Vela Diagnostics Collaboration with the NCCS to Refine Novel Cancer Therapy

04 June 2021 | Friday | News

Vela Diagnostics announced a collaboration with the National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS) to develop a molecular diagnostic assay to predict individual patients' responses to a cancer therapy called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Image Source : Public Domain

Image Source : Public Domain

Being able to predict an individual's response will help clinicians determine if EGFR-TKIs are a suitable therapeutic option for the patient. The partnership between Vela Diagnostics and NCCS aims to refine the therapeutic management of cancer to improve clinical outcomes.

EGFR is an oncogene with potential to cause cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has specific mutations in EGFR which makes them susceptible to treatment with EGFR-TKIs. However, these mutations are uncommon in other cancers so there are no established biomarkers for predicting a patient's response to these drugs in cancers arising in the head, neck and oesophagus.

A study published in Nature Medicine in 2017, led by NCCS' Professor Gopal Iyer and Associate Professor Daniel Tan, reported how a silent single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in EGFR confers sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs in patients with head and neck cancers. The discovery has provided new avenues to identify previously unknown biomarkers of existing targeted therapies, with considerable potential for immediate repurposing and clinical impact.

In explaining the collaboration, Dr Charlie Lee, Head of Research and Development at Vela Diagnostics, said, "VELA is committed to developing diagnostics that aid therapy selection. With our proven expertise in assay development and track record in regulatory approvals, we are able to develop screening assays or companion diagnostics. Furthermore, this collaboration between two Singapore parties is beneficial as it will be relevant to cancer patients in Singapore and the region."

"The collaboration between NCCS and Vela Diagnostics is unique because it allows both parties to contribute in the areas that they excel. The research that directed the assay development was conducted at NCCS, the assay is now being developed by Vela Diagnostics and the validation of the assay will be done at NCCS, where we have the infrastructure and experience to conduct robust clinical trials. We hope this will help clinicians advise their patients on the best treatment option for their cancers," said Prof Gopal Iyer, Head of the Division of Medical Sciences, NCCS and Senior Consultant with the SingHealth Duke-NUS Head and Neck Centre.

The next phase of the collaboration will evaluate the efficacy of the assay through a clinical trial to test the response of patients to EGFR-TKIs. These will include patients with head and neck cancers based on the original discovery, and also other similar types of cancers arising from the lung, oesophagus, bladder and cervix. This trial will be led by Assoc Prof Daniel Tan, Deputy Head of the Division of Clinical Trials and Epidemiological Services and Senior Consultant in the Division of Medical Oncology, NCCS, supported by the Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council (NMRC) under its Clinician-Scientist Individual Research Grant (NMRC/CIRG/1492/2018) and the Singapore Translational Cancer Consortium.

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