The EVA-PCD™ Platform

At the recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) held in Washington D.C (April 16-21, 2010), the theme remained consistent with the ground swell of interest in personalized care. Many of the sessions reflected the changing paradigm of clinical trials with a growing focus on biomarker analysis and patient selection predicated on genomic and proteomic features. Among the most compelling presentations were those that examined the manifest complexities of human signaling circuits. One presentation by Dr. Neal Rosen from Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York examined redundancy and feedback as principal determinants of clinical response to signal inhibitors. That session, chaired by Dr. Engleman from Harvard Medical School, examined the cross talk between EGFr and PI3K pathways. Using cell line systems, these investigators drilled down onto RNA and DNA expression profiles to examine how inhibitors acting for one pathway might up or down regulate parallel pathways.

This work dovetailed perfectly with our presentation on Monday, April 19, 2010 (Nagourney, R. et. al, Horizontal and vertical signal pathway inhibition in human tumor primary culture micro-spheroids. Abstract 1764, proceedings AACR 2010). In this analysis, we used small molecules tyrosine and serine/threonine kinase inhibitors to examine the points of commonality and disparity in these two crucial signaling pathways to assess how future drug combinations might provide response with these novel classes of agents.

The most exciting aspect of our work is the capacity of the human tumor micro-spheroid platform (EVA-PCD™) to capture all of the operative mechanisms of response and resistance. This, more closely than other platforms, recapitulates the complexity of human tumors and provides insight into these  complex and redundant biological pathways. No genomic or proteomic tool can approximate the clinical relevance of the EVA-PCD™ platforms’ predictions.

About Dr. Robert A. Nagourney
Dr. Nagourney received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Boston University and his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, where he was a University Scholar. After a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Irvine, he went on to complete fellowship training in medical oncology at Georgetown University, as well as in hematology at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla. During his fellowship at Georgetown University, Dr. Nagourney confronted aggressive malignancies for which the standard therapies remained mostly ineffective. No matter what he did, all of his patients died. While he found this “standard of care” to be unacceptable, it inspired him to return to the laboratory where he eventually developed “personalized cancer therapy.” In 1986, Dr. Nagourney, along with colleague Larry Weisenthal, MD, PhD, received a Phase I grant from a federally funded program and launched Oncotech, Inc. They began conducting experiments to prove that human tumors resistant to chemotherapeutics could be re-sensitized by pre-incubation with calcium channel blockers, glutathione depletors and protein kinase C inhibitors. The original research was a success. Oncotech grew with financial backing from investors who ultimately changed the direction of the company’s research. The changes proved untenable to Dr. Nagourney and in 1991, he left the company he co-founded. He then returned to the laboratory, and developed the Ex-vivo Analysis - Programmed Cell Death ® (EVA-PCD) test to identify the treatments that would induce programmed cell death, or “apoptosis.” He soon took a position as Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the Cancer Institute of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. His primary research project during this time was chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He remained in this position until the basic research program funding was cut, at which time he founded Rational Therapeutics in 1995. It is here where the EVA-PCD test is used to identity the drug, combinations of drugs or targeted therapies that will kill a patient's tumor - thus providing patients with truly personalized cancer treatment plans. With the desire to change how cancer care is delivered, he became Medical Director of the Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial in 2003. In 2008, he returned to Rational Therapeutics full time to rededicate his time and expertise to expand the research opportunities available through the laboratory. He is a frequently invited lecturer for numerous professional organizations and universities, and has served as a reviewer and on the editorial boards of several journals including Clinical Cancer Research, British Journal of Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Cancer Research and the Journal of Medicinal Food.

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