Ashion Analytics, a clinical laboratory of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, is now part of the National Cancer Institute's MATCH program, which provides patients who have rare or difficult-to-treat cancers with access to unique clinical trials nationwide that might give them the best therapeutic treatments and outcomes.
Ashion is one of the nation's few dozen institutes participating in MATCH, which stands for Molecular Analysis for Therapy CHoice.
Unlike other MATCH participants, which screen patients with panels consisting of a few hundred known gene variants associated with various cancers, Ashion screens cancer patients for all of the nearly 3 billion nucleotides, or letters, in human DNA, which includes more than 19,000 genes.
Ashion accomplishes this by performing genomic sequencing -- a molecular-level analysis of each patient's entire genome. Ashion scientists then match each patient's unique cancer to the best available cancer treatments.
Our genomic cancer analysis is one of the nation's most comprehensive tests, not only for the MATCH program, but for any cancer patient whose treating physician, or medical team, requires our precision-medicine guidance."
Dr. Janine LoBello, Medical Director, Ashion Analytics
One of the biggest perks for patients who become eligible to enroll in MATCH clinical trials is that the federal government covers the cost of their drugs, which can be substantial, often reaching six figures. MATCH patients, or their medical insurance providers, usually pick up other clinical costs.
GEM ExTra analyzes complete patient genome
To achieve this complete analytic coverage of the human genome, Ashion uses a proprietary test called GEM ExTra, which covers all protein coding regions of DNA (known as the Exome), and an analysis of all RNA, the messengers of DNA (known as the Transcriptome). GEM stands for Genomic Enabled Medicine, and ExTra stands for Exome and Transcriptome.
Using GEM ExTra, Ashion sequences both the individual patient's normal genome and the patient's cancer genome. Then the two sets of genomic data are compared to find the gene changes, known as mutations, that are specific to the tumor and may be potentially driving that patient's cancer.
Study highlighting RNA role presented at recent ASCO meeting
An Ashion study poster presented May 29-31 at the 2020 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) details the importance of using RNA as part of the analysis to give cancer physicians the best possible options for treating their patients: Employing RNA Sequencing to Enhance Treatment Options for Cancer Patients.
"As you can imagine, this requires billions of precise data points to understand each patient's molecular makeup; to understand which genes are the likely culprits involved in the patient's cancer, and what therapeutic drug, or drugs, may be best to counter the patient's disease," Dr. LoBello explained.
This could include new therapeutics, as well as existing drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a particular cancer.
These FDA-approved drugs could be repurposed to fight a different cancer through any of the more than 1,100 sites nationwide that are conducting NCI-MATCH clinical trials.
Clinical trials are most often the first tests of drugs in human patients, after the drugs have undergone substantial computer and laboratory testing to ensure they are safe and effective.
"We are excited to be selected by the National Cancer Institute to participate in the NCI's MATCH program, and we hope that more patients will benefit from this program as a result of our GEM ExTra testing," said Thomas Royce, Executive Director of Ashion.