BioProspecting NB Inc. (BPNBI) and the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute (ACRI) have established a formal collaboration to develop an early diagnostic for ovarian cancer based on BPNBI's unique, proprietary cancer management platform. The research and development program is being carried out at the ACRI facility in Moncton and the BPNBI research facility in Sackville.
The unique fit between ACRI's work with cancer biomarkers and BPNBI's discoveries and development capabilities have allowed the two to move closer to an early diagnostic test for ovarian cancer. As there are no approved early diagnostics for this cancer, BPNBI believes it can fill this void.
The entry-level diagnostic is presently focused on a simple blood test to measure the amount of biomarker. Cancer tumours shed cells that circulate in the blood. Since the shed cells contain abundant biomarker, it can be detected. Such an increase in the amount of biomarker in a blood test would suggest to the clinician that further testing is in order.
"The novel biomarker that we are targeting is overproduced in ovarian, breast and prostate cancers, to name a few," says BPNBI's founder, Professor Jack Stewart. "By measuring the amount of the biomarker in biopsies, we are also able to obtain an indication of the severity of the cancer since the amount of biomarker increases as the cancer progresses." While not underestimating the broader range of cancers that can be targeted, BPNBI's initial focus is the management of patients with ovarian cancer.
BPNBI is also pursuing a novel approach to cancer management that not only includes diagnosis but treatment as well. In fact, the diagnostic application builds on the exciting preclinical work that has shown the therapeutic is effective at decreasing growth of human ovarian tumours in mice while producing no noticeable negative side effects.
Upon returning recently from Stockholm, Sweden, where the first international conference on this family of biomarkers was held, Stewart was surprised to be the only person presenting results on this specific member and its application to cancer diagnosis. "It made quite a splash with some of the global pharmaceutical industry attendees. What seemed to impress a number of them was that we had both the detection system and the treatment bundled together. We could determine which patient would be expected to respond positively to our therapeutic, and just as importantly, which patient who would not be expected to respond."
According to Dr. Rodney Ouellette, CEO and co-founder of ACRI, "Early detection of ovarian cancer is a huge challenge given the sombre prognosis of this disease. Being able to detect an early-stage tumour-specific biomarker that is also the target for a novel treatment is a powerful combination and the epitome of personalized medicine. With these advances, we feel that there is promising potential for saving lives by finding the cancer earlier and having a more effective therapy."
Based on the early success of the diagnostic being developed, and because there is very little in the oncology field that can be done to detect early ovarian cancers, the commercialization of the diagnostic is a significant commercial opportunity for BPNBI.
BPNBI has already been able to visualize human tumours growing in mice (see graphic below), where after the injection of fluorescent diagnostic material into the animals, the tumours light up. It shows that the therapeutic is so targeted to the biomarker that it can be used to identify the very specific location of the tumour.
This ability is presently being adapted to operate in an MRI environment providing the clinician a non-invasive tool to track tumours before, during and after treatment in a highly quantitative manner.
Source: BIOPROSPECTING NB INC. (BPNBI)
ATLANTIC CANCER RESEARCH INSTITUTE (ACRI)