A Medical Device Daily

A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) reported preliminary data that demonstrates the advantages of sequencing-based approaches for associating structural variants with RNA expression profiles to identify potential biomarkers in head and neck cancer.

The data is the result of an ongoing scientific collaboration formed in 2008 between the Mayo Clinic and Applied Biosystems (Foster City, California), a division of Life Technologies Corporation (Carlsbad, California).

Large-scale genomic rearrangements, or structural variations, are a hallmark of most cancers because they contribute to genetic instability reportedly involved in carcinogenesis. It is widely believed that mutations in DNA sequence are transcribed to messenger RNA (mRNA) and ultimately translate into a functional protein. An emerging hypothesis suggests that mRNA may regulate processes such as alternative splicing and RNA editing and a variety of cellular functions.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic are using digital gene expression capabilities of the SOLiD System to associate genetic variation at the transcript level with structural variants. A key to understanding structural variation is the ability to visualize chromosomal rearrangements and other changes to large segments of DNA such as copy number variations, inversions, translocations, insertions, and deletions.

Sequencing-based RNA expression analysis enabled the researchers to establish directionality of expressed transcripts which is significant because DNA is transcribed in two different directions. Establishing directionality of expressed transcripts allows researchers to more easily determine which RNA transcripts, are coding and non-coding. Non-coding RNAs play an increasingly important role in regulating biological processes involved in cancer differentiation and development.

In other agreements/contracts news:

• Companion Data Services (CDS; Columbia, South Carolina) reported that it has completed a 20-month-long project to transition Medicare claims data from 11 data centers around the country into its Medicare Enterprise Data Center (EDC; Columbia).

The work is part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services's (CMS) initiative to consolidate electronic data processing and hosting operations into state-of-the-art EDCs in support of the overall Medicare Contracting Reform Initiative.

Objectives are to modernize Medicare operations, expand electronic services, and bolster security, increase efficiency and lower costs. In 2006, CMS awarded a $1.9 billion, 10-year contract to three companies CDS, EDS and IBM to operate the new EDCs.

CDS was assigned to transition into its EDC computer applications that process approximately 800 million Medicare claims each year, submitted to claims-processing contractors by physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers in 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CDS' workload represents about 63% of the nation's total Medicare claims volume.

CDS kicked off the transition in June 2007, and completed the task this month. Now, all claims within CDS' assigned states are being processed through the CDS data center.

• Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) and South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA; both Columbia) and Premier (San Diego) reported the formation of the South Carolina Healthcare Quality Trust (SC HQT; Columbia), a voluntary, first-of-its-kind partnership. Through the SC HQT, the state's largest research universities are working through HSSC, utilizing existing evidence-based best practices, as well as researching and developing new methods, to eliminate preventable infections.

The SC HQT plans to address both acute and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart and vascular diseases, in the future.

• Premier Purchasing Partners (San Diego) reported new agreements for drug-eluting coronary stents with Abbott Laboratories (Abbott Park, Illinois), Abbott Vascular (Redwood City, California) and Cordis (Miami Lakes, Florida).

Effective Jan. 1, the 13-month agreements are available to acute-care and continuum-of-care members of the Premier healthcare alliance.