Roche Collaborates with Merck on Developmental Test for Cancer-Related Gene Mutation
News Feb 19, 2010
Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. has announced a research collaboration with Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc.) providing Merck access to Roche's developmental microarray-based AmpliChip p53 Test, which is designed to detect mutations in the tumor suppressor gene p53.
By identifying cancers that harbor a dysfunctional p53 gene, the companies aim to achieve better treatment outcomes in cancer patients by determining which patients are most likely to respond to certain investigational therapeutic candidates.
"Roche designed its investigational AmpliChip p53 Test to rapidly provide clinically important information that can be used early in pharmaceutical development to help predict cancer patient responses to certain therapeutic candidates," said Paul Brown, president and CEO, Roche Molecular Diagnostics. "Roche is excited to enter into this collaboration with Merck because of the potential this test has to improve cancer patient response to treatment."
The p53 protein is a critical component of normal cell response to various stress types including damaged genetic material or DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The p53 protein functions by activating DNA repair proteins, inducing growth arrest for repair of DNA damage, and by initiating apoptosis (programmed cell death) in the case of irreparable DNA damage. When p53 function is deficient, a cell's response to DNA damage is severely impaired, contributing to tumor growth and increasing tumor cells' resistance to chemotherapy. Roche's investigational AmpliChip p53 Test is designed to detect damage to p53 DNA in tumor cells in order to identify which cells carry dysfunctional p53 proteins that can lead to treatment resistance.
"The goal of our research is to discover and develop innovative cancer therapeutics and deliver them to the right patients at the right time," said Eric Rubin, M.D., vice president, Oncology, Merck Research Laboratories. "By applying the AmpliChip p53 Test in selected clinical trials we hope to identify those patients most likely to respond to specific therapeutic regimens in development."
As genome editing technologies advance toward clinical therapies, they are raising hopes of a completely new way to treat disease. However, challenges need to be addressed before potential treatments can be widely used in patients. To tackle these challenges, the National Institutes of Health has launched the Somatic Cell Genome Editing program, which has awarded multiple grants including more than $3.6 million to assess the safety of genome editing in human cells and tissues.