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Comprehensive Cancer Research Solutions: From Diagnostics to Therapy

A computer-generated image of a DNA double helix.
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Cancer is a significant area of research focus and with the incidence of many cancer types on the rise, almost 2 million new cancer diagnoses are expected in 2023. Now more than ever, innovative methods to support the development of new technologies – from diagnostics to therapeutics – are required to bolster the fight against cancer.

At AACR 2023, Technology Networks spoke with Dr. Mark Garner, global cancer segment market manager at Agilent Technologies, to learn how the new SureSelect Cancer CGP (Comprehensive Genomic Profiling) assay, which was launched at the meeting, is empowering scientific and medical professionals in the cancer research field.

Analysis across a range of cancer types

With the introduction of the SureSelect Cancer CGP assay*, researchers can utilize a single assay to measure hundreds of relevant genomic biomarkers with next-generation sequencing (NGS) to generate more insights from a single sample. “With so many of the earlier biomarkers, it was necessary to trade off the advantages of targeted assays with getting a view across a large number of genes,” said Garner.

Agilent’s SureSelect Cancer CGP assay is an NGS-based, pan-cancer panel that enables the detection of somatic variants in solid tumors. These include single nucleotide variations (SNVs), copy number variations (CNVs), insertions/deletions (indels) and gene fusions, as well as immune-oncology markers such as the tumor mutational burden and microsatellite instability.

This assay provides solutions to sequence both DNA and RNA in parallel, detecting key somatic variants involved in cancer development. The panel features 679 curated genes for DNA and 80 genes for RNA gathered from global cancer databases and the expertise of leading cancer researchers.

With this, Agilent aims to make comprehensive tumor profiling more accessible to the wider research community by making workflows more efficient and flexible with options for walkaway automation and data analysis.

A boon for precision medicine

The approach may also benefit and guide precision medicine by delving into and providing an understanding of the molecular details of diseases such as cancer. Garner uses the classic example of precision medicine – how hormone receptor typing for breast cancers can be used for tailoring a patient’s treatment to their tumor.

“Without a detailed understanding of the molecular pathology, many of the earlier biomarkers – across all ‘omics’ – were based on statistical correlation,” said Garner, “but now, building on decades of research understanding the pathology of cancer cells, pharma can identify target molecules to design therapeutics against, and based on that same mechanistic understanding, develop a high precision, high confidence companion diagnostic biomarker assay to guide diagnostic and treatment decisions.”

From a companion diagnostics point of view, assays can then be developed working alongside the pharmaceutical companies developing the therapeutic. 

“The challenge for companies like Agilent is first developing the technology that people need for the initial phenotyping and genotyping to understand pathways,” said Garner. “It's so important to have that deep relationship [with customers] and really understand what it is that they want to do. I always say, ‘What do they want to do, but can't?’”.

Automation and reproducibility

Finally, the ability to automate a workflow such as the SureSelect Cancer CGP Assay can provide several important benefits. Although many think about laboratory automation in terms of throughput – and that is certainly a big part of the value – the increased reproducibility and decreased hands-on time that enables improved productivity and efficiency are key advantages,” said Garner. Providing these kinds of reproducible, scalable and automated solutions is important to ensure consistent results.

“I think what we do is provide the tools, not just the instruments, but the whole solution package, that empowers our partners and the cancer research community as a whole,” Garner summarizes.

Dr. Mark Garner was speaking to Dr. Karen Steward, Senior Science Writer for Technology Networks, at AACR 2023.

* Disclaimer: SureSelect Cancer CGP assay is For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.