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Archive for Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taking the fight to lung cancer

Researchers create test to help detect disease early in patients

Lab technicians Maria Sakach and Kenan Pinkerton dilute samples prior to testing for lung cancer panels. Both are with Oncimmune, a laboratory in De Soto that tests blood that can help doctors in early detection of lung cancer.

Lab technicians Maria Sakach and Kenan Pinkerton dilute samples prior to testing for lung cancer panels. Both are with Oncimmune, a laboratory in De Soto that tests blood that can help doctors in early detection of lung cancer.

September 13, 2009

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Detecting lung cancer

Oncimmune, a biotechnology company based in Nottingham, England, with U.S. headquarters in De Soto, has begun marketing a blood test called EarlyCDT-Lung that aids physicians in early detection of lung cancer.

The test is recommended for people who are smokers, former smokers or have been exposed to secondhand smoke for extended periods of time. It also is recommended for people who have been subjected to environmental factors such as asbestos, radon or radioactive substances.

To learn more about the test, call the Client Services Department in De Soto at (888) 583-9030 or visit oncimmune.com.

— There are 25 people, including 16 scientists, working inside a building just north of Kansas Highway 10 in this town of about 6,000 people.

It may be a small group in a small town, but their plans are big and could potentially save millions of lives.

They are researching, developing and conducting tests that detect cancer in its earliest stages.

“It’s such a motivating cause to work for. In fact, it’s sometimes hard not to work,” said Laura Peek, principal scientist and quality assurance manager.

She works for Oncimmune, a biotechnology company that was founded by Dr. John Robertson at the University of Nottingham in England.

The company opened its U.S. headquarters in 2006 in a temporary location in Lenexa and then moved to De Soto in 2008.

This summer, the company began offering a blood test called EarlyCDT-Lung to help detect lung cancer in asymptomatic patients.

The test is offered at 20 sites, and involves about 100 physicians, in the Midwest and Southeast. Five of the sites are in Kansas — three are in the Kansas City area, one is in Hutchinson and one is in Clay Center.

“The nice thing about this test is that you can detect lung cancer three to five years quicker than finding symptoms from a patient,” said Dr. Chris Ottinger, of Encompass Medical Group in Lenexa, who has been offering the test to his patients. “If you detect it early, you can have it removed surgically and possibly have a cure. You increase your cure rate greatly if you can find it early.”

Here’s how the test works:

• A tumor produces proteins known as antigens.

• Tumor antigens are distinct from antigens produced by normal cells.

• The body’s immune system reacts to selected antigens created by tumors by producing an abundance of antibodies, known as autoantibodies, that freely circulate in the bloodstream.

• EarlyCDT-Lung measures a panel of these autoantibodies from a blood sample. These autoantibodies are the markers that potentially indicate the presence of tumor protein or antigens.

• The presence of one or more of these autoantibodies in the blood sample can provide an earlier indication that a tumor exists.

If a test comes back positive, further testing generally is the next step.

Personal approach

Oncimmune’s U.S. medical director is Dr. William Jewell, who was the first director of the cancer center at Kansas University and has more than 45 years of experience in the cancer field. He calls every doctor who has a patient who gets a positive result using the EarlyCDT-Lung test and works with them on that next step.

“We are very, very personal in how we approach this,” said Greg Stanley, vice president of commercial operations.

So far, the company has done a “few hundred tests” and about 40 tests have been positive.

“We are still working on the outcomes to see the results of those 40 initial positives,” Stanley said.

Ottinger said two of his patients had positive results and they were thankful to know that they needed to take a closer look.

For patients who get a negative result, the test can provide a sense of relief or even an incentive to quit smoking. Early clinical tests indicate that 99 percent of patients with a negative result do not have lung cancer at the time of testing.

The test costs $200 and insurance providers don’t cover it; company leaders are working to change that. The test is covered under some companies’ health-care spending or flex spending accounts.

Ottinger said many patients have been interested in getting the test, but have opted out because of the cost.

“The problem is the economy,” he said. “To be honest, it’s just the cost of paying for anything right now. We would love to have insurance cover it.”

That’s because he thinks it has the potential to save many lives.

Big market

According to the American Cancer Society, about 161,000 people die of lung cancer each year and about 215,000 new cases are diagnosed.

When lung cancer is diagnosed early, survival rate increases about 50 percent, but currently only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed early.

The test is recommended for individuals who are smokers, former smokers or have been exposed to secondhand smoke for extended periods of time.

According to ACS, smokers account for nearly 80 percent of lung cancer deaths.

The test also is recommended for people who have been subjected to environmental factors such as asbestos, radon or radioactive substances.

The company has a risk calculator on its Web site — oncimmune.com — that was developed from risk tables created by clinicians at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

During the next six months, Oncimmune will be adding another 75 to 100 sites, and then the hope is to go nationwide.

“We wanted to make sure we took manageable bites as we kicked off the test and we kicked off the company on a commercial basis,” Stanley said.

Such an approach is what hooked Ottinger, and last week he became a medical consultant for the company.

“The more I learned about them, the more I was impressed by the high quality and careful steps that they are taking to produce a high-quality test,” he said. “It’s not a fly-by-night.com-type company. They really are taking an intelligent approach to launching a fantastic idea.”

Lots of work

During the past 15 years, $25 million has been invested into the lung cancer detection test. Samples from more than 80,000 individuals, both with and without cancer, were used in the development and research phase.

“You wait and you wait and you wait and you start seeing the light at the end of tunnel, and finally the light is there,” said Peek, the principal scientist. “It’s just a huge sense of accomplishment.”

The company doesn’t plan to stop at lung cancer. It aims to develop early detection tests for other cancers.

“We are funded by a variety of private institutional and family investors, I would call them angel investors and most of them are out of the U.K.,” Stanley said. “Their drive is they have all been touched by cancer in their life, so there’s a real sense of mission.”

Comments

steph17 4 years, 7 months ago

Here is my whole thing about the conversations. It seems to be that everyone is caught up with the whole "economy" issue instead of the health related issue here. You can get lung cancer from other ways other than smoking yes, that's true. I feel that we are needing more lab procedures like this one to help everyone that has a health problem. I know everyone has had a hard time dealing with the economy but that shouldn't stop you from the local visit to the doctor. I think of it this way the workers you see and heard about in this article are working for you and to help you give them some credit. One day I know we will all be back to the status of money that we once were at and possibly more than we expected. Main point this is one of the hundreds of other tests that are being produced for those who need it and if you or your doctor thinks you have cancer in this case then get it the test done so you can continue with your life.

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Eybea Opiner 4 years, 7 months ago

Big Prune, I don't know about your stats, but I guess I'm the exception to the rule. I smoked very heavily for about 40 years, much of the time smoking 2-3 packs per day. I attended a group hypnosis session and have never smoked since. It's been 16 years now.

The key is that the smoker has to really want to quit. That's a lot different from saying you do.

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runescapeman 4 years, 7 months ago

i think this will save many lives

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lawrenceguy40 4 years, 7 months ago

Another example of foreigners taking over our country!

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BigPrune 4 years, 7 months ago

I once wrote a paper for a college course on lung cancer. After much research, I have come to the following opinions: Lung cancer kills more people than any other type of cancer yet has pennies spent on research to stop it. The tobacco settlement money that the state of Kansas received was used on the schools, when it should've been spent on rehab clinics to get smokers to quit. Before everyone starts harping that cigarette smoking is an addiction of choice, just remember that the success rate to stop smoking and never smoke again ever has only a 2% success rate, which shows it is more addictive than heroin. Ask most smokers if they had a chance to quit and the majority would say, "yes." There are two types of smokers, heavy addicted smokers and social smokers. The social smokers have no problem quitting. If you look at how alcohol has effected the Native American community, it is because they never adapted to it through their ancestors, since it was introduced into their community just a couple of hundred years ago. You won't find very many Native Americans who are smokers. They adapted to nicotine through their ancestry. Just as white Europeans had alcohol in their ancestry and their blood lines were able to adapt, there are less white alcoholics per capita than Native Americans, but more nicotine addicts per capita than Native Americans for people of European ancestry.

This is a good thing this company is doing.

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Keith 4 years, 7 months ago

booze_buds_03 (Anonymous) says… It is already up there. Most people won't be happy but it is just a separate lab/office for Deciphera.

That's good to know, I hadn't heard any more about it and wondered if it fell through.

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Randall Barnes 4 years, 7 months ago

I ONLY MAKE 1,800 A MONTH UNEMPLOYMENT NOT NEARLY ENOUGH TO PAY THE BILLS,RENT,CAR PAYMENT,UTILITIES,ECT.....AND THE MAX FOR HEALTHCARE ACCESS IS 1,600PER MONTH,GUESS I NEED TO GO TO WICHITA CLINIC FOR $20 I CAN GET ALL THE LAB WORK I NEED

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Machiavelli_mania 4 years, 7 months ago

Again, it is time for immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. And Dendreon has the cassette for lung cancer.

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sweettrue2 4 years, 7 months ago

@ Rando-have your doctor refer you to Healthcare Access

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Randall Barnes 4 years, 7 months ago

I LOST MY JOB IN JANUARY. IM ON UNEMPLOYMENT WITH NO HEALTH INSURANCE. MY DOCTOR WANTS ME TO GET TESTED FOR CANCER. I HAVE A POSSIBLE TUMOR UNDER MY CHIN. HOW DO I GO ABOUT GETTING TESTED ? EVERY ONE I CALL WANTS CASH IN LARGE AMOUNTS BEFORE I GET TESTED. ANY ONE HAVE ANY IDEAS FOR ME OR DO I JUST LET IT GO AND DIE FROM CANCER AT AN EARLY AGE ??????

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booze_buds_03 4 years, 7 months ago

It is already up there. Most people won't be happy but it is just a separate lab/office for Deciphera.

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Keith 4 years, 7 months ago

Whatever happened to that cancer lab that was supposed to start up above the old Abercrombie store?

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