The NIH defines precision medicine as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person1.” In cancer patients, we can rephrase the definition to “through detailed understanding of a cancer’s biology, providing the right drug, for the right patient, at the right time.”
In order to identify the correct drug, biomarkers are used to identify patients that can be treated with the appropriate therapy for their cancer. The FDA defines biomarkers as “a defined characteristic that is measured as an indicator of normal biological processes, pathogenic processes, or responses to an exposure or intervention, including therapeutic interventions2.” Great strides have been made in the discovery and validation of biomarkers in drug development. Continue reading
The complexity of clinical trials continues to rise. New biomarkers for safety and efficacy continue to emerge, and new types of information – such as genomic profiles – have become critical to submissions for drug approval. Against this dynamic backdrop the central challenge facing trial sponsors remains the same: the need to bring together diverse data sets, draw meaningful insights from them and act quickly to maximize return on investment.
Covance and Global Specimen Solutions, Inc. (GSS) have announced a five-year strategic alliance that gives Covance clients access to a comprehensive and integrated solution that includes GlobalCODE®, snapTRACKTM and GSS wraparound services. This will enable near real-time data cleaning across clinical trial data sources which allow interventions to be made during the clinical trial, impacting overall trial execution and data validity. This also allows cross-protocol, cross-program analytics which provide context for data results, assuring robust clinical trial design and operational excellence. Continue reading
Novel biomarkers represent a promising means to improve diagnosis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Currently, a definitive diagnosis requires a liver biopsy, a surgical procedure with many limitations. There are a variety of biomarkers that can assess liver status, but they do not always distinguish between patients with NASH and those with other disorders. Advanced imaging techniques, while useful for evaluating some liver features, can be impractical and costly.
The ultimate goal is to find noninvasive biomarkers that clearly show if the patient has steatohepatitis or liver fibrosis associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Recent studies suggest that nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, microRNA tests and genotyping may prove to be useful tools. Incorporating additional biomarkers into clinical trials can give biopharmaceutical companies an early indication of whether a compound is efficacious — and provide the confidence to move forward to the next phase of clinical testing. Continue reading
Chinese biopharmaceuticals are expanding development beyond generics to focus on producing more personalized medicine, novel therapies, biomarkers and companion diagnostics. Steven Anderson, PhD, chief scientific officer at Covance, recently discussed his thoughts on biomarkers and precision medicine in China’s drug development and translational medicine landscape.
An emerging focus on biomarkers
“Efficacy of a drug therapy can vary widely and adverse effects can be common, but these parameters are not easily predicted,” explained Anderson. “That’s why biomarker-based, targeted treatments can guide therapy decision-making and better identify those individuals most likely to benefit.”
In the effort to reduce attrition rates and improve approval rates of new molecular entities by regulatory agencies, there’s no doubt that biomarkers can make a big impact. But it’s not as simple as tacking on additional studies. Biomarker development requires an insightful strategy and consideration of specific opportunities and needs throughout the drug development pipeline.
A quality biomarker starts at the source—the sample itself. Sample collection and handling protocols must be standardized to specify the minimum volume requirement in the proper container along with the most optimal temperature during transportation and storage. These requirements should be backed and driven by validated processes. To further ensure biomarker stability, it’s equally critical to include the maximum allowed time in transportation. Continue reading
Failures of Phase III programs after successful Phase II programs is probably the worst outcome of a clinical development program, as it failed in the most costly way. Nevertheless, these failures occur not infrequently. In psychiatry, highly publicized Phase II success stories ended in discontinuations of development programs, such as the NK1-antagonist program in depression several years ago. More recently, other examples have emerged. Some skip the Phase II process altogether with designs, which are supposed to provide “pivotal” data for regulatory purposes in large Phase III-like studies, which are just labeled as Phase II. These failures do not come out of the blue. Sometimes it is important to go back to basics and consider the purpose of Phase II trials.
What is the purpose of a Phase II trial?
The purpose of Phase II trials, besides gaining insights into the safety of a compound, is broadly exploratory, i.e. to generate data, which help with the design of the pivotal Phase III program. In a therapeutic area, a reasonably performed Phase II study can provide insights into clinical and biological patient characteristics, which match the properties of the drug under study. With an increased interest in personalized medicine, these boundaries between patient populations have to be understood in order to be successful. This approach is in direct contradiction to the urge to generate a “pivotal” Phase II outcome. Continue reading
Over the past several years, the life science community has gained an improved understanding of the immune system–from B and T cells to molecular pathways. With new, state-of-the-art tools and technologies, immunologists now have the ability to take a holistic approach to understanding the mechanisms of immune response. These applications help us devise methods to treat immune system-related diseases and to design better vaccines to combat infectious agents and cancer.
Currently, one of the most sensitive techniques available for the detection, measurement, and functional analysis of immune cells is the enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay. Covance’s Translational Biomarker Solutions group uses the ELISPOT technique to evaluate test subject responses to our sponsors’ vaccines, drugs, and biological products. ELISPOT is also useful in the pre-clinical space, where Covance can assess the toxicity of investigational compounds and biologics, and evaluate the efficacy of vaccines. Continue reading
As the pace of companion diagnostic innovation continues to accelerate, the drug development industry faces several headwinds. Numerous patent ‘cliffs’ are affecting the sales of blockbuster drugs; competition is increasing for a limited clinical trial population in increasingly global trials; and health outcomes pressures from patients, payers and healthcare providers are transforming the drug development process.
Over the past 10 years, advances in analytical technologies have provided new tools to identify patients who are more likely to positively respond to a certain drug or, conversely, experience a negative reaction to the particular therapy. These tools, known as companion diagnostics, are laboratory tests for biomarkers that, once commercialized, are designed to be an accompaniment to the safe and effective use of a particular therapy. Continue reading
We are always on the lookout to apply the latest research to our work and contribute additional findings to the scientific community. This month we will present a poster studying the regulation of Tau phosphorylation at the upcoming 2013 Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.
The interest in this research was first sparked at last year’s 2012 Alzheimer’s Association International conference in Vancouver, Canada, where we heard discussions on the effects of anesthesia on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. Continue reading