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USC licenses tools for cancer detection to biotech firm

Los Angeles-based biopharmaceutical company Abraxis BioScience, Inc. recently acquired a license from USC to develop and commercialize a portfolio of diagnostic protein biomarkers for therapy response, therapy toxicity and disease recurrence in colorectal cancers (CRCs).

The intellectual property licensed stems from research by Heinz-Josef Lenz, professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, and his colleagues. The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation facilitated the licensing transaction, the financial terms of which were not announced.

While surgery currently is the treatment of choice in earlier stages of colorectal disease, the research team, led by Lenz, discovered a broad range of molecular biomarkers and diagnostic tools that may better predict therapy response rate, the overall outcome and survival rate for patients with CRC.

The goal of this continued research is to combine prognostic markers with specific therapeutic agents, which would enable clinicians to tailor therapy to the molecular profile of the patient while minimizing life-threatening toxicities.

In recent years, research studies on a global scale have attempted to define subsets of biochemical markers that may be useful predictors of response to treatment (evaluated through clinical response, toxicity and time to disease progression) and prognostic markers, which are equally as important in determining the aggressiveness of CRC as well as other diseases.

Lenz said, “Many CRC patients succumb to their disease and a significant proportion will experience severe treatment-associated toxicities while deriving little or no benefit. The licensing agreement with Abraxis, and the furthering of this research, could help to overcome this significant concern and enable physicians to select the most effective and least toxic therapy for patients with colorectal cancer.”

“USC is committed to innovation�the process of translating new ideas into tangible societal impact,” said Krisztina Holly, USC Vice Provost and Executive Director for the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. “The relationship with Abraxis Bioscience is a perfect example of how the right partnership can transfer research from lab to market, with the goal of making a difference in people’s lives.”

Added Toni Gray, senior licensing associate for USC Stevens, “By licensing these important innovations in CRC prognostics, Abraxis has demonstrated an innovative approach as well as a commitment to meeting the needs of critically ill patients, now and in the future.”

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. with a predicted 149,000 new cases this year. It remains the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Western world with an estimated 55,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2006.

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