Genomic Health, OncoMed Team Up on Personalized Cancer Drug Work

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Cancer drugmakers and diagnostics companies rarely find ways to work together early in the product development process, because corporate priorities, budgets and timelines rarely match up. But Genomic Health and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals are teaming up at an early stage to try to improve the odds they’ll come up with better ways of tailoring cancer treatment to individuals.

Redwood City, CA-based Genomic Health (NASDAQ: GHDX) said today it has formed a strategic alliance with OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, a privately held cancer drug developer also in Redwood City. Financial terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed, but OncoMed will provide Genomic Health with samples of tumors from the breast, prostate, colon, and lungs. Genomic Health will use its DNA-sequencing instruments and software to look for specific biomarkers to find patients who have the best chance of benefitting from targeted antibody drugs OncoMed is developing to interfere with cancer stem cells—which are sometimes called tumor-initiating cells. OncoMed’s drugs are designed to block biological pathways like Notch and Wnt that are thought to play critical roles enabling cancer stem cells to grow, spread, and rebound after chemotherapy.

OncoMed, which has partnerships with GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer, has advanced three different antibody drug candidates into clinical trials and says it has other novel drugs in earlier stages of development. What’s interesting is that many companies in OncoMed’s position have traditionally sought to aim their drugs at the broadest possible swath of patients, run broad clinical trials of all comers with lung cancer, and then look at the end of the study for subpopulations who responded best to the new drug. Those “retrospective” analyses rarely persuade regulators, though, who prefer a “prospective” analysis that defines a patient subgroup at the beginning of the trial that is likely to respond, and then shows a drug clearly helps most of those patients. Last year, the FDA approved drugs like this from Pfizer and Roche/Daiichi Sankyo, along with companion diagnostics to define which patients should get the new treatments. That has set a clear example to many other drug developers looking to speed up their trials, and boost the odds of success.

“Working with like-minded, innovative cancer companies, we can utilize our proven next-generation sequencing-based diagnostic research and development infrastructure to help optimize patient selection to accelerate clinical development of targeted cancer treatments,” said Steven Shak, Genomic Health’s chief medical officer, in a statement. “This collaboration supports our long-term vision and belief that, molecular diagnostics are inherent for bringing quality, personalized care to all cancer patients.”

Paul Hastings, OncoMed’s CEO, added, “We believe the collaboration with Genomic Health will accelerate our already existing efforts of developing predictive biomarkers alongside the development of our anti-cancer stem cell therapeutics.”