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Agendia (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) and Arcturus (Mountain View, California) have signed a license agreement under which Agendia has obtained the exclusive European rights to the TUO (Tumor of Unknown Origin) gene expression profile discovered by Arcturus.

Using this profile, Agendia has developed CupPrint, a gene expression-based diagnostic test to be used with patients diagnosed with Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP).

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

The potential of CupPrint was presented this week by RenéBernards, PhD, Agendia's co-founder and chief scientific officer, during the American Association for Cancer Research Oncogenomics conference in San Diego.

Cancer of Unknown Primary, also known as UPT (Unknown Primary Tumor) or TUO, is diagnosed when distant metastasis is discovered in a patient, but the primary tumor is unknown. CUP accounts for 5% to 10% of all new cancer referrals and is the fourth-most-common cause of cancer mortality.

Generally, CUP patients face a poor prognosis, with mean survival rates of six to nine months. However, identification of the primary tumor enables specifically targeted clinical treatment, which Agendia said “markedly enhances the chances of success.“

CupPrint is a gene expression profiling service that the Dutch firm describes as offering “an alternative to conventional cancer diagnostics.“ CupPrint uses a continuously expanding gene expression database that currently includes 32 different tissue types and 78 tumor types. According to Agendia, it can rapidly determine whether the primary tumor belongs to one of the major categories. If so, the company said “treatment can be specifically geared to the patient's needs, offering a major improvement in the clinical results and the patient's prognosis.“

The service will be available in early spring.

Bernhard Sixt, Agendia's CEO, said adding CupPrint to the company's portfolio underlines its strategy to provide new and better cancer diagnostics. “Our aim is to develop products that assist oncologists and physicians to determine who should be treated in which specific way,“ Sixt said. “Targeted, tailor-made clinical treatments plans are essential in maximizing a patient's chances of a cure.“

Robert Schueren, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Arcturus, hailed Agendia for developing his firm's TUO-gene expression profile into an application available to European oncologists and patients. “Agendia is the world's first provider of a cancer diagnostic service based on DNA microarray technology (MammaPrint). We are pleased to partner with [them] to employ our TUO-profile in their new diagnostic service.“ The company's MammaPrint prognostic test predicts the chance of breast cancer recurrence.

The privately held company is a spin-off of the Netherlands Cancer Institute. In addition to the development of new cancer diagnostics, the company offers its expertise in finding new prospective gene expression profiles to companies focusing on oncology drug development.

Hospital infections battle continues

UK Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley last month chaired a “Learning from the Best“ conference attended by 80 people involved in infection control from hospitals at home and abroad, to help share good practices that have proved effective in reducing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The London event included presentations by Gary French from Guy's and St. Thomas's Trust (London) and Don Goldmann, of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (Boston).

Sessions on effective practice in reducing the risk of MRSA bacteremia were led by Brian Duerden, Inspector of Microbiology and Infection Control within the National Health Service (NHS). An international perspective was given by Dr. John Boyce of the Hospital of St. Raphael (New Haven, Connecticut) and Dr. Margreet Vos of Erasmus University Medical Center (Rotterdam, the Netherlands).

“There is no single solution to driving down infection and we need a whole package of measures to combat MRSA,“ Beasley said. “I am very optimistic that with the support of all those in NHS hospitals, from chief executives all the way up to those working on the ward, and with the right measures in place, we can make a difference and bring about a significant improvement in patient care.“

She added: “There is lots of good work already being done by all in the NHS to control infection and this must be shared, not done in isolation. By meeting today we can help ensure that infection control throughout the NHS is brought up to the level of the very best. I want to agree a set of measures for immediate action based on the evidence we will see today.“

The list of measures includes actions already being carried out in many areas of the NHS:

  • Improving surveillance on which area of the hospital bacteremia occurs in and what types of patient are most at risk.
  • Improving clinical protocols for devices such as catheters and canulae.
  • Improving aseptic techniques (guidelines for wound dressing, surgical sites, etc.).
  • Ensuring that all general hospitals sign up to the NHS cleanyourhands campaign if they are not already applying a similarly robust approach to hand hygiene.
  • Good management of the movement of potentially infected patients.
  • Ensuring that responsibility for infection control runs right up to the chief executive and board levels.

Peter Wilson, consultant microbiologist at University College London Hospitals (UCLH), said, “UCLH has already achieved a 69% reduction in the number of blood infections with MRSA compared with the average rate in 2003. By following up patients after surgery with our wound surveillance team, we have improved monitoring and seen a 50% drop in wound infection in some specialties.“

Tracey Cooper, consultant nurse in infection control at Southampton & SW Hampshire Trust, said, “Southampton has taken a series of measures, including infection control training for domestic staff and all staff new to the Trust, appointing clinical staff to link in to the infection control team and working with the university to strengthen the infection control part of the curriculum for new professionals.“

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