a major cancer research breakthrough in molecular pathology that is unlocking information about cancer previously hidden from view. This molecular information will not only increase our understanding of cancer; it could improve treatment selection for patients. This is particularly true for patients with early stage colon cancer.
Today, the standard treatment for early stage, or Stage 1 and Stage 2 colon cancer is surgery. However, the cancer recurrence rate for Stage 2 cases is high at approximately 25% because more aggressive forms of these cases go undetected.
New molecular analysis from cancer mapping tools such as GE's have the potential to change this paradigm, so that these cases can be identified and directed to the appropriate treatment.
As part of the study, GE and MSKCC will collaborate to evaluate biomarkers for their prognostic value to segregate high from low risk early stage colon cancers. Scientists and investigators from GE and MSKCC will work together to first identify cancer cases, acquire and process cancer tissues, and collect treatment outcome information, then biochemically and statistically analyze the molecular profiles for the cancer tissues, and relate the molecular profiles to treatment outcomes.
GE's Cancer Mapping Technology
GE scientists have developed new molecular pathology technology that can create a visual map of more than 25 proteins within a single tissue sample at the sub-cellular level and apply sophisticated imaging analysis tools to collect and interpret the data. With the ability to study multiple proteins in one sample, GE's technology could provide more insight than ever before into the signaling networks and cell activity that may characterize different types of cancers.
Currently, a diagnosis of cancer and the decision of which therapy to prescribe are based on the histology of the tumor and, in some cases, the expression of just one or two biomarkers inside the patient's tumor. To enable more biomarkers to be mapped and viewed together in one slide, GE researchers built a prototype system that can stain, wash and re-stain tissue samples for study under a digital microscope. The system combines image analysis of cancerous cells and structures with GE's patented visualization tools to provide a color map of multiple protein concentrations within the sample. With the ability to visually map cancer in this way, GE is hopeful that critical information about the disease can be uncovered that was previously hidden from view.
The goal of GE's protein mapping technology program is to provide new insights into cancer that one day will assist physicians to better determine the prognosis for a cancer and the appropriate treatment. These insights also may be useful in saving drug companies time and money in the development of new therapies. With more information, drug companies may be able to better understand what patients will and won't respond and overall, help them make more informed choices during the development process.
GE's research programs in protein mapping and molecular pathology are aligned with GE's healthymagination initiative, which is built on the global commitments of reducing costs, improving quality and expanding access to healthcare for millions of people.