Ventana inks separate companion Dx deals

Waltham, MA-based Syndax Pharmaceuticals is teaming up with Roche's Ventana Medical Systems to develop a companion diagnostic assay to select those non-small cell lung cancer patients who could potentially benefit from treatment with erlotinib and entinostat. Syndax has worldwide rights to develop and commercialize entinostat, which has shown promise as a treatment for solid tumors as well as Hodgkin's lymphoma.

As Joanna Horobin, president and CEO of Syndax, explained, the company has seen positive results with entinostat plus erlotinib. "In ENCORE 401, a randomized, phase 2 study comparing erlotinib plus entinostat to erlotinib plus placebo, the subset of patients with tumors expressing high levels of the protein E-cadherin experienced a more favorable overall survival and we therefore intend to select this patient population in the confirmatory study planned to start in the second half of the year," she said in a statement.

In 2010, Ventana developed and launched an in vitro diagnostic kit to measure levels of E-cadherin in epithelial tissues. Ventana plans to validate the assay in its own in-house laboratory and may then serve as the central laboratory for the upcoming Syndax clinical trial.

Separately, Aeterna Zentaris ($AEZS) announced it will collaborate with Ventana to develop a companion diagnostic for the immunohistochemical determination of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) receptor expression for the company's doxorubicin LHRH targeted conjugate compound, AEZS-108. LHRH receptors are expressed in a significant proportion of endometrial, ovarian, breast, bladder, prostate and pancreatic tumors.

"AEZS-108 is a promising anticancer compound as demonstrated by the positive final Phase 2 results in LHRH-receptor expressing endometrial and ovarian cancer," Juergen Engel, president and CEO of Aeterna Zentaris, said in a statement.  "The VENTANA state-of-the-art companion diagnostic tool will allow us to develop improved methods for the selection of patients to be treated with AEZS 108, in order to enhance the efficiency of our clinical trials and help us with the future successful development of AEZS-108 in a number of different LHRH-expressing cancers."

- see the Syndax/Ventana release
- check out the Aeterna Zentaris release

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