Roswell Park begins genomic testing for lung cancer

Posted by Samantha Powell on October 2nd, 2014 |

Targeted lung cancer testing has begun at Roswell Park Cancer Institute following approvals in late July from the state Department of Health.

The hospital began clinical testing last month at its Center for Personalized Medicine, 18 months after announcing the launch of the facility.

Though researchers began their work at the site in February of 2013, the specialized clinical testing was on hold pending the state okay. The approval in July enables the start of genomic testing of cancer patients using the OmniSeq Target advanced molecular diagnostic laboratory test.

“The methodology of how you do sequencing is very different than any other test that’s ever been out there, so it took New York state a long time,” said Candace Johnson, deputy director at Roswell Park.

The test, approved through the DOH’s Clinical Laboratory Evaluation Program (CLEP), is part of a comprehensive approach developed by the center for profiling and interpreting the genetic information contained in the tumor tissue of cancer patients. It’s also one of just three tests approved for use in New York that use next-generation sequencing.

The center focuses on ways to diagnose, treat and manage disease by sequencing the human genome. So far, researchers at Roswell Park have focused on lung cancer, though plans call for adding melanoma and colorectal cancer in the next year.

With over 20,000 genes in the human genome, Johnson said so far about 200-250 have been shown to be associated with cancer. And of those, researchers have developed targeted drugs to fight about two dozen of those genes. If testing can show someone has a mutation in those specific genes, targeted therapies can be administered to provide better, more accurate treatment.

That would translate to patients having a better chance of receiving the right drugs for the specific type of cancer they have, and reduced costs. Many times several types of drugs or treatment regimens are tried before doctors identify which works best.

But because the OmniSeq Target testing is still new, insurers are not yet paying for it, Johnson said. Roswell Park is continuing to work with local insurers to change that, but in the meantime individuals receiving the tests are receiving financial assistance through the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through donations from lung cancer survivors.

“The payers aren’t going to pay for something that’s just research pie in the sky. They want to pay for something that’s going to be focused and help direct the therapy of our patients,” she said. “We’d like to think our test is just that. We’re not giving the physician 200 genes to look at, only the ones that matter for lung cancer.”

The goal is to ramp up research and testing in a variety of cancers, a diagnostic testing service Roswell Park hopes to offer someday to other physicians as well as pharmaceutical companies who want to test their drugs.

Other partners in the center include CTG, a Buffalo healthcare IT company that worked on the data analytics portion of the facility; as well as Immco Diagnostics, which is helping to identify business opportunities. But, Johnson stresses, it doesn’t happen overnight.

“There’s no one else that’s really doing anything like this in the country, but this is a process,” she said. “It’s going to take time for us to establish the partnerships and make this available to physicians and folks around the country.”

News Headline: Roswell Park begins genomic testing for lung cancer

Date: 10/2/14
Outlet Full Name: Buffalo First News
Author: Tracey Drury

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