Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory
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The new Glasgow Cancer Assays

The Glasgow Precision Oncology Laboratory (GPOL) at the University of Glasgow has developed the groundbreaking new Glasgow Cancer Assays – a suite of affordable, fit-for-purpose, solid and haematological cancer genomic assays, developed specifically to address the challenges of real-world oncology, both for current and emerging routine healthcare and for therapeutic development, including participant selection for clinical trials and discovering markers of response and resistance. The Glasgow Cancer Assay is currently being evaluated by NHS labs in England and Scotland and Agilent Technologies has been granted a non-exclusive license for global distribution.

 

“The Glasgow Cancer Assay Series was created so that every patient with cancer could have access to the latest therapies and clinical trials. Our team of inventors, including Susie Cooke, Philip Beer and David Chang, have dedicated the last five years of their lives to create this test. This test will enable all patients around the world to access the latest therapies for their cancer. I’m extremely proud of what the team have done and where this might take us for healthcare in the future.”

Professor Andrew Biankin, Regius Professor of Surgery and Director of GPOL

GPOL’s aim with the new Glasgow Cancer Assays is to help bring the benefits of precision oncology to everyone. The new assay can be used for any solid tumour and allows clinicians to understand the genomic events driving the cancer, giving cancer patients expanded access to new treatments and trials. It also delivers cost-savings by not prescribing drugs that won’t work and provides researchers with important information to power the next wave of cancer research.

“The challenge has been to work out how to extract the maximum amount of information about a cancer sample from a small, affordable assay and a small amount of sample material. It’s vital to have a test that provides what the patient and physician need in the real world, rather than one that has requirements that are unlikely to be met in day-to-day healthcare. The Glasgow Cancer Assays also need to assay the full range of information present in a cancer’s DNA, so that every option can be explored for every patient. We’re still in a learning phase with what genomics tells us about a patient’s options for effective treatment, so it’s really important not to restrict what we’re looking for. We want to make it much easier for patients to get onto clinical trials and for companies to run more trials and offer more trial options to patients. This test can enable that.”

Dr Susie Cooke, Head of Medical Genomics, GPOL

Over the past five years, GPOL scientists have undertaken a detailed curation of genomic data, including objective analysis of International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) data, and the literature to objectively define cancer-relevant genomic events. This delivered two key insights:

  1. Using current approaches, our knowledge of cancer genomes is near saturation for common adult cancers. It is likely that only cancer-relevant genomic events at less than 5% prevalence remain to be discovered.
  2. Genomic structural events (e.g. amplifications, translocations) are at least as important as sequence-level events (substitutions and indels) in cancer development and progression and these are under-represented in current off-the-shelf assays.

The content of the Glasgow Cancer Assays are carefully curated to include genomic features for which there is high-quality objective evidence for a biological role in cancer, including mutational signatures, structural alterations, gene and chromosome level copy number alterations, retrotransposon activity and HLA type. As such, the Glasgow Cancer Assays are suited to meet increasing demand for molecular testing, especially in cancers of unmet need, such as pancreatic, colorectal, lung, ovarian and oesophageal cancer.

The Glasgow Cancer Assays not only needed to cover all the known possibilities for the genomic drivers of cancer, it also needed to provide the highest quality cancer assays within the day-to-day reality of healthcare systems. Some genomic assays can be very expensive and need carefully prepared samples to work effectively. The Glasgow Cancer Assays require no special preparation and with even as little as 10ng of DNA, FFPE and fresh frozen samples routinely yield clinical grade data. It is designed to be cost-effective and affordable for public healthcare providers.  

The Glasgow Cancer Assays not only needed to cover all the known possibilities for the genomic drivers of cancer, it also needed to provide the highest quality cancer assays within the day-to-day reality of healthcare systems. Some genomic assays can be very expensive and need carefully prepared samples to work effectively. The Glasgow Cancer Assays require no special preparation and with even as little as 10ng of DNA, FFPE and fresh frozen samples routinely yield clinical grade data. It is designed to be cost-effective and affordable for public healthcare providers.  

Genomic features are tiered by clinical actionability and confidence to generate a nested set of cancer assays to accommodate different clinical or scientific requirements and financial and infrastructure constraints. There is now significant interest in the Glasgow Cancer Assays from both health services and diagnostic companies around the world.

“The Glasgow Cancer Assay has been hugely helpful in the biomarker programme associated with the PARADIGM and PARADIGM-2 clinical trials in glioblastoma. These are multicentre studies and the quality and quantity of tissue available for translational work is very variable. Having access to a customised, targeted NGS assay that covers all the relevant genomic targets (cancer and DNA damage response) has enabled us to generate high quality data to inform biomarker identification and validation. Without this assay I don’t think this would have been possible.”

Professor Anthony Chalmers, Chair of Clinical Oncology, University of Glasgow

To hear more about the Glasgow Cancer Assay from our development team and learn about its technical features, please click here for a recorded webinar session (free to sign up) with Dr Susie Cooke.

 

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