Almac at ASCO: Dx spots ovarian cancer patients for whom Roche's Avastin would hurt

Almac Group saved some stellar news for the 2014 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago. The U.K. life sciences contract manufacturer said it validated a new diagnostic test that spots a subset of ovarian cancer patients with greater survival odds following standard chemotherapy who should avoid a specific Roche ($RHHBY) drug. Call it companion diagnostics with a twist.

Almac's ALM AADx gene expression test comes from its diagnostics arm, and screens for a subgroup that represents 40% of patients with high-grade serious ovarian cancer. These patients had an absence of angiogenesis and did worse once Roche/Genentech's Avastin (bevacizumab) was added to the treatment regimen, Almac said. The test screens for 63 genes, and Almac is so optimistic about the results that it plans to perform additional studies in patients with ovarian and other cancers.

If Almac can complete various regulatory hurdles in the U.S. and European Union, the company hopes to bring the diagnostic to market in 2015.

For now, Almac's optimism focuses on the hope that its test can help clinicians find ovarian cancer patients who would benefit most from standard chemotherapy drugs, such as carboplatin and paclitaxel.

Almec said it validated the test in collaboration with the Medical Research Council in the U.K. The company's initial identification of the patient subgroup it used in this new study first came out at ASCO in 2011, and stems from a collaboration with University of Edinburgh researcher Charlie Gourley.

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