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Center for Molecular Medicine Selected to Provide DNA Analysis for Children's Oncology Group Leukemia Study
Date:1/8/2008

World's Largest Childhood Cancer Research Organization Looks to CMM for Professional Services in Finding Genetic Markers That May Improve Treatment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- The Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM) today announced it has been selected by the Children's Oncology Group (COG) to provide professional genotyping services and analysis as part of a study to evaluate the existence of genetic abnormalities and their association with response to therapy and/or specific toxicities to improve the diagnosis and treatment of childhood leukemia.

In Phase I of the study, the CMM has been asked to provide extensive testing and review of up to 2,200 matched samples of DNA from pediatric leukemia patients' germline blood samples and their leukemic blasts. The CMM will identify and catalog potentially critical differences it finds across these DNA samples for analysis and subsequent use by COG.

Once these genetic differences are identified, COG researchers will have information that can be adapted to improve diagnostic testing and zero in on methods to evaluate personalized therapeutics. According to the COG, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children, with 3,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based CMM (http://www.cmmdx.org) is a CLIA-certified, CAP- accredited, state-of-the-art clinical diagnostics laboratory, founded early in 2007. The CMM's unique technological capabilities, which include high-volume robotic DNA extraction, microarray-based DNA typing and gene expression profiling, all played a vital role in securing the COG project.

"We are very pleased and proud that a world-class organization such as the Children's Oncology Group would select the Center for Molecular Medicine for this important work," said Matt VanVranken, Executive Vice President, Spectrum Health System/President of Spectrum Health Grand Rapids and Chairman of the CMM Board of Directors. "This project, along with the increasing volume of clinical testing and cutting-edge genomics and proteomics work underway at the CMM, demonstrates the critical role molecular diagnostics and biotechnology will play in our region. It also speaks to the caliber of the CMM team, under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Daniel Farkas, to have come so far in less than a full year of operation."

CMM testing of COG project samples will begin in January 2008; Phase I may be completed as early as spring. COG and CMM are working together to identify sources of funding to expand the study to six to eight thousand more specimens.

CMM Executive Director, Daniel H. Farkas, Ph.D., said the sample testing and analysis would focus on tiny variations found within human genomes, including naturally, DNA from leukemic specimens. A genome is the complete DNA sequence present in every cell of an organism.

"The location of naturally occurring variations in human DNA, known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), serve as signposts or markers in the genome. Associating these SNP markers with diseases in different individuals provides opportunity for highly specific diagnostic tests, and, even more exciting, provides insights into what genes may be involved in the disease process. This insight can lead to highly targeted and specific therapies," he said. "In the COG study, the CMM will identify and catalog about a million key SNPs in these DNAs from childhood leukemia patients so that the COG can move forward in its important work uncovering new approaches to identifying and combating this disease."

According to the COG, progress in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common malignancy of children, is one of the leading success stories in all of cancer research and cancer care. The survival rate has risen from about 15% to 85% over the past four decades.

"As the national infrastructure for pediatric cancer clinical and translational research, the COG is uniquely positioned to leverage its unparalleled, highly annotated bio-specimen resources to identify and validate specific gene polymorphisms which can then be prospectively utilized to select specific anti-leukemia therapies with the highest likelihood of success and with the lowest potential for acute and long term toxicities associated with therapy," according to Gregory Reaman, M.D., Chair of the Children's Oncology Group and Professor of Pediatrics at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. This will be the largest study of this kind according to Reaman and the subsequent phase of this study will hopefully be accomplished by this partnership between COG and CMM, with support from its joint venture partners, the Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health, as well as Affymetrix.

About the CMM

The Center for Molecular Medicine, a joint venture between Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health and Van Andel Institute (VAI), brings West Michigan a cutting-edge laboratory that will aid in early diagnoses and enhance personalized medicine. It offers 21st century molecular technologies for investigation of complex diseases like cancer, heart disease, mental illness and other conditions at the DNA, RNA and protein levels. The Center brings new and increased opportunities for diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies to conduct trials in a world-class medical and clinical research environment. For more information, visit http://www.cmmdx.org.

About the Children's Oncology Group

The Children's Oncology Group is a National Cancer Institute-supported cooperative clinical trials group which includes over 200 pediatric cancer programs throughout North America, Australia and New Zealand, and several European sites. Member institutions provide care for greater than 95% of children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer in the countries served. Its clinical and translational research programs have been directly responsible for the treatment advances in childhood cancer and the significant decrease in mortality from cancer in children as reported recently by the Centers for Disease Control. Results of COG clinical trials in childhood cancer dictate the standard of care for children and adolescents with cancer throughout North America and beyond.


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