Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

On the hot subject of biomarkers and predicting response to therapy, Scottish scientists at the Edinburgh Breakthrough Cancer Centre have made an important finding.  They have confirmed that PTEN loss can  pred a patient’s response to Herceptin.  Although trastuzumab targets HER-2, it does not benefit every woman who has HER-2+ breast cancer.  The puzzling question has long been why does resistance develop and how can it be overcome?

The research group reported that they:

“… Examined 122 samples of metastatic breast cancer tumours treated with Herceptin. They demonstrated that the amount of PTEN was related to overall survival and patients whose breast cancer tumours had high levels of PTEN survived on average 22 months longer than those with low levels.”

In addition, using mathematical modeling techniques, the loss of PTEN was more predictive than could be determined using standard multivariate or laboratory analysis.

PTEN is a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor gene and has recently been shown to be associated with resistance in some patients to EGFR therapy in colorectal cancer.  Given it's apparent role in the development of drug resistance in cancer, this should be a very interesting biomarker to watch. 

Pintex, a small biotechnology company that was developing compounds around PTEN appear to have gone out our business and sold their scientific and IP rights to Vernalis, a UK biotechnology company earlier this year.

{UPDATE:   Sincere thanks to Dr Wafik El-Deiry at Univ. of Pennsylvania for gently reminding me that the discovery was initially made in 2004 by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.  You can download their groundbreaking paper from Cancer Cell freely HERE}.

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2 Responses to “Loss of PTEN predicts Herceptin resistance”

  1. MaverickNY

    Hello Miguel, thank you for your comment.
    Given the potential saving that could be made by screening out 40% of colorectal cancer patients who are unlikely to respond to EGFR therapy, I think it would be reasonable to assume that once the diagnostic kits become commercially available in the UK, NICE may well consider changing it’s guidelines in the future.

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