When breast cancer advances, the patient doesn't have the luxury of time. Finding the right type of chemotherapy as quickly as possible is a critical factor for the patient's success and, until now, predicting the patient's sensitivity to chemotherapy has often been a shot in the dark.
“DiaTech is the only commercial pathology reference laboratory in the U.S. that works exclusively with live cancer cells and the only one that has the expertise and technology to measure drug sensitivity of specific cancer cells”
DiaTech Oncology, a privately-held life sciences and clinical pathology laboratory company in Nashville, Tenn., has developed a predictive assay test that shows significantly positive results for chemotherapy patients with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer. The Microculture Kinetic Assay, also called the MiCK® assay or Correct Chemo™, was used in a non-blinded, multi-institutional controlled trial with breast cancer patients. When the assay was used by participating physicians, patients showed higher response rates and longer times to relapse.
Detailed results of the trial were presented in an abstract on Dec. 6 at the 2012 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The event, which attracts over 8,000 participants from more than 90 countries, is among the largest and most prestigious breast cancer conferences in the world.
DiaTech's patented MiCK assay measures apoptosis, or cell death, in the cancer cells of chemotherapy patients. Tumor cells are exposed to multiple doses of several chemotherapeutic drugs, either as single drugs or combinations. An algorithm monitors and computes the amount of cell death and determines a drug sensitivity "score" of the patients' tumor cells.
The assay also has recently been found to correlate with positive outcomes in patients with acute myelocytic leukemia and ovarian cancer.
Details of the abstract presented at the 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium include:
When physicians participating in the trial used the MiCK assay, there was an increase in complete or partial response rates, longer time to relapse and a trend to longer survival times.
The MiCK assay was used by physicians to help develop the treatment plan (after the assay) in 73.3% of patients.
Physicians using the assay changed their treatment plans 68% of the time.
Physicians using the assay utilized the best therapy in the assay in 73% of patients.
When the MiCK assay was used, 81% had disease control compared to 25% of patients in whom the assay was not used.
There was a trend toward improved survival if patients used the MiCK assay - 16.8 months compared to 13.1 months for patients who did not use the assay.
The median time-to-recurrence if the MiCK assay was used was 7.4 months, compared to only 2.2 months if the physician did not use the assay.
There were no rules or directions regarding how physicians were to use the assay result because DiaTech researchers felt it would produce a more valid test of how the assay would be used in actual practice, where the oncologist has complete discretion in treatment planning.
Dr. Cary Presant, chief medical officer of DiaTech and professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, said the MiCK assay is an important step in the rapidly-growing field of personalized medicine.
"DiaTech is the only commercial pathology reference laboratory in the U.S. that works exclusively with live cancer cells and the only one that has the expertise and technology to measure drug sensitivity of specific cancer cells," Presant said. "The result of our testing with breast cancer patients shows that the MiCK assay can guide use of the best therapy in individual patients, leading to improved outcomes and even potentially lower costs. It gives the oncologist the freedom to prescribe the most effective chemotherapy for the individual patient, based on the patient's own particular tumor cells."