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ACT Genomics, UCSD Partner for Tumor Microenvironment Immunotherapy Study

NEW YORK – Taiwanese cancer diagnostic firm ACT Genomics said on Monday that it has launched a study in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center that will evaluate gene expression signals associated with the tumor microenvironment that may predict outcome in melanoma patients treated with PD-1 inhibition.

The partners will analyze samples from 100 melanoma patients using a chip-based multiplex qPCR assay that characterizes the expression of 92 immune-related genes associated with things like antigen presentation machinery, immune checkpoints, specific immune cell populations, and cell signaling in the tumor microenvironment.

The proprietary test, called ACTTME, was designed by ACT Genomics to provide a cost-effective tool to guide precision use of immune-checkpoint inhibitors.

"While immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized cancer treatment, the treatment outcomes for the majority of the patients have been suboptimal. There is still a lack of predictive biomarkers accounting for an individual's intrinsic immune system and tumor-induced immune microenvironment," ACT CEO Hua Chien Chen said in a statement.

"We are excited to demonstrate the technical capability and clinical values of ACTTME through this collaboration," ACT CSO Shu Jen Chen added. According to Chen, ACT's research so far suggests that its qPCR technology can accommodate poor-quality RNA samples derived from FFPE specimens, starting with as little as 25 nanograms of RNA.

The company also said that while the current study focuses on melanoma patients, the assay could also potentially help guide immunotherapy for other solid tumors.

The investigators leading the effort at UCSD's Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy are Shumei Kato and Razelle Kurzrock. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.