Advancing a potential blood test for pancreatic cancer

Immunovia’s “IMMray” technology uses an antibody microarray to detect the protein signature of pancreatic cancer in blood samples.

The Swedish biotech firm Immunovia reached another milestone with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute in developing a blood test to speed the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Immunovia’s antibody microarray correctly classified 96 percent of patients with stage I or II pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in a retrospective study using samples from North American pancreatic cancer patients. These results match those in a previous retrospective study using Scandinavian patient samples.

“We have data now from three different sets of specimens, and it all seems to support the same thing — that the assay is picking up cancer even down to stage I,” the Knight Cancer Institute’s Chris Corless, M.D., Ph.D., told GenomeWeb.

As it stands, less than one in ten cases of pancreatic cancer in the U.S. are diagnosed at the local stage and the relative survival rate – around six percent at five years – is by far the worst among major cancers. The Knight Cancer Institute and Immunovia began a collaboration in 2015 to study and validate serum biomarkers for the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Immunovia’s “IMMray” technology uses a recombinant antibody microarray to detect a specific set of proteins in blood, many of them involved in immune regulation. It produces a snapshot of immune activity in a patient’s blood that reflects both the systemic response to cancer and tumor-secreted factors, in the words of Immunovia founder Carl Borrebaeck and colleagues at Lund University and Karolinska Institute.

To validate the performance of the test in a U.S. population, Immunovia used 362 blood samples provided by OHSU’s Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care.

“Their biobank of blood samples from patients with pancreatic cancer and other pancreatic diseases has proven very valuable, particularly with regard to the early stages of pancreatic cancer,” Immunovia CEO Mats Grahn said in a news release. Immunovia is a public company trading on the Nasdaq First North exchange in Stockholm.

In the previous retrospective clinical validation study with a Scandinavian patient cohort, Immunovia said 148 patients with stage I or II pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma were differentiated from 888 healthy controls with 96% accuracy – equal to the performance in the new U.S. study.

Unlike the Scandinavian study, the OHSU cohort included patients with pancreatitis and other conditions that present similarly to pancreatic cancer, noted Corless, executive director and chief medical officer of the OHSU Knight Diagnostic Laboratories and a professor of pathology. “There is interest, of course, in establishing that the assay shows specificity against these other disease conditions, and so far the data look very good,” he told GenomeWeb.

Immunovia plans to begin a three-year prospective study at sites in the U.S. and Europe starting in the second half of 2016, with the Knight Cancer Institute acting as the U.S. coordinating center.

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Immunovia Completes U.S. Validation Study for Pancreatic Cancer Test by Adam Bonislawski. GenomeWeb (2016)

Identification of Serum Biomarker Signatures Associated with Pancreatic Cancer by Christer Wingren, Anna Sandström, Ralf Segersvärd, Anders Carlsson, Roland Andersson, Matthias Löhr, and Carl A. K. Borrebaeck. Cancer Research (2012)