Bayer supports cancer biomarker research in Europe

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The FINANCIAL — Bayer HealthCare and University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) are the main coordinators of the newly founded international consortium CANCER-ID to develop and validate novel blood-based biomarker technologies in cancer.

The five-year project will focus on establishing commonly agreed standards for the isolation, identification and analysis of novel circulating biomarkers with the aim to improve the development of personalized medicines for cancer patients. CANCER-ID is a public-private partnership supported by Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).

Blood-based biomarkers such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating free tumor DNA (cfDNA) and microRNAs (miRNAs) are potential indicators for the tumor burden of patients living with cancer. Derivation of these markers from blood may offer an additional invaluable tool for modern cancer therapy: apart from being of high importance when tumor biopsies are not accessible, blood-based tests may allow a continuous follow-up of disease markers offering a means to closely monitor the efficacy of treatment and potentially guide the selection of therapy, according to Bayer.

“CANCER-ID is an excellent example of a project in which a public-private partnership enables a collaborative research approach to come up with novel concepts in modern cancer therapy”, said Dr. Thomas Schlange, Senior Scientist of Global Biomarker Research at Bayer HealthCare Global Drug Discovery and Coordinator of CANCER-ID. “The consortium brings together a large experienced team of biomarker experts from academia and industry as well as smaller companies creating a Europe-wide network of complementary capabilities that extends far beyond the scope of traditional ‘one-on-one’ industry-academia collaborations.”

Important challenges for the development of all circulating biomarkers are assay sensitivity, specificity and standardization as well as validation. In the last phase of the project, the validated assays will be deployed in controlled clinical studies to prove their broad applicability and clinical utility in the treatment of patients living with cancer.

“Blood-based analysis of tumor derived cells and nucleic acids offer a novel concept of “liquid biopsies” which allows to receive real-time information relevant to cancer diagnosis and therapy”, said Prof. Klaus Pantel, Head of the Department of Tumor Biology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany, and the academic lead of the CANCER-ID consortium. “The CANCER-ID project fills the substantial gap between basic research focused on novel methods for the detection and characterization of circulating tumor cells and nucleic acids and the development of robust validated assays required to bring the liquid biopsy concept into the clinic.”

The CANCER-ID consortium consists of pharma and non-pharma industrial companies, universities and clinical trial institutes, as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from all over Europe. The 33 consortium partners are all key players in their fields constituting a unique network of experts in the areas of tumor biology, biomarker development, clinical sciences and bioinformatics. The in-kind contributions to the project of around 8.2 million EUR by the industrial partners are complemented by IMI-funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme resulting in a total budget of EUR 14.5 million.


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