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First in cancer treatment

GE and Lilly have developed a way to identify 25 proteins in cancer, helping to match patients with their treatment

GE Global Research and researchers at Eli Lilly have developed tissue-based biomarker technology that can simultaneously map more than 25 proteins in tumours at the sub-cellular level and match patients with their treatment – an important step in the development of personalised and more effective cancer treatments.

Currently, a diagnosis of cancer and the decision of which therapy to prescribe are based on the histology of the tumour and, in some cases, the expression of just one or two biomarkers inside the patient's tumour. Thanks to the new molecular pathology technology developed in GE's Biosciences laboratories, researchers can now look at a visual map of the tissue sample, seeing a cancer cell's comprehensive biomarker signalling pathway, and the interplay of signalling networks inside the tumour.

Mapping a tumour's complex biomarker network could allow researchers and doctors to identify the most effective cancer therapies for patients, while avoiding those that are not as effective, saving time, money and providing a better patient experience.
"This new approach to molecular pathology unlocks information that has been hidden from doctors," said Mark Little, senior vice president and director, GE Global Research. "It was just two years ago that researchers at GE and Lilly set out to discover key protein biomarkers that would predict the likelihood that a medication would be effective in treating certain cancers. Our new mapping technology is designed to bring new therapies to market faster and to make sure that the right patients get the right medicines."

GE researchers with specialties in biology, bioinformatics, optics, fluidics, chemistry and mechanical engineering have built a prototype system capable of staining, washing and re-staining tissue samples for study under a digital microscope. The system combines image analysis of cancerous cells and structures with GE's patented visualisation tools to provide a colour map of protein concentrations within the sample.

"In cancer treatment, information is one of the most powerful tools that a doctor has at his disposal," explained Dr Richard Gaynor, vice president, cancer research and clinical investigation, Lilly Research Laboratories. "By identifying multiple biomarkers on a cell by cell basis, physicians will be able to make more informed choices on therapies to prescribe, as well as therapies to avoid, based on a patient's specific type of cancer."

The new technology has been tested successfully on colon and prostate cancer tissue samples and is believed to be applicable to all types of cancer.

22nd October 2009

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