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Small Business Contract to Fund Cancer Drug Response Tests

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18 September 2014. National Cancer Institute, part of National Institutes of Health, is funding development of lab tests using a patient’s own cancer cells to help determine the best treatments for the patient. The $1.975 million contract to biotechnology company Kiyatec Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina was awarded under the Small Business Innovation Research program, a government-wide vehicle for supported research and development by start-up enterprises.

Kiyatec’s technology provides personalized cancer testing using a patient’s own tumor cells, but cultured in the lab to allow for physicians to test potential therapies in a controlled setting before treating the patient. The company cites data from a Stanford University study, published last year in the journal Nature Medicine, showing three-dimensional cell models like those developed by Kiyatec offer a more realistic environment for testing outside the body than conventional lab cultures, including better representation of cancer’s genetic signatures.

The award, says Kiyatec, is a second-stage research project, building on development of a 3-D cell lab model for breast cancer, as a testing medium for potential treatments. That research, a nine-month proof-of-concept study, received a $295,000 award last September also from National Cancer Institute.

The new contract will support a two-year undertaking to adapt the company’s 3-D cell models to test for the cancer’s interaction with a patient’s immune system, as well as the patient’s blood supply, in this case formation of new blood vessels that support tumor growth. In addition, Kiyatec says the award will allow it to expand the company’s technology beyond its current focus on breast and ovarian cancer to glioblastoma multiforme, a highly malignant type of brain cancer with a low likelihood of survival.

Kiyatec expects the new funding will help it develop tools that give physicians drug profiles more personalized for their patients, particularly for predicting the ability of a treatment to invoke a patient’s immune system to fight the cancer. The technology, says the company, can also be applied in advance of clinical trials for identifying therapies with the best chance of succeeding with patients.

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