AstraZeneca extends cancer gene sequencing collaborations

AstraZeneca (AZ) is to collaborate with gene sequencing company, Illumina, to develop its next generation sequencing (NGS) platform for companion diagnostic tests for use with AZ’s oncology portfolio.

The agreement represents the third diagnostic collaboration for AZ in recent weeks following agreements with Roche and Qiagen, as AZ pushes forward in its commitment to personalised medicine solutions. The Roche and Qiagen studies will analyse the DNA from lung cancer patients’ tumours to determine their epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation status.

In this latest partnership with AZ, Illumina’s cutting-edge technology will be applied to a novel companion diagnostic test in pivotal studies for one of AZ’s investigational oncology compounds. If successful, this will be one of the first NGS-based companion diagnostic tests for a novel drug in the world and could speed the clinical trial process.

In July, Illumina was chosen by the British government to work on its 100K Genomes Project, sequencing 100,000 genomes of patients and families and linking this to the National Health Service database.

Illumina’s NGS technology allows rapid sequencing of multiple genes in a much faster and cheaper way than traditional DNA sequencing methods. Under the collaboration, it will be used to screen a panel of several gene sequences, scanning for all possible genetic variants — known and unknown — rather than specified mutations from a single tumour sample.

The comprehensive information obtained from sequencing full genes will be used to predict which patients will respond to certain treatments.

Ruth March, vice president, Personalised Healthcare & Biomarkers at AZ said: “This partnership has the potential to deliver an unprecedented amount of clinical information from a single test. Illumina’s technology will inform doctors about the molecular make-up of their patients’ tumours, enabling them to match medicines to the drivers of disease. Our aim is for doctors to be able to use these tests to prescribe the right medicines for the right patients – bringing benefits to healthcare professionals, payers and patients alike.”

“Illumina is developing a universal test system to support our partners’ oncology drug pipelines,” said Dr Rick Klausner, Illumina’s chief medical officer. “We’re excited to be working together with companies such as AstraZeneca, and other bodies, to maximize genomic medicine benefits to patients.” He added that the 100K Genomes Project work would be carried out in Cambridge, UK, through which the company would be “contributing to making the UK the first ever country to introduce genome sequencing into its mainstream healthcare provision.”


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