Cancer-related biotechnology company Castle Biosciences will acquire the mesothelioma testing technology for Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the world’s foremost treatment centers for the rare cancer.
The acquisition gives Castle Biosciences exclusive worldwide license to all intellectual property related to the hospital’s gene expression test for mesothelioma, known as DecisionDx-Mesothelioma.
“We now have a molecular test that alone as well as in conjunction with other simple clinical parameters can help identify patients who most likely to benefit from aggressive surgery as well as assist with fundamental treatment planning,” said Dr. Raphael Bueno, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s associate chief of thoracic surgery.
Mesothelioma is a cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure, and it is typically diagnosed in later stages. Texas-based Castle Biosciences has hopes that its newly acquired technology will enable earlier diagnoses, leading to long life expectancy for patients. The company intends to make the diagnostic test available within the next few months.
The DecisionDx-Mesothelioma test was developed by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a facility whose specialization in was driven by Dr. David Sugarbaker.
People suspected of having the cancer will have their genetic makeup analyzed for specific gene expressions. Doctors can then piece together these expressions to determine if the cancer is the present.
According to the company’s news release, the test enables researchers to verify the presence of mesothelioma indicators while also predicting survival likelihoods in patients who receive specific surgical procedures.
Experts describe the test as “technically robust” after it was clinically tested through various studies. As described by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s guidelines, the DecisionDx-Mesothelioma earned the highest marks.
By providing this diagnostic technology to a company with established distribution channels, BWH will allow patients across the country — possibly across the world — to receive earlier diagnoses and, subsequently, more effective treatment procedures.
Nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed each year in the United States. Most of these cancer cases are attributed to asbestos exposure within the workplace or during military service because asbestos was widely used throughout much of the 1900s.
According to Castle Biosciences’ website, the company long has served cancer patients through advanced diagnostic testing methods. BWH’s technology adds an important arsenal to the company’s existing developmental pipeline.
Regulatory standards, designated by the federal government and industry associations, require that Castle undergo certain validation processes to complete the acquisition. Upon completion, the company states that it strives to have the technology available to doctors and clinics by the end of 2012.
Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Modern diagnostic testing methods include biopsies, which are the most definitive ways to detect cancer, along with CT scans, MRIs, PET scans and X-rays. Too often, these screening procedures catch the cancer after it has progressed.
The DecisionDx-Mesothelioma test, through the work of Sugarbaker and all of the BWH researchers, could prove important to advancements in treatment and improved survival rates.
The current one-year and four-year survival rates are about 40 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Many experts attribute these disappointing survival figures to late diagnoses that are all-to-common with mesothelioma. Because of the latent nature of this cancer’s symptoms, patients are rarely diagnosed in early stages.
The problem arises from the reality that symptoms often don’t present themselves until the cancer has manifested. The later the cancer is detected, the more likely it is to have spread to other organs, making it even more difficult to treat or eliminate.
Despite the low survival rates, beating the cancer is not impossible.
Upon receiving a proper diagnosis, it is common that a patient will undergo treatment via surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Experimental treatments are also an option through various clinical trials that are hosted at some hospitals and cancer centers.