OTTAWA -- The link between estrogen and breast cancer is the target of a new diagnostic test, and possible future biotherapies, that will be commercially developed in Ottawa, said Gabriel Pulido-Cejudo, CEO and president of research and development at Canbreal Therodiagnostics International Inc. (CBT).

The research on which the diagnostic test kit will be based originally was conducted at the Tumour Virus Investigation Section at the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control of Health Canada, in Ottawa. While there, Pulido-Cejudo and colleagues showed there is an increase in both protein and activity levels of serum leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) in women with metastatic breast carcinomas. In addition, NDP kinase activity and its distribution also seemed to be implicated in tumor metastasis. The spreading of primary breast tumors takes place as a result of activation of these markers, said Pulido-Cejudo. On the basis of the cellular expression, distribution and activity of these two-estrogen-dependent cellular markers, quantitative assays can be used as a sensitive prognostic indicator of both breast tumor malignancy and its invasiveness.

The test would not eliminate the need for women to undergo routine mammography, but would be especially useful in cases where mammographic results are unclear. In addition, it could be used routinely to identify women who carry high levels of estrogen and the two cellular markers -- that is, women who are at increased risk of developing cancer. The technique can also play a role in differentiating between malignant and benign tumors.

Pulido-Cejudo believes the development and validation of diagnostic blood tests based on specific estrogen-interdependent tumor markers also provides a rationale for the design and implementation of more effective therapies for the treatment of breast cancer. The development of potential biotherapeutics will be a long-term goal of CBT.

In the immediate future, an arms-length network of a large number of university-based health care centers and clinics across Canada will provide the means for the validation and routine use of diagnostic kits produced within CBT. Data obtained from these tests will also provide a quantitative evaluation of the response of patients to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and emerging therapies, allowing both clinicians and patients, along with long-term survivors, to timely make an informed decision on the most suitable therapeutic alternatives currently available.

CBT represents a strategic alliance between Canada and Mexico, since the company was created with seed funding of C$1.5 million (US$971,000) from Grupo Columbia, of Mexico, which has a strong presence in the pharmaceutical markets of Mexico, Argentina, the U.S. and Spain, as well as in other markets of Central America and South America.

The company will occupy office and laboratory space at the Ottawa Life Sciences Technology Park, in the heart of one of Canada's largest concentrations of clinical, medical and life sciences research and technology organizations. Ken Lawless, director of the Ottawa Life Sciences Council (OLSC), said the establishment of Canbreal Therodiagnostics in Ottawa is a significant step in the continuing growth of health technology commercialization in the region.

One of the functions of the OLSC is to promote the economic benefits of establishing health care-related facilities in the Ottawa region. Currently, more than 100 life sciences companies and 40 research institutes are situated there. *